WSW: The Meaning of "Where Are You From?"
Shadia Kanaan says the question “where are you from?” now has a different tone than it did when she first came to the United States from the West Bank.
Kanaan came to Kalamazoo with her husband in 1971 and says she felt welcome. But Kanaan says she started to feel uncomfortable after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. She says Islam has become associated with terrorism, even though most of the victims of groups like ISIS are Muslims.
Kanaan will moderate a forum on Tuesday at the Kalamazoo Public Library on Welcoming Refugees. Kanaan is a member of the Interfaith Coalition for Peace and Justice, one of the sponsors of the forum, along with Welcoming Michigan.
The Assistant Branch Director of Bethany Christian Services in Kalamazoo, Joel Bell, says Bethany and other agencies help refugees settle and start a new life. Those services include helping refugees locate housing, jobs, enrolling children in school, and finding English language classes. Bell says this year Bethany will welcome 150 individuals to Southwest Michigan. He says it maybe a little more in 2017.
Asked what improvements he would like to make, Bell says Bethany Christian Services is working on addressing the housing need for refugees with some other organizations, both short-term and long-term. He says families living near each other allows for connections, and Bell says it can allow service providers to go to one fairly small area.
Bell says welcoming refugees means increased exposure to cultures of the world. He says that’s good for students in schools who get to hear children who speak different languages. He says employers find many refugees have a strong work ethic.
Kanaan says hate stems from fear, fear stems from being ignorant of the other. She says if people meet as family, friends, school mates that combats fear of the other.