By Laura Precourt – [email protected]

During a time of political polarization, an SJU student and refugee will tell his story, in hopes of bringing a community together.

Abdirizak Jama, SJU junior and peace studies and chemistry double major, will lead an interfaith dialogue at 5 p.m. this Sunday, Feb. 26 at the First United Methodist Church of St. Cloud. His presentation is titled “The Faith and Experience of Our Muslim Neighbors.”

Jama was first asked to share his story by the Jay Phillips Interfaith Center at SJU. As a refugee from Somalia and a practicing Muslim, Jama was more than willing to do so.

Jama said he often hears negative generalizations about immigrants and Somali people.

By sharing his story, he hopes that attendees will reevaluate these cultural misconceptions.

Jama says his presentation is a way to “look beyond the labels we put on ourselves.”

As for CSB/SJU, Jama wants greater cultural understanding between students.
“It is about bringing the hearts of people together,” he said.

By sharing his story, Jama wants everyone to recognize the common humanity that exists between all people. He strives to share simple uniting forces in life with others such as his fears and his hopes. He wants to emphasize the importance of the family unit.

“My parents are my heroes, they taught me my values,” Jama said. Overall, Jama hopes to create an environment for understanding.

“I want everyone to learn the story of an immigrant’s son,” Jama said.

Jama said by attending the event, people will be able to hear the story of a refugee and to some it will no longer be foreign concept. Then they can recall Abdirizak Jama, a student at SJU, whenever they hear the word refugee.

Jama especially would like to see members of the community with opposing views at the event.

“I want them to see me as one of their children,” Jama said.

As for the CSB/SJU community, hearing Jama’s story is a way to get to know a classmate, according to Jama who sees a lack of exposure students have to different cultures on the CSB/SJU campus.

“People walk amongst you and you never know the life that they live. This is an opportunity to truly step into the shoes of someone else,” Jama said. “It is a part of the responsibility as a bigger community to know about each other.”

In addition to the Jay Philips Center for Interfaith Learning, SJU Campus Ministry is also supporting Jama’s presentation.

Sophomore Caroline Dèsert works for Campus Ministry as a Social Outreach Minister. Dèsert is excited for the opportunity to support the interfaith dialogue.

“In order to live in a world of peace and prosperity, it is important to empathize with people,” Dèsert said.

Dèsert feels that it is necessary for all students to hear the story of someone who is culturally different from them, but especially those coming from racially or religiously homogeneous communities.

“Students should go to the event in order to make up their minds about how they feel about the refugee community,” Dèsert said.

She feels that it will be a way for them to analyze their political socialization.

Following the presentation, there will be a dinner of the Somali tradition at 6:30 p.m. Both the presentation and the dinner are free and open to the public, but an RSVP is requested to [email protected] or 320-251-0804 for the dinner.

Feature photo: NICOLE PEDERSON • [email protected]