World Refugee Day 2021: Together we Heal, Learn, & Shine

World Refugee Day 2021: Together we Heal, Learn, & Shine

Claire Weihe serves with the Reformed Church of Hungary.

World Refugee Day was first celebrated on June 20th, 2001 as Africa Refugee Day which commemorated the 1951 Convention concerning the status of refugees. This day is celebrated to honor refugees around the world, increase empathy toward their plight, and most importantly, to be understanding of the resilience that they have had to build to endure so much challenge. This day celebrates the amazing contributions refugees and asylum seekers have made in our world. According to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, every 20 minutes a family is displaced from their home. A refugee is formally defined as someone who has , “a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” There are several types of refugees: asylum seekers (those who have fled their home, but are yet to claim legal refugee status), internally displaced people (those who have fled their home within national borders), stateless persons (those who’s national identity is not recognized by any specific country), and returnees (those who were formerly displaced and were able to return to their home country).  As of the middle of 2020, there were 80 million forcibly displaced people globally, more than half of which are internally displaced. 26.3 million of these people are considered refugees, 4.2 million people are asylum seekers, and 3.6 million of these people are Venezualan refugees. The other top 4 countries of origin are the Syrian Arab Republic, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Myanmar. Turkey hosts 3.6 million refugees, the most of any country. 38 – 43% of all refugees are children, making an already vulnerable group, even more vulnerable to the challenges, stress, and chaos that life as a refugee can entail. Some specific initiatives that the UNHCR works on to improve the lives of forcibly displaced people are: access to healthcare, mental health services, sexual and reproductive health services, food security, water, sanitation, and hygiene programs (WASH), education, economic development, shelter, response to climate change and natural disasters, and other necessary support.  Linked below is the UNHCR’s World Refugee Day toolkit. 

Kalunba is the implementing partner of the Refugee Integration Ministry operated/based by/in the Diaconal Office of the Reformed Church in Hungary. The organization aids families and individuals coming into the country by providing them support in many ways when integrating into a new culture.and what they do. Global Ministries supports The Reformed Church in Hungary and Kalunba by supporting a Global Mission Intern who assists with English lessons, writing, editing, and conducting interviews. 

My students have provided me with some really necessary perspectives concerning how settled people can support and think about displaced people. Not all of my students label themselves as refugees, but each of them have had to leave their home and culture and start a new life. My students come from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Ethiopia and all have different reasons for leaving and settling in Budapest. One group of sisters I tutor are from Afghanistan and are part of the Hazara people that are violently discriminated against by the Taliban. Another one of my students had to flee domestic violence. A few other student’s fathers moved to Hungary at the request of their government, and are now raising their families there. Many times families are separated. Only one of my students is with their whole immediate family, and most are hoping for family reunification at some point in the future.  Over the past few weeks my students have given me some insight on their perspectives by answering a few questions. Below are their responses. 

What would you like people to know about refugees?: 

 “You’re never accepted fully into the country, you are still a refugee even if you are a citizen. And it is not better than your original country.m Iw ould rather live in iran or iraq but it’s just not good for us. In fact, if I could live freely in Iran or Iraq I would go back.Its better than here. Being a refugee in Europe is not easy. You’re different from everyone and they treat you differently.” 

“They are already having a hard time with culture and language, so I think they should stop judging them.”

“I want to tell the world to not consider refugees as people who don’t have hope or don’t have something to do in their country or have had a miserable life. They also had a life before, and they still will continue to have a future. Do not just scold them as if they are not human.”

How can the world better support refugee populations?:

“Just be nice to them! …Some people I see complain about how hard it is to be in Europe, and then the Hungarians just say “Ok well go back to your country.” Right. Problem solved. If it was that easy I wouldn’t travel.”

“I think they should support them financially, like some things should be free, and to give them space to be themselves”

“Its good that the governments of certain countries are helping but I think also that the people living in a host country will  be open minded to accept them and treat them as another human being not like we came from another planet or something, I am equally human.”

What are your greatest strengths or achievements?:

“The fact that I don’t ever give up, and sometimes it’s scary. Like I never give up even though sometimes I can’t walk or talk, I still manage to keep going.”

“I think my greatest achievement was learning the language and the culture here better. My greatest strength is being strong.”

“Maybe my safety and my freedom are my greatest achievements.”

What do you hope for your future or the future of refugees?:

I have really high hopes for my future, because I am trying so hard I have to get a good outcome. I hope that I get to the UK and start over… I’ll start studying to be a therapist. Being a therapist for other refugees would be amazing because I understand them because I have been through what they have been through.I wish I had a therapist when I was going through all those things.” 

“For me, as soon as I improve my life, like speaking better and knowing the culture better, then I think I will have a good future. It’s Not safe for us to go back to Afghanistan, I am not sure if we are staying here in Hungary long term.”

“I want the future of refugees to be in their own countries at peace.”

A final note from one of my students exemplified Jesus’s call to love our neighbors as ourselves: 

“Just accept them, love them, this love starts from a young age.”

I hope that you can think of displaced people around the world on June 20th but everyday, as many of us are privileged to be able to call a place home and be safe in it. 

Peace be with each of you as we work together to promote a more just world with our Still Speaking God. 

Website and Articles of RCH’s Refugee Ministry:

Sources Used: (TOOLKIT)

Claire Weihe serves with the Reformed Church of Hungary. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, WOC, and your special gifts.

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