“As we look on helplessly at the ever-growing number of human refuge heaps, we might perhaps listen to the voice of conscience. At the very least we might reexamine anew the claims that are made for and against the call of conscience in the face of group loyalty.” – Judith N. Shklar, 1993.
STREET ART BY REFUGEES/Refugee Camp in Iraq CC: European Commission DG / Samantha Robison
As Refugee Week begins, we pause to consider those in our society – who they are, how they live, what path their life has taken them on. We wonder how this has turned them into the workers, friends, lovers, educators etc. that they are today.
It encourages us to attempt to fathom the strength, vulnerability and determination of those of us who named Australia our home for our own safety – taking a chance that would hopefully provide us with a life of opportunities, security and calmness; a world away from everything we’ve come to know.
Refugees add extreme value to our society. Their stories and their grit, their persistence and their bravery are admirable. We can learn much from each other.
Human beings are not just a visa, or a passport. A human being is an individual; with values, dreams, fears, nuances that make each of us whole. A being.
For change to occur, we must shift to a humanitarian perspective. This human life we were and are born into is precious to us all. Not one of us is more deserving than the other to a life of pleasure and freedom, regardless of any variables. It is our egos that create segregation and discrimination.
Though our lives may not be similar, and our hardships diverse, this refugee week, let us be educated in the facts of the matter, how we can get involved, and reflect on the importance of showing empathy and kindness to all humanity.
Photo by Rostyslav Savchyn on Unsplash
FAST FACTS (according to WorldVision.org)
- 68.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes, more than ever before.
- Every minute, 30 people are newly displaced.
- Refugee children are five times more likely to be out of school.
- 6 million of 24.9 million refugees live in refugee camps. Others are dispersed in urban areas or in informal settlements.
- Low- and middle-income countries host more than 85% of the world’s refugees.
“Refugees have the right to safe asylum and not to be returned to possible persecution in their country of origin. According to the 1951 Refugee Convention, they are entitled to the basic rights belonging to any other foreigners in the host country, especially the right to practice their religion, pursue an education, and to move about freely. They are required to follow and respect the laws of the country that accepts them.”
HOW TO GET INVOLVED THIS REFUGEE WEEK 2019:
- The Book of Belonging: Free art workshop for all ages, materials and refreshments will be provided. This project began in 2017 with Edmund Rice Centre WA, since then we have been collecting and sharing stories and artworks from people of all ages and backgrounds from Perth’s multicultural communities. Add your very own page to the book through drawing, watercolour painting, writing and collage! We warmly welcome stories and creative expressions of your history, identities, and culture. For more information, click here
- World Refugee Week 2019 Morning Tea: Journeys – Mount Lawley: Join us for conversations, stories and morning tea in support of people who have made extraordinary journeys in search of freedom. For more information, click here
- Stories of Hope and Freedom: Join Amnesty WA, the Ethnic Communities Council and Aranmore Catholic College in marking World Refugee Week through stories of hope, courage and freedom. For more information, click here
2019 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren
“Being a refugee may be a defining moment in the lives of those who are refugees, but being a refugee does not define them. Like countless thousands before them, this will be a period—we hope a short period—in their lives. Some of them will go on to be Nobel laureates, public servants, physicians, scientists, musicians, artists, religious leaders, and contributors in other fields. Indeed, many of them were these things before they lost everything. This moment does not define them, but our response will help define us.”
— Elder Patrick Kearon, from Refuge from the Storm (April 2016)
Words by Erin Riordan Peña