When talking about the most inspirational experience that we have encountered through Global Ties, one thing came to mind. Here is what Michelle had to say about an experience that is near and dear to her heart:
“One of the inspirational moments that we’ve had, and there’s been so many, was a delegation that arrived from Saudi Arabia through our international visitor leadership program. This delegation had never left the country before and they only spoke Arabic. They arrived on the plane in 2002 after September 11th had happened and they had congregated while on the plane to pray, so they were labeled immediately as terrorists and they shut down the airport in Washington D.C. upon their arrival.
It took negotiating by a former ambassador from Saudi Arabia to help explain that these were important guests of our state department that we’re from the administrative education of Saudi Arabia to learn about religious education all across the U.S. and that they should be treated as special guests not as terrorists. So, it took some smoothing over, but needless to say these delegates went through the country feeling very distant from who they were meeting with across the country, feeling that they had to keep their barriers up. It started on such a rough note that they really didn’t feel that they were going to leave the experience with anything positive. When they came here to Akron, Ohio, we had a dialogue that brought together the religious leaders from our various faiths that exist here in our community from Seek, Bahia, Hindu, Muslim, Judaism, Unitarian Universalists, and various Christian denominations.
They all came together to talk with one another in dialogue about how important it was to teach our children how to continue their faith through their lives. Through this dialogue it was such a deep and rich conversation, that at the end of it one of the delegates came up to me, and we had talked about our families and knew that we had daughters the same age and he told me that through his whole experience since he’s been in the U.S., his daughter called him every day afraid because back home watching television, they saw Americans shooting people that looked just like them in Iraq. So, she was very afraid of her father’s safety. So, he came over and said “I’m calling my daughter tonight, to let her know, that she has friends and I have friends in the United States and not to be afraid anymore.”
–Michelle Wilson, Executive Director of Global Ties Akron