It’s better when we’re together

During a Better Together BU prayer vigil, Baylor students had the opportunity to write out prayers for refugees around the world and hang them as colorful tags in front of the Bobo Spiritual Life Center. Photo credit: Courtesy Photo

By Megan Rule | Staff Writer

Better Together BU is a Baylor group that is all about inclusiveness, so when the Syrian refugee crisis became a worldwide issue, the club began to advocate for refugees and educate the Baylor campus.

“The name is the organization because we are better together,” said Humble senior Memona Niazi, former Better Together BU co-leader. “That’s why the refugee crisis is a big thing. The issue is you’re excluding people, and you’re saying, ‘We are not better together. I am better on my own.’”

Plano sophomore Wafa Demashkiah, co-leader of Better Together BU, got involved with the club after an on-campus prayer service in December 2015. Soon after, Baylor got attention for holding the prayer service for Muslims. Because of the vigil, Better Together started a group at Baylor, and Demashkiah got involved.

“For me, I wanted to use Better Together to educate people,” Demashkiah said. “I think a lot of where the stigma people have against immigrants comes from [is] lack of education- people don’t know what exactly is going on. That was my focus- was just to educate people and show the real issue.”

Medford, Ore., senior Micah Furlong, former co-leader of Better Together BU and Bears Care, said the entire Bible is the story of refugees. Furlong said people survived only due to the toleration and kindness of those surrounding them. Furlong said even Jesus was a refugee who fled the babies being slain under Herod’s rule. Furlong paraphrased Exodus 22:21, saying, “Be kind to the stranger, for you were once strangers in a strange land.” For people seeking to be faithful to the Christian Scripture, advocating for refugees is the only option, Furlong said.

“Immigration and diversity are key ways for Baylor to become more Christ-like,” Furlong wrote in an email to the Lariat. “Compassion cannot be developed in a bubble.”

Throughout the past year, Better Together BU has been active on and around campus to spread its message and support refugees. In November, there was a concert at Common Grounds to raise money for refugees. Better Together BU partnered with Bears Care to have a band at Common Grounds that performed for free, but there was a $4 entry fee for people to come in and listen. People who came to support also made donations, and Better Together BU members wore shirts that said, “We Support Refugees.”

Niazi said they also wore the shirts to class the day of the concert, and it was interesting to see the way people looked at her differently. Niazi also said when someone wears a shirt like that, it’s making a political statement and opening that person up for dialogue.

“I am a first generation American, and I am passionate,” Niazi said. “I invite people to talk to me about it because I want to open their minds to this. too. The efforts with the concert were to create awareness so people know who the refugees are, what this is and how you can help.”

Last semester, Better Together BU also got an opportunity to be the first to see a new exhibit at the Mayborn Museum Complex that displayed all different types of religions. The organization got the opportunity to go through and see the exhibit then sleep at the Mayborn Museum for a lock-in. The group also watched a movie about three different women: one was Jewish, one was Christian and one was Muslim. The movie placed an emphasis on the importance of understanding the others. Niazi said this was important for Better Together BU because a big misunderstanding is that all refugees are Muslim, when there are, in fact, refugees of all religions.

Demashkiah said because of everything happening in the news, this semester has focused a lot more on immigration through various speakers’ visits to bring attention to these issues to campus. There was also a prayer vigil in March that aimed to bring positive awareness to the Baylor sanctuary petition and immigration issues in the United States.

“Immigration was always a thing we focused on, but this year it was major, as most of our event revolved around it,” Demashkiah said. “You really can’t get away from it, with Trump in the news and all that. So we decided this is what we need to speak on.”