For the past 27 years, the Refugee & Immigrant Forum of Santa Clara County has celebrated World Refugee Day on the 20th of June, to bring awareness to the courage, perseverance, and resilience of refugees and the difficulties they still face.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we could not enjoy each other’s company, food, music and stories in person. We have created this video to share the experience through scenes from previous celebrations. We hope that it will inspire more people to focus on the ongoing difficulties of refugees around the world.
According to the UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency), at the end of 2019 almost 80 million people had been forcibly displaced from their homes. 40% are children. Millions are stateless, with no country willing to recognize them as citizens or accept responsibility for their fates. They are at the mercy of politicians, economic trends, and the kindness of strangers. Only 15% are being hosted by the wealthier countries and due to increasingly tight restrictions, the wealthiest country – the U.S. – has virtually closed its doors to refugees and asylees.
It is more important than ever that we find ways to recognize and remember the humanity of these people, who are living in unimaginable conditions. The numbers are so large and the obstacles to solutions so abundant that it is tempting to turn our attention to one of the other many issues that we are facing on the planet. But we must remember that each one of those statistics represents an individual life, which contains the seeds to all the wisdom, contributions and creativity that can develop when nurtured. Each one contains the same potential for development as we do. We may or may not recognize the loss when we do not develop our own potential. That loss is magnified millions of times when we allow these people to languish in refugee camps or worse, while politicians argue over a solution.
We may not know the solution, or feel we have the power to make a change today. But the first and most important step is to encourage as many people as possible to recognize and remember the intrinsic value and beauty of displaced people, who are often viewed as a burden. When no country feels an obligation or responsibility to provide for them, they are left to survive on fickle charity in an unstable world.
Please share this virtual celebration, which demonstrates the wonderful enhancement that refugees from previous years have brought to the Santa Clara County community. They have helped us to broaden our understanding and open our hearts. They may have arrived with problems, but many also brought solutions – for themselves and for others.
Even in these difficult times, we can allow ourselves to celebrate the beauty of diversity. We look forward to the day when we can again welcome our brothers and sisters who are feeling displaced and abandoned. They are not forgotten.
Let’s hope we will be able to celebrate the World Refugee Day in person and together in 2021.