Shaarik Zafar, the US Department of State’s Special Representative to the Muslim Community came to Minnesota at the invitation of the Humphrey Center University of Minnesota. He also wanted to meet with one or two of the refugee services programs and to hear about work with the Muslim community in general.
The Minnesota council of Churches was one of two programs with whom he chose to meet. He joined Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin, MCC CEO; Ben Walen, Director of the Division of Minnesota Council of Churches Refugee Services; and Rev Cynthia Bronson Sweigert, Program Associate for MCC Interfaith Program.
MCC Refugee Services welcomes persecuted people from around the world into lives of freedom, hope and opportunity in Minnesota. MCC does it so well that at multiple points during the meeting Mr. Zafar highlighted Refugee Services programs and innovations as global “best practices.”
He had positive responses to other MCC projects like the Taking Heart Ramadan Open Houses. Imam Asad Zaman, a partner in that work and executive director of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, joined the group to speak to the positive ongoing relationships.
Mr. Zafar then joined a class where refugees are prepared and trained to enter the Minnesota workforce. He engaged with them, mostly through a translator about their experiences and the overwhelming response was their gratitude for the depth of the welcome they received. Mr. Zafar also encouraged them on behalf of Secretary of State Kerry saying that refugees and indeed welcomed and a valuable part of our community.