Monday, November 19, 2012

Thomas and Stacie's Bhutanese Thanksgiving

Last night I was able to introduce my friends, Thomas and Stacie, to this wonderful family from Bhutan. The parents fled Bhutan over 16 years ago, and all of their children were born in refugee camps in Nepal, where they spent their entire lives prior to relocation in Saint Louis

Many people have never even heard of Bhutan, let alone the refugee situation there. Here at Oasis, we meet newly arrived Bhutanese families all the time.
The political situation that occurred in Bhutan has to do with ethnicity and culture. There was an ethnic group in Bhutan who were the descendants of Nepali migrants. These people still practiced Nepali culture in Bhutan even though they were Bhutanese citizens. In the 1990s, the government of Bhutan decided that the Nepali ethnic group was a threat to their country's ancient culture and identity, as they saw globalization occurring in other countries nearby and around the world. They stripped the Nepali ethnic group of their citizenship and told them they had to go "back" to Nepal or essentially face the possibility of being killed. Many fled to Nepal, but the Nepali government wouldn't grant them citizenship there either. Most of the Bhutanese refugees arriving inSt Louis have spent over 20 years living in refugee camps in Nepal.

This family welcomed us into their home, even though their English was limited and they weren't sure why we wanted to come and share food with them. We were able to share the American tradition of Thanksgiving with them as we learned about Nepali traditions and festivals. We were able to ask many questions about Bhutanese/Nepali culture with the help of their teenage daughters, who giggled through the process of trying to translate. They shared about religious traditions and shared Hindi and Nepali music videos with us. When we asked if they could teach us to dance like the people in the videos, they said we should just go take lessons. (Which I actually think would be pretty fun..)

Before we left, we all make a big sign with pictures of things that we are thankful for:

Friends, as we give thanks this week please remember to extend the things you are thankful for, such as loving friendships, community, good food, and laughter with ALL of our neighbors :)

(The Refugee Connection program operates through Oasis International Ministries. If you are interested in getting involved, visit, or just let me know!)

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