"In 2012, more than 2000 migrants died in the Mediterranean" Flickr photo by Denis Bocquet

Why Spokanites should create connections with migrants in the community

By Gifti Abbo

A few weeks ago 30 Ethiopians were killed by ISIS perpetrators who sought to send a message to the Christians of the world, but also to the Ethiopian Christians who claim to be a strong Christian Nation-state. Prayer meetings, candlelight vigils, and demonstrations organized by those who are among the Ethiopian Diaspora rallied all over the U.S. in large cities from Denver to Sacramento, Seattle to Washington D.C.

In conjunction to the ISIS killings we heard about the hundreds of migrants who drowned in the Mediterranean in an effort to escape persecution, famine and the lack of opportunity in their respective countries. We hear of these far away distant sufferings and which seem very distant and not applicable to our predominantly white, mid-sized town of Spokane. What connection to these stories do we have as Spokanites?

These two related stories of suffering cut close to home for me. I am an American born Ethiopian who for many years heard the stories of migrants, both family and friends, who by various means reached the United States. If I told you some of the stories I’ve heard they would be hard to believe, but they speak largely to a testament of courage and the human will. Why do I bring this up? Because there is a growing population of Ethiopians and Eritreans in Spokane who have traveled by land through the deserts of the Sahara, crossed into Libya and rented boats across the Mediterranean to make it to Europe and subsequently into the United States. The survivors are apart of our Spokane community.

Those who made the decision to make the trek and along the way lost family members, friends, spouses and children, all the while wondering why they were the ones who made it. So when we hear about these sufferings and feel like we have no connection and see no point to stand in solidarity with those in our community, just remember, that the people who lived through these stories are among us. And we as a people of faith who seek God’s truth can act by creating relationships with these refugees, more so to learn from them. Be open to listen, seek to understand, and from there I think we can move ahead as a community in solidarity to promote healing within our community. Solidarity begins with understanding and understanding begins with relationships. I intentionally, have not shared specific stories here because my call is that you, as the reader, seek to hear these stories from the ones that have lived through them. Many of the migrants and refugees are connected with World Relief. Here is a link to get connected.

About Gifti Abbo

Gifti Abbo is a recent Whitworth graduate in biology currently working towards a career in medicine. She is also a second-generation Ethiopian-American raised in Spokane and is interested in issues surrounding racial and economic disparities both in Spokane and abroad. In her spare time she likes to read, hike and attempt to play the guitar.

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  1. Patty Dyer Bruininks

    Wonderful post Gifti! I had not thought much (or perhaps at all) about how the Ethiopian community in Spokane came to be. Thank you for lending light to the struggle and sacrifice they have – and continue to – endure, as well as connecting that with the current events happening in the Mediterranean. A very motivating call to solidarity and relationships!

  2. Great post Gifti!

  3. Thanks for that post, Gifti! I think Spokane can always do more to show former refugees that they’re welcome here.

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