NWA praised as refugee home


President Trump’s Executive Order 13769, meant to prevent terrorist entry into the United States, halted all Syrian refugee movement for 120 days effective Jan. 27.

The executive order affects all refugees currently in the process of entering into the United States through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).

Forty lawsuits were filed against the president as a result of the order, according to National Public Radio.

Canopy Northwest Arkansas, a grassroots refugee resettlement advocate group, held a town hall meeting in Fayetteville on Thursday, February 2 regarding the effects of Trump’s executive order on refugees.

Nearly 200 community members filled Grace Church in Fayettville to hear about what may be done for refugees currently receiving care in Northwest Arkansas. The meeting consisted of personal stories and experiences of refugees, legal advice regarding the executive order and an opportunity to meet refugees.

Emily Crane, Canopy NWA executive director, stated that Northwest Arkansas is an excellent location for refugees due to the warmth and welcoming environment provided by citizens and businesses alike. Crane further explained that while it is great that some refugees were recently brought to Northwest Arkansas, many other refugees will not receive help until the 120-day hold on the USRAP program is lifted.

Farah Abu-Safe, political science graduate student at the University of Arkansas, works for Canopy NWA as an Arabic translator. When she was young, Abu-Safe came to the United States as a refugee because of her parents’ academic pursuits. She has since gained citizenship and is proud of her American heritage.

Abu-Safe commented on how well the Northwest Arkansas community is prepared and supportive of the global refugee assistance initiative.

“Our Fayetteville is a part of an international movement to help humanity. How amazing is that? I think NWA is a great place for refugees because we are economically stable and successful, with plenty of opportunities to find a job and make connections. We are the definition of a big small town,” she said.

At the town hall meeting Abu-Safe shared her personal journey with the public and encouraged Northwest Arkansas citizens to continue supporting refugees.

Marissa Johns, junior nursing student at John Brown University, is an advocate and worker of Canopy NWA. Johns commented on the ways that concerned citizens may help the refugee situation, which Canopy NWA identified at the town hall meeting.

“First, get behind companies that are paving the way to make a difference such as Microsoft, Facebook and Starbucks. These companies can do a lot more than an individual,” Johns said.

“Second, volunteer with Canopy NWA to provide transportation to refugees already living in Northwest Arkansas: transportation to interviews, doctor appointments, etc.,” Johns said.

“Third, co-sponsor a refugee. This is like being a good next-door neighbor to a refugee in daily-life kinds of things. Fourth, attend community events hosted by organizations such as Canopy NWA and Students for Refugees at University of Arkansas,” she said.

“Lastly, simply advocate for refugees,” Johns concluded.

JBU hosted the Rev. Mae Elise Cannon as a chapel speaker during Spiritual Renewal Week in Jan. 2017. Cannon spoke at chapel, attended classes as guest speaker and held a public Q&A session on various issues.

Cannon provided advice on how to understand and help refugees in her book, “Social Justice Handbook.” The first half is a theology of God’s heart for social justice. The second half consists of numerous examples of culture and life where injustices are present and what can be done in response. She lays out many avenues to take action, including following The Refugee Highway, a website that maps out the refugee crisis worldwide, and internationally focused groups such as World Relief and World Vision.

Cannon commented on the role of internationally focused organizations; “People should consider that what we think the answer should be may not be the right answer.” She advocated for supporting organizations that have done their homework on various cultures such that the help provided is most effective.

The overall consensus among those interviewed is that JBU students are concerned about refugees’ wellbeing.