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Remembering refugees and asylum seekers at Christmas

Published on 22 December 2020

Earlier this month, the UNHCR announced that the number of people forcibly displaced due to persecution, conflict, and human rights violations has passed 80 million. It’s a bleak milestone in a year that has already seen huge set-backs in development as a result of Covid-19 and aid cuts. In this video, His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, a partner in the IDS-led CREID programme, reflects on the Christmas story of Jesus and his family fleeing to Egypt as an opportunity to think about people fleeing persecution and crises today.

For CREID partner Archbishop Angaelos, Director of Refcemi and also the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, as well as a time for celebration, Christmas is also a sobering reminder of our responsibility to asylum seekers and refugees fleeing persecution, conflict and human rights violations… much like Jesus who was a child refugee, and was forced to flee to Egypt more than two thousand years ago.

The UN Refugee Agency estimated that 30–34 million (38-43%) of all forcibly displaced persons were children below 18 years of age (in 2019, so this figure will likely be higher now). At the peak of Covid-19 this year, 168 countries fully or partially closed their borders, including 90 that made no exception for people seeking asylum.

Some of those forced to flee are escaping persecution on grounds of faith and no faith, their ethnicity, or political orientation and many other factors. The promotion of the right to have a faith or no faith cannot be separated from the right to asylum or being granted refugee status. The two necessarily go hand-in-hand with one another, and highlight the interconnections of all rights.

In this video, Archbishop Angaelos speaks of the centrality of Jesus Christ fleeing to Egypt as part of the Christmas narrative and as an opportunity to think people fleeing persecution and crises. Over the coming year, CREID will be sharing the perspectives of other leaders of faith and no faith on important occasions to reflect on the interconnections between religious inequalities and other forms of inequality and rights.

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