The New American Consortium hosted its first World Refugee day celebration last Monday on June 20th with a potluck and reflections from community members at Lindenwood Park in Fargo. There were about 60 people in attendance.
World Refugee Day was created in 2000 by the United Nations as a day to be set aside to celebrate the triumphs and reflect on the tragedies of the millions of refugees across the world today. According to the UNHCR, there are currently over 65.3 million forcibly displaced persons and of that number over 21.3 million are classified as refugees, half of which are under the age of 18.
In light of those numbers and recent acts of violence, we chose the theme of Peace, Hospitality, and Unity for our event. Our program kicked off with Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Baha’i, and Jewish prayers from representatives of the Center for Interfaith Projects here in Fargo. There was a reflection on our theme from Abendego Thomas, a pastor at the First African United Methodist Church, who came to Fargo as a refugee from Liberia. He shared his own story and the importance of helping New Americans. We also had a reflection by Barry Nelson from the ND Human Rights Coalition who discussed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed by the United Nations in 1948 and its relevance to refugees today. Our live music was provided by the talented Ricot Aladin.
This is just one example of how this day is celebrated. World Refugee Day was observed in various ways in countless communities worldwide. In Tucson, Arizona there was a citizenship ceremony held for youth in a local high school. In Canada, a video was released sharing reflections from four Ministers of Parliament who originally arrived in Canada as refugees. In Izmir, Turkey government officials and delegations paid their respects to graves of drowned refugees who died en route to Greece from Turkey. In Australia, the UNHCR hosted its annual World Refugee Day Breakfast and raised $145,000 to support Syrian Refugees. These examples of World Refugee Day events, as well as countless others that occurred on June 20th, show the compassion of the human spirit and the importance of communities coming together to help others.
In a statement released in honor of World Refugee Day, President Obama summarized this by saying,
“Today, we commemorate the spirit and strength of refugees worldwide and the dedication of those who help them on and after their journeys. Protecting and assisting refugees is a part of our history as a Nation, and we will continue to alleviate the suffering of refugees abroad, and to welcome them here at home, because doing so reflects our American values and our noblest traditions as a Nation, enriches our society, and strengthens our collective security.”
-President Barack Obama, World Refugee Day 2016 statement
World Refugee Day is just one day out of the year but it is important to remember the millions of individuals and families who are still displaced from their homes today. To learn more about how you can help, visit the UNHCR website and consider signing their #withrefugees petition.
We thank everyone in the community who took time out of their day to attend our event and reflect on the tragedies and triumphs of the millions of refugees all over the world. To get involved with the Consortium and learn more about future events, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out our Facebook page for program updates.
Written by Libby Hardwick, Intern