HALIFAX – A Halifax man trying to help Syrian refugees re-settle in Nova Scotia said he is worried the attacks in Paris will fuel anti-refugee sentiment.
Mohamed Masalmeh and his family are from Syria. They immigrated to Halifax 20 years ago.
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He is helping Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia as the organization prepares to accept refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria.
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Masalmeh has been keeping tabs on the aftermath of the Paris attacks and said he hopes there won’t be any ripple effects on the refugee crisis.
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“A lot of people are saying, not only Syrians but refugees in general, close the borders, start double checking all of them, start putting them in concentration camps. That’s not the solution. You’re victimizing them again,” he said.
“They’re running away from that horror.”
Masalmeh said some family members have died in the conflict in Syria and said he is often anxious when he hears of attacks and incidents there. He empathizes with the people of Paris.
“In Syria, every day is similar to what happened in Paris,” he said.
“We know the pain of innocent victims getting killed. They’re running away from ISIS and now ISIS is following them right into Europe to cause more damage to them. We really connect to the victim’s families.”
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Masalmeh is Muslim and denounces how the attackers said they inflicted their carnage in the name of Islam.
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“Our religion never allows what they did. Those guys are lost. You’re not allowed to kill any innocent person in our religion,” he said.
“Those individuals who did the attacks, they’re misled individuals. They are ignorant and they acted on their ignorance.”
Community group not deterred in accepting refugees
Adrien Blanchette leads a refugee sponsorship committee on behalf of several churches in Dartmouth and on the Eastern Shore.
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The group started fundraising in September to help a family of four re-settle in the community. They’ve raised nearly half of the $27,000 needed to bring the family to the area.
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He said the effort was first started in response to the images of refugees fleeing the civil war.
“It’s really the job of churches to alleviate human suffering. I felt something should be done and I thought, let’s do it,” he said.
As the attacks in Paris unfolded on Friday night, Blanchette said there were some concerns from those in the group.
“They don’t want us to just open the door and let anybody in. There has to be a certain control on that. There has been, since Friday, an increase in that fear and those questions being asked by those people,” he said.
But Blanchette said community members have been reassured they are doing the right thing by helping out.
“[The Paris attacks] strengthened our resolve to do something and give a good example, to give an example to the world of doing something in love and in harmony with other people and welcoming other people rather than fighting them and resisting them,” he said.
The Musquodoboit Harbour Catholic and United Church refugee sponsorship committee expects the Syrian family to arrive next summer.
Immigration minister responds to attacks
Immigration Minister Lena Diab told media Sunday that her thoughts are with the victims in Paris and indirectly said the province would not be deterred by those events in accepting refugees.
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“We, as Canadians, have a duty to care and be compassionate to our brothers and sisters regardless of religion and regardless of whether they live in our country or not, ” she said.
“This is what we want to do. We want to be able to help refugees and bring as many as we can.”
Diab, who spoke with her federal counterpart Friday, said she is still awaiting word from the federal government about how many refugees will come to the province and when.