Happy World Refugee Day! Today we remember and reflect upon the lived experiences of refugees as well as rejoice in their contributions. Let’s celebrate using these three R’s.
Today we REMEMBER the existence of refugees, who are so often forgotten or ignored in the minds of those not suffering from the same insecurities. We remember their histories and the histories of our countries that have led to their circumstances.
We remember the wars in Congo, bombings in Syria, ethno-religious cleansing in Myanmar, and both the complacency and sometimes contribution from our nations towards these ongoing conflicts.
Today we REFLECT upon what we can do to change these circumstances in our countries and abroad. It’s social engagement. It might mean social activism. We reflect on the 1980 Refugee Act that allowed Americans to take in people fitting UNHCR refugee definition, allowing families and individuals from Asian and African countries to find new homes in the US.
We reflect on the ups and downs since then, the people the US is currently choosing to exclude, and, simultaneously, the growing need for resettlement as worldwide instability grows.
Refugees and natural-born citizens alike hold a position to affect positive change for the 70.8 million forcibly displaced people who are suffering and for the resettled refugees still in need of structural mobility. The UNHCR’s Step With Refugees endeavor is another way to reflect upon the lived experiences of refugees while contributing towards their success.
We also reflect upon the contributions of refugees to our countries and to the places they have passed through. We reflect upon the beauty that shimmers in their footsteps, the love and music and hospitality shared, the innovation and entrepreneurship so many refugees are known for.
I know refugees who guard local buildings such as hospitals, making sure everyone inside is safe. I know others who make the food you eat and who work in factories to make your bank cards. I know an educator, a soon-to-be social worker, a photographer, a fashionista, case managers, pastors, grandmothers, and others who contribute to the smooth running of their families, cities, and countries. I know compassionate and maturing school children, too. If you look around, you’ll find people you know and have opportunity to thank them as you reflect upon their lives.
Finally, we REJOICE in all these contributions and the successes we see around us, like those listed above. We also rejoice when steps are made towards stability — gaining refugee status, receiving a work permit, being resettled, being granted citizenship, et cetera.
Each of these are daunting and may take several years, depending on the context and specific situation. They are rare gifts, so we rejoice when they are given and strive for a multiplication of them.
Happy World Refugee Day, friends. Enjoy your local picnics, rallies, community meetings, and other celebrations or gatherings as you remember, reflect, and rejoice this year. Shalom.