They intersect in the life of Dr. Mazhar Rishi, a resident of Kennett Square, Pa., and president of the medical staff at St. Francis Hospital in Wilmington.
Rishi, a colonel in the Air Force reserves and a peace activist, believes in aiding refugees of the Iraq War.
An estimated 2 million Iraqis have fled to neighboring countries since the war began in 2003, with 1.5 million crossing the northern border into Syria, Rishi says.
“The war we started has had consequences for the Iraqi people that no one intended,” he says. “I see us having a moral responsibility to help.
“These are people uprooted by the war, which we started, and yet we’ve done very little for them, admitting only 10,000 or so into our country.”
Rishi’s Muslim faith tells him it’s important to help those who are struggling.
“Charity is one of the pillars of my tradition as it is with all the Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam,” he says.
His desire to live out that teaching is a reason he traveled to Syria in May to see if he could help refugees who fled to Iraq’s northern neighbor.
Half the refugees are children and he is worried that without aid to ease their poverty they will grow up with little hope.
“When these children return to Iraq, will they have training and skills that allow them to be successful?” he asks.
“When you don’t have opportunity you have trouble, and people can easily be recruited by our enemies.”
Rishi estimates that 80 percent of youth do not attend school because they can’t afford uniforms or transportation. In some cases, teens work to support families.
In visiting refugee apartments, he found families jammed into bare one-bedroom units. Often they have only air mattresses. No TV. No furniture.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees is there to help. But Rishi estimates that only 15 percent of refugees are receiving aid. And health care is minimal, he says.
So he will return Nov. 1 for a 10-day mission. As president of the medical staff at St. Francis Hospital, he’s talking up the trip with Wilmington colleagues. . . .
Rishi, 48, is president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations. And through a friendship with the Rev. Carolene Brubaker of the West Chester United Methodist Church he met Mel Lehman of New York City. (MORE)