Today there are people on the run on every continent: Ukraine is followed by Syria, with 6.8 million displaced persons; Venezuela, with 4.6 million; Afghanistan, with 2.7 million; South Sudan, with 2.4 million; Myanmar, with 1.2 million... And looking at the UNHCR report data, other disheartening information emerges: more than 30 million people are on the run because of the multiple ongoing wars; about 35 million are minors, and more than 1 million people were born already fleeing emergencies.
The conflict in Ukraine has brought the plight of refugees (people who have fled abroad), and internally displaced persons (those who have fled from where they lived but remained in their own country) back into the spotlight. The images of thousands of women and children dragging small suitcases across European borders have evoked emotion and empathy around the world.
But unfortunately, the war in Ukraine has also opened up a huge new front of people in need, with devastating repercussions in other areas of the globe: in fact, it is news these days that the United Nations World Food Program said it is being forced to reduce food rations for refugees in East and West Africa, as the price of commodities, especially wheat, has soared due to the war in Europe. "We are forced to make the heartbreaking decision to cut food rations for refugees who rely on us for their survival," said WFP Executive Director David Beasley.
June 20 thus serves to raise awareness of an emergency that affects a huge number of people around the world, and which obliges everyone to make Pope Francis' 4 verbs for refugees their own: "Welcome, protect, promote and integrate."
The Salesians, heirs of Don Bosco, do this across the board: helping in places of conflict, such as Syria and Ukraine; on the borders of countries, such as between Mexico and the United States; or in a widespread form in countries close to those of crisis, as so many Venezuelans welcomed in the name of Don Bosco throughout Latin America can testify.
Other noteworthy cases are to be found, for example, in Kakuma, Kenya, where the Salesians living within the refugee camp - the second largest camp on the entire continent - have developed a whole series of programs and services for refugees, such as the "Savio Club," which alone educates and animates more than 10,000 minors.
Or in Pakistan, where the Salesian community in Quetta, has offered shelter and basic necessities to Afghan refugees fleeing the country since last August and delivered tents, blankets, food, and medicine to them.
Or in Uganda, in the Palabek camp, where the Salesians - again residing inside the camp - have promoted multiple activities, including a Vocational Training Center with courses in mechanics, sewing, construction, agriculture, hairdressing, and solar energy that allows the youth and adults housed there to hope for a better future.
Or, to conclude this brief review, in Egypt, where, thanks to the "Sunrise Project for Urban Refugees and Vulnerable Hosts in Cairo," Salesians provide training to help these needy people acquire the skills necessary for employment or self-employment. To date, the project has improved the livelihood opportunities and quality of life of more than 3,000 sub-Saharan African, Yemeni and Syrian refugees and vulnerable Egyptian people. The project provides technical and vocational training and also provides grants to start microenterprises and ongoing support for the development of entrepreneurial projects.
In addition to all the help they can give in their respective circumstances - from accommodation to food, from spiritual accompaniment to psychological and bureaucratic assistance, from education for children to job training... - the Salesians share the dream of all refugees and displaced persons to see peace and prosperity in their countries so they can return home. And as they wait for that day, they continue to stand by their side.