Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Refugees: Worldwide, Need Is Great

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Refugees: Worldwide, Need Is Great

Article excerpt

June 20 marked World Refugee Day. As an expression of solidarity with Africa, which hosts the most of the world's refugees and which traditionally has shown them great generosity, the United Nations General Assembly in 2000 adopted a resolution establishing the commemorative day.

World Refugee Day has a dual purpose: one, to commemorate the courage, strength and perseverance of those uprooted from their homes; two, to tweak the consciences of those in positions to offer assistance.

According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, the number of people forcibly uprooted by conflict and persecution worldwide stood at 42 million at the end of 2008. The figure includes 16 million refugees and asylum seekers and 26 million people uprooted within their own countries.

Guterres last week urged the international community not to allow the global economic crisis to diminish much-needed humanitarian aid. "The overwhelming burden of displacement is borne by developing countries," he said. "Eighty percent of refugees are in the developing world. Generosity and wealth are not proportional to each other."

Although the total of 42 million represents a drop of about 700,000 from the previous year, recent displacements in Pakistan, where up to 2 million people have been uprooted by violence, have already more than offset the decline.

The Catholic church in the United States has a proud history of assisting immigrants and refugees dating back to the founding of this nation. Until the early 20th century, these efforts were organized at the local diocesan and parish levels. In 1920, under the auspices of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, the bishops established a Department of Immigration at the national level. …

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