World Refugee Day, recognized on June 20, is a day dedicated to raising awareness for the displacement of families from their home countries due to civil unrest and conflict. It is an occasion that educates the public on this global concern, creates a motion to leverage political will and offers resources to help solve the issue. It is also a chance to reinforce the achievements of humanity, uniting people who are demonstrating support and finding those who would like to start doing so.
The Adventist church draws additional attention to the matter by having World Refugee Sabbath, this year recognized on Saturday, June 15. The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) released stories, fact sheets, videos and photos on the subject to enlighten the public and gain participation from churches, groups, and individuals around the world.
A Country of Refuge
Every day, hundreds of people from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are fleeing across the borders into Uganda. Many risk their lives trying to cross Lake Albert into Uganda on make-shift boats. The number of people entering the country seeking asylum continues to increase and new reports claim that armed groups in Ituri, DRC are now trying to prevent civilians from fleeing their villages.
Uganda itself is a peaceful country, but it is surrounded by countries at war. South Sudan, its neighbor to the north, and the DRC, its neighbor to the west have been plagued with horrific civil battles and ethnic violence for many years.
In addition to this, eastern DRC is facing severe food shortages, and the second worst Ebola outbreak in history. Uganda has had an influx of over one million refugees, seeking safety Uganda. Refugees have lost family, survived gruesome injuries with minimal access to healthcare.
Attempting the journey to safety comes with the risk of contracting the water-borne diseases such as cholera, and the lives of young children are endangered by sicknesses like meningitis.
Mothers who go for hours on end without food become unable to breastfeed their babies. Some of these mothers don’t have anyone with them because their husbands were killed in the violence. Boys who are forced to play the role of men often have to escape with their younger siblings carrying nothing but a small backpack’s worth of belongings.
Various organizations are taking action to aid these refugees recover from health problems and injuries. AdventistHelp and ADRA are currently in Uganda, setting up a field hospital near the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Their goal is to build a 100-bed hospital in phases, with an emergency room, three wards and an operating theatre.
The hospital they are working to establish in the center of the settlement will provide lifesaving medical care to this rapidly growing population. Similar to the last field hospital in Iraq that treated over 50,000 patients, this facility will not only be for the refugees, but also the host community of Ugandans. Since women and children comprise eighty percent of the refugee population in this settlement, this intervention will be focused on maternal and child health.
Some of the needs they plan to address in the new facility include medical, dental, and mental health. The plan of Phase 1 is to build a comprehensive outpatient facility and a fully equipped emergency unit. In Phase 2, they plan to expand and incorporate pediatric wards and a male and female operating theatre.
AdventistHelp, a medical non-government organization and supporting ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, focuses on delivering emergency health care to vulnerable communities in crisis areas. They ran an emergency unit on the island of Lesbos in 2015 and partnered with the ADRA to provide health service to camps of refugees in Northern Iraq in 2017.
AdventistHelp’s medical facilities are run by rotating medical volunteers from all over the world. Their motto is “healing for today, hope for tomorrow” and they believe everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. We are all refugees in a sense. Since we were excommunicated from the Garden of Eden, we’ve been waiting to return to our heavenly home. If you would like to volunteer to be part of AdventistHelp’s team you can visit them on their website or Facebook page.
A Call for Education
Currently, ADRA is focusing its efforts to raise the importance of providing education for young people, particularly refugee children and youth. Statistics show refugee children are five times more likely to be out of school than non-refugee children. There are approximately four million refugee youth that aren’t attending school right now.
These staggering numbers are reasons enough that education for refugee and displaced children is of the utmost importance. Considering displacement and civil unrest will likely continue for the foreseeable future, depriving children of an education can crush their chance of a successful future.
Furthermore, attending school helps refugee children integrate with their host community. It gives them the opportunity to learn the language, make new friends, and, in the future, attain the skills necessary to be self-sufficient, confident, and contribute to their local community and host country.
Through education, children and young people living in refugee camps can lift themselves out of a continued cycle of poverty and live in a world where infancy death rates and malnourishment would significantly be reduced. An educated population can have a significant impact in reducing the risk of conflict that sparked the refugee conflict in the first place.
We wish to be the change the world needs, but to get there, the end goal will take more than just us.
ADRA has issued a petition to bring about the change the world so desperately needs. They are looking for one million signatures on this petition to send a message to world leaders that education for all—no exceptions—matters, and action must be taken to ensure every child, everywhere, is in school. You can sign the petition at ADRA.org/InSchool.