StFX faculty members work with SAFE to bring refugees to Antigonish
As the refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East continues to grow, governments in the European Union are facing a serious pressure to accept more displaced families. While some, like Germany, have offered to take significant numbers, many others are still hesitant to open their doors. Canada and the United States have been reluctant, committing to taking in only 25 000 and 10 000 refugees respectively. This is a fairly small number compared to Germany, which has already taken in over 450 000 and has pledged to take 800 000 this year. However, in Canada there are many people and organizations taking it upon themselves to raise money to bring refugee families to Canada.
The Syrian-Antigonish Families Embrace, also known as the SAFE Society, has pledged to do just that, and is currently raising money to bring one refugee family to Antigonish as soon as possible. Physics Professor Michael Steinitz, however, believes that this is not enough. In late September, Dr. Steinitz sent an email decrying the inaction of Canada in the face of the refugee crisis. The was a strong response was heard, and a committee of five professors was assembled, including Dr. Michael Steinitz himself, Dr. Norine Verberg, Dr. Linda Darwish, Dr. Elizabeth McGibbon and Dr. Joseph Khoury. The committee has been named “StFX for SAFE”, and is currently working in collaboration with the SAFE society to bring many refugee families to the Antigonish area.
At a committee meeting last Wednesday, representatives from faculty, staff, administration, and the student’s union discussed goals and fundraising initiatives in order to begin bringing families to Antigonish. The overall goal of $100 000 will allow for the support of 4 families, and with the promise of each family’s sponsorship of approximately $25 000 to be matched by the government. This funding will provide support for a year in Antigonish, including necessities such as winter clothing, housing costs, school supplies, and more.
Dr. Kent MacDonald attended the committee meeting as well, and committee members were pleased with the amount of support received from the President, as well other members of the StFX community. English professor Dr. Joseph Khoury said he was thankful for all the support the initiative has already received, and he believes that it “speaks to the best of human impulses to help and protect”.
Nursing professor Elizabeth McGibbon added that she felt the commit was “follow[ing] STFX’s roots in social justice action and [demonstrating] our current commitment to humanitarian efforts locally and globally.”
Although the committee acknowledges it is a challenge to achieve such lofty goals in such a short period of time, StFX for SAFE believes that the St.FX community spirit will be enough to pull it off. Many members of the committee also have a personal connection to, and understanding of, the refugee crisis, whether from relatives, previous work experience or family history, making the achievement of the goal a “priority”, says Dr. Khoury.
Those looking to get involved with the project can like the SAFE Society Facebook page, or email any committee member for more information. StFX for SAFE hopes to have specific fundraising events established soon, in an effort to reach the $100 000 goal as soon as possible. In the meantime, donations can be made directly to the SAFE Society at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via cheque, with tax receipts available for donations over fifty dollars. Any indication of involvement with the StFX community will direct funds to the “StFX for SAFE” account, helping to reach the goal of bringing at least four refugee families to the safe harbour of the Antigonish community.