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Theme 1: Syrian Refugees and International Response

Dear Educators,

As we are about five weeks from meeting in Jordan, Elley and I would like to share some materials with you on some of the key themes of our course. As this is the start of our use of the Yak Board, we encourage you to post an introduction about yourself so we can start to get to know each other. You can read about Elley and myself in our introduction posts, and also check the Yak on ‘Pre-departure reading and materials’ which gives an overview of the themes we are introducing from today.

From now until we all meet in Jordan, we will post weekly Field Notes to share resources and provide prompts for reflection on the course themes. You are requested to follow the prompts and post a response to each week’s theme.

Our objectives in this process are more than simply getting the conversations started before the course. The reflections will provide a way for you to assess your own knowledge and areas of interest, which will help us to shape the course appropriately. The resources and subsequent discussion are intended to highlight the diverse discourses and perspectives on the themes running through the course. By sharing resources (ranging from academic and humanitarian research to media articles and online videos), we aim to deepen our shared understanding of issues and build common reference points prior to our on-course learning and exploration.

Our approach to learning from different sources and experiences through the pre-course, in-field program and post-course transference means that our understandings can gradually be built upon, transformed, or even cast aside to be replaced by revised understanding.

Course Theme 1: Syrian Refugees and the International Response

We’ve decided to start this conversation with a thread focused on the Syrian Refugees and an exploration of the range of discourse taking place in the media in the US and beyond.

Initial Thoughts
As a first step, take time to assess your own current knowledge, as well as become acquainted with what exists in the media.

Without searching online, what do you know about the plight of the Syrians and the experience of refugees? What are some gaps in your knowledge? Where has this information come from, which sources? Lastly, would you consider the majority of your sources and media influences inspiring a sense of fear, or a sense of interconnectedness?

In next week’s post, we will focus on the situation of Syrian refugees hosted in Jordan, moving from the lens of western media to the in-country humanitarian response.

Resources
Refer to the resources provided (see list at the end of this post), as well as your own research. Identify sources on the Syrian Refugee crisis (and the political rhetoric surrounding it) that you feel represent a fear-based narrative, and a few that you feel represent a welcoming and/or sentimental-based reaction. How would you describe the range that exists in the US media’s treatment of Syrian Refugees?

Reflections
Compare what you find on the internet with your own personal exploration. Again, consider the bias and influences that inform your existing knowledge. How are your opinions impacted by the media and discussions by political candidates?

Engaging your Students!
As an additional activity: this could be an interesting exercise to engage your students in! It could also be part of your own transference experience to follow up with them after your course, comparing what you knew, and what they reported out before the course with what you observed during your time in Jordan.

Can’t wait to hear your reflections!

Paul and Elley

Resources:

Overview of Syria conflict: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/08/world/middleeast/war-in-syria-maps.html

Syrian refugee journey (interactive): http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-32057601

Political response to Syrian refugees in the USA; https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/29/us/muslim-refugees-trump.html

Refugees and the media: https://en.unesco.org/news/correcting-media-myths-about-terrorism

A beautiful essay by Omid Safi on love and refugees: https://onbeing.org/blog/love-in-a-time-of-refugees