Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, former refugee and Obama White House advisor, to head LIRS

Religion News Service | 2/18/2019 | Staff
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CHICAGO (RNS) — When Krish O’Mara Vignarajah and her family arrived in the United States as refugees fleeing civil war in Sri Lanka, the community welcomed them with open arms.

Her dad found a job as a schoolteacher in Baltimore, where the family, including the then 9-month-old Vignarajah, settled.

Superintendent - Schools - Family - Apartment - Vice

The superintendent of schools helped her family find an apartment, she said. The vice principal helped them start a bank account. Churches and temples literally put clothes on their backs — warm coats and other gear to help them adjust to the city’s bitter winters.

“It was because this community — we call it now the ‘circle of welcome’ — embraced us not just as strangers, but as neighbors, as friends, as family, that I had the chance to really live the American story,” she said.

Vignarajah - Welcome - Others - President - CEO

Now Vignarajah hopes to extend that same welcome to others as president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

Vignarajah, who was policy director for former First Lady Michelle Obama, is the second refugee and the first non-Lutheran to lead the Baltimore-based organization in its 80-year history.

Statement - LIRS - Website - Bishop - Michael

In a statement on the LIRS website, Bishop Michael Rinehart, chair of the organization’s board, called the new president and CEO “exactly the kind of once-in-a-generation leader LIRS needs right now.”

He also said her recent appointment comes at a time when “the LIRS mission — to protect, embrace, and empower those we serve — is more crucial now than ever.”

Selection - Krish - Embodiment - Lutheran - Commitment

“The selection of Krish is an embodiment of the Lutheran commitment to be a church for the sake of the world,” he said. “Today, we have the opportunity to extend and embrace the gift and energy of a leader who came to this country as one of the most vulnerable.”

Before she worked for the former first lady, Vignarajah was a senior advisor at the...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Religion News Service
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