World Refugee Day: Celebrating the gifts of refugees
“Promoting inclusion, as we work with marginalized communities”
(LWI) - Well over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, with the impact of the climate emergency continuing to be felt, and with multiple overlapping crises ongoing across the globe, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) joins the rest of the world in commemorating World Refugee Day on June 20 with a push for inclusion and a celebration of the gifts refugees offer to their local communities.
“We take stock this year of the many learnings of our global communion, whose humanitarian and development arm World Service currently has come to serve in 27 different countries,” reflects LWF general secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge.
“Our witness and service in this world has always sought to promote empowerment of refugees and host communities. And in the present context this is perhaps more important than ever – to include vulnerable communities rather than leave them behind,” Junge adds.
The global UNHCR theme for World Refugee Day 2021, “Together we heal, learn, and shine”, runs well in line with the LWF’s approach, and comes with a call for greater inclusion of refugees – in health systems, in schools, in sport – spotlighting the importance of standing together, not least as the world continues to face the impact of COVID-19.
“In the LWF, our rights-based empowerment approach to work with refugees and host communities has always meant promoting inclusion, as we work with marginalized communities in raising their concerns at local, regional, and global levels,” says Maria Immonen, director of LWF World Service.
An unceasing commitment
As 20 June approaches, the LWF observes World Refugee Day this year as a communion whose daily work helps improve the lives of millions each year.
Workshop underway in Arauca, Colombia, where the LWF World Service programme provides livelihoods support for vulnerable communities. Photo: LWF/K. Lizzeth Banquero
In 2020 alone, LWF World Service served more than 2.4 million refugees, internally displaced people and people in host communities, through activities in 27 countries worldwide.
Immonen explains that while the arrival of COVID-19 has changed many aspects of the daily routines in LWF World Service’s different country programs over the past year, the commitment to service remains the same.
LWF staff in Za'atari Refugee Camp in Jordan have adapted their work to the new restrictions caused by the spread of COVID-19. Photo: LWF/M. Hariri
“As we gather to mark World Refugee Day, globally as well as through events in different World Service country programs, we do so because of the commitment to care for refugees and help amplify their voices locally and globally,” she adds.
”Refugees must not be looked at as a burden to our societies. Instead, if we can achieve more inclusive government policies around the world, and give refugees better opportunities to contribute to host countries – including economy – then we can build hope and a future, together,” Immonen concludes.
Celebrating the gifts of refugees to their communities
“I am an advocate, I can change my environment, I have the ability to turn black into light. What the world expects from me is light.”
I am peace, hope for the hopeless. God can raise you anywhere. Being a refugee does not mean you are dead. If you have peace, you can have anything.
The poems are by Julien Tundwa and by Nzeyimana Gaudiose, refugee rights advocates and members of the KADANA refugee platform in Kenya, an initiative originally created with the support of the LWF.
They form part of an LWF publication entitled I am hope – Poems by refugees, launched in connection with World Refugee Day 2021 in English and French, and which celebrates the gifts that refugees offer to their community.
The resource is unique, with contributions such as ‘I am the morning sun’, ‘I am a woman of the world’, ‘I am God’s refugee’, from refugees of all ages.
As stories about refugees so often tend to focus on the ordeals they have gone through, their efforts to build a new life, their challenges and their hopes, the intent behind this publication is different: that the refugees reach deep inside themselves and define who they are poetically, so their voices can be included and heard in new ways.
In the words of Agnès, another one of the poets: I am the light of my hope, I am curious and I want to learn. I am joking and playing. I want to protect my whole family.
By Albin Hillert, edited by LWF Communications