Immigrating to America, Take 2 (Season 2 final episode)

World to the Wise Podcast

You may remember hearing in the news about a family from the Kurdish area of Northern Iraq, who were on their way to make a new life in the United States when they were turned away at the Cairo airport as a result of President Trump’s executive order, in February 2017, banning immigrants from seven majority Muslim countries. Fuad Sharif Suleman had been employed by the US government, through a third party contractor, as a translator and interpreter in Northern Iraq, and was traveling to the US on a perfectly legitimate Special Immigration Visa.

Thanks to the work of a number of organizations and TN congressman Jim Cooper, Fuad, his wife, and three children were finally cleared to set out once again for their final destination of Nashville, where a crowd of around 200 were waiting for them at the airport with signs and chants of “Welcome home.” My wife Becky and I were in that crowd. A couple of months later, after numerous attempts to track them down, I was able to sit down with Fuad and all but one member of his family. I know you’ll enjoy meeting them.

This is the final episode of Season 2 of this podcast. We’ve had a great time taking you to people and places near and far, and look forward to much more in Season 3.

In the meantime, in just over a week, my wife Becky and I will be leaving for the Greek island of Lesvos, where we will be leading a team from the US to work for a week in a refugee camp run by the UN and the Greek government. After that, we will be welcoming the 2017 World to the Wise cultural tour group in Rome for an unforgettable cultural feast through Italy, Paris, and Amsterdam. You can follow our experiences on the World to the Wise Facebook page (have you liked that page yet?) and here on my blog.

The New Kurdistan: One Family's Role

World to the Wise Podcast

What would make a successful Iraqi geologist and his physicist wife pull up roots from the city they’ve grown up in, learn a new language, and become humanitarians and educators in a foreign culture — within their own country?

Today we’re speaking with Youssif Matti, an Aramaic Iraqi, who has been living and working in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq for over 25 years. He has seen the region transform into a relatively peaceful and prosperous corner of the Middle East, and the part he has played in that transformation is significant. I hope you enjoy listening to his story.

We apologize for the technical issues toward the end of the interview. Yousif was saying he believes Muslim imams, or clerics, need to do a better job of explaining to the world the difference between their orthodox beliefs and the tenets of radical Islam.

That’s just one of the many challenges Yousif and his family and team members navigate on a regular basis as they serve the Kurdish people.

You can read more about the Classical School of the Medes here. And if you'd like to find out about how you can support their important work, go here.

Dave Dillard Interview

World to the Wise Podcast

My wife Becky and I have been very impacted by the plight of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have flooded into Europe in the past year, primarily from war torn countries such as Syria. Thousands of these men, women and children are currently stranded in Greece, their point of arrival in Europe. We have committed to volunteering in Greece this summer with a Nashville-based nonprofit called Servant Group International, whose executive director is Dave Dillard. Turn up your curiosity and listen to Dave's wisdom and experience. You'll also learn about the world's largest ethnic group without a home state.

Sunni? Shiite? Why Care?

Allahu akhbar
Allahu akhbar

For years now, the news has been chock full of the words Sunni and Shia (or Shiite). What do they mean and why should we care? For Westerners not directly affected by the conflicts in the Middle East, it is easy to just ignore these labels. Or worse, some will say "those Arabs are all the same, as far as I'm concerned." Nothing could be farther than the truth, and for us to make any sense at all of what is going on -- and this conflict is getting closer to home all the time -- it is important to have a basic understanding of the major players. And they're not all Arabs.

Misconception number 1: All Muslims in the Middle East are Arabs. 

Yes, the vast majority of Arabs are Muslim, and the majority of the peoples of the Middle East are Arabs from one tribe or another. But there are some notable and very important exceptions:

Iran is the ancient Persia (once the most vast empire on the planet), and Persians are NOT Arabs. Nor is their language Arabic. Yes, they use the Arabic alphabet, but their native tongue is Farsi and happens to use Arabic script. Do yourself and your Iranian neighbor or acquaintance a kindness by not, as in NEVER, calling him or her an Arab. They are a very proud people and once a great civilization. Most Iranians are at least nominal Muslims, but there is a very small Jewish minority and even a few Christians, although the state says that only Assyrians and Armenians may be Christian.

The Kurds are not Arabs. The Kurds, who live in parts of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran, are widely believed to be descendants of the ancient Medes. (You may remember seeing them mentioned in the Old Testament. Does the "law of the Medes and the Persians" ring a bell?) The Kurds are the largest people group in the world without their own state. (On a side note, Nashville, where I live, is home to the largest Kurdish community in the U.S.) Many Kurds speak Arabic, but their native tongue is, of all things, Kurdish. It also uses the Arabic alphabet, so you'll be forgiven for thinking they were one and the same.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where we look at the difference between Sunni and Shiite and why it matters. Nothing in the Middle East will make much sense without a basic understanding of this conflict.