I cannot easily celebrate today’s commemoration of an altogether exceptional child being born in the Holy Lands of the Middle East without being reminded of the devastating Diaspora from Syria that is happening these days, just as it did exactly a century ago when many from my Nabhan family left Syria for “Amrika”.
THOSE SYRIANS A CENTURY AGO, WERE MOSTLY SHEPHERDS AND FARMERS, NOT TERRORISTS, AND THAT MAY ALSO BE TRUE TODAY.
A century ago, well over 150,000 Arabic-speaking Syrians who were conscripted into the Ottoman Army defected, refusing to fight anyone, that is why my great uncles & grandfather were immigrants to the U.S., and many of them lived & contributed to American society for several more decades before gaining full citizenship.
We cannot simply assume that all the Syrians fleeing from their war-torn country today took up guns on their own volition either; many were forced into combat by one group of rebels or another or by Assad’ s army.
On this day, I thank the compassionate citizens of many metro areas in the U.S. and Canada which have affirmed that they will remain “sanctuary cities” for refugees and immigrants over the long haul… even if the Trump administration threatens to withdraw federal support from them.
The federal government’s refugee resettlement agency needs all of our support for their essential work in collaboration with faith communities and nonprofits across this country in helping refugees restore their lives and livelihoods.
A special shout-out for the fine work of Iskashitaa Refugee Network in Arizona, Transplanting Traditions in North Carolina, as well as International Refugee Committee and Catholic Charities nationally.