Press Releases, 12 June 2013
The UN refugee agency and representatives of 25 faith-based Non-Governmental Organizations will today unveil a landmark declaration aimed at strengthening protection for the world's more than 40 million refugees, internally displaced, and stateless people.
The declaration, known as an Affirmation of Welcome, is the first to involve UNHCR and a spectrum of faith-based groups. It sets out principles to guide faith leaders in providing welcoming environments for refugees and displaced people, and those without citizenship, including through promoting community understanding and tolerance, and combatting xenophobia.
The idea for a joint declaration emerged from a meeting hosted by UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres in Geneva in December 2012 with religious leaders and faith-based NGOs.
Taking place between February and April of this year, drafting of the Affirmation involved a coalition of leading faith-based organizations and academic institutions. The text draws upon principles and values of welcome shared by religions including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism.
Among those presenting the Affirmation on Wednesday in Geneva are UNHCR's Director of International Protection Volker Türk, President of the Lutheran World Federation Bishop Munib A. Younan, Rabbi Nava Hafetz of Rabbis for Human Rights – Israel, and Atallah Fitzgibbon of Islamic Relief Worldwide, as well as representatives of other faith-based organizations. On 20 June, to mark World Refugee Day, the faith-based NGO HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) will commence a year-long campaign to promote the Affirmation within the Jewish community around the world. In November of this year, the declaration will be launched formally at the King Abdullah International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue in Vienna, in a conference organized by Religions for Peace bringing together over 400 faith leaders from around the world.
Other organizations that have been involved include the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Jesuit Refugee Service, the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, the University of Vienna Faculty of Roman Catholic Theology, the World Council of Churches, the World Evangelical Alliance and World Vision International.
"Welcoming the Stranger: Affirmations for Faith Leaders" is available in Arabic, English, French, Hebrew, Russian and Spanish via www.unhcr.org/51b6de419.html. More information on the "Faith and Protection" session of the UNHCR Annual Consultations with NGOs is also available at www.unhcr.org/pages/501a39ce6.html.
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