Students gain a new perspective on crisis
Topic of refugees presents thoughtful discussion for students. | Chak Hee Lo/THE CHIMES
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported over 60 million people forcibly removed from their homes in 2016, resulting in more than 20 million refugees, over half under the age of 18. The number of refugees has reached an all-time high, affecting places and people in both large and small ways all over the world, including Southern California.
Though Biola often appears to live in its own bubble, students have strongly encountered the current topic of the refugee crisis on campus through Missions Conference sessions, awareness groups at the conference, alumni action and Blackstone’s interactive all-hall.
“For communications studies, we had a chapel that was specifically for our department where we were just talking about refugees, the refugee situation,” said Emma Bailey, junior communications studies major and Resident Advisor of Blackstone. “So I think it is [talked about] but I definitely think it should continue and could probably continue to grow that even further.”
In another's shoes
Current students have plunged into the conversation by providing thought-provoking experiences for other students. Three weeks ago, the Blackstone Hall RA team used their all-hall event as a simulation of a refugee’s life.
“It was interesting that it was not a typical all-hall. Most all-halls are for fun relaxation and it’s kind of silly, and this all-hall was very serious and looking into issues of the world,” said Abrianna Keller, senior mathematics major.
Danielle McConnell, RA of Blackstone Hall, first suggested the idea of doing an all-hall focusing on the refugee crisis, and her team accepted the idea with enthusiasm.
Learning to empathize
“We wanted to do an all-hall that was a little bit more purposeful,” Bailey said. “We just feel like there can be a lot of misconceptions in the topic of the refugee crisis, so we just wanted to shed light on empathy in the situation.”
The all-hall consisted of different stations throughout Blackstone Hall. The simulation began on the first floor, where RAs split people into groups of two and led them into the multipurpose room. There residents received a vague briefing on the events of the evening. The RAs then blindfolded them while news videos of refugee coverage played in the background.
Then RAs led them to the next floor, gave them an identity card and had them find their “family” in the crowd. After they found their “family,” the RAs led them to an empty room on the next floor, which served as a shelter. At this stage, residents had to give up some of their things, such as their shoes and phones.
“They just had to sit there and they were given shelter, but didn’t really have much communication about what was going on,” Bailey said.
While the residents sat in the “shelter,” the RAs explained what would happen realistically for refugees in a shelter and then led the residents to an obstacle course, which symbolized the process of crossing borders. In order to cross the course, people had to rely on their partners’ help.
“It was really complicated, and just showing that crossing the border is a really complicated process,” Bailey said.
Finally, they went to a room and watched a video by Alicia Keys called “Let Me In,” which showed a hypothetical situation in which southern Californians needed to flee persecution by migrating to Mexico. Then they debriefed with the RAs and the RD of Blackstone about the emotional simulation they had just experienced.
“It was really cool. We got a lot of good feedback, and then afterwards we sent out some emails with a lot of good info for people to get involved,” Bailey said. “It’s been neat to see even one of our RAs did a refugee training in real life to learn how to help more with refugees, and she’s been able to tell us more about that experience.”
Mission Conference’s theme of “Witness: Come and See, Go and Do” came back often to the point of witnessing to refugees. Not only did World Horizons have representative Kris Keating lead a breakout session on “Witnessing to Refugees,” but many organizations such as Voice of the Refugees attended and held booths in the Missions Fair.
“Just coming out of the [Blackstone Hall] simulation and then Missions was this past weekend… [Biola] talked a lot about refugees,” said Raquel Hamm, sophomore Christian Ministries major.
The conference held a multitude of opportunities for Biolans to learn about and get involved in helping refugees both in Southern California and overseas.
Additionally, some Biola alumni have delved into the fight for refugees, encouraging students to do the same. In the summer of 2016, alumni of Biola shared their experiences of helping refugees overseas in an article by the Biola Magazine. Olivia Blinn, a 2014 graduate, described her experience of seeing God’s work in the refugee crisis.
“Hearing the stories from our team working there has reminded me that God is big and is moving in mighty ways,” Blinn said in the article.