A group of students from Islamic countries has spent the past year in the
United States as part of a new U.S. program to forge understanding between
the Muslim world and America. It has been a learning experience for both sides.
One Pakistani student says, "It has cleared up so many misunderstandings
between us and Americans."
This Pakistani student is one of 150 who has lived in the United States
over the past year as part of the Partnerships for Learning Youth Exchange
and Study Program, established last year by the State Department's Bureau
of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Many of the students attended a reception on Capitol Hill as they prepare
to return to their home countries.
They had an opportunity to meet with U.S. lawmakers, including Senator
Richard Lugar, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator Lugar, an Indiana Republican, played a key role in the creation of
the program after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United
States. He spoke at the reception.
"The United States, if you ask people in many of your countries, is not
well-thought of. Sometimes people respond, 'Well, we like Americans, but we
do not like the American government,' or some distinction is made. But
sometimes, none of the above, there is just an alienation that is profound.
That really will not work very well for any of us in the world, but it
requires somebody to form some bridges," Senator Lugar said.
The program aims to expose visiting students to American principles of
democracy, free market economy, civil society, and community service..