Interfaith Dialogue Brings Somali and St. Joseph Community Together
ST. JOSEPH -- A sense of belonging and love is what all humans long for no matter what religious background.
Tonight (Thursday) the community of St. Joseph along with the Somali community came together for a Muslim-Christian dialogue. Together they put their differences aside and listened. Listened to stories of Ayan Omar and Jama Alimad two Somali Refugee Muslim Americans.
Omar and Alimad shared their stories of coming to the United States and finding their place and sense of belonging. Through their stories, smiles, tears, and laughter filled the St. Joseph Heritage Hall room and a sense of comfort and belonging spread throughout the room.
For Susan Meyer and her son John Meyer, today's meeting was an event they waited for. For 22 years they have lived in St. Joseph and when they saw new faces around their neighborhood. They decided tonight was a chance to meet and get to know their new neighbors.
Susan Meyer says the event was not an uncomfortable situation for her. For others, this might be out of their comfort zone. However, Susan believes the more the community can understand each other, the less fear and confusion there will be.
"We have a long way to go. This is, call it growing pains for some people maybe. It's going to be hard for them and that's a good thing. They need to work hard at understanding what that pain means or that difficulty for them. Hopefully, they can work through it and become more inclusive says Susan Meyer"
Although John Meyer says he fears the tension in St. Cloud, could carry over to St. Joseph. He is hopeful that things can be different for his community.
"I hope they can get involved in the small community events that happen here annually. I think that will be a good experience for all of us says John Meyer"
Despite the tragedy that took place at Crossroads Center, the thought of canceling this event not once crossed the mind of Vincent De Vargas. De Vargas says he and his wife Dianne were asked to head up the Muslim-Christian dialogue.
For four months they worked on organizing and putting the event together. De Vargas says after the Crossroads incident things did feel tense, but it's changing.
"We got tense when we heard the news, but then thought, you know what one man does not make our relationship with our neighbors. Our people did not do that, it was just one guy. To take his actions and say all of them are bad, just defies logic and it is not the Christian reaction says, Vincent De Vargas"
Omar, says by her showing the audience how maghrib, the fourth of the five formal daily prayers in Islam is performed. Hopefully, the fear of the unknown can be clarified.
"Once they see how I pray then it's not so foreign to them. Once I tell them what I'm praying for, once I tell them how I wash up it's not a foreign thing. We naturally as human beings fear the unknown. One of the reasons I share my story and share my faith is to alleviate things that are unknown. The more people know, the less they are to fear says, Omar"
Omar says the Somali parents she spoke with are happy the event took place and are glad to be in St. Joseph.
"Prior to this, they were afraid to come out of their house because they didn't know how to engage. But now that they know and have a face, engaging is a different story. They can say, hey I remember you from there, even if they don't know the language a smile is universal says, Omar"
In a time where tension, hate, and discomfort could fill the hearts of the community. They chose to embrace their differences and come together, as one.