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Students in Loyola University New Orleans’ Acclaimed Middle East Peace Studies Program Host “Syria and Beyond Refugee Benefit”

Loyola press release - April 14, 2016

First-ever benefit to raise funds for Syrian refugees will bring performances from artists, intellectuals, poets during university’s Eighth Annual Student Peace Conference

In conjunction with this month’s Eighth Annual Student Peace Conference slated to run April 18-22 at Loyola University New Orleans, students in Loyola’s acclaimed Middle East Peace Studies program have organized a fundraiser gala designed to raise funds to help Syrian refugees. Artists, poets, dancers and musicians will join the fun as students raise awareness of the ongoing crisis, in keeping with the university’s mission of “working for a more just world.”

The “Syria and Beyond Refugee Benefit” runs from 7 to 10 p.m. on Wednesday, April 20, in Nunemaker Auditorium, located in the newly renovated Monroe Hall on Loyola’s main campus, 6363 St. Charles Ave. The event is open to the public, and tickets will be sold at the door for $5. Donations are also welcome.

The event promises a silent auction, raffle, henna tattoos, and more. Mona’s Café and Deli, a Middle Eastern Restaurant chain and international market based in New Orleans, will provide light Middle Eastern fare, while Sodexo Services, which provides catering and dining services at Loyola, will contribute drinks and services.

“We hope to make this event a wonderful evening of music, food, art, and poetry all while raising awareness for this tragedy that more than 5 million displaced people around the world are currently facing,” said Summer AbuKhomra, a junior History major who will minor in Middle East Peace Studies.

Students have designed a night of performances and readings that will both enlighten and entertain.

During the three-hour event, guests will listen to the music of Delta Blues singer songwriter Jonny Azari; hear readings by Tulane University scholars Drs. Teresa Villa-Ignacio and Dr. Edwige Tamalet Talbayev in Arabic, French and English; and listen as Andy Young, a poet, editor, and essayist teaching at Tulane University and New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center, and journalist Khaled Hegazzi conduct a bilingual reading of works by condemned Arabic writers.

Guests will hear classical Arabic music sung and performed on an oud by Dr. Elias Khalaf, a native of Lebanon and former assistant professor of computer science at Loyola, and Dr. Nidal Abirafeh, a native of Lebanon and an assistant professor of medicine and interventional cardiologist at the Tulane Medical Center.

Mwende "FreeQuency" Katwiwa, an Anti-Racist and Reproductive Justice organizer who has spent most of her life living and writing at the intersection of arts, education and activism, will read poetry in English. Zohreh Khaleghi, a poet, artist, art critic, and journalist, will read poetry in Persian and English.

Dancers from New Orleans’ Crescent Lotus Belly Dance Studio will perform belly-dancing, while musical group Love Child will perform a “musical amalgamation of jazz, soul, alternative, and hip-hop.”

Students have determined that event proceeds will be distributed evenly to three well-known and highly respected NGO’s: The American Refugee Committee, Catholic Relief Services, and Doctors Without Borders.

“Unfortunately, media coverage only discusses this situation in political terms (with more of a focus on where these displaced people will go) rather than focusing on the issues of trauma, and lack of food, medical care, and other necessities we all take for granted,” AbuKhomra said.

“Those living in refugee camps face the uncertainty of how long they will remain in these camps, which can be anywhere from a few months to a few years. While the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is currently providing aid, there are many NGO’s in the region that are also working to aid displaced people in the Middle East.”

Learn more about artists, poets, and intellectuals performing at the gala.