A CALL FOR COMMUNITY INCLUSION OF SYRIAN REFUGEES

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By Rachel Williams

Photo (left to right): Ramla Sahid, founder and executive director of the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans; Shadi Martini, senior Syria advisor to the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees; Dr. Georgette Bennett, President of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding; David Murphy, former county director for the IRC in Ethiopia; Sana Shtasel, senior advisor to the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees.

Of the 16,000 Syrian refugees resettled in the U.S. in recent years, not a single one has been tied to terrorism. San Diego has more Syrian refugees than any other U.S. city.

November 22, 2016 (San Diego) – Shadi Martini was manager of a hospital in Aleppo, Syria, when the Assad regime began to prosecute suspects working in opposition. Martini and his coworkers provided undercover aid to the wounded and people suffering.  But in 2012, the secret network was discovered, forcing him to flee the country.

Thereafter he served as an organizing assistant for Syrian refugees in a neighboring nation. Later, he joined the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian refugees in Jordan.

 “What I have witnessed is suffering is not limited to my country,” Martini said during a post-election discussion on refugees held last Thursday in San Diego by the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees and The Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans.

The Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees (MFA) is an interfaith mission to help fundraise for organizations providing direct services to Syrian war victims. As a result of ISIS declaring war on Syria in 2011, the U.S. has resettled about 16,000 Syrian refugees. Since 2014, San Diego has resettled 899 Syrian refugee families—more than any other U.S. city.

Since 9/11, more than 750,000 refugees have resettled in the U.S. While less than 10 were incriminated for terrorist activity, none of them were of Syrian descent. Now Martini tours the U.S. bringing awareness to the crisis, and encouraging public engagement.

Out of 5 million people registered as Syrian refugees, many live in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The MFA is composed of 75 organizations addressing the most impactful fears driving public policy, such as economic impact, terrorism and Islamophobia. With the collaboration of the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), critical needs of more than 85,000 refugees have been met.

These needs include:

  • Food
  • Sanitary packages
  • Trauma counseling
  • First-aid training
  • Health services for children, adolescents and women
  • Medical equipment
  • Resettlement processing
  • 3-D printers and training for prosthetic limbs

By 2017, UNHCR aims to integrate a minimum of 130,000 Syrian refugees. Constituents can call, or email their local government in support of resettlement and adequate funding for Syrian refugees.

“People at the end of the day are human. They are affected by stories, they are affected when they can see them, when they can hear them,” Martini concluded. “I can tell you one thing. It’s not about Syrian people. We are just the name that is out there right now. We are the ones that are being labeled as terrorists, as whatever, but it’s not about us.”

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