by Tori James, Staff Writer
The ongoing Syrian refugee crisis has approximately nine million Syrians displaced throughout the world. In light of this, the Manhattan College community is doing their part to not only spread awareness of the problem, but also to provide assistance to Syrian refugees.
The initiator of these efforts is Mehnaz Afridi, Ph.D and professor of religious studies. Afridi has worked with Brother Jack Curran, vice president for mission, as well as several other professors throughout various departments to spread the word about the crisis and organize events at the college.
“I was so overwhelmed by the whole issue, and also the fact that there was not a lot of awareness on campus,” Afridi said. “Eveyone knows about ISIS, but not about what’s really going on.”
Afridi started these efforts by organizing a clothing drive for the refugees, which raised over 40 boxes of coats, sweaters and various articles of clothing for the winter. Curran was able to coordinate with a Christian Brothers home in Lebanon to receive those donations.
Students in the Arches program, a freshman residence program in Lee Hall, have also done their part to help out. They assisted in packaging and mailing these donations.
“It’s really neat because everyone is involved now,” Afridi said. “Everyone has a hand in it, all of the faculty and students are connected to it in some way. It’s funny how serious issues like this can bring people together.”
The Center for Ethics and Just Peace have also coordinated and supported several events regarding the crisis. These include a film screening on Syria, a talk on immigration and most recently a lecture by National President of the Network of Arab-American Professionals, Sarab Al-Jijakli, titled “Understanding Syria.”
“We’ve been collecting money because there’s such a large amount of refugees that need so much,” Katelyn Conroy, a leader for the Just Peace club on campus, said. “One thing [Al-Jijakli] mentioned is that a lot of the information people are receiving through the media can be incorrect. It’s important to get the right information out there, and whatever we can do to help is important.”
This lecture was heavily attended by students, faculty, alumni and members of the Riverdale community. The event itself raised approximately $200. The ultimate goal is to raise enough money to bring a Syrian refugee to Manhattan College and provide them with a place to live and an education.
“I think it all ties in with our Lasallian values,” Afridi said. “I want students to understand what it really means to be homeless, or Muslim, or poor instead of just making generalizations. By dehumanizing others, that’s how we create war. It’s important to do this on college campuses because it’s all about [the students’] future.”