With millions of people from countries around the world displaced from their homes—whether because of natural disasters, war or other calamities—the world’s refugee crisis has grown to proportions that haven’t been seen since World War II.
And though most headlines regarding refugees carry datelines half a world away from the Wood River Valley, the refugee crisis isn’t isolated to other continents or even other states, as the International Rescue Committee, which works to resettle refugees from war-torn or storm-ravaged areas, can attest.
During The Community Library’s Breaking Bread With Refugees event today, Oct. 26, valley residents will get a chance to learn about how the refugee crisis has come to the valley’s doorstep.
The program, which will explore the topic of refugees in Idaho, begins at 5:30 p.m. at the library’s Sun Valley Museum of History at Forest Service Park at the corner of First Street and Washington Avenue in Ketchum.
The program features the opening of an art exhibit, conversations with recent refugees and an Afghan dinner. The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited and registration is requested by calling Scott Burton, the library’s program director, at 806-2621 or emailing him at email@example.com.
According to a June 2016 report by the UN Refugee Agency, global forced displacement has hit a record high, with wars and persecution having driven more people from their homes than at any time since the agency began keeping records.
The report noted that, on average, 24 people were forced to flee from their homes each minute in 2015—four times more than a decade earlier, when six people fled every 60 seconds.
The study—which tracked worldwide forced displacement based on data from governments, partner agencies and the Refugee Agency’s own reporting—found that 65.3 million people were displaced by the end of 2015, compared to 59.5 million just a year earlier.
And that number has steadily climbed in 2016 thanks to wars in the Middle East and continued effects of natural disasters in countries like Haiti.
“The refugee crisis is one of the most troubling of our time,” Burton said. “Our country’s response has been woefully inadequate. As private citizens, we can try and understand why the crisis exists, but we must also see the human consequences of it.”
The International Resource Committee does the legwork in resettling refugees, and is currently working to resettle refugees from Iraq, Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The committee’s 22 regional offices—including one in Boise—help resettle refugees newly arrived to the U.S.
Burton said he hopes people will come out and support the work they are doing.
During the program this evening, Julianne Tzul, executive director of the International Rescue Committee in Boise, and Mathew Haight, development manager, will discuss their organization’s work in resettling refugees in Idaho. They will present a sit-down Afghan dinner, provided by the Kabob House of Boise, in which participants will have an opportunity to speak with several refugees from various countries about their experiences resettling in the United States.
In addition, the evening will showcase two new art exhibits at the Sun Valley Museum of History: “The Refugee Portrait Project,” photographs by Ken Bingham of the College of Southern Idaho, and, “This Is My Home Now: Narrative Textiles From Idaho Newcomers,” presented by Artisans for Hope and the Idaho Commission on the Arts.
Bingham’s photography collection is an exhibit of portraits of refugees from all over the world. The “Narrative Textiles” exhibit is a collection of quilts, handmade by refugees and made possible by Steven Hatcher of the Idaho Commission on the Arts. Hatcher and a few of the artists will be on hand to discuss these pieces.
Burton said the program will be informal, with refugees seated for dinner along with the other guests, and there will be no formal panel discussion presented by the refugees, though there will be a few minutes at the end for questions and answers.
To coincide with the program and the art exhibit, the Gold Mine thrift store, which helps fund The Community Library, will offer a special program for customers to buy winter coats and bikes that will then be taken to the refugee center in Twin Falls.
“We are pleased to facilitate a multifaceted program—including presentations, art, food and conversation—that may invite meaningful dialogue about a current issue of such great magnitude,” said Jenny Emery Davidson, the library’s executive director.