World Refugee Day and our Interdependent World Community
By Kate Mays
Every year, June 20 marks World Refugee Day, a time to honor the courage and strength of those who are forced to flee their homeland because of conflict, violence, or persecution. This year, bringing awareness and supporting refugees is more important than ever. The United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, estimates that there are more than 65 million refugees worldwide. As Unitarian Universalists, we believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person—and that First Principle guides all that we do. In this case, it means we must look beyond the hateful rhetoric that conjures fear of the unknown and see the humanity of those seeking a safer place to live. We must do all that we can to help and support refugees on World Refugee Day and every day.
Recently, the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO) co-hosted an event discussing climate-induced migration. The event centered on indigenous communities that have had to relocate because of climate change. Currently, those who are displaced due to climate change are not protected under international law. This will be a growing problem for our planet as experts predict that climate change will displace over one million people by the year 2050.
Every spring, the UU-UNO hosts an intergenerational seminar focused on global activism. The theme for the 2018 Spring Seminar will be refugees and the global migration crisis. The seminar will examine the ways in which people of faith can work on the migration crisis. The seminar is April 5-7, 2018 and will feature workshops, discussions, worship, and direct action towards addressing the refugee crisis.
The United Nations is doing many things to address this global refugee crisis. In 2015, the United Nations released a list of 17 goals to “end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.” One of these Sustainable Development Goals calls for the promotion of just, peaceful, and inclusive societies (SDG 16). In order to reach this goal, we must bring awareness to and help to end the refugee crisis.
As we ponder World Refugee Day, we should consider other ways that we can support refugees. Support the United Nation’s refugee agency, UNHCR, whose continued funding is under threat from the US government. Show solidarity with refugees by sending a message of hope through Care. Send Amnesty International’s letter in support of refugee resettlement to your local politicians. And make a change in your local community through Love Resists, a joint Unitarian Universalist initiative activating people of faith and conscience to resist the harm inflicted by criminalization.
In the spirit of all that we stand for as Unitarian Universalists, let’s commit to working in ways big and small to help all refugees—and to learn all we can about the ways that our belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person intersects profoundly with our respect for the interdependent web of all existence.
Kate Mays is a Program Intern at the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office. She is also a student at the University of Kansas studying Journalism and Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies.