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Sociology fair to provide “small glimpse” of refugee experience through Forced to Flee simulation

Mar 5, 2019 | News, University College

Given that the Bible “calls us to welcome the stranger,” says Val Hiebert, Assistant Professor of Sociology, it is important that we as Christians “open ourselves up to the responsibilities we have, both globally and locally, to be hospitable in the fullest sense.”

The movement of people, it goes without saying, is a matter of urgency in many parts of the world, which is why the refugee experience will be front and centre at this year’s Expressions of Justice: Providence Social Concerns Fair on Tuesday, March 19. The entire Providence community, as well as attendees from the general public, will be welcome to take part in the Forced to Flee exercise—a role-playing activity that will simulate displacement and involuntary migration, and challenge participants to rethink what it means to practice hospitality.

“The goal is to help us get at least a small glimpse into the complex and threatening challenges that refugees face—their vulnerability, their fear and, ultimately, their courage,” explains Hiebert. “It is an understatement to say that immigration is a pressing issue. It is a crisis issue for many.”

An initiative of MCC and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Forced to Flee will divide participants into “families” of 4-5 people and present them with hard choices based on the activity’s selection of cards. Each choice will have a consequence that may help or hurt a family’s plight as it seeks to leave home and journey to a refugee camp. The objective, according to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, is “to transform thinking and inspire action around conflict, migration and refugees.”

Following the exercise Daryl Loewen, Executive Director of MCC Manitoba, and Simone Thiessen, MCC Manitoba’s Community Engagement Coordinator, will guide participants through a debrief of the experience and share additional information about displaced peoples and the process of resettlement.

The various scenarios within Forced to Flee will no doubt raise some difficult questions, but, says Hiebert, the exercise is as timely as it is applicable in a North American context.

“It is our North American greed and overconsumption, our willingness to turn a blind eye to the exploited labour and environments that produce most of our goods, our colonial history and current legislation—and lack thereof—of global economy and trade that are among the significant contributing factors to the marginalization, poverty and desperation of those now forced to flee their homelands, their cultures and their families,” she says. “We are deeply complicit.”

Expressions of Justice will begin on March 19 at 5:30 PM in the Reimer Student Life Centre and will feature the work of students from the Intro to Sociology II class. Each student will present a project that addresses a particular social justice issue, such as poverty, racism, human trafficking and homophobia. Forced to Flee will begin at 7 PM.