On September 21st, as we observe International Day of Peace, we are reminded that nearly 60 million people globally have been displaced from their homes by war. Of these, 19.5 million people are living as refugees.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, estimates that, due to conflict and persecution, every day of last year over 42,500 people were forced to flee their homes. Half of them were children. Some have relocated within their country; others felt safer across an international border. And increasingly, refugees are taking to boats, trains, even to their feet to walk great distances, hoping to find a safe haven abroad. They take their chances, braving the dangers of a trek into the unknown.
The displaced come from all walks of life, singly and in families, across a wide spectrum of ethnic, religious, economic and educational backgrounds. But they have one thing in common: they are all running from something.
Twelve million people have fled the long-running crisis in Syria, over 4 million of them now living outside of their country. 2.4 million Ukrainians have been displaced by the fighting in eastern Ukraine. 867,000 of them have fled to other countries.
The conflict with DAESH has displaced 3.2 million Iraqis. Five hundred thousand of the displaced come from Libya, another 1.4 million are Yemenis. And the litany continues: 200,000 Burundians, 800,000 Central Africans, and 2.2 million South Sudanese; 2.6 million Afghans.
Globally, one in every 122 people has been forced to flee violence, and is today a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum. “If this were the population of a country,” said the UNHCR, “it would be the world's 24th biggest.”
As we observe International Day of Peace, we are reminded that the ranks of these 60 million refugees, internally displaced persons, and asylum seekers, these victims of ongoing wars, are likely to grow until peace returns to their homelands.
We call on all parties to conflict to lay down their weapons, stop the killings and the destruction. Negotiate a political resolution and work for a lasting peace.