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Deport the Hate

August 19, 2014

Like the United States, within the East African borders of Kenya lies an immigration dilemma. In a country of 40 million, 500,000 refugees from Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Eritrea, and Burundi pack into the camps of Kakuma and Dadaab and the various informal settlements inside Nairobi and other cities. Many Kenyans have blamed the Somali refugees for the recent wave of terror attacks on targets including Westgate Mall, several coastal neighborhoods, and various buses and markets across the country. A popular slur used against Somalis is “Al Shabaab,” the name of the terrorist group that takes responsibility for many of the assaults.

Recently, I visited Ainsworth Primary School in Northeast Nairobi. CWS and Week of Compassion have helped encourage its teachers and students by conducting training events and constructing water tanks and a wall around part of the perimeter to help secure the school. Ninety percent of its population is made up of Muslim Somali refugees. Just 3 months ago, there were 1,500 students, but that number has diminished to 1,000 since the Kenyan authorities began nightly sweeps in refugee neighborhoods harassing, torturing, and raping its residents.

With such adversity, undoubtedly teachers here feel indignant, discouraged, and frustrated. Especially since Kenyan teachers are paid as little as $2,280 a year. After all, they are all Kenyan citizens and most of them are Christian; they can’t relate to their students or their students’ parents.

The battle cry against the Christian Central American children seeking refuge in the US is “we just can’t afford them,” but somehow these Kenyan teachers making as little as two thousand dollars a year not only found enough in their wallets to support their Muslim students—with the encouragement of Week of Compassion, they found it in their hearts to love them. I met teachers with such passion and empathy—just as my friend in Indianapolis has for her Burmese students—just as so many CWS resettlement workers, volunteers, and CROP walkers have for the refugees they support.

I am ashamed by the anti-immigrant vitriol spewed at the borders and in the legislatures by some of my fellow Americans, but at least I find solace in my association with organizations that strive for peace and justice like CWS, Week of Compassion, and Global Ministries.

Joel Cooper serves as a Global Mission Intern with Church World Service East Africa in Nairobi, Kenya.  His ministry is possible because of funds provided by Week of Compassion of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

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