Panel Discussion on Syria Draws Large Crowd

COLLEGIAN: September 16, 2013

By Paige Gilliard

The growing crisis in Syria and the possibility of US involvement was the subject of an intense panel discussion between Saint Mary’s College students and faculty members last Wednesday. Professor Hisham Ahmed and Professor Mindy Thomas of the Politics Department joined Brother Charles Hilken of the History Department to discuss the crisis and answer questions along with students Aya Fawzy, Evelyn Minaise and Mostafa Wassel from the Middle East Students’ Club.

Students and faculty members flooded into Galileo 201 to participate in the discussion, the large crowd directly reflecting the growing concern among Americans about the Syrian crisis. Each panelist read a brief statement to the crowd outlining their opinions and concerns about the Syrian crisis, ending with questions from the audience. The room was filled with an obvious tension and feeling of urgency as audience members and panelists alike delved into the controversies and facts surrounding the Syrian crisis.

As the discussion progressed, it quickly became apparent that the crisis in Syria and the question of US involvement is not only complicated but also a global issue. A vast majority of the discussion centered on the possibility of US military involvement in Syria. Although the panelists differed in some of their opinions, there appeared to be a general consensus that US military involvement at this time is a bad idea.

Brother Charles Hilken expressed his opinion on the power of diplomacy to solve conflicts when brought to the negotiation table. “The Pope’s message against violence is the most in touch with the way the world works”, Hilken said. Because the outcome of US military involvement is unclear, there was an obvious concern among the panelists about the role of the US in the Syrian conflict.

This concern also extends to a wider region. As Sophomore Evelyn Minaise put it, “the conflict in Syria is not just a conflict in Syria”. Panelists discussed the possibility of wider regional implications that could include countries such as Iran and Israel if military action is pursued.

Junior Audrey Chase, who attended the panel discussion, described it as “enlightening”. “It made me realize just exactly how many elements are at play in the Syrian crisis, peoples lives are stake”.

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