PVIRAG is an acronym for the Pioneer Valley Interfaith Refugee Action Group which came together in January of this year with a three-fold mission:
Political Advocacy: To exert political pressure at the state and federal level to increase the flow of Syrian refugees into the United States and into Western Massachusetts.
Hospitality: To undertake a campaign to make Western Massachusetts a welcoming place for all refugees. Present efforts have focused on counteracting Islamophobia.
Material aid and social support: To work with the area’s designated resettlement agencies, currently Jewish Family Services and Ascentria Care Alliance, in providing for the needs of refugees who have been approved to resettle in this area. The group has promoted the collection of household items for various “welcome kits,” bedding, and furniture for incoming refugee families.
On Sunday, May 15, PVIRAG hosted a Friends in Faith interfaith dialogue at the JFK Middle school which was attended by over 100 people. The panelists who explored how their different faith traditions intersect were Reverend Corey Sanderson, minister at Second Congregational Church, United Church of Christ; Imam Wissam Abdel-Baki from the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts; and Rabbi Benjamin Weiner of the Jewish Community of Amherst. Following a question and answer period, participants enjoyed desserts and conversation.
Presently, PVIRAG is a group of 10 interfaith communities meeting monthly. We welcome other groups, faith communities, and individuals to join us. Our next meeting is May 23 from 2-3:30 p.m. at Edwards Church. For more information, please feel to contact me at 413.584.5500.