By Amber Michel, Engage Minnesota
So often we feel powerless to address the immense suffering of our fellow human beings. Those feelings
of helplessness have become especially oppressive as we see hundreds of thousands of our Syrian sisters and brothers struggling, fleeing, starving, and dying.
My name is Amber and I am an organizer with CISPOS (Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria).
When I talk about Syria, one of the comments I hear most often is, “I don’t even understand what’s happening over there. It’s just so complicated.” People frequently follow that up with, “It’s so sad but what can we really do?” It is tempting to simply leave it at that, change the television channel, go back to homework, and busy ourselves in the activities of daily life.
Instead, I encourage us to give serious consideration to those two sentiments.
1. It’s just so complicated.
2. What can we really do?
First, yes the crisis in Syria is complicated. It is also not complicated. The most important thing to understand is that innocent people need help now. In-depth understanding of the political landscape of the Middle East is not a prerequisite for grasping that fact. Five years of war waged by the Assad government has left millions of people displaced inside and outside Syria. They are suffering from inadequate access to food, shelter, and medical care. Reading this now, you already have all the knowledge and expertise necessary to understand how much help is desperately needed.
Second, feeling far removed from the crisis and limited in your ability to “make a difference” is normal.
The war on the Syrian people is enormous and well-funded, but each of us is only one person living so far away and without the financial resources of a national government. Although it may be hard to believe, we have tremendous power to deliver life-saving supplies and services to Syrians in need.
It really is that simple. Living in Minnesota, I have the opportunity to come together with hundreds of other Minnesotans to provide direct assistance to Syrians. As a Muslim and as a human, it is my responsibility. It is our responsibility.
Join CISPOS and Representative Keith Ellison for a CISPOS event for Syrians on Sunday, April 3, from 3:00 – 5:00 pm at Macalester Plymouth United Church in St. Paul as we come together to benefit the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS).
Hear testimony from Dr. Aref Al-Kali, a renowned Minnesota physician and leader in SAMS, about his work in Syria. Several Minnesota physicians have worked with Syrian refugees through SAMS. SAMS has provided aid to over 1.4 million Syrians since the conflict began.
The difference between making a difference and continuing to feel helpless is simply a matter of choice.
Choose to extend a hand.
More information on CISPOS and the April 3rd event at:
More on the crisis in Syria: http://www.syriadeeply.org/
Amber Michel is an adjunct professor of Human Relations and Multicultural Education at St. Cloud State University and chair of the board of directors of RISE (Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood of Empowerment) — a Muslim women’s nonprofit focusing on civic engagement, leadership development and philanthropy. She recently completed a master’s of liberal studies at the University of Minnesota. Amber’s writes and conducts research on how counter terrorism initiatives (particularly ‘Countering Violent Extremism’) impact Muslim organizations in America. She is especially interested in how policing and other methods of social control destabilize civil society organizations in the US. She has worked extensively with local scholars, leaders, Muslim communities and communities of color to build effective coalitions that effectively address issues related to civil rights, law enforcement, racism and discrimination.
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