Americans need to add compassion to their discussions of the world’s 26 million refugees, a Jewish leader said during a Feb. 2 webinar hosted by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

“It is urgent for us here in the United States to understand the moral crisis we are experiencing,” said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism and honorary president of Religions for Peace.

“We need to feel the pain of refugees and understand that there are so many different causes” – including economic, political, ethnic and religious persecution – that drove them from their communities and nations, he said. urged.

Rick Jacobs

patrick wall

Anurima Bharava

Jacobs spoke at USCIRF “Conversation on the Global Compact on Refugees.” The pact is an international plan approved by the United Nations General Assembly in 2018 to address the global influx of refugees and attempt to stem its systemic causes.

Jacobs was joined at the Zoom event by Patrick Wall, a Geneva-based consultant specializing in global affairs and international law, and USCIRF President Nadine Maenza and Commissioner Anurima Bhargava. Dwight Bashir, director of outreach and policy for the commission, served as moderator.

Wall welcomed the timing of the webcast, explaining that the pact, also known as the GCR, needs all the attention and support it can get in the United States and around the world to help the approximately 80 million displaced people in the world. This number includes people who fled their homes but remained in their countries, as well as the 1.4 million refugees in need of immediate resettlement and some 4.4 million asylum seekers.

“The global displacement situation continues to deteriorate and COVID-19 is only making it worse,” said Wall, who helped craft the pact.

The global migration crisis is clearly impacting the United States and other developed countries, but the situation is even more dire in developing countries “which faced enormous challenges even before the arrival of the refugees”, Wall said.

In war-ravaged Lebanon, for example, one in eight people is now a refugee, compared to around one in 400 in more developed countries, he said. “The compact calls on a wide variety of actors, such as NGOs, faith-based organizations and international financial institutions and refugees themselves” to help reverse these deteriorating trends.

The GCR is overseen by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees with the aim of engaging international organizations, governments and other stakeholders to support refugees and help them lead productive lives.

“This presents a unique opportunity to transform the way the world responds to refugee situations, to the benefit of both refugees and the communities hosting them,” UNHCR said online.

The goals are to ease the pressure on nations that host refugees, to build refugee self-reliance, to increase the number of nations that accept refugees, and to attempt to improve political, economic and religious conditions in the nations from which millions have fled, the agency says.

Nadine Maenza

Maenza said the Biden administration took action related to the pact, including raising the US cap on admitting refugees from 15,000 under Donald Trump for 2021 to 125,000 for the current fiscal year.

The administration also participated in comprehensive high-level refugee response talks with the UN and other countries in December and is seeking to implement public-private partnerships to expedite the resettlement of Afghan refugees already in the states. United, she said.

Bhargava added that the Trump administration’s low refugee resettlement caps were particularly difficult for people facing religious persecution, as they are often no safer in neighboring countries than in their own.

But Jacobs said that religious communities cannot leave the solution to US and foreign governments and global financial institutions alone. American faith-based organizations must also support the effort.

“Start locally,” he urged. “Part of the mission of a religious community is to do this work locally,” he advised including the plight of refugees and immigrants in liturgical expressions and textual studies, “and from there , it radiates”.

Believers need not look far for motivation for this response, Jacobs said. Religions may differ in their scriptures and observances, but most share in their traditions “a place for the refugee, the other, the migrant, the stranger. There is a common teaching that this is one of the obligations of religious life.

Yet those who take up the challenge will have their work cut out for them, he added. “There has been this global rhetoric of demonizing refugees that is corrosive and affects every part of this experience. Unfortunately, some of this comes from the United States.

And that call has no room for religiously motivated differences, Jacobs said. “Faith-based organizations are best placed to approach refugees with religious sensitivity. … There can be no exceptions to freedom of religion and whose rights we are going to defend.

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