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Jolie, Kerry Shine Spotlight on Humanity on World Refugee Day

Secretary of State John Kerry and movie star and humanitarian Angelina Jolie visit a Virginia mosque on World Refugee Day.


When Linda immigrated to the United States from Kosovo as a refugee in the 1990s, her family was treated almost like celebrities. People were excited to meet them. Neighbors brought them gifts.

If she managed to gain entrance today, she would have had a very different reception — likely one full of fear and hate.

Actress Angelina Jolie and Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed 50 Syrian refugees at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) in Virginia Monday to recognize World Refugee Day. They sought to bring attention to the plight and the humanity of refugees.

Kerry pointed out that if all 65 million displaced people were placed together in one country, it would be the 22nd largest country in the world. But that’s not what he wanted to focus on.

“My friends … the refugee story, at its heart, is not about statistics,” he said. “It’s about people.”

Linda is one of those people. She’s a young woman IRUSA spoke with this month as part of a Ramadan series. In that meeting, Linda recalled the very human memories of celebrating Ramadan back home before they had to leave. She was small then, and she remembers the celebrations from a child’s view — the extra tables her family would push together, tables of mismatched sizes and heights. That way, they could fit in all the people, all the love.

Contrast that memory with the dehumanized picture of refugees painted by some today, reducing them literally to poison, waiting to infiltrate and destroy our country. A viral internet meme asks: If you have a handful of M&Ms and o

ne is poisoned, would you eat the M&Ms?

Kerry and Jolie brought the spotlight back to refugees’ humanity at this week’s Virginia event, arguing strongly for common sense and compassion. IRUSA CEO Anwar Khan listened from the audience with appreciation, tweeting updates.

“The refugee story is about thousands and thousands of families who want their new neighbors to know that they are not the perpetrators of terror or violence, but rather people, people who yearn just like them only to live in security and peace,” Kerry said.

His voice rose as he said there is zero evidence that refugees pose any greater threat to our society than any other group.

“Let me be very clear,” he said. “Preventing any group from entering the United States solely because of their race or because of their nationality or because of a religious affiliation is directly contrary to the very ideals on which our country was based.

“We believe in individual rights, not collective guilt. And we believe in judging people based on what they do, not the circumstances of their birth or their choice of sacred texts.” Jolie spoke of America’s values of equal rights and dignity.

“It is how we treat the weakest or the most vulnerable among us that says the most about our commitment to human rights and equality and justice for all people,” she said. “… And when we are at our strongest it is when we draw on our diversity as a people to find unity based on our common values and our larger identity.

“We are not strong despite our diversity; we are strong because of it.”

We’re stronger because of people like Linda. One by one, they add beauty and color to the mosaic of our country.

Jolie said, “The answer to addressing the global refugee crisis surely lies behind common courtesy and drawing strength from each other … in staying true to who we are, in showing that we have the fight in us to confront our generation’s test and emerge stronger for it. That is my hope.”

It’s our hope too.

Chancey is the Editor-in-Chief for ReliefLab and a Content Creator at Islamic Relief USA. We would love to feature your voice on the blog – send us a message at relieflab@irusa.org.