This Sunday, September 27, marks the 106th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, an opportunity to pause and reflect on the needs of displaced persons around the world and how we are called to meet those needs. Under the leadership of Pope Francis, this year’s theme, “Like Jesus Christ, forced to flee,” focuses specifically on internally displaced persons (IDPs). Jesuit Refugee Service calls for courage and solidarity in serving all IDPs who are experiencing situations of instability, marginalization, and hopelessness.
While the recent tragic fire at Moria camp in Lesvos, Greece, reminds us of the dangers faced by refugees and migrants, IDPs continue to account for the largest number of forcibly displaced persons in the world, totaling 50.8 million people who have been forced from their homes due to conflict, violence, and disasters. This global number has never been higher with all regions of the world experiencing some level of internal displacement. New humanitarian crises, like the recent blast in Lebanon, and health emergencies, like the COVID-19 pandemic, are the source of new displacement for many in 2020.
Yet, the reality is that IDPs are often invisible to national governments and international organizations whose attention is focused on other domestic issues or migratory movements. Access to IDP populations is also often limited or restricted due to ongoing conflict or lack of recognition regarding their rights and needs. In his message for the 2020 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis encourages us “to be close in order to serve” and to “cooperate in order to build,” all characteristics which require the courage to draw attention to the plight of IDPs and to work towards meeting their needs.
During a September 23 event on IDPs hosted by JRS and the International Union of Superiors General, María Santos Caicedo Arroyo, community leader and internally displaced person in Valle del Cauca, Colombia stated, “If there are opportunities of inclusion, we can move forward.” “We are resilient. We want to go ahead with our life despite the adversities of forced displacement, and we keep fighting for our rights.”
JRS is on the frontlines accompanying, serving, and defending IDPs in 14 countries through the implementation of education services, psychosocial support, peacebuilding, pastoral activities, and more. In Colombia, often missing from the headlines, ongoing armed conflict despite a peace agreement has caused continual waves of internal displacement. In Iraq, Yazidi genocide survivors face significant protection needs resulting from protracted displacement and major trauma at the hands of ISIS. And in Syria, home to the largest number of IDPs worldwide, children and their families have endured almost ten years of conflict and are in dire need of educational, social, and healthcare services.
On this important day, JRS calls on partners, policymakers, and practitioners to stand in solidarity with IDPs as they strive to recover and rebuild a home for their families. We must join together with IDPs to shine a light on the challenges they face and focus resources and the political will necessary to create sustainable change. With the impetus offered by Pope Francis we are provided with the tools to move beyond a day of recognition for migrants and refugees to developing long-term solutions.