World Refugee Day: Let This Be the Last
F. Murray Abraham
I am the proud son of a Syrian refugee. My brothers, Pvt. Robert Abraham, Regular Army and Pvt. Jack Abraham, a U.S. Marine, also were proud of their Syrian heritage, and of the country that gave our family refuge -- the country for which they gave their lives.
Yet, for all of the struggles and sacrifices of those who came before, today we face the worst humanitarian tragedy of our time -- the Syrian refugee crisis. Millions of decent, skilled, educated family people, like you and me, have fled their homes with nothing; and in today’s environment of fear, xenophobia and Islamophobia, they are almost without hope. Because of my background, this is a very personal issue for me, but as humanitarians, I hope it’s personal for you, too.
Ask your parents or grandparents what they sacrificed to become proud Americans. When you do, I hope you find it unthinkable that we would close our doors to desperate refugees yearning for freedom – like your ancestors did.
My father imbued us with gratitude for this country. And still, I can’t thank America enough, not only for myself and the opportunities I was given, but for my family and for all the refugees who have come here and worked hard to improve their lives.
We do it right here in America, by integrating these families into our communities. The facts show that before long, Syrian refugees, who serve and contribute to this country, become one of us: they learn to speak our language; they adopt our culture; and they embrace our philosophical values and our laws. Refugees are the standard bearers of the American dream. They personify the spirit, the diversity and the values that made America the richest, most powerful, and greatest country in the world.
As long as there still is a need to commemorate World Refugee Day – and I wish there wasn’t – let us welcome these huddled masses into this great country of ours. We have plenty of room and lots of love to go around. It’s not only our moral responsibility; it’s in the interest of our national security that we do this.
On this day, let us honor the precepts of our faiths and the values we share as “new” Americans. Never again can we turn our backs on those in need. Once they were us. Together, let’s end World Refugee Day.
F. Murray Abraham is an Academy Award-winning Actor and author, and also spokesperson for the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees (MFA), a project of the Tides Center. MFA is a coalition of 85 faith-based and secular organizations. Its mission is to mobilize global support to alleviate the Syrian humanitarian crisis, heighten awareness of the growing dangers of not responding adequately, and advance future stability in the region. MFA conducts crisis-related briefings in the U.S. and abroad, facilitates relationships between complementary partner organizations working to help Syrian war victims, suggests improvements to law and policy, and nurtures transformative people-to-people diplomacy in the region.
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