Symposium addresses refugee plight

Photo courtesy of LAMP Atlanta

This year’s Leadership and Multifaith Program (LAMP) Symposium took place at a particularly relevant time in our political landscape.

The symposium, which took place on Feb. 6 at Tech’s Historic Academy of Medicine, was titled “Asylum, Refuge, and Relocation: Multifaith and Community Responses to Global Migration.” The Symposium was a joint effort by Tech’s Ivan Allen School of Liberal Arts and Emory’s Candler School of Theology.

The event kicked off with a screening of the Kickstarter-funded documentary “After Spring,” a film that follows two Syrian refugee families living in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp.

Directors Ellen Martinez and Stephanie Ching were on hand afterwards, leading a discussion with Tech professors, Laura Bier and Juan Carlos Rodriguez, about activism, film and the refugee crisis itself.

A series of workshops followed the screening and discussion. One, “Migration & the Middle East,” followed the history of “Arabic-speaking people [leaving] the Ottoman Empire … in search of brighter opportunities,” according to LAMP’s website.

Others focused on spiritual care of migrants and clarifying the rights of refugees through the lens of discrimination.

Following a short break, another group of workshops gave attendees the chance to learn more about their role in the refugee crisis. The first, dealing with the education of immigrants and refugees, discusses the challenges faced by refugee families in regards to education in America and how we can help support them.

The second gave an overview of “How To Welcome and Advocate for Inclusivity,” a topic that has become increasingly controversial in the wake of President Trump’s travel ban. The workshop listed ways to ease the burden of new arrivals from conflict zones and how to work with local governments to create an atmosphere of welcoming and inclusivity.

The third, a discussion on “Detention & Detained Asylum Seekers,” consisted of a viewing of David Bernhard’s short film, “Locked in a Box,” followed by a panel from Marie Marqyardt and Amilcar Valencia from Emory’s School of Theology and Lutheran Services of Georgia, respectively.

The final workshop analyzed the ways that various faith-based organizations in Atlanta have responded to the refugee crisis.

The day culminated in a keynote address from Derreck Kayongo, the CEO for the Center for Civil and Human Rights. Once a refugee himself, the Uganda-born entrepreneur has become world renowned in the fields of human rights and global health.

His speech was titled “How the Legal Power of Protecting Rights Expands the Marketplace.” Kayongo, no stranger to refugee camps, founded the Global Soap Project in 2009 with the goal of promoting hygiene among the camps around the globe.

Throughout all of his visits abroad, Kayongo was disheartened by the rampant spread of easily-preventable diseases among refugee populations. Since then, the foundation has worked to provide resources and education to refugee camps around the globe.

This humanitarian work, coupled with the business experience required to head such an operation, gives him a unique perspective on the refugee crisis as it relates to the global marketplace.

The annual event drew attention from surrounding communities and will hopefully continue to provide a voice for interfaith groups around Atlanta in the coming years as well.