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.
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
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.