The Diocese of Des Moines

World Refugee Day soccer tournament brings together international community — 

Morgan Gstalter, mgstalter@dmreg.com 5:14 p.m. CDT June 4, 2016

Des Moines' celebration for World Refugee Day was held on June 4 at the Valley Community Center.(Photo: Morgan Gstalter/Special to the Register)

There's one thing that always works at rallying together local community members: sports.

That's why soccer, or football as it's known outside North America, was the perfect game to heighten morale and garner some healthy competition in recognition of World Refugee Day, which will be on June 20.

"It opens everyone's eyes to the cultural richness and diversity we have in Des Moines," said Rachel Kinker, refugee resettlement program manager at Catholic Charities. "It gives people the opportunity to meet their neighbors and learn a little bit more about each other."

[Des Moines' celebration for World Refugee Day was held]

Des Moines' celebration for World Refugee Day was held on June 4. Hundreds attended the soccer tournament at the Valley Community Center. (Photo: Morgan Gstalter/Special to the Register)

Hundreds of soccer fans hit the fields behind the Valley Community Center in West Des Moines on Saturday to partake in the World Refugee Day Cup and cultural celebration to honor the international day.

At it's peak, between 800 and 1,000 community members showed up to meet their neighbors, a turnout that pleased Kinker, who was part of the team that spent six months planning the tournament. Ethnic restaurants in Polk County as well as neighbors prepared food from countries around the world.

According to the Register's database, 1,700 refugees from 21 different countries entered Iowa as refugees between 2012 and 2014. The Iowa International Center estimates that since 1975, around 3 million refugees have legally resettled in the United States.

The United Nation's General Assembly declared in December 2000 that June 20 would be the international celebration of World Refugee Day.

"Refugee resettlement agencies have been hosting events to honor World Refugee Day to help refugees celebrate because they are a part of Iowa," Kinker said.