Christopher Zumski Finke https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/19902/all cached version 09/02/2019 00:02:54 en Minnesota churches face tough questions in offering sanctuary to immigrants https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/christopher-zumski-finke/minnesota-churches-face-tough-questions-in-offering-sanctuar <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Protecting immigrants is vital work, but what happens when the police arrive at your door?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/ChrisFinke2.png" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Police monitoring the crowds at the Minnesota Women’s March. Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/fibonacciblue/32318771662/in/photolist-ReU9R5-7yHsNC-e34F9C-8PgC2n-2ENVmM-7SxDcL-f2Pmye-9c43nz-7yDXca-7ZarCU-eSXR6n-7Sun1T-f34Ej1-f2PnwD-7iKaXa-36dvZ4-36idYC-f34DMA-7Z7ewg-4csWHL-7ZassN-7UTY8f-36ijyq-cp9Tw5-kXbkWK-dertHK-9c436z-j5JyFq-7Z7qCt-7kUSSq-36ihN3-8PjH1o-36ifNf-wcbZ1-4dQ39D-5yjggH-bcN4a2-7ZasZG-6U7xgX-bWFAWE-4dTZAf-aydFZw-aydBK9-4dTZ2Y-e2XZ78-esX5KM-7yHVX1-6vPcGe-7kQZ2g-e2XZ8x" target="_self">Fibonacci Blue / Flickr</a>. Some rights reserved.</p> <p>In 1982, a man by the pseudonym René Hurtado found himself living in a suburban church in Minnesota. He had fled El Salvador, his home country, after participating in a U.S.-backed military unit during a civil war. After coming to the United States, he spoke out about the terrible things he had done—torturing prisoners with electrocution and needles, for example—as a member of the CIA-trained Salvadoran military. El Salvador wanted him back, and the U.S. government wanted him deported. Instead, Hurtado hunkered down at St. Luke Presbyterian Church in Hennepin County, Minnesota, while his case played out in the national media and in immigration courts.</p> <p>Hurtado still lives in Minnesota more than 30 years later. Today, his story has new relevance as Minnesota’s churches again embrace their role as sanctuary spaces, this time in response to President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and aggressive deportation policies.</p> <p>Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric has “been a wake-up call for people of faith,” said Minister JaNaé Bates, communications director of the faith-based Minnesota organization ISAIAH.</p> <p>Bates said the idea of sacred places providing sanctuary is an ancient one. The Old Testament is the original source, she said, “when God declared&nbsp;certain spaces sanctioned for safety.”</p> <p>“Throughout history there have been unjust laws … used against vulnerable people,” Bates said. And throughout history, churches have provided safety for vulnerable people. Today, member churches of ISAIAH are continuing that historical tradition by offering sanctuary to Minnesota’s undocumented immigrants—an estimated 100,000, according to a 2014 study by Pew Research Center.</p> <p>ISAIAH is a faith-based coalition of more than 100 congregations that directs its members to take action on local and community issues. Their tagline is “faith in democracy.” For members of ISAIAH, “the spiritual and the political are inseparable,” said Bates.</p> <p>He said that 25 of ISAIAH’s member churches have declared themselves as either sanctuaries or sanctuary-supporting churches; supporting churches are those that do not have the means or facilities to house individuals but have committed to supporting other congregations with the financial, legal, and physical resources they need to offer sanctuary. So far, 15 member churches have committed to offer sanctuary directly to immigrants in need.&nbsp;</p> <p>Pastor Doug Pagitt of Solomon’s Porch in South Minneapolis said his church was one of the first in the state to declare itself a sanctuary church through ISAIAH. Solomon’s Porch originally offered sanctuary to show it was “on the side of the people the government is trying to deport,” he said. It was a decision motivated more by moral and political arguments than by legal ones, he said: “The power we have is the power of public opinion.”</p> <p>Solomon’s Porch declared itself a sanctuary church in December, after Donald Trump won the election. At that time, Pagitt thought that by taking a public stance, the faith community might help influence the political dialogue around immigration. But since Trump took office, Pagitt said, his congregation’s motivations for offering sanctuary have shifted as the danger to individuals has become clearer. What began as a public stance to sway political opinion has since become a concrete reality, and his church is preparing to house people.</p> <p>Pastor Eliot Howard, of Linden Hills United Church of Christ, shared a similar perspective. In December, Howard declared his church a sanctuary space because he felt the issue carried a sense of urgency, though at the time, it felt like a hypothetical. Three months later? “It feels real now.”</p> <p>Some in his congregation expressed anxiety over his decision, he said, but in the end the church offered sanctuary because “it is our tradition. We don’t focus on the president or the politics but what Scripture says.”</p> <p>Pagitt and Howard both said that Minnesota churches have been too long asleep on this issue. President Obama’s administration deported more than 3 million undocumented people from the United States, which is more than any president before him.</p> <p>“A lot of us feel a bit shameful and hypocritical that we weren’t doing something about this over the last eight years,” Pagitt said. Howard shared a similar concern. “Maybe some confession needs to be given to the fact that we weren’t attentive at the time of the Obama administration’s deportations,” he said.</p> <p>Should an individual or family take up the offer made by one of ISAIAH’s sanctuary churches, it’s unclear exactly how much protection they could legally receive. John Gordon, the interim legal director of ACLU Minnesota, said that there have been very few cases in the past brought against sanctuary spaces harboring undocumented people. The law on sanctuary spaces is ill-defined, he said, making predictions about the effort difficult.</p> <p>There is an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policy memo that is cited as the legal basis for churches offering sanctuary. The memo<a href="https://www.ice.gov/doclib/ero-outreach/pdf/10029.2-policy.pdf">&nbsp;details&nbsp;</a>a policy “designed to ensure that [ICE] enforcement actions do not occur at nor are focused on sensitive locations such as schools and churches.”</p> <p>But such a memo is not law and could be changed simply by the Department of Homeland Security issuing another memo. “My understanding is that whether that [memo] remains in effect depends on what time of day it is and which member of the administration you’re listening to,” Gordon said.</p> <p>He also said the federal government will have no shortage of legal tactics ready should they want to enter a church harboring an individual they’re pursuing. Local ordinances, for example, are tools ICE will have at hand: Does the church have the correct number of bathrooms, legal fire escapes, or separate entrances for home and public use? Should a sanctuary church be in violation of a local zoning code or housing ordinance, ICE could use that to justify legal entry and “scoop those folks up,” Gordon said.</p> <p>Offering sanctuary might have started as a symbolic response to Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric, but already it has shifted for these churches to a question not of if, but when. So what will happen to these Minnesota churches if ICE comes to their doors?</p> <p>Both Pagitt and Howard admit they’re uncertain how such an encounter might unfold.</p> <p>Howard said that LHUCC would “deny entry” to ICE. To do otherwise, he said, would be to nullify their declaration of sanctuary in the first place. Protecting the vulnerable, Howard said, requires acts of resistance.</p> <p>Solomon’s Porch would allow entry if immigration authorities had the legal authority to do so, Pagitt said, but would make a public scene of the event. “[We’d] broadcast it on the internet [and] call people to show up at the building. [We’d] make sure as many people as possible could see it.” To Pagitt, the sanctuary movement is not about harboring undocumented immigrants in secret—it’s about finding power in publicity and exposure.</p> <p>Those are the tactics that are on display in Denver, where Jeanette Vizguerra and her three children have taken sanctuary in the First Unitarian Society church. Vizguerra was set to meet with ICE after a request to “stay” her deportation order was ignored. In the past weeks, rallies have been held by supporters in an effort to shine light on the circumstances of Vizguerra and millions of others.</p> <p>“Making a scene is an entirely legitimate, constitutionally protected, and often very effective way to hold the government accountable,” Gordon said of the ACLU. “Shining a light on government practices is a big deal.”</p> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/minnesota-churches-face-tough-questions-in-offering-sanctuary-to-immigrants-20170317?utm_source=YTW&amp;utm_medium=Email&amp;utm_campaign=20170317">YES! Magazine</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/christopher-zumski-finke/how-somali-muslims-are-raising-10000-person-anti-hate-army">How Somali Muslims are raising a 10,000-person anti-hate army</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/chitra-nagarajan/how-politicians-and-media-made-us-hate-immigrants">How politicians and the media made us hate immigrants </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/laura-michele-diener/fierce-contemplation-meet-nature-loving-nuns-who-helped-to-stop-">Fierce contemplation: meet the nature-loving nuns who helped to stop a pipeline</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation religion and social transformation Christopher Zumski Finke Activism Care Love and Spirituality Thu, 30 Mar 2017 23:30:00 +0000 Christopher Zumski Finke 109792 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How Somali Muslims are raising a 10,000-person anti-hate army https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/christopher-zumski-finke/how-somali-muslims-are-raising-10000-person-anti-hate-army <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The refugee community in Minnesota is a big target for bigotry, but they have a plan.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/ChrisFinke.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/fibonacciblue/29637513992/" target="_self">Fibonacci Blue / Flickr</a>. Some rights reserved.</p> <p>In November 2015, Asma Jama, a Somali-born woman living in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, was waiting for her pasta alfredo at Applebee’s, chatting in Swahili with her family, when she was confronted by Jodie Burchard-Risch. Burchard-Risch demanded that Jama speak English or go home. Then, she smashed her beer mug in Jama’s face.</p> <p>The attack was shocking and made national news. This past December, Jama spoke at the sentencing hearing for Burchard-Risch, who pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and will serve six months in jail. Jama recounted the fear she lives with after the attack, saying she no longer goes anywhere alone. Still, she spoke words of kindness to the woman who showed her none. “In front of everybody here,” Jama told the packed courtroom, “I forgive you. And I hope that you choose love over hate.”</p> <p>Minnesota is home to the nation's largest Somali population.&nbsp;And like so many Muslim communities throughout the United States, Minnesota Somalis are organizing to combat the Islamophobia stoked by Trump. The Minnesota Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) plans to activate 10,000 Minnesotans using a three-part strategy grounded in the belief that people will, when given a chance, choose respect and understanding instead of fear, following Jama’s example of rejecting hate.</p> <p>CAIR-MN plans to use a combination of traditional organizing tactics and new outreach efforts to communities not historically engaged in this fight.</p> <p>Successfully engaging thousands of people to fight Islamophobia depends on an understanding that Jaylani Hussein, executive director of CAIR-MN, laid out to about 60 Somali and non-Somali activists in late December. “Most Americans agree there is something wrong with how we are treating American Muslims,” Hussein said. “They know something is wrong, even if they cannot identify it.” As Trump’s presidency approached, Hussein told the room, “They know they’ve got to do something about it.”</p> <p>Muslims expect American Islamophobia to intensify under Trump, and Somali Americans expect to be on the front line.</p> <p>The Somali-American community had been the target of institutionalized Islamophobia prior to the campaign and subsequent election of Donald Trump. “The Somali community in Minnesota was at the blunt end of Islamophobia before this election,” says Hussein. “But it is a phenomenon that has outgrown all previous levels.”</p> <p><strong>Somalis in Minnesota are targeted.</strong></p> <p>The U.S. Census Bureau data&nbsp;<a href="https://mn.gov/admin/assets/sb-mn-overview-for-foreign-journalists-us-state-dept-sept2015-post_tcm36-219293.pdf" target="_self">estimates</a>&nbsp;there are 40,000 Somali-speaking residents in Minnesota. Underreporting to the U.S. Census Bureau is common, though, and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.csp.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/AFM-Report2015.pdf">by some accounts</a>, the number of Somalis—including resettled refugees, inter-state migrants, and native U.S.-born residents—could be twice as high. While Somali Americans have planted deep roots in the state, starting thousands of businesses and non-profit organizations, opening schools and mosques around the Twin Cities metro area and beyond, tension between the state’s largest Muslim population and native Minnesotans has risen in recent years.</p> <p>The uncertainty and tension felt by Somalis result in part from the Somali identity inhabiting multiple American fault lines. Imam Hassan Mohamud put it bluntly: “We are Black. We are immigrants. We are Muslims.”</p> <p>Mohamud, Imam at the Minnesota Da’Wah Institute, spoke at a recent anti-Islamophobia meeting, where he explained how Somali Americans feel the harsh rhetoric against Muslims, the anti-refugee rhetoric in general, and racism against African Americans. The compounding effect of this racism and Islamophobia has left Somalis feeling specifically targeted.</p> <p>Last April, a Minnesota man crossed the border to Grand Forks, North Dakota, where he burned down a Somali-owned restaurant. The same month, former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman wrote an op-ed in the Minneapolis&nbsp;Star Tribune&nbsp;intending to address the number of Twin Cities-based individuals who returned to Somalia to fight in that nation’s civil war. In the piece, Coleman labeled Minnesota “ground zero” for radical Islamic terrorism and called out “a specific population—Somalis.” The letter was titled “<a href="http://www.startribune.com/norm-coleman-on-battling-recruitment-in-the-land-of-10-000-terrorists/301153401/">The Land of 10,000 Terrorists</a>.”</p> <p>Perhaps the biggest source of concern in the Somali community—and the one that makes Somalis feel uniquely targeted by the U.S. government—is a Department of Justice program called Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). The program is meant to root out radicalization and extremism on U.S. soil, but it has led to controversy and fear among Somali Muslims. Mohamud and Hussein both agree that CVE’s policy of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.fox9.com/news/104150737-story">offering money</a>&nbsp;into a resource-starved population in<a href="http://www.startribune.com/informant-in-terror-case-paid-41-000-by-fbi/320929811/">&nbsp;exchange for information&nbsp;</a>about activities taking place within the community has left the Somali community divided. Muslim support for CVE is rare, Hussein explained, but many are in a position where they need to choose the money over their opposition to the program.</p> <p>According to Mohamud and Hussein, CVE imbeds Islamophobia into government policy. “The program’s very premise is Islamophobic,” Hussein points out. It targets one community, Somali Americans, and builds suspicion that any individual in that community might be a source of radical extremism. That’s “the playbook of the Islamophobia network,” Hussein says, and it affirms the principle that Somali Americans are a threat to America.</p> <p>This was the tense landscape in Minnesota even before Donald Trump arrived at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Nov. 6, two days before his election, to address his supporters. Trump said, “A disaster is taking place in Minnesota” as a result of lax vetting in refugee resettlement, “with very large numbers of Somali refugees coming into your state without your knowledge, without your support or approval.”</p> <p>Trump didn’t refer specifically to the stabbing at a mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota, nor to the ISIS trial in which nine men were tried for providing support to the terrorist organization. But the message that he did share was clear: The Somali community as a whole is a threat to Minnesota. “You’ve suffered enough,” he told the crowd.</p> <p><strong>Building a strategy toward understanding.</strong></p> <p>CAIR-MN’s overall strategy to fight Islamophobia is rooted in Asma Jama’s story of violence and forgiveness. She “has the literal scars (of Islamophobia) on her face,” and could have retreated after her attack, says Hussein. “But she chose love instead of fear.”</p> <p>The first part of the strategy is to make conversations about Islam easier for everyone by “training the trainers.” CAIR-MN will provide the preparation for people to accurately combat the misinformation and fear used to perpetuate Islamophobia. Then, the trainers can talk to those who might be susceptible to that fear, those who have little contact with Muslims and are unfamiliar with Islam.</p> <p>Islamophobia feeds on small pieces of misinformation that build a case for fear, says Hussein. That strategy succeeds because “people make decisions based on what they feel” and not what is true about Islam or Muslims.</p> <p>The second part is to share success stories of the Somali community with non-Muslim Minnesotans to challenge the ugly narratives about Islam. Much of that sharing will take place on social media, used by many Somali youth. Hussein estimates that 50–60 percent of the Somali population in Minnesota is under the age of 40. They know English, have adapted to the culture, and are one of community’s best advantages in the fight against Islamophobia. The youth, Hussein says, are better able to communicate across the cultural divide—on the internet and off—without losing their own cultural identity.</p> <p>Finally, CAIR-MN envisions an increase in traditional non-violent organizing tactics that raise public awareness, such as rallies and community education events. Mobilizing public events around Islamophobic incidents or targeted neighborhoods remains a crucial part in the fight against Islamophobia.</p> <p>The most important element in these parts, Hussein stressed, is reaching beyond the existing participants of a conversation. Most people having conversations about Islamophobia in Minnesota are talking to people who agree with them, he points out. During Trump’s presidency, the only way to progress will be to hold conversations with people who disagree. “You can no longer say these people disagree with me or voted the other way, so I am not going to have a respectful conversation with them.”</p> <p>Hussein would like to work with evangelical congregations, where pockets of Islamophobia can be found. Muslim outreach to evangelical Christians could “re-engineer how we communicate on this issue,” he says. “Without that outreach, we’re just talking to the same people we have already reached.”</p> <p><strong>Gaining resilience from experience.</strong></p> <p>Some Muslims use humor as a way to assuage the fear and uncertainty. Mohamud joked about an anti-Islamophobia sticker produced by a local organization that was translated incorrectly into Somali and Arabic, before moving to a sincere plea to recognize that “not all Republicans” are Islamophobes. He related the story of former Utah Sen. Bob Bennet’s<a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/gop-senator-bob-bennett-apologized-muslims-trump-while-deathbed-n576566">&nbsp;dying remarks to Muslims</a>, in which he apologized for his party’s embrace of Islamophobia.</p> <p>Hussein opened his meeting at CAIR-MN with similar levity, joking about the election even as the fear created by Trump’s victory animated the room. There are reasons to be positive. From the election of the nation’s first Somali representative, Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis, who was sworn in last week, to the overwhelming interest in fighting Islamophobia that has emerged since Election Day, Somalis are hopeful.</p> <p>The Somali community in Minnesota is a big target for bigotry, and tensions are expected to get worse. But in their experiences of facing both institutional and societal Islamophobia, their resilience and optimism is evident.</p> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/how-somali-muslims-are-raising-a-10000-person-anti-hate-army-20170120?utm_source=YTW&amp;utm_medium=Email&amp;utm_campaign=20170120">YES! Magazine</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/christopher-zumski-finke/olympians-without-nations-first-ever-team-of-refugees-heads-">Olympians without nations: first-ever team of refugees heads to Summer Games</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/christopher-zumski-finke/staying-human-in-time-of-climate-change">Staying human in a time of climate change</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/abbey-kiwanuka/need-for-transformation-in-uk-detention-centres">The need for transformation in UK detention centres</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Christopher Zumski Finke Transformative nonviolence Activism Fri, 10 Feb 2017 01:00:00 +0000 Christopher Zumski Finke 108689 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Olympians without nations: first-ever team of refugees heads to Summer Games https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/christopher-zumski-finke/olympians-without-nations-first-ever-team-of-refugees-heads- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>With 20 million refugees worldwide, the International Olympic Committee announces a new team to make the games more inclusive for people without a nation to call home.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Christopher Zumski Finke.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Christopher Zumski Finke.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="277" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yusra Mardini at the Wasserfreunde Spandau 04 training pool in Berlin, Germany. Mardini is one of 10 refugee athletes who will compete as a team during the Rio Olympics. Credit: photo courtesy of International Olympic Committee.</span></span></span></p><p>In August of 2015, Yusra Mardini and her sister, Sarah, fled Syria after their home was destroyed in the country’s civil war. The sisters traveled on land through Lebanon and Turkey, eventually boarding a boat with 18 other refugees. When that boat’s motor failed in the Aegean Sea,Mardini, her sister, and another woman jumped out and pushed the boat for three hours to the island of Lesbos.</p><blockquote class="mag-quote-left">“These things are not about sports only but about longing for freedom.”</blockquote><p>Mardini would later tell a press conference in Berlin that “it would be a real shame if I drowned in the sea.” Many refugees do drown attempting to reach safety in Europe—2,500 died&nbsp;<a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/05/unhcr-2500-refugees-drowned-europe-2016-160531104504090.html">this year</a>&nbsp;alone—but that is not what Mardini meant.</p><p>Mardini is a competitive swimmer, and she is one of 10 athletes selected this week to compete on a&nbsp;refugee Olympic team&nbsp;at the 2016 Rio Olympics. For a group of people stripped of their homes and citizenship, it’s an effort to restore an element of their humanity: sports.</p><p>Prior to this year’s games, Mardini and her fellow teammates would not have been eligible to participate on any Olympic team. Yet that’s a violation of the Olympic Charter, which considers playing sports a human right. “Every individual,” the Charter reads, “must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind.”</p><p>This is a noble value, but it raises a fundamental problem: the Olympics hold national competitions. While everyone may have a right to practice sport, not every athlete has a nation to call home. By creating the refugee Olympic team, the International Olympic Committee hopes to rectify that dilemma.</p><p>The team is composed of 10 athletes, all verified by the United Nations as holding refugee status. In addition to Mardini, there is another swimmer who left Syria, Rami Anis; two judoka from the Democratic Republic of Congo,&nbsp;Popole Misenga and Yolande Bukasa&nbsp;Mabika; marathoner&nbsp;Yonas Kinde&nbsp;from Ethiopa; and&nbsp;five runners formerly of South Sudan,&nbsp;James Nyang Chiengjiek, Yiech Pur Biel, Paulo Amotun Lokoro, Rose Nathike Lokonyen, and Anjelina Nada Lohalith.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Christopher Zumski Finke 2.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Christopher Zumski Finke 2.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="276" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'> South Sudanese refugee Anjelina Nadai Lohalith will compete in the 1500-meter run on the refugee Olympic team in Rio. Credit: photo courtesy of International Olympic Committee.</span></span></span></p><p><span>Team Refugee Olympic Athletes (ROA) was created by the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee in response to the global refugee crisis resulting from nearly&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.unhcr.org.uk/about-us/key-facts-and-figures.html">20 million refugees</a><span>, as of 2014.Meaning the Earth now has about 1 million more refugees than there are Romanians or Syrians.&nbsp;In 2012, Romania sent 103 athletes to the summer Games. &nbsp;</span></p><blockquote class="mag-quote-right">While everyone may have a right to practice sport, not every athlete has a nation to call home.</blockquote><p>“This will be a symbol of hope for all the refugees in our world, and will make the world better aware of the magnitude of this crisis,” said IOC President Thomas Bach, when he announced the final team selection. “It is also a signal to the international community that refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to society.”&nbsp;The refugee team is funded by the Olympic Solidarity Programme, created to assist those National Committees in need of organizational resources and training support. The Solidarity Programme already supports more than 1,700 athletes from developing countries, in addition to the refugee team.</p><p>When the refugee team makes its entrance at the Opening Ceremony, it will be the first time a team will march at the Olympics representing no nation. They will march to the Olympic Anthem; they will carry the Olympic flag.</p><p>While ROA will be the first organized team to represent nationless peoples at the Games, the athletes will not be the first to participate in the Olympics without being on a national team. According&nbsp;to&nbsp;Bill Mallon, Olympic Historian and founding member of the International Society of Olympic Historians, individuals have competed in the past, usually due to war or political sanctions in their countries. The first instance was in 1992, when Yugoslav athletes, whose team was banned due to sanctions associated with the Balkan war, were allowed to compete as“Independent Olympic Athletes.”</p><p>Allowing 10 refugees to compete does not mean every human population suddenly has access to the Games. There are still groups, like Tibetans, who remain in political situations that exclude them from bringing a team to the Olympics. Because of China’s occupation of Tibet, Tibetan athletes must compete under the Chinese flag, if at all.&nbsp;But with the creation of a refugee team, it is possible to&nbsp;imagine a more inclusive future for the Games. Tenzing Sherap, Program Manager at the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota, praised the IOC for creating a space for refugees, and for recognizing that “these things are not about sports only but about longing for freedom.”</p><p>Most refugee stories in the media focus on hardship and tragedy: dangerous mass movements, dilapidated tent cities, and refugee camps. “These are important pictures but they depersonalize the refugee story,” said Bill Canny, Executive Director of Migration and Refugee Services for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “The more that [the] Olympics can personalize, tell a personal story about a refugee and his or her family, I think it makes it more real for us to see how in fact these people differ very little from us if at all.”</p><blockquote class="mag-quote-left">"These people differ very little from us if at all.”</blockquote><p>Given the Olympic-sized audiences Rio will bring, the stories of the refugee athletes will provide a new, powerful opportunity for those working to ameliorate the refugee crisis. The London Summer Olympics in 2012 was the most watched TV program in U.S. history. Second on that list is the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008. Worldwide, the Olympics measures its viewers in<a class="external-link" href="http://www.olympic.org/Documents/IOC_Marketing/Broadcasting/London_2012_Global_%20Broadcast_Report.pdf" target="_self">billions</a>.</p><p>This is important at a time when&nbsp;<a href="http://www.un.org/en/globalissues/briefingpapers/refugees/overviewofforceddisplacement.html">global public perceptions</a>&nbsp;of refugees are low, the United Nations reports. In the United States, refugees have been met with disdainful public opinion, according to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/19/u-s-public-seldom-has-welcomed-refugees-into-country/">PEW Research</a>. Attitudes toward immigrants are often&nbsp;<a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/04/15/americans-views-of-immigrants-marked-by-widening-partisan-generational-divides/">divided along party lines</a>, with 59 percent of citizens saying immigrants strengthen the country and 33 percent calling them a burden.</p><p>Yet the&nbsp;<a href="https://stillmed.olympic.org/media/Document%2520Library/OlympicOrg/News/2016/06/03/Refugee-Olympic-Team-List-all-00.pdf%23_ga=1.238187648.1499439812.1460340399">stories</a>&nbsp;of refugee athletes are filled with adversity and deserve to be heard.&nbsp;Misenga and Mabika, the&nbsp;<a class="external-link" href="https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/jan/07/rio-olympics-2016-brazil-judo-refugees" target="_self">judoka from Congo</a>, defected from their homeland when they applied for asylum during a 2013 Judo Championship tournament in Rio.&nbsp;Misenga fled after his mother was killed and his brother disappeared. “I’ve seen too much war, too much death,” he says. Mabika’s story is similar; her family was lost in Congolese conflict. Both turned to Judo as a way out. “Judo is my life. It helped me escape war, to take another path,” says Mabika.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Christopher Zumski Finke 3.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Christopher Zumski Finke 3.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="276" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Judo athlete Popole Misenga, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, now resides in Brazil as he trains for this summer's Olympics. Credit: photo courtesy of International Olympic Committee.</span></span></span></p><p><span>“The more that people understand what a refugee is and what a refugee has gone through,” said Canny, “I think that increasingly people in this country will welcome them, and help them start new lives in the United States.”</span></p><p>In the meantime, the athletes will train in the nations where they have sought refuge. The South Sudanese runners are training in Nairobi, Kenya, with two-time New York City Marathon winner Tegla Loroupe. Loroupe, a three-time Olympian will also serve as the team manager for the Refugee Team. “When I look at them, when any of us look at them, we’re reminded that it isn’t by choice that people become refugees,” she says. “It could be any of us.”</p><blockquote class="mag-quote-right">"It isn’t by choice that people become refugees,” she says. “It could be any of us.”</blockquote><p>Yusra Mardini practices with the support of the German National Olympic Committee (NOC). Michael Shirp, deputy head of media for the German NOC, says that Germany is proud to support Yusra and her effort to compete at the Olympics. He says she and her sister “represent an impressive example” of the refugee population in Germany, which grew by more than 1 million in the past 15 months. Because refugees give up their homes and suffer through perilous journeys, Shirp says, they offer inspiration to Germans.</p><p>That inspiration and talent is evident from the Mardinis’ arduous trip to Europe. At a press conference in Berlin in February, Mardini recognized the inspirational nature of her personal story.&nbsp;“The problem [in Syria] was the reason I am here and why I am stronger and I want to reach my goals,” Mardini said. “I want to inspire everyone that everyone can do what they believe in their hearts.”</p><p>A global audience will hear all the stories of the refugee Olympic team this summer. And in doing so, a billion souls will get to watch the nationless compete as equals, as the Olympics lives up to one more aspect of its optimistic charter.&nbsp;</p><p class="image-caption">This article was originally published by <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/olympians-without-nations-first-ever-team-of-refugees-heads-to-summer-games-20160609" target="_blank">Yes! Magazine</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/naomi-head/tango-intimate-dance-of-conflict-transformation">Tango: the intimate dance of conflict transformation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/bob-hughes/open-borders-for-sustainable-future">Open borders for a sustainable future </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/abbey-kiwanuka/need-for-transformation-in-uk-detention-centres">The need for transformation in UK detention centres</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/miranda-surama/this-is-what-life-is-like-for-asylum-seeker">This is what life is like for an asylum seeker</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sanaa-alimia/suffering-happens-but-pakistans-afghan-refugees-are-more-than-just-victi">Suffering happens, but Pakistan&#039;s Afghan refugees are more than just victims</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Christopher Zumski Finke Liberation Activism Culture Intersectionality Fri, 17 Jun 2016 10:18:58 +0000 Christopher Zumski Finke 103053 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Staying human in a time of climate change https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/christopher-zumski-finke/staying-human-in-time-of-climate-change <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Knowing about climate science isn’t enough. We need to get our hearts involved too.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/ChristopherZumski.png" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The Exit Glacier, in Seward, Alaska. Credit: David Estrada/YES! Magazine. All rights reserved.</p> <p><span>Author M Jackson’s new book </span><em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/While-Glaciers-Slept-Climate-Change/dp/0996087265">While Glaciers Slept: Being Human in a Time of Climate Change</a></em><span> was released last week by Green Writers Press. In the book, Jackson’s first, she examines climate change by combining personal stories with scientific exploration. As both a scientist and a writer by trade, Jackson studied climate change and how to communicate science through writing at the Environmental Science Graduate Program at the University of Montana.</span></p> <p>“I wanted to explore our capacity to experience personal loss—the loss of family, the loss of lovers, the loss of a local landscape, the loss of certainty in the weather—to grieve profoundly while simultaneously not giving in,” Jackson says.</p> <p>In the opening pages of <em>While Glaciers</em> <em>Slept</em>, Jackson explains that both her parents died of cancer within two years of one another while she was in her twenties. Her experiences of loss, and the despair that followed, is the central current of her book.</p><p><span>“Climate change, like the loss of parents, necessitates an experience of grieving,” the 32-year-old author says. “That also includes picking up the pieces and moving forward into futures that are shapeable and malleable and hinged upon millions of individual imaginations.”</span></p> <p>Jackson expertly pairs her loss, grief, and anger with the scientific exploration of our Earth and solar system. When she opens a chapter with learning of her father’s cancer for the first time, readers end up in a discussion about the history of wind power as a human energy source (it starts in seventh century Afghanistan, for the record). </p> <p><span>Bill McKibben, who wrote the introduction to </span><em>While Glaciers</em><span> </span><em>Slept</em><span>, draws on the duality of Jackson’s book by asking if our big human brain “has come attached to a big enough heart to get us out of the trouble we’re in.” Jackson herself hopes blurring the distinction between the heart and the brain will help humans make it through this period.</span></p> <p>The jacket of Jackson’s book describes her as an adventurer, and the word seems to fit her well. As a trip leader with the National Geographic Student Expeditions, Jackson takes students on field assignments to study different cultures and the diversity of the natural world. Currently, she’s heading to Iceland, and then Alaska, on a tour of lectures about climate change. Despite her busy schedule, Jackson has managed to find the time to also become a Ph.D. candidate in geography at the University of Oregon. Once her lecture tour is done, she will head back to Iceland for nine months of doctoral research on the effects of glacial loss on the Icelandic people.</p> <p>In the midst of her adventuring, I chatted with Jackson over email about her book, the vulnerability of writing about loss, and how she remains hopeful when confronted by the challenge of climate change.</p> <p>This interview has been lightly edited.</p> <hr size="0" /> <p><strong>Christopher Zumski Finke:&nbsp;</strong>You could have written one book about climate change, and another one about how you’ve coped with the death of your parents. Instead, you combined them into a single book. Why?</p> <p><strong>M Jackson:</strong> After my mother died, I was numb, in shock, and having a difficult time engaging with the world. In many ways, I just turned off. It was too much to handle. But while my heart was in pieces and tucked down in the darkest basement, my mind kept telling me not to stay in that grief-stricken landscape for too long—or I might not come back. So I started writing—because, for me, writing makes me feel like I am participating in the world. I started writing about my mother.</p> <p>But then my father died, and there I was, numb and in shock again. And my heart was not coming out of that dark basement. Eventually, when my mind piped up and started chatting, it drew analogies between what I was experiencing—the loss of my parents—and what I was researching—climate change. The language for both is quite similar. This is what I focused on.</p> <p><strong>Zumski Finke:</strong>&nbsp;Your book explores the loss you felt, and pairs it with climate change, energy solutions, and scientific discovery. Big heart and big brain, as Bill McKibben puts it in your book’s intro. Are you a heart or head person?</p> <p><strong>Jackson:</strong> I am both a big heart and a big brain person, but I think my heart tends to filter my mind.</p> <p><strong>Zumski Finke:</strong>&nbsp;How does that dynamic influence your thinking about climate change?</p> <p><strong>Jackson:</strong> I think we can create the very best science out there about the problems of climate change, yet if we aren’t filtering that science through our hearts, there remains—as we see today—a disengagement. People intellectually understand climate change; we know “the science” of it. But now, vitally, we need more heart.</p> <p><strong>Zumski Finke:</strong>&nbsp;I want to ask about the section of your book when you’re brought into close contact with the woman driving the car that crashed into your mother and led to the amputation of her leg. In those pages you explore your impulse for violence, and your thoughts wander into cold, alien planets hidden in the cosmos. It’s a beautiful piece of writing. What is it like writing, and sharing, such personal pieces of your experience?</p> <p><strong>Jackson:</strong> Climatic changes are experienced first through the human condition. We are living in this changing world together and subsequently are in many ways responsible to one another for our actions. That’s a really big thing. How do we even start that move forward in a productive manner? If anything, climate change has shined a really bright light on the rampant inequities of the human condition on this planet. Why are we all not angry?</p> <p>For me, I think that authentically sharing our personal experiences—the good and the bad and everything in the middle—is an excellent place to start, to move forward into our shared future. In the book, I tried to share my experience as I lived it. And there are times when I go back through the pages and certain things catch me. This was a hard book to write, and it makes me vulnerable in a way to the world. But then, we have to be vulnerable. Climate change is made up of millions people, human beings with human lives. My story is your story, and our story.</p> <p><strong>Zumski Finke:</strong>&nbsp;Your book has garnered attention from climate change deniers and trolls. That started even before it was released. How are you handling that?</p> <p><strong>Jackson:</strong> Today, I’m largely ignoring them. I wasn’t at first, and I found the negative attention—let’s call it what it is: hate mail—incredibly hurtful. But that was in the beginning. The thing is, while my heart goes out to the people who think sending bullying, sexualized, and hateful letters is somehow helpful, I do not have time for them.</p> <p>Climatic change is increasing on our shared planet. I’m interested in moving forward and working on collective and creative methods for living with existing climatic changes and ameliorating further impacts.</p> <p><strong>Zumski Finke:&nbsp;</strong>Are you optimistic about the future of combating climate change?</p> <p><strong>Jackson:</strong> I am not necessarily optimistic about combating climate change—I’m not sure that is the most helpful way to think about the changes that are and will be happening. I am optimistic about slowing and lessening our global greenhouse gas emissions, learning to live with present day climatic changes, and shaping our future and our society’s place within that future.</p> <p>Climate change is not an enemy to be vanquished; it is a phenomenon deeply tied to our daily lived existence. It is part of the conversation our mixed up, beautiful, contrary, and imaginative people must have about who we are as a people and where we want to go. I am optimistic about peoples’ better selves, and I think right now is an optimistic, hopeful time where we can be bold together.</p> <p><strong>Zumski Finke:</strong>&nbsp;That’s a nicely described vision for climate optimism. How do you manage to stay that way?</p> <p><strong>Jackson:</strong> For me, there isn’t another option. I don’t find terrifying messages of apocalyptic disaster all that helpful, nor the messages about every single thing that wasn’t done perfectly right.</p> <p>There is no fabled “solution” for climate change. Rather, there are a million and more creative ways to engage at multiple scales across the planet. What works in one place might not translate to another, or up or down a scale of governance. What I have seen are hundreds of thousands of people quietly getting things rolling.</p> <p>And so each morning, I get out of bed and get excited for the creative things I’ll see that day—the wows and the unthinkables and the quiet smiles—and sometimes, frankly, I go to bed feeling a little down. But each day is different, and each morning is a hopeful one.</p> <p>I’ve been to that dark place with little hope. That place doesn’t help. My compass can’t just spin and spin on darkness. My compass spins on hope, and points toward an exciting future.</p> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/climate-in-our-hands/staying-human-climate-change-m-jackson-while-glaciers-slept">YES! Magazine</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jem-bendell/future-of-climate-debate">The future of the climate debate</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/carolyn-baker/welcome-to-planetary-hospice">Welcome to the planetary hospice </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/shannon-biggs/no-surrender-responding-to-new-breed-of-climate-change-inactivists">No surrender: responding to the new breed of climate change in-activists</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Science </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Science storytelling climate change Christopher Zumski Finke Environment Wed, 05 Aug 2015 07:30:00 +0000 Christopher Zumski Finke 95007 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Christopher Zumski Finke https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/christopher-zumski-finke <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Christopher Zumski Finke </div> </div> </div> <p>Christopher Zumski Finke wrote this article for&nbsp;<a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/">YES! Magazine</a>. He blogs about pop culture and is editor of&nbsp;<a href="http://thestake.org/">The Stake</a>. Follow him on Twitter at&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/christopherzf">@christopherzf</a>.</p><div class="field field-au-shortbio"> <div class="field-label">One-Line Biography:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Christopher Zumski Finke wrote this article for YES! Magazine. He blogs about pop culture and is editor of The Stake. Follow him on Twitter at @christopherzf. </div> </div> </div> Christopher Zumski Finke Tue, 04 Aug 2015 20:47:21 +0000 Christopher Zumski Finke 95009 at https://www.opendemocracy.net