Have a meal, help a refugee in North Texas
D-FW event to help those who have suffered human rights abuses, says Wylie Peremarti
Sunday marks the 69th annual International Human Rights Day, commemorating the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the U.N. General Assembly in 1948. The historic document, which articulated the unalienable rights of all regardless of race, gender, religion or creed, remains the foundational international treaty in the field of human rights.
As a college student majoring in diplomacy and world affairs, I experienced why helping those who have suffered human rights abuses is so important. During an internship with Refugee Services of Texas, I assisted refugees to Dallas, men and women who had escaped abuse and injustice in various places.
I met a Congolese man whose story changed my life. Since 1996, a complex web of proxy wars among the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and various militia groups has plagued the resource-rich region. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, widespread violence, ethnic cleansing, disease and famine from the Second Congo War (1998-2003) have claimed 5 million people, and the region remains embroiled in conflict.
As a social activist, this Congolese refugee denounced the repressive Kabila regime that created the DRC in 1997. In 2000, he was forced to leave his family and flee to Kenya after he was imprisoned and tortured by the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), a rival faction supported by the Rwandan government that controlled territory in eastern Congo at the time.
Having witnessed mass atrocities committed by the RCD, this man hid in Nairobi. RCD agents captured him in 2011 and tortured him again. He narrowly escaped death.
He settled in Dallas in 2016, 14 years after gaining U.N. refugee status. Now in his 40s, he suffers from injuries from his torture and struggles to pay for medical treatments.
There are so many immigrants and refugees like this man who are part of our community. Many face legal, financial, cultural and lingual barriers that make assimilating extremely difficult.
That’s why, when I heard that Human Rights Initiative of North Texas was creating the first-ever Human Rights Day DFW, I wanted to be part of it.
The event, a collaborative effort between restaurants and residents, supports immigrant survivors of human rights abuse in North Texas by raising funds and awareness.
“The immigrants in our community are feeling particularly vulnerable at this moment,” says Bill Holston, executive director of HRI. “It’s particularly important that we support legal service agencies like HRI that are helping them pursue their legal rights to gain security and status.”
This is a fragile moment for immigrants, who have endured a nearly yearlong aggression from the Trump administration to close U.S. borders and restrict immigration. Last week, President Donald Trump ended U.S. participation in the U.n.-led Global Compact on Migration, a set of international guidelines developed to protect the human rights of migrants.
Like all of our neighbors, immigrants in North Texas deserve our respect. Many, like my Congolese friend, suffered human rights abuses, and fled their homelands with little or nothing to help them start their new lives.
This Sunday, all you have to do to support immigrant survivors of human rights abuse is go out to brunch or dinner at one of the participating restaurants. (Find them at humanrightsdaydfw.org/restaurants.) The restaurants will donate 5 percent of that day’s revenue (or $250) to HRI.
What a delicious way to make a meaningful difference.