It happens far from us, it seems…in Europe. Seen from America, the ordeals of the refugees, the abomination of their makeshift camps are blurred. It takes a stark image of a corpse floating on the sea to remind us we are all humans. And yet, at the Lycée Français de New York, we don’t need a punch in the stomach to understand how close to home the refugee crisis is.
Many of us are just coming back from summers in France, in Europe and elsewhere abroad. With 54 nationalities represented among our students at the school, all of us are directly or indirectly affected by the crisis. I am thinking, for example, of our Lebanese friends at the Lycée. Lebanon has already welcomed over 1.1 million refugees, and that in a country of 4.5 million inhabitants!
We hope the international situation will evolve. On September 19, world leaders will meet in New York, invited by the UN Secretary General to attend a summit for refugees and migrants (http://refugeesmigrants.un.org/), and, on September 20, on the margins of the General Assembly, President Obama will host the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees.
It is timely that “The Refugee Crisis – Past and Present” will be the topic of an event organized at the LFNY on Thursday, September 15 by the Yale Alumni Nonprofit Alliance (YANA). After a screening of the 26-minute documentary Visas and Virtue by Academy-Award winning filmmaker Chris Tashima, a discussion with distinguished guests will follow.This YANA conference is open to all. Find out more at yalenonprofitalliance.org
The question of movement of population will also be the focus of the first panel of our 2016-2017 21st Century Global Citizenship series, “Migrants: Crossing Borders, Changing Lives,” at the LFNY Cultural Center on Wednesday, October 19, at 6:30 pm in our auditorium
In one of her research papers, panelist Catherine Wihtol de Wenden quotes author Stefan Zweig, whose painful exile in Brazil led to his suicide (and also inspired the film Adieu l’Europe, released this summer). In his book, Le monde d’hier, Souvenirs d’un Européen, the Austrian writer laments the new borders created at the end of World War I. More than perhaps anyone else, Dr. Wihtol de Wenden, professor of political science in Paris and author of the Atlas Mondial des Migrations, knows the history of frontiers and borders. We are honored that she has accepted to come and talk at the Lycée Français de New York, participating in our October 19 panel, and also speaking to our high-school students the next day. Her student talk will be part of a renamed series of conferences for students called Celebrating Humanity in its Diversity, made possible by the generous support of LFNY parents Dr. Abou-Alfa and Dr. O’Reilly Abou-Alfa. Catherine Wihtol de Wenden will remind us how migrations have shaped the world for much of human history, and how recent developments in the economy, politics and technology have accelerated the movement of peoples, creating today’s refugee crisis.