A documentary about the Armenian Genocide – and the U-S reaction to it – could help with people’s reactions to refugee crises here and in other parts of the world. The Near East Foundation will screen the film The Shall Not Perish about how America responded to help Armenians 100 years ago.
Foundation President Charlie Benjamin says individual people raised over 100 (M) million dollars that saved a generation of people facing violence. Now, he says, people have lost touch with their role and importance in helping others.
“We depend on institutions, governments, international institutions, to play this role that 100 years ago we played as communities and people. Hopefully it will show that people, even today when the challenges seem so overwhelming, that we can and really need to, make a difference.”
He acknowledges the news can be overwhelming, with natural disasters and people displaced by wars. The Near East Foundation is international, with offices in 7 countries and programs in 8, with headquarters here in Syracuse Their work in the Middle East and North Africa helps refugees and other disadvantaged develop businesses and self-sufficiency. Benjamin contends there are examples here in Syracuse and many other regions of how individual assistance helps those in need.
“Refugees are victims. They have in many cases, come through very traumatic experiences, and they carry that with them. They’re also positive and productive members of our community and they bring a lot to us as a community.”
Whether it’s refugees resettled to Syracuse, or people he visits in Jordan or elsewhere, Benjamin says their stories leave him optimistic and encouraged. He adds we have to get over seeing refugees as a threat.
The film – They Shall Not Perish – airs today at 5:30 in Syracuse University’s Newhouse Three building. A panel discussion about marginalized populations here and around the world will follow, with the filmmaker and Near East Foundation leaders. It’s in conjunction with Syracuse University’s Newhouse Center for Global Engagement and Middle Eastern Studies Program.