UNHCR, HIAS, and Faith-based Coalition Unveil Landmark Declaration


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and representatives of 25 faith-based non-governmental organizations today unveiled a landmark declaration aimed at strengthening protection for the world's more than 40 million refugees and internally-displaced and stateless people.

From February to April, HIAS led a coalition of faith-based organizations and academic institutions in drafting the declaration, known as the Affirmation of Welcome. Next week, on World Refugee Day (June 20), HIAS will launch a year-long campaign to promote the Affirmation within the Jewish community around the world.

"Welcoming the Stranger: Affirmations for Faith Leaders" was launched today at a special session on "Faith and Protection" at the UNHCR Annual Consultations with NGOs in Geneva. The Affirmation of Welcome is part of the UNHCR's response to the call for “… all major religious value systems [to] embrace humanity, caring and respect, and the tradition of granting protection to those in danger [in accordance with their] ancient texts and traditions.” It also follows a proposal for a "code of conduct for clergy" made at the High Commissioner’s December 2012 Dialogue on Protection Challenges to encourage faith leaders to promote welcoming communities and stand against xenophobia.

The Affirmation is the first to involve the UNHCR and a spectrum of faith-based groups. HIAS was represented at today's special session of the Affirmation’s unveiling by CEO and President Mark Hetfield, Senior Counsel for Refugees and Migration Rachel Levitan, and Program Manager of International Operations Magnolia Turbidy. Rachel Levitan spoke on behalf of HIAS on the Faith and Protection panel, alongside representatives from Lutheran World Federation, Islamic World Relief, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Act for Peace, and the Division of International Protection at UNHCR.

The text draws upon principles and values of welcome shared by many religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. It sets out principles to guide faith leaders in providing welcoming environments for refugees, displaced people, and those without citizenship, including the promotion of community understanding and tolerance.

More info at http://www.unhcr.org/51b82ff16.html.

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