My story is the story of many refugees around the world. I never chose to flee my country. I had a dream, but I could not fulfill it. Many refugees have been in the same situation. Families have been obliged to flee and to leave everything behind without knowing where they are going. Families don’t have the choice; no one chooses to flee and to abandon their home country. Fleeing became the only option I, as well as other refugees, had to save our lives.
On May 23rd, 2009, I graduated from the Jesuits School of Theology in Berkeley, California. I got a Master’s degree in Social Ethics. I then went back to my home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. My dream was to be a teacher and a pastor. Unfortunately, facing the reality of suffering, corruption and human rights violations on a daily basis, I felt the call to speak out against the government. As a pastor, my major theological question became ‘How to make good news good in the midst of suffering.’ The government of my country did not appreciate what I was doing, therefore, my life was threatened. I was arrested many times. There was a real possibility that I would be killed. Thankfully, I was lucky to flee and to return to the United States to seek asylum.
I was granted asylum on August 8th, 2012. This was a new birth, a new beginning. For refugees, arriving in the United States is also a new beginning. After spending years in refugee camps; after experiencing threats, wars, humiliation, rape and dehumanization, being welcomed in the United States has always been the best opportunity to start over with hope.
Each year, June 20 marks World Refugee Day, an annual celebration of the resilience, courage, and power of those who have rebuilt their lives after being forced to flee their homes. This year the World Refugee Day theme is “hope away from home.” In fact, the United States has given me what I need. This is the experience of many refugees. Today I work as Student and Community Engagement Manager at the Global Village Project; a special middle school for refugee girls. I also work as Pastor of Good Samaritan Lutheran Ministries and Faith and Grace Lutheran Church. My dream has become true. I can be a teacher and pastor. I could not get there without hope; I have hoped against hope.
Being in the United States is like a resurrection to many refugees. Parents are working, children are getting a good education. These children are the hope of a better life and good social standard for their families. Hope, courage and determination have always been at the core of refugee families in America. Life is not always easy but hope and determination make a dream become true.
On this 2023 World Refugee Day, I dream to see refugees fulfilling their dreams. It is uplifting to see refugee children graduating from high schools and colleges. It is consoling to see refugee families buying homes and being involved in business. This can only be possible when we hope against hope; when this hope becomes reality even being away from home. America has become our new home. As immigrants, as refugees and asylum seekers, we feel safe and happy in America.
Hoping against hope, refugees are determined to contribute to the growth of America. They are not a threat to the United States; they are a blessing – another opportunity for America to shine. This is my hope for all refugees and especially all our girls from the Global Village Project.