WASHINGTON (CNS) – Omar al-Muqdad has seen both sides of the refugee crisis. In 2004, he assisted Iraqi refugees in his home country of Syria. And then nearly a decade later, he escaped the civil war in his country by first going to Turkey and then finding a temporary home in 2012 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he was the only Syrian refugee in the state.
“I thought I knew what it was like to be a refugee, then I became a refugee and I needed someone to help me,” he told Catholic News Service April 15.
He realizes there is no rule requiring people to help refugees, but he feels there is an underlying premise that they should.
“It’s a human responsibility. We need to look after each other. You also don’t know if (this situation) could happen to you or someone else,” said al-Muqdad who met with officials of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Migration and Refugee Services in mid-April to share his experiences.
Al-Muqdad, 36, was assisted by MRS, Catholic Charities of Arkansas, the Diocese of Little Rock and St. Joseph Parish in Fayetteville. They helped him find an apartment and get what he needed, including rides to places while getting established in the United States and working toward citizenship. Today he lives in Arlington, Virginia, and works as a journalist.