World Refugee Day 2016 — open minds, unlock potential

20 June 2016

Related: CAN, USA

(Rome) June 20, 2016 — As human beings, we are at the mercy of nature, at the mercy of governments, at the mercy of leaders, at the mercy of war. We are at the mercy of forces beyond our control. These forces have caused an unprecedented 60 million people  — mothers, fathers, sisters and children — to flee their homes. 

Imagine everyone in the states of California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada and Colorado in motion: taking trucks, rafts, footpaths and trains; taking children, blankets, clothing and, most often, taking nothing.

This World Refugee Day, Jesuit Refugee Service urges you to remember we must not only provide refugees with a safe place to stay, but with opportunities to grow and contribute to society. To truly protect means keeping people safe from all evils, including poverty, isolation, exploitation, misconception and neglect.

Refugees in motion eventually must stop, and when they do, they change. As the fabrics of society change, host communities change too. So many people are forced to flee from war, persecution and oppression. But we as humanity also seem to be fleeing from each other. Content with a comfortable sense of normalcy, we fear change. However, change does not mean carelessly tossing ourselves into the unknown. It rather means choosing how we want to positively reshape our societies through positive encounter with our neighboors.

“We need to reinvent our way of being together. We must show mercy to and accept one another, and this act of mercy must be mutual and concrete. Opening doors is not enough; we must open ourselves and our minds to unlock our potential as a society,” said JRS International Director Fr Thomas H Smolich S.J.

Access to quality education allows refugees better to fulfill their own potential and fully contribute to the growth, strength and stability of communities. Knowledge is the one thing that no war or disaster can seize.

“I ask everyone to be educated for not only themselves, but for the betterment of their nation. To say it simply: no education, no life,” said Seda Abdalllah Abakar, a refugee and teacher at the JRS school in Goz Amir camp in Chad.

Host communities across the globe must guarantee that refugees do not lose their fundamental right to learn. Let’s educate ourselves in the highest sense and learn from one another. We must genuinely open ourselves, our minds and our communities to unlock our potential as a society. This World Refugee Day, let’s take the opportunity to mobilize our compassion and put our Mercy in Motion.

“Opening doors is not enough; we must open ourselves and our minds to unlock our potential as a society.” ~ JRS International Director Fr Thomas H Smolich S.J.