The United Nations World Refugee Day: “Real People, Real Needs”    
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Greetings, kind viewers, and welcome to A Journey through Aesthetic Realms on Supreme Master Television.

Today, June 20, is World Refugee Day, designated by the United Nations to affirm the solidarity of the international community to assist refugees in creating a bright future for all. This day also recognizes the significant contribution of refugees around the globe.

In today’s program, we will take a closer look into the plight of our brethren who are unfortunately deprived of their homes. A refugee is someone who flees his or her hometown to seek safety elsewhere. Although refugees are more commonly understood as people who seek asylum outside of their country, internally displaced people, who have to evacuate from within their own native land, also share similar desperate situations. The term “boat people” came to the forefront during the exodus of Aulacese (Vietnamese) refugees in the late 1970s.

Many lives succumbed in the high sea to capsizing waves and boat damage, or endured food and water shortage, and pirate attacks. Boat people have also come from other parts of the world, such as Cuba, Haiti, Morocco, and Albania. Even when they stay in temporary camps, they could face forced repatriation and, in hopelessness, some have been known to end their precious lives. Empathizing with their deep suffering, several times in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Supreme Master Ching Hai visited refugee camps in Hong Kong and the Philippines to care for and comfort the Aulacese refugees.

In addition, Supreme Master Ching Hai tirelessly traveled around the world, including to the United States, the Philippines, Costa Rica, Thailand, Formosa (Taiwan) among other countries as well as the United Nations, to speak with government officials and the media, offering her unconditional assistance to relocate the refugees and brought much needed attention to this urgent issue.

Today still, millions of people around the world live as refugees. The combined population of both refugees and those displaced within their native lands is approximately 37 million in more than 150 countries. About half the refugee population are children. As of December 31, 2005, Sudan has the most number of internally displaced people, with over 5 million. Countries with the largest source of refugees are Afghanistan, Iraq, Myanmar (Burma), Sudan, and the Palestinian Territories.

Some endure life in refugee camps for months, or even years. Oftentimes, members of families are separated, sometimes for long periods of time. They must live without knowing when they may see their loved ones again.

The most common causes of refugees are wars, climate change, persecution, oppression, and economic hardship. Sometimes, multiple refugee issues affect an entire region. For example, Bangladesh hosts approximately 230,000 refugees from Myanmar (Burma), while concurrently coping with 6.5 million climate displaced persons within her land. The Democratic Republic of Congo provides residence for over 180,000 refugees from neighboring nations, yet it’s also the place of origin of approximately 450,000 refugees. Not only that, there are about 2 million internally displaced people in the country as well.

While waiting for resettlement, refugees reside in camps set up by governments or non-governmental organizations for shelter, food, and medical aid. There are approximately 700 refugee camps around the world, each holding about 20,000 people on average. Although camps are meant for temporary stay, sometimes they become long-term residence because refugees have nowhere else to go. The majority of Palestinian refugees in Lebanese camps, for example, have stayed for generations since 1948.

Wars are one of the biggest root causes of present-day worldwide refugee issues. The 2003 Iraq war rendered over 4.7 million people homeless, which is more than 16% of the Iraqi population. The war between the Pakistani government and Taliban in Pakistan’s northern territories has uprooted more than 3 million civilians since 2004. Beginning in 2003, one-third of Darfur residents, or over 2.5 million people, fled their homes during the Darfur conflict in Sudan. The Colombian conflict that lasted almost 50 years has led to an estimated 2.6 to 4.3 million internally displaced people.

Refugees reportedly suffer from physical, emotional, and psychological traumas. Not only have they lost their homes, loved ones, and valuables, they may also lack food, clean water, and medicine.

Some refugees suffer from the life-impairing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The symptoms include frequent flashbacks of traumatic events, anxiety, memory loss, insomnia, nightmares, and survivor guilt. PTSD has been diagnosed among 28.3% of Bosnian refugee women 3 to 4 years after they arrived in Sweden. In another study, 34% of Palestinian children, mostly refugees, were found to have PTSD. All refugees also have to cope with the stress of adapting to a new environment. Resettled refugees often find that they have less family time due to survival pressure, self isolation for fear of causing burden to others, and loss of their own cultural pride.

Over the years, Supreme Master Ching Hai has spoken compassionately on the dire predicament of war refugees. And these refugees or people, they are traumatized. They have also psychological need, very difficult. Their house has burned down, their pets die in the war, their husband’s gone, missing. Their children lost legs and arms and they have no money because they run away from home empty-handed.

The term “environmental refugees” refers to people displaced by natural disasters and the effects of climate change such as rising sea level, persistent drought, and desertification. It is estimated that there will be as many as 50 million environmental refugees by 2020.

Climate refugees face issues such as food security and medical challenges. For example, increased sea level has caused lands on coastal communities of Bangladesh to immerse in salty water and therefore turn uncultivable. Trees stop bearing fruits, and vegetables don’t grow. At the same time, diseases such as eczema and liver cancer due to the lack of clean fresh water become widespread. Because of this, numerous households have left the land where they have lived for generations.

Many climate displaced households of Bangladesh have migrated to Dhaka, the capital of the nation, where they live in packed slums. Nurnahar’s family is one of them. Here, she and her husband collect discards from the streets and sell them to make a paltry amount of money for their survival. Her husband suffers from depression. Their son wants to go to school but they cannot afford it. Sometimes, Nurnahar has to go out to beg for money, pained daily by the loss of her dignity. In her own words, “there is nothing left to live for.”

Unfortunately, Nurnahar’s story is not an isolated one. More and more people are becoming environmental refugees day by day. In the documentary “Does Anybody Care if Bangladesh Drowns?,” journalist and environmentalist Afsan Chowdhury concluded from his firsthand experience that climate refugees have become a regular part of life.

According to the Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the humanitarian cost to respond to natural disasters has increased ten-fold from 1992 to 2008. Because of the massive illegal migration of environmental refugees from Bangladesh to India, the tension between the two nations has also increased as India started to fence its borders.

In an interview with journalist Charles Norton of “The House Magazine,” a weekly British political publication relating to the House of Commons, Supreme Master Ching Hai further expounded on the issue of climate refugees.

As a result, more and more countries may have to help cope with the swell of displaced people, hoping they can - if we even can cope with it. In this dire situation when all countries already have to cope with different problems – financial crisis, food crisis - and we have to cope with this sudden surge of immeasurable force of refugees. These situations will only worsen, not improve, until we stop the cause.

The cost of assisting all refugees from wars, environmental degradation and other causes is substantial. In 2008 alone, the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees spent US$1.6 billion, while the United States, the world’s largest refugee receiving country, spent US$900 million to 2 billion to help relocate refugees.

Over the past two decades, Supreme Master Ching Hai has donated more than US$28 million for humanitarian causes, with a significant amount going towards direct aid for asylum seekers around the world, from Aulacese (Vietnamese) refugees to people from Chechnya to Rwanda to East Timor and Afghanistan. Some of her contributions are also made quietly and anonymously.

Whenever any war breaks out, it could be any of us who will become a refugee.

Imagine if we have to go through all the suffering, all the hardship that they have to endure, being just a bystander of the war, being just an innocent citizen of the world. And we also thank groups of people or individuals who are so noble, who opened their heart and opened their home to welcome, to care for the desperate victims of war. In the whole world, we thank them all wherever they are.

At this time, as our planet is facing the perils of wars and climate change, extending a helping hand to our brothers and sisters in need, is not only a true act of kindness, but is a moral duty. We are specially grateful to Supreme Master Ching Hai for her loving care of God’s children around the globe and for her profound guidance on how we may bring our world to a state of peace and abundance. May all refugees be graced with inner and outer peace on a sustainable Earth, with Heaven’s manifold blessings.

Benevolent viewers, thank you for your company today on A Journey through Aesthetic Realms. Up next on Supreme Master Television is Vegetarianism: The Noble Way of Living, right after Noteworthy News. May generous and sharing lives be an inspiration to us all.
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January . 2021