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Sunday, August 24, 2014

NuDay Syria, other groups hold peace vigil Sat. for murdered journalist Foley

As a Syrian-American, and a mother, Nadia Alawa was at once outraged and heartbroken last week when news broke that militants associated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – ISIS – had beheaded American journalist James W. Foley in retaliation for recent U.S. airstrikes in Iraq.

“It felt very close to my heart,” said Alawa, an East Hampstead resident who founded NuDay Syria, a humanitarian aid effort for Syrian families affected by the conflict and unrest gripping the nation. “These ISIS extremists, they don’t represent Islam. Syrians resist anything to do with them.” ...

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As a Syrian-American, and a mother, Nadia Alawa was at once outraged and heartbroken last week when news broke that militants associated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – ISIS – had beheaded American journalist James W. Foley in retaliation for recent U.S. airstrikes in Iraq.

“It felt very close to my heart,” said Alawa, an East Hampstead resident who founded NuDay Syria, a humanitarian aid effort for Syrian families affected by the conflict and unrest gripping the nation. “These ISIS extremists, they don’t represent Islam. Syrians resist anything to do with them.”

Motivated by her outrage and her desire to pay her respects to the family of Foley, a 40-year-old resident of Rochester, Alawa organized Saturday night’s candlelight peace vigil, which drew people from near and far to the Rochester Commons to remember Foley and denounce the Islamic State as representative of the Muslim community.

The vigil, held on the eve of Sunday’s “Mass of Healing, Hope and Peace,” scheduled for 2 p.m. at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in Rochester, also drew representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.

CAIR released statements condemning the “barbaric killing of U.S. Journalist by terror group ISIS” following Foley’s death. The group also stated that as an organization whose mission is to “enhance the understanding of Islam … and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding,” it “repudiates ISIS’s extremism and violence.”

Alawa has been collecting clothing, medical supplies, toys, personal care items and nonperishable food for shipment to Syria. Geared toward women and children, the mission has sent some 20 shipping containers the size of commercial transport trailers to Syria since January.

Volunteers sort and pack the donated goods in Nashua, in a space donated by Leo White, who has allotted part of the storage space his business uses at One Chestnut St.

“Our purpose is to bring hope and love to the Syrian people, especially the children,” Alawa said. “Many of them are orphans … they see that someone cares about them.”

The rising unrest has forced more than 9 million Syrians to flee their homes, many of them fleeing the country as well, Alawa said. More than two-thirds are mothers and children.

The dozen or so volunteers packing the container Saturday afternoon worked until late afternoon, then most headed up to Rochester for the vigil. “We want to pay our respects to the family,” Alawa said on behalf of her fellow volunteers.

Anyone wishing to donate items to NuDay Syria can find the information on its website, www.nudaysyria.net, or through its Facebook page, “NuDay Syria.”