Student organization shines light on the situation in Iraq
By Stephen Jones
Help Iraq’s Student 2 Student Coalition (S2S) is an organization that advocates for displaced Christians and other minority groups in Iraq. The group of compassionate students have to be creative in order to figure out ways to connect with their peers thousands of miles away.
Crystal Zair, the group’s president and a nursing student, came up with an idea to spread awareness for the situation in Iraq and provide a glimmer of hope to its forgotten Christian students.
“I was listening to We Are the World for Haiti, and I was really inspired by it,” Zair said. “I started thinking why isn’t there one for the Christians in Iraq with everything they’re going through.”
The idea was to use the internet, which connects people from all over the world on a daily basis, to create a music video that raises awareness to the situation in Iraq.
“Recently, with everything going on, the deportation issue with Chaldeans being deported back, it made me think that there’s not enough awareness in America besides in my Chaldean community,” Zair said. “I wanted to bring that awareness to outside of my Chaldean community bubble.”
When Zair presented her idea to the board, the support was tremendous.
“We all thought it was a great idea,” Christina Toma Kairos, Board Chair – Student 2 Student Coalition (S2S), said. “We were all super excited about it. Even people who weren’t a part of the music video, but knew about it were excited for it. We had nothing but support.”
For more than a year, S2S worked tirelessly on this project showing their solidarity with persecuted Christians in Iraq. The primary message of the video: We Are One.
The first step was to reach out and gather volunteers for the video.
“We just posted to our social media with a date and time for people to come, and they all showed up,” Zair said. “They all wanted to help. It didn’t matter if they were professional singers or not. We just gave them parts based on what they wanted and the fit.”
The music video fused lyrics from We Are the World for Haiti and We Are One from the Lion King. After making numerous tweaks and adjustments during production, the video was finally ready to go live.
“We just kept changing things and changing things until finally we got it perfected with the lyrics,” Zair said. “We got a beat from a couple of people from Oakland University and then we took it to the studio.”
The video received an overwhelmingly positive response.
“I shared it with my class, and they didn’t really know about the situation so it really brought awareness,” Zair said. “We also got emails from people that saw the video to our Student to Student Gmail account, saying how amazing it was.”
The music video is one part of an ongoing initiative by S2S to provide humanitarian aid and advocacy for Christian students in Iraq.
“One big thing that we try to put a lot of emphasis on is our $10 a month program,” Kairos said. “That $10 goes directly to the students in Iraq to pay for their housing, their books, their printers, whatever they need. We’ve had other events in the past, but, but 100 percent of the money that we raise all goes back to the students in Iraq.”
S2S hopes to contribute to peace and equality for minorities in Iraq.
“I think the biggest thing that I would love to see is peace and happiness, and security and stability,” Kairos said. “I want students to be able to go to school, and be with other students who aren’t Chaldean, of any race, any culture, any religion. It would go a long way if Chaldeans were able to go to school with them, and learn everything that they’re supposed to learn.”
One of the ways that S2S hopes to further advocate for Chaldeans at home and abroad is to push for legislation that supports the cause.
“I am going to Lansing soon, and I hope to bring up the Christian situation and advocate for policy changes,” Zair said. “I know it’s a long shot, but I’d also like to see all this reach president Trump in Washington. It would be great to have visas for students that attend universities in Iraq, if they want to finish their education here in the U.S. as foreign exchange students. There aren’t any options for them right now.”
To donate, volunteer or find out more about the S2S organization visit helpiraq.org/s2s/, or follow their Instagram @s2scoalition.