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Syrian Refugees: An Open Letter to City Council

Editor’s note: The following letter was written by Uriah Ward. He plans to send it to the Mayor and each member of city council. If you would like to add your name, email

To the Mayor and City Councilors of Greenville,

I’m writing you to encourage you to take a difficult stand for something important by making an offer to help those in need.

The United States has moved to accept refugees who are fleeing the chaos and destruction of the Civil War in Syria. All across the country political figures have decided to stoke fear and have called for the refugees to be turned away from their county, their state or this country as a whole.

LadyLibertyThis decision to embrace fear over our tradition of charity and strength is damaging to us at home and abroad. The best of our nation is symbolized by a tall green figure proclaiming, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” We must be our best by aiding those whose lives have been destroyed by Daesh (ISIS) and show the world that we are still willing to be the shining example of what is right in the world.

Innocent people are fleeing a terrifying reality and need help. The federal government has already determined that refugees will be accepted into our country and the process has already begun. Those who have come out against this have no power to stop it, but have made an embarrassing symbolic gesture nonetheless.

Standing up to baseless fear, several governors and mayors – including that of our neighbor in Chapel Hill – have taken a stand for what is right and made it clear that refugees are welcome. We should do the same.

As a city we should constantly be looking for opportunities to stand out and boldly do what is right even when it isn’t easy. I want to encourage you to become a beacon of hope and clear thinking by passing a resolution expressing Greenville’s willingness to accept Syrian Refugees.

You may be inclined to dismiss this idea as something that doesn’t affect us or as something that the council has no control over; but I encourage you to not let pass this opportunity to display Greenville’s hospitality and generosity. If you take this stand, you will show the state and the world that Greenville is a place where cool heads, strong resolve and big hearts rule.

And if these refugees can escape terror by making their way to our city, I’m certain they will be happy to find themselves in good company.

Signed By: Nagwa Abdelfattah, Rania Al Aboshia, Tanya Acosta, Maysa Ahmad, Charlotte-Anne Alexander, Rouba Alhomysa, Aziza Alatrash Alhosaini, Amira Ali, Muneera Almathiab, Bina Amin, Mona Amin, Heather Anderson, Sheg Aranmolate, Maha Awadallah, Kelly Ayscue, Mohamed Badwan, Murad Badwan, Nahida Badwan, Rania Badwan, Sajedah Badwan, Samar Badwan, Wafa Badwan, Will Banks, Lisa Baranik, Tyler Beasley, Mary Brauer, Amy Bright, Kunny Brothers, Charli Boyd, Bajulus Brooks, Gerry Beaulieu, Glenesha Berryman, Holly Brown, Jessica Buzenski, Nancy Cabral, Jill Carlson, Lynn Caverly, Rasheda Council, Arjun Chowdhury, Angel Chukwu, Tanitra D. Cox, Christin Clements, Lorrie Coltraine, John Collins, Maria Concetta, Eleanor Cook, Sharon Crockett, Tim Crockett, Gina Cruz, Sara Dahbour, Asif Daher, Sharaz Daher, Kafa Daraw, Zahi Darawsheh, Melissa Decker, Tracy Donohue, Rich Elkins, Lisa Ellison, Manal Elnabtity, Shereen Eluri, Abby Fallahee, Laila Susan Farhadi, Frédéric Fladenmuller,Reece Flowers, Katherine Ford, Suzanne Frajj, Anna Froula, Tracie E. Gardner J.D, Elaine Georgalis, Brian Glover, Andrew Gorman, Brandon Gorman, Michelle Graziosi, Michael Gross, Katie Westling Gross, Roderick Hall, Cathy Brown Hardison, Nelson Harrington, Ray Hartsfield, Grace Haskin, Nadia Hamed Ann Hamze, Issame Hamze, Trey Hasty, Storm Henry, Thomas Herron, Will Hiebert, Cameron Hollis, Chris Hornaday, Bob Hudak, Abed Innab, Faeda Innab, Yousef Innab, Sam Jaeger, Jamie Johnson, Jennifer Benfield Johnson, Sarah Johnson, Michael Joy, Artemis Kares, Heba Khamis, Hafsah Khadeer, Beth Ketterman, Logan Keziah, Abdul Khadri, Brenna Owens Kirk, Amanda Klein, Sophronia Knott, Caroline Korch, Brandon Knox, Linda Leighty, Jenn Lewis, Adam Linker, Dawn Robinson Little, Delia Liuzza, Aaron Lucier, Gus Madrid, Hoda Maher, Rana Mallah,Rebekah Marie, Tori Martin, Christie Martoccia, Randall Martoccia, Karen Mathis, Ann Maxwell, Hap Maxwell, Melody Maxwell, Nathan Maxwell, Harmon Mayo, Jen McKinnon, Abbey Mercando, Tony Mercando, Richard Miller, Padon Moore, Trey Motley, Britney Mumphord, Thomas Scott Munn, Dana Cox Munn, Zach Munn, Alex Munn, Jonathan Murray, Emily Muse, Dave Nelson, Ola Nusierat, John O’Brien, Justice Payton, Candace Pearce, Franchine Philpot Pena, Megan Perry, Sharda Persaud, Gloria Poorman, Jake Postma, Dina Qoran, Howaida Abdel Rahman, Shadia Rahman, Sumayyah Sumi Razzaq, Laura-Kathleen Redman, Cindy Reed, John Reed, Kris Rixon, Mandy Robinson, Juvencio Rocha-Peralta, Rexford Rose, James Rossi, Diana Safa, Dunya Safa, Rida Said, Samira Fakhry Said, Kafa Salameh, Mohammad Salameh, Monjed Salameh, Tareq Salameh, Fida Sarsour, Kamal Sarsour, Heeba Nidal Sarsour, Tyrajia Sawyer-Smith, Camille Scales, Michael Schinasi, Dave Schwartz, Katie Schwartz, Matthew Scully, Jordan Scurlock, Deanna Sergi, Manal Shaheen, Sandy Shepherd, Leah Shirley, Debbie Shoop, Eric Shouse, Shari Sias, Nicole Nolan Sidhu, Lauren Smith, Matt Smith, Bri Snow,Victor Fernando Steed, Tyler Stocks, Diane Strathy, Pam Strickland, Amir Taha, Mark Taggart, Safia Thaher, Thomas Taylor, Angel Trujillo, Michael Tucker, Grace Turner, Jill Twark, Keerthana Velappan, Isaac Ward, Julian Ward, Uriah Ward, Alan Watts, Ryan Webb, Tim Webb, Theresa Pless White, David Wilbourne, Eleanor Willard, Maya Williams, Tricia Wilson-Okamura, Teresa Woolverton, Jacob Works, Sabrin Wshah, Shaimaa Zalzala, Haifa Zayyad, Ayyat Zeidan

Responses (3)

  1. Shari Sias says:

    Well said! Please add my name to the letter.

  2. Rick Smiley says:

    While I agree with many of the sentiments in this letter, I do not believe this is a question that City Council should take up. As the letter acknowledges, any declaration made by the Greenville City Council would be entirely symbolic. Greenville’s “willingness to accept” refugees has no real-world impact. If we want them, we have no way to bring them here. If we don’t want them, we have no way of stopping them (or even detecting them as far as I can tell). Thousands of people arrive and leave our city daily and no one attempts to identify or tally them.

    Symbolic statements can be useful when they derive from widespread consensus. When such consensus does not exist, however, the ill will created by arguments over symbolism can be costly. Immigration and national security are highly divisive issues upon which men and women of goodwill disagree. At the moment, those disagreements are fueled by high-stakes national and international events. I am not at all confident that a City Council debate on these issues will be any less contentious than similar debates in Congress or around our office water coolers and dinner tables. Our best intentions may not lead us to demonstrate “cool heads, strong resolve, and big hearts.”

    Where the newly elected City Council can best serve the citizens of Greenville is by finding places where most of us might agree. The recent election, as most elections do, led us to focus on our disagreements – and certainly many of those disagreements persist. The opportunity for progress, however, lies in areas characterized by good faith, common ground, and broad support. The search for such opportunities is not served, is in fact undermined, by going out of the way to address symbolic questions rife with controversy.

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