Samaritans and Somalis
By Tom Albinson – International Association for Refugees
Glass and plastic were everywhere. Three police cars encircled a badly bent up van and car in the middle of an intersection. She had somehow missed the red light and slammed into a van carrying a Somali family of five. Miraculously, no one was hurt.
Sa’id, a Somali taxi driver, saw it happen. He stopped to make sure that everyone was alright. I came upon the accident shortly after it had happened. Surrounded by police cars and debris, Sa’id told me, “God is good.” I agreed. He offered to drive her home at no charge. When he dropped her off, he told her to call on him anytime and he will drive her for free. It was impossible to miss. Sa’id was a Good Samaritan.
The United Nations estimates there to be nearly 44 million forcibly displaced people in the world. That is a staggering 1 in every 160 people alive today. Somalia has produced 2.3 million refugees – driven from their homeland by a tragic combination of prolonged violence, drought and famine.
Most flee into neighboring Kenya, swelling the population of the Dadaab refugee camps to over 460,000 people (the size of a city). It is the biggest refugee camp in the world. Although it falls short of qualifying as a safe place, the refugees see no alternative.
Many dream of being resettled from the camp to another country, like the USA. The sad reality is that less than 1% of the world’s refugees are resettled in any given year. Reuter’s recently reported that there are 10,000 third-generation refugees in Dadaab. That means both they and their parents were born in the camp.
It’s understandable that some risk everything and try to find refuge further from home.
I’ve met Somalis in Europe (3,000 – 4,000 miles from home). They traveled through politically unstable Sudan and across the Sahara into Libya from which they then crossed the Mediterranean to Malta or Italy in overcrowded, unseaworthy boats. The United Nations estimates that over 1,500 people died while attempting to cross the sea to Europe in 2011.
I’ve also met Somalis in a refugee camp in Malawi (Africa). They were en route to South Africa – a 2,500-mile trek. All they are looking for is a place where they can rebuild their lives in peace.
And I’ve met Somalis in the US – people like Sa’id and the family of 5, here in Minneapolis. They are over 8,000 miles from home, trying to rebuild their lives.
The Christian woman who ran the streetlight wrote, “God sent me this amazing Somali Muslim, Sa’id. Thankfully no wounds to bandage but his words and actions soothed my aching heart…”
Refugees are remarkable people. They’ve endured unspeakable suffering and loss. Yet, they are among the world’s most resilient and generous people. They need our understanding and encouragement. They deserve our respect. We are called to welcome them. And like Sa’id, they may prove to be a source of God’s blessing.
There are many practical ways we can engage refugees being resettled into the Cities. Here are a few good places to start:
International Association for Refugees (IAFR): www.iafr.org
International Village (iTeams): www.intlvillage.org
World Relief Minnesota (SALT, Rojo): www.worldreliefmn.org