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When Away Becomes Home: The Refugee Crisis and Opportunities for Welcome in Northeast Ohio

Date: Fri. March 31st, 2017, 12:00 pm-1:30 pm
Location: MOCA Cleveland, 11400 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106


The world is in the midst of the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Several organizations in Northeast Ohio are actively engaged in resettling individuals and families who have fled from their homelands. What are the stories of these people? And “how are they successfully integrating into our communities, bringing their skills and perspectives to a region poised for growth, but needing some additional resources? That is is the subject of the conversation moderated by Wendy Pearlman, the Martin and Patricia Koldyke Outstanding Teaching Professor at Northwestern University. Prof. Pearlman’s book, We Crossed A Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria (HarperCollins, June 2017), explores the lived experience of the Syrian uprising, war, and refugee crisis. She will be joined on the podium by Justine Howe, Assistant Professor in the CWRU Department of Religious Studies, Joe Cimperman, President of Global Cleveland and Bishnu Sunnar, a refugee from Bhutan who now works as an employment counselor for the International Institute of Akron.

This event is co-sponsored by the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities, CWRU, Global Cleveland, the International Institute of Akron and MOCA Cleveland.

Free and open to the public. Registration recommended.     










About the Speakers:

Joe Cimperman was born in Cleveland to a Slovenian family in the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood. He is a proud graduate of St. Ignatius High School (1988) and John Carroll University (1992). While attending John Carroll, Cimperman won the Beaudry Award for Christian servant leadership and academic achievement and also founded Project GOLD, an award-winning international community service organization dedicated to assisting underprivileged families. Joe served two years in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, working with developmentally challenged adults in Portland, Maine and at the Don Miller AIDS Hospice in Baltimore, Maryland.  After a successful tenure with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, Joe returned to Cleveland home to serve as an outreach worker at Cleveland’s West Side Catholic Center. In 2003, Councilman Cimperman was selected as a Fellow for the prestigious German Marshall Memorial Fellowship, a program of the German Marshall Fund.  Joe was elected to Cleveland City Council in 1997, and  focused his efforts on community revitalization. Working diligently, he created and invigorated of 30 block clubs in order to foster a sense of community for the many neighborhoods he interconnected, and self-supported community filled with passion and energy. Cimperman served on Cleveland City Council from 1997 to 2016. As councilman he focused on creating a supportive environment for the arts and culture community, maintaining and improving Cleveland’s Euclid Corridor, and creating new green spaces throughout his ward. He helped create new and strengthened existing block clubs, fostering a stronger sense of community, civic pride, and resident engagement. He has also been a strong proponent of making Cleveland a welcoming city for newcomers. In 2016, he introduced emergency resolution 1459-15 in City Council to send a signal that Cleveland would be a welcoming city to those who are coming as refugees from all over the world, including the Syrian and Iraqi refugees fleeing war and strife. The resolution specifically opposed Ohio House Resolution HCR 31 against allowing Syrian refugees in Ohio. City Council Resolution 1459-15 reiterated that “all refugees, regardless of faith or country of origin are welcome in the City of Cleveland.”  In 2016 Cimperman left City Council to become president of Global Cleveland, an organization whose vision is to create a welcoming region that is a place of opportunity and prosperity for people of all racial, ethnic and international backgrounds. Cimperman lives in Ohio City with his wife Nora and children.

Wendy Pearlman has studied or conducted research in Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Germany, Spain, Israel, and the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She has written two books and more than a dozen articles or book chapters about the Palestinian national movement, focusing on internal politics and the causes and consequences of political violence. Wendy’s new book, We Crossed a Bridge and it Trembled: Voices from Syria (HarperCollins, June, 2017) is based on interviews that she has conducted from 2012 to the present with more than 300 displaced Syrians in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, and the United States. The book is a collection of first-hand testimonials that chronicles the Syrian rebellion, war, and refugee crisis exclusively through the stories and reflections of people who have lived it. Wendy has also pulled on this interview material to write articles on a range of topics, including political fear, protest cascades, transnational diffusion, and rebel fragmentation, among other topics. Her long-form narrative essays, Love in the Syrian Revolution and Fathers of Revolution, tell the stories of some of the extraordinary people whose stories she has collected.  Wendy is also co-authoring a second book with Boaz Atzili (American University). It examines “triadic coercion”: the situation when a state uses violence and/or threats against another state to compel it to stop violence from a nonstate actor on its territory. The manuscript offers a critical analysis of sixty-five years of Israel’s experience with this policy. Wendy has received fellowships from Fulbright, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and Northwestern’s Buffett Institute. She has been awarded the Weinberg College Distinguished Teaching Award and has three times been elected to the Associated Student Government Faculty Honor Roll. Her articles have received prizes from the Syrian Studies Association and the Moise Khayrallah Lebanese Diaspora Studies Center.

Bishnu Sunar was born in Bhutan, a Buddhist kingdom on the Himalayas’ eastern edge, is known for its monasteries, fortresses (or dzongs) and dramatic landscapes that range from subtropical plains to steep mountains and valleys. The Bhutanese army forced his family leave the country in 1990. He was just 9 years old.  Sunar came to Nepal in December 1990 as a refugee and spent 24 years in the refugee camp. Life in the camp was scary, desperate and miserable with limited food and no money. He found work outside the camp to make a money. By spring of 2000, Sunar completed his high school diploma and Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce from University of North Bengal. He taught in secondary school for nine years and worked as a radio host for five years.International Institute of Akron resettled the Sunar family in the United States in 2014. At the beginning of his time in Akron, Bishnu worked in manufacturing and served as a Nepali interpreter for the International Institute of Akron. He was hired as Employment Case Manager at International Institute of Akron in 2016.  Now residing in Cuyahoga Falls, Bishnu gives back to the local Bhutanese community. From 2014-2016 he served as the Secretary of Bhutanese Community Association of Akron and now serves on the Advisory Board.  Bishnu Sunar really enjoys his job helping new arrivals find a job and truly believes:

No Humans Being are Refugees by instinct, they are made so



Page last modified: February 23, 2017