#WorldRefugeeDay – An Interview with Dr. Georgette Bennett, Founder of Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees

In honor of #WorldRefugeeDay this week, we’re happy to share a few stories from some of the changemakers working tirelessly to make a difference.

Dr. Georgette Bennett

Founder, Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees (MFA)

What is Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees?  
MFA is an international coordinating body, network and vehicle for harnessing the power of the faith-based and civil society collective.  Our four-part mission includes:  raising awareness of the crisis and the growing dangers of not addressing it; raising funds for organizations providing direct services to Syrian war victims on the ground, facilitating partnerships between organizations working on similar issues, and planting the seeds for future stability in the region by fostering people-to-people engagement.  Our work involves international government briefings, civil society presentations, developing tools for engagement, providing accurate information, and working collaboratively on crucial policy reform.
How did you get involved?
I’ve been a Board Member and now Overseer of the International Rescue Committee for 24 years.  When I read their January 2013 report on the Syrian Refugee Crisis, I was overwhelmed by the scale of this tragedy.  As a Jew, a child of Holocaust survivors, and a refugee myself, I could not stand by idly.  I felt compelled to become actively engaged in alleviating this terrible suffering.  At the same time, as Founder and President of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, I saw an opportunity for building bridges between communities that heretofore saw each other as enemies – and this has been one of the most gratifying and ground-breaking aspects of the work.
What have you learned since beginning working on this project?  
Even sworn enemies can rise above politics, mutual suspicion, and hatred to work together to alleviate human suffering.  When diverse religious voices unite to focus on the Syrian crisis, they can serve as the conscience of our nation.
What is one piece of information you wish everyone understood about refugee resettlement?  
Syrian refugees are not terrorists; they’re escaping terror.  On the whole, they are a highly educated, skilled and entrepreneurial people, whose presence in the U.S. will be a net gain.  By leaving Syrian refugees in limbo – especially the children who have been deprived of years of education – we are contributing to the very condition that we fear the most:  radicalization.
How can someone get involved with Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees?  
There are many ways:  we have a commitment form on our website and specific buttons for engagement:  we have an extraordinary group of skilled volunteers and would welcome more; host a speaking tour for MFA in your community to educate, advocate, and address the hot-button issues related to Syrian resettlement in the U.S.; donate to MFA to support our activities; use MFA’s tools for local action; sign petitions; using MFA’s “Common Myths & Startling Facts” sheet, use social media to counter anti-refugee rhetoric.

The Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees (MFA), a project of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding in cooperation with JDC, is a coalition of more than 60 faith-based and secular organizations. Our mission is to mobilize global support to alleviate the Syrian humanitarian crisis, heighten awareness of its growing dangers, and advance future stability in the region. MFA conducts crisis-related briefings in the U.S. and abroad, facilitates relationships between complementary partner organizations working to help Syrian war victims, and nurtures transformative people-to-people diplomacy in the region.