June 20 is World Refugee Day
According to International Law, “a refugee is someone who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his or her nationality.” In other words, a refugee is someone who must leave his or her country because life is too dangerous there.
How awful to have to leave your home! It is estimated by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants that there are 6 million refugees in the Middle East, over 3 million in Africa, and another 3 million in Asia. And many of them are children just like you!
While it’s impossible to truly imagine what it is like to be a refugee, reading books about their stories can help you to get a better understanding of what their lives are like. Here are some amazing books to get you started.
A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park
Two stories, told in alternating sections, about a girl in Sudan in 2008 and a boy in Sudan in 1985. Nya must fetch water from a pond that is a two-hour walk from her home. Salva is a refugee from the Sudan war searching for his family and a safe place to stay. By the end of the book, they meet in an unexpected way.
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
This book has no words, but it tells an incredible story of a man who leaves his country and literally feels like he’s in an alien world because everything is so different from his home.
Samir and Yonatan by Daniella Carmi
Samir is a Muslim Palestinian boy sharing a room with 4 Israeli Jews in an Israeli hospital. He’s scared because he knows that some Israelis don’t like Palestinians, and he doesn’t know what they will do to him. This is a beautiful story about friendship overcoming prejudice.
Dawn and Dusk by Alice Mead
In 1987 Iran, Saddam Hussein’s persecution of the Kurds forces 13-year-old Azad and his family to flee. You have probably heard about how cruel Saddam Hussein was during the Iraq War with the U.S., but this book shows you what life was like for the people way before that, during the war between Iraq and Iran.
A Faraway Island by Annika Thor
Two Jewish sisters are sent away from their home in Nazi-controlled Austria to Sweden where they will be safe. But everything is different, and they miss their parents and their old life before the Nazis came.
The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson
During the Kosovo War in 1998, 12-year-old Meli and her family have to run away from the Serbian soldiers who don’t want any Muslims in Kosovo. This book makes me so angry at people who hate other people for no reason!
Red Midnight by Ben Mikaelsen
This is a fast-paced survival adventure story about a 12-year-old boy in Guatemala who has to run away one night when soldiers destroy his village. He has to sail for 3 weeks in shark-infested waters and hope he makes it to America without starving or dying of thirst.
Understanding is the first step to bringing peace to our world. I hope reading these books will help you better understand refugees’ lives, and inspire you to make a difference!