Backpacks for refugees

“It was a good idea,” Esther Zbinden sums up. “And so symbolic!” During the recent District Apostle Meeting in Washington, the wives of the District Apostles spent one morning packing backpacks with school supplies for young refugees.

“We were only able to pack 200 backpacks, but this number stands for the high number of refugee children and all the problems connected with this,” Esther Zbinden says. She especially liked the symbolism connected with this. “It was solidarity for good cause.” And it was a good way to once again create awareness of today’s global refugee problem.

There are refugees everywhere, also in the USA. There is hardly a city that is not affected. Reason enough for District Apostle Leonard Kolb and his team to address this issue. Since the wives of the District Apostles had also been invited to Washington for the international session of the District Apostle Meeting, various activities had been organised for them—both of a spiritual as well as a charitable nature.

People are forced to flee their homes

A charity that cares specifically for refugee children—fifty per cent of all refugees are children!—presented the magnitude of the crisis: children and young adults leave their homes, many because they are forced, some with their parents, but some also without them. They do not only lose everything they own, but also their homeland, their identity.

All over the world these days there are special programmes, grants, and reception centres—these are the new words of the twenty-first century. People are being displaced, and the reasons are numerous. By the end of 2016, 84 per cent of the refugees across the globe were being hosted by low or middle income countries.

A record 65 million people are displaced

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that 28,300 people are being displaced from their homes because of conflicts every day. About thirty per cent of this is occurring on the African continent, but also in North and South America, where more than 4,000 people are involuntarily migrating every day. UNHCR says that by the end of 2016, 65.6 million people across the globe were forcibly displaced from their homes. Ten years ago, this number was only 37.5 million. In each of the past five years, the total number has increased by several million.

Internally displaced people and asylum seekers

According to UN statistics, the number of people living in internal displacement is especially alarming, namely 40.3 million. Significant levels of displacement continue to occur in Syria, Iraq, and Colombia. The number of asylum seekers, that is, people who leave their home countries in order to seek international protection as a refugee abroad, stood at 2.8 million people by the end of 2016.

Raising awareness of the plight of refugees

Compared with these numbers, the two hundred backpacks were just a drop in the ocean, but an important one. What counts is raising awareness for the plight of these people.

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