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Quest for Refuge: Home

How does someone become a refugee? What happens to refugees? What can be done to help refugees? The resources below will help explore these questions. Clicking the tabs below will lead to a variety of resources and background.

The Quest for Refuge

Why do people flee persecution and armed conflict?  What happens to them once they have left their homes, their communities, their countries?  Where does their journey take them?  Who helps them, and who harms them along their path and when they reach their destination? How can we act, individually, and collectively, to ease their burden, help them adjust to new lives, and welcome them into our communities?

These are important questions of our time as millions of children, women, and men around the globe are displaced by force and fear of persecution, violence, and armed conflict.  The numbers are staggering, the stories of loss and suffering tragic; but there are also stories of bravery, resilience, recovery, and rebuilding that need to be shared and celebrated.

The resources in these webpages provide a starting point for exploring and expanding understanding of the complex situation of the world today, and encourage consideration of the past to inform our interpretation of the present, and guide our future actions.

Roger Williams University Quest for Refuge Campus-wide Program of Inquiry
In addition to the resources and materials curated in these web pages, this theme is being woven into a wide variety of courses and Roger Williams University campus initiatives.  During the fall 2016 semester, programming and explorations examined the context of refugee movements, contemporary and historical, bringing a human lens to bear in consideration of the quest for refuge, and those who have undergone this quest globally, and locally in Rhode Island.

During Spring 2017, Roger Williams University will continue these explorations, and extend towards a broader consideration of those upstanders who have stepped beyond their personal spheres of interest to become allies and activists aiding and bearing witness to the plight of those in greatest need.  Additional programs will celebrate new lives of those who have gained sanctuary in their quests for refuge; explore social and psychological consequences of loss and vulnerability faced by those forced to embark on a quest for refuge; and explore the legacy of the 1948 International Declaration of Human Rights, the 1951 Refugee Convention which laid the groundwork for today's international refugee framework, and the fiftieth anniversary of the 1967 Additional Protocol Relating to the Status of the Refugees which extended the the protective refugee framework of international law to the global context.

Events scheduled for the spring semester include:

"The Quest for Refuge - Allies and Activists: Martha and Waitstill Sharp and the Legacy of the Unitarian Service Committee, 1939-1951”   
Jan. 26, 4:30 p.m. Mary Tefft White Room, University Library

RWU Multifaith Chaplain Nancy Hamlin Soukup will present the story of the Unitarian Service Committee’s efforts to rescue and aid victims of the Nazi Holocaust.  The legacy of Martha Sharp, a Rhode Islander, and Waitstill Sharp and the organization they helped found, were a vital response to the world's most profound refugee crisis.  This legacy has inspired and shaped today's humanitarian movement, and vital response to humanitarian crises globally, challenging modern forms of genocide and other violations of human rights.  For further background, see PBS' website for Defying the Nazi's: The Sharps' War, a film by the Sharp's grandson, Artemis Joukowsky and Ken Burns.

Film: “The Raising of America: Early Childhood and the Future of our Nation” 
Feb. 27, 5 p.m. Mary Tefft White Room, University Library
The Raising of America is the first national, fully integrated media/public engagement project that aims to reframe the way Americans look at early child health and development.

“Searching For The Moon: A Heroine's Journey, Tales of Love, Despair, Faith and Forgiveness” -- An Evening with Amber Chand
March 2, 7 p.m. Feinstein College of Arts and Sciences 157
Amber Chand’s one-woman performance takes audiences on a remarkable journey into a world of Indian-arranged marriages, British boarding schools, tyrannical African dictators, encounters with an Indian holy man and Rwandan genocide survivors, and the rise and fall of her multimillion-dollar company.

Global Fest: “Celebrating New Lives”
March 29, 4 p.m. Recreation Center
As part of Roger Williams University’s annual celebration of the many cultures and nationalities celebrated at RWU, this year’s Global Fest event will give special place to a celebration of RWU and Rhode Island refugee heritage communities, cultures, foods and arts.

Please visit back as more events and program will be added over the semester...


Events scheduled for the fall semester included:

● A talk by Sana Mustafa, Syrian asylee and activist.  4:30 p.m., Sept. 22, Mary Tefft White Cultural Center, Library.

● Displaced Minorities in the Middle East,” panel discussion, 5 p.m., Oct. 3, School of Law, Appellate Court Room 283.

● “Syrian Refugees and the Politics of Humanitarianism," presentation and roundtable discussions with Dr. Yasser Munif, Emerson College.  4:30-6:30 p.m., Oct. 12, School of Law Bistro.

“Lual and Leila,” film screening and discussion with director and producer, 5 p.m., Oct. 21, and 10:30 a.m., Oct. 22, Global Heritage Hall 01. “Written, directed, filmed and acted by refugees,” according to Roger Williams, “the 20-minute film tells the story of a forbidden love between a Muslim and non-Muslim living in a refugee camp.”

RWU Student Humanitarian Summit, 10:00 a.m.  to 3:00 p.m., Oct. 23, Global Heritage Hall Atrium.  This campus community convening will consider the global context of humanitarian needs, especially relating to the challenges of mass forced displacement of people today, and explore opportunities for campus community stakeholder engagement and action. Keynote presenter Mike Niconchuk will share his experience working with forcibly displaced populations in Central America and the Middle East, and how cognitive sciences can contribute to helping those who have suffered harm from such displacement.  Recent, current, and contemplated work around international humanitarian issues will be showcased and explored, and participants will be challenged to share and build synergies across organizations, clubs, disciplines, schools, etc., and mobilize campus community interest around humanitarian issues.  

● “Living in Limbo: Stateless Identities,” performance art installation, 1:50 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., Nov. 11, Global Heritage Hall Atrium.  RWU Dance and Performance Studies students enrolled in Advanced Choreography will explore the intimacies of universal themes common along quests for refuge - such as home, loss, disorientation, and the nature of hope amidst relentless challenge.

● Panel Discussion: "Middle Eastern Refugees in Europe and North America: Toward an Historical and Holistic Understanding of a Contemporary Human Crisis,” panel discussion, 4:30 p.m., Nov. 15, Marine and Natural Sciences Building, Room 200.

● “Quest for Refuge Community Conversation,” panel discussion hosted by Roger Williams president Donald Farish, 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Nov. 21, School of Law, Appellate Court Room 283. President Farish will discuss the opportunities and challenges of Rhode Island as a place of refuge with local community leaders from Southeast Asia, Africa and Central America.

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