NEW HAVEN, Conn.- The audience was eager to hear the panelists talk about the current issue of refugees.

On Nov. 19, 2015 Peace Island Institute hosted an interfaith discussion on the current refugee crisis. The event started with a light dinner, and then followed to the moderator, June-Ann Greeley, an associate professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Sacred Heart University. Prof. Greely introduced the three panelists with their short biographies.

Rabbi Herbert Brockman, representing Judaism, joined from the Mishkan Israel Congregation in Hamden Connecticut. Rabbi Brockman started the conversation off with a brief history of the Jewish community. Rabbi said the historic term of “wondering Jews” was accurate which is now happening to the refugees, “Saving one life is equivalent to the whole world”. He also sent out his thanks to Governor Malloy for taking in the refugees when 31 states have denied them. Rabbi also provided the audience with statistics of the Connecticut residents, 82% of CT residents who voted did not want refugees coming into the state. The Rabbi concluded by saying, “This is a real challenge. Everyone is afraid but fear cannot allow you to do something against your religion.”

Najib George Awad, representing the Christian faith, is an Associate Professor of Christian Theology and the Director of the International PhD program at the Hartford Seminary. Professor Awad was personally affected by the Syrian refugee crisis, due to his Syrian background. He said refugees do not decide to migrate here because they want to but because they have no choice and it is highly important for the interfaith communities to unite and contribute to finding solutions. Professor Awad mentioned that the society plays an important role in the faith of Christianity, which is why it is important to look after one another. Before concluding his speech, Prof. Awad also mentioned about the violent extremism that is possessed in the name of religion, particularly Islam in today’s world, “These acts of terrorism are trying to replace Islam, and it is in the hands of the Muslim community to change it by condemning and denouncing terrorism”.

Imam Omer Bajwa, representing the Islamic faith, is the coordinator of the Muslim Life at Yale University. Imam Bajwa started off with the history of Islam and compared the migration of the Syrian refugees to the migration Prophet Muhammad. The Imam mentioned all people could relate to this crisis because of the history of each religion. He said the majority of refugees coming in are from the Muslim countries. Then added, “What kind of cancers and diseases are we facing in our country that have this negative impact forcing people to flee their own countries?” He said Islam is a religion of peace, and terrorists are trying to hijack the religion. Imam Bajwa concluded with a statistics: 2,034 Syrian refugees have been admitted since 2011 and of them 0 refugees have been arrested or removed on terrorism charges.

Before the Q&A session, a guest visitor, Mr. Osman Dulgeroglu, CEO of Embrace Relief organization, shared the campaign they started for the Syrian Refugees. Mr. Dulgeroglu gave an overview of similar activities that communities could be involved in to benefit those in need.

The night ended with more empathy for the refugees.

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