A choir from Canada, made up of children who are refugees from Syria, has canceled its planned trip to sing at an international choir festival in Washingon, D.C.. The reason cited by the choir spokesperson was President Donald Trump’s Muslim travel ban which was upheld this week by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“What if our Kurdish children or children with hijabs got stopped at the border? That’s not something we wanted to risk. I can’t imagine that we could go if one of our children in the choir got turned away at the border,” said Fei Tang, the founder of the choral group called The Nai Syrian Children’s Choir.
The choir was established in 2016 with the stated purpose of providing “a unique space for refugee children to learn to express their grief, yearning, love, and hope through singing in their mother tongue and in the official languages of their new home.”
Child refugees from several different Muslim countries, including Yemen, Eritrea, and Tunisia have been part of the choir in past years, but and its current members are all refugees from Syrian. They range in age from five to 15.
The invitation to come to Washington was extended to the singing group in October of last year. They were to be part of an event called the Serenade! Choral Festival at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Arts in Washington this week.
They canceled their planned performance after the Supreme Court approved President Trump’s restriction on travel from several predominently Muslim nations including Syria.
All of the children in the choir have been in Canada since 2016 when the country started to accept Syrian refugees and resettle them as permanent residents. But since leaders of the choir had been hearing stories about other Syrian refugees being turned away at the U.S.-Canada border, they didn’t want to take the risk. In some cases, such refugees have even been detained for several days by U.S. authorities.
At home the child singers have become a big hit wearing yellow polo shirts and “singing about peace, love and grief.” Perhaps if we had different leaders in Washington then this country could also be a safe haven for Syrian refugees, and Americans could also enjoy the angelic voices of small children who have been through hard times and traumatic experiences. But alas, with Donald Trump in office, this is not meant to be.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.