Welcoming our Syrian neighbors

By Lawrence G. Jensen

In just a few months, the first Syrian refugees may begin to arrive in Rutland, and as they settle in they will be far removed from the culture and places they have known as their home. Good neighbors and strong communities welcome newcomers and provide a friendly environment that meets their religious, cultural, and educational needs.

We view this as a great time for the Rutland community and for College of St. Joseph, with plentiful educational opportunities for students, residents and Syrians arriving in Rutland.

The refugees arriving here would have great needs to better understand English, learn of our culture, and find suitable space for prayer and worship. Rutlanders would find the need to understand Syrian culture and customs as well. To that end, we have to look no further than the core values of the Sisters of St. Joseph, who founded College of St. Joseph 60 years ago. These core values have guided CSJ as the most diverse college in the state and can help us gain perspective in the ways that we welcome the Syrians to our community.

The core values of the Sisters promote “gracious hospitality” and “love and service of the dear neighbor without distinction.” CSJ would have a wonderful chance to evidence these core values by bringing Rutland’s distinct and diverse populations together in education and service.

CSJ is currently exploring ways in which the college can be of best service to the Syrians and Rutland as a whole, including:

Hosting events to bring Syrians, Rutlanders and college students into the same space to socialize and gain a greater understanding of one another.

Utilizing faculty expertise in Middle Eastern culture to provide education and training in Syrian culture, as well as workshops or courses in English and American culture for refugees.

Provider scholarship students working with the Syrian refugee population throughout the year as a learning experience for both groups. This provides an uncommon learning opportunity for students to understand another culture and complete service work that is meaningful to the community, their education and to the lives of the Syrians.

The College of St. Joseph family would proudly help Rutland’s Syrian population settle into our community to find success, happiness and a new place they are comfortable to call home. It’s in our mission. It’s in our values. It’s simply who we are.

Lawrence G. Jensen is interim president of the College of St. Joseph in Rutland

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