By Darla Shelden
The United Nations Association of Oklahoma City’s (UNA-OKC) Annual Fall Luncheon is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 20 as part of United Nations Week, observed from Oct. 20 – 26. This year’s luncheon, held at The Center on 4325 NW 50 Street from 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., is themed “Responding to the Syrian Crisis.” The event includes panelists from the International Criminal Court and the Syrian-American Medical Society. Tickets are $20 and the public is invited.
“Our luncheon program this year is designed to highlight the many different ways that the United Nations is responding to a grave international crisis,” said Bill Bryant, President UNA-OKC. “We also intend to show how this crisis intersects with the lives of Oklahomans. Our panel discussion will offer the perspectives of local people who have observed the crisis in Syria and who have responded in a variety of ways.”
Speakers include panel moderator, Dr. Mohamed Daadaoui, Professor of Political Science at Oklahoma City University and a specialist on the Middle East and North Africa; Dr. Amer Al-Khoudari, President of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Syrian American Medical Society; and Orhan Osman, Executive Director of both the Raindrop Turkish House and the Institute for Interfaith Dialogue in Oklahoma City.
“During the discussion, we’ll describe how various UN agencies have been able to monitor the situation in Syria, to produce reliable reports from the scene, to engage through the resources of the Security Council, and to coordinate the delivery of vital humanitarian assistance,” said Bryant.
“This started peacefully when the oppressed people went out saying we need freedom,” said Dr. Al-Khoudari, a graduate of Damascus University in Syria and Assistant Professor University of Oklahoma Department of Medicine. “And from the first day the regime has been killing. Beginning March 2011, it started out with one or two, then up to 30 people per day were being killed. Now it’s around 180 people killed each day.”
Additional panelists include attorney Matt Kane, a teacher of war crime tribunals courses, legal aspects of terrorism and federal criminal law at OCU and University of Oklahoma Professor of History, Dr. Daniel Snell, an author of nine books, including his recent, “Religion of the Ancient Middle East.”
The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) is a non-profit, non-political, educational and humanitarian organization whose members are medical professionals of Syrian descent. SAMS’ objectives encompass a range of professional, educational, and humanitarian activities.
“The Syrian American Medical Society has been playing a major role in providing medical and humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees in Jordan and Turkey,” said Dr. Al-Khoudari. SAMS is sending medical supplies, recruiting volunteer physicians and healthcare professionals for medical missions in border areas of Syria. SAMS is also providing training courses for Syrian physicians working in field hospitals inside Syria.”
As a local chapter of the nation’s largest grassroots foreign policy organization, the UN Association of Greater Oklahoma City offers Oklahomans the opportunity to connect with issues confronted by the UN, from global health and human rights to the spread of democracy, equitable development and international justice.
“I spent 28 years in Syria before I came to the United States and my whole family is still there,” said Al-Khoudari. “There are a lot of people in Damascus living on the street because they are without homes. This issue is very close to me. I hope that the United Nations will be able to perform the role they were created for 67 years ago, which is to help protect people and provide diplomacy and peace.”
Celebrated on Oct. 24, United Nations Day marks the anniversary of the adoption in 1945 of the UN Charter, and is devoted to raising awareness of the aims and achievements of the United Nations Organization.
Through the generosity of longtime supporters, the UNA-USA OKC is able to offer a limited number of student scholarships to cover the cost of the luncheon meeting. To qualify, an applicant must be a high school, college, or university student who is interested in the United Nations and its mission.