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Walk a mile in their shoes

As World Refugee Day approaches June 20, diocesan Catholic Charities is offering parishioners and the public the opportunity to understand what it is like to walk in the shoes of a refugee — virtually.

Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services staff will lead “Stride with Refugees,’’ a virtual refugee simulation on Zoom covering the challenges refugees face on their journey to safety June 19 at 4 p.m.

“In celebration of World Refugee Day, recognized on June 20 each year, we are encouraging the community to #StrideWithRefugees by understanding the journey and accomplishments of refugees who resettle in the United States,” said Jessica Estrada, Catholic Charities’ director of newcomer services. “A virtual simulation is one way to get a sense of the difficult choices a refugee has to make as they travel to safety. We will also be sharing success of some local refugees who have built new lives in our own community.”

The scenarios include accompanying a refugee who is forced to flee home due to violence and choosing what items to bring along.  Another will follow a refugee make the journey to a refugee camp and exploring what that refugee’s life looks like in a camp.

A refugee is defined as one who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country,” according to the 1951 Refugee Convention. The Catholic Church addresses the plight of these vulnerable women, men and families through advocacy, education efforts, and providing services and support to refugees admitted to the United States.

Worldwide, there are more than 25 million refugees in the world, according to the United Nations. This fiscal year, the United States plans to admit about 18,000 of them. The number has declined markedly since 1980, when the United States admitted 205,000 refugees. In 2019, the U.S. admitted 30,000 refugees.

Snider is deputy director of diocesan communications.

Find out more

To register, go to bit.ly/2XPx3uB.

Participants are encouraged to show support for refugees and Catholic Charities by taking a selfie while on a walk and posting your picture on Facebook or Instagram with the tag #StrideWithRefugees anytime from now until June 20.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020