By Guest Blogger Kristina DeVesty
In our last blog post, you met Asinate Vitusagavulu, an LSS/NCA Refugee Resettlement Case Worker who has worked to help dozens of refugee families establish new roots here in the United Stated. Today, she offers a story of respect and kindness that might impact how you see your refugee neighbors. At a time when “refugee” has become a loaded word in our society – connected to fear and uncertainty, this encounter, in her own words, reveals the universality of our humanity.
“Tanya, are you a Christian?” Startled I replied yes to Sediqi’s personal question. I have never been asked such a question by a client. He proceeded to enthusiastically say with a wide grin that he knows about Isa (Jesus) because the Prophet ( Mohammed) spoke of Him.
Sediqi just arrived from Afghanistan a week ago with his wife and four young kids as refugees. Like many other refugee families, he came to America with a special visa specifically for Afghans and Iraqis who have aided America in the recent wars. He fled his country because the Taliban had threatened to kill him since they knew he worked as a mechanic for the US army for the past 10 years. He cannot read nor write yet can carry a conversation in English with ease. He never went to school and learned his trade purely from watching and listening to US army personnel teach him.
During our conversation he shows me endless pictures of his family members back in Kabul and all his work mates from the US base he worked in. Just as others had told me, he shares how evil the Taliban are to his people, the worst kind his people has ever experienced in recent history.
He is very animated and cheerfully begins to talk about his Muslim faith to me and shares stories about Prophet Mohammed. He tells me his religion is one of peace and love. The one that the Taliban preaches is evil and many Afghans know it is wrong. His wife dutifully studies the Koran everyday and her father is a mullah and her brothers are imams. He tells me that his religion is often misunderstood and like many in his country, denounces the evil of the Taliban, ISIS, al-Qaeda and the Islam they teach.
I listen intently and become surprised when he takes this out of his pocket and gives it to me. His Muslim prayer beads. I immediately refuse to take it but he repeatedly insists, smilingly saying:
“Here, take this, it is a gift. You can pray to your God with it just like I pray to Allah with it.”
I reluctantly accept it, stunned at such a unique gesture towards me. A non-Muslim. A woman. He demonstrates how he would pray by using them. He then apologizes for talking too much about his faith. He tells me he wants to go to school and then join the US army and possibly go to Iraq. I ask him “Aren’t you scared since it’s dangerous?” He replies that God brought him to America and that if it’s God’s will he dies, he is fine with that.
Incredible! This guy just made my day! Apart from the quick lesson in Afghanistan 101, I was so touched by his humanity. Every human being deserves a life of dignity and respect. How great it would be for Christians and Muslims all over the world to exchange prayer beads with a genuine mutual understanding and appreciation for each other’s faiths….one day….Inshallah!