2-Part World Refugee Day Celebration:
Come as Strangers, Leave as Friends
When: Tues, June 20th, from 2-5 pm
Where: CNY Philanthropy Center
Address: 431 E. Fayette St., Syracuse, NY
When: Tues, June 20th, from 6-9 pm
Where: Dr. Weeks Elementary
Address: 710 Hawley Ave, Syracuse, NY
Catholic Charities of Onondaga County has teamed up with InterFaith Works and others to host two World Refugee Day events. On Tuesday, June 20th, at the CNY Philanthropy Center, there will be a World Refugee Day Community Orientation, an informative session about Syracuse’s many refugee communities. Attendees will learn how community engagement can change the lives of those who have fled war, famine, and persecution. Then, from 6:00 to 9:00 pm, at Dr. Weeks Elementary, the World Refugee Day Celebration will take place. Refugees of Syracuse will showcase their regional culture, cuisine, music, and dance performances reflective of the astounding diversity our world offers. Syracuse Mayor Stephanie A. Miner will appear as the keynote speaker.
Miner declared Syracuse a sanctuary city in January during her State of the City address, ensuring city police would abstain from enforcing federal immigration laws. The question of Syracuse as a sanctuary city has reemerged as a possible topic for this year’s Mayoral Election. This microcosm of debate is a distillation of the larger national issue of refugee resettlement, especially for refugees from war-torn regions of the Middle East. The federal administration has clarified they do not view refugee well-being as a priority, and have gone as far to brand asylum seekers as potential terrorists.
This attitude is the antithesis of Syracuse, both currently and throughout history.
“Syracuse has a proud history of welcoming immigrants and refugees to become new Americans…Today, we continue this tradition by welcoming Bhutanese, Congolese, Somalian, and other refugees to become proud citizens,” as one Mayoral candidate puts it. Other candidates’ viewpoints will be expressed at the Mayoral Candidate Forum on June 19th, at 6:45 pm, at the Southwest Community Center.
Regardless of recent Federal actions, and with the support of local government figures, refugee resettlement agencies across New York State continue their work. Catholic Charities and InterFaith Works welcomed 289 refugees to Syracuse at the end of May. In Buffalo, State Department figures show 376 new refugees resettled. Out of those 376 refugees, 149 come from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, and Syria, which were nations listed on the White House’s “travel ban.” While the ban was blocked—once again—in courts, the White House still hoped its 50% refugee quota reduction from earlier this year would survive. However, cities across New York State, including Syracuse and Buffalo, received an average of 30% fewer admittances. The US State Department, with similar temperament, has quietly abandoned the White House’s 50% reduction. In other words, refugees have some respite to celebrate. As they dance, sing, and share food with Syracuse residents, they will be reminded that this city is always a home to diversity.
Still, one shouldn’t forget that our national battle over refugee policy is an aftermath of the crises overseas. The world’s displaced population now totals 65 million, more than any other point in human history. The Somali Civil war, which brought many refugees to America, including members of the ACTS Youth Council, has displaced over a million people. Meanwhile, the Syrian Civil War has displaced between 5 and 6.5 million people. While some nations have shouldered this disaster, such as Germany with 890,000 refugees accepted in 2015, others have recoiled. Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, for instance, demanded the United Nations Relief and Works Agency be dismantled. The agency is responsible for the care of millions of Palestinian refugees. In the face of such developments, Syracuse cannot be apathetic. As the Zen Center, a longtime ACTS Member Organization, puts it:
“We can’t say that we’re just going to try to save Syracuse. We can’t, unless we take the whole [world] into account.”
As we celebrate with refugees this June 20th, let us also fight for the safe passage of refugees who have not yet found their new home—Syracuse.