World Refugee Day is this Saturday, June 20. Originally we had planned on big events, both in Atlanta and in Washington, DC. We are of course distraught by the inevitable loss of business and exposure the cancelation of these events brings with it. These are tough times. Mostly, however, we are distraught that we will not be able to celebrate this important day as we normally do. For truly, it is a celebration!
It is a celebration of the immeasurable contributions refugees make to our neighborhoods, our cities, and our country. World Refugee Day is a day to delight in our refugee friends, their cultures, and their talents in a public way; to tell them how grateful we are for them; and to reinvest in the work of walking alongside them.
Many months ago, we designed this handcrafted stole that tells the story of the "Refugee Highway." It was going to be auctioned off at one of our events this weekend. That is no longer taking place but the story is nonetheless an important one and we want to share it with you.
A refugee's story begins before she has even left her home. The stole depicts the refugee's contentment at home with a house and a person in its doorway. When peace is disrupted by war, by famine, or by economic disaster, the refugee begins to realize her home is no longer safe. Note the broken peace emblem on the stole. Once a refugee and her family have made the difficult decision to leave, they often can bring with them only what they can carry with them. In many parts of the world this means they must physically carry their possessions as they travel by any means they can afford—by foot, by boat, by truck.
The tent symbolizes the many years that most refugees spend in refugee camps or in temporary housing in another country. What we often forget is that this period of waiting, of being without a home, can last for decades before a refugee is assigned a new country of residence. For the "lucky" ones, a door opens—the next embroidered image on the stole. A country has finally agreed to host the refugee and her family and let them begin a new life.
Finally, we have depicted on the stole a tree near running water: "Happy are those who trust in the Lord, who rely on the Lord. They will be like trees planted by the streams, whose roots reach down to the water. They won't fear drought when it comes; their leaves will remain green. They won't be stressed in the time of drought or fail to bear fruit." (CEB)
The "Refugee Highway" is often an unkind one. It is a traumatic, exhausting, long journey that no individual or family would take unless they felt they must. It demands courage and resilience. At the very least, what we can do today, on Saturday, and every day is to welcome refugees, to love them, and yes, to celebrate them.
As are many of us, those planning special events for World Refugee Day have taken those events online. A simple online search reveals hundreds of events. Advantage to online? You do not have be physically present! Attend an event in another part of the US or even the world! How will you mark June 20, World Refugee Day?
If you are interested in purchasing this stole, please reach out to Nell at firstname.lastname@example.org.