World Refugee Day

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Although the United Nation’s World Refugee Day is officially today, World Refugee Day was observed in our city with a Saturday afternoon celebration at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. The event was sponsored by the Austin Refugee Roundtable, a coalition of non-profits who provide services for local refugee resettlements.

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The event had an unexpected beginning: emergency alarms sounded just as attendees were arriving. We were instructed to leave the building and wait in the parking lot across the street. After about 30 minutes, we were allowed to reenter and the afternoon proceeded as planned. I never heard what the problem was.

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The event’s highlight was a US Citizenship Ceremony held in the museum’s Spirit of Texas Theater. Presiding Judge Robert Pitman noted how our country continues to be enriched by diversity. Simone Talma Flowers, Executive Director of Interfaith Action of Central Texas (iACT), was the featured speaker. She urged the new citizens to “exercise your right to vote and do your part to strengthen your community.”

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Thirty-one people took the Oath of Citizenship. These new US citizens came from eleven countries: Bhutan, Burma, Colombia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Senegal, Thailand, and Vietnam. The entire audience recited the Pledge of Allegiance and watched President Obama in a short welcoming video. After the official ceremony ended, each person was presented with their Certificate of Naturalization and a one-year membership to the museum.

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The museum’s second floor balcony was filled with information and children’s activities related to refugees and local support organizations. A celebration party was held in a large room up on the third floor. The crowd of several hundred people nibbled on ethnic foods, listened to ensembles playing world music, and visited with our newest compatriots.

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© Austin Downtown Diary, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Austin Downtown Diary with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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