Saturday, September 24, 2016

Advocating for Refugees (including Education for Children)

Photo: Embrace Refugees
There are an estimated 21.3 million refugees around the world, and many find themselves in limbo for years, denied the rights they need to become self-sufficient and restart their lives. More than 50% of all refugees are children.

One effort to help refugees is designed primarily to support refugees who come to the United States. The Embrace Refugees Campaign encourages Americans to welcome and connect with refugees who have been recently relocated to the US by learning more about the resettlement process and the people it serves, as well as by finding out more about volunteer support networks in their area

"The US has long been a leader in helping people who are fleeing violence and persecution find a safe place for their families to live,," said the campaign. "For decades, citizens and policy makers have come together to make this happen. In fact, five of the nine agencies that help refugees find homes in the US are from a variety of faiths. Americans from all religions and political leanings believe that helping refugees is the right thing to do."

Last year, over 34,000 people were forced to leave their homes every day due to violence, persecution, and conflict.

Mercy in Motion: A Jesuit Campaign
Refugees need practical and fast paths to integrate into new societies. This begins with quality education. Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) launched its Mercy in Motion program in December 2015 in conjunction with Pope Francis' declaration of a Year of Mercy. The goal of the campaign is to provide 100,000 refugee and displaced people with access to education by the year 2020.

As part of the campaign JRS is raising $35 million to provide refugees with the tools to contribute to their new communities, and to rebuild their own ones. Mercy in Motion will expand the educational projects of  JR , spanning from primary school to university, and including vocational and teacher training.

"Schools provide the stability that children need to cope with the loss, fear, stress and violence experienced during times of crisis," said JRS. "Being in school can keep children safe and protected from risks, including gender-based violence, recruitment into armed groups, child labor and early marriage."

 When speaking out on the current refugee crisis, Pope Francis has said the world is suffering from a “globalization of indifference,” ignoring those who cry out for mercy.  It is time to change that. “We can no longer take the suffering of others for granted,” he said. We must come together and mobilise our compassion to make a globalized difference. It is the role of each one of us to ensure those who have lost their homes do not lose their hope.

Photo: Jesuit Refugee Services
Eleven Concerts
Performing artists are also involved in the JRS effort to raise awareness and funds for programs to help refugees. Five of America's most popular musical acts are coming together for an 11-stop concert tour this fall to raise awareness of the unprecedented worldwide refugee crisis.

"Lampedusa: Concerts for Refugees" will be headlined in North America by Grammy Award-winning artists Emmylou HarrisSteve EarlePatty Griffin, Buddy Miller, and The Milk Carton Kids. The concerts will take place in Boulder, Kansas City, Lincoln, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Toronto, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. Read accounts from Emmy Lou Harris and Patty Griffin about their work with refugees.

Calls and Petitions
The ONE Campaign has also mobilized its supporters to act on behalf of refugee children  On Sept. 6 to 16, members of ONE were asked to call The White House to advocate for school-aged refugees to have the opportunity to attend school. ONE also made  a petition available online.

The calls and the petition advocated for the US government to promote education of refugees at two summits sponsored by the United Nations in New York. On Sept. 19, the UN General Assembly called for a summit at the Heads of State and Government level on large movements of refugees and migrants. The summit was dubbed as  a historic opportunity  for the UN to come up with a blueprint for a better international response.

A day later, on Sept. 20, US President Barack Obama hosted the Leaders' Summit on the Global Refugee Crisis. The purpose of the summit was to to galvanize significant new global commitments to: 1) increase funding to humanitarian appeals and international organizations, 2) admit more refugees through resettlement or other legal pathways, and 3) increase refugees’ self-reliance and inclusion through opportunities for education and legal work.

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