Today is World Refugee Day. The United Nations calls the world to care for those displaced by war, poverty, famine, persecution, and violence:
World Refugee Day is observed on June 20th each year. This global event honors the courage, strength and determination of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homes under threat of persecution, conflict and violence.
Every year, people across the United States use World Refugee Day as a focus for raising awareness and funds in their own communities to gather support for UNHCR’s urgent work. And at the same time they spread a little understanding about the reality of being a refugee.
“On World Refugee Day, let us reaffirm the importance of solidarity and burden-sharing by the international community. Refugees have been deprived of their homes, but they must not be deprived of their futures.” ~Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
For years, many countries and regions have been holding their own Refugee Days and even Refugee Weeks. One of the most widespread is Africa Refugee Day, which is celebrated on 20 June in several countries.
The UN General Assembly, on 4 December 2000, adopted resolution 55/76 where it noted that 2001 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and that the Organization of African Unity (OAU) had agreed to have International Refugee Day coincide with Africa Refugee Day on 20 June.
The General Assembly therefore decided that, from 2001, 20 June would be celebrated as World Refugee Day
From a statement by the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori:
Over the past six decades, the needs of refugees and internally displaced populations have increased markedly, as the number of persons displaced by persecution and conflict has topped 42 million. The majority of these persons are women and children. Refugees are leaving their homes because they fear for their lives, safety, and/or freedom.
From the Episcopal Public Policy Network:
On June 20th we commemorate World Refugee Day and this year we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Convention on the Status of Refugees. Today there are 15 million refugees in the world and 25 million internally displaced persons who have not crossed international borders. The United States has been a world leader on refugee protection and has welcomed refugees into communities throughout the country. The Episcopal Church has long been a forceful advocate on behalf of refugees, immigrants, and other at-risk groups. The public policy positions of The Episcopal Church regarding refugees are based on our faith tradition of welcoming the stranger and serving the “least among us.” We seek to carry forth the voice of refugees, immigrants, and other at-risk uprooted groups for whom protection through better public policy is needed. This year we are renewing our commitment to those fleeing persecution.
The Episcopal Church has been resettling and advocating for refugees for 60 years; today Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) helps thousands of refugees each year. EMM partners with local faith groups and community organizations to help refugees rebuild their lives and become self-sufficient in their new surroundings. With the assistance of staff in 35 affiliate offices located in 27 dioceses, EMM has assisted refugees from around the world who fled instability and danger in places like Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma, Vietnam, Colombia, Afghanistan, and Iran.
The Presiding Bishop released a statement on World Refugee Day stressing the importance of the 60th anniversary of the Convention on the Status of Refugees: “This anniversary provides an opportunity to recommit to the protection of refugees as well as to work toward safety for those fleeing persecution and violence. The Episcopal Church has extended a compassionate welcome to forcibly uprooted persons arriving on our shores since World War II.” As we renew our commitment to those fleeing persecution, we ask that you join us in this effort.
We encourage you take at least one of these actions for refugees:
– Ask your members of Congress to support HR1475 here
– Visit EMM’s website to see how you can support refugees resettled in your community. You can also visit EMM’s Facebook page here.
– “Like” UNHCR’s Facebook page here.
– Twitter — Tweet this message: “Today is World Refugee Day! Please follow our friends at @refugees for the latest, http://ow.ly/5bNhl#UNHCR”
Episcopal News Service tells of Colombian refugees in Ecuador rebuilding their lives:
From Australia via Ekklesia:
Thousands of Australians have marked World Refugee Day (20 June) by rallying to demand an end to mandatory detention of asylum seekers – writes David Crampton.
The turnout was sparked by a backlash against a federal government plan to deport 800 boat arrivals to Malaysia as early as next week as a ‘swap’ for the resettlement of 4,000 refugees from Malaysian detention centres.
Australia’s National Council of Churches, Catholic aid agency Caritas, the Uniting Church and 15 human rights groups released a joint statement criticising the policy.
“We call on the Australian Government and Opposition to abandon policies aimed at punishing groups of asylum seekers as an example to others and to work cooperatively on the challenging task of developing a regional framework to protect people fleeing persecution,” they said.