UB students walk to raise awareness for Syrian refugee crisis

Muslim Student Association and Students for Justice in Palestine hold walk from North to South Campus


On Friday, UB students gathered together on North Campus dressed in black, white and green to represent the Syrian flag.

In an hour and 40 minutes, they walked to South Campus, highlighting a “fraction” of the struggle Syrian refugees go through to get to safety.

“We hear the stories, we see the pictures of people fleeing on boat, on foot, having little to no resources, dying along the way and we thought ‘this [walk] isn’t that crazy in context if we think of the world,’” said Samiha Islam, a junior linguistics and psychology major and president of the Muslim Student Association (MSA).

MSA and Students for Justice in Palestine held a walk from North Campus to South Campus on Friday to raise awareness on the Syrian refugee crisis. MSA also held a fundraiser during the walk to donate to the crisis. Eighty-seven students and community members participated in the walk, according to Islam.

Muhammad Taha, a sophomore chemical engineering major and member of MSA, walks from North Campus to South Campus regularly and thought organizing a walk of the same route would be a good way to increase awareness.

“An Islamic tradition states that the community is like one body,” Islam said. “If one part hurts the rest should feel the pain. So the world is like our community so if one part of it is hurting we want to be able to do something.”

Students and Buffalo community members gathered outside of Capen Hall for the walk to South Campus. They split into three teams and each team represented a color on the Syrian flag. The final destination of the walk was Harriman Hall on South Campus.

Islam said she wanted students to “get beyond Facebook statuses” and take action.

“Every once in a while we’ll see the image of the child who was brought out of the bombed building and it’s spread across the world, it went viral and we felt bad, but what did we do?” Islam said.

She said college students often tend to be “sharers” rather than “doers.”

“I think one of the things that we really wanted to do as MSA is shake off the disengaged mindset,” Islam said.

MSA holds a halal food sale every Friday where they sell foods from different vendors to students. Last week, they lowered all of their food prices and donated all proceeds to the Syrian refugee crisis.

Islam and other members of the MSA e-board discussed organizing a walk to raise awareness for the refugee crisis since last semester.

“We thought maybe by the time the next semester rolls around [the refugee crisis] won’t be as relevant anymore, maybe it won’t be as big of an issue, but the amazing thing was it just gets bigger and bigger and bigger,” she said. “The refugee crisis is as relevant if not more so today than it was last semester. “

Another one of the objectives of the walk was to break Muslim stereotypes, Islam said.

“As Muslims, we often get so much negative feedback. Every time something happens and a Muslim is related to it we get the fingers pointed [at us],” she said. “We are not responsible for a lot of the evil that goes on in the world and instead of being on the backpedal and apologizing, we want to be proactive.”

She said the walk helped show the “real image of Islam versus the bias that comes from the media.”

The walk ended with a moving screening called of a documentary film called “Waiting at the Door.” Akram Shilby, a former UB student, made the documentary after visiting Syrian refugee camps with his family.

Students that participated in the walk later felt that it was more than just a club event.

“Initially it was part of a class project to find a group to immerse myself in but when I found out about the walk, I wanted to support them and do what I can,” said Jessica Yost, a first-year higher education administration graduate student who participated in the walk.

Mohammed Siddiqi, a sophomore psychology major and MSA secretary said it’s important to understand what refugees are going through. He said the walk to South Campus was a small effort in showing their care for Syria.

Ashley Inkumsah is the co-senior news editor and can be reached at ashley.inkumsah@ubspectrum.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AshleyInkumsah.