Immigration in NH

Important Words for This Season

B_FieldI am gazing on the “most perfect Christmas tree ever,” created with the help of two young friends whose family came to New Hampshire originally from Iraq. They share their Muslim faith traditions with me and visa versa, an exchange that has enriched us all!

There was an opinion article by Elizabeth Stevens of Walpole in the Concord Monitor on this Christmas Eve day. I have linked it below. These important words parallel my own feelings as we start 2016.

In this new year, it will be more important than ever to say an emphatic “no” to the hateful, violence-mongering and mis-informed words of those out there who want to close our borders and communities to families fleeing for their lives. Have we forgotten that Joseph and Mary were refugees also fleeing persecution? Would we have said “no” to them?

Refugee Rally 120515-3224-2

Wishing you and yours abundant peace and goodwill in the New Year.

My Turn: Needs of Syrian Refugees Mirror Our Own

 

By |December 24th, 2015|Immigration in NH, Meeting Our Neighbors|Comments Off on Important Words for This Season

Hard to Keep Up with This Immigrant!

Guor & Shaheen 083112-4294Remember the 2012 Olympics? It was big news in New Hampshire because former Concord High School student and distance runner, Guor Miading Miaker, was competing in the marathon. His story had an unusual twist back then, and continues today with more twists and turns.

Gour (who also uses the last name Marial) escaped to New Hampshire as a teenager in 2001 from war-torn Sudan. More than two dozen of his family members had died during the grueling Sudanese civil war; he himself was kidnapped, assaulted and forced into slavery. Finally he was able to get to the United States. In 2011 South Sudan declared independence from Sudan becoming the world’s newest country.

After resettling in New Hampshire, Guor excelled in distance running at Concord High, winning national championships and a college scholarship. In his first-ever marathon, he qualified for the 2012 Olympics in London – but there was a problem.

Guor & Shaheen 083112-4090
Gour had no country affiliation for the Olympics. South Sudan was too new a country with no Olympic team; he wouldn’t run for Sudan after such war atrocities; and he couldn’t run with the U.S. team because he was not yet a citizen. Nevertheless, with help from many, including Senator Jeanne Shaheen, the IOC gave Gour the rare status to compete as an Independent Olympic Athlete.

Guor's Race 081212-2487
On a predawn Sunday morning in August 2012, I joined Gour’s South Sudanese friends and relatives in a crowded Manchester apartment to watch the marathon live from London. They cheered and ululated exuberantly each time his neon-green running shoes appeared on the TV. That he finished 47th was irrelevant. What mattered was that he ran in honor of their new homeland. Read more.

Fast forward to this year – more obstacles appeared in the path of Guor competing for his country. South Sudan had to apply for Olympic recognition in the 2016 summer Olympics in Brazil. Then last January Guor received a scholarship from the IOC to train for the 2016 games, but the South Sudan Athletic Federation demanded that the money come to them, otherwise they would not let him be part of their team. Fortunately the IOC and others stepped in, persuading South Sudan to reverse their ultimatum. Read more.

And here’s the latest: just last week, South Sudan’s application was finally accepted by the IOC. It was an emotional acceptance ceremony. This new status bolsters a war-weary county, perhaps even bringing a sense of unity and peace. Read more.

South Sudan will send a small team, only distance runners, including Guor who now trains in Kenya. It will finally give him the chance to run for his homeland. “This is a dream come true,” he told The Guardian. “There will be nothing better than competing in Rio under the South Sudanese flag.”

So, be sure to watch the 2016 Olympics and cheer for this speedy, former New Hampshire immigrant.

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By |August 15th, 2015|Immigration in NH, Meeting Our Neighbors|Comments Off on Hard to Keep Up with This Immigrant!

Srebrenica: “A time to bury our dearest”

New Hampshire is home to several hundred Bosnians who started resettling here as refugees in 1993. This year, on Saturday, July 11, The Bosnian community and their friends, with support from the Association of Bosniaks of New Hampshire, gathered to remember a 20-year anniversary of unspeakable horror.

From the air it looked like a large white flower, but on the grass in Derryfield Park in Manchester it was a pattern of small white flags in neat rows. There were 8,372 flags, one side with the symbol of the Bosnian flag and the other side with a person’s name. The flags honored 8,372 Muslim people massacred in the three-day genocide in and around the small mountain town of Srebrenica that began on July 11, 1995.Srebrenica Memorial 071115-9217

During the Bosnian war, the United Nations had designated Srebrenica as a “UN safe area.” The town’s population swelled as people desperately sought refuge from the war. On that July day 20 years ago, the Serbian military swept in, massacring Muslim men and boys as the outnumbered UN troops looked on helplessly. Many who escaped into the woods were hunted down and killed.

Two UN courts have ruled the Srebrenica massacre as genocide, the worst in Europe since the Holocaust. Although the Serbian governmental leaders and the military were directly blamed, the United Nations has also acknowledged its own negligence and the failure of the international community to protect the Bosnian people.

Twenty years later in Derryfield Park, children ran about on the grass in the warm afternoon sun as adults gathered near the rows of flags. In sharp contrast to the tranquil scene, voices rang out as young adults, one by one, read horrifying stories from NH survivors of that day.

Unspeakable accounts were spoken. The personal memories were hard to hear and even harder yet to imagine how anyone could endure from such cruelty. As one person recounted, “it was a time to bury our dearest.”

I noticed a young boy, about 12, sitting on the grass with his mother near one of the flags. He pulled the flag out of the ground and pressed the side with a name against his heart. He glanced up at his mother. She leaned over and gave him a kiss on his forehead.

I am grateful that New Hampshire provides a safe home for Muslim families from Bosnia.
Srebrenica Memorial 071115-9211

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By |July 14th, 2015|Immigration in NH, Meeting Our Neighbors|0 Comments