Welcome the Refugees; End the Wars

This year, Peace Action New York State has been focused on building strong student chapters. They have been doing a great job.   Judy Bello has had several opportunities to meet these young people who just might be the next generation of dedicated activists.     In September Judy was invited to speak by the Western New York Peace Center at Canisius College in Buffalo. The subject was the war in Syria, a tough one for most Americans to wrap their minds around.   Later she was invited by Peace Action, New York State (PANYS) to give some background on the recent flood of refugees fleeing into Europe, first at Hobart William Smith in Geneva and just this week at SUNY Geneseo.

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Syria and the Syrian Refugees

I had a very interesting experience last night.  I was asked to sit on a panel on the ‘Syrian Refugee Crisis’ at a college about 50 miles from home where there would be 2 other speakers, both professors at the school.   One was a philosophy professor who spoke about the ethics of war, and the other a historian who spoke about the European response, and especially the German response to the flood of refugees.   They invited me to give some background on Syria.

Syria, over the last half century, has taken in more refugees from the region and treated them better than any other country in the region.   They have a couple of million Palestinians living there and took in at least 1.5 million Iraqis.   The children were welcomed in schools and basic medical care was provided. Sadly, Syria is now the source of refugees.   The majority of displaced Syrians remain inside Syria where they are supported by the Syrian government,  Even so, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon are flooded with refugees, and thousands more are crossing into Europe   Most would prefer to return to their homes in Syria.

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Messages from Iraq: Refugees in Cankiri Turkey

As I write I am looking out a bus window at a beautiful landscape of rolling hills and mountains. Everything is green, and the trees are budding. It is hard to know where to begin. In the past week, I have traveled hundreds of miles by bus and train in order to visit Iraqi refugees living here. Eskisehir, Ankara, Bolu, Mersin and now Cankiri. Some of the families are refugees twice over, having fled to Syria where we first met them some years ago. Others fled more recently after ISIS took Mosel last June and then the surrounding villages. Some of them I was meeting for the first time. Muslims, Christians and Palestinians, all from Iraq.

Last night Iraqi friends, refugees themselves, took me to a family I had not yet met. I thanked them for receiving me and explained how many people come with me on this trip wanting to know how he and his family are doing.

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Messages from Iraq: Erbil

Last September I had hoped to travel to the village areas surrounding Mosel to hear their voices, so often neglected since the U.S.-led war on their country over a decade ago. And then as we know, in early June of 2014, ISIS took the city of Mosel. I write all of this to help explain the deep emotions that welled up in me as I entered one of the compounds for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Erbil just two days ago. The Sunday service had just ended and people were streaming out of the tent that serves as their church.

This compound, called Ozal city, in the Kasnizan area of Erbil in Kurdistan, houses approximately 900 Christian families, 400 Muslim families, and 35 Yazidi families. It is just one of many compounds in Erbil. Almost all of the Christians in this complex, if not all, come from the village of Qaraqosh, a Syriac Catholic enclave, outside of Mosel.

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Messages from Iraq: Karbala

I am presently in Karbala which is housing approximately 70.000 refugees, the majority from Nineveh (Mosel) and Anbar. As I traveled by car two days ago from Najaf to Karbala, the road was lined with makeshift tent-like structures, pieces of cloth to provide some privacy and shelter

Last night I attended a local home-meeting of volunteers who are trying to attend to the needs of the refugees. I was allowed to sit in to hear about the work they are coordinating. The group had been informed that I was from the U.S. and involved in humanitarian work.

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