From April 24 to 28, the Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies Student Association, better known as MEISSA, hosted its first annual Refugee Awareness Week. The “Week of the Refugee” aimed to raise awareness about the recent refugee crisis in the Middle East and present a variety of perspectives on the surrounding humanitarian issues.
Anna Ringheiser, MCAS ‘18, one of the event organizers, stressed the importance of raising awareness and talking about the crisis. She noted that the week was partly inspired by MEISSA’s educational mission to help Boston College students learn more about the Middle East and the greater Islamic world.
“[There was] a need to create a forum to educate students and provide a place to discuss issues relating to the refugee crisis,” Ringheiser said.
The “Week of the Refugee” consisted of five events throughout the week, with each one showcasing a different aspect of the refugee crisis. On Monday, MEISSA showed three different films that focused on the unique experiences of refugees. One film, The Music of Strangers, exemplified the intersectionality of current conditions by demonstrating how music helped to unite refugees from different backgrounds.
On Tuesday, MEISSA hosted a discussion with Professor Peter Skerry of the Political Science Department and Visiting Professor Laurie Johnston, who is affiliated with BC’s Center for Human Rights and International Justice. Co-hosted by the Eagle Political Society, the event focused on “the Political and the Personal” of the refugee crisis, with a policy-based approach by Professor Skerry and an ethics-based approach by Professor Johnston. The discussion sought to illustrate to students a variety of ways to think about global issues. It also broached the controversial topics of refugees and immigration, bringing the issue closer to home for many students.
Ringheiser reflected, “Our events are not necessarily designed to talk about how terrible the humanitarian crisis is, but [instead] to highlight a variety of perspectives on the crisis.”
The events continued on Wednesday night with an art exhibit by current senior Jordan Mindlin and poetry readings by students on the human costs of the refugee crisis. Thursday’s event, Multi-faith Conversation, brought together students of Muslim, Catholic, and Jewish faith to discuss how religion has colored their perspective on the refugee crisis.
With the awareness week coming to an end on Friday afternoon, MEISSA sponsored a clothing collection in partnership with the organization NuDay Syria. This event served as a “call to action” for the BC community, highlighting that any act of solidarity can go a long way.