“Life or Death”: Panel to Respond to Middle East Refugee Crisis


Photo courtesy of Daily Mail
Photo courtesy of Daily Mail

Tonight, three expert panelists will discuss the ongoing refugee crisis in the Middle East, during an event entitled, “Life or Death: Our Response to the Middle East Refugee Crisis” in Knott Auditorium.

Dr. Kristen Urban, political science professor, will speak about how international law impacts the crisis. Zuzu Madanat, a Mount seminarian who worked in a refugee shelter for Iraqi refugees, will talk on what he was able to witness first-hand. Finally, Father Dave Heney, a member of Archdiocese of Los Angeles, will speak on social justice and his expertise regarding the Middle East.

Citizens from areas such as Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia have been fleeing their countries that are plagued by violence and war. A record breaking number of refugees have been seeking sanctuary in mostly European nations, but now due to the large number refugees and the fear of extremism, most of these refugees have been stopped in their journey to freedom at the borders of these European countries.

“We are obligated as a nation state by treaties to protect people who can no longer be protected by their own governments, or those who have been become targets of their governments.” Urban explained, “If they have to flee to another country due to war or conflict, then they are considered refugees and all states are required to provide aid and comfort to these people. Due to this fact, a special obligation with Syria has arisen.”

This crisis has made a major impact on the western hemisphere and has been a trending topic in the media for the past few months. Wednesday’s discussion will aid students in understanding what is happening through an academic perspective. Panel members also plan to help students see how they can use their Catholic faith and call to service in order to aid refugees.

Using his experience, Madanat will be able to give the audience a glimpse of what life at a refugee camp is like and will be able to give students the refugee’s perspective of the crisis.

“My goal for this panel is to share some of my personal experiences,” Madanat said, “This summer I was able to work in a refugee shelter for Iraqi refugees. To be with them was wonderful because I got to see these people and put a face to this refugee crisis. It completely changed my perspective of what a refugee is.”

Urban has a plethora of experience in studying the Middle East politics and human rights. She explained that the creation of the United Nations after World War II produced a new regime of international laws that preserved human rights.

“In the academic world, professors are looking for teachable moments and this is one of them,” Urban said. “There has been so much press coverage on this topic, it is the worst refugee crisis we have had since World War II. It is not affecting our borders at the moment but it is certainly affecting the role of ISIS and the future complexion of the Middle East.”

Urban will explain how all nations have a different way of accepting refugees due to the different immigration laws that are present. For example, due to international law, refugees cannot be returned to their home country if their lives are in danger. This means that nation-states are required to provide sanctuary for these people.

The goal of this discussion is for the students to recognize the crisis at hand and look for opportunities to aid the refugees.

One opportunity that will be discussed is through a major resettlement organization, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), which receives around 20 percent of the refugees that come into the U.S.

One thought on ““Life or Death”: Panel to Respond to Middle East Refugee Crisis

  • December 17, 2015 at 10:33 am

    The mass migration of refugees to widely distant parts of the earth, and to distinctly different cultures does not serve properly serve the refugee community. This is particularly problematic when Muslim communities are being relocated in primarily Christian cultures because the refugees are less likely to be assimilated into their new environment. Differences, in cultural norms, language, and religious practice work against assimilation. Also, most refugees are likely to be unwilling to adapt and assimilate because of a fervent desire to return ‘home’ some day soon.
    Our obligation should therefore involve providing a safe, secure and comfortable place as near as is practicable to their ‘home’ and to support their existence there for as long as it takes for their safe return.


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