World Refugee Day 2021
The United Nations designated June 20 as international World Refugee Day in recognition of the courage and strength of people who must flee their home country to escape conflict. First held in 2001, World Refugee Day “is an occasion to build empathy and understanding for their plight and to recognize their resilience in rebuilding their lives,” according to the UN Refugee Agency.
Why do we remember World Refugee Day every year? “We remember refugees on this day so that we take action,” said the Rev. Dr. Samira Isadi Page, founder of Gateway of Grace, a refugee ministry in Dallas. “As Christians, we act based on the commands and requirements of the Scripture which calls us to pray for these people, to serve these people, to do advocacy on their behalf and to remove the root causes of displacement.”
At Gateway of Grace the ministry meets refugees where they are because that’s what Jesus did, Page said. “It doesn’t matter where they come from or what religion they are, we meet them and share the love of Christ with them,” she said. “Depending on which country they come from refugee needs are different. We don’t have one model fits all. Each family is unique each family has experienced specific trauma in different ways, and each family has different gifts and graces they bring with them.”
Gateway of Grace volunteers work with refugees in English as a second language classes, conversational classes, job searches, citizenship classes, and help them integrate in the community successfully so they can become productive members of society. “We connect the volunteers’ gifts in ways to serve that are meaningful, faithful to God and beneficial to the refugee families,” Page said.
Volunteers can serve as little or much as they want, at Gateway of Grace. “We teach our volunteers that relationships are mutual and we learn as much from the refugees as we teach them,” Page said. “We learn from them perseverance, resilience, courage and the ability to face challenges we can’t even imagine. We build communities that are healing, loving and communicate Christ’s love in powerful and transformative ways.”
Serving refugees is easy because it’s relational and gives the gift of presence and friendship to someone who doesn’t have anyone here, Page said. “They are new in a country where they don’t speak the language, don’t know anyone, and have no support system. It’s like waking up in the middle of a nightmare, they are foggy and they don’t know who to trust. It’s important for the Church to step up and be a loving presence for these families who are in an extremely vulnerable situation.”
For those interested in praying for refugees, Episcopal Migration Ministries will host a virtual prayer vigil from 6 to 7 p.m., June 20. All are welcome to join this gathering in recognition of those forced to leave their homes and seek new beginnings elsewhere.
The prayer vigil, broadcast on Episcopal Migration Ministries’ Facebook, will offer a time of prayer, reflection, and celebration in honor of refugees around the globe. A downloadable vigil order of service will be available here. The vigil will be available on-demand following the event.