Contact: Betsy Dribben Marlene Adler
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Oscar-winning actor, F. Murray Abraham – the son of a Syrian Christian refugee who found safe haven in the United States – passionately appealed to Congress to promote policies and enhance resources to resettle Syrian refugees. Speaking for the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, Abraham headlined a special May 17th Joint Congressional Briefing co-hosted by Representative David N. Cicilline (D-RI) and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), joined by Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL).
MFA founder Dr. Georgette Bennett, a Hungarian refugee and a Jewish child of Holocaust survivors, and Senior Syria Advisor Shadi Martini, a Sunni Syrian hospital administrator who was forced to flee for his life added expertise and luster to the multi-faith program.
Abraham, an acclaimed star of stage and screen and a regular on the TV hit series Homeland, spoke ardently and publicly—for the first time -- of his family’s history, revealing his two brothers gave their lives in the service of the United States of America.
Confronting the security fears that have dominated the debate on Syrian refugee admissions, Abraham proclaimed: “Can you imagine being driven out of America with your family, with no place to go? Can you then imagine how grateful you would be to the people who took you in? I would offer myself and my children to defend any people who opened their doors to me, and so would you.”
The three speakers personified the critical role of religious leaders and institutions in resolving the worst humanitarian global crisis since World War II. The Multifaith Alliance urged Congress to:
1. Use every opportunity in the upcoming elections, in legislation, in media interviews, in meetings at home, to keep support for Syrian war victims in front of the public and ardently reject xenophobia, Islamophobia, and hostile efforts to preclude Syrian resettlement.
2. Address obstacles to resettlement in the U.S. while preserving national security, make resources available to expedite refugee arrival, and implement more tactics like the recent successful “surge”.
3. Approve more appropriations for facilitating the integration of Syrian refugees.
Bennett, who is also a founder of the New York-based Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, of which MFA is a project, emphasized that the suffering of Syrian refugees is not a partisan issue.
“We must fight the misinformation and ignorance that is fueling the opposition to rescuing Syrian women, children and the elderly who are innocent victims of this war. Part of our mission is to provide that information and debunk the misconceptions about Syrian refugees.”
One of the most toxic misconceptions is the myth that refugees will be a drain on the economy. Martini, who recently became an American citizen, said the vast majority of Syrian refugees are middle class professionals, and appealed to Congress to “follow the historic tradition of admitting the oppressed so they can, using their skills and abilities, rise and contribute to the American way of life.”