By Jack Ryan
This weeks Watchtower - Paragraph 7 says, “In recent years, many countries have experienced an influx of refugees. What can you do to help such ones come to know Jehovah and his purpose.Â”
They may as well have just said, Â“In recent years, many countries have experienced an influx of refugees. These refugees are usually frightened, have lost loved ones, had to leave them behind or have fled for their lives. They are emotionally vulnerable and will be easily susceptible to any messages of hope and promises of friends, community and support, take advantage of this to reel them inÂ”.
Today Presidents Trump and Putin meet for summit, and the New York Times tells of an exiled Jehovah's Witness who proposes Trump ask Putin a simple question: "Why are Russians who pay their taxes, follow the law and embrace the Christian values promoted by the Kremlin being forced to flee their country?"
A simple [and single] question. To propose that Trump do this is exactly the non-confrontational style of Jehovah's Witnesses, and is proof in itself that they are not extremist. Moreover, because the goal is so modest, it is not impossible that it could happen. Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia is not everywhere, but where it is, it is draconian, with police dressed in riot gear breaking down doors to arrest them.
Meanwhile (and irrelevant), I did a google search of "New York Times Jehovah's Witnesses." The second hit is an article from 1958, telling of (I think) the largest Christian assembly in history.
Remember, Google is personalized. Your results may vary.
By Guest Nicole
A new worship centre for Jehovah's Witnesses is coming to Gloucestershire.
Plans were approved earlier this week (June 19) by Gloucester City Council to build the place of worship in Kingsway.
The development will be the second Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in Gloucester, the first being based in Abbeydale.
The plans for the Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Hall in Kingsway (Image: Gloucester City Council)
The proposal includes a single storey building to be used by Jehovah's Witnesses as a place of worship and religious education, as well as five car parking spaces.
The developer, Elevation One building design, said the building will resemble a site used by the religious group in Dover.
A planning statement submitted by the firm said two new halls like the proposed have been built in the last year and another 14 nationwide have been planned.
The site fronts Thatcham Avenue and abuts the southern boundary of Kingsway Primary School.
The plans for the Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Hall in KingswayÂ (Image: Gloucester City Council)
It is not clear when building works will begin.
It will be the ninth Kingdom Hall in Gloucestershire with others in Cirencester, Cheltenham, Tewkesbury, Stroud, Dursley, Blakeney and Lydney, in addition to the existing on in Gloucester.
By Guest Nicole
If you’ve been in Newcastle city centre recently, you will have noticed them.
Happily handing out copies of The Watchtower from carts, Jehovah’s Witnesses are taking to Newcastle’s streets in their droves.
And the reason for the recent increase is simply due to a change in tactics.
For years, members have gone door-to-door to spread the word about the faith.
But now members are heading into the city to try and reach out to more people.
“We feel the use of carts allows us to reach people we perhaps wouldn’t meet at home due to their work schedules or other factors,” said spokesperson Andrew Schofield. “The carts also provide the public with the choice of approaching us or not, which some people appreciate.
Read more: https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/more-more-jehovahs-witnesses-middle-14627882
By Guest Nicole
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have left hospital after the arrival of their third child, a boy.
The couple's second son, who was born at 11:01 BST, weighing 8lb 7oz, is fifth in line to the throne.
Prince George and Princess Charlotte had visited their brother at the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital, London.
Leaving the hospital Prince William said the couple were very happy, before holding up three fingers and joking he had "thrice the worry now".
"We didn't keep you waiting too long this time," he added.
When someone asked him whether the couple had decided on a name, he said: "You'll find out soon enough."
Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-43864933
By Guest Nicole
Michael John Hewitt was described as a significant risk to young children and a dangerous offender.
A man who took advantage of his position of trust in a Surrey branch of Jehovah's Witnesses and sexually abused three young girls has been sentenced to 15 yearsÂ’ imprisonment on Monday, 12 March at Croydon Crown Court.
Michael John Hewitt, 71 and now of Fremington in Devon, was found guilty of eight counts of indecency with children who were all aged under 16 years at the time.
He will be on the sex offenders register for life and have a Sexual Harm Prevention Order and Restraining Order served.
The court heard that in the 1980s Hewitt, who previously lived in Wallington, was a member of the Jehovah's Witness Congregation and abused his victims over several decades.
Two of HewittÂ’s victims were as young as five when the abuse started. He sexually abused all three of them in his and their home addresses, undetected by family members.
He later sold his home in Surrey and moved to Devon.
On January 11, 2016, two of the victims reported what had happened to a family member, who then contacted police. Hewitt was later arrested in January 2016 and bailed pending further enquiries.
Following extensive research by detectives from the Child Abuse and Sexual Offences Command, the third victim was identified and came forward when told Hewitt was under investigation for two similar offences.
In May 2017, Hewitt was charged with eleven counts of indecency with three girls under 16 years old. He was later acquitted of three offences.
Whilst sentencing Judge Flahive described Hewitt as a significant risk to young children and a dangerous offender.
Detective Constable Janet Williams, the investigating officer from the Met's Child Abuse and Sexual Offences Command said:Â "The victims were abused by Hewitt at a very early age. Only when they were older were they able to understand what Hewitt subjected them to. Hewitt abused his position of trust to exploit the young girls for his own satisfaction.
"I would like to pay tribute to the victims who had the courage to report these distressing crimes to police. I hope today's conviction gives the victims a measure of comfort and closure."
Read more at http://talkradio.co.uk/news/michael-john-hewitt-paedophile-jehovahs-witness-jailed-15-years-18031324822#oKZhFYx0KmfTr538.99
By Guest Nicole
Independent investigators in the United Kingdom are weighing whether to launch a new investigation into the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the U.K. after receiving a “considerable number” of abuse allegations.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, or IICSA, a government-sanctioned investigative panel in England and Wales, told The Guardian that it had gotten a “considerable number” of reports from both the public and elected officials about the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the U.K. A spokesperson told the newspaper the panel would “consider calls for a Jehovah’s Witnesses–specific investigation carefully.”
It was unclear how many reports the watchdog group had received. When contacted by Newsweek, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ public information office did not immediately comment.
Kathleen Hallisey, a lawyer who brought charges against the Jehovah’s Witnesses for sexual abuse in 2015, said she suspected there are thousands of such cases in the U.K., The Guardian reported.
“The Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to recognize the issue of child abuse in their organization or to create robust safeguarding procedures to protect children,” she said. “An investigation by IICSA into the Jehovah’s Witnesses is an opportunity for the inquiry to effect real change in an organization that refuses to shine a light on child abuse and protect children.”
News of the possible investigation comes weeks after the nonprofit religious transparency organization Faithleaks leaked 33 letters and internal documents revealing a pattern of sexual abuse by one Jehovah’s Witness member, and the lengths the church went to cover up the scandal.
Those documents detail communications among church leaders and several legal entities—collectively known as Watchtower—between 1999 and 2012. In one letterto Watchtower dated November 14, 1999, the Palmer Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses from Brimfield, Massachusetts, said it had reviewed claims by two women who alleged their father sexually abused them as children. The group found those claims to be true.
“Our impression upon speaking with both girls was similar. That they are both quite rational. It certainly appears that these were real events,” the letter said.
In that case, church leaders pressured one of the accusers not to report the abuse to police. Years later, the church held an in-house trial and briefly excommunicated the father.
That victim was not the only person pressured to remain silent.
In the U.K., several alleged victims had come forward with similar claims in November 2017, according to The Telegraph.
“Frankly, I would equate this to a scandal and a cover-up akin to the Catholic Church,” Hallisey told The Telegraph at the time.
Refugees find a welcoming home in Minnesota: State, federal actions would limit numbers allowed to settle hereBy Guest Nicole
At home in Minnesota
To refugee Sivasundaram, his home in Burnsville feels like paradise.
"I am so happy here," said Sivasundaram, wearing the reflective vest from his job as a forklift operator. On a recent evening, he rested for a few minutes before going to his night job stocking shelves at a Target store.
His wife, Manchuladevy Ravindran, soon walked in, home from her job as a housekeeper in a nearby motel, and started cooking dinner for her three boys.
Some people would call it a stressful life — but not this family. They compare it with the life they had before.
Until 2006, they lived in Sri Lanka, an island south of India. They were part of an ethnic group called Tamils, which the government often treats like terrorists.
Soldiers rampaged through their village in a raid, slaughtered Sivasundaram's mother, and burned her house down. When he complained to the government, his life was threatened.
The family fled to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where they remained for eight years. "I did house cleaning, plumbing, cutting grass, driving a taxi," recalled Sivasundaram.
The family remembers, above all, the crime.
"You couldn't use a phone in the street. Someone would take it," said Sivasundaram. "Someone would cut off the ears of old ladies for the earrings."
The boys faced a unique danger. "They would have kidnapped me for the military, or sold me to another country," said Kapilas, his 17-year-old son.
The family made a Minnesota contact through their Jehovah's Witnesses church. As soon as they arrived, neighbors knocked on their front door to welcome them.
The boys had been raised as English-speakers and have assimilated rapidly.
They laugh about the quirks of their new homeland. "I like Chick-Fil-A. The food in Malaysia is healthier, but this is tastier," said Simraj, 16.
Apilas, 13, is fascinated by boneless fish, which he never encountered in Malaysia. "I always ask: Is that fish, or is that steak?" he said.
Kapilas marveled at his new, low-stress life. "We have security and peace. Here, all I have to worry about is studying," he said.
They gathered for a meal at a time necessitated by their hectic schedules — 11 p.m.
In three years, they have saved enough to buy a car, then a house. "There is a great future here for all of us," said the father. Their success is shared by others. Simraj named 10 relatives and friends who have since followed them to America.
At the end of the interview, the father was asked whether he had anything else to say.
He is not fluent in English, so when asked a question, he looks pleadingly at his sons for help.
"No," he said. "Just thank you."
By Guest Nicole
Children who were sexually abused by Jehovah's Witnesses were allegedly told by the church not to report the crimes.
Victims from across the UK told the BBC they were routinely abused and that the religious organisation's own rules protected perpetrators.
One child abuse lawyer believes there could be thousands of victims across the country who have not come forward because of the "two witness" rule.
A spokesperson for the church said it did not "shield" abusers.
'Bring reproach on Jehovah'
BBC Hereford and Worcester spoke to victims - men and women - from Birmingham, Cheltenham, Leicester, Worcestershire and Glasgow, one of whom waived her right to anonymity.
Louise Palmer, who now lives in Evesham, Worcestershire, was born into the organisation along with her brother Richard Davenport, who started raping her when she was four. He is serving a 10-year prison sentence for the abuse.
The 41-year-old, formerly of Halesowen, West Midlands, said when she told the church of the abuse she was told not to go to police.
Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-42025255
UK - Conservation work set to silence much-loved Big Ben for four years
UK - Big Ben sounds its midday bongs for the last time in four years... and it upsets many Brits!
By The Librarian
NORTH KENSINGTON, London – Not less than four members of Jehovah’s Witnesses survived the inferno that ravaged the 24 storey Grenfel Tower, London killing at least 79 people.
None of the witnesses died in the inferno, which has led to revolution and evacuation of about 25 other blocks that have failed fire resistant test in London.
The 4 witnesses however lost their apartments and properties in the fire.
“Witnesses that live near the now fire-gutted apartment building provided food, clothing, and monetary aid to their fellow members and their families that were affected. The Witnesses are also offering spiritual comfort to the grieving members of the North Kensington community”, the JWs said on their website.Jehovah’s Witnesses are known worldwide for their speed in mitigating the affliction of their neighbours worldwide.See full statement below.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are assisting victims of a catastrophic fire that engulfed the Grenfell Tower, a 24-story apartment building in the North Kensington area of London, in the early morning hours of June 14, 2017. Authorities are reporting that at least 79 people were killed.
Four Witnesses were evacuated from the apartment building, two of which were residents of Grenfell Tower. Fortunately, none of them were injured, although the Witnesses’ apartments were among those completely destroyed in the blaze.
Witnesses that live near the now fire-gutted apartment building provided food, clothing, and monetary aid to their fellow members and their families that were affected. The Witnesses are also offering spiritual comfort to the grieving members of the North Kensington community.
By Jack Ryan
In Newcastle town centre. UK.
The Chronicle Live. 15 June 2017.
A council worker will stand trial after he was accused of being drunk at the wheel of his road sweeper in Newcastle city centre.
John Paul Carruthers, who has since resigned from his post at Newcastle City Council, was allegedly over the legal drink-drive limit when he ploughed into a Jehovah’s Witness stand on Northumberland Street near to Haymarket Metro Station.
Prosecuting, James Long told Newcastle Magistrates’ Court: “The allegation is that he was driving a Newcastle City Council road sweeper when he collided first with a Jehovah’s Witness stand next to Haymarket Metro Station. He carried on then a short while later was detained on Ridley Place and was said to be aggressive.
READ MORE: http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/newcastle-council-roadsweeper-drink-drive-13183193
Painful to see strife over temporarily housing Grenfell Tower survivors in a nation full of actual...By TheWorldNewsOrg
via TheWorldNewsOrgWorld News
Grenfell Tower: British Police say 58 people were in the building are missing and are presumed dead,...By TheWorldNewsOrg
via TheWorldNewsOrgWorld News
By Jack Ryan
09:38 Official police statement
Detectives have launched a murder investigation following the suspicious death of a man in Honiton today [6 June].
Police and ambulance crews were called at around 3.40pm after concerns were raised for the welfare of the man at a premises in Dowell Street.
On arrival they found the man, who is yet to be identified, deceased at the scene. He had sustained a number of stab wounds.
A 55-year-old man was located nearby and has been arrested on suspicion of murder. He has been taken into custody in Exeter awaiting questioning.
Detectives from the Major Crime Investigation Team have launched an investigation to establish the circumstances of the man’s death.
Officers are appealing for anyone who may have information which may assist with the enquiry to contact them.
A cordon remains in place around the scene while a forensic examination is carried out by scenes of crime officers.
Anyone who may have information about the incident is asked to contact police via firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephoning 101, quoting log 529 of 06/06/17.
Information can also be passed anonymously to Crimestoppers via 0800 555111 or the charity’s website at www.crimestoppers-org.uk
Read more at http://www.devonlive.com/police-cordon-around-honiton-s-kingdom-hall-of-jehovah-s-witnesses-after-fatal-stabbing/story-30375040-detail/story.html
The question now is.... are either of the two Jehovah's Witnesses?
Terrorist incident at Manchester Arena
Police shutdown central Manchester, early Tuesday morning, after a suspected explosion at the Manchester Arena killed 19 and injured 50.
Suicide Bomber suspected
The incident is thought to have occurred at 22.35 local time (21.35 GMT), at the end of an Ariana Grande concert as 20,000 + attendees were leaving the premises. Emergency vehicles streamed to the arena and helicopters circled above as police urged people to stay clear of the area.
As we all get more details about this event please post news below as a reply
By Outta Here
This subject is unlikely to subside.
@AnneOMaly has related that "there is a campaign to have the UK JWs' child abuse allegation procedures officially investigated due to failings that have come to light in high profile cases over the past few years." This thread was started. due to publicity around the issue. The Times has reported on the campaign, (although a subscription is required to get the full account).
The campaign includes pressure to include the matter in the investigation, currently in the UK, of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse which has commenced hearings despite an extremely shaky start. https://www.iicsa.org.uk/investigations.
So with this backdrop, don't miss an enlightening BBC drama looking at a particular series of incidents in Rochdale, UK. This illustrates some context around this disgraceful crime, and provides insight regarding the failings of institutional response, highlighting something of the general social and institutional environment that all, including Jehovah's Witnesses, find themselves within, particularly in the UK.
As these are time limited links, the drama is also available on youtube:
Girl who was abused by her father from a age of 11 sought assistance from Jehovah’s Witnesses only to be molested by one of their eldersBy Guest Nicole
A WOMAN who was molested by her father over 5 years and afterwards by a Jehovah’s Witnesses she asked for assistance has oral out about her ordeal.
Terrified Angie Rodgers, from Ayrshire, was abused weekly by her perverted Jehovah’s Witness father Ian Cousins from a age of 11.
Angie Rodgers was 11 years aged when her father started abusing her
The dauntless teen eventually plucked adult a bravery to disclose in a Jehovah’s Witness elders, who took small action and she was after abused by one of them too, Harry Holt.
Angie, now 36, said: “I incited to a church for assistance and we was abused a second time.
“I was a child and they should have helped, though they incited on me. They make me feel sick.
“I don’t consider I’ll ever get over what happened. I’ve usually schooled to live with it.
“I have nightmares and flashbacks all a time and been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress.”
Angie’s father was detained for 5 years in 2002 for his crimes, while Holt was usually jailed final year for Angie’s attack along with 7 others he molested.
Now aged 36, Angie, a mother-of-four, has bravely waived her anonymity in a wish her story will assistance other people.
She said: “Dad did it whenever he got a chance, even when we was ill.
Angie Rodgers poses here with others in a Jehovah’s Witness community
“Once, we was throwing adult with gastric influenza when father brought me home a feathery bunny, with a organic white floral dress and bloomers.
“My wordless went to a Kingdom (church) and my father scooped me adult in his arms from a couch, took me to his room and molested me.
“I prayed my wordless would come and save me though she never did. After that he used to try to hold me whenever we were alone. It got worse and worse.
“We went to a Jehovah gathering when we was about 14 and he attempted to rape me in a tent. He was usually interrupted when an elder shouted him from outside.”
At a age of 15 Angie confided in a friend, whose father led a opposite church, in a wish that they would be means to stop a abuse.
While her father Cousins was called in for a “judicial meeting” no movement was taken, as Jehovah’s Witness elders can't act opposite suspects unless “there is a admission or dual convincing witnesses”.
Angie was afterwards subjected to an talk by 3 masculine elders including Holt, where she was done to plead insinuate sum of a abuse.
She explained: “They even asked what I’d been wearing, as if it was my fault. It was excruciating. we was so genuine we was still personification with toys and Lego during 18.”
As Cousins showed plea for his sins he was authorised behind into a church after being reprimanded – and a abuse stopped.
A brief while after in 1997, Holt done a pierce on Angie when pushing her home following a event door-knocking for members.
She said: “On a approach home in a automobile he grabbed my leg and felt his approach adult towards my underwear.”
Shocked, a immature lady told her relatives about a occurrence and a explanation led to Holt journey to Edinburgh.
It was suggested in justice final year that he went on to abuse some-more children.
Angie motionless to make a censure to a military about her father when she found out he had also abused another dual girls.
She also incited her behind on a Jehovah’s Witnesses during 19 in a wish of starting fresh.
The sacrament is pronounced to inspire members to reject people who leave, and Angie claimed that she didn’t see her mom for 6 years after she left.
In 2014 a censure was done opposite Holt, and Angie concluded to come brazen and pronounce about her horrific experience.
In Feb 2016, 71-year-old Holt was condemned to three-and-a-half years in jail for a abuse of 8 girls between 1971 and 2004.
Angie said: “If what happened to me helps usually one immature lady – or child – go to a military it will have been value it. What happened to me is horrible though I’m perplexing to pierce on, differently my abusers have won.
“The sacrament is zero though a cult. Children are kept wordless by fears of Holy condemnation and Armageddon if they move a church into ill repute.
“It’s that fear and a fear of being shunned by friends and family if we leave that stops victims from stating to police. It’s primitive and it has to stop.”
When contacted, a Jehovah’s Witnesses wouldn’t criticism on Angie’s box though they did criticism on their position in general.
The matter said: “Jehovah’s Witnesses detest child abuse and perspective it as a iniquitous crime and sin. Safety of a children is of a pinnacle importance.
“Elders do not defense abusers from a authorities. Anyone who commits a impiety of child abuse faces exclusion from a congregation. Any idea Jehovah’s Witnesses cover adult abuse is false.
“We are doing all we can to forestall child abuse and to yield devout comfort to any who have suffered from this terrible impiety and crime.”
Arbroath man who acted aggressively towards his wife sentenced to 180 hours of unpaid work
By Guest Nicole
From Ugandan camp to Lowell, a Congolese family starts again
HARDSHIP, AND HOPE: Sendegeya Bayavuge joins his family, newly arrived from Africa, on the porch of their apartment in Lowell. With him, from left, are Dusenge Tuyishime, 14, Maria Uwimana, 16, Nyirakabanza Muhawenimana, 20, Sarah Nyiramana Bayavuge, 6, their mother, Vanisi Uzamukunda, 43, and Lea Nyiramahoro, 11. See a slide show at lowellsun.com. (SUN / JOHN LOVE)
LOWELL -- The Congolese family's home in Lowell is sparsely decorated, a sign of their recent arrival.
There's no art on the walls, no photos of smiling faces, no toys cluttering the floors. However, there is furniture and food and the basic necessities for a fresh start in the United States.
The family of seven -- father Sendegeya Bayavuge, 52, mother Vanisi Uzamukunda, 43, and five children ages 6-20 -- arrived in early February with help from a resettlement agency. The family had spent the past two decades at a Ugandan refugee camp after fleeing violent unrest in their native Democratic Republic of Congo, a country located in Central Africa.
"I see America as good and I can live in America," said Sendegeya through an
interpreter on a recent Monday afternoon, his hands clasped together as he sat in the corner of the living room. "I see here they have security. The way I was (living in Uganda), I was always in fear ... with security, I find everything good."
Maria Uwimana, 16, sat on a carpet beside her father in the family's second-floor apartment. Three of her siblings, sisters Nyirakabanza Muhawenimana, 20, and Lea Nyiramahoro, 11, and brother Dusenge Tuyishime, 14, sat across the room on a worn, cream-colored couch. The family's "princess," 6-year-old Sarah Nyiramana Bayavuge, nestled onto her mother's lap.
The family was spared in late January from President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration, which in part suspended the refugee admissions program for 120 days. Vanisi recalled hearing about the order as she waited with her family in a hotel for their flight to the United States.
"He said he don't want the guests. We lost the hope to come," Vanisi said through the interpreter. "After the situation changed and we came here, we were happy.
"I'm really grateful that they were not immediately impacted by the proposed suspension of the resettlement program," said Cheryl Hamilton, director of the Lowell site of the International Institute of New England, the agency assigned to resettle the family in partnership with the State Department.
A refugee is someone who has fled from his or her country and cannot return due to fears of persecution based on religion, race, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular group and, according to the State Department. Since 1975 the U.S. has welcomed over 3 million refugees from all over the world. The city of Lowell has received 508 Iraqis, 220 Somalis, 31 Syrians, and 7 Sudanese during the 10-year period from 2007 through January 2017, according to federal data analyzed by the Associated Press.
Hamilton said about half of her staff's cases are refugees from the Congo since the U.S. government committed to accepting 25,000 of them across the country. According to 2009-2013 data on Massachusetts refugee arrivals from the Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants, 25 percent of 11,155 refugees admitted in the state hailed from the Congo.
Journey to a new life
It took over 24 hours for Sendegeya, Vanisi and their family to arrive in Lowell. They first stopped in Manchester, N.H. before being brought by resettlement workers to the light yellow multi-family house they now call home.
"In the beginning, we had a fear to fly because it was our first time to go on the airplane," Sendegeya said.
daughters, Maria Uwimana, 16. (SUN / JOHN LOVE)
"After that, we realized we are with other people."
He and Vanisi are bracing for the long road ahead. The children are still waiting to be enrolled in school, and the family as a whole is still struggling with having left their eldest child behind in Uganda. They don't have immediate family here and don't speak English. The language barrier, both parents admit, is a big obstacle they hope to overcome so they can have a better chance at finding jobs to support their family. Back in Uganda, Sendegeya worked as a farmer.
"I think that anybody moving into a new community, you're having to rebuild your entire social network and, with that, obviously being less familiar with employment opportunities or navigating transportation," Hamilton said. "Essentially, you are rebuilding every area of your life."
The United States allocates $925 per individual for the first three months in the country, according to Hamilton. Like with other refugee families the International Institute of New England helps resettle, Sendegeya and Vanisi's family will have access to integration services for the first year and be eligible to come back to the organization for employment services for up to a year and benefit from citizenship services for five years. Hamilton said her staff also offers other programs, such as after-school homework help.
"Obviously, the federal financial assistance is lean and it's remarkable the resiliency and the ability of families to navigate and overcome these challenges," Hamilton said.
Vanisi said her greatest fear involves protecting her children. Recently, while the children played outside, the mother said a neighbor warned them to be quiet and threatened to call the police.
"We saw our neighbor just coming to give us a warning without saying 'Good morning' or 'Welcome,'" Vanisi recalled. "It was just a warning -- 'Kids, shut up!'"
The incident was traumatic for Vanisi, who said her family now spends most of their time inside their home.
"In Uganda, it's different because in Uganda you can play and dance," she said. "Not that kind of warning."
There have been tiny victories through the murkiness. The family found a market with familiar foods and established a friendship with fellow Jehovah's Witnesses in nearby Chelmsford. Twice a week, members of the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses pick up the family for meetings.
The four daughters later walked up a flight of stairs to proudly show off their rooms -- Nyirakabanza and Maria in one, and Lea and Sarah in the other. Both rooms are bare except for neatly made twin-sized beds. In Lea and Sarah's closet, there are clothes and several pairs of shoes. The family's only son, Dusenge, has his own room. He remained quiet for the duration of the family's interview and smiled shyly when asked about his thoughts on his new home.
"Right now, what I like and what I have desired, I have found it," he said through the interpreter, his hands fiddling with a pale pink throw. "Everything is OK for me."
Ask the eldest, Nyirakabanza and Maria, what they dream of becoming someday and their eyes light up. Both said they hope to become nurses to help others.
"I'm happy here, but not yet," Nyirakabanza said, later clarifying that she is still sorting out her feelings about the family's new life in America. "I will be happy and confirm the happiness when I see my achievement. My goal is to go to school to continue my education -- to become someone self-sufficient. If I achieve that, I will be very very happy."
SWEET HOME: Sarah Nyiramana Bayavuge, 6, and her sister Lea Nyiramahoro, 11, in their new bedroom. The family was spared in late January from President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration. (SUN / JOHN LOVE)
By Guest Nicole
How do you explain proselytizers to a friendly newcomer?
Our hands were covered in cookie dough and crushed dates when the knock on the door startled us. Safa was not expecting anyone but she seemed happy to see two women in the doorway. The pretty blonde extended a hand and told Safa how happy she was to meet face-to-face after their phone conversation. The perky brunette behind her nodded enthusiastically. I assumed they were parents from the nearby school, dropping in to say hello.
It was smiles all around as I introduced myself, but there was no context given as the blonde handed Safa an iPad and pressed play. And that is when it hit me: these nice women who were heading over to the couch to chat had come with a mission in mind. They were Jehovah’s Witnesses, replete with Arabic literature and videos, who were hoping to “educate” Syrian refugees about the afterlife perks of conversion.
Safa arrived in Canada from Syria by way of Jordan nine months ago. She came with her husband, two sons, and a baby on the way. I am part of a sponsorship group that pooled financial and emotional resources to bring her family to Toronto and support them for a year.
In Syria, Safa was married in her teens, quickly had her two boys, and lived with her parents-in-law. Now she lives in downtown Toronto with her husband, Ziad, and their two boys, now four and two. She piles her kids into a stroller that needs an engineering degree to understand, and traipses around a city with temperatures she doesn’t even have a word for—all in a language she barely knows. On a weekly basis, she is bombarded with texts and visits from a group of Canadian do-gooders who breeze in and out of her life bearing gifts, paperwork, and kindly suggestions.
Safa and I were spending the morning making ma’amoul cookies, a traditional date-filled butter variety. My suggestion of using a measuring cup was met with disdain that I didn’t need help translating. Her system of using an empty labnah (yogurt) container worked just fine. We sat on the floor—a bit awkward for this middle-aged Canadian—rolling out cookies while chatting and gossiping with Google Translate as our invisible third. Her toddler ran around causing trouble, while the baby slept in a swing. The experience of baking together was so natural and familiar to Safa; it was the most relaxed I had seen her in months. That is, until the knock on the door.
The two women who sat on the couch didn’t seem to care about Safa’s lack of English, or that she was wearing a hijab and is an observant Muslim. They prattled on about Jesus, never pausing to see if she understood. But with pamphlets and video in Arabic, it was clear this wasn’t their first stop on their conversion crusade—likely a coordinated effort targeting the Syrian newcomers. They then began telling me about the connections between Christianity and Islam, as if all I needed was a little enlightenment and I too would join forces.
I can only imagine what Safa was thinking as I chastised the women for going after a vulnerable population that has an ample sense of hospitality. I kept smiling, as did they, but you wouldn’t need one word of English to understand that we were having a disagreement. When I told them they couldn’t come back, they dropped the facade of generic pleasantness. The blonde practically snarled at me saying that since Safa invited them, they could return as often as they like.
Safa stood there with teacups in hand looking bewildered. Google Translate and I tried to explain about Jehovah’s Witnesses, but a round of charades couldn’t quite get the message across that those nice white women wanted her to abandon her religion—one of the last remaining constants from her life in Syria. I told her that they were selling Christian Bibles.
She nodded at me, smiling, but I recognized the perplexed shrug she gave me. It is the look of resignation when confronted with another ridiculous Canadian habit, such as tobogganing in sub-zero snowstorms, strapping screaming children into car seats, or using measuring cups while baking. She has been in Toronto for nine months and a couple of pretty, white women in her apartment telling her what to do no longer surprises her. Sometimes, I am amazed that she lets any of us past her doorstep.
We went back to our dough, and Safa schooled me for my clumsy rolling technique.
Emma Waverman (@emmawaverman) writes for Reader’s Digest, Today’s Parent, Canadian Living.
By Guest Nicole
LOWELL — The Congolese refugees huddled rapt around a stove in the early morning darkness. They had never used one before, and they watched in their new home Friday as a resettlement worker flipped the burners off and on.
They had never used a refrigerator, either. Or seen water pass through a faucet. Or been told how to lock a door. Or adjust a thermostat. Or even how to squeeze shampoo from a tube.
Twenty years in a refugee camp in Uganda will insulate a family from everyday conveniences that Americans take for granted. But here they were, bewildered and grateful — a mother, father, and five children who received a waiver from President Trump’s ban on new arrivals.
“We heard no more refugees could come to America. So, for us to come to America, we are very happy,” the 43-year-old matriarch, Vanisi Uzamukunda, said through an interpreter as she held a sleepy 7-year-old.
After Trump’s executive order last week barred new refugees for 120 days, the family worried whether this day would ever happen. But they were allowed entry because government officials determined that a delay in their scheduled journey would have caused significant hardship, resettlement officials said.
Hardship has been a constant. Their lives were shattered two decades ago when the parents fled unending violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But here was a fresh start only a 28-hour, continent-hopping odyssey away from their home in Uganda.
The family landed late Thursday night in Manchester, N.H., and then were ferried by resettlement workers to a two-floor apartment in Lowell. But even that simple drive showed the chasm between their former life and the one unfolding before them.
They did not know how to open the car doors, or how to fasten a seat belt. And when they finally stepped out of the cars into 20-degree temperatures, they saw snow for the first time.
“Now that we are in Lowell, this is our destination. We are finished,” said the oldest child, 20-year-old Nyirakabanza Muhawenimana, who took the lead in questioning workers from the International Institute of New England, the resettlement agency.
She asked whether the family could wash clothes in the tub. No, take them to a laundromat, replied case manager Sabyne Denaud, who emigrated from Haiti.
And so it went: Here is where the trash goes, make sure you lock the doors at night, do not let the children out alone, and call 911 on the apartment phone if there is an emergency.
“This is the first time they have lived in a house,” said Suad Mansour, a Lowell High School teacher who was one of four people to greet the family at the airport.
Suad Mansour explained shampoo to Nyirakabanza, 20, and her family at their new home in Lowell.
Mansour, who immigrated to the United States from Jordan, led the family on an initial tour of the apartment about 1 a.m. Friday. After they slept for a few hours, Denaud arrived later in the morning and refreshed their memories.
“You don’t have to worry about the new president,” Denaud said. “You don’t have to worry about anything. You are safe here.”
The family will receive a one-time $925 stipend per person from the federal government to help pay for rent and other basic necessities, but they are expected to become self-sufficient within six months.
“You have to keep your house nice and clean,” Denaud said. “You never know who’s going to come to the apartment.”
The International Institute, which last fiscal year resettled 623 refugees who had fled war and persecution in several countries, will help the family find work, enroll in school, register for Social Security, and learn English.
The challenges are daunting — the family does not speak English, for one. But regular follow-up will ease the transition to a strange country, said Tea Psorn, a program manager from the institute who came to the United States as a Bosnian refugee in the 1990s.
“These people only want safety,” Psorn said.
Their vetting process took nearly three years, the family said. A total of 684 Congolese refugees arrived in Massachusetts from 2011 to 2015, according to the state Department of Public Health.
In Lowell on Friday, after hours of explanation and advice from Mansour and Denaud, 16-year-old Maria Uwimana floated a final question: Where can we find a church?
The family members are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Maria’s query was answered a short time later when a small group of well-wishers suddenly entered the living room and welcomed the new arrivals with hugs and conversation in Swahili.
They, too, are Jehovah’s Witnesses and had been at a gas station only a block away when the day’s interpreter, former Congolese refugee Kafila Bulimwengu, called to tell them about the newcomers.
Approximately a dozen Congolese have already joined Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in nearby Chelmsford, said Markus Lewis, who is part of a church group that has learned Swahili to communicate with African worshipers.
Lewis shook hands with Sendegeya Bayavuge, the family’s 52-year-old father, who gradually began to relax as the day wore on. At the airport, sitting with his children after the grueling trip, he appeared exhausted and apprehensive.
But in the apartment, as each new wonder was demonstrated, the creases in Sendegeya’s face began to soften.
“There will be safety here. There will be a difference,” said Sendegeya, who had been a farmer in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Some worries remain, however: One daughter still lives in a Ugandan camp.
“Life was very bad in the camp; there were many problems,” including food shortages, Sendegeya said. “We pray to God to help those who are still in the camps to come here.”
Still, Friday was a glorious day for this close-knit family, which seemed humbled into silence by its introduction to the United States.
Nyirakabanza, the oldest child, was the outgoing exception: asking questions and trying each new knob and handle for herself.
She even practiced putting a trash bag in place.
“It’s a new life,” she said, breaking into a broad, beaming smile. “I feel happy to be in America.”
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