To Be a Refugee

Prayer vigils offer peace for synagogue massacre survivors


In its second year, To Be a Refugee, is an impactful journey that raises awareness of the experiences of those who enter a new country after being forced to leave their homeland by war, persecution or other disaster. Planned and organized by Alvernia students and the Campus Ministry department, the self-paced journey helps participants experience life from multiple aspects that include checkpoints, housing, health, education and food services.


“This simulation is a real opportunity for our community to leave their comfort zones and think about the struggle refugees face daily,” said Julianne Wallace, assistant to the president for mission. “As participants enter the simulation, they receive an identity card with the name, country of origin and background of a typical refugee, and they assume the role of that refugee throughout the entire experience,” she added.


According to Wallace, more than 65 million refugees and internally displaced persons start their day seeking water, food and shelter to meet the needs of their families. More than half of all refugees are children.


The interactive journey, which took place in November, featured a special prayer service for survivors and families of the synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh. Each prayer vigil, which lasted about 15 minutes, remembered those who died and offered words of comfort for families and survivors of the horrific tragedy. The refugee journey is designed to simulate the path one takes from home to camp and then highlights action steps to support the plight of refugees.


To Be a Refugee was created by alumna Alyssa Keifer, a 2018 graduate who received the Fromm Interfaith Scholarship during her senior year to raise awareness for the plight of refugees. The project is now part of the peace and social justice pillar of Campus Ministry.


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