WASHINGTON (JTA) — Dozens of refugees, faith leaders and others marked World Refugee Day at a rally outside the White House sponsored in part by the Jewish nonprofit HIAS.
“World Refugee Day is about who we are as a country and what we stand for,” Melanie Nezer, a senior vice president at HIAS, said at the rally Tuesday. “We must choose to welcome refugees seeking safety for themselves and their children, and not turn our backs on people who need our help.”
Advocates commemorated the contributions of refugees nationwide and also condemned discriminatory policies. HIAS, a resettlement agency, and Amnesty International sponsored the rally along with more than 60 organizations.
Speakers called on elected officials to adequately address the refugee crisis — more than 65.5 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes at the end of 2016, the highest figure the U.N. Refugee Agency has recorded since its inception, USA Today reported.
World Refugee Day is held each year on June 20 to honor those who have fled their homes because of violence and persecution.
Amid the prayers and speeches, rally participants chanted “No hate! No fear! Refugees are welcome here!” according to USA Today. Rally organizers gave refugees a platform to share their experiences as migrants.
One was Gentille Runyambo, a migrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“I challenge everyone and our leaders to think about the millions of other refugees who are still in camps, who have no refuge, no access to food and water or health care, and to act on their behalf by opening doors for them and breaking down the walls,” he said.
As noted by the organizers, the rally occurred days after President Donald Trump’s travel ban was again struck down by a federal appeals court.