December 7, 2016
Over 160 people crowded into Fort Greene’s Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church to attend a forum titled, “The World-Wide Refugee Crisis: Syria and Beyond.” The event was sponsored by community peace and justice organizations, Fort Greene Peace and Brooklyn For Peace as well as the Lafayette Ave Presbyterian Church Social Justice Committee and Amnesty International USA.
The forum consisted of a panel of speakers with expertise on the subject, some of whom were refugees themselves.
The speakers were:
• Sarab Al-Jijakli, Syrian-American activist and former President, Network of Arab-American Professionals.
• Flora Mejzinolli, Kosovo Refugee and Amnesty International USA Public Outreach Representative.
• Audu Kadiri, Nigerian Asylum Seeker and Community Organizer, African Communities Together.
• Loubna Mrie, Syrian Asylum Seeker, activist and photojournalist
The evening was opened by Ed Goldman of Fort Greene Peace and the discussion was moderated by Cindy Sibilsky. Before the panel began, a moving and inspiring production was staged by Polybe + Seats who presented an excerpt from Sarah Badiyah Sakaan’s Anna Asli Suriyah (I Come from Syria), directed by Jessica Brate. The actor depicted a Syrian refugee woman describing with great humanity and warmth, the overwhelming difficulties confronting those who flee their homes and their homelands for fear of war and violence.
During the break between the speakers’ presentation and a Q&A session that followed, Faton Macula, a Kosovar-Albanian Jazz guitarist, played some pieces to the great enjoyment of the audience. Information tables by various groups, active on refugees assistance, were set up to provide literature and advice on those wanting to participate in helping people in our own communities in Brooklyn. A table was also set up by NYC to show what assistance was available for immigrants and refugess from the city.
The forum was the culmination of an ongoing and vigorous campaign by Fort Greene Peace and Brooklyn For Peace who have been canvassing the downtown neighborhoods with an informational pamphlet and posters that are displayed in hundreds of store windows that declare: “Refugees Are Welcome Here.” Goldman urged attendees to participate in that campaign.