By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
In recognition of the United Nations’ 71 years of working around the globe, the United Nations Association of Oklahoma City (UNA-OKC) will host a panel discussion themed “One Humanity. Shared Responsibility.” The event will focus on the global refugee crisis.
The program will feature a panel discussion beginning at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 15, at the Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center, 3000 Pershing Drive, at State Fairgrounds Park in Oklahoma City.
“Participate with UNA-OKC as we explore the response of the United Nations and our global civil society to one of today’s most urgent challenges — to restore security and to protect human lives,” said Priya Desai, president of UNA-OKC.
According the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the world is now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record. An unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world have been forced from their homes.
Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic needs such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.
Nearly 34,000 people are forcibly displaced every day as a result of conflict or persecution, UNHRC reports.
“Children, women and men are in need of protection,” said Desai. “Their security has been shattered. Their rights have been violated. They have been caught up in a frightening storm of conflict and oppression.”
During this year’s UN General Assembly the White House announced that a total of $4.5 billion had been pledged for use by the UN and other humanitarian agencies to provide “a doubling of refugee resettlement places and plans to improve access to employment and education,” as reported Free Speech and Radio News.
“We cannot avert our eyes or turn our backs. To slam the door in the face of these families would betray our deepest values,” said President Barack Obama. “It would deny our own heritage as nations, including the United States of America, that have been built by immigrants and refugees.”
During the 2015 United Nations General Assembly the U.S. vowed to take in 100,000 migrants and refugees by 2017.
“There will be good company, good food, and an important message on the Refugee Crisis,” said Desai.
“Enjoy being part of a community of globally-minded people who support the values of the UN Charter — to reaffirm faith in human rights, to practice tolerance and live together in peace as good neighbors, and to promote the economic and social advancement of all peoples.”
The discussion panel will feature Rachel Pittman, Director of Membership for the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA).
Pittman manages programs for UNA-USA’s network of 20,000+ members and its 150 chapters to facilitate youth engagement, advocacy efforts, education programs, and public events. She holds a B.S./B.A in International Business from American University and an MBA in Marketing from Johns Hopkins University. She also serves as an advisor to the UNA’s Women and LGBT affinity groups.
Rachel will discuss a new UNA-USA initiative: “Adopt-A-Future,” the new campaign to give refugee children the education they need to build a better future.
Other panelists will include: Robert Andrew, Diplomat-in-Residence at the University of Oklahoma; Imad Enchassi, Senior Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City and Adjunct Professor of Islamic Studies at Oklahoma City University; and Mana Tahaie, Interim Director of Immigrant & Refugee Services at YWCA Tulsa.
“Every year, we celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the United Nations (October 24th) by exploring a timely topic that is relevant to our Oklahoma community,” Desai stated.
The event will also feature a silent auction. Light snacks and refreshments will be provided.
Tickets are available online at eventbrite.com. Adult tickets are $15 (plus $1.82 service fee) and student tickets are $10 (plus $1.54 service fee).
“We think you will gain a new understanding of the Refugee Crisis by participating in this program,” Desai said. “Our hope is that you will feel a sense of solidarity with the men and women of our global society who are responding to this humanitarian challenge.