Her name is Marwee; she is not a category.
We talked with a woman. It was not any woman. We talked with an African woman. It was not any African woman. We talked with a Moslem African woman. She was not any Moslem from Africa. We talked with a Moslem African woman who spent years living in a refugee camp in Uganda. She is not a category. Categories cannot smile. Her face burst into a bright smile when we asked to see a photograph of her husband and young daughter who are still in the refugee camp waiting and waiting and waiting to move through the United States immigration process.
We talked with a refugee. It was not any refugee. She is a very grateful, strong willed and resilient Moslem African woman whose beloved father owned a business. There was fighting between rival warlords. They lived in a home, on a city street in Mogadishu, Somalia. The fighting was outside their door. Her father was killed. He was her father, not a category or a statistic or a number.
Her mother loved her; loved her hard. Her mother loved her so hard she insisted that she leave; leave their home; leave their city; leave their country. Her mother’s hard love did not want her beautiful, smiling daughter married off by force to one of the many soldiers outside their door who sought young girls with smiles. Her mother could not make the journey; she stayed behind in their home; she died. Her beautiful, smiling daughter never saw her again.
Her name is Marwee. She is a smiling, smart Moslem African refugee who has two kids with her in a small, neat apartment in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She praises the abundant support from Church World Service. She is not a category. Her young son has a soccer ball. He is not a category either.
Why do we think in categories so quickly, so easily and so dismissively? American and African; Christian and Moslem, black and white, citizen and refugee, rich and poor, male and female, us and them. Categories do not smile. Neighbors are not categories.
Jesus said, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”