SAN DIEGO — The numbers are staggering:
- Every minute, 20 people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror.
- An unprecedented 68.5 million people around the world have been forced to leave their homes. Among them are nearly 25.4 million refugees, more than half of whom are under the age of 18.
- The average wait time in a refugee camp to be resettled in the U.S. was 17 years in 2017.
Those numbers come from the United Nations Refugee Agency, which established June 20 as World Refugee Day to highlight those realities. The day, observed worldwide, commemorates the strength, courage and perseverance of the millions of people who have been forced to flee their homes because of conflict or natural disasters. And it seeks to promote the public’s understanding of this traumatized population, who arrive in their new countries with nothing, and who need support.
Catholic Charities in San Diego has been a leading champion for refugees and immigrants for nearly a century. The agency has resettled more than 85,000 refugees in the region since the end of the Vietnam War.
The organization will mark World Refugee Day with two events to inform parish leaders and the community at large about the realities refugees face in the San Diego and Tijuana region, and the ways the Church is helping them. And the agency will highlight how individuals, parishes and other groups can join forces with the Church to help refugees locally and around the world.
“For decades, San Diego has been one of the top cities in the nation for resettling refugees and, as the busiest land port of entry in the world, has witnessed a striking increase in the number of families coming to our border seeking asylum,” said Appaswamy “Vino” Pajanor, executive director of Catholic Charities in San Diego.
“This event will inform our local community about the important role the Church has played in resettling refugees locally and overseas, as well as the plight of asylum-seekers at our border.”
The day will begin with a session in Spanish, from 10 a.m.-noon, where speakers from Catholic organizations will share how they are helping refugees and asylum-seekers on both sides of the U.S. border. The speakers include Father Patrick Murphy, director of Casa del Migrante, Tijuana.
The evening program, from 6:30-8:30 p.m., will begin with a prayer led by San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy, to be followed by a panel discussion moderated by Auxiliary Bishop John P. Dolan. The panelists include David DeMers, associate director of immigration issues in the diocesan Office for Life, Peace and Justice; Father Murphy; and Daniel Ukang, from the California Sudanese Lost Boys & Girls Foundation.