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A crisis to burst our bubble

| Friday, November 20, 2015

While the conflict in Syria has intensified in the past two years, recent events have called for our attention now more than ever.

First, the ISIS attacks in Paris last Friday renewed debates over whether the U.S. should open its borders to 10,000 Syrian refugees, as President Obama proposed.

Then, Notre Dame students received an email from student government Tuesday, inviting them to a dinner at the Morris Inn to learn, in light of the Syrian crisis, about the trek of refugees around the world and how it has specifically affected South Bend.

But it’s also a crisis that has been on the front pages of every national newspaper for the past few years.

While our attention was drawn to Syria because of immediate events — the attacks, the email, the news coverage — the country’s civil war and its consequences have been an ongoing struggle for the last four-and-a-half years, leaving more than 200,000 dead and displacing 12 million more from their homes, with no clear end in sight.

We often limit our attention to our day-to-day problems, within the so-called “Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s bubble,” focusing solely on issues that directly affect this campus and its students, faculty and staff.

There’s no doubt the University and College have their own unique problems that require our attention to address and amend, but some events require us to look beyond the scope of South Bend and see how they are affecting people all around the world.

Certainly the world’s largest human rights crisis, which started in Syria right now but also affects the rest of the Middle East, Europe and North America, qualifies as an event worthy of our attention.

As an American, Catholic University and College, Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s are uniquely situated to address the plight of Syrian refugees in our own way.

Joining a growing trend, Indiana governor Mike Pence became one of 26 governors Monday to refuse to accept some of the 10,000 Syrian refugees allowed to migrate to the U.S.

“Indiana has a long tradition of opening our arms and homes to refugees from around the world but, as governor, my first responsibility is to ensure the safety and security of all Hoosiers,” Pence said.

In September, though, Pope Francis called on every Catholic parish and religious community around the world to take in refugee families affected by the Syrian civil war.

“Facing the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees — fleeing death by war and famine, and journeying towards the hope of life — the Gospel calls, asking of us to be close to the smallest and forsaken. To give them a concrete hope, and not just to tell them, ‘Have courage, be patient!’” Francis said.

As one of the world’s premier Catholic universities, “one of the most powerful means for doing good in this country,” as Fr. Edward Sorin said, what are we supposed to do while simultaneously located under the jurisdiction of the governor of Indiana?

How can we help the millions of refugees from Syria scattered around the world from our campuses?

How do we live out the hope of University President emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh that, “If Notre Dame makes a difference in the whole world, at the heart of that difference would be our commitment to human rights, human dignity, human freedom and human accomplishment,” with human rights at the fore of that hope?

We can start by educating ourselves about what is going on in Syria — how the conflict started, how it has affected its citizens, how it is touching the rest of the world.

Some of us have known about the crisis since the civil war began, while others may not have known until the start of this school year, possibly even until the Paris attacks. Regardless of where you stand now, all of us can learn a bit more.

Pick up any national newspaper, and a story on Syria will most likely be included in it, if not displayed on the front page. Take a moment to read and learn about the situation. It will take some time to understand the full scope of this crisis, but we can’t help until we’re aware of what is going on.

Attend a lecture on campus about Syria or about the plight of refugees in general. Go to the Dec. 1 dinner at the Morris Inn, but not just for the chocolate dome cake. Go because you know you can learn more and that you can make a difference with that knowledge.

We applaud the efforts of student government to offer such an opportunity for students to learn about this crisis and connect with those affected by forced migration, who can help us learn more about what we can do.

Send letters to your governor if he or she refuses to accept refugees in his or her state. Participate in the work of clubs like Human Rights ND to follow through on Fr. Hesburgh’s wish. Join other Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students on social media today with #AmericaWelcomes to urge Pence to support refugee resettlement.

While this conflict is one with many nuances, turns and consequences, it’s not enough for us to stop learning or do nothing because of our own problems here at Notre Dame.

This is a crisis that calls for us to break out of the “bubble.”

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  • “Certainly the world’s largest human rights crisis…”

    Respectfully, no. It is the most recently headline-violent and, hence, the one that is immediately occupying our {brief} {selective} attention spans. {Another reason is that certain governors and elected officials are using the issue to Trojan horse their “the federal government has no authority to tell the states what to do” drivel.}

    Boko Haram. South Sudan. Iraq. Afghanistan. Palestine. Somalia, Central African Republic, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, DR Congo, Yemen, Ethiopia, Columbia, North Korea, Haiti, Central America…Generational food insecurities and school dropout rates in Mississippi and Arkansas and…human rights crises that have been ongoing for years, decades.

    Editorials expressing a need for a wider perspective beyond the “Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s bubble” should be mindful in employing categories like “largest” when the editorial fails to express an awareness of just what “largest” actually is.

    • Charlie Ducey

      “Columbia”? As in, the capital of South Carolina? It might interest you to know that the Syrian crisis has produced more refugees in the last four years than any individual instance you mention in that list. It’s difficult to gage what constitutes the largest “human rights crisis” but displacing upwards of 12 million people is certainly a strong criterion for that label. Moreover, the estimated 220 – 340 thousand fatalities in the Syrian civil war rival those of any ongoing armed conflict over the same time period. The Syrian crisis is not just some media-inflated event. It is significant by the numbers alone.

      • Arafat

        Well the Syrian refugee crisis – like all those previously mentioned – is a result of Islam, no?

        If you want something bigger than Syria try the centuries long Muslim jihad against the Buddhist and Hindus of southern Asia. Some historians believe 70 million Hindus have been killed. Seventy million! Imagine the number of refugees created by these Islamic hordes.

        • Charlie Ducey

          I’m not really sure what your point is. Lots of people have been killed in history by people believing lots of things. What’s next? We start disowning everyone who belongs to a group that at one point waged wars against another group?

          • Arafat

            Because Islam is unique among all religions in its affinity for violence against the other. With we, being the infidel being the other.
            If you were to take the time to study the Qur’an and hadiths you would come to understand that Islam is a supremacist and violent ideology determined to create a worldwide caliphate with us being subject to their whims.
            It probably does not need pointing out that Islam has gotten a long way in meeting this goal seeing as they control huge areas in Asia and Africa and are increasing this control as they drive out the remaining Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh, drive out the few remaining Christians in the Middle East, forcibly and cruelly move south in Africa and threaten to annihilate Israel.
            Other than that your naivety is impressive.

          • Charlie Ducey

            Look, I know a thing or two about a thing or two. I think you are conflating only the most violent brands of Wahhabist Islam with all of Islam. The Qu’ran has some verses that “promote” violence — the so-called “sword verses” — but, indeed, if you yourself take time to study the Qu’ran and haddiths you may find your rather extreme stance on Islam challenged. Think, for example, of Muslim tolerance of “People of the Book” during the golden age of Islam. Consider, perhaps, sura 5:32 “For this reason did We prescribe to the children of Israel that whoever slays a soul, unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he slew all men; and whoever keeps it alive, it is as though he kept alive all men.” If you seek to make bold claims about an entire religious tradition, it would behoove you to investigate the entirety of the religious tradition rather than repeating what you have heard in popular media.

          • Arafat

            What would Jesus do?


            Dhu al-Faqar was one of the 9 swords owned by the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and with it he claims he was “made victorious through terror.” Appropriately named “cleaver of vertebrae,” the ancient weapon was used to butcher his enemies who insulted Islam.

          • Charlie Ducey

            I am again not terribly sure what you are trying to say. We both know that Mohammad was quite unlike Jesus. It does not follow, though, that Islam is a war-mongering, terrorizing religion anymore than it follows that Lutheranism is an anti-Semitic religion just because Luther espoused anti-Semitic views. Please take a look at my upcoming column in tomorrow’s paper if you want to understand my own position on this better.

          • João Pedro Santos

            “Because Islam is unique among all religions in its affinity for violence against the other.”
            Have you heard about the Inquisition?

          • Arafat

            Christians have a prophet who taught and behaved with love for all people.
            Muslims have a prophet who stole, raped and pillaged.
            When Christians kill they are sinning. They are perverting the Golden Rule and all of Christ’s teachings.
            When Muslim kill they are promised virgins in Paradise and are following the path of Mohammed.

        • João Pedro Santos

          No, the Syrian refugee crisis is not a result of Islam. Is a result of several factors:
          – The creation of artificial borders in the Middle East in the 1st half of the 20th century.
          – The War on Iraq which, instead of bringing democracy to Iraq as Bush said it would be, caused the formation of ISIS.
          – The away Assad, who has the support of Russia, treated his own people, thus causing a civil war which gave power to religious fanatics (who were funded by the US just because they were fighting Assad, under the pretext that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”).
          So imperialist powers (both the US, the EU and Russia) are to be blamed for the refugee crisis, not religious fanatism. Religious fanatism is just a consequence of what imperialist powers did.

          • Arafat

            Oh sure. And the Muslim jihadists who forcibly drove almost all non-Muslims from the Middle East in the 8th century were also motivated by the EU, Russia, the US and imperialism. Do I have that right?
            And the Muslim jihadists who forcibly conquered almost all of North Africa in the 9th century were also building their imperialistic, colonial caliphate in reaction to American aggression? Do I have that right?
            And when the Muslim jihadists violently invaded Asia, wiping out every single Buddhist in Afghanistan, and killing tens of millions of Hindus, and even though they were killing in the name of Allah, they were actually confused and they were really killing because of those big, bad Buddhists and Hindus wouldn’t give up their land?
            I understand now. When Muslims wage violent jihad against the Animists of Sudan (as one more example) it is never their fault even though they wage jihad in the name of Allah. It is always someone else’s fault. Your logic makes perfect sense. {Sarc/off}

          • João Pedro Santos

            So, are you trying to argue based on what happened a thousand years ago? Do you need me to tell you about all the wars that happened in the name of Christianity?

          • Arafat

            A thousand years ago? Do you read the news?
            The genocidal conquest of Sudan – the genocide of the Sudanese Animists – is still happening to this day, and began a mere two or three decades ago.
            The current ethnic cleansing of the Christians of Nigeria has been going on for the past ten years thanks to Boko Haram. The slow jihad against the Buddhists of southern Thailand is happening as we write comments. As is the ethnic cleansing of the Hindus of Pakistand and Bangladesh, the ethnic cleansing of the Chaldeans, the Coptics, the Kurds, the Armenians, the Assyrians, the Zoroastrians the Baha’i of Iran, etc…
            What is your deal?

  • Arafat

    Isn’t it shocking that Saudi Arabia and Qatar (nor any of the wealthy Gulf states) have taken in one single refugee. And all this time I’d been thinking Islam was the religion of peace, tolerance and compassion. {Sarc/off}

    I’ve got an idea. Why don’t we take in the Christian refugees. No group has been targeted more than the Christians. In fact Muslims have been ethnically cleansing the entire region of Christians for 1,400 years (this is approximately when Mohammed moved to Medina).

    Ancient Christian communities: The Coptic, Chaldean, Assyrian are being ethnically cleansed by Muslims while the world yawns. Christian refugees do not have the stigma attached that they might blow us up too. This has got to be a good thing, no?

    And while we are at it we can also welcome in the Hindu and Buddhist refugees fleeing Muslim jihadists in southern Asia. This way we won’t be accused of being xenophobes although we’ll still be called Islamophobes and I can live with that. Anyone else on board with my immigraition policy proposal.

    • João Pedro Santos

      1st – Saudi Arabia and Qatar have taken refugees.
      2nd – Saudi Arabia and Qatar have nothing to do with more progressive Muslim countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordania (in fact, Lebanon and Jordan have more than one million refugees each). And a lot of refugees are Muslims escaping from religious fanatism the same way most Christians condemn Ku Klux Klan.
      3rd – Christians are the most privileged religious group in the world. Nobody is accused of being a terrorist just because they’re Christians. Plus, a lot of Americans consider that Christians should be able to impose their religious views on others.
      4th – In Southeast Asia what happens is precisely the opposite: Muslims are oppressed in countries which are mostly buddhist.

      • Arafat

        Turkey, a progressive Muslim country? You’re a funny guy.

        Turkey has imprisoned more journalists than any other country in the world. Surpassing even China and Iran.

        Lebanon, a progressive Muslim country? Yeah, sure, Hezbollah being the primary Muslim Lebanese group is everyone’s idea of progressive even though they force women to wear burkas, kill gays, and have been largely responsible for turning Lebanon into a Muslim country.

        Forty years ago Beirut, Lebanon was considered the Paris of the Mediterranean. Lebanon’s Christian demographic profile totaled 60% of Lebanon. But since then, and thanks to Muslims, Beirut is a dangerous city and the Christian demographic has plummeted to 30%. Meanwhile most of the Christian leaders have been killed or have left of their own accord and most the Christian businessmen have done whatever they can to move their capital offshore.

        And Jordan?

        “Jordan elects a legislature on the national level. The parliament of Jordan has two chambers. The Chamber of Deputies has 110 members, 104 elected for a four-year term in single-seat constituencies and 6 female members by a special electoral college. Of the 110 seats, Christians are reserved 9 seats and Chechens/Circassians are reserved 3. The Assembly of Senators has 55[1] members appointed by the king.

        In response to the 2011 Jordanian protests, the Cabinet was changed to an elected cabinet. Jordan has political parties, but they do not play a significant role, as supporters of the king dominate both chambers.”

  • Arafat

    The following is from today’s news…



    Exposing the role that Islamic jihad theology and ideology play in the modern global conflicts

    Italian Police: Muslim Migrants Threw Christians Overboard


    This crime is identical to this story from back in April 2015. How many such Muslim attacks on migrant Christians go unreported?

    I wrote at that time:

    The Muslim attack on Christians in a migrant boat crossing the Mediterranean is a sign of our times, a dark symbol and metaphor for a future which is rapidly beginning to come into focus:

    We are all in a boat together, but there is a band of people in our boat which seeks to throw the rest of us overboard, to kill us, to sink and drown us, to eliminate us.

    The fate of the murdered Christian migrants is the image of our future, unless we too form a human chain to resist our attackers.

    “Italian Police: Muslim Migrants Threw Christians Overboard,” By Hada Messia, Livia Borghese and Jason Hanna, AINA, November 20, 2015:

    Rome (CNN) — Muslims who were among migrants trying to get from Libya to Italy in a boat this week threw 12 fellow passengers overboard — killing them — because the 12 were Christians, Italian police said Thursday.

    Italian authorities have arrested 15 people on suspicion of murdering the Christians at sea, police in Palermo, Sicily, said.

    The original group of 105 people left Libya on Tuesday in a rubber boat. Sometime during the trip north across the Mediterranean Sea, the alleged assailants — Muslims from the Ivory Coast, Mali and Senegal — threw the 12 overboard, police said…”

    • João Pedro Santos