More than 200 people gathered at Georgia Tech’s Historic Academy of Medicine on February 6 for “Asylum, Refuge, and Relocation: Multifaith and Community Responses to Global Migration,” the third annual symposium hosted by the Leadership and Multifaith Program (LAMP), a collaborative endeavor between Candler and the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts at Georgia Tech.

Candler faculty member and director of LAMP Deanna F. Womack notes that this year’s symposium drew double the number of attendees from last year. The daylong event took place in the midst of a tense political climate surrounding refugees and immigration, amplified by President Donald Trump’s January 27 executive order barring immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries. (Three days after the symposium, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the order.)

“The high attendance spoke to the urgency of creating a welcoming environment for immigrants and refugees in today’s America,” Womack says. “It was a reminder to the many individuals and organizations in Atlanta who are committed to this work that they are not alone. The symposium also reflected the religious diversity of the Atlanta community, and the possibilities of working together for change in our multifaith society.”

The symposium included a screening of After Spring, a documentary on the Syrian refugee crisis, a discussion with the film’s directors Ellen Martinez and Stephanie Ching, a keynote address by Center for Civil and Human Rights CEO Derreck Kayongo, and four workshops that provided concrete strategies for a variety of issues related to migrants and refugees. Two workshops featured Candler faculty: Scholar-in-Residence Marie Marquardt led one on working with detained asylum seekers, while Emmanuel Y. Lartey, L. Bevel Jones III Professor of Pastoral Theology, Care, and Counseling, co-led another on spiritual care with migrants and refugees.

First-year MDiv student Sarah Howell attended the event, where she was struck hardest by the long saga of Muslim and Arab immigration into North and South America and the vital role it still plays in the cultures’ shared history. “I was able to walk away with practical steps to use my voice both in the Atlanta community and nationally to advocate for my Muslim and Arab sisters and brothers, especially refugees and asylum seekers.”

In her opening remarks, Womack acknowledged the ongoing atmosphere of uncertainty for migrant communities in Georgia, across the United States, and throughout many parts of the world.

“We hope that this symposium will offer a forum for all of us to build stronger ties as we seek to make our communities safe spaces for all. Although the questions are many and we may not always agree on one solution, we have the opportunity to listen to and learn with one another as we face the challenges ahead together.” 

View a photo gallery of the 2017 LAMP Symposium.

[Photo: The directors of the documentary After Spring speak following the screening.]