International (MNN) — The United Nations (UN) World Refugee Day is a global observance observed on June 20 each year. This year marks its 60th anniversary.
The day is set aside to highlight
the challenges and successes of those who are forced to flee their homeland
under threat of persecution, conflict and violence.
Participants are encouraged to
take action such as encouraging legislators to support human rights, signing
active petitions, and more engagement with refugee communities. However, the focus is on Africa, specifically
on the Darfur situation in Sudan. There's
not much being done to raise the awareness of the various humanitarian and religious crises
The Karen crisis in Burma,
according to Vision Beyond Borders, is at genocide levels and largely ignored. VBB's Abigail Zimmer was just in Burma
helping to set up a medical clinic in a camp. Because
the team was made up of foreigners, they couldn't go into the camps. "We were in one place all day where people
came to us, but there was a lot of worry about the people traveling around,
being harassed on their way to and from the clinics."
The conditions inside the camps are
dismal. Zimmer says, "Looking at the
people that were coming in, there's absolutely no dental hygiene and very
minimal nutrition offered."
Many of the ethnic minorities in
Burma are Christian in a predominantly-Buddhist society and are oppressed and
persecuted for their faith. The United
Nations has registered roughly 93,000
residents who've fled Burma as refugees.
Burma's junta has chased the Karen
over the border, and Thailand has been kicking them back. The Thai government has been trying to close the
refugee camps since March. VBB is trying to meet the needs of those who have
found themselves in a "no man's land" between Burma and Thailand. "We're taking teams over as frequently as we
can. We're also sending a 40-foot container
of clothes and toys and things for the refugees. We just got back from a short-term medical clinic trip where we just went over and treated over 500 patients."
With so few speaking on their
behalf, believers have felt abandoned. A
cup of cold water in Jesus' name goes a long way toward restoring the hope of
the Gospel. Zimmer explains, "The people are so strong and filled with such
a love for people. They were so excited,
and you could see a relief and a peace that people still cared and wanted to
love on them."
This year's theme for the World
Refugee Day is "Real People, Real Needs." Aside from helping to provide for the physical needs of the Karen,
Zimmer urges Christians to "pray for their strength and protection. Also
just pray for a change and a shift in their government leadership that they'll soften and turn to help the people instead of run them out."