When Somali refugees began arriving in the St. Cloud area at the end of the last decade, many thought their stay would be temporary.
But more than 20 area families have since had to make the most permanent of arrangements for loved ones who have died here, said Ismail Ali, chairman of the Somali Elders Council.
Because there is no Muslim cemetery in Central Minnesota, families have had to pay up to $7,000 to bury their dead in the Twin Cities in order to follow Muslim rituals, Ali said.
“You have to hire a car to transport the body, and it’s more expensive in the Twin Cities to buy a grave than it is here,” he said. “It only makes sense for us to have our own cemetery here.”
That need has led Ali and the Somali Elders Council to work with Great River Interfaith Partnership and the Diocese of St. Cloud to identify and negotiate purchase of land for a Muslim cemetery in the St. Cloud area. Efforts have been under way for the past year and a half.
It is another sign that Somalis and other immigrant and refugee communities are becoming part of the larger St. Cloud area community over time, said the Rev. Steve Cook, pastor of outreach at Bethlehem Lutheran Church and chair of GRIP’s spiritual leaders team.
“When you start burying your dead here, it really marks this as your community,” said Cook, who said he and Ali have visited possible sites in the past year or so. (MORE)