Members of the Africa Unite team joined in celebrating World Refugee Day at Cape Town’s Scalabrini Centre on 20 June. The festivities included live music, poetry, crafts, face painting, movie screenings, and art displays. The bustling hall was full of community members, refugee patrons of the Scalabrini centre, and students involved in the centre’s outreach initiatives.
Visitors were encouraged to contribute their own message to the event by adding a personalized paper leaf to the tree of “Growing humanity, unity, and peace.” Amnesty International South Africa was collecting signatures for a petition addressed to President Zuma reminding him and his government to stand firm on the human rights of refugees in light of more recent xenophobic violence.
The movie screenings were very popular amongst visitors, and featured short film projects by students involved in Scalabrini’s “Unite as One” outreach programs. The entire crowd enjoyed a delicious free lunch and beverage. The musical acts continued throughout the afternoon, with visitors freely flowing in and out of the hall or taking a seat for the live performances.
After an array of upbeat musical acts, a member of Africa Unite gave a stirring speech to the Refugee Day attendees.His presentation outlined benefits and drawbacks to being a refugee in South Africa. While refugees in South Africa often benefit from heightened freedom and opportunities over their home countries, these opportunities are still limited. In addition, xenophobic violence continues to threaten the livelihood of refugees. The presentation urged audience members to keep in mind the families refugees must leave behind and strive to support from South Africa, as well as to consider the difficulties refugees face in terms of documentation and access to social services. The speech ended with a strong message of respecting diversity and was met with impassioned applause from audience members.
Overall, the World Refugee Day celebration was an energetic community event that brought together Capetonians concerned about the social acceptance and rights protection of refugees. Africa Unite offered a positive contribution to this gathering and used the opportunity to thank the Scalabrini Centre for its invaluable work.
Click here to see more photos of the celebrations!