Do unto others: Screening of ‘Salam Neighbor’

Robert F. Kennedy once said, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

On Wednesday, Feb. 7 the Oxfam Club, partnering with the Gallatin Refugee Connections, held a screening of “Salam Neighbor,” a documentary about Syrian refugees, in the Procrastinator Theater.

Oxfam is a global organization working to end the injustice of poverty. Oxfam takes on the big issues that keep people poor: inequality, discrimination and resource inequality. In alignment with Oxfam America’s mission, the Oxfam Club at MSU aims to construct and carryout projects focused on alleviating poverty, hunger and social injustice on both the international and local levels.

Oxfam Club President Kevin Bell said the club has “only been up and running for about a semester now.” Last fall, the Oxfam Club began volunteering at the Warming Center, which provides services to the needy here in Bozeman. He explained how this was their first event at MSU, and they are hoping to do more community outreach to spread awareness about the refugee problem and get people involved.

“If more people learn about what is going on, maybe more people will care,” Bell said, “and maybe we will move from a small group of people doing something to a larger one.”

The 2015 documentary began with a montage of sound bites from commentaries shown on CBS, CNN, Fox, etc. that repeated many of the things assumed about the Syrian refugee crisis.

As the film progressed, it slowly broke down these inaccurate assumptions by showing daily life within the Zaatari refugee camp, located in Jordan, seven miles away from a warzone.

When observing the refugee camp, it soon became clear why Zaatari was referred to as Jordan’s fourth largest city. People worked constantly. The daily lives of the refugees involved everything from collecting trash and turning it into one of a kind masterpieces, operating one of the 3,000 businesses, educating the youth in its three schools or volunteering in a community led program. The little down time they had was spent helping neighbors with supplies and assisting one another with pitching tents. Friends and families took this time to eat meals and drink tea with one another. The children were seen scattered around, curiously inspecting the new technology.

“I did not leave Syria. I was forced to leave Syria.” These words were spoken by a refugee in the film, and they echo the explanation of many of those who reside in the Zaatari refugee camp. Escaping what was then a four-year conflict, millions journeyed to neighboring countries seeking asylum after over 80 percent of the country’s infrastructure was destroyed by the war. As of today, there are an estimated 13.5 million Syrian refugees seeking some form of humanitarian assistance.

Rebecca Watters spoke after the film on behalf of the Gallatin Refugee Connections, reemphasizing the main theme of the film and answering questions from the crowd. As she pointed out, the way to help out is the same all over the world: get involved.

If you are looking to get involved, email the Oxfam Club at oxfammsu@gmail.com. To get in contact with Gallatin Refugee Connections, please reach out to gallatinrefugees@gmail.com.