NYU students once again rallied on the staircase of the Kimmel Center for University Life at an event hosted for the Syrian Refugee Awareness Week yesterday.
Around 40 students attended the event — publicized on Facebook as “The NYU Speakout for Refugees” — to listen to panelists such as Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Founder of the Salam Arabic Lutheran Church Khader El-Yateem and a handful of NYU students. The speakers discussed the importance of playing an active part in helping Syrian refugees. They encouraged the attendees to fight back against ignorance and constantly be aware of the ongoing horrors in Syria.
Kleinbaum, who was named one of America’s Top 10 Women Religious Leaders by The Huffington Post, believes that every step taken to raise awareness and improve the current situation for refugees is important — she applauds and supports the university’s efforts to support these initiatives.
“It is very important for human beings to understand that we have way more in common than we are different and that we have to stand together and not accept the lies and propaganda we are told,” Kleinbaum said. “Evil flourishes when good people are silent.”
She said that people should stay cognisant of the human spirit’s ability to rise above hatred. She thinks that students should be as visible as possible in terms of political activism.
At one point, GLS senior Khalid AbuDawas, one of the student speakers at the event, silenced the audience with his description of how Syrian people have lived in terror while the whole world is watching them suffer live on Facebook and Snapchat, but doesn’t react.
Pastor El-Yateem also spoke passionately to the crowd about the importance of young people partaking in events such as the one last night. During his speech, he outlined his belief that the government is not adequately supporting refugees.
“You are not the leaders of tomorrow, you are the leaders of today,” El-Yateem said to the crowd. “Today you are making a difference, you are bringing the voice of the voiceless to be the center of our conversation as we address the important issue of immigration and refugees.”
He addressed his own experience as a Palestinian who has witnessed the injustices of the Israeli occupation. He described to the NYU community how the image of his people being evicted out of their homes to live in a refugee camp still haunts him today.
Stern junior Essma Bengabsia, a chair organizer for the Syrian Awareness Week, said that the initiative has already managed to raise $25,000. She said that with the help of the organization Smile for Charity, the money will be donated to Syrian refugee families that are on the verge of homelessness.
Furthermore, Bengabsia said that she is planning to write a letter to President Andrew Hamilton in which she will urge him to create ten scholarships each year for refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons.
“We don’t only stand for Syrian refugees, we stand for all refugees and we have to empower NYU students to make each other realize that we can do something that will have an impact,” Bengabsia said.
Email Isa Pop at [email protected]