By Sydney Haglund – [email protected]
Refugee Awareness Week held events aimed at educating students about the refugee crisis. Motivation for this event came after President Donald Trump’s recent executive order to ban immigrants, refugees, green card holders and visa holders from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
CSB and SJU Campus Ministries, Extending the Link (ETL), Intercultural and International Student Services, St. John’s and St. Ben’s Senates, Fine Arts Programming, Jay Phillips
Center and Books for Africa will host these events.
“The travel ban is an attack on the Muslim culture, and it’s an attack on refugees,” said Kobi Kelley, a member of the social outreach team at SJU Campus Ministry. “Not allowing refugees to come into the U.S. and banning them is a big issue, and we thought that after the recent executive order, now is the time to act on it.”
The first event of the week was the ETL documentary that showed in Gorecki Fireside.
“We watched an ETL documentary where Diana Elhard, a CSB graduate who is currently resettling refugees in Saint Paul, shared her challenges with the current resettlement system, as well as how challenging it is to give families the heart-wrenching news after the President’s ban,” said Danica Simonet, a member of the social outreach team at SJU Campus Ministry.
The following day featured a display that gave students the opportunity to write letters of hope to refugees. Students were encouraged to ask refugees questions and write about their own lives.
Sponsors held a poetry reading in O’Connell’s on Wednesday and also an open mic for students to share stories and experiences. Simonet shared the storyof her friend from Syria.
“He talks about losing his best friend, losing the sense of home and the constant longing he has for his family back in Aleppo, Syria,” Simonet said.
Thursday’s event aimed to educate students on how they could get involved and help advocate for refugees.
“We are doing our Call of Action where we are informing students on what Donald Trump has currently passed with his executive order on the travel ban,” Kelley said. “We’ve asked students to call the senators and ou local legislation and express how they feel about the issue.”
The week’s events educating on the refugee crisis continue today at the St. Cloud library. Simonet says this events allows students to engage in discussion with members of Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, a band that formed in a refugee camp that promotes a message of peace, love and understanding.
Fine Arts Programming has invited the band to perform at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday in the Escher Auditorium at St. Ben’s.
“I feel like we just need to make a statement showing that we stick up for differences between people, we’re accepting of all different races, ethnicities and colors,” Kelley said. “It doesn’t matter who you are. At St. John’s and St. Ben’s, we accept you.”
SJU Campus Ministry strongly encourages students to contact local legislation and representatives to share their thoughts on the issue.