Marywood community shows support for refugees


Photo credit/ Bethany Wade

Anas Allouz speaks about his experiences in Syria to a crowd in the Upper Main Dining Hall.

Amanda Duncklee, Community Editor

Praying for Protection
“Remember, you too were once strangers in the land of Egypt.”

This was the responsorial psalm, derived from Exodus 22:21, on Thursday, Nov. 10, when members of the Marywood community gathered in the Morgan Memorial Garden in front of the Learning Commons for Refugee Day.

Students and members of the Marywood community displayed their support for refugees at the 8 p.m. outdoor vigil before relocating to the Upper Main Dining Hall in Nazareth Student Center to listen to a refugee’s story.

At the vigil, attendees formed a circle in front of the Kane Overlook. Attendees held and lit candles and stood in silence. Maria Temples, a senior nutrition and dietetics major as well as SGA president and the president of Marywood’s Catholic Relief Services chapter, led the prayer.

“God supported refugees to the point of becoming a refugee himself through Jesus,” prayed Temples, to which attendees responded with the responsorial psalm. The prayer implored God’s protection for refugees’ safety and travels and encouraged non-refugees to aid in refugees’ safety.

Jamie Kane, a 1998 Marywood alum, attended the event to “show solidarity and support” for refugees.

“I think how we grow and mature as people is sharing stories. We don’t do that enough and we need to start,” said Kane. “Jesus focused on people who needed help … as Americans, we need to remember that ourselves.”

A Story from Syria
Anas Allouz, a refugee from Syria who arrived in New York City two years ago with his family, told his story to attendees in the Upper Main Dining Hall where refreshments were served. Through Catholic Social Services (CSS), Allouz was able to find a home and jobs for himself and some family members. Sr. John Michelle, IHM, assistant director of the Swartz Center for Spiritual Life, invited him to speak at Marywood.

“Everything started in Syria,” said Allouz while going through a slideshow he prepared. He said he lived a “normal life in the homeland” with his mother, father, four brothers, and one sister, who, with the exception of some of his brothers, were present at the event. Allouz said he had no problems in Syria except for one crucial issue.

“We had no rights- no say or freedom in front of the government or we would get arrested,” said Allouz.

He then began to speak about Bashar al-Assad, president of Syria and commander-in-chief of the Syrian Armed Forces, and how his regime led to the torture and murder of Syrians. Allouz explained that Syria’s “misconstrued media” portrays Assad as a good man when Allouz said the opposite is true.

According to Allouz, the situation worsened and his family left most of their worldly possessions behind in order to relocate to Jordan. Allouz’s brother, who was imprisoned at this time for speaking up for his rights, walked for three weeks from Syria to meet his family in Jordan. Allouz spoke of his feelings regarding relocating.

“I can tell you what it feels like: being lost and scared,” said Allouz. “Of course, our biggest loss was our lovely homeland, Syria. This is really bad because you do not know where you are going. It’s really hard.”

From Jordan to the States
While in Jordan, the Allouz family was “lucky,” for they were able to live in a house instead of a refugee camp. After three years living in Jordan and engaging in 11 interviews with the United Nations within 15 months, Allouz and his family were granted residency in the United States.

Allouz acknowledged the fear people may have about allowing refugees into their nation, but spoke of a key reason refugees are so desperate to leave their homes.

“If you are in a warring country, you need to protect your kids,” said Allouz.

He added that some people think or say, “Who are these people in my country? They could be bad people,’” but he also said that “the United States government checks very well because they do not know [people’s intentions].”

“Each one of my family members has a dream,” said Allouz. “As we all know, America is the dream land.”

As a Muslim, Allouz is aware of prejudices surrounding him and people who practice Islam and discussed this with the audience.

“I am a Muslim. My religion is Islam. My religion commands me and all Muslims to live in peace and to hate hurting others,” said Allouz. “Muslims are all good people. I’m here before you and I also respect you.”

Allouz also acknowledged ISIS and its negative impact on people’s views toward Muslims. He used an analogy about how one would not judge an entire family based on the actions or character of “bad people” within that family.

Allouz further advised people to keep an open mind to others, saying, “without knowing and understanding each other, there will be no peace.”
How to Help

Once he finished his presentation, Allouz invited the audience to ask questions. His translator, Ibrahim Almeky, relayed all questions to Allouz in Arabic and translated Allouz’s answers to the crowd in English.

Audience members asked Allouz about his relatives and friends still in Syria, to which Allouz replied that he is unable to contact them very often. When asked about his favorite part about America, Allouz replied “everything” with a smile and said he “feels welcome” in America, though he and his family do wish to one day return to Syria.

Attendees asked Allouz what could be done to further help him and his family. Allouz said that people should try to understand others and “seek knowledge” as well as give new refugees time and patience because “we all go back to the same parents: Adam and Eve.”

For tangible ways to aid Allouz and his families, Sr. John recommends contacting Catholic Social Services in Scranton.

Attendee Kaitlyn McDonough, a pre-physician major and a Catholic Relief Services (CRS) ambassador, joined CRS because she wanted to be “involved in something religious” at Marywood.

“I thought [the event] was absolutely beautiful,” said McDonough. “[It] will encourage people to open their hearts.”

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Twitter: @ADuncklee_TWW