Press release

Global faith leaders unite in calling for UN member states to protect millions of internally displaced people

Dozens of faith leaders are urging heads of state not to turn their backs on the world’s 40.5 million internally displaced people.
Their call comes ahead of the creation of the new Global Compact on Refugees, an international instrument that will be signed at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this month. The Compact applies only to people who have been forced to flee across borders and ignores the plight of those displaced within their own countries.
While global leaders are signing up to supporting refugees, the vast majority of people displaced within their own countries’ borders are often woefully ignored and abandoned by their countries’ leaders.
More than 57 leaders from across the global faiths have signed an open letter challenging UN member governments about the exclusion of the 40.5 million people from the new Global Compact.

Internally displaced people remain in their own countries but have been forced to flee their homes due to violence and ‘natural’ disasters such as floods and earthquakes, and left to fend for themselves. 
Despite having no place to call home, they lack the support and protection that international law gives refugees – people who have crossed international borders.
According to the faith leaders’ letter, if the world is to realise the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, then the international community must ensure that internally displaced people are neither forgotten nor ignored.
Paul Anticoni, CEO, World Jewish Relief said: “World Jewish Relief recognises that there are now unimaginable numbers of people fleeing conflict and persecution, and becoming displaced within their own countries. These people are often hidden, denied access to support and protection, and extremely vulnerable. We join our fellow faith-based agencies in calling for greater support and assistance to prevent, mitigate and respond to this scourge on humanity.”
Naser Haghamed, CEO, Islamic Relief Worldwide said: “My family and I had to flee our home in Eritrea because of conflict when I was 13 years old, I will never forget what happened. We fled on foot and walked for days just to reach the border. And yet, I was lucky compared to what displaced people have to endure today. As faith groups, we are urging governments to fulfil their obligations towards their own displaced and calling on world leaders at the UN to make the safety, dignity and well-being of millions of displaced people a key priority.”
Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, CEO, Christian Aid said: "If not at the United Nations, then where will the voice of internally displaced women, men and children be heard? Where can their issues be dealt with? Who will bring together global efforts and resources so that they are not left behind?”
Father Alberto Franco Giraldo, Director at Interchurch Commission on Justice & Peace, Colombia said: “As members of different churches and religions we work together for the rights of the victims. Together we will generate and strengthen the hope of more than seven million internally displaced people in our country, Colombia. The world cannot continue to ignore this tragedy.  Our faith demands solidarity and denouncement of the root causes of the violence and displacements.”
The letter is being published ahead of the UN Advisory Council on Faith’s inaugural meeting on 21st September in New York.
Extract: “The Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration, to be signed this year, regrettably provide scant attention to the ignored millions, forced out of their homes but still within their countries of origin.  If we are to realise the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ensure we Leave No One Behind, then the international community must ensure that internally displaced people receive the protection and support that they so desperately need.  
We therefore encourage you, leaders of national governments, together with local partners, civil society, faith communities and the private sector as well as humanitarian and development actors, to join the GP20 Plan of Action to prevent further forcible displacement of people, strengthen the protection of those who are displaced, and seek long-lasting and durable solutions with them.  We call on you to consider your commitments to the SDGs and those made at the World Humanitarian Summit to ensure that nobody is left behind but that everyone, including the millions of internally displaced people so often overlooked, have access to adequate protection and assistance in line with their inherent dignity and worth.”

  • The number of new internal displacements associated with conflict and violence almost doubled, from 6.8 million in 2016 to 11.8 million
  • In 2017, there were 30.6 million new displacements associated with conflict and disasters across 143 countries and territories
  • 39% of new internal displacements were triggered by conflict and 61% by disasters
IDMC has been used for all figures which can be viewed here:

Notes to editors:
1. Christian Aid works in some of the world’s poorest communities in around 40 countries at any one time. We are where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.

2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document Partnership for Change explains how we set about this task.

3. Christian Aid is a member of ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development.

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Dozens of faith leaders are urging heads of state not to turn their backs on the world’s 40.5 million internally displaced people.