By Richard Meek

The Catholic Commentator

World Refugee Day in Baton Rouge is expanding as organizers attempt to include the community in appreciating the richness refugees bring to the city, said Jean Dresley, Director of Refugee Settlement for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

Rather than the traditional one-day event, as it has been for years, the annual celebration will kick off June 14 with the showing of the documentary “This is Home: A Refugee Story” at 6:30 p.m. at the theatre at the Bishop Robert E. Tracy Center.

Following the showing of the film a panel discussion will be held, and will include a refugee, a representative from CCDBR discussing resettlement and an attorney addressing legal implications of being a refugee.

Admission is $5 to view the documentary, which chronicles the lives of four Syrian families who resettled in Baltimore.

“It’s a timely movie and talks about what (the families) go through during the first 90 days when they are trying to find their feet and all of the struggles they go through,” Dresley said.

Bishop Michael G. Duca is scheduled to bless a much larger celebration June  23 from 3:30-7:30 p.m. at the Goodwood Library in Baton Rouge. That event will include speakers, events, activities for children, an outdoor band as well as indoor entertainment, vendors selling their specialty items and food featuring dishes from around the world.

Also included will be local agencies distributing information about the services they offer.

“We plan to make it a festive event and try to be inclusive,” Dresley said “We want to invite the community to learn more about refugees and how they are contributing to our community and some of their struggles.

“It’s not always an easy journey for them but they are amazing, resilient individuals who contribute to our community in big ways.”

World Refugee Day is not new, Dresley said, and has been held at various locations for several years. However, she said organizers are hoping to grow the event and make it a celebration of diversity, a celebration of their motto “Unity in Strength.”

“It’s about diversity but we are all one human family,” Dresley said. “This is what makes us strong as a community when we can recognize that.

“We really want to attract the public, we want them to know who are the refugees, what they are doing in our communities, the strength they have.”

Dresley called refugee resettlement the “issue of our time,” and admitted it can spark fear.

“A lot of people are afraid, but we are hoping an event like this will help people see there is nothing to be afraid of, that (refugees) are amazing people who are contributing to our community and add to the richness and diversity of our community.”

Dresley said the event is open to the public and there is no charge for admission. She added that volunteers and sponsorships are being sought.