In addition to the Catholic higher education institutions recently profiled, Villanova University has also been deeply involved in education, advocacy, and service activities around the Syrian refugee crisis.
To begin the academic year, the CRS Partnership, CRS Ambassadors, the University’s Law School Clinic for Asylum, Refugee and Emigrant Services (CARES) and the College of Nursing’s Center for Global and Public Health joined together to produce a forum on the Syria and Iraqi Refugee Crisis. On October 21, 2015, over 250 members of the Villanova community gathered to hear from representatives of each of the sponsors as well as the founder and director of the University’s Center for Arab and Islamic Studies, a former UNHCR Protection Officer in the Middle East, and a Syrian CARES client applying for asylum. Among the topics addressed were the migration path, push factors, laws governing protection, adjudicating refugee cases, impacts of refugees on the region, and what we can do in the United States. During the event, Kathleen O’Hara, Global Health and Migration Coordinator for Villanova’s CRS Ambassadors, encouraged the audience to advocate on behalf of the refugees by writing letters to President Obama and their state legislators.
To finish the fall semester, the CRS Ambassadors hosted a “Season of Solidarity” Interfaith Vigil for Syrian and Iraqi Refugees on December 3, 2015. As part of the Season of Solidarity, the Ambassadors’ ongoing awareness, service, and advocacy campaign in support of Syrians and Iraqis fleeing violence, the Vigil brought together the Villanova community to hear from University President Fr. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, CRS Student Ambassadors, Assistant to the President Fr. Kail Ellis, a refugee who fled Syria two years ago, and other CRS representatives. Together, participants and speakers prayed for the safety of those fleeing violence and for peace.
One exciting upcoming event is the “Run for Refugees 5k,” which will take place on April 15, 2016. Planned by the CRS Campus Ambassadors, all Villanova students and student organizations are invited to run or assist with the 5k, which will include opening remarks, an opening interfaith prayer, and education around the refugee crisis throughout the run. Runners will be asked to play a role as a refugee and may be stopped at a border, before they can begin running again. Runners may be asked to run carrying a baby or remove their shoes, replaced with sandals, while running. Through the 5k, the CRS Ambassadors hope to create empathy for the refugees. Register to run or volunteer!
The breadth and depth of Villanova’s efforts to increase awareness and action around the Syrian and Iraqi refugee crisis is impressive and inspiring. How is your college or university engaging in the Syrian refugee and migration crises? Let us know!