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Villanova/CRS Partnership to Sponsor a Forum on the Iraqi Refugee Crisis

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Two million Iraqis are now refugees, and two million more are internally displaced. This forum will address who they are, why they fled and where, what they face, the response to the crisis, and actions needed. The forum will take place on Tuesday, April 8, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., in Bartley Hall, Room 1011.

Featured speakers include: Najla Chadha (Director, Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center); Chawla Elia (General-Secretary, Caritas Iraq); Michele Pistone (Director, Clinical Program and Clinic for Asylum, Refugee and Emigrant Services, Villanova Law School); and Dina Habib (a Villanova student).

Sponsors of this event include: the Villanova/CRS Partnership, the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies, the Center For Peace and Justice Education, the Honors Program, the Institute for Global Interdisciplinary Studies, and the Theology and Religious Studies Department.

The Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center is the Lebanon partner of Catholic Relief Services. "Ms. Chadha, the director of the center, was instrumental in negotiating the release last week of 13 Iraqi refugees who had been detained in holding cells in Lebanon," said Suzanne C. Toton, Ed.D., a professor of theology and religious studies and facilitator for the Villanova University/Catholic Relief Services Partnership. "The Lebanese authorities are cooperating in releasing up to 300 Iraqi refugees currently detained because of their illegal immigration status."

In addition, on Friday, April 4, the Villanova Law School is sponsoring the Matthew J. Ryan Law and Public Policy Forum on the Iraqi Refugee Crisis: Law, Policy, and Practice at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Ms. Elia will be one of the forum's speakers. Learn more about the forum here.

Chadha's and Elia's participation in the April 8 campus forum on the Iraqi Refugee Crisis was facilitated with the cooperation of Michele Pistone, coordinator of the Law School Forum, and through the efforts of Catholic Relief Services Northeast Office.

Biography of Najla Chadha
Najla Marie-Louise Tabet Chahda, a Lebanese national, has a political science background. After carrying out volunteer work with Caritas Lebanon at the height of the civil war, she was hired as a full-time staff member in 1988 and worked with vulnerable Lebanese populations served by Caritas.

Najla became a trained professional social worker in 1991 and is a holder of a Professional Master in Development and Community Action. Additionally, she has been teaching at the Lebanese University – Public Health Faculty Section II – since 1993. In 1994, after the inception of the Migrant and Refugees Center following the emergence of a new category of persons in need (i.e. refugees and asylum-seekers) and being an English-speaking person, Najla was charged with running the said Center. It was during those years that Najla had the first of several experiences that were to shape her career. The Center expanded from a two-person staff to more than 70 staff members, in addition to both the breadth of migrants served in Lebanon as well as the depth of services provided to them. Programming achievements have helped increase Najla’s management capacity through implementation of several large-scale projects for institutional donors, which include the U.S. Department of State, the European Union, and several European and American Caritas organizations.

Najla has successfully managed the Center during two major disasters, which triggered emergency response from the Center: the December 26, 2004, Tsunami, which heavily affected the migrant workers living in Lebanon, and the July/August 2006 conflict in Lebanon. She was the Director of the then newly established Caritas Lebanon Humanitarian Response Unit, which implemented a $7 million multi-donor rehabilitation program. Najla is part of two national Steering Committees (SC) along with relevant stakeholders including embassies, various government authorities and ministries, and U.N. agencies such as UNODC, OHCHR, and ILO. One SC is working on establishing a legal framework for Migrant Workers and the other is focusing on Combating Trafficking in Persons. As of 2003, she is representing the Center in Caritas Europa’s pilot project, COATNET (Christian Organizations Against Trafficking in Women NETwork). In addition, Najla is the Focal Point on Migration in the MENA Region. She has been invited to intervene as an expert in trafficking on several occasions (among others by UNODC). Currently, Najla is preparing for an Executive Professional Master on Psychosocial Animation in War Torn Societies.

Media Contact

Jennifer Schu

Director of Communications, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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