08 Oct 2015
Local supporters of Syrian refugees lined the Colorado State Capitol steps Oct. 3, holding candles hoping to get the U.S. to welcome thousands more from the war-torn region.
Event organizer Amal Kassir, a Syrian-American poet with a personal connection to the cause, was moved as she took the microphone.
“Oh my goodness, the light is so beautiful,” Kassir said. “My dad is from Syria. My mom is from Iowa. Home is where your mother is. My father’s mother is not at home right now.”
Kassir, along with Nadeen Ibrahim and Bosnian refugee, Erna Lukac, created the event and mobilized the support of more than a dozen organizations, including the Muslim Student Association at Auraria Campus. The event spanned over an hour featuring speakers, music and a moment of silence.
Ibrahim explained that 477,906 people have fled Syria so far, with numbers climbing daily. The European Union has made a plan for only 120,000 refugees, numbers corroborated by the United Nations. Ibrahim shared the group’s mission with the crowd, saying they were calling upon the U.S. to take in 65,000 Syrians by 2016.
“I have friends that are in Greece and see people coming in from the thousands,” Ibrahim said. “I would like to be in a home where bombs are not dropping above me.”
Lukac, who fled from Bosnia to the U.S. as a child and now studies at CU Boulder, echoed Ibrahim’s hopes for the refugees.
“I grew up in the United States very aware of how lucky I was,” Lukac said. “I’m here because the children drowning in Syria could’ve been me.”
Jennifer Gueddiche, director of the African Community Center in Denver, which has helped resettle refugees since 2001, addressed not only her organization’s mission, but the misgivings people have about refugees.
For those that would say refugees are lazy or would rather be here over their own homes, Gueddiche said, “You’ve never met a refugee.”
“We are ready for the Syrians to arrive,” Gueddiche said. “We’re ready to welcome them into our homes.”
The crowd cheered at Gueddiche’s remarks.
Leela Timsina, a Bhutanese refugee who came to the U.S. in 2010, echoed Gueddiche’s remarks. Accompanied by his two young sons, Timsina called for action on behalf of Syrians. “Let us be the first state to welcome Syrian refugees,” Timsina said.
The event continued despite raindrops and dropping temperatures.
Lukac sang, “This Little Light of Mine,” as volunteers lit votive candles in front of the State Capitol steps.
“This world is such a hard, hard place some days,” Kassir said. “It makes you want to give up.”
Kassir then urged the crowd to look around and notice that despite religion and race, they were there together in compassion.
As volunteers struggled to keep the candles lit, supporters descended the Capitol steps to help keep the lights going.
Another musician sang and played Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” on his guitar.
For volunteer Tiffany Caudill, the song and the Syrian’s struggle, struck a personal chord.
Caudill, who considered herself a “pretty big activist” in other areas prior to the event, couldn’t help but come to the Capitol.
“Obviously, aside from the fact that we’re all humans, I’m a mom too,” Caudill said. “Half of those affected are children.”