The United Republic of Tanzania has made history by being one of the first African countries to offer citizenship to a large refugee population. This historic decision to offer over 160,000 refugees citizenship prompted CWS to honor Harrison Mseke, the Director of the Tanzanian Refugee Services Department with the annual John Backer Champion 4 Change Award at the Annual Benefit 4 Change that took place Wednesday, Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. at the World Monuments Fund Gallery, 15 East 27th Street in Manhattan.
“They are no longer going to view themselves as refugees, but as Tanzanians, with all rights, the right to vote and rights to live in any part in Tanzania,” said Mseke.
“We and the international community cannot risk in seeing this program fail, because this program sets out a precedent, it will mean that other countries can emulate Tanzania’s example and open up for local integration, and in so doing create a mass movement which in itself can come up with solutions for protracted refugees around the world,” remarked Mseke.
Honorees for the prestigious Champions 4 Change Award also included United Methodist Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño and Bhutanese refugee advocate Karna Gurung.
A fearless leader in the fight for immigrants’ rights, Bishop Carcaño urged supporters to “encourage President Obama to do the right thing, to bring administrative relief to immigrant families, healing that will touch not only their lives, but the lives of our communities and the lives of our congregations, communities of faith all over this country.”
Reflecting on the need for executive action, Carcaño added, “If the United States is bold and courageous it will transform the world in terms of immigrants and immigration, so let us be bold and courageous, let us lift up our moral voice.”
Accepting the Champions 4 Change Award, Gurung extended his thanks on behalf of the 1000-plus members of Omaha, Nebraska’s Bhutanese community. Gurung also recently represented the Bhutanese refugee community at the recent United Nations Refugee Congress in Washington, D.C., and has continually served as an outspoken advocate for the refugee community of Omaha.
Images of Iraq, Syria and Virginia shot by refugee Husam Adnan Abdulazeez, a talented Iraqi photographer resettled to the U.S. earlier this year, provided a visual backdrop for the event. The photos by Husam, who has been described as “exceptionally gifted,” did a remarkable job of telling the refugee story.