Rome (Fides Service) – “Refugee Youth – Building the future” is the theme of World Refugees Day 20th June. The day, adopted by the United Nations in 2000, marked world wide in 2001, and dedicated to women refugees in 2002, this year focuses on refugee youth. To mark the event the UN High Commission for Refugees UNHCR organised an international ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya.
The intention is to draw the world’s attention to the fact that of the 45 million uprooted people around the world 80% are women and children, whose only crime was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and who now find themselves the displaced victims of other people’s wars and conflicts. In the last decade alone millions of children have been killed, wounded or orphaned by war, maimed by land mines, coerced into becoming soldiers or sexual slaves and fallen victim to starvation and disease.
On Sunday 16 June Pope John Paul II made another recent pressing call in favour of refugees. Speaking of universal brotherhood before the midday Angelus Prayer in Rome, he said: “ In the light of this universal horizon of communion, every situation in which human persons or groups are obliged to flee their own land to seek refuge elsewhere stands out as a serious offence to God. …Almost half the refugees in the world are children and young people. Many of them do not go to school, are deprived of basic essentials and live in refugee-camps or even in detention centres. The dramatic plight of refugees demands that the international community do everything possible not only to treat the symptoms, but first of all to go to the root of the problem: in other words, to prevent conflicts and promote justice and solidarity in every context of the human family”.
One of the organisations most active in assisting refugees all over the world is the Jesuit Refugee Service JRS started by Father Pedro Arupe in 1980. In a message issued for World Refugee Day 2003, Jesuit Father Luis Magrina JRS international director says: “When a conflict strikes a nation, causing evacuation on a vast scale, the education of children is usually stopped, depriving a whole generation of a fundamental right. Without instruction young people often experience a loss of self-esteem and they feel their chances in life are considerably reduced. Moreover young refugees are often separated from their family, or worse, traumatised by the loss of a parent, a brother or sister. They are exposed to exploitation, sexual abuse, violence which leave profound scars very difficult to heal. What future has a society in which the lives of the young generations are ruined by war and displacement?”
With this in mind the JRS is committed to assisting young refugees all over the world, protecting them from abuse, defending their rights, providing instruction to guarantee a better future. In Venezuela for example, the JRS provides medical and psychological care to young Colombian refugees. In Bosnia Herzegovina JRS is involved in the rehabilitation of children injured by the explosion of land mines. In Nepal over 100 children receive instruction from JRS volunteers. In Thailand JRS continues to provide assistance for refugees from Burma (Myanmar) fleeing ethnic cleansing. In Africa JRS projects reach over 76,000 people, many of whom are children and youth: orphans in South Africa, maimed children in Angola and Uganda; children victims of war in the region of the Great Lakes. PA (Fides Service 9/6/2003 EM lines 44 Words: 551)