Refugees celebrate the United States on World Refugee Day

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CHICAGO -- Refugees from around the world came together to celebrate the freedoms of their adoptive nation during Chicago's 15th annual celebration of World Refugee Day Saturday.

The mayor's office was among those showing support for refugees coming into the country - after a long vetting process - during the annual event originally created by the U.N.

Othman Alani came to Chicago from Iraq four years ago to find safety from war, and he said the U.S. now feels like his country.

"In Iraq, we were thinking we were helpless," Alani said. "But at the same time we know the United States to be a dream land for all of my family members."

Alani now helps others find refuge as well, including Celestine Mugisha, who fled his native Congo to Uganda and spent 20 years in a refugee camp before being cleared to enter the U.S.

"Just being called a refugee gives you stigma itself, but here no one cares - you live your life, you feel safe… As long as you work hard, life is good. You get what you work for. And I like that," Mugisha said.

Paw Ku fled Burma, Myanmar as a child and spent 14 years in a refugee camp before coming to the U.S. 10 years ago.

"At the beginning it was hard, I didn’t speak the language," Paw Ku said. "You feel the isolation and distance between the community, but after a while I become just like everybody else."

Refugees came together for a march through Uptown, proclaiming “one human family” can exist in the land that in their eyes is still a beacon of light to those living in darkness around the world.

"I just came here for safety and to see that my dreams come true," Mugisha said.

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