Date of publication: 19/06/2024

World Refugee Day 2024: a day of reflection on the plight of refugees

Council General International

In 1950, the United Nations created the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the agency responsible for protecting and assisting human beings in this situation. The definition of refugee also includes stateless persons, returnees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons (within their own country). The UNHCR has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize twice (1954 and 1981) for its meritorious humanitarian work. To further reinforce the importance of this issue, the United Nations established through Resolution 55/2000  the WORLD REFUGEE DAY, which is celebrated on June 20 each year.

Today, 120 million people around the world are living in various conditions where they have been forced to flee their homes, leaving their countries of origin. Never before has this number been so high in the history of mankind. The reasons why people leave their homeland are diverse: persecution (political or religious), conflicts and wars, violence and terrorism, violations of human rights and freedoms, natural disasters or other factors endangering the dignity of the human person. The most up-to-date reports and statistics on the plight of refugees in the world are available on the UNHCR website ( www.acnur.org ).

 This year’s theme for World Refugee Day is “Protecting people displaced by climate change”. Much more than just talking about this issue, it is about finding concrete and durable solutions to alleviate the consequences of this social tragedy. Refugees seek better living conditions for themselves and their families. But in their new country they also suffer from indifference and prejudice, cultural and linguistic differences, material shortages, lack of employment and enormous bureaucratic demands. Refugees therefore need all possible support, especially from governments and the civil society in general, to better integrate into their new reality. The population groups most affected are children, women, the elderly and the disabled.

Regarding this issue Vincentian Conferences play a fundamental role in the welcoming and dignified adaptation of these refugees, providing them with everything they need, not only in the material sphere but above all with regards to emotional, psychological and spiritual support. The Conferences can and should establish programs to help refugees and migrants, defining concrete objectives and actions.

The Holy Church also dedicates a special day to refugees and migrants: September 29 (near the feast of St. Vincent de Paul). The Holy Father’s message on the subject for 2024 is available on the Vatican website. This year’s theme will be: “God walks with his people”. In his message Pope Francis recalls that all of us, God’s people, are migrants on this earth, on the way to the “true homeland”, the Kingdom of Heaven.

Let us always remember that Jesus was a refugee when the Holy Family was forced to flee to Egypt to escape the relentless persecution by Herod (Matthew 2:13-23). And we must not forget that the Savior himself showed mercy and compassion towards migrants and refugees: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35b).

United Nations Commission

International General Council

For more information, please click here:

www.un.org/en/observances/refugee-day

www.humandevelopment.va/en/news/2024/giornata-mondiale-migrante-e-rifugiato-2024-tema-messaggio-papa.html