Entries tagged with “Refugees International”.


Refugee

That word conjures up a lot of different thoughts and feeling for different people.

Some say Jesus was a refugee, others think refugees are just another group of immigrants taking over our country. But to me, refugees are neighbors – both in a literal and figurative sense. We live in the most diverse neighborhood in Minneapolis. Minneapolis is home to the largest Somali population in the US and has a very large Hmong population as well.

Moving here has truly made the plight of refugees a part of my life. They are my co-workers, friends, neighbors, and if nothing else fellow humans on a journey seeking love and happiness.

Technical note: A refugee is a person who is fleeing their country due to a well-founded fear of persecution (for any reason) who is unable to seek protection from their own country.

I’d like to share a few stories about my refugee friends…

A Hmong student at my school recently came to the US to be with her family. She had not seen her dad in her 12 years of life. Like many other Hmong refugees her family was seeking safety after supporting the US during the Vietnam War. It had taken her father 12 years to secure the family visa’s to live in the US. This family helped our Army fight and we can’t let them be together?

A Somali co-worker has lived in the US for about 12 years. He is a well-respected man in his community and was fairly rich in Somalia before the civil war. He owned several banana farms and a large house. Now he serves as an Educational Assistant at my school helping with discipline and translation for our Somali student’s and their families. His wife and a couple of his children live with him in a suburb but are unable to gain citizenship, because they might be terrorists. He might send them to Canada so they can become citizens there and be safe to live here.

Some of the Somali women that we work with in our English tutoring were sexually abused before fleeing their homelands. Many saw their husbands and children killed. We can’t fully understand their story because of the language/culture barriers but also because the horror they experienced is too much to recount. We try to be their friends and help them navigate and understand more about the US so that they can feel more comfortable here.

I could share more stories but I think these give a glimpse into what it means to be a refugee. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have suffered through a horrible ordeal and relocating at great cost and pain, and then having to adjust to a new culture and the hurt and pain that can come with that.

Please take a second and pray for the individuals in the story I shared, a refugee you may know, or for refugees in general. If you want to do more there are many great organizations working with refugees around the world. World Vision, World Relief, Catholic Charities, Refugees International and the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children are just a few.

This post is a part of Bloggers Unite For Refugees.

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Somalia, the country made famous in America in 1996 because of the movie Black Hawk Down is still roiled by intense fighting. Is there anything the US could do to help end the violence that continues to displace families? A recent report by Refugees International thinks so. OneWorld reports that (emphasis mine)

there is “a staggering scale of need” for the displaced people, as malnutrition rates for children under five have become “alarmingly high.” UN estimates suggest that since January nearly 60,000 people have fled the Somali capital Mogadishu, most as a result of “search and sweep” operations conducted by the government of Somalia and the Ethiopian military against the Eritrea-based opposition groups.

RI says its members have spoken to some of the 200,000 civilians who have settled on the road to Afgooye, a village approximately 20 miles west of Mogadishu. That area is now the most densely populated settlement of internally displaced people in the world.

“Somalis perceive the United States as supporting the Ethiopian presence and the reprehensible behavior of Ethiopian troops in their country,” said RI’s Patrick Duplat. “The heavy-handed bombing of individual targets in Somalia and other military actions fuels this anti-American sentiment.”

This is another conflict in a Muslim country where we are seen as the bad guys by almost everyone. If we could do more to end this war it could help our “War on Terrorism.” I am not advocating sending US troops back to Somalia or even a UN Peacekeeping force. But I agree with the report authors who say

that by condemning human rights abuses and holding the Ethiopian military accountable for their actions, the United States can go a long way towards defusing tensions in the Horn of Africa. [The US is giving lots of financial and physical resources to Ethiopia for this campaign]

During a conversation with a well-esteemed Somalia elder here in Minneapolis he said something very interesting about our governments actions in Somalia. I’ll paraphrase here:

Somalia had an Islamic government that was beginning to make progress. Yes, there were some members of Al-Qaeda involved in the government but their extremist (terrorist) views were marginalized and not allowed to be part of the official policy. The US then encourage Ethiopia to invade Somalia to over throw the Islamic government – this created a power vacuum allowing Al-Qaeda to step into full power and bring their extremist ideas to the forefront.

This may be a simplistic idea but it seems pretty logical. We have a problem with knocking out governments that might be good – if they aren’t fitting into our policy ideals. (Look at Hamas in Palestine, a democratically elected government which we refuse to recognize)

There is not a simple action point with this post, but you can contact your legislators and share your thoughts and opinions about Somalia and the crisis.

Read the full report from Refugees International.

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