World Refugee Day – 20 June

World Refugee Day is 20th June.

“I’ve met so many who have lost so much. But they never lose their dreams for their children or their desire to better our world. They ask for little in return – only our support in their time of greatest need”

UN Secretary-General, António Guterres

Find fiction and non-fiction about refugees in our collection.


Refugee organisations

Christchurch refugee services listed in CINCH, Community Information Christchurch.

Red Cross Refugee Services helps empower people from refugee backgrounds to achieve their goals and contribute to their new home in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Christchurch Resettlement Services exists to support people from refugee and migrant backgrounds living in Christchurch to settle successfully in New Zealand by providing a range of professional services that build on strengths to promote wellbeing and resilience.

An hour with Nadia Hashimi – WORD Christchurch

The interviewer for this session was Marianne Elliott who had trained as a human rights lawyer.  She worked in the area of advocacy and communications and Afghanistan was one of the many places she has worked.  She recounts her time there in her book Zen under fire, and her experiences and empathy really helped make this session successful.

Nadia Hashimi. Image supplied.
Nadia Hashimi. Photo by Chris Carter. Image supplied.

Nadia Hashimi wants to portray the “heroic women of Afghanistan rising above it all”. The common portrayal is of an oppressed downtrodden group, meek and in the shadow of the men, hidden by the burka. Afghan women are a mystery, we start making our own assumptions aided by portrayals of the western armies going in to save them.

9780062411198Nadia Hashimi was born in the USA but weaves the stories of her family into her stories. Many have been refugees and her book When the Moon is Low portrays a refugee story and was published before the recent refugee crisis.  Ahead of her time on this issue, it had always been one that had affected her family and the people of Afghanistan.

She not only portrays women differently than the common view but her men too are often kind and romantic and opposed to brutal and paternalistic.  She described romance as being a huge part of Afghan culture.  Radio shows abound where people can call in anonymously and talk about their loves and relationships, she called it an obsession with romanticism and Bollywood movies are incredibly popular.

A House without windows describes the experience of Afghan women in prison.  For some it is a complete erosion of their freedoms, for others whose lives are incredibly brutal it is a welcome refuge, there is no one to bother and harass them, they are fed and may even be able to go to literacy classes.  The justice system is flawed and women are often imprisoned after false statements and for such crimes as running away from home.  Both women described the frustration of working in the justice arena, but also acknowledged that there are some amazing people working in this area who are slowly trying to bring about change.

A question was asked about how we can best support Afghan women. Sending money can be risky as corruption is rampant. She suggested supporting the arts, Afghan women’s writing projects and women’s crafts, we can also read their blogs, listen to their stories and realise that these women are strong and resilient.

WORD Christchurch

I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity

CoverForgiveness is in short supply in this world. It’s a nice idea but it’s hard to be forgiving. I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity is a gentle memoir about forgiveness and perseverance, set in arguably one of the most unforgiving and hostile environments in the world – Israel. Or Palestine. Depending on your views.

The author, Palestinian Muslim and medical doctor Izzeldin Abuelaish, knows loss and hardship. He lost his three teenage daughters when a tank shell hit their home during a Israeli military offensive targeting their neighbourhood in the Occupied Territories.

Somehow, he’s managed to reject any bitter and wrathful feelings toward the Israeli military and the state of Israel in general, and maintain a hopeful vision for the future. Izzeldin is a medical professional who’s worked in Israeli hospitals, alongside loyal Israeli colleagues, who share common concern for reproductive health and children’s well-being.

Written chronologically, Dr Abuelaish recounts his early years beginning with his birth in a Gaza refugee camp. Then the story moves us along the road to studying medicine in Egypt, London and Harvard. A path which was paved with ongoing hardship, hard work, and sometimes, sheer luck. Almost every aspect of daily life was hampered – and this made his attempts at educational and economic mobility almost impossible.

Palestinians are used to negotiating labyrinthine checkpoints, bizarre and ever-changing regulations, and regular bureaucratic barrages. And it was no different for Mr Abuelaish during his academic pursuits. Somehow he managed to maintain his composure and sanity, and come out the other end as a highly regarded medical professional and the first Palestinian to work in an Israeli hospital treating Christian, Jewish and Muslim children. Really quite miraculous.

The military assault on his family home comes in a sort of looming climax that you anticipate as you begin reading from the start (after reading the synopsis on the back of the book!).

Despite the seemingly insurmountable hardships, its not a bitter or angry recollection and commentary, but a book which seeks a realistic and progressive (not aggressive) future in Palestinian/Israeli relations. Naturally the narrative is infused with personal impressions, experiences and details of family and community life which is written in such a way that makes you feel like you connect somehow. This animates his story and the stories of other Palestinians and Israelis.

Some might say he’s a dreamer, but so far it seems to be working for him as a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and highly regarded medical professional. You decide.

Quite the tear jerker. Check it out.

Find more in our catalogue about:

World Refugee Day – 20 June

World Refugee Day is 20th June.

Cover of Krystyna's story“Most of the world’s refugees – 86 per cent — live in the developing world, compared to 70 per cent 10 years ago. Most of these countries have kept their doors open to people in search of safety, and have shown a generosity that is often well beyond their means. I appeal to all Member States and our partners in civil society to do their utmost to support the nations and communities that have welcomed the forcibly displaced into their midst..”

Ban Ki-moon

Refugee resources in our catalogue

Search for history of refugees in our e-resources

Red Cross Refugee Services Helping empower people from refugee backgrounds to achieve their goals and contribute to their new home in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Christchurch Resettlement Services exists to support people from refugee and migrant backrounds living in Christchurch to settle successfully in New Zealand by providing a range of professional services that build on strengths to promote wellbeing and resilience.

Family Services refugee and migrant networks provides links to groups around New Zealand.

Think Library, Think Diversity

The face of New Zealand is changing. Made up of 213 ethnicities, we’re one of the most diverse nations in the world. Spearheaded by the huge rise in migrant workers and refugees, our diversity offers opportunities and challenges.

Human Rights Commission

Christchurch City Libraries values and embraces diversity. On 24 and 25 August, a number of our staff attended the New Zealand Diversity Forum held at the University of Canterbury to share experiences and to learn and reflect.

The not-so-good news:

“In principle New Zealanders are inclusive, but in practice they make distinctions among different groups. They discriminate in subtle and not-so-subtle ways in the market and other domains. New Zealanders hide their prejudices in institutions that give them plausible deniability of racism, or they express their prejudices in an anonymous setting.

We are people that have good in our hearts, but often struggle to do what is right, especially in specific situations where we can hide behind institutional procedures or local norms.”

Prof. James Liu, Centre of Applied Cross-Cultural Research, Victoria University of Wellington

The good news:

Our bicultural kaupapa (policy and philosophy) can help.

  • Inspector Rakesh Naidoo (South African-born, of Indian descent), National Strategic Ethnic Advisor for the New Zealand Police, acknowledged the support he received from his Māori and Pasifika colleagues upon his arrival in Christchurch and how this helped with his settlement.
  • Te Marie Tau from the Ngāi Tahu Research Centre emphasised the importance of nurturing the people while we are rebuilding the city. He also talked about Manaakitanga (hospitality) and Whakawhanaungatanga (the process of establishing relationships) to ensure we don’t lose sight of our everyday needs.

Snapshots from the Forum

Here are some snapshots from our staff who attended the Forum:

Jo Yang (Network Library Assistant)

“I received such a powerful message from the forum and learnt that diversity is a resource that should be utilized for the betterment of New Zealand. It is a resource like no other where people find themselves learning new ideas from different societies and cultures. A fuel that could help rebuild Christchurch. I met many new faces who had travelled from other cities as well as finding familiar faces – customers at our libraries.

Through this forum, I believe I have gained an asset by learning a new ideology of being thankful that my job is helping to bridge the gap between diversity and connecting unique people through the library… Next year, you should attend!”

Barbara Purcell (Fendalton Library)

“There were several highlights at the diversity forum for me. The first was at the beginning when 13 people from different faiths each contributed a different flower into a vase. Each flower was different in colour, scent, form etc., as are people from diverse cultures. It was a great visual representation of diversity.

The Digital Natives presentation was given by a group of young people who had been attending the Inspiring Leaders Conference that weekend. They spoke about how they used social media as “word of mouth” and saw this as one of the strongest drivers of action. Examples given were the James Brown case in the US and the plight of the Yazidi girls captured by ISIS and sold as sex slaves for $10 each. One young person was developing an App to match volunteers with organisations needing volunteers based on their interest and commitment level. Another was developing a programme called FoodWeb where charities and communities would recognise via social media businesses who donated food to them. These young people, mostly around 18 years of age, were truly inspiring.

The BNZ’s Annie Brown spoke of the programmes, services and employment opportunities they have developed to increase not only ethnic diversity in their organisation but also gender equity: flexible working hours, including compressed working weeks and job sharing, and promoting Māori employment at the BNZ by partnering with Ngāi Tahu through a Cadetship programme.”

Susan Smit (Central Library Peterborough)

“The Forum was a great opportunity to meet lots of interesting people from many cultures and backgrounds. It was quite nice for a change to hear so many others speak with a different accent.

Diversity in Action Poster It was also awesome to see our interactive display which featured some of our staff profiles and relevant materials about diversity in action at Christchurch City Libraries. Comments were that people didn’t realise how diverse our staff is and that we had so many different language collections, which were featured by a wall of covers from the Maori, Pasifika and world languages collections.

It is hard to select which sessions stood out most for me, but here are some of my highlights, including the best quotes:

  • Professor James Liu: ‘NZ has a unique strength of biculturalism which is embedded in history that nowadays co-exists with multiculturalism.’
  • From the winning speech of a young Vietnamese Kiwi: ‘If you are aware of racism, to do a little is better than nothing. Have a conscious mind and be friendly. One grain of rice can tip the scale.’
  • Lianne Dalziel: ‘Don’t treat migrant workers as second hand citizens.’
  • The young adults at the Youth Forum who made the audience stand up. Phrases were read out and people were asked to sit down if any of these applied to them. The situations varied from ‘have you ever been ridiculed because of your appearance, accent, sexual preference’ etc., to ‘have you had to flee your home country’. It was an impressive exercise and at the end only 3 people were still standing from about 200.
  • Mike Bush, Commissioner of Police: ‘NZ police force will be joining the Gay Parade in February 2015 in uniform.’ This drew big applauses from the audience and my own mumbled comment that this was about time.
  • A guy from the Race Relations Commission who started his speech in German and assumed that no one had understood his intro (bar one…)

There was also an interesting discussion about the definition of diversity. It has a wider meaning than just a cultural issue as it also includes sexual orientation and gender awareness.”

Find out more:

E koekoe te tui
E ketekete te kākā
E kūkū te kererū
The tui chatters
The parrot gabbles
The wood pigeon coos
“it takes all kinds of people…”