On Monday afternoon, the Pi Sigma Alpha Political Science Honor Society held a lunchtime meeting on refugee issues. The event featured Rami Al-Maqsadi, the former director of the Syrian Refugees Ministry with the international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse. Al-Maqsadi spoke extensively about his first-hand experience working with refugees from Iraq and Syria, particularly emphasizing the challenges these displaced individuals face upon arriving in their new home country.
Born in Basra, in southern Iraq, Al-Maqsadi was exposed to political and military conflict from a young age. When he was just ten years old, Iraq invaded western Iran, instigating the Iraq-Iran War which would last eight years and force his family to find safety in Babylon, a city near Baghdad. He would then leave Iraq to study theology in Cairo, before moving to Kharaba, a Christian village in southern Syria. After the Arab Spring came to Syria and rebel groups infiltrated the Kharaba village, Al-Maqsadi and his family moved back to northern Iraq.
Once there, he was able to help the countless refugees who had also fled the conflict by bringing them food and medicine through Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to people who are suffering around the world. Al-Maqsadi urged the audience to support negotiated solutions to the issues faced by refugees. He invited students to write to their Congressmen and ask them to stop the flow of weapons from neighboring countries into Syria and to take action to end the war.
Al-Maqsadi also encouraged students to help refugees newly-arrived to the United States. He listed a number of local organizations based in Philadelphia who are devoted to this cause, such as Lutheran Children and Family Services and HIAS Pennsylvania. These organizations provide refugees with an extensive network of services to support them as they adjust to life in the United States.
With the Einstein Medical Center estimating the arrival of one thousand refugees to Philadelphia alone in the next year, Al-Maqsadi emphasized that any small contribution of time and energy could make a significant difference in the lives of these people: from providing refugees with transportation, to helping them learn English, to donating food, toys, clothing, or furniture.
“Refugees need to be healed from violence, from the atrocities they witnessed,” Al-Maqsadi concluded. Building a network of support to help these refugees feel at ease in their new homes is the crucial first step towards achieving this healing.