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David O. McKay Center for Intercultural Understanding

Story of James Byun

July 8, 2017

“To me, peace is everyone’s fundamental human rights being respected, and everyone treating and respecting each other in ways they want to be treated and respected.”
--James Byun

"After serving in the military as well as an LDS mission, James Byun enrolled in International Cultural Studies and Peacebuilding courses at BYU-Hawaii. The program taught him communication theories, philosophical ideologies, conflict resolution theories and mediation skills, as well as helping him improve his analytical and critical thinking skills."

“Most importantly, [IPB] helped me to vividly visualize what I want to do and accomplish with my life, and encouraged me to pursue my goal.”

After graduating from BYUH in April 2011, James started working with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Protection Unit as a national and international staff. He is currently working as a Refugee Status Determination (RSD) Officer on a two-year assignment in Jordan. His main job is to interview asylum-seekers, conduct legal analysis, and determine whether or not they qualify for international protection based on the 1951 Refugee Convention. Recognized refugees are able to access the services that the UNHCR and its partners provide, and enjoy the rights enshrined in the Refugee Convention.

“The skills and knowledge that I have acquired from the IPB courses can be applied in many aspects of my work. I very often meet with refugees and spend many hours interviewing and listening to their difficult stories.”

Due to increasing conflicts around the world, the number of forcibly displaced people have been increasing as well. To James, the stories in the news everyday about displaced people and their children are no longer the stories of some strangers- they carry so much more meaning and emotions.

“My heart aches every time I read and hear terrible things that vulnerable people, especially children and women, have to suffer. It is very challenging to hear the horrible stories of what happened to them and their families because of their race, religion, political opinion, etc.”

James’ ultimate career goal is to continue with humanitarian and human rights work and take part in serving the people in need, and to assist in uniting the nations of the earth.

He advises Peacebuilding students to “Enjoy BYUH to the fullest extent possible with the best of your abilities, and take advantage of the limitless wonderful opportunities it offers. There is nowhere like BYUH, and you are there for a reason. Work hard, play hard, and pray hard. The Lord will lead you to do great things.”