Today on World Refugee Day, as we reflect on all of those who had to flee Syria because a dictator declared war on his own people, and ask what do most refugees want? They want to go back home. In the case of Syrian refugees, the Assad regime and his allies, continue their ruthless bombardment of the Syrian people in flagrant violation of the ceasefire displacing thousands of civilians. In the past month alone, three hospitals were struck in rebel held areas in Aleppo. The UN Special Envoy for Syria Steffan de Mistura has warned that the this continuing assault on Aleppo could create 700,000 additional refugees -- the largest number in one period in the entire war. The Syrian conflict is the worst refugee crisis since World War II and yet in the current political climate with over 31 governors stating that Syrian refugees are unwelcome in their states there is unfortunately increasing ignorance about the Syrian refugee crisis and its cause.
Congressman John Conyers of Michigan, with SAC President Mirna Barq, as he meets with Syrian refugees in Detroit, Michigan, at an event hosted by the Department of Homeland Security, co-sponsored by SAC.
Syrian refugees speak directly to Congressman John Conyers.
In response, SAC launched the "Meet the Refugees" campaign in the fall of 2015, across the country. The program serves to welcome refugees, introduce policymakers and the American public directly to the refugee families to learn more about the root causes of the refugee crisis and to help advocate for a no-fly zone, the only way Syrians can stay honorably in their homes. This advocacy campaign pushes to #HelpThemStay with a safe place to live and help them return home.
Syrian refugee speaks at a briefing in Congress in December 2015 sponsored by the Syrian American Council and Congressman Mike Honda of California.
Refugee welcome events took place from San Francisco, California, to Indianapolis, Indiana, to Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C. As a result of this campaign we succeeded in introducing officials including the Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan, Attorney General Greg Zoeller of Indiana, Congresswoman Judy Chu, Congressman John Conyers, and a number of state legislators from around the country to Syrian families who had the opportunity to tell their side of the story, highlighting the fact that they had no choice but to leave their homes in Syria.
Nora Basha of the Indianapolis chapter of the Syrian American Council speaks with Syrian refugees on December 12th, 2015 at an event co-sponsored with Epworth United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. The event featured Ed and Paula Kassig, the parents of Peter Kassig. It was featured on the front page of the Indianapolis Star.
As part of the campaign, in the past six months, SAC has sponsored several refugee welcome dinners around the country in churches, synagogues, and mosques. Welcome dinners were held at the University Christian Church of Hyattsville, Maryland, the Breath of God Lutheran Church in Baltimore, Maryland, the United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C., the Epworth United Methodist Church, and Temple Rodef Shalom Synagogue in Falls Church, VA.
Press Conference in front of Governor Doug Ducey's mansion in Phoenix, Arizona with Rabbi Shmuley Yanklowitz and the SAC-Arizona chapter in October 2015.
The most recent dinner at Temple Rodef Shalom was featured in one of the most read publications, the Washington Post, as well as in Washington Jewish Week. Both stories clearly state the importance of creating a no-fly zone and stopping Assad's bombardment as a solution to the refugee crisis.
Refugee welcome dinner in Riverdale, Maryland at the University Christian Church in April 2016.
Syrian refugee Fadi summed it up best to Washington Jewish Week:
"We didn't come here to cause violence. We didn't come here to do anything. We just want to have a peaceful place to live and that's why we left our homes. If tomorrow there was a no-fly zone and they stopped Assad from dropping these bombs and killing his people, we would immediately go back and live in Syria."
Press conference with Syrian refugees in front of Gov. Larry Hogan's mansion in Annapolis, MD with a number of partnering organizations in October 2015 held by SAC-DMV.
Refugee Welcome Dinner at Temple Rodef Shalom synagogue in Falls Church, VA co-sponsored by SAC-DMV chapter in June 2016.
Help us continue our efforts to grow the Meet the Refugees Campaign. Donate to the Syrian American Council so we can continue to help refugees tell their story of why they fled Syria and advocate on their behalf for their right to go back home. Click here.