Caritas Burkina Faso helps new arrivals from the conflict in Mali. Photo by Simone Stefanelli/Mali

Caritas Burkina Faso helps new arrivals from the conflict in Mali. Photo by Simone Stefanelli/Mali

Today is World Refugee Day: honoring the courage, strength and determination of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homes. It is our chance to let the 45.2 million people forced from their homes around the world know that we walk with them.

Pope Francis called attention to refugee families “often forced to flee their homes and countries in a hurry and losing all their belongings and their security to escape violence, persecution or serious discrimination because of their religion, ethnic identity or political ideas.”

“We cannot be insensitive toward families and all our brothers and sisters who are refugees,” the pope said. “We are called to help them, opening ourselves to understanding them and offering hospitality.”

“In their faces is the face of Christ,” the pope said.

 3.8 million Colombians have been forced from their homes. Credit: Caritas Colombia

3.8 million Colombians have been forced from their homes. Credit: Caritas Colombia

In 2004, Caritas Venezuela started to work for refugees, most of the victims of the internal conflict in Colombia which has produced more than 3.8 million. internally displaced persons. In Venezuela there about 3000 refugees seeking protection, but there might be more who live under irregular conditions in the country. Those who do not speak to refugees do not know their suffering”, says Migdalia Carrasquel, a lawyer in charge of the refugee programme at Caritas Venezuela.

Catholic Relief Services  (a Caritas member based in the USA) began 70 years ago helping refugees in Europe during and after World War II. Today, CRS says the Church’s concern for the poorest and most vulnerable people compels them to continue that work wherever refugees and internally displaced people are at grave risk. Today, they bring comfort and aid to Syrian, Malian and Somali refugees in places like Niger, Kenya, Jordan, Lebanon and Burkina Faso, where natural or manmade disasters force people from their homes and homelands.

From the trauma of flight, to the anxiety about family that you have been separated from, to the depression of watching your homeland in chaos, to the stress of making ends meet in a foreign country, the psychological pressure but on refugees is immense. In Jordan, Caritas says one in five of the refugees its surveyed need some form of counselling. Providing that care is key to our work throughout the region with Syrian refugees.

While numbers are important in illustrating the extent and gravity of the situation, Caritas Australia says is easy to lose the true picture amongst statistics – the human faces involved in this tragedy. The reality is that these numbers are made up of individuals who have feelings, aspirations, and like every human being, fundamental human needs.

Gisèle, a refugee in Belgium, has been separated from her children for 3 years. Thanks to the support of Caritas Belgium, Gisèle’s youngest son was recently granted a visa to come to live with his mother.

Current family reunification procedures are diffcult, expensive and long. They are creating unnecessary human suffering for thousands of people separated from their loved ones. Caritas organisations in Europe are helping many of them to go through the procedures. Caritas Europa is calling on the EU and its member states to make the right to family a reality.

Please pray for those who have fled Syria, or been displaced by the conflict there. Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand has prepared resources. And finally Caritas Ecuador asks us to dedicate 1 minute of our lives for refugee families.