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World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day

Had I been born in another part of the world, I might be among the refugees of my age struggling to walk their way to freedom.

I am fortunate. I know where I will sleep tonight; that I can walk into the local neighborhood, wave to people I know, and to feel safe. No one has forced me from my home, violated me, or made it impossible to remain in my country without fear of injury or death. No, I am not one of the 68 million refugees or internally displaced people in the world today as a result of conflict or persecution. Many of them are my age, if not when they begin their journey they may be by the time they are able to return to their countries.

From 1998 to 2001 I was privileged to be part of a team of local leaders in Geneva, Switzerland brought together by Mrs. Sadako Ogata, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). It opened my eyes to what it meant to seek refuge.

  • Most refugees want only to return to their homes. They have been forced to leave and dream of the moment when they can return. You’ve only to witness news reports of the risks they have taken and the hundreds of miles they have walked to know that they had no choice if they were to survive.
  • Many refugees have been born and raised in refugee camps waiting to enter into a safe country. The average length of displacement today is 17 years. Recently I mentored a woman who had spent her whole life in a refugee camp.
  • Many of the people we think of as the heroes of science, exploration, humanity and education in our own countries came to our countries as refugees. Geneva, Switzerland where I live, developed into the world renowned city of Global Peace Talks and the United Nations organizations largely thanks to the arrival of refugees over the centuries.

Let’s stand together with refugees and also recognize that had we been born in another part of the world we might be among them, or left behind to die.

Bonnie Fatio

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