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Panelists share stories, research of refugee crisis

About 50 people gathered inside Park Library Auditorium on April 13 to attend a panel discussion aimed at the refugee crisis.

"Finding Home: The Refugee Crisis in the U.S. and Abroad" was put on by the registered student organization Student Advocates for Forced Migrants (SAFM). The panel was also sponsored by the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences.

The panelists were Prakash Adhikari, an associate professor of Political Science at Central Michigan University, and Nuha Aswad, a human rights activist from Syria. It also included Dhan Katiwoda, a refugee from Bhutan who was resettled in Grand Rapids, and Daniel Slane, who works alongside Katiwoda at Bethany Christian Services, a refugee resettlement agency in Grand Rapids.


The event started with stories from the panelists, followed by a question and answer session.

“A lot of people have misconceptions regarding the refugee crisis,” said Scottville freshman Kaci Clayton, president of SAFM. “Rather than assuming what they do or don’t know, we wanted to give them the reigns in asking the questions they wanted answered.”

Questions stemmed from the stories and research shared by the four panelists.

Both Aswad and Katiwoda shared emotional stories regarding their experiences with resettlement. Both Aswad and Katiwoda’s stories involved being separated from their families and detailing the resettlement process.

“I have heard (Katiwoda's) story many times and every time I hear it, it moves me,” Slane said. “It is not something I have ever lived, so it provokes a lot of questions and emotions in me. It’s almost unimaginable that someone had to go through something like that.”

Alpena freshman Connor Thatcher, a member of SAFM, said the discussion opened people's eyes to see that refugees are nothing to be afraid of.

The event also included insights on the current political climate in Syria, while making it known that the panel was not there to influence ones’ military or policy beliefs.

Clayton said the group is focused on having another panel to focus on specific countries and plans to take trips to Bethany Christian Services and Freedom House Detroit to do service projects.

Slane said the work SAFM has been doing is very important.

“This event was important to get information out to the community so the community will get fired up about the possibility of accepting refugees,” Slane said. “It is also important to highlight the work of the student organization that brought me here.”