Letter from Fr Lasantha at World Refugee Day

21 April 2024|Fr Lasantha Deabrew, SJ

Related: Advocacy, Kenya

The World Refugee Day 2022 celebrations in Kakuma and Kalobeyei were great with the theme of the day, Whoever, Wherever, Everyone has a right to seek safety…..

 This year celebrations were held at Kalobeyei Settlement, Village 2, Ms. Winnie Guchu, Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government as the Chief Guest.  Caroline Van Buren, the Country Representative of UNHCR graced the occasion. There were many Government Officials and UNHCR staff. Many heads of Agencies were present.

There several cultural dances and poems by the refugee and host commuinties and the students of Angelina Jolly Boarding School.

JRS was privileged as UNHCR nominated Fr. Lasantha, the Project Director Kakuma to represent all the humanitarian partners working in Kakuma and Kalobeyei. The message for WRD touched the realities in the world; forced displacement now exceeds 100 million – 1 in 78 persons on earth are made to flee. The message invited us to become healers.

In this situation, in Kakuma and Kalobeyei, we are blessed to have agencies and partners who serve our refugee community in various ways. We serve you as our fellow human being and we respect and serve you as our own.  For it is not only the task of the agencies but of every individual to care and serve our sisters and brothers.

I am very grateful to Fr. Bill for polishing my speech which was heart warming.

After the speeches from the Chief Guest and Country Representative of UNHCR, the award ceremony followed.

The JRS students who are living disabilities who participated in the Unified Games by Special Olympics Kenya to celebrate the WRD won the Gold Medal and received their medals and awards from Ms Winnie Guch. The children were elated and also their teachers and coaches.

 

Yes, in WRD 2022 celebrations in Kakuma & Kalobeyei, JRS stole the show.

Fr. Lasantha SJ’s speech,
“Whoever, Wherever, Everyone has a right to seek safety” 

Dear honorable guests, friends gathered from various agencies, our friends from refugee community & host communities. It is great privilege for me to stand before you to share a message on behalf of our agencies which are serving you in Kakuma & Kalobeyei on this World Refugee Day.  

This year’s theme, “Whoever, Wherever, Everyone has a right to seek safety”, recalls the very heart of our common humanitarian mission.  And it could not be more timely or urgent. Several days ago, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released its annual “Global Trends” report on forced migration: The figures are striking: 

With millions of Ukrainians displaced and further displacement elsewhere in 2022, total forced displacement now exceeds 100 million people. This means 1 in every 78 people on earth has been forced to flee – a dramatic milestone that few would have expected a decade ago. 

 

The report concludes by echoing our theme today: 
 
As new refugee situations emerge and intensify, and as existing ones reignite or remain unresolved, there is an acute need for durable solutions at increasing scale. The Global Compact on Refugees notes that one strategic priority for UNHCR and the humanitarian community is to identify and support durable solutions that enable refugees to rebuild their lives and live in safety and dignity. 

 

Never since the founding of the modern humanitarian regime have so many been displaced, never has their suffering been so great.  And yet as we recite the litany of the displaced: refugees, internally displaced persons, asylum seekers, etc. there is a danger that the unprecedented figures of the forcibly displaced displace the human figure: a danger that the human face is  lost  in numbers. 

It is thus so crucial that we gather today and  affirm what the  Universal Declaration  of  Human Rights calls  our common faith in dignity  and  human rights,  a faith that gathers  all our creeds and inspires our deepest humanitarian commitments. 

It is, in the first place, a faith that is deeply inclusive:  “Whoever, Wherever, Everyone has a right to seek safety.”  The right to safety: security from every form of violence and coercion, whether due to race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or belief derives from our human dignity.  Each child is precious, endowed with inviolable worth.  Dignity, and the basic human rights it entails can  never be lost or forfeited;  each  of  us is unique, irreplaceable.  No one can take your place; no  one ever ceases  to  matter.  Each of us, each refugee, has her own story that she alone can tell. 

Our common faith in dignity thus binds us in solidarity: we are equally precious, equally valuable: Whoever, Wherever, Everyone has a right to seek safety.”  And not only to seek  safety, but to receive it.   

Yet our rights are honored in the breach: what see today, as the Global Trends Report reminds us not the solidarity of inclusion but the violence of exclusion.  Our common faith is belied by ethnic and racial bias, the denigration of women and children, religious intolerance, and ethno-nationalist supremacy. Our world is wounded, bleeding in forced displacement. 

And so today, we are all called to be healers, each in our own way:  For the wounds remain, even in Kakuma-Kalobeyei.  Here, too, we find exclusion: Just as refugees become what Hannah Arendt once called “frightening symbols” of difference, so too we may be tempted to discriminate against those we call “other”:  Sometimes, even unconsciously, we pass on our prejudices to the next generation, sowing the seeds of violence and strife. Some thus become refugees a second time, being displaced even in places of asylum. 

What, then, can we do to ensure that Whoever, Wherever, Everyone has a right to seek safety?” 

Healing begins by living our common faith: who among us is suffering, whose equal dignity and equal rights are unequally threatened or denied? Who today are the most vulnerable? 

For each refugee is unique, each has her story.  And we in our humanitarian programs and projects are privileged to hear their stories.  Indeed, our in our common faith in dignity and rights, our different works tell a story of stories as we accompany our sisters and brothers, and in turn are accompanied by them.   

Finally, hearing the stories lets us tell a new story, of hope, hospitality, and resilience.  Our common faith binds us in a common story of solidarity, a mission embracing each agency and every refugee or asylum seeker.  Our hope is never lost, our love never wasted. 

In this situation, in Kakuma and Kalobeyei, we are blessed to have agencies and partners who serve our refugee community in various ways. We serve you as our fellow human being and we respect and serve you as our own.  For it is not only the task of the agencies but of every individual to care and serve our sisters and brothers.  

Keeping to my faith tradition, the only way to love God is to care for the orphan, widow and the alien who need our protection. Therefore my colleagues in our different agencies and all whom we serve, this is our duty and great responsibility:  our common faith.  

Dear friends, we are with you to Accompany, Serve and Advocate so that Whoever, Wherever, Everyone’s right to safety is fulfilled.