In the days following 9-11, Christians and Muslims were separated by suspicion and fear, but the effort to resettle 120 Bantu refugees has provided common ground for those groups here in the Midlands. They arrived a year ago at Columbia Metro Airport. It was a day Muhamud Ali Tumbo and his family will never forget. Now the family has settled into homes at Columbia’s Rutledge Forest Apartments. And while English is still a struggle, refugees like Rukiya Sheygo know what they like about America, “No knife, no gun. She has, America, government. Africa, no government.
Somali, no government.” The refugees have also created something by coming here. The Bantus are Muslims. Their presence has led to cooperation, even affection, between Christian churches and Columbia’s Islamic community. Debbie McDowell is one of many volunteers working with churches sponsoring the Bantu resettlement, “We’ve been in the mosques several times. Some of the Bantu families have been to Christian churches. We have learned about Ramadan and celebrated Ramadan with the Bantu families and then they have come and learned about Easter and Christmas.”
Dr. Mirza Baig represents the Islamic center of Columbia, “Once you know the people, you really understand how much we have commonality. How many things are common. And basically we are the same people.”