In the wake of what is statistically the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II according to Church World Services (CWS), — a faith based organization with a goal to help those around the globe struggling from poverty, hunger, displacement and disaster — many Middle Eastern families are seeking refuge just about anywhere, including right here in the Hudson Valley.
The violent turmoil in the Middle East — chemical warfare, bombings, civil war, ISIS and the regime of Bashar al-Assad, to name a few examples — has displaced tens of thousands of families, forcing them to drop everything at home and seek shelter elsewhere. According to a 2015 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) report, more than 54 percent of all refugees worldwide came from three top countries: the Syrian Arab Republic at 4.9 million, Afghanistan at 2.7 million and Somalia at 1.1 million. Their findings show that each year, the amount of refugees globally increases.
We at The New Paltz Oracle commend congregations like CWS who take in refugees from these parts of the world and give them safe, new homes. Locally, different universities and faith-based organizations have formed an alliance, with the help of CWS, to support the resettlement of refugees into the Hudson Valley starting in 2017; CWS will have a refugee and immigration office in Poughkeepsie by this time.
Considering the United States only takes in a couple thousand refugees each year, compared with the tens of millions who are displaced around the world, we at The Oracle also feel that it is our duty as a global superpower to take in more, especially when refugees seeking asylum in countries such as Turkey are frequently sent back to their home countries because of international agreements.
From a report entitled “Global Trends,” 24 people were forced into displacement every minute during 2015. The report found that this number has quadrupled in the past decade, where in 2005 only six people were displaced every minute. This study, which tracked forced displacement worldwide based on data from governments, partner agencies and UNHCR reporting, found that by the end of 2015, there were about 63.5 million people displaced from their homes, when the numbers just a year earlier were 59.2 million. With a worldwide population of 7.4 billion people, one in every 113 is an asylum-seeker, a refugee or internally displaced, the report found.
According to an Oct. 5, 2016 study from the Pew Research Center, a total of 38,901 Muslim refugees entered into the United States in fiscal year 2016, the nation’s record high. In total, the United States received 84,995 refugees during fiscal year 2016, which met the 85,000 ceiling put into place by the Obama administration at the beginning of the year.
We at The Oracle recognize that there are millions of people affected by war, terrorism and economic instability, and despite the United States’ presidential election results this term, we as Americans must take a step back to realize that there are other countries out there that still need our help. As Americans, we are very much privileged in the sense that we have the ability to say, do and speak what we feel without being severely ridiculed by our own governments. In this, we must aim to be less preoccupied by our future under a Trump presidency and focus more on the aid that we can offer those in need.
Despite Trump’s xenophobic election platform and anti-immigration rhetoric throughout the election process, we at The Oracle support any and all refugees finding solace and harmony within the United States, contrary to a former life surrounded by disruption and violence. In a time where we are confronted by so much hate and discrimination, it is important to keep an open mind and welcome these refugees, who are looking to rebuild their lives in a foreign land. We strongly believe that everyday people still have the power to create change, by volunteering at soup kitchens and refuge sites, as well as by donating food, clothes, furniture, blankets, by any means possible.
Moreover, as SUNY New Paltz’s student-run paper, we are proud and honored to know that our university is part of an alliance in support of CWS, among other universities and partners in the area including Vassar College, Mount Saint Mary College, Dutchess Community College, Vassar Temple, Christ Episcopal Church in Poughkeepsie, Masjid alNoor Mosque in Wappingers Falls and others. We are proud to be included in an effort to ease the transition of refugee families, no matter where in the world they come from.
In a country built on the basis of immigration and diversity, it is important to bear in mind that the refugees seeking asylum and refuge in the United States are doing so in ways that many did before them — like many of our eclectic ancestors before us.
We at The Oracle encourage everyone to volunteer and donate toward refugee causes, especially when the opportunity presents itself to us as close to home as Poughkeepsie, a 30-minute drive due east. To stay updated on how you can help incoming refugees in the Hudson Valley, visit cwsglobal.org and click “Take Action,” where the site will lead you to opportunities to participate in charitable walks, donations and other advocacy endeavors.