As I was making my way through downtown Seoul today, preoccupied with meetings, this weekend's June 25th Korean War ceremonies, and an upcoming trip to the States, I saw a huge, outdoor video screen (there are many throughout the city) at Seoul’s City Hall.
A famous Korean actor, Jung Woo-Sung - South Korea’s version of Tom Hanks - was highlighting the plight of refugees in Iraq after his recent humanitarian mission to the war-torn country. Jung is a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador.
According to latest figures from UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees), there are 65.6 million refugees in the world today - and the number has increased 50% over the past five years (unhcr.org/global trends2016).
65 million? Really?
Though we can’t fathom the number or grasp how frightening it must be to live as a persecuted, displaced, or homeless person (most of us, thankfully, will never know), we’re sympathetic towards those forced to flee their countries. They live in refugee centers, DP (displaced person) camps, designated towns, districts, or neighborhoods, even slums and ghettos. And it’s terrible. We know.
But we also feel helpless. It’s a huge, complex, and growing problem. What can we do? It’s a question I think of often, and I don’t pretend to have the answer. I don’t think anyone does.
We can, however, at least create an awareness of what’s happening to people we don't know in these faraway places we’ve never visited. We can also support those who work with “the least of these.” People with government agencies, NGO’s, and church-affiliated groups that assist refugees and do whatever they can to help alleviate the suffering, poverty, prejudice, and uncertainty that’s part of the refugee experience.
On World Refugee Day, June 20, then, let’s take a minute to remember the millions of refugees throughout the world who dream of a life away from war and persecution, people with the same wants, needs, and desires as us.
“. . . they [refugees] take nothing in life for granted.” Jung Woo-Sung