World Refugee Day: Open minds, Unlock Potential And We Stand Together #WithRefugees
21 June 2016

World Refugee Day commemorations, on the 20th June 2016 at the Catholic Archdiocese of Johannesburg. (Gushwell F. Brooks/Jesuit Refugee Service)

Johannesburg, 21 June 2016 – As previously announced, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), along with a number of other civil society organisations, faith based organisations, UNHCR, refugees and asylum seekers and the Department of Home Affairs, commemorated World Refugee Day on the 20thJune 2016 at the Catholic Archdiocese of Johannesburg.

The Minister of the Department of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, gave the keynote address at the event. The importance of the event was that it was not just another celebration or commemoration of a day filled with pleasantries, but it was a day that raised conversation around the state of refugees globally and what protections they have and will continue to have in South Africa.

The podcast of the Minister’s speech was played on the JRS radio slot on Radio Veritas, on World Refugee Day, the 20th June 2016, with Father David Holdcroft SJ, JRS Southern Africa Regional Director commenting on the Minister’s speech. The podcast follows below:


At the international level, the JRS theme for World Refugee Day was “Open Minds, Unlock Potential”. The following video presentation accompanied our international message:

This World Refugee Day, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) urges you to remember we must not only provide refugees with a safe place to stay, but with opportunities to grow and contribute to society. To truly protect means keeping people safe from all evils, including poverty, isolation, exploitation, misconception and neglect.

Refugees in motion eventually must stop, and when they do, they change. As the fabrics of society change, host communities change too. So many people are forced to flee from war, persecution and oppression. But we as humanity also seem to be fleeing from each other. Content with a comfortable sense of normalcy, we fear change. However, change does not mean carelessly tossing ourselves into the unknown. It rather means choosing how we want to positively reshape our societies through positive encounter with our neighbours.

“We need to reinvent our way of being together. We must show mercy to and accept one another, and this act of mercy must be mutual and concrete. Opening doors is not enough; we must open ourselves and our minds to unlock our potential as a society,” said JRS International Director Fr Thomas H Smolich SJ.

Access to quality education allows refugees better to fulfil their own potential and fully contribute to the growth, strength and stability of communities. Knowledge is the one thing that no war or disaster can seize.

“I ask everyone to be educated for not only themselves, but for the betterment of their nation. To say it simply: no education, no life,” said Seda Abdalllah Abakar, a refugee and teacher at the JRS school in Goz Amir camp in Chad.

Host communities across the globe must guarantee that refugees do not lose their fundamental right to learn. Let’s educate ourselves in the highest sense and learn from one another. We must genuinely open ourselves, our minds and our communities to unlock our potential as a society. This World Refugee Day, let’s take the opportunity to mobilise our compassion and put our Mercy in Motion.

For more information

Jacquelyn Pavilon, JRS International Communications Coordinator,; +39 06 698 68 609 / +39 348 993 1544; Skype: jacquelyn.pavilon

Press Contact Information
Gushwell F. Brooks
+27 11 618 3404