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Meryl Streep Joins Fordham to Promote Education for Refugee Children

Contact: Joseph McLaughlin
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Actress Meryl Streep discusses the book "Even in Chaos" with editor Kevin M. Cahill, M.D. at the United Nations.
Photo by Chris Taggart
Education is just as important as medicine and bandages to ensure the well-being of children who have been ravaged by global conflict, according to Meryl Streep.

The Academy Award-winning actress addressed the topic at a book launch and panel discussion on April 21 at the United Nations.

The book, Even in Chaos: Education in Times of Emergency (Fordham University Press, 2010), was edited by Kevin M. Cahill, M.D., director of the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs at Fordham.

It focuses on the need for humanitarian workers to place education on an equal footing with medical care in refugee camps, and to protect camp schools from attacks by militias.

"Only after the guns are silenced, the wounds are bandaged, the bleeding is stopped, does the real work of saving lives begin," Streep said.

"Young lives can be saved by the order and safety of school," she said. "It lets children know: here you are safe. Here there’s understanding. Here there is care. Here there’s a future and here’s how you’re going to get there."

Cahill, a leader in global humanitarian efforts, has worked in the international relief community for nearly 50 years. He called on friends and colleagues to write their thoughts on the scope of the problem and the tools needed to address the issue.

Several of the book’s 19 essayists attended the launch to discuss their work with the audience of more than 65 guests, including:

Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, (right) speaks to the audience at the book launch.
Photo by Chris Taggart
• Francs M. Deng, United Nation Under-Secretary General and Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide,
• Allison Anderson, director of the Interagency Network on Education in Emergency’s International Rescue Committee, and
• Simon Reich, chairman of the global affairs division at Rutgers University.

"Dr. Cahill is, I believe, the United Nations’ most fervent unaccredited ambassador," said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham. "He has sought to bring compassion to the most forgotten of the world, and to sweep light into the darkest corners of human society."

Cahill said he views his work in simpler terms.

"You go and you do your day’s work and you just keep going," he said.

As he was working on Even in Chaos, Cahill said he found himself burdened by the seriousness of the subject matter, which includes the killing of teachers and students as well as the abduction of children for use as child soldiers and sex workers.

He approached renowned poet Maya Angelou to write a closing for the book. In reply, Angelou penned the poem "Life Doesn’t Frighten Me."

"I told her, 'I want you to get me back to the innocence of the children,' and she gave the book a beautiful ending," Cahill said.

University leaders were so impressed by the book that it is required reading for every freshman, transfer student and graduate student who will enter Fordham this fall.

The Qatar Mission to the United Nations hosted the presentation of Even in Chaos, which features a chapter by Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned, the Consort of His Highness the Emir of Qatar.

"I would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to Fordham University for publishing this important book," said Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, permanent representative for the State of Qatar to the U.N.
Members of the Fordham community with Meryl Streep and Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser of Qatar
Photo by Chris Taggart

Founded in 1841, Fordham is the Jesuit University of New York, offering exceptional education distinguished by the Jesuit tradition to approximately 14,700 students in its four undergraduate colleges and its six graduate and professional schools. It has residential campuses in the Bronx and Manhattan, a campus in Westchester, the Louis Calder Center Biological Field Station in Armonk, N.Y., and the London Centre at Heythrop College in the United Kingdom.

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