Living Social Justice

A blog about responding to poverty and injustice, everyday and in all sorts of ways

World Refugee Day: Why Should We Care?

Photo Credit: ChadCooperPhotos via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ChadCooperPhotos via Compfight cc

Every year on June 20th, millions around the world celebrate World Refugee Day. Let’s take a moment to consider what this day really means. By Sam Rawson

It seems that every day is an international day for something or other, but when I saw that today was World Refugee Day I just couldn’t carry on with my regular work. If I’m honest, usually when I see that it’s “World Water Day” or “World Health Day” I take all of three seconds to think about it before moving on to the next thing. The reason is that it’s often hard to comprehend the magnitude of what some of these days are calling our attention to. The world water or food crises are difficult to wrap your mind around when you’re not seeing the effects of it in your daily life. So what made today so different?

Well, for starters, I could put names and faces to this “international UN-observed event”. It made me remember the men and women I’ve met over the years whose stories of fleeing war-torn countries have left me feeling shocked and deeply moved.

The courage of the friend who shared how he’d hitchhiked as a teenager on trucks all the way from the DRC only to have all his money stolen from him by a taxi driver in Joburg. The heartbreaking story of a mother who having grown up in a refugee camp was now unable to provide for her children in SA as she waited months for paperwork from the Department of Home Affairs.

These stories and the thousand others like them make me realise that this is a day celebrating many of the people we live and work with. The woman in front of you in the bank queue, for example, or the man who makes your morning cappuccino. We are surrounded by stories of extraordinary courage and bravery.

The statistics tell us that there are over 45 million refugees and internally displaced people around the world, and that in South Africa alone there are over 295 000 refugees and asylum seekers (UNHCR). These numbers can seem overwhelming but behind them are the stories of women, men and children forced to flee their homes under threat of persecution, conflict and violence.

So in honour of World Refugee Day today, let’s take the time to hear some of these stories and let our hearts be moved by compassion to reach out in love to those who’ve had to leave their homes and families due to violence and war.

Here are two stories that have really moved us:

No Place Like Home – Mary’s Story

What Is It Really Like To Be A Foreigner In SA? – Billy’s Story

If you’d like to get involved in helping foreign nationals and refugees in SA, visit NETwork or the Scalabrini Centre.

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