In the past few years Fort Morgan, the town I live in and where I am pastor of United Presbyterian Church, has seen a dramatic influx of Somali refugees. In a town of about 10,000 people we are now host to around 800 East African refugees. This has all happened within the past 2 years. You can imagine such a dramatic shift is causing some ripples in the community.
The Somali refugees coming to Fort Morgan are "secondary migration", meaning they were initially settled elsewhere in the United States, but moved to Fort Morgan for jobs. The largest Somali population center in the US is Minneapolis. So most of the refugees have come from there and have family and friends back in Minneapolis they visit on vacation. The attraction to Fort Morgan is our meat packing plant where most of them are now employed. After we had a small core of 100 or so refugees it attained critical mass and now we are seeing a continuing influx which is reshaping the demographics of our town.
I would be derelict in my duties as a minister in this situation if I wasn't trying to learn more about Somalia, the situation of these refugees and how to help my congregation adapt to this development. I am partnering with a variety of community organizations to host educational events about Somalia, and even more importantly face-to-face meetings where we can start to make friends and bridge the cultural/linguistic gap. As part of my research about Somalia I came across this article which I found fascinating.
In the article the authors argue that nearly 20 years of anarchy in Somalia has actually benefited the country. Obviously a statement like that comes with a lot of caveats. Somalia is still a deeply impoverished place. The refugees in my town all have stories of intense suffering experienced in camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, the loss of family members to violence, and severe deprivation which caused their exodus. With that said, the authors note that all statistical indicators have improved more without a central government in Somalia than they did in the years previous of corrupt dictatorships. The article describes an elaborate, yet informal, system of customary law and commerce which reemerged in the absence of formal government with surprising success. As a result people live longer, eat better, are more secure, and have more luxuries like telephones and televisions than they did before.
I love what it says at the end about many governments being "vampire states" that prey on their people. Obviously, we'd like to believe that our governments are better, but I think from a Christian perspective all government is fundamentally vampiric. The principalities and powers are set against Jesus Christ and his reign of Shalom, and in some cases anarchy really is the best road forward.