Sunday, August 14, 2011

Opening the doors....

Minnesota is home to the largest Somali population outside of Africa, and the addition of this wonderful group to the tapestry of culture in Minnesota has been a gift, but has also come with challenges for many traditional Minnesotans.  The Somali refugees began arriving in Minnesota in large numbers in the late 1990's.  Traditionally Minnesota has been very welcoming to refugees and the growth of the Somali refugee population here seemed natural.  As with any large influx of people, there were concerns about who they were, why they were here, what resources they needed, etc... and then 9/11 happened and things got a whole lot more serious.  Suddenly, average Minnesotans were fearful of terrorism in general and many also developed a deeper misunderstanding of our new Somali neighbors.  During this month of Ramadan, a very important religious celebration in Islam, Somali Imams and leaders are taking steps to demystify Islamic beliefs and customs by opening doors to non-Muslims who would like to better understand Ramadan and break the daytime fast with the Somali people.  The Star Tribune has a great article that outlines the leaders goals and hopes for this special project.

Fourteen-month-old Qadar looked up at his father, Derrick Reaves, during Friday prayers at the Masjid An-Nur mosque in Minneapolis.

Star Tribune: Metro Muslims look to break Ramadan fast with neighbors.  July 29, 2011

The breaking of the daily fast during Ramadan is now also a chance to break down stereotypes and misconceptions.

That's why eight mosques and Muslim centers in the metro area plan to welcome non-Muslims for the traditional fast-breaking meals, or iftars, throughout the sacred month of Ramadan in August.
"We need to tear down these walls slowly but surely," said Najam Qureshi, a board member of Northwest Islamic Community Center's mosque in Hamel, which is participating in the series of iftars. "I think this initiative goes toward that objective."

The project is a collaboration between Somali and Christian faith leaders who understand the power of uniting people of faith.  I was excited to read about this project because inviting someone to your place of worship and sharing a special meal together is a very powerful experience.  The Somali people are opening their mosque doors, sharing their most precious beliefs and actively working to build positive relationships with non-Muslims.  This takes incredible humility and courage, especially when there are many who may come with suspicions and fear.  To me this is the most incredible characteristic I have experienced many times when working with immigrants.  Their ability to forgive, to move forward in life, and to build new relationships and new opportunities.  The addition of new cultures, languages and practices enhances the community in immeasurable ways.  I hope there are more projects such as this that take place across the country.  We need to keep finding ways to understand differences, respect each other and be united in building safe and caring communities.

No comments:

Post a Comment