Forced to Flee, In Search of Safety
Please read this special message on World Refugee Day from Ambassador Johnny Young, Executive Director of MRS
According to the 1951 Refugee Convention, a refugee is one 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." The Catholic Church has for decades taken seriously the plight of these vulnerable refugees and through advocacy, education efforts, and service provision sought to provide increased protections for them.
These efforts take place on the international level through the hard work of Catholic organizations like Catholic Relief Services and Jesuit Relief Services, who provide support in camps and communities across the world to refugees. It takes place domestically, here in the United States, through Catholic Charities and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Both organizations advocate for further protections and provide support for newly arriving refugees.
It is important to keep in mind refugee populations who are at risk and in danger. Please find below information on some of these populations. Use them as a resource to familiarize yourself, your family, and your friends to these crises and to learn more how you can help. 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.
Forced to Flee: The Syrian Exodus Continues
Since 2011 a war has been raging in Syria that has led to the displacement of millions of innocent men, women, and children. The situation remains at a crisis stage and more has to be done to provide protections for refugees in the surrounding countries and for the internally displaced. The Catholic Church in the United States is doing a great deal of work to help alleviate the suffering of Syrians displaced from their homes and to bring about a degree of stability that is currently lacking in the region: In 2012 the bishops of the United States traveled to the Middle East to examine the Syrian refugee crisis and produced a report on their findings.
Please use this fact sheet for a brief overview of the situation on the ground in the area surrounding Syria and recommendations by the Catholic bishops of the United States regarding this ongoing crisis.
In January, 2014, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo provided testimony before Congress that made recommendations for how to help these populations.
To learn more about what one of our partner organizations, Catholic Relief Services, is doing to provide support for Syrian refugees, their website related to World Refugee Day is a useful resource.
A Prayer for the People of Syria
Almighty eternal God, source of all compassion,
the promise of your mercy and saving help fills our hearts with hope.
Hear the cries of the people of Syria;
bring healing to those suffering from the violence,
and comfort to those mourning the dead.
Empower and encourage Syria’s neighbors
in their care and welcome for refugees.
Convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms,
and strengthen the resolve of those committed to peace.
your Holy Spirit inspires us to look beyond ourselves and our own needs.
Inspire leaders to choose peace over violence
and to seek reconciliation with enemies.
Inspire the Church around the world with compassion for the people of Syria,
and fill us with hope for a future of peace built on justice for all.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace and Light of the World,
who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Unaccompanied Migrant Children on the US/Mexico Border
Since 2011, the United States has seen an unprecedented increase in the number of unaccompanied migrating children arriving to the country, predominately at the U.S./Mexico border. Whereas the number of children apprehended averaged 6,800 between federal fiscal years (FY) (October 1-September 30) 2004 and 2011, the total jumped to over 13,000 children in FY20122 and over 24,000 children in FY 2013.3 HHS/ORR, as well as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimate that more than 60,000 unaccompanied minors could enter the United States during 2014. Last fall the bishops traveled to Central America to understand some of the underlying causes that gave rise to this migration and produced a report, Mission to Central America: Flight of Unaccompanied Migrants to the United States, to highlight their findings. The report is also available in Spanish.
Given the critical situation confronting unaccompanied refugee minors at the U.S./Mexico border it is imperative that not only do we advocate for more protections for them, but also pray for their continued safety. Please use this prayer card for this purpose.
For more information regarding the extent of problem, what the bishops are doing, and how you can help, please see the following:
Please use this fact sheet to understand the general principles that guide the bishops' work with respect to the influx of unaccompanied migrant children and their perspective as to what needs to be done to successfully deal with the issue.
This fact sheet examines the funding requirements necessary to respond to the needs of unaccompanied migrant children who are arriving along the border.
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.