LIRS (Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service) is excited to announce the appointment of Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, former Policy Director to First Lady Michelle Obama, as President and Chief Executive Officer, effective February 13, 2019.
Since its founding in 1939, LIRS has worked to uphold the uniquely American ideal that welcoming immigrants from across the globe with open arms is essential to our nation’s progress and prosperity. Now more than ever, bold action is needed to ensure America remains the shining city on the Hill and a bastion of hope for those yearning for a better life. Krish’s embodiment of these timeless American values inspired LIRS to appoint a next generation leader—the second refugee and first non-Lutheran in its 80-year history—to lead its efforts to protect the rights and create opportunities for vulnerable refugees and migrants.
“In an era of family separation and animus towards immigrants seeking a better life, Krish Vignarajah is the perfect person to lead LIRS–one of our nation’s foremost immigration organizations. As an immigrant who fled a civil war and went on to serve in the State Department, Obama White House, and across Maryland, Krish uniquely understands the challenges and opportunities facing refugees and asylum-seekers. She will be a tireless champion for all who seek a better life,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (Md).
“Krish is exactly the kind of once-in-a-generation leader LIRS needs right now,” said LIRS Board Chair Bishop Michael Rinehart. “The selection of Krish is an embodiment of the Lutheran commitment to be a church for the sake of the world. 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. ”
Krish has been Policy Director for Michelle Obama, Senior Advisor at the State Department under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of State John Kerry, and a lawyer and university professor.
Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is one of the largest immigration and refugee resettlement agencies in the United States, and only one of two agencies that helped reunite children with parents after family separations. LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership working with and advocating for refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. Through 80 years of service and advocacy, LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America.
I have no doubt that Krish is well qualified and polically connected. I have no doubt that many will hail her appointment as ground-breaking. I have no doubt that her personal experience will weigh heavily on her work. What troubles me is that when Lutheran agencies are run by non-Lutherans, the bottom line question is what makes this agency Lutheran at all? The source of funds is not a credible answer nor is it enough to describe the legacy of its Lutheran founders or the board members who currently hold Lutheran membership. Krish is not only not Lutheran but not Christian. If Lutheranism is key to the identity and mission of LIRS, how will she administer this pan-Lutheran agency and honor that identity and direct that mission? The LIRS board says Krish will help the agency embody the church for the sake of the world. How is it possible for a Hindu to assist a Lutheran agency do that?
Again, do not interpret my comments as anyway suggesting that the problem lies with Krish. It lies with Lutherans who talk the talk about the church, about Christ, about the Gospel, and then leave the leadership of an agency whose job it is to do those things in the hands of a non-Christian. So either there is not much Lutheran anymore in Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Resettlement Services OR the agency has become merely an arm of the government, using government and other grant funds to do government work. I am not sure which is true or if both are true but it does leave a question where an explanation point should be. . .