Secretary of State John Kerry announced at Tuesday night State Department Eid al-Fitr celebration that the Obama administration will “proudly” meet President Obama’s “goal of welcoming 10,000 Syrian refugees to the United States in the current fiscal year.”
“Now, those are refugees, which is different from normal process of migration and green card and becoming a citizen and so forth. It’s a very different category. It’s also representing six-fold increase over what we did the year before,” Kerry said.
“I can also announce that, in addition to the $5.1 billion in humanitarian assistance that we have already provided since the start of the Syrian civil war, we will be contributing another $439 million in new aid to support education, healthcare, and life-saving food and medicine for internally displaced people and refugees immediately.”
Kerry said more needs to be done in terms of aid, and he was heading to Moscow today to meet with President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “to see if we can somehow advance this in the important ways that people want us to.”
“You have my word – all of you – that we will continue doing everything that we can to alleviate the suffering in Syria,” he told the crowd that had gathered a week after the Islamic holiday. “We will open up more areas to humanitarian access. We will pursue a political solution that is essential in order to halt the violence and enable families to return their communities and rebuild their lives. And no one – but no one – has explained to me any rationale for how there is anything except, ultimately, a political settlement to this war.”
“So my hope is that, as we come to a close, at least in the formal part of the speaking with respect to this celebration, that we remember what it means to pay tribute to this notion of citizen diplomacy. At its core, acting as citizen diplomats is fundamentally upholding the values of working with other people to make a positive difference in our communities and the world. It’s not some highfalutin, hard-to-understand concept. It’s pretty straightforward.”
Kerry elaborated: “What does this look like in our daily lives? Let me tell you for a minute. It’s hundreds of Christian churches coming together to raise funds to resettle refugees. It’s the more than 1,000 rabbis signing a letter welcoming displaced persons to our country. It’s the 7-year-old boy who donated all of the money in his piggy bank to a mosque that was vandalized in Texas. It’s the crowd-funding effort launched in coalition of Muslim leaders, which raised over $75,000 in two weeks to support the victims of the Orlando shooting.”
“It is these acts of goodwill and generosity in which we see the real character not just of American people – I’m proud to say yes, of the American people – but also of global citizens,” he added. “It is there that we find the spirit of charity celebrated by Ramadan; there where we drown out the voices of bigotry and persecution, and replace them with a chorus of compassion, inclusivity, openness, and diversity.”