World Refugee Day: Christian groups honor plight of the persecuted

(Photo: Unsplash/Julie Ricard)

Christian organizations across the globe are highlighting the plight of refugees and displaced individuals worldwide in honor of World Refugee Day, which comes amid an exponential rise in people forcibly displaced from their homes over the past decade. 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has reported a surge in the number of displaced persons worldwide due to persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or events seriously disturbing public order.

At the close of 2021, the figure was 89.3 million. By mid-2022, it stood at 103 million. And at the end of 2022, it reached 108.4 million. In 2011, that figure was 38.54 million

This increase is largely attributed to ongoing conflicts such as those in Sudan and Russia's war on Ukraine, religious persecution, human rights violations, increasing violence against indigenous and African-descent communities and natural disasters.

In response, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America emphasized the importance of its faith-guided mandate to seek justice, peace and protection for displaced persons. The mainline Protestant denomination highlighted the role of the United States as a global leader in refugee resettlement, urging for an increase in admissions.

Last year, the U.S. resettled only 25,465 refugees, despite having an annual ceiling of 125,000, the ELCA lamented.

Since World War II, Christians have been pivotal in efforts to help welcome refugees into their communities, as several of the organizations authorized by the State Department to resettle refugees are Christian organizations that partner with churches.  

The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, the largest faith-based nonprofit in the U.S. dedicated to serving immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees, has welcomed over 500,000 refugees and asylum-seekers since 1939.

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency observed World Refugee Sabbath on Saturday, affirming the need to respond to the struggles of the displaced.

ADRA International President, Michael Kruger, stressed the importance of addressing refugees' basic needs and advocating for their rights.

"World Refugee Day serves as a reminder that we must all work together to end the difficulties and adversities that millions of refugees and host communities face," ADRA International President Michael Kruger said.

World Relief, a global Evangelical humanitarian organization authorized by the State Department to help resettle refugees in the U.S., is sharing refugee stories on its website to humanize the issue. 

In a video, a refugee named Milan said he fled his home in war-torn Burma when he was 16 years old. He is now married with two daughters. After 15 years of living in Malaysia, where they couldn't work or send their kids to school, they were selected for resettlement in South Carolina, where he found a job as a barista. 

"When I read my Bible about Joseph and Daniel, I see that they are really faithful to God, but they have trouble in their life," he said. "But they overcome their situation because God is almighty." 

The Evangelical Immigration Table highlighted the work of Calvary Chapel South in Kent, Washington, which established a barista training program for newly arrived refugees and immigrants that helps them prepare for and find employment. The program's creator, Holly Andrews, has also launched a training program at Brooklake Church in Federal Way, Washington. Thus far, the two churches have trained over 25 refugees. 

The ELCA and LIRS have invited their members to a national day of advocacy to engage their elected representatives at the federal level, urging all to learn more about refugee admissions in the U.S. and to advocate for neighbors in need through prayer and action.

In the creative realm, the electro-pop band Ooberfuse premiered their song "Show Me Love" ahead of World Refugee Day, Independent Catholic News reported.

In Virginia, Church World Service will celebrate World Refugee Day in downtown Harrisonburg, showcasing the strength and courage of refugees, according to WMRA.

World Refugee Day, designated by the U.N., serves as an international reminder of the strength and courage of those forced to flee their homes due to conflict or persecution.

As of this month, there are nearly 35.3 million refugees, 62.5 million internally displaced people, and 5.4 million asylum seekers, according to UNHCR, which says stateless individuals who lack nationality and consequently access to fundamental rights further compound this crisis.

The agency reports that 76% of the world's refugees and individuals requiring international protection reside in low- and middle-income countries. Moreover, 70% of these refugees and individuals needing international protection dwell in nations adjacent to their countries of origin.

More than half of all refugees and individuals needing international protection originate from merely three countries: Syria, Ukraine and Afghanistan.

Courtesy of The Christian Post.