Washington Nat'l Cathedral to Host Festival Celebrating Refugee Cultures in US

Washington National Cathedral
Washington National Cathedral of Washington, DC. A congregation of The Episcopal Church, it is one of the largest church buildings in the world. |

The Washington National Cathedral is scheduled to host a festival centered on celebrating the cultures and contributions of refugees in the United States.

"While the day is about fun and celebration, its goal is to inspire people from all backgrounds to engage with each other in a spirit of fellowship and understanding by shining a light on the resilience and contributions of this vibrant population," Jocelyn Ueng, spokesperson for the Festival, told The Christian Post.

Known as the One Journey Festival, the event will take place at the grounds of one of the world's largest church buildings on Saturday.

Kevin Eckstrom, spokesman for the National Cathedral, told CP that the church agreed to host the festival in response to their staff looking for a way "to help refugees."

"It started with the idea of an internship program to give refugees a foot in the door of the U.S. job market; that idea remains in process, but what started as a conversation quickly blossomed into the festival that we're going to host this weekend in partnership with One Journey," he explained.

Eckstrom noted that the Cathedral has two goals for the event, one being to fulfill the biblical command to look after the stranger and to counter the claims of some that refugees are a danger to the nation.

"We also want to try and move this country beyond the false narrative that refugees are dangerous, criminals or a threat to national security," he said.

Syrian refugees
Syrian refugees stuck between the Jordanian and Syrian borders wait to cross into Jordan in this undated photo. |

"These people have survived unimaginable horror and devastation, and it's our duty as citizens of America and the Kingdom of God to help where and when we can. Our strength as a country and a church comes from embracing our diversity, not running from it." 

The One Journey Festival, co-founded by Wendy Chan of NOVA Friends of Refugees and Vanda Berninger of Refugees International in 2017, is a free all-day event and will feature food as well as musical and dance performances by artists from nations including Afghanistan, India, Iran, Kenya, Mexico, and Nepal. 

The event comes as the number of refugees being allowed to enter the United States has dropped significantly over the last year. 

Evangelical refugee aid group World Relief has warned that President Donald Trump's actions on reducing the number of refugees coming to America have been responsible for "a wave of anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies." 

Festival organizers hope to awake the "sleeping giant" of "America's big heart for refugees."

"We're creating a repeatable playbook that we can't wait to share with the world — one that helps grassroots volunteers to create spaces and opportunities to interact with refugees, deepen understanding and go beyond that label," Ueng explained. 

Ueng views the event as "the start of a broader movement that inspires community action across the country."

"So while the One Journey Festival is going to be an amazing day of celebration, storytelling, and community connection, we want it to be an inspiration for others to replicate and make their own," she said.

In addition to the National Cathedral hosting the event, other organizations who contributed to the event include Amnesty International, Catholic Charities, Church World Services, Fifth Tribe, the Syrian Community Network, and the United Nations Foundation.

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