Behind Greece in the Olympics parade of nations during the Opening ceremony was a team of athletes from 11 different nations with allegiances to none, instead representing the 26.4 million refugees worldwide.
The Tokyo 2020 iteration of the Refugee Olympic Team (EOR) has 29 athletes, compared to 10 athletes at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016. They hail from 11 countries: Afghanistan, Cameroon, Congo, Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Venezuela.
At least two U.S. bishops, however, believe these athletes send a powerful message to the entire world regardless of win or lose.
“It is a reminder to the world that the human race is in a sense a family; that we have a world community and a significant portion of our family has been displaced because of persecution or some other fear that they’re undergoing,” Bishop James Johnston of Kansas City-St. Joseph told Crux. “It’s something that awakens the heart and the conscience of everyone when you see that and especially in the setting of the Olympic Games.”
Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville of Washington called these 29 athletes “role models” and “an inspiration for other youngsters to see” for their athletic prowess in the face of such adversity.
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John Lavenburg is an American journalist and the national correspondent for Crux. Before joining Crux, John worked for a weekly newspaper in Massachusetts covering education and religion. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Connecticut.
With thanks to Crux and John Lavenburg, where this article originally appeared.