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Monday, May 29, 2017

UC Irvine's Week of Events on Refugees: Did They Forget Middle East Christrians, Yazidis, Baha'i?




During the week of May 8-12, several organizations at UC Irvine held a series of events bring awareness to the plight of refugees. I did not attend these events as I was tied up with the annual bash-Israel week and a May 10 pro-Israel event (which was disrupted).

I have, however, inquired with the organizations that participated in the events. They are:


Hearts of Mercy UCI  (An organization focused on Syrian refugees)

Below is the published schedule of events:


http://illuminations.uci.edu/events/2017_5_08_Refugee_Awareness_Week.html

In addition, here is an article on the refugee events by New University, UCI's campus paper:

https://www.newuniversity.org/2017/05/16/refugee-awareness-week-and-anti-zionism-week-provoke-debate-on-campus/

I may be in error, but I have the impression that the events focused mostly on the issue of the Syrian refugees. I have also failed to find any references to the plight of Christians, Yazidis or Baha'i in the Middle East. Therefore, on May 18, I wrote the below email to the above organizations asking whether those groups were discussed.


On Thu, May 18, 2017 at 3:14 PM, wrote:
To Whom It May Concern,


My name is Gary Fouse, and I am a former part-time teacher at UC Irvine Ext. (1998-2016). I am writing in regards to your recently concluded Refugee Awareness Week at UCI.
https://www.newuniversity.org/ 2017/05/16/refugee-awareness- week-and-anti-zionism-week- provoke-debate-on-campus/

I would like to inquire whether the issue of the Christians in the Middle East was discussed at all. As I am sure you are aware, Christians and Yazidis are under attack in many parts of the Middle East. In Iraq and Syria, this takes the form of a program of genocide. In Egypt, Coptic Christian churches are burning. In addition, the Baha'i in many parts of the Middle East are under attack and being persecuted in places like Iran.

From looking at your program I got the impression that the main focus of your events was Syrian refugees in general. Could you please enlighten me on this question.

If the plight of Christians, Yazidis, Baha'i and other religious minorities in the Middle East was not covered, I have contacts in these US-based communities right here in Southern California who would be most grateful to educate UCI students as to the plight of their brethren. In fact, I have a Iranian Baha'i former colleague and  friend at UCI Irvine who is active in raising awareness of the Baha''i issues.

If you are receptive to this idea, I would be glad to help contact and arrange the speakers. It would be helpful if we could have about 3 months advance notice.  Naturally, I would ask that your organizations cover or reimburse the cost of the speakers, but I would expect that they would be local.

Please let me know if you need any further information.


Thank you for your kind attention,


Gary Fouse

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ On May 19, I got the below response from the Blum Center.


From: Blum Center for Poverty Alleviation <blumcenter@uci.edu>
Date: May 19, 2017 at 12:59:21 PM PDT
To: 
(deleted)
Cc: 
heartsofmercyuci@gmail.comfreshstartuci@gmail.comunicef@uci.edu,  info@olivetreeinitiative.org
Subject: Re: Refugee Awareness Week
Dear Gary, 
Thank you for reaching out to us! We appreciate your interest. 
Refugee Awareness Week is an annual student-led program designed to bring awareness to issues like the ones you have mentioned. To the best of my knowledge, the next series of events will take place in spring 2018 and may include events similar to those held this year. 

Thursday night's event in particular, titled "Speed Learning: The Causes & Concerns of Refugees Globally," allowed us to delve into the myriad of experiences and challenges faced by refugees around the world. I am not sure if the speakers directly addressed the issues you mention, though we were able to hear from individuals with various regional and topical perspectives. While a single evening cannot do these topics justice, it allowed us to help start the conversation and begin exploring the nuances and facets of the refugee experience through first-person accounts.
It sounds as though your contacts could potentially get involved through such an event. While I cannot guarantee that next year's events will take the same form, we can certainly keep your contact information for future programming.
I welcome input and comments from the other groups who guided this year's events.

Warmly,
Ellen



On May 24, I followed up with another email to the Blum Center and the other organizations.







-- 
From:(deleted)
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Date:
Wednesday, May 24, 2017 11:51 AM
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To:
blumcenter@uci.edu Add to Addresses
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Cc:
freshstartuci@gmail.com, unicef@uci.edu, info@olivetreeinitiative.org, heartsofmercyuci@gmail.com Add to Addresses
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Subject:
Attn Ellen: Your response
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Size:
751 Bytes
Dear Ellen,


Thank you for your response to my query about the recent refugee week at UCI. I
eagerly await responses from the other addressees.

Are there any videotapes available from the events?

Sincerely,

Gary Fouse  (May 24)



As yet, I have received no further replies and the Blum Center is the only organization that has responded. I will advise when and if I get any further responses. In the absence of that, it is still my impression that the plight of Christians, Yazidis, Baha'i and other religious minorities was not addressed. I hope I am mistaken.

*Update:

Blum Center for Poverty Alleviation  Add to Addresses Block Sender
Date:Wednesday, May 31, 2017 5:53 PM
To:Gary Fouse 
Subject:Re: Attn Ellen: Your response
Size:6 KB
Dear Gary,
To the best of my knowledge, the events were not recorded. Thank you for your interest in refugee week.

Warmly,
Ellen

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