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World Refugee Day


Forced to Flee,
Seeking Safety

For over a century the Catholic Church in the United States has provided material and spiritual support to migrants, both domestically and abroad. A migrant population in particular need of protection are refugees who, according to the 1951 Refugee Convention, are those who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country." Refugees are particularly vulnerable because they are often unable to take advantage of legal protections that are often afforded to residents and citizens of a country and are thus particularly open to exploitation.

The Catholic Church has long recognized these threats and since at least the World War II era, the Church has been proactive in its advocacy efforts on behalf of these populations. In addition to advocacy, it also provides services to refugees who are resettled into the United States and develops resources that help refugees integrate into their new homeland. World Refugee Day, which is celebrated every year on June 20, provides an opportunity to highlight some of these efforts and shed light on the important work of the Church in this regard. It is also an opportunity to highlight some of the refugee populations that are in need of further protections. Please find below a series of fact sheets that provide overviews of some of these situations.  Use them as a resource to familiarize yourself, your family, and your friends to these crises and to learn more how you can help. 

  • Forced to Flee: The Plight of Congolese Refugees
    The Democratic Republic of the Congo has, in recent decades, faced one political crisis after another. Economic chaos, civil war, and government corruption has contributed to the displacement of countless numbers of Congolese

  • Forced to Flee: Eritrean Refugees, Kidnapped and Tortured
    Forced military conscription, grinding poverty that prohibits the average Eritrean from living a life of dignity, and an oppressive government has contributed to a significant and growing refugee population.

  • Forced to Flee: The Syrian Exodus
    Since 2011 a full-scale rebellion that seeks the removal of President Bashar al-Assad has broken out in Syria, and has led to a massive dislocation of people who are fleeing the violence and seeking safety elsewhere. 
It is important to note that these only represent a small sampling of the refugee populations to whom the Church provides support. Since it began its work in earnest with refugees, the Church has advocated for and helped to resettle refugees from Eastern Europe, Central and South America, Africa, and throughout Asia.

The Catholic Church in Action

The Catholic Church is the largest non-governmental resettlement agency in the world, and generally helps to resettle as many as a third of all refugees brought into the United States in any given year. This work is made possible through the tireless efforts of people working as part of the Church's resettlement network across the country.  In additional to its resettlement activities, representatives from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Services often travel abroad to see first hand the situation of refugee populations, and to develop policy recommendations that are intended to provide protection to these populations. Please find below the final reports from some recent delegation trips:

How you can help

  • Refugee populations are in need of your assistance, both through material support when they arrive and continual advocacy efforts on their behalf. To learn more about how you can help the Church in its efforts to protect refugee populations, please click here.

  • If you are interested in assisting MRS continue its important work with migrants and refugees, please consider making a donation to the National Catholic Migration Fund.

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