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Rally Supports Settlement Of Syrian Refugees In Indiana

Statue of liberty and candle.

Bloomington residents are responding to Gov. Mike Pence’s decision to bar the settlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana. A rally organized by the United Nations Association of Indiana University marched from the Sample Gates to the Bloomington courthouse Saturday evening in support of allowing Syrian refugees into the United States.

The rally attracted more than 100 participants with candles and signs that read “Refugees Welcome.”

Passersby occasionally interjected their own opinions. Some cheered, clapped or thanked the participants, while others were critical of their message.

The march down the sidewalks of Kirkwood Avenue was primarily silent except for a single snare drum. Near the end of the march, participants broke out into singing “This Land is Your Land.”

“It was really touching when they sang the anthem, ‘This Land Is Your Land,’” says Suzanne Kawamleh, a Syrian-American graduate student at Indiana University. “You can’t imagine how touching those words are to someone who has lost a home.”

When marchers arrived back at the Sample Gates, several speakers addressed the crowd. Kawamleh spoke about her experiences working with Syrian refugees in other parts of the world.

She says she hopes explaining the difficulties will make Americans more compassionate and willing to accept refugees.

“It was a beautiful day today, right? Well, in Syria we pray for really cloudy days, because on cloudy days the airplanes can’t bomb your village or city. So would you let me in if you knew that?” Kawamleh says.

Dana Khabbaz is a Syrian-American undergraduate student at IU. She spoke about the fear her family members still living in Syria have experienced.

“I have family members wondering each day if it is their last as they are trapped inside their homes with nowhere to go,” Khabbaz says. “I have no family members as of yet that have successfully been given asylum in the U.S.”

Khabbaz concluded her statement with a quote from Maya Angelou: “Hate has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet.”

Pence has not backed down from his position on barring Syrian refugees from Indiana, saying he wants a more thorough vetting process. The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Pence to stop him from blocking federal funds that help Syrian refugees move to Indiana.

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