I’ve really struggled with what to write about the triple homicide that occurred last week. I knew that I wanted to write something about it, but it seems silly to just write the cold facts or to pull all the news articles together in a list. The other night at church it became a little more clear.
David’s message was about peace, reconciliation, and community from Ephesians 2:11-22. The middle of the passage verses 14-18 really fit well with the week’s events.
For he [Jesus] himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
On Wednesday night one or two men entered Seward Market & Halal Meats (a Somali owned business approximately 2 miles from our house and a few blocks from our church) with the intention of killing at least the man behind the counter. Unfortunately, his cousin had stopped by to chat and bring him tea. Before it was over 3 men had been shot and killed in the peaceful store. The Somali employee (owner?), his cousin, and an Oromo shopper were all killed for no clear reason.
Seward is a fairly peaceful community with about every possible type of diversity. A large East African population melded with a Scandinavian population with everyone else thrown together. Much has been done to keep the neighborhood safe and prosperous. By all accounts the Seward Market was a stable small business with an engaged owner and peaceful employees.
On Thursday night a candlelight vigil was held on the corner of the street and many (some estimate up to 300) people stopped by, standing against violence. This was by far one of the largest gatherings I’ve attended or even heard about where Somali community members and non-Somali neighbors gathered and mingled together. It was a time to honor the dead, build peace, and community.
The investigation continues and a memorial fund has been setup for the victims families (details).
Murder is never good. It is what we do with the murder than can change lives and hopefully prevent future murders. In the past year or so, there has been an increase in violence within the Somali community and while no one has officially said so, it is rumored to be almost all along traditional clan lines. Most people will say that many of those clan barriers have been broken down, but it isn’t always lived out in day to day life. Mosques and Somali markets are still segregated along clan lines and there are credible rumors that this recent murder occurred at least in part as a reaction to violence that recently occurred in Somalia.
There is nothing more beautiful than seeing a diverse community come together to celebrate Peace, Shalom, Nabad, or Selam. It was goose-bumpy feeling to have people chanting for peace, in their own languages and then together in Somali, while standing at the scene of a crime. But true peace is hard. For peace to occur there has to be a surrender of some sort and that is never easy. We are called to by peace makers and lovers of our neighbors.
I believe that true peace can only come through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Philippians 4:7 says: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” We can pray for peace in our community and we can take action for peace (including sharing Christ’s love). But we must also not forget the words of Martin Luther King Jr.:
Without justice, there can be no peace. He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.
One way to fight for peace is to fight for justice. We need to fight to make sure that our East African neighbors feel at home in our neighborhoods. We need to help them learn English, we need to build bridges so we can understand their culture and they ours. We need to provide opportunities for their children to recieve a high quality education. We need to make sure their children have safe places to play and learn. We need to help them find gainful employment. We need to support their small businesses. We need to humble our arrogant selves. We need to befriend all of our neighbors.
This will bring about justice and peace.
By now, the Twin Cities should realize that we won’t have peace on our streets until there is peace in Somalia (and other places where our refugees come from). It is becoming increasingly clearer that to some degree that even though Somalia and the Twin Cities are thousands of miles apart, they are tightly connected. For peace and justice on our streets there needs to be peace and justice on the streets of Mogadishu, Hargase, and all of Somalia.
MPR does a great job of reporting, including some subtle mentions of issues in Somalia.
The MinnPost does a “Daily Glean” of news sources on major topics from the day. Their glean from Thursday includes a Tweet and Twitpic from me at the vigil. Plus, they have the best headline: “A triple homicide becomes a story about communities.”
Update: Since I first started writing this on Saturday, two 17 year old boys have been arrested in connection to the murder. While this is good news, so that justice may prevail. Their ages add another layer of tragedy to the situation. I hope that their motives will be expressed and made clear so that this doesn’t have to happen anymore.
A few years ago I wrote this post explaining a little about Ramadan. The more we’ve been engaging with our Somali/Muslim neighbors the more we have learned the importance of Ramadan. The 30 day celebration is most known for its daytime fasting ritual but there is a lot more depth to it.
I really liked the below message from President Obama delivered on the eve of Ramadan.
We made it pretty clear that one of the things we were most excited about in moving to Minneapolis was the large African/International population based here. With over 70,000 Somali refugees there are plenty of opportunities to talk and learn about Africa.
We have tried really hard to connect with and engage this population. One way we did this was by connecting with a group that is teaching English to primarily Somali adult women. This has been a great way for us to learn about the culture while providing a valuable service. It has also given us, especially Christy, the opportunity to build friendships.
This resulted in us being invited, with some friends, to a student’s son’s wedding. She is actually Oromo, which is a distinctive Muslim culture within Ethiopia. On a side note, many of the local Oromo people have learned to speak and understand Somali. In part because they are often lumped together – even though traditionally there is an underlying conflict between the two people groups. So back to the story.
We were told to arrive at a banquet hall around noon for the wedding lunch which would go from 12-2. Knowing the culture we showed up at 12:30 and were still the first people there. We waited around for awhile and finally one of her son’s came to open the hall and he said we could come back at 6pm. We questioned that and then he said between 2 and 3. Long story short we ended up coming back to the banquet hall around 2:30. There were many women around finishing up the food preparation. They said, “She is coming, she is coming.” So we waited…
We tried to be patient and the banquet hall was filling up. We had almost given up (we did have other commitments) and were told that she was almost here, “maybe even in the parking lot.” A few minutes later we decided to leave and almost missed her. She came and was very excited to see us which was great – but she wanted us to sit and stay and eat.
Her English is very limited so we thanked her and tried to explain that we needed to leave soon. She kept insisting on us eating, but we didn’t want to be singled out to eat before everyone else. We finally had to leave at 3:45 and were able to say goodbye, but everyone kept insisting on eating! I finally realized that this was a HUGE deal for them and said we would go into the back room and eat. We had some great food. Injera, rice, chicken, and other special sauces. Yummy.
This was a great cross cultural learning experience. I think we all wished we could have spent the whole day and actually gotten to enjoy the wedding and take part in that experience. But it is so great to be able to have this experience within our city. We drove 10 minutes and got to experience a part of Africa.
While we were waiting we discovered the Holy Land grocery store. There is a small one at the Global Market, but this was much larger and included random things like lamb heart, goat’s feet, beef tongue, and much more!
Another quick story that makes me happy and reminds us of our great life happened at work the other day. You might recall that many of the students at the school I work at are East African (Somali, Oromo, and Ethiopian). We also have a significant African-American population.
Last week was the last day of after-school classes, so for the last 15 or so minutes I took my group of kids outside to have some fun. They mainly played basketball but there was also a girl’s soccer group outside playing soccer. While standing around watching the kids I felt like I was back in Africa. All of the kids (and other adults) were black, some wearing flowing multi-colored burqa’s or hijabs. It was a great feeling.
Another really random story! I was taking a group of students that I work with to work a banquet for the volunteer department of the school district. Again most of them were East African and inner-city students. We got on the bus and started driving when the kids asked for the driver to turn the radio on. They should have known better since the driver was wearing a cowboy hat. He turned on country music! The kids didn’t like it at all! They kept yelling at him to turn it off and he would give them the thumbs up and turn it up! It was really funny to me since I grew up on a lot of country.
So there you go, a few stories about the great life we lead here in Minneapolis.
Here are a few recent news articles about Sudan and Somalia. I don’t want to turn into a spammy blog, just reposting news stories, so these reflect my passions and highlight two major crises in today’s world. These stories are no joke.
The Star-Tribune reports (from an AP wire story) that with Sudan kicking out aid groups over 1 million will lose access to food:
The U.N.-Sudanese assessment team toured Darfur from March 11-19 after the groups were expelled.
About 1.1 million people now dependent on food aid will not receive their rations starting in May if the aid gaps aren’t filled, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Sudan, Ameerah Haq, said on behalf of the team.
She warned that money will run out within four weeks for spare parts and fuel needed to provide drinking water for 850,000 people.
And more than 600,000 people are in danger of not getting materials needed to build shelters before the upcoming rainy season, Haq said.
We allow this to continue in the name of national soverignty – even though international laws have been broken.
According to Gerson, the U.S. and the international community thus “faces a decision”: Do we take a soft-line with Bashir in hopes that aid groups are readmitted, or do we accept the short-term consequences likely to come from increased pressure on Sudan, but that also has the potential to break Bashir’s death grip on the region?
It’s a messy political calculus, any way you shake it— either caving to Bashir’s tactics in Darfur, which hold innocent lives hostage in a no-holds-barred international power struggle, and thus nearly guarantee that this upper-hand will be used again in the future, and to the detriment of millions, or (if you’re President Obama, in particular) taking the risks that come with stepping into the ring.
If one thing is clear, it’s that any attempt to deal with Bashir will not succeed with one foot in, and one out. The full “diplomatic toolkit” must be on the table, including the credible threat of military force. It’s not a simple question of black-and-white moral certitude: Consequences on the ground in Darfur will be grave (though, they already are), and on the international political scene, Obama has to weigh the cost of further angering the Arab world at a time when his agendas in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel/Palestine also hang in the lurch.
It’s not a one-off — it’s a diplomatic package deal. So the decision comes down to: Are the lives of the millions current subjected to the whims of Bashir’s genocidal regime worth not only the political cost of action, but the on-the-ground consequences as well?
“Not every global humanitarian crisis justifies this kind of commitment, or else America would be endlessly overextended. But if genocide does not justify such action, it will never be justified. And we would lose the right to say, ‘Never again.’”
I’d argue that we’ve already lost the right to say “Never Again,” but that does not lift our responsibility to answer the question, “What will we do, right here, right now?”
Somalia is a strongly Muslim country where people are killed for being Christians or even just non-Muslim. The 30 Days website offers some insight into life in Somalia.
God’s forgiveness filled him with hope! Libaan’s relatives heard that Libaan had become a Gal (Somali word for a pagan). Most Somalis can’t imagine that Christians may also be people who fear God, because they assume that Christians live a very worldly lifestyle (including drunkenness and immorality). Returning to see his family Libaan insisted that he not be called a Gal. In his view he was submitted to God, the Almighty. While his family received him well at first, later they rejected him. This experience broke his heart. Somali believers are few in number. They experience loneliness and rejection even from their most beloved family members. Only encouragement and comfort from God helps them to overcome.
According to inter-agency projections5 the most likely scenario given the continuing crisis inside Somalia is that an additional 9,000-10,000 new refugees will continue to arrive in Dadaab each month throughout 2009, even if the border remains closed and despite registration delays and shortage of adequate services. In a worst-case scenario, up to 200,000 people could arrive in a very short time period. In the current situation of extreme congestion none of these new arrivals will be allocated plots or materials to construct their own shelter, and will not have access to adequate sanitation facilities. They are likely to experience delays in obtaining access to food rations and health services. Competition over water resources will increase. Cholera is already present, and a serious outbreak remains a real risk in Dadaab. The ever-increasing overcrowding and poor sanitation and waste disposal facilities, as well as the lack of investment in hygiene promotion, are only exacerbating this risk. In short, a humanitarian emergency will unfold in 2009 in Dadaab unless at least 36,000 of the existing population are immediately served in a decongestion
site near to the existing camps and new camps are constructed to receive the 120,000 new arrivals projected for 2009.
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.
Somalia: A Testimony For Wednesday 24 September, Ramadan 2008. “Loving Muslims Through Prayer”
Libaan spent years outside of Somalia in several different countries. Eventually, he received a portion from the Injil (Gospel). He was impressed by what he read. The text was beautiful with a deep message. After two more years he fully believed the message and entrusted his life to Isa Al Masih (Jesus the Messiah). Libaan’s relatives heard that Libaan had become a Gal (Somali word for a pagan). Most Somalis can’t imagine that Christians may also be people who fear God, because they assume that Christians live a very worldly lifestyle (including drunkenness and immorality). Returning to see his family Libaan insisted that he not be called a Gal. In his view he was submitted to God, the Almighty. While his family received him well at first, later they rejected him. This experience broke his heart. Somali believers are few in number. They experience loneliness and rejection even from their most beloved family members. Only encouragement and comfort from God helps them to overcome.
Pray that Somalis could see the true value of the kingdom (Mt.13:44-46). God’s forgiveness and abundant life in the Messiah are present realities of that kingdom.
Pray that the Somalis who come to faith in the Messiah would not only be seen as rebels by their families. May they have opportunities to demonstrate that they can be culturally Somali and followers of Jesus at the same time.