The tragic image of lifeless toddler Aylan Kurdi on the shores of a Turkish beach has come to symbolize the Syrian refugee crisis. The photo galvanized people across the world to act on behalf of Syrians fleeing their homeland torn by years of civil war. In Orange County, where a growing number of Syrians are arriving, Vietnamese and Arab-Americans are joining together to #Walk4Refugees this Sunday.
"The Vietnamese and Arab community share the same struggle in our countries back home," says Asian Pacific Cultural Foundation's Dr. Jonathan Bao Huynh. "We are connected by the refugee story here in Orange County."
Event organizers are hopeful that the 8 a.m. walk at Miles Square Regional Park off Brookhurst Street and Heil Avenue in Fountain Valley will draw thousands. The Asian Pacific Cultural Foundation, Arab American Chamber of California and Orange County Youth are calling on community members, business owners, activists and elected officials to put on their walking shoes.
Forty years after the fall of Saigon, Vietnamese refugees can personally attest to the experience of fleeing war. The so-called "boat people" left by the thousands when communist forces took control of the South Vietnam capital city. Not all of them made it to their destination safely, with many suffering the same fate Kurdi. The similar histories are binding Vietnamese and Syrian people in common cause.
Fittingly, the United Nations has described the Syrian refugee crisis as "the worst humanitarian disaster since the end of the Cold War." It all started when peaceful protests against Bashar al-Assad spiraled into repression and armed conflict. The UN predicts there will be more than 4 million Syrian refugees by year's end making them the most sizable population of that unfortunate kind. Many have fled to neighboring Middle Eastern countries.
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The two-hour #Walk4Refugees Sunday morning event is part of a campaign to raise funds for Syrians seeking refuge abroad. Registration for the walk is $5 and organizers are taking any in kind donations. All proceeds go to the Migrant Offshore Aid Station and Syrian American Medical Society.
'I truly appreciate joining together with the Vietnamese community in raising awareness of the current Syrian refugee crisis," says Syrian American Medical Society's Orfan Chalabi in a press release. "I view Walk4Refugees as a powerful movement in joining together with all diverse communities in solidarity with the Syrians suffering abroad, this crisis resonates with all of us."
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @gsanroman2