By Ruth M. Brindle Dobyns – Quaker Heritage Center Curator
On Wednesday, May 30, 25 members of the Wilmington community heard about the work of the Refugee Justice Program of the American Friends Service Committee’s (AFSC). Migwe Kimemia, Director of the Program in the Dayton office, shared AFSC’s mission to address the root problems of conflict. In the Dayton program, Kimemia and other staff work to build bridges between refugees across cultures and religions so that they can live peacefully here in the U.S., in the hope that such peace can be translated to their refugee homelands.
Kimemia gave an example of this bridge-building which began in 2010: the Umoja Afrika Cup Tournament. Taking advantage of the World Cup-induced soccer fever, AFSC sponsored this round robin style soccer tournament for more than 50 young people from Burundi, Kenya and Senegal. The purpose of the tournament was to organize African immigrants while developing team leadership among youth, all built on what Kimemia calls “compassionate competition” — the values of compassion, community, inclusiveness, love, non-violence and respect. The 2011 tournament included more than 60 youth from Burundi, Rwanda, Sudan, Eritrea, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ghana.
In addition to the soccer tournament, AFSC sponsors ongoing programs for African young people, where they learn about civic responsibility, their civil rights, and get help with jobs so that they can earn a living. As Kimemia noted, “The soccer tournament is just one positive way to engage these energetic young people. They’ve survived many years of struggle for dignity and AFSC’s goal is to help them become productive members of their new society.”