February 21, 2017


Ohio, Where Muslim and Christian Refugees Form 'Impossible' Friendships (Shamila N. Chaudhary|Feb. 19th, 2017, The Atlantic)

Stepping out of an apartment complex into a warm Ohio night, Nashwaan Saddoon got into an old minivan and drove through Toledo to a hookah joint called Rocket Lounge. Sitting beside him was his friend, Amjad Arafeh. The two men had met only five months earlier, but they lived in the same building and already they were very close, despite their different backgrounds. Saddoon, an Iraqi Christian refugee, had been kidnapped and held hostage by Islamic State militants a few years before. Arafeh, a Syrian Muslim refugee, had escaped shelling and bombing in Damascus.

When the minivan pulled up to Rocket Lounge, Saddoon and Arafeh joined the group of Arabs and Midwesterners assembled outside for their monthly Sawa gathering. Sawa, which means "together" in Arabic, is a community initiative designed to introduce refugees to Americans and to each other. [...]

The friendship is part of a new chapter for Saddoon, who has experienced a lifetime of persecution at the hands of Muslims. In the United States, the two men have come to rely on one another for advice as they navigate the challenges of resettlement. Saddoon now counts several Muslims among his closest confidantes.

"Muslims here are different than in the Middle East," Saddoon said. "I have so many Muslim friends in Toledo--from Syria, Sudan, Jordan. Relations among us are different here."   

For Saddoon and his friends, life in America is changing the way Arab Muslims and Christians treat one another. In the Middle East, faith is often a matter of life and death, as the violence of ISIS has proven across Syria and Iraq. In Toledo, faith remains a matter of survival for Christian and Muslim refugees--but in positive ways. Away from the pressures of civil war and strife, refugees in these two religious groups are building communities that support one another as they draw from their respective traditions.

Posted by at February 21, 2017 5:21 AM