Iraqi refugees connect with Holy Cross students
A young Iraqi husband and father saw a sign in Baghdad during the summer of 2009 that the U.S. military was hiring bus drivers. He had the right license and, like so many peers, had been searching in vain for employment. So he applied, was hired, and began the job. He enjoyed working with the friendly soldiers with whom he shared stories of life and culture.
Six months later, his 5-year-old son was kidnapped. A note left behind read: "This is what you get for helping the enemy." Soon, the insurgents who took his son contacted him and demanded a ransom if he ever wanted to see his boy again. He and his wife gave every last penny they had, and their son was returned - but with a warning that more cruelty was in store. So they made the decision to flee their homeland and seek refuge, first in neighboring Jordan and then, after a review process with the U.N. and the U.S., being resettled in South Bend.
The Holy Cross College students hearing this story knew that they were not just learning about refugees as "an issue." They were having a face-to-face encounter with the man who went through this hellish experience. He came to campus as part of the annual Holy Cross - Red Cross refugee awareness workshop. Along with a dozen other refugees - each with their own story - he met, talked, and shared a meal with Holy Cross students. Our students then did art projects with the children, including his son.
Each one of the students in the packed conference room will not soon forget the experience. Maybe it will affect the way that they think about those seeking refuge on our shores. Perhaps it will spur them to volunteer their time with the Red Cross Refugee Resettlement program. Or it could just make them more capable as citizens to help create a political and legal climate of hospitality.
Our own community has long been a welcoming place for refugees from all parts of the world. Currently, South Bend is home to more than 25 families from Iraq who have been resettled here by the Red Cross. Many of them faced incomprehensible dangers, sometimes not lucky enough to see a loved one returned. Now, as they rebuild their lives, they rely in small measure on official forms of support and in large measure on church and civic groups in this community who help to sponsor them through the Red Cross.
Holy Cross College is committed to offering every single student a "global perspective" on the challenges and opportunities of the human community in general and this community in particular. This helps to make their education real and experiential. After last year's workshop, one student chose the Red Cross for her required internship. This combination of academic inquiry and practical relevance helps produce not only job-ready graduates, but people who will make a difference.
For more information on Holy Cross College, visit: www.hcc-nd.edu
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Holy Cross College is a Catholic, four-year, co-educational, liberal arts institution founded in 1966 by the Brothers of Holy Cross. With a 13:1 faculty/student ratio, students find personal attention from professors who care about their success and development in mind, body, and spirit. The Four Pillars of the core curriculum include a professional internship, service to others, a global perspective experience, and a senior Capstone presentation which summarizes and synthesizes each student's learning. Located in Notre Dame, Indiana, Holy Cross College provides the best of both worlds: a close-knit, small college atmosphere with the resources and social opportunities of a large university.