February 2023 Newsletter

From Christiaan's desk

About Youssef. Looking back to look forward.

Christiaan Morssink, January 23, 2023

Philadelphia is a sanctuary city. Local politicians have taken that stance and many NGOs in the city work diligently with the local officials to provide shelter, care and support. Refugees know and can attest. The UNA-GP has been a great supporter of this sanctuary stance, recognizing the Quaker mindset that still dominates our city’s character. I love being and working in this city.

We have done our share on learning and understanding the plight of refugees and promoting their entries. Immigrants and refugees have been in our audience and in our speaker seats. When the Arab Spring blossomed (alas, a much too short period) and the Syrian Civil War unleashed unspeakable horror and terror we learned from the victims and participants. As early as 2011 we co-sponsored an event at UPenn, where the rapper Omar Offendum and scientists from Lebanon reflected on the outlook for an Arab Spring in Syria. We worked with Muhammad Sattaur, whose path of study and immersion of the Quran led him to create the Imam Ghazali Institute in New York. We had the honor of hosting Maya Khezam as speaker at our UN Cafes, where she laid bare the dramas of the onset of the Syrian civil war and the atrocities that unfolded. Maya had to interrupt her studies, but somehow got back on track in world of pharmacy; I believe she now works in Paris.

And in 2016, as speakers at our annual garden party/fundraiser, Bob Groves invited Matilda Issata Sawie of Liberia;

Youssef Abbara of Syria, and Adama Bangura of Sierra Leone, to bear witness of the tribulations that refugees undergo. Tribulations of Refugees.

Now in 2023, Amada Bangura works in taxes and financing right here in the greater Philadelphia region (she has a UN flag with her LinkedIn profile) and we find that Matilda Sawie is a delegate for Pennsylvania of the Refugee Congress and works at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. Refugee Congress. We touched them and they touched us. It’s what happens in a sanctuary city.

What about Youssef?

I stayed in touch with Youssef over the years. He struggled mightily to make it in Philadelphia. He had a group of friends, we met each other at some get-togethers and he even lend me a hand, with his friend in the yard. But he never got his emotional health at the right level. He was homesick, he missed his elderly parents and the city of Philadelphia simply could not replace Homs. In April 2018, he went to Lebanon to meet with his family and eventually he went back, back to Homs. His parents needed him, he needed his parents. He transferred the stress of being a refugee into the stress of the prodigal son.

He found a calling of sorts in Homs. Youssef started to care for stray cats and dogs. In the aftermath of the

intense cruelty and destruction of the Civil War, in any civil war for that matter, pets are losers as well.Youssef has found a way to calm the stresses of his mental health by caring for animals. Something that the authorities condone, something PIC here that does not create strife between all that is humanity. He got himself a license and he operates now an animal shelter. He seeks help of course, because this kind of work is not financially rewarding, and pets need to eat and receive regular care from veterinarians. He sends me regularly photo’s via WhatsApp and I promised to mention his new cause among some friends and circles, including our UNA-GP and our friends with cats and dogs. An extension of our sanctuary in a way. May 2023 bring you peace and soundness of mind and body.

Martin Luther King Day of Service Event:

The Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service, the largest King Day event in the nation, lead by Global Citizen, promotes year-round volunteer service and civic engagement. Thousands of people throughout the tri-state region, including children, seniors, and families, receive vital services and resources on this day at Girard College Philadelphia. UNA-GP Board Member Christiaan Morssink and Miranda Alexander our President were there !

Monthly Talk on the SDG's:

Click here to Register

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

UNA-USA Annual Global Engagement Summit

The annual United Nations Global Engagement Summit, or GES, is coming on Feb. 17th at UN Headquarters, 405 E. 42nd Street in New York City. If you're interested, click the link below the "Powerful Women" image to register to attend the event, which is both in-person for UNA-USA members and virtual for all other participants. 

The five-session themes will feature UN experts as well as actress Faith Hill and 5 Youth Ambassadors from 4 continents.

They are:

*Maintain International Peace and Security 

*Protect Human Rights 

*Support Climate Action and Sustainability 

*Deliver Humanitarian Assistance, and

*Uphold International Law

Please mark your calendars - Registration ends on February 8th, so don't wait! In-person seats may be limited.

Also, there will be free social events for attendees on Feb. 16/18 - more details, and recommended lodging, on the UN Foundation website and registration form.

Submitted by-

Ed Aguilar, J.D.

UNA-GP Advocacy Chair

CFPA Pennsylvania Director

Global Engagement Summit

Three Generations Convene to Deliver One Powerful Call to Action: Protect the Planet


On Friday, Feb. 17, Grammy award-winning music icon Faith Hill will be taking the stage with her daughter, Maggie McGraw, to share an important message: climate action cannot wait. The event will be held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City as part of the Global Engagement Summit, hosted by UNA-USA, which brings together hundreds of changemakers and policymakers each year.


McGraw is an emerging voice on global issues, with a master's degree in sustainability from Stanford University and a passion for protecting the world’s oceans. Her expertise landed her on Capitol Hill, where she has supported legislation to advance environmental protection and other global issues.


This intergenerational dialogue will be moderated by another leading climate activist, Sophia Kianni, an Iranian-American activist and UN climate advisor. In 2020, Kianni founded Climate Cardinals to make climate resources more accessible to non-English speakers – a topic she explored in a January 2022 TED Talk, which has been viewed nearly two million times.


The group will also be joined by Selwin Hart, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Climate Action. Hart is also the Executive Director for the Caribbean region at the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and previously served as Ambassador to the U.S. and the Organization of American States for Barbados.


The closing plenary comes on the heels of a full day of inspiration and conversation about some of the biggest issues facing the globe – from equity and human rights to security and population health. Among other leading voices in international cooperation and activism is Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. Representative to the United Nations. Thomas-Greenfield served as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs from 2013 to 2017, and now shepherds an agenda of multilateralism in the world’s largest convening body. She will address the gathering during her morning keynote.

Register for GES 2023!


Support Full Funding of the United Nations 

For 77 years, the UN has been a critical forum to which the U.S. has repeatedly turned to advance its interests in peace, promote democracy, and help share the load around complex global challenges. But Congress holds the purse strings, and they still need to hear from you! We must ask Congress to do its part and ensure that we meet our financial obligations to the UN in FY'23. 

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