During our Thanksgiving break, Fr. Jenkins asked the Notre Dame community and our nation to avoid “turning our backs on our Syrian brothers and sisters, but instead — and in the name of Our Lady of Refuge — share with them our bounty and protection.” His exhortion is a marked contrast to the response of much of our nation, which has seen a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment against Syrian refugees, exemplified in the political rhetoric of fear and nativism of many of the top presidential candidates.
Last Tuesday evening, student government hosted an event in the Morris Inn where students listened to stories from South Bend refugees. The event was filled to capacity, and we had to turn away over half of more than 400 student applicants who wished to take part. Haider, one of the refugees, spoke of how his stable, middle class life in Iraq was shattered by a car bombing that killed his wife. To protect the remainder of his family, he made the difficult decision to come to the United States as a refugee and start over. Though he has a law degree from Iraq, he is not able to take the bar exam here, sacrificing many years of education and career experience. Against astounding odds, Haider and refugees like him put the needs of their families first so that they may find safety.
To engage in a Catholic education, we ground our academic inquiry and social mission in respect for human dignity, solidarity for the suffering in the world and the provision of aid to those in need. We take the time to understand the human impact of the choices we make. The stories of Haider and refugees like him invite us into greater understanding of our world. There are those around us who do not have the privilege of a Notre Dame education or the honor of hearing these stories. We must share the bounty of our education and hope that knowledge of the human impact of violence around the world will inspire us to more fully live out our Catholic principles.