Culture of encounter at the first ever Global Refugee Forum

Caritas to highlight its Share the Journey Campaign

Caritas will showcase activism created through its ongoing Share the Journey campaign on behalf of migrants and refugees, as its pledge in support of the inaugural Global Refugee Forum, to be held in Geneva on 17th and 18th December 2019.

Members of the Caritas Campaigns and Advocacy Teams will join with Caritas confederation members, like-minded faith-based organizations committed to working with people seeking refuge and refugee “art activists” to present some of the artistic work which the campaign has created at the Forum’s advance day on 16th December.

Artistic activism for the culture of encounter

Caritas Hellas from Greece is bringing a film about an extraordinary theatre project it created with young migrants and refugees based on the ancient “Odyssey”. Caritas Venezuela will show an exhibition of photographs highlighting the daunting challenges facing migrants as they search for food, medicine and employment. Good practices in supporting people who have left Venezuela have been shared by Caritas Ecuador and Caritas Colombia ahead of the Forum. Caritas Sofia will also be presenting its project, “Travelling Stories”, an interactive collection of 15 stories from all over the world and gathered from children living in the reception centers in Bulgaria.

Alfonso Apicella, Global Campaigns Manager for Caritas Internationalis said, “The Share the Journey campaign has harnessed the power of creative activism and art to raise awareness of the lives of migrants, refugees and host communities. We are carrying on with a Global Wave of Action – more artistic activities, shared meals, pilgrimage walks together – for the next two years to really call out in the spirit of Pope Francis’ “culture of encounter”.

Caritas will also display a special version of its artistic activism collage which uses smaller images of faces to create the larger face of a woman called Nasrin. Nasrin works for Caritas Bangladesh caring for refugee children, and her symbolic image is being used worldwide to continue Caritas’ Global Wave of Action. In Geneva, migrants, refugees and people who work on their behalf will be invited to paste in images which are important to them.

Welcome, protect, integrate, and promote

Caritas Internationalis’ Secretary General Aloysius John, will open a side event with Caritas partners on the theme of “Faith-based action for scaling up a culture of encounter with people seeking refuge”. “As faith-based organizations, our primary duty is to be the voice of the voiceless and to restore hope and dignity,” he said.” Together we can mobilize governments, decision-makers and religious communities to make commitments that help migrants and refugees become part of their new societies.”

The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR is overseeing the inaugural Global Refugee Forum – the first since the UN General Assembly adopted the new Global Compact on Refugees in December 2018. Floriana Polito, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Advocacy Officer for Caritas Internationalis said, “We are proud to pledge support to the Forum and to be able to show the talent, enthusiasm and capability of migrants and refugees who our Caritas members work with. The Forum is also an opportunity for countries to come together at Ministerial level to announce new measures to ease pressure on host countries and boost refugees’ self-reliance”.

Creativity in action and on display

Afghan refugee and theatre director Chalil Alizada will be describing Caritas Hellas’ production of the ancient Greek play, the “Odyssey”, in Geneva. The drama was acted by 28 young women and men from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Supported by Caritas Germany and the German Foreign Ministry, the production aimed to explore the ways in which art, and specifically theatre, can help refugees and migrants to integrate and to come to terms with their journeys.

Caritas Venezuela’s photography exhibition of the work of 13 photographers, called “The Face of Migration” will be shared. Venezuelan photographers who have stayed in their country or who have migrated to Argentina, Spain, Portugal, Chile and Columbia document the hard choices and realities of the migration experience, while photojournalists from Italy, Peru and Chile bear witness to the struggles of those living away from their homeland.

Number of people forced out of their homes at an all-time high

Currently, a record 70.8 million people worldwide are forcibly displaced from their homes, according to UNHCR. 41.3 million people are internally displaced, 3.5 million are asylum seekers and 25.9 million are refugees, half of them under 18 years of age.

For more information, please contact: Alfonso Apicella, Caritas Global Campaigns Manager – apicella@caritas.va or Floriana Polito, Caritas Advocacy Officer, Human Rights & Humanitarian Affairs – fpolito@caritas-internationalis.com at +41(0) 78 614 37 83 or + 41 22 734 40 07.

The side event – “Faith-based action for scaling up a culture of encounter with people seeking refuge” Is to be held at the St. John Parish XXIII, Conference hall, rue de Montbrillant 57, Geneva, on Monday the 16th of December at 11.00AM.

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