Each year on June 20, the United Nations, United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and thousands of refugee agencies and social service providers celebrate World Refugee Day to raise awareness for the nearly 60 million refugees and displaced persons who are fleeing their homes because of war, violence and persecution. More than 50% of these refugees are under 18 (UNHCR).
The U.S. government resettles about 70,000 refugees annually on a humanitarian basis. Nine agencies are contracted to help with resettlement, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is the oldest and largest of those nine.
Here in the Diocese of Arlington, Catholic Charities’ Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) is one of more than 100 offices that resettles refugees under the USCCB. Last year, MRS helped 1,363 refugees with resettlement, family unification and self-sufficiency.
On Friday, June 19, MRS hosted a World Refugee Day event to raise awareness of the plight of the refugee and celebrate the accomplishments of our current and former refugees. We had a traditional Afghan lunch, mock negotiations and client testimonials.
The day ended with entertainment from a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. While fleeing a civil war in the 90s, all he could bring with him was one bag of belongings — and his guitar.
He credits music with getting him through the darkest period of his life. Now he uses it to bring awareness to the nearly 60 million refugees and displaced persons still struggling for survival.
“If I can sing about their stories and bring them out, that will be my best contribution.”
To support the families that are assisted by MRS, click here to donate or email Cathy Hassinger at CHassinger@ccda.net to adopt a family or volunteer your time. We need assistance with greeting families at the airport and providing meals for them when they arrive, furnishing their apartment, teaching cultural orientation and English as a Second Language, or teaching cultural orientation.