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President Wagner urges attention to refugee issue

The current refugee crisis "is a catastrophe made by human hands” and "human hands must help in trying to alleviate the enormous suffering we witness daily,” Emory President James Wagner writes in a letter urging the Emory community to learn more about the plight of refugees and other migrants displaced by the catastrophe unfolding in Syria, Libya and Iraq.

The following letter was sent Sept. 24, 2015, to the Emory community on behalf of President Jim Wagner:

Dear members of the Emory community,

In recent weeks — indeed, for several years now — all of us have been stunned by the catastrophe unfolding in Syria, Libya, and Iraq and spilling beyond those countries’ borders to Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Europe. This is a catastrophe made by human hands, and many of you rightly have noted that human hands must help in trying to alleviate the enormous suffering we witness daily. Some of you have written to me with suggestions about how Emory might respond.

While the university is not equipped to take on directly the work of caring for, housing, and providing jobs and security for the refugees and other migrants making their way from Syria and elsewhere, there are some things we can do.

To begin with, as a community dedicated to education, we should be doing all that we can to inform ourselves about the reasons for conflict and flight, the needs of those affected, and possible pathways toward hope.

We are fortunate to have on our faculty experts with knowledge of the affected regions. Some of them (Dabney Evans, Tom Lancaster, Lynn Huffer, and Falguni Sheth, among others) have lent their voices to public discussions of the current crisis. Others may know of possibilities to offer help in Europe and the Middle East. We can be learning from them.

Individually, we are adept at researching the most transparent, responsible, and efficient avenues for getting donations to the people in need. Our students have a laudable tradition of stepping up in the wake of disaster and sponsoring activities to raise funds for aid organizations. Reviews and evaluations of relief agencies can be found at We can take action through these means.

I am grateful but not surprised by the outpouring of concern from the Emory community. To the extent that we are able as individual citizens of the world, we must do what we can to alleviate the suffering we see by encouraging our public officials to act and by supporting those organizations working most directly to provide help.

With my thanks for your example,

Jim Wagner

President, Emory University

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