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California March Draws Attention to Refugee Crisis

The international refugee crisis was on the minds of people in Irvine, California, recently as they rallied in support of the world's displaced people, led by some who came to the city as refugees.

The three-kilometer Walk for Unity drew more than 100 people and focused attention on the world's 60 million people displaced by war and persecution. It was part of the city's Global Village Festival, an annual celebration of cultural diversity.

The march was sponsored by the Tiyya Foundation, a refugee assistance organization whose name means “my love” in the Oromo language of northeastern Africa.

Marcher Adja Victor was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and was granted asylum in the United States. He said the foundation taught him “how to get a job, how to do the interview, how to get into the community, and how to get involved in the nonprofits” because “I really wanted to be the kind of person who is able to help people.”

Meymuna Hussein-Cattan's family came to America from Ethiopia by way of a refugee camp in Somalia. She and her mother, Owliya Dima, founded the Tiyya Foundation in 2011, and she said it has helped people from many places, including Russia, Guatemala, Cuba, Congo, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and East Africa. She said the growing numbers of displaced people have created a global crisis.

Hamid Reza Mozafari from Iran has also received asylum in the United States. He said the transition to life here has been hard “because I want to be in my home. I want to be around my family. I want to be where I belong.” But he said the difficulty had alleviated “because here, people are acting with respect. I see that we can respect each other.”

Marcher Laurie Margaret teaches interfaith student groups and said the youths are aware of the refugee crisis. “They're messaging me, texting me, and saying, 'What can I do? I don't have any money. I'm a high school student. What can I do to raise awareness, to help other people, to contribute, and make a difference in the lives of refugees that are coming?' ”

She said that getting involved in events like the Walk for Unity to raise awareness can help.

The United States will raise its annual refugee quota from 70,000 to 100,000 people by 2017 in response to the migrant crisis in Europe and increasing numbers of displaced people throughout the world. These marchers said a warm welcome awaits those who find their way to Irvine.

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