Palestinians who were either forced from or fled their homes in 1948 and 1967 hoped for a quick return to their houses and land. Few would have foreseen that, decades later, they and their descendants would be living as refugees or internally displaced Palestinians. As the United Nations celebrates June 20 as World Refugee Day,1 we want to work to restore hope to those original Palestinian refugees and their descendants. Here is what you should know about Palestinian refugees and what you can do so that together we can rise up.
Topic: Palestinian Refugees
In 1948, over a million Palestinians were uprooted as a result of the Nakba. In 1950 the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was set up by the United Nations in order to address the housing, health, education, and welfare needs of refugees that were mostly housed in temporary shelters. In 2019 UNRWA reported that over 5.4 million Palestinian refugees were registered with its offices in the five geographic areas where it works: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, and Gaza. There are 58 refugee camps in the region: 10 in Jordan, 12 in Lebanon, 9 in Syria, 19 in the West Bank, and 8 in the Gaza Strip. 28.4% of all registered refugees continue to live in camps, with the highest percentage in Lebanon with 50.6%, followed by Gaza with 40.9%.
As The United Church of Canada considers proposals calling for “Costly Action” in solidarity with Palestinians whose homes are being destroyed in Masafer Yatta, this prayer by the Right Rev. David Giuliano, past Moderator, is offered.
O Mystery as grand as the universe
O Mighty Force of all creation,
O Power beyond all our power,
You have come to us as an infant. Vulnerable, fragile, beautiful.
You have come to us
in the midst of poverty,
powerlessness and longing.
Come again, O Promiser of Peace.
Come again, to the city of your birth
mired in fear, oppression and injustice.
Come again, where bullet holes
still pock the walls of Sanctuary.
Come again, where Children dream
of homes they have never seen.
Come again, where a single key
or the number 194 cry out again
of forced journey to Bethlehem.
Be born again in the camps.
Be born again in stables and homes.
Be born again in many cities and languages.
Be born again among nations.
Be born again in places of injustice.
Be born again a promise of hope,
a sign of love and joy to the world.
Be born again in our hearts,
that we too might be called
Makers of peace
and Children of God.
Given by the Right Rev. David Giuliano, the thirty-ninth Moderator of the United Church of Canada.