June 20, 2016 – This was a day to stand together with refugees. And, stand together we did within the city of Toronto. Within Nathan Phillips Square, the Mayor of the City of Toronto, John Tory, marked the day with a proclamation in the city,
“NOW THEREFORE, I, Mayor John Tory, on behalf of Toronto City Council, do hereby proclaim June 20, 2016 as World Refugee Day in the City of Toronto.”
Across Canada, cities such as Windsor, Ottawa, Vancouver, Regina, and Montreal, held their own celebrations and others declared their own proclamations.
Together, many NGOs came together to educate about refugees and to encourage others to make a difference. Together, they showed us child friendly spaces, where children in refugee camps can go to learn, play, receive support, and be safe. They showed us specially designed buckets that help to provide safer water. They showed us food rations that were incredibly basic, but are also life sustaining. We were able to leave messages of solidarity. We heard stories from past refugees and from workers that had recently returned from refugee camps. We were reminded that no one chooses to be a refugee and of the bravery of refugees.
We were also asked to support refugees by adding our signatures on various petitions. The United Nations petition asks for education for refugee children, a safe place for refugee families to live, and the ability for refugees to work or learn new skills. A lofty goal, but one that you can also support by going to www.unhcr.ca@newsroom@world-refugee-day.
I think what impressed me the most was how the many organizations that were present seemed to support each other and share at this event. I was introduced to The Humanitarian Coalition, which is a group of NGOs that work together to finance relief efforts in times of international humanitarian crisis. And we certainly are in a time of crisis. Just last week, the United Nations released numbers that 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015. It is the first time that number has been higher than 60 million.
At the event, I also got to connect with The Canadian Foodgrains Bank of which Presbyterian World Service & Development is a member. It is always great to hear about the work our partners are involved in.
Today, I am proud to be part of together. I am proud to be part of a denomination, and a congregation, that is sponsoring many refugee families. I am proud to be part of a church that is a member of The Canadian Foodgrains Bank, an organization that provides food to Syrian refugees. I am proud to have been able to add my signature to communicate my feelings to those in authority and if you haven’t, I hope you will too. I was proud to leave my comfortable air-conditioned office on a hot Toronto day to learn and share with others who care about the more than 60 million displaced people around the world.
Together we stand with refugees. Be part of together.