By Tania Cristina Formigone and Lucas Guerreiro
Jun 22, 2023 | 9:26 AM
In a pivotal move to address the plight of refugees, the Latin American Chapters convened on World Refugee Day, June 20th, for a critical virtual event conducted via Zoom. Bringing together leaders from various chapters, this unique gathering focused on the role the J. Reuben Clark Law Society (JRCLS) can play in assisting the over 108 million refugees worldwide, of which Latin America shelters 20%.
Forrest Hansen, the Executive Director of JRCLS, initiated the proceedings by reiterating the society’s mission statement. Members of JRCLS, he reminded the gathering, are duty-bound to leverage their professional and religious skills and knowledge in service of their communities, and in particular, to act as agents of peace.
Sam Morales, the Director for Latin America at JRCLS, drove home the necessity of comprehending the complexity of the refugee issue in its entirety. He proposed that society members aid people within their respective chapters in navigating immigration laws and exploring options available to those considering or needing to change countries, as this can often be a source of significant challenges due to lack of knowledge.
Former JRCLS Director for Mexico, Javier Contreras, brought attention to the sizable difficulties that refugees face including language barriers, access to housing, employment, and education. He championed the idea of Latin American Chapters rallying together, exchanging knowledge and experiences to amplify their collective impact on this group of individuals.
Meanwhile, Odacyr Prigol, current Director of JRCLS Brazil, highlighted the benefits of appointing a designated director for refugees within each chapter. Such a role would enable the development of refugee-focused activities, and he further suggested that each chapter incorporate at least one such activity semi-annually.
In closing the event, attendees were challenged and tasked with a commitment: to reconvene on the same day next year. The purpose of this future meeting will be to share experiences and lessons learned from their refugee work over the year. The timing of this meeting will be particularly significant as 2024 marks the 40th anniversary of the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees.
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