In 2016, author Kevin Tuerff met members of the Alsayed Ali family, new residents of Gander. Thanks to the Gander Refugee Outreach Project, Syrian refugees are witnessing kindness to strangers that he experienced there as a displaced person during the 9/11 crisis.
Kindness to refugees
With terror attacks occurring in America on 9/11, Texan Kevin Tuerff felt like a refugee in a foreign country. It was only a few days that he was stranded in Gander, Newfoundland, but he was considered a displaced person, because he couldn’t go home due to hostile conflict. Like refugees, he had no food, clothing or shelter or information. Canadians didn't have to let 6,579 travelers (from 40 different countries) off airplanes diverted to their town into their country. But they did.
What if another terrorist was on one of those 38 diverted flights? After all, there were Muslim Arabs among the 6, 579 passengers. Gander Mayor Claude Elliott said, "We never gave it a second thought. We needed to help these people with food, clothing and shelter during a time of an emergency."
In 2017, the small town of Gander continues to inspire others across the world. In 2016, despite a lack of resources, churches held bake sales and other fundraisers to raise enough money to bring refugee families from Syria to their community.
The Gander Beacon reported "of the four families that arrived in Summer 2016, one hundred percent of the men and fifty percent of the women have jobs. Their children are doing well in school." Gander Town Councilor Sarah McBreairty said, "There have been some struggles because the families are learning English, but we have amazing volunteers who are going above and beyond to help make it work."
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is publicly welcoming refugees who are properly vetted through an 18-month, 5-step security screening which begins with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the Middle East.
America is restricting Syrian refugees from entering the country, based solely on fear of religion. It’s called Islamaphobia. Although more than 4.8 million Syrians are refugees outside of their country, the US State Department has only resettled some 16,000 Syrians (Feb. 2016).
According to the Cato Institute, there have been zero reported terror attacks by Sryrian or other refugees since 1980. The United States accepted more than 130,000 refugees from Iraq, for example, since 2007. No terrorist violence has been committed by any of them since arriving in the country. Are we allowing fear to take precedence over caring for the stranger in need?
In both the Jewish Torah and Christian Bible, we're told, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Let's unite to inspire kindness, especially among the world’s record 60 million refugees. Of course we should prioritize security of the homeland, but this shouldn’t be an all or nothing solution. There is room for compromise without blanket travel bans and funding cuts to refugee resettlement agencies.
Book fans of “Channel of Peace: Stranded in Gander on 9/11” donated more than $15,000 to Gander Refugee Outreach Project in 2016-17.
Proceeds from sales of the book going foward will be donated to various refugee resettlement charities by the author.
Read more in Chapter 9, “What now? Kindness and Refugees” of the book.