November 13, 2019
NEWBURGH, N.Y. -
At an event held by Mount Saint Mary College’s Catholic and Dominican Institute, attendees gained a new perspective on refugee immigration through the lens of poetry.
The event was held on Wednesday, November 6 in honor of the feast of the Dominican Saint Martin De Porres, the patron saint of social justice and racial harmony.
Featuring poets Sharif S. Elmusa and Gregory Orfalea, the event’s readings touched on themes of home and human hardship.
Elmusa and Orfalea read poems written by several poets and spoke of the beauty of their writers’ homelands, the tragedies that forced them to leave, and the struggles of settling anew.
Elmusa and his family were among thousands of Palestinians who left the country during the creation of Israel in 1948. Before his readings, Elmusa explained how thinkers, poets, and refugees have defined “home” over time.
“Home is where people can pronounce your name on the gravestone correctly,” Elmusa explained, “where people can meet their basic human needs – where you feel attachment and rootedness.”
Elmusa added that for many refugees, the countries to which they immigrate rarely feel like home at first. Basic needs such as a sense of self-worth and belonging are often difficult for refugees to obtain in foreign lands, he said.
Orfalea discussed the ongoing conflict in Syria. Orfalea’s grandfather emigrated from Arben, Syria in the 1920s, and the struggles of the Syrian people continue to resonate with Orfalea, today.
“The city of Arben was small when I saw it at the age of 22 in the ’70s,” he explained. “It grew to about 50,000… and there’s no one there now.”
The Catholic and Dominican Institute promotes the college’s Dominican heritage, provides discussion forums for contemporary ethical issues, and enhances inter-faith dialogue. Guided by the college’s mission statement, the institute welcomes persons of varied faiths and acknowledges religious diversity as essential to the college’s intellectual and spiritual life.