World Humanitarian Day : 19 August 2016

UN flag 320[UN Geneva] This year, World Humanitarian Day centered on the important role of youth.  The recent World Humanitarian Summit (Istanbul, May 2016) showed the effective action of young people, especially if they are encouraged to become ‘drivers’ for the life of their community.

These are the reflections of several young people who lead the first part of the meeting:

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∞ Azor, a young doctor from Saudi Arabia, arrived in Greece to work. On getting off the plane, they immediately called for someone who spoke Arabic to guide a boat which had arrived in the wrong direction.  That day, thanks to her words, 65 refugees were saved.

∞ Marie, a Swiss student from Valais, left at 19 years old for Rumania with « Point Cœur » to share life with those in extreme poverty in a shantytown.  She went to Lebanon, then on to Iraq with the Kizidies. She was struck, one evening after a long day of distribution, by a little girl who stayed by her side until the end, who took her by the hand and stayed by her for a few minutes. Marie had discovered that it is important to give and to share, but even more so to give of herself.

∞ Nan Buzard, from the Council of Voluntary Agencies who supports commitments in Istanbul : to engage and protect the young because they are not sufficiently protected.

∞ Kerstin-Magdalena from Poland worked with the International Red Cross in several countries. She discovered the importance of youth in humanitarian activities and how these experiences shape their values. She believes that young people are ready to act and are generous to do so.

∞ George du Pérou, is a university person who looked for ways to help others. So, he joined a volunteer fire company. In 2007, after the earthquake in Haiti which killed and injured so many, he participated in the rescue. The arrival of firefighters from all over the world to help people they didn’t even know inspired him to do more and reassured him in his engagement as a permanent firefighter.

And, finally, Filippo Grandi, new UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and Stefan de Mitsura, special envoy to Syria, gave their testimonies. Both had been young volunteers and their first experiences had oriented their commitment to the UN.

After the meeting, which had gathered a thousand people, there was a moment of silence and remembrance for the last volunteers who were killed.  Refreshments were welcome in this time of great heat.

Geneva, 3 September 2016
Sister Monique Javouhey, DC

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