By the time you finished reading this sentence, one more person will have become a refugee.
A refugee is someone who has been forcibly displaced because of war, persecution, ethnic violence or human rights violations.
There are 66 million displaced persons in the world. They belong to three categories: Refugees, Internally Displaced Persons and Asylum Seekers.
Refugees are persons who have been forced to flee their country because of war, persecution or other types of violence. They number 23 million today. Small countries of West Asia, like Lebanon or Jordan, have millions of refugees from Syria. The Rohingyas are another sad example.
Internally Displaced Persons are persons who run away from their homes because of war, persecution, natural disasters or state policies. They are not protected by international law, since they are supposed to be protected by their own government. People lose their homes and land, for instance, to make way for grandiose projects. They number around 40 million around the globe.
Asylum seekers are persons who flee their own country and seek protection, stay or citizenship in another country. They are about 3 million.
These three groups of human beings undergo tremendous suffering, and need our help. They have neither political power, nor powerful supporters, nor financial clout. They are at the mercy of inhuman government policies, agents who exploit them for money, sex predators who take advantages of their vulnerable situation and traffickers who dupe them and sell them for money, sex and sale of organs.
Pope Francis has given a lead in this matter, as he has done in so many other areas of human need. He speaks up for refugees; he has washed their feet. He pleads with governments to take in more refugees.
One group whom we can and must help are domestic workers. Many of them, often semi-literate and poor, work in homes or religious houses in other parts of India. It is our duty to treat them well, defend their rights, make sure they are paid a proper salary, and helped to save money and get married.
May we be grateful for the safety, freedom, financial security and opportunities that we enjoy, and have a heart for the millions of children, women and men who have the same rights as we do, but are deprived by poverty, war and violence, state policies and prejudice, natural disasters or loss of land and home.
We launch two new features this month—WWW and MOVING TO THE MARGINS.
WWW is not the Worldwide Web, but “We Women Will.” It will highlight the achievements of women. The columnist is known to our readers: Sr Marie Gabrielle Riople SCSM.
“Moving to the Margins (Peripheries)” is a call Pope Francis has been repeatedly giving to religious. May we, religious, truly be where we are meant to be—pioneers in new and difficult areas of ministry, where others dare not go because of fear, hardships or lack of financial gain. May we truly be good news to those in the margins of society, whom others forget, or shun, or exploit.
Fr Joe Mannath SDB
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