Remembering Palestinian Refugees on World Refugee Day

by Onaje Crawford

To commemorate World Refugee Day, the Israel-Palestine NGO Working Group at the United Nations (IPWG) hosted “Remembering Palestinian Refugees”, a photo exhibit, film review, and panel discussion highlighting the plight of 7.4 million displaced Palestinians, the largest and longest standing case of forcibly displaced persons. Doug Hostetter, IPWG’s Co-chair, who remarked that the purpose of the event was to give “voice and image to those who could not be here to speak to the circumstances for themselves”, moderated the panel.  Because of their vivid personal and professional accounts on Palestine, great insight was offered by each of the five panelists:

  • Doris Salah, Former General Secretary of the YWCA of Palestine and 1948 refugee,
  • Ahmad Diab, Fulbright Scholar of English Literature at New York University and 3rd-generation Palestinian refugee,
  • Somaia Barghouti, Senior Adviser to the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations,
  • Amira Hassan, Associate Liaison Officer at UNRWA’s Representative Office in New York
  • Alain Epp Weaver, Director of Strategic Planning for the Mennonite Central Committee

Among the many topics the panelists discussed were the effect displacement has on all aspects of life, the difficult road refugees traverses in search of a home and an identity, the horrible conditions of refugee camps, the challenges Palestinian refugees face in other countries such as Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon, the importance of moving beyond offering relief to refugees to helping them find solutions for their displacement, and the role the international community must play in this process.

The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations is one of the founding members of the Israel-Palestine Working Group and Rev. Mark Koenig, director of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations serves with Doug Hostetter as co-chair of the Working Group.

The event, which focused on Palestinian refugees to highlight the plight of over 45 million refugees worldwide, ended with the attendees reciting a Litany for Refugees led by Ryan Smith, Presbyterian Representative to the United Nations. In unison and on behalf of all peoples, everyone assembled asked God to, “Open our hearts to our brothers and sisters… around the world,” and to, “lead us to the day when we live together and everyone has a safe place to call home.” 

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