On World Refugee Day, we launch the One Shared Humanity Manifesto

20 June 2024

Today, on World Refugee Day, the Jesuit Refugee Service, Caritas Internationalis, the International Unions of Superiors General (UISG and USG), the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC), and the Jesuit Curia launch the “One Shared Humanity” Manifesto. The aim behind the Manifesto is to encourage communities and all stakeholders to reject harmful attitudes towards refugees, and to promote shared spaces of belonging and encounter. We firmly believe that replacing hostility with openness and empathy is essential to create equal access to opportunities for refugees and to encourage the participation of all in shaping compassionate and just societies.

This year, World Refugee Day comes at a time of tremendous increase in conflicts and protracted humanitarian crises. The human impact is clearly reflected in the recently published UNHCR Global Trends Report 2023: over the past 12 years, the number of forcibly displaced persons has risen steadily to reach 117.3 million at the end of 2023 and is likely to have exceeded 120 million by the end of April 2024. Most come from Syria, Afghanistan, Venezuela and Ukraine.

It is with great concern that we observe how the principles and obligations of international humanitarian law and human rights law are often violated, leading to the indiscriminate killing of civilians as well as the forced displacement of millions of people. The protection of refugees around the world is threatened and the right to asylum is openly questioned. Agreements are signed to externalise regional border controls or outsource asylum procedures by relocating asylum seekers to unsafe countries, thus undermining their dignity and human rights. Furthermore, we are also concerned about the growing politics of fear, which dehumanises refugees and sees in them a burden and a threat, fueling harmful attitudes towards the “stranger”. Refugees often carry the impacts of this violence with them, frozen in their hearts and minds, and sadly they often face even more violence in the places where they hope to find safety.

Our church organisations work daily on the ground alongside refugees and other displaced persons and advocate for their human rights protection at all levels. This is a remarkable sign that the paradigm on which states are building their current policies needs a radical change. Our societies will lose their sense of humanity if they continue to dig ditches and surround themselves with barbed wire. A world in which indifference and hatred prevail, and where solidarity and fraternity are no longer fundamental values of social living, is destined to implode.

We believe in a very different vision of the world. Together with Pope Francis, we are convinced that all human beings have the same dignity and form part of the same human family. By recognising this unity, we can change narratives of violence and fear that seek to justify the violation of refugees’ dignity and fundamental human rights.

For people fleeing their countries, uprooted from their loved ones, their jobs, property, financial assets and recognition of their qualifications, the restoration of socio-economic rights, along with political and cultural rights, is crucial to rebuild a dignified life and a necessary condition for both protection and durable solutions to be effective. Humanitarian, development and peace actors are called to work jointly to support displacement-affected countries in implementing an agenda which promotes the full integration of refugees and asylum seekers and farsighted development solutions.

We need to challenge the world to engage effectively and emotionally with the reality of refugees, and to treat them as human beings, as people of inalienable dignity, made in the image and in the likeness of God, who we have the responsibility to care for because we are all responsible for all.

In recognising our shared humanity, we can break down barriers, foster transformative relationships, facilitate hospitality for refugees, and create safe and shared spaces for everyone in our communities that are rooted in understanding and unity.