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The Refugee Solidarity Initiative

In the 2015-2016 academic year, The University of Scranton launched In Solidarity With Syria, a coordinated advocacy effort involving university administrators, faculty, staff, alumni, and students to aid those most affected in the current immigration crisis through education and advocacy. As the refugee crisis grew, encompassing communities from many countries around the world, this advocacy effort was renamed in 2017 to The Refugee Solidarity Initiative.Pope_refugee camp

Students, faculty and staff:

  • wrote to elected officials
  • attended lectures given by authors on the topic
  • heard first-hand experiences from advocates working directly with refugees
  • watched documentaries together
  • organized vigils
  • participated in discussions on the topic
  • and greeted refugees arriving in the Scranton area

This academic year, the University will continue to lead us in conversations as to how we can aid those most affected in the current immigration crisis by exploring issues surrounding the crisis through the lens of faith and religion. Two primary initiatives include a student-led Tutoring Program for children of refugee families, and the Scranton Refugee Friendship Network (SRFN), an opportunity for faculty and staff members of The University of Scranton who reside in the Scranton area to pair with refugee families to accompany and advocate for them with the goal of empowering refugees to transition to a new life in our region.

  • Eventsplus or minus

    Fall 2017 Semester

    Presentation by Syrian refugee Anas Allouz, followed by a viewing of "Salam Neighbor" - an award-winning documentary filmed inside a refugee camp
    Sep 25, 7:00 p.m., LSC 133
    Anas and his family left Syria in the midst of its civil war several years ago, and were resettled in the Scranton area. He tells his story of the violence and struggles he and his family faced before coming to the United States via a refugee camp in Jordan.

    Rally for a Peaceful Planet
    Oct 7, 12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m., St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 232 Wyoming Ave, Scranton
    Please join us at this rally to stand on the side of love and to recognize the UN's International Day of Non-Violence (Oct 2). Please join us for a day of celebrating peace and community.

    Global Tastes of Scranton
    Oct 14, 6:30 p.m., Scranton Cultural Center (420 N. Washington Avenue, Scranton, PA)
    The Scranton Syrian refugee community will be serving as “guest chefs" presenting an authentic Syrian meal. There will be special performances with cultural and educational discussions. Tickets are available online, including a limited number of free student tickets. Organized by Community Relations together with campus and community partners.

    Islamophobia, Race, and Critical Thinking in an Age of Terror
    Oct 16, 7:00 p.m, TDC Moskovitz Theater
    Dr. Nazia Kazi, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Stockton University, presents on Muslim American community groups, looking at the strategies these organizations use to combat Islamophobia. Her work makes important connections between Islamophobia, white supremacy, and U.S. foreign policy.

    Global Insights Presents Jordan
    Oct 24, 11:30 a.m., Brennan Hall's Fifth Floor Rose Room
    University of Scranton graduate student Malak Daas ’18, MBA program, will present on the country and culture of Jordan, which has become a refuge for over 650,000 Syrians since 2011, thus becoming home to over 10.2 million including the recent immigrants. Register here.


    Spring 2017 Semester

    Special Mass for the intention of Praying in Solidarity with Refugees and for our Political Leaders
    Feb 1, 4:40 p.m., Madonna della Strada Chapel

    “The Future of Refugee Resettlement in the US”
    Feb 15, 7:00 p.m., TDC Moskovitz Theater
    William Canny,'77 H '07, Executive Director of Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will offer insights on the challenges faced by refugees internationally. He will be joined by Maggie Walsh ’12, a teacher at Scranton High School, who will share her experiences teaching refugee students.

    We All Belong: Interfaith Vigil in Support of Immigrants and Refugees
    Feb 18, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Wyoming and Linden Avenues, Scranton
    Diverse faith leaders will join together with community service organizations and local activist groups to host an interfaith vigil in support of immigrants and refugees. Speakers, to include refugees, clergy, elected officials, and community advocates, will address issues ranging from the recent executive order banning travel from predominantly Muslim countries to immigrant rights and the needs of recently arrived refugees and immigrants. They will also propose ways the community at large can help support our growing refugee and immigrant population in Northeast PA. The event will close with a candlelight march to Courthouse Square. The University of Scranton is one of the co-sponsors. More information is available here.

    Refugee Simulation
    Feb 24, 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., TDC Ballroom
    Students, faculty, and staff are invited to participate in this part educational/part interactive experience of a mock refugee camp. Participants take 20 minutes to walk through several stations - entry/border, food, water, and shelter - while assuming the identity of a refugee where they will experience some of the harsh realities of camp life. Stop by anytime between this 2-hour time frame. Sponsored by Campus Ministries' Center for Service and Social Justice and the CRS Student Ambassadors.

    Immigration Panel on  Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
    Mar 7, 6:15 to 7:30 p.m., Brennan 228
    Li Adorno (DACA), Dr. Jennifer Ayala (Director of the  Center for Undocumented Students at St. Peter’s University) and Nick Napolitano (Assistant for Social Ministries Maryland and USA  Northeast Province of the Society of Jesus) will share their insights with students, staff, and faculty. Sponsored by Education for Justice and the Cross Cultural Center.

    Music by Natalia Serna, a Colombia-American musician/sociologist
    Mar 27, 7:00 p.m., TDC Moskovitz Theater
    Natalia Serna is a Colombia-American musician/sociologist who volunteered at the Kino Border Initiative Soup Kitchen in Nogales on the U.S.-Mexico border. KBI promotes border and immigration policies that affirm the dignity of the human person and a spirit of bi-national solidarity. Sponsored by Education for Justice.

    "White Helmets" - viewing of the Oscar-winning documentary
    4, 9:00 p.m., TDC Moskovitz Theater
    This Academy award-winning documentary
    tells the story of volunteer rescue workers in Syria known as the White Helmets who train in Turkey to provide emergency medical assistance to civilians caught in Syria's civil war. Contact University chaplain, Fr. Rick Malloy, for more information (

    Fall 2016 Semester

    Postcard Campaign to Urge U.S. Government Officials to Address the Syrian Refugee Crisis
    Sign this electronic postcard and urge the U.S. to lead by example on refugee protection and resettlement. The postcard states: "I'm proud that the United States is urging world leaders to improve the collective response to refugee crises around the globe. I call on all U.S. policy makers to lead by example by increasing refugee resettlement here in the United States and ensuring adequate funding for refugee assistance overseas and U.S. resettlement." All signatures must be collected by Monday, Sep 12, 2016. The postcards will be delivered at a press conference in front of the Capitol Building on Thursday, Sep 15. Jesuit Refugee Service, an international humanitarian NGO, is among the supporting organizations.

    Refugee Simulation
    Sep 24, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., TDC Ballroom
    On Family Weekend, students and their families will be able to participate in this part educational/part interactive experience of a mock refugee camp. Participants take 20 minutes to walk through several stations - entry/border, food, water, and shelter - while assuming the identity of a refugee where they will experience some of the harsh realities of camp life. Check out coverage from this WBRE report.

    The Honorable T. Linus Hoban Memorial Lecture: Global Refugee Crisis; Time for New Thinking
    Sep 27, 6:30 p.m., TDC Ballroom
    Rt. Hon. David Miliband, President and CEO of International Rescue Committee, and former UK Foreign Secretary on the Global Refugee Crisis, is the featured speaker. Hosted by The University of Scranton and Lackawanna Bar Association. For more information, please call (570) 941-4419.

    "Stories from the Democratic Republic of Congo: A Roundtable Discussion"
    Sep 30, 9:00 a.m., TDC 406
    This discussion will highlight stories of displacement and resettlement, providing a better understanding of Scranton's Congolese refugees. Featured speaker: Fred Mukelo, Congolese refugee, with introductory remarks by Sonya Sarner of Catholic Social Services. Space is limited to 25 participants. Light breakfast will be served. RSVP to

    Make A Meme Workshop
    Oct 17, 4:30 p.m., TDC 405
    CRS Ambassadors and Writing Instructors will work with students to create memes about the global refugee crisis to educate others about the crisis. For more information, contact Dr. Teresa Grettano.

    Global Tastes of Scranton
    Oct. 22, 6:30 p.m., Scranton Cultural Center (420 N. Washington Avenue, Scranton, PA)
    The Scranton Congolese refugee community will be serving as “guest chefs" presenting an authentic Congolese meal. There will be special performances with cultural and educational discussions. Tickets will be available in mid-September, including a limited number of free student tickets. Organized by Community Relations together with campus and community partners. Check for updates. Register online via Facebook.

    "Mercy in  Motion: The Work of Jesuit Refugee Service"
    Oct. 26, 7:00 p.m., Leahy Hall's Kane Forum (Jefferson and Linden Streets, Scranton, PA)
    Fr. Leo J. O'Donovan S.J., Director of Mission for Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, will expand on the work of JRS' Global Education Initiative which provided educational services to more than 141,000 people in 38 countries last year. A noted theologian, Fr. Leo is President Emeritus of Georgetown University where he served from 1989 to 2001. Fred Mukelo, a Congolese refugee, will share his story of displacement from his native country to Scranton. 

    Spring 2016 Semester

    Refugee Simulation
    Feb 26, 3:00 to 5:30 pm, TDC Ballroom
    Part educational and part interactive experience, the Refugee Simulation allows participants to show solidarity with nearly 59 million displaced persons worldwide. Participants take 20 minutes to walk through five stations while assuming the identity of a refugee: entry/border, food, water, and shelter where they will experience some of the harsh realities of camp life. Check out coverage from this WBRE report.

    Advocacy Table at the Refugee Simulation
    Feb 26, 3:00-5:30 p.m., TDC Ballroom
    After the Refugee Simulation, participants have the option to call on governments and international institutions to redouble efforts to ensure the safety and dignity of refugees and learn about practical tools to become more actively engaged in the issue.

    The International Film Series presents ILLEGAL
    Mar 11, 7:00 pm, Weinberg 305
    This film depicts the story of Tania – a former teacher from Russia, living illegally in Belgium with her son – who is eventually placed in an immigration detention center. The film is in French and Russian with English subtitles. Dr. Marzia Caporale will lead a discussion following the film.

    The Latin American Film Festival presents three films that highlighting the stories of migrants. Each takes place in Pearn Auditorium, Brennan Hall at 7:00 p.m.

    • Feb 24 - “The Sleep Dealer” – This award-winning sc-fi thriller find the main character, Memo Cruz, living an impoverished existence in a degraded Mexico of the future.
    • Mar 15 – “The Golden Dream” – Three teenagers jump “The Beast” – the infamous and dangerous train that [migrants] board to take them from Guatemala through Mexico to the American border.
    • Apr 20 – “La Batalla de los Invisibles” – This documentary addresses how undocumented workers fought a court battle against large supermarket and store chains in order to recover wages owed to them.

    Can it Possibly Get Worse for Europe and the Middle East?
     An Update on the Refugee Crisis and the Thick Fog of Fundamentalism
    Wed., Mar 16, 12:00-1:30 p.m., Brennan Hall, Rose Room
    A presentation by Peter Zilahy, award-winning Hungarian author at the Schemel Forum World Affairs Luncheon.

    The Jesuit Center’s Kino Border Initiative Pilgrimage
    Mar 20-24
    Faculty and staff members from The University of Scranton spend a week offering direct humanitarian assistance and accompaniment with migrants at the Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico border.   

    The Newest Scrantonians: Refugee Resettlement in NEPA
    Mar 30, 12:00-1:00 pm, Brennan Hall, Rose Room
    A State of Scranton Seminar with Sonya Sarner, Program Director of Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton, and Om Timsina, CSS Case Manager. Co-sponsored by Campus Ministries’ Center for Service and Social Justice, Community and Government Relations, Education for Justice, Faculty & Staff Senates, and The Jesuit Center.

    Webinar:Supporting Undocumented Students in Jesuit Higher Education
    Apr 7, 1:00-3:00 p.m.
    St. Peter’s University and Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) will host this webinar to create an opportunity for Jesuit educational institutions to address issues and share ideas related to supporting undocumented students. Register on the ISN website.

    Virtual Presentation by Scranton Alumna Celeste Gregory '01
    Apr 13, 5:00 p.m., 205 Hyland Hall
    Hear about Celeste's work with refugees in her role as an Emergency Response Generalist with Catholic Relief Services in Jordan. Please contact Dr. Gretchen Van Dyke ( to RSVP for this event - seats are limited.

    Violence against Latina Immigrants: Persistent Inequalities & Change
    Apr 14, 5:30-6:30 p.m., Loyola Science Center 133
    Roberta Villalón will explore the complexities at the intersection of immigration, citizenship, and violence. She will discuss how inequality is perpetuated and can be challenged to further justice. Co-sponsored by the Office of Equity & Diversity, Department of Latin American and Women’s Studies, Department of Sociology, Criminal Justice, and Criminology, and Education for Justice.

    Sharing Stories of Displacement
    April 19, 11:45 a.m.-1:00 p.m., The DeNaples Center 405
    Sonya Sarner of Catholic Social Services and special guests from Scranton’s refugee community will highlight women’s experiences and stories of displacement and resettlement in this roundtable discussion. Co-sponsored by the Office of Community and Government Relations and Cross-Cultural Centers.

    A Surgeon Without a Scalpel. A Nurse Without Gloves. A Baby Without a Blanket: Stories Of Healthcare Without Tools
    Apr 24, 2:00-3:00 p.m., Edward R. Leahy Jr. Hall, Room 235
    The Inaugural Maria Gervasio Cura Personalis Lecture with Danielle Butin, MPH, OTR, who will share her experiences at a refugee camp in Lesvos, Greece.

    Global Tastes of Scranton
    Saturday, May 7, 1:00–3:00 p.m., Terra Preta Restaurant, 222 Wyoming Ave, Scranton, PA
    $30 general ticket; a limited number of free student tickets are available. Syrian refugee women will serve as “guest chefs” at Terra Preta Restaurant sharing their cuisine and cultural traditions. To purchase tickets and for more details on the event, please go the the Community Relations web page. Co-sponsored by the Office of Community and Government Relations, Campus Ministries’ Center for Service and Social Justice, the Small Business Development Center, the Cross-Cultural Centers, and the following community partners: Greenhouse Project, Scranton Area Foundation, Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton, Terra Preta restaurant.

    Fall 2015 Semester

    Laptop Letter Writing
    November 20, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., TDC Third Floor Dining Hall
    October 29, 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. and October 30, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., TDC second floor
    CRS Student Ambassadors will be in TDC Lobby to assist community members in writing to the President, U.S. Senators and Representatives using an Action Alert from Jesuit Refugee Service.

    “Welcome to Germany” – German Responses to the Syrian Refugees
    Thursday, October 29 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in DeNaples 406
    Featuring German Fulbright TA Janina Schmidt
    Learn about Germany's leading role in refugee resettlement, the welcoming attitude many Germans have adopted towards refugees, and some current citizens’ initiatives to assist Syrian refugees. Sponsored by The Department of World Languages and Cultures. For additional information, please contact Janina Schmidt.

    “Why Not Just Forget About the Middle East?”
    Thursday, November 5 from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. in Brennan Hall Room 509
    A Schemel Forum Program
    Featuring Trudy Rubin, “Worldview” columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer
    Rubin, who recently travelled to Iraq and Jordan and has covered the area for decades, will explain why a U.S. focus on the region is still essential if ISIS is to be defeated, Iran contained, and Mideast chaos prevented from spreading beyond the Arab world. Reservation required - RSVP here.

    Prayers by Candlelight
    Thursday, November 5 at 7:30 p.m. on The Dionne Green Lawn
    An Interfaith Prayer Service will be held to pray in solidarity with our sisters and brothers displaced from their homes in Syria.

    “Their First Steps Starts With You” - An Ethiopian Refugee’s Personal Story and Thoughts on the Current Refugee Crisis in the Middle East
    Wednesday, November 18 at 8:00 p.m. - Moskovitz Theater, TDC 4th floor
    Featuring Teferi Dinka speaking about his personal experience as an Ethiopian refuge and Fr.Michael Azar speaking about the current crisis. Joining the discussion will be Roy Azar, Syria Program Manager for the International Orthodox Christian Charities, who has lived in Damascus for most of the last five years.
    Sponsored by the Sophomore Cura Personalis Residential Learning Community.

    “A Requiem for Syrian Refugees” – A Documentary Film by Richard Wolf
    Thursday, November 19 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. in TDC Moskovitz Theater
    Shot with a crew of refugees who felt the urgency to convey their situation to the world, Requiem offers an unprecedented in-depth perspective on the daily lives and feelings of refugees. The film was shot on location in Northern Iraq in stark black and white, telling the story of the dire conditions and anxiety faced by refugees, as well as a celebration of the human spirit facing adversity. The film will be followed by a discussion led by faculty and staff members Dr. Gretchen J. Van Dyke, Dr. Christian Krokus, Melinda Krokus, and Julie Schumacher Cohen.

    “ASYLUM OR FORTRESS: Where is Europe Heading?” – A Briefing on the Syrian Refugee Crisis
    Monday, November 23 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. in DeNaples Ballroom
    A Schemel Forum Program, in collaboration with the Office of Community and Government Relations
    Featuring award-winning Hungarian author Peter Zilahy
    This program provides a unique perspective of the refugee crisis in Europe and what we might be able to do about it. Reservation required – RSVP here.

  • Prayerplus or minus

    Find Prayers Online for Refugees

    1. 1. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
    2. 2. World Vision
    3. 3. Catholic Relief Services

    "A Moment for Grace: A Prayer for Refugees"

    This prayer was shared at the Fall 2015 Interfaith Prayer Service for Refugees held at The University of Scranton:

    God of our Wandering Ancestors, long have we known that your heart is with the refugee. No one is a stranger to you—we are all your children, born of your grace and love. Give us hearts that break open with grace and love when our sisters and brothers turn to us for help. Then surely all these things will follow:

    • Ears will no longer turn deaf to their voices.
    • Eyes will see a moment for grace instead of a threat.
    • Tongues will not be silenced but will instead advocate.
    • And hands will reach out— working for peace in their homeland, working for justice in the lands where they seek safe haven.

    Beloved and Merciful One, protect all refugees in their  travels. May they find a friend in me and so make me worthy of the refuge I have found in you. Amen.

  • Take Action and Provide Supportplus or minus

    Greeting Refugees Arriving in Scranton
    The University is partnering with Catholic Social Services in greeting refugees coming to the Scranton area. Past arrivals included families from Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    To send a letter to your elected official in collaboration with University partner Jesuit Refugee Service, or learn more about the Syrian Refugee Crisis, go to the Advocacy Corner on the Community and Government Relations web site. For guide to writing a "letter to the editor," check out the Student News Daily.

    To make a donation to assist Syrian refugees, go to:

    1. 1. Catholic Relief Services
    2. 2. Jesuit Refugee Service
    3. 3. International Rescue Committee
    4. 4. UNICEF


  • Publications, Videosplus or minus

    • Student Nicholas A. Capobianco '19 developed a video for In Solidarity With Syria's "The Future of Refugee Resettlement in the U.S." February 2017 event.
    • University of Scranton President Kevin P. Quinn's January 30, 2017 Statement Regarding the Executive Order on Refugees and Migrants.
    • World Languages and Cultures professor Dr. Lind Ledford-Miller's piece in the December 7, 2016 Scranton Times-Tribune, "Melting pot’s language stew."
    • Dr. Helen Wolf's essay on the United States' Conference of Catholic Bishops Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development blog, "To Go Forth," describing the work of In Solidarity With Syria, published on October 31, 2016.
    • The Scranton Times-Tribune covers the October 26, 2016 presentation on Jesuit Refugee Service's Global Education Initiative, "Mercy in Motion."
    • Students Nicholas A. Capobianco '19 and Alaina N. Dimitriou '18 developed a series of videos for In Solidarity With Syria's Fall 2016 events: the Postcard Campaign, Global Tastes of Scranton, and Mercy in Motion.
    • Julie Schumacher Cohen's June 2016 op-ed, "Legacy of Inclusion Faces Test of Courage," in the aftermath of the Orlando massacre.
    • This PA Homepage newscast report on the "Global Tastes of Scranton" event on May 7.
    • The Spring 2016 Scranton Journal describes the In Solidarity With Syria initiative in its founding year.
    • The University of Scranton's In Solidarity With Syria initiative as highlighted on Catholic Relief Services' "On Campus Programming Ideas" web page.
    • The Refugee Simulation that took place on February 26 on the University campus as highlighted in this WBRE report.
    • Fr. Richard Malloy, SJ's op-ed on embracing immigration for the Scranton Times-Tribune on January 18.
    • Current Scranton junior Farrah F. Qadri's January 2016 reflection on her recent trips to welcome new refugees to the local community on Odessey Online.
    • The Nov 22 Scranton Times Tribune Letters to the Editor column that cited Sondra Myers support of refugee resettlement, "Preserving normalcy" (Meyers is the Director of the Schemel Forum)
    • The November 2015 letter written by University President Kevin P. Quinn, S.J. to our federal elected officials urging additional U.S. government efforts to address the refugee crisis.
    • Fr. Quinn's column in the November 8, 2015 Time Tribune  issue, "Finding human dimension in refugeee crisis."
    • Drs. Gretchen Van Dyke and Helen Wolf of The University of Scranton weighing in on the Syrian refugee crisis in this November 17 WNEP news report.
    • The November 16 WNEP news report of the Interfaith Prayer Service held at The University of Scranton in remembrance of those killed and injured in the Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad terrorist attacks.
    • "Bearing Witness" by Elena Habersky '13 in America Magazine (Habersky has been working with urban refugees in East Amman, Jordan, since arriving in September 2013 in a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program.)

Need more information?

Please contact Dr. Helen Wolf, Executive Director, Office of Campus Ministries.

Students interested in getting more involved in advocacy and other justice-related initiatives by joining the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Ambassadors can contact moderator Cathy Seymour.

The Refugee Solidarity Initiative is an ongoing collaborative effort of Campus Ministries, Community and Government Relations, Scranton’s CRS Student Ambassadors, and various members of the University's students, faculty, and staff - together with Catholic and Jesuit organizations and higher education associations. Coordinating members include: Salma Ahmed, Marah Alian '20, Michael Azar Ph.D., Luis Britez '19, Nicholas Capobianco '19, Valarie Clark, Kayla Collins '20, Alaina N. Dimitriou '18, Shuhua Fan Ph.D., Teresa A. Grettano Ph.D., Nicole Guzenski, Nailah Harvey '18, Stephanie Kudhari '19, Celine Langlard GS, Fr. Richard Malloy SJ, Bridget McGuire '20, Germaine Mendonca '20, Farrah F. Qadri GS, Fr. Patrick Rogers SJ, Julie Schumacher Cohen, Jennifer Schwartz, Cathy Seymour, Ryan Sheehan, Maaz Siddiqui '20, Ileana Szymanski Ph.D., Gretchen J. Van Dyke Ph.D., Tatiana Velazquez '18, and Helen M. Wolf Ph.D.