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Father’s Day, World Refugee Day, and human dignity

Black African Man helping caucasian friend offering hand to climb wall. Concept of, friendship, solidarity and support

By Fr Stephan Alexander
General Manager, CCSJ and AMMR

The second half of June offers us the opportunity to observe two significant yet distinct commemorations: Father’s Day and World Refugee Day.

At first glance, these observances might seem unrelated. Father’s Day is a celebration of paternal bonds, appreciation for fatherhood, and honouring fathers’ contributions to their families and society.

On the other hand, World Refugee Day is an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe. It is dedicated to raising awareness about the plight of refugees, advocating for their rights, and fostering global solidarity.

However, that which initially seems unrelated provides evidence of a profound connection when observed through the lens of human dignity.

The celebration of Father’s Day invites us to acknowledge fathers and honour the essential role fathers play in nurturing, guiding, and protecting their families. This day allows us to reflect on the ideals of fatherhood: responsibility, sacrifice, and unconditional love.

A father’s role is not merely biological but deeply rooted in providing moral and emotional support, ensuring the well-being of his children, and fostering their development into responsible and compassionate individuals.

Fathers contribute significantly to the formation of their children’s identities, values, and sense of security. By embodying principles of integrity, empathy, and resilience, fathers impart lessons that extend beyond the family unit and into the broader community.

In celebrating Father’s Day, we not only honour individual fathers but also uphold the universal values of care, protection, and the sanctity of the familial bond.

World Refugee Day, observed annually on June 20, brings attention to the global refugee crisis, highlighting the courage, strength, and resilience of millions of refugees who have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict, persecution, or natural disasters.

This day calls for a collective response to address the challenges faced by refugees, emphasising the importance of providing humanitarian assistance, ensuring legal protection, and facilitating integration into host communities.

Refugees often endure immense hardship, facing uncertainty, deprivation, and the loss of their homes and loved ones. Despite these adversities, they demonstrate remarkable resilience and an unwavering hope for a better future.

World Refugee Day serves as a reminder of our shared humanity and the imperative to uphold the dignity and rights of every individual, regardless of their circumstances.

This principle of our shared humanity provides the clear link between these two distinct yet connected commemorations. It echoes the opening paragraph of the recent Vatican declaration Dignitas infinita, ‘On Human Dignity’, which states, “Every human person possesses an infinite dignity, inalienably grounded in his or her very being, which prevails in and beyond every circumstance, state, or situation the person may ever encounter”.

Hence, it doesn’t matter who a person is or what they have done or not done, their human dignity must be prioritised and defended in every circumstance. It is this that we celebrate, and we are charged to welcome and encourage others along the journey.

Fathers are meant to uphold and safeguard the inherent worth of their offspring. This commitment to fostering dignity begins within the home but radiates outward, influencing broader societal attitudes and actions.

Hence, when men fail to play the role of father in their children’s lives both the child and society are affected. As guardians of each other’s dignity, it is here that the role of welcoming and encouraging is amplified.

“Fatherless” children must be welcomed and encouraged. They must be helped to understand that they are loved and that their dignity isn’t diminished because of an absent father.

Similarly, fathers who struggle with the role of fatherhood also must be welcomed and encouraged. Rather than dehumanising such men we should provide a space for them to grow and encourage relationships with their children.

The Church acknowledges this in accepting “her commitment to the weak and those less endowed with power”, always insisting on “the primacy of the human person and the defense of his or her dignity beyond every circumstance.”

The observance of World Refugee Day similarly underscores the necessity of welcoming and encouraging others by recognising and preserving the dignity of refugees.

Despite the often-dire circumstances they face, refugees remain entitled to respect, compassion, and support. Being welcoming, hospitable and advocating for refugees’ rights and providing them with opportunities for a dignified life aligns with the broader commitment to upholding human dignity for all. We must be mindful that our attitudes and approaches to refugees can often be dehumanising and demoralising.

Understanding the connection between Father’s Day and World Refugee Day through the prism of human dignity offers a compelling perspective on our collective responsibilities.

Fathers and refugees, though their experiences differ greatly, both represent vital aspects of the human condition: the capacity for resilience, the importance of protection, and the enduring quest for a better future.

As Christians, we must strive to respond to their needs. This calls for an empathetic understanding of the challenges faced by men struggling with the responsibility of fatherhood, ‘fatherless’ children and refugees who have been displaced.

It also requires our commitment to advocate for policies that encourage relationship between fathers and their children and actions that support refugees’ dignity and integration.


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