Books Not Bombs Campaign

The Books Not Bombs Campaign is working its way onto campuses worldwide, including California Lutheran University.

According to the Books Not Bombs website, 27 Syrian schools have been destroyed in the last four months. Because of this and other current factors that trouble Syria, over 3.3 million Syrian students are unable to attend school.

The student-led Books Not Bombs campaign, developed in early 2016 by Students Organize for Syria, works to encourage universities worldwide to create scholarships specifically for Syrian students who are pursuing a higher education.

The Books Not Bombs website said, “As places of academic and educational opportunity, this is the most practical way for universities to contribute humanitarian aid to the unprecedented and desperate plight of the Syrian people.”

Most universities have gone past the tuition-fee waiver scholarships, providing additional funding for housing, textbooks and other expenses students may face.

Because of Books Not Bombs and Cal Lutheran’s on-campus advocate Kellie Warren, Cal Lutheran is working to join the other 40 universities such as Boston University and Humboldt State University, as well as schools around the world like Australian National University and University of Amsterdam.

“I’m so excited because it feels like I’m actually doing something,” Warren said. “With everything going on right now it would be so easy to be completely negative, so it’s really great to see that in light of that there is a movement that is saying ‘we want to stand by these refugees.’”

Warren said she first heard about the campaign when she was looking for ways that she could get involved with helping refugees besides just the normal strategy of donating. She specifically searched for how to help with education, which led her to Books Not Bombs. Knowing that she has connections on campus and a passion for the cause, Warren said she felt that she would be a good on-campus advocate for Cal Lutheran in the campaign.

“[Cal Lutheran] is in a prime position to act in accordance with its Christian values to support refugee education and show leadership during this tough political climate,” Shiyam Galyon said in an email interview.

Galyon, the national campaign coordinator for Books Not Bombs, works with American students across the country to help them develop and execute their strategy for bringing the campaign to their own university campuses.

“When Kellie spoke with me about it, I was sympathetic and supportive because from what I understand of the program, I think it’s really great and it’s gaining traction on college campuses around the country. The sentiment is in the right place,” said professor Samuel Thomas, who has a doctorate in Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity.

At the time of this publication, the online petition has around 30 signatures, but it needs 100 before it can go anywhere past the website. Students can also work on giving a presentation about the education crisis and Books Not Bombs to their classes to raise awareness.

However, it is not just limited to students. Faculty and administration are encouraged to get involved and formally join the campaign as well. Mainly, the best way for anyone to help the campaign is by writing a letter of support to President Chris Kimball. To Warren, support and community involvement is essential.

“I think it would bring up interest in what is going on around the world. I think it could invite dialogue, conversation, learning and hopefully would rally the university around doing something good. Even if it’s small it makes a difference in the life of an individual,” Thomas said. Warren is looking at other schools to determine how they went about setting up the scholarships and hopes to at least have a ground plan set and in motion by the time she graduates in May.

“When we talk about fighting for education, we always speak about it in terms of fighting for a better future for Syria,” Galyon said in an email interview. “But because I work so closely with American students, I see also see them fighting for a better future for themselves: one where American academia is inclusive, just and welcoming. It’s a win-win campaign.”

Warren said she wants to emphasize that Cal Lutheran has a mission statement about supporting global education and global leaders, and the Books Not Bombs campaign ties into Cal Lutheran’s goals as an institution.

To sign up, go to the Books Not Bombs website and click on Cal Lutheran’s petition, or email Warren at [email protected] for more information on how to support.

Emily Graybill
Staff Writer