On Sept. 6, 2015, Pope Francis declared, “I make an appeal. … May every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every shrine welcome one [refugee] family, beginning with my diocese of Rome. … The Gospel calls us to be ‘neighbors’ with the abandoned, and to give them concrete hope.”

Soon after Pope Francis’ call, the Vatican sponsored two refugee families and has helped resettle many since then. The following year, the U.S. Department of State released a toolkit titled “How Campuses are Helping Refugees,” which called on American universities to take an active role in the refugee resettlement process. That toolkit was removed from the State Department website just a few weeks ago, indicating the new administration’s shifting policy toward refugees.

It is time for American universities to heed Pope Francis’ call. We have a humanitarian crisis on our hands, as war and conflict have forced families to flee their homes in search of new beginnings, free from the violence that plagues their homelands. There are more than 21 million refugees registered with the United Nations worldwide, with nearly 5 million from Syria alone. According to the United Nations, these are the highest levels of displacement on record.

Georgetown University has the opportunity to help change the global trend of indifference toward refugees. Certainly, Catholic universities fit under the category of “religious communities” in Pope Francis’ call, yet not one of nearly 200 U.S. Catholic colleges or universities has stepped up to sponsor a refugee or refugee family.

As the nation’s oldest Catholic university, Georgetown needs to lead by example and take an active role in the refugee resettlement process.

To date, only a few American universities have answered Pope Francis’ call. Guilford College, a Quaker school in North Carolina, and Wake Forest University, a secular school in the same state, have committed to host and support families in their respective communities. In our area, local parishes have also begun to heed Pope Francis’ call.

Holy Trinity Parish, our next-door neighbor in Georgetown, was matched last fall with a refugee family of eight from Syria. The family was scheduled to arrive to the United States on Feb. 6, but the recent executive order cancelled their plans. Following the court orders lifting the ban, the family was able to reschedule their travel, and earlier last week they arrived safely in Washington, ready to begin their new lives in the United States.

Georgetown has the opportunity to spark a movement of support and compassion during this time of crisis for refugees around the world. American colleges and universities are well equipped to aid in the refugee resettlement process, and Georgetown, in staying true to its Jesuit mission, has an obligation to lead through action. Our university should set a high bar for other Catholic — and non-Catholic — universities to follow.

To begin this process and to lead through action, Georgetown can follow in Holy Trinity’s footsteps. The university can partner with Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area, the agency authorized by the federal government to resettle refugees in our area.

As a sponsor in its Good Neighbor program, Georgetown could commit to a short-term financial plan of approximately three months and establish a student task force that will assist primarily with supply drives, cultural orientation and mentorship. Students would have the opportunity to organize supply drives prior to the family’s arrival, in addition to leading the orientation and mentorship efforts, as the family members adjust to their new homes and begin their journey toward self-sufficiency. Sponsoring a family can be a collaborative process that engages our entire campus community.

Georgetown is positioned to make a meaningful impact on the global refugee crisis. By sponsoring a family, Georgetown can help to lay the foundation for other universities around the country and around the world to follow suit. All large-scale movements must begin with a single bold step. Let us help spark a movement of support and compassion for refugees around the world. Georgetown students and administrators, let us take that step, and let us heed the call, together.

To support the “Heed the Call” initiative, you can sign the petition and visit the Facebook page for more information.

Max Wolfgang Rosner is a junior in the College. THE ROUND TABLE appears every other Friday as a rotating column between members of the Knights of Columbus.

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3 Comments

  1. Georgetown Student says:

    Glad to see the Stewards taking the moral debate to the University!

  2. Mr. Rosner’s call to compassion is certainly well-motivated, but as someone who has lived, since August of 1960, about 15 minutes away from the campus, I will chime in on “the global trend of indifference” he writes of in paragraph four. This link — datelined October 2016 — provides context:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/02/majority-of-paris-attackers-used-migration-routes-to-enter-europ/

    For those of us who do not regularly read worldwide press news, that reality about the slaughter in France might be off our radar, as well as other violence committed by persons admitted to European nations. Angela Merkel was named “Person of the Year” by Time magazine for it issue closing 2015 — due to her open arms welcome for hundreds of thousands of “refugees”. A huge backlash has arisen since then by her fellow citizens who see refusal to assimilate, tax burdens, public venue crime in the wake of the influx.

    And if ten spare minutes appear in your calendar, visit www (dot) citizenwarrior (dot) com, and type “The Qur’an’s word on non-Muslims” in its upper-right hand search box. The post will help explain how someone who is totally peaceful can morph into the 180 degree polar opposite after reading the last important chapter of the Qur’an CHRONOLIGALLY.

    If the Hoya puts up this response, I fully expect it will enrage a percentage of respondents — and the customary ad hominems (“Islamophobe”, “racist” and “bigot”) may be included in pushback against me. But perhaps other readers would choose a different way to object — one without trigger words which only delay finding solutions for a major problem of human misery.

  3. For some reason, the website www (dot) citizenwarrrior (dot) com — for me at least — does not pull up the article mentioned, so try this instead:

    http://www.citizenwarrior.com/2010/09/qurans-last-word-on-non-muslims.html

    Note the principle of abrogation explained there: the Qur’an’s chapters (Surahs) are not ordered by date of revelation, but if they are read in that manner, later verses referring to a specific event, act, or command replace earlier ones on the same subject.

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