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Adventist Church Inaugurates First Annual World Refugee Sabbath

Europe reflects on the more than 65 million people who have been forced to leave lives behind to seek safety

Saturday, June 17 has been designated the Seventh-day Adventist Church's first annual "World Refugee Sabbath." The day has been set aside to raise awareness of the needs of people who have been displaced from their homes due to civil unrest and persecution.

Churches, groups, families and individuals are invited to participate using the resources made available by the Seventh-day Adventist Church as well as by exploring the information and stories shared by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency. ADRA has made available information, stories, facts and photos on this subject to help further a broader understanding of refugees and to challenge some of the misconceptions around the topic.

We hope this day will serve as a reminder to individuals worldwide that every refugee is worthy of compassion.

The Refugee Crisis

What we are experiencing recently is a tragedy that is taking place before our eyes. Hundreds of thousands of men, women, children, elderly, are escaping from the clutches of wars that seems to be never-ending.

They are our next door neighbors, knocking incessantly at our doors to ask to be granted the right of security, a safe shelter from the threat of death. Many of them have left precipitately, leaving their belongings, and very often their beloved ones whom cannot travel.

Refugees from Syria and Iraq arrive in Greece. [Photo: Wikimedia.org]

The journey of hope that these migrants have taken has been for many a real misery. They have faced a long journey crossing different countries, deserts, seas, with the anxiety of not succeeding. For many of them it has been so, they drowned in a strip of sea that separated them from the apparent salvation. Among them, many children.

Although the political and institutional entities are at work to stop this tragedy, every day we read the record of migratory flows that are pouring into European territories, stained by the blood of those who didn’t make it.

Considering these scenarios, the Seventh day Adventist church is doing its best to address this global emergency, supporting refugees with available resources. Beyond sensational headlines, there is so much more to know about these displaced men, women, and children who are often escaping the same terror that many of us fear.

Refugees and Human Rights

A refugee is a person who has fled armed conflict or persecution and who subsequently has the right to seek protection in another country under international law. An asylum-seeker is someone who says they are a refugee, but whose claim has not yet been definitively evaluated.

During mass movements of asylum seekers, like what we’re seeing now in Europe, it is generally evident why they have fled, and therefore such groups are often declared “prima facie” refugees.

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are people who have been forced to flee their homes, but who have not crossed any international borders to seek safety.

Seeking asylum in other countries is a human right recognized by Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Countries that have ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention are obligated to protect refugees in their territory.

One hundred and forty two countries have signed on to the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol. Parties to the Convention have a duty to provide protection to refugees in their territory, and are bound not to return any refugee to a country where their life or freedom would be threatened.

Refugees and asylum seekers have numerous rights, including the right to: not get sent back to their home country; not be punished for illegally entering countries that are party to the Convention and Protocol; housing; work; access to education; access to public assistance; access to courts; get identification and travel documents.

More information about refugees worldwide

  • Around the world, more than 40,000 people are forced from their homes every single day.
  • In total, over 65 million people around the world are refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs) in their home countries.
  • 50% of the world’s refugees are under 18 years old.
  • More than 50% of the world’s refugees are from three countries – Syria, Afghanistan & Somalia.
  • 86% of refugees are hosted by developing countries.
  • The average time out of country for a refugee is now well over a decade.
  • Last year alone, more than 5,000 men, women, and even unaccompanied children lost their lives during their search for safety and a better life.

European Crisis

  • More than 1 million refugees crossed into Europe in 2015—most from Syria, but thousands also from Afghanistan, Iraq, and other conflict-affected countries.
  • 3,770 died crossing the Mediterranean in 2015.
  • Germany had the most asylum applications in 2015, but Hungary had the highest in proportion to its population with 1,800 refugees per 100,000 local residents.

Syria

  • As of late 2016, the number of Syrian people in need of aid was 13.5 million.
  • Syria now accounts for the largest refugee population, with more than 4.8 million forced to flee the country as registered refugees (UN Refugee Agency)
  • On top of those who have become refugees outside of Syria, another 6 million internally displaced persons (IDP) within the country.
  • 4 million Syrian children have no means of getting an education safely within the country or as refugees.
  • As many as 50% of Syrians suffer serious psychological distress due to the violence, death, and instability that surround them in their country and as refugees.

For additional information and resources, and to know how you can contribute, visit the Adventist Development and Relief Agency special section on refugees.

This article originally appeared on the Inter-European Division News site and has been updated to reflect current statistics.


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