On the morning of September 3rd, 2015, North America was awaken from its collective slumber towards the plight of the Syrian Refugees. Images of the lifeless body of 3 year old Aylan Kurdi, lying on the Turkish beach where he drowned with most of his family allowed us to tell ourselves the problem was just “over there” no more. As details slowly emerged, we heard of the Canadian connection. His aunt, who lived in Canada, had been sending money to her brother. Helping the family, who had fled their home in Syria for Turkey, only to find themselves in the world of fleeing refugees, that is; destitute poverty, illegal work, abuse and exploitation. In what is quickly being recognized as the worst refugee migration since World War II, the Kurdi family was for many, just one more victim of the short crossing from Turkey to Greece that is quickly earning the name, “the sea of tears”.
While many politicians did, what many politicians do, talk about problems and possible solutions, your executive felt that actions were more important than words. Recognizing that there is one thing we are quite good at, we began planning to sponsor a fundraising event for the Inter-Church Refugee Partnership. Without hesitation, or delay, both our local MP Ted Hsu and MPP Sophie Kiwala, stepped up as hosts for the event. We recognized early on that while asking our members to come forward and support the event would ensure its success, it was equally important that it be as non-partisan as possible.
On September 27, 2015 the Kingston and the Islands Federal Liberal Association sponsored Songs for Syria. In four short weeks a small group of Liberals had assembled: musicians;
The Open Voices Community Choir
Georgette Fry and her Shout Sister Choir
Kris and Dee
and speakers; Rev. Elizabeth MacDonald, Dr. Mohammed Saleem and our keynote speaker Mike Molloy, former Canadian ambassador to Jordan, senior official responsible for bringing 60,000 Indochinese refugees to Canada in 1979-1980, the man Macleans Magazine called, “the man who delivered the boat people”.
Mr. Molloy, delivered a very special presentation, however, perhaps his most important message was one that every Canadian needs to hear, “the real security risk is the Syrian boy or girl living and growing up under a bridge in Lebanon, watching his mom and dad be humiliated, and helpless, that’s the real danger… I see the kids of the Indochinese, I see the kids of the Ugandans, they are the most passionate Canadians we have.” (click here to view Mr. Molloy’s 8-minute talk).
After a wonderful afternoon of music, speakers, and Middle-eastern food, we’re sure that you want to know how successful the effort was. When we first planned the event, the Inter-Church Refugee Partnership had raised $40,000 out of the $80,000 required to bring their selected eight-member Syrian refugee family to Kingston. We’re pleased to report to you that our collective efforts succeeded. Between the donations made at Songs for Syria and the attention that the event brought to the effort, we have been informed that they have completely met their goal.