by Len Lear
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”—-The Book of Hebrews, chapter 13, verse 2, in the Old Testament.
Erneste Muhizi, 29, is one of those refugees from terror whom President Trump would probably want to keep out of the U.S. Muhizi, originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in central Africa, was 8 years old when rebels came into his town and murdered his parents, attacking him also with a machete. Muhizi was eventually rescued by good Samaritans and given medical care.
For him that was the beginning of a journey that lasted two decades and took him to Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and now, the Philadelphia Main Line. He and his wife Denise Uwiragiye, daughter Faith and foster son Samuel Cyubahiro, 18, arrived here last November. They have received considerable help from five churches in Radnor Township: St. Mary’s Episcopal, Wayne Presbyterian, Radnor Friends Meeting, St. David’s Episcopal and St. Martin’s Episcopal, including dozens of volunteers from the Main Line Refugee Resettlement Committee. Many have said they were inspired to help refugees because of President Trump’s mean-spirited travel ban efforts to keep out so many victims of persecution.
The remarkable thing about Muhizi is that he and his wife were approved in 2014, after two years of extreme vetting, by the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees for resettlement in the West, but they refused to leave without their friend, Samuel Cyubahiro, then 16. Samuel, whom they had just recently met and who was from the same tribe, had a tragic past very similar to their own. Samuel’s father and brother were also killed by rebels in the Congo, where tribal violence is perpetual, but Samuel was able to escape with other family members and run away to Uganda, where he met Muhizi, who was willing to stay in Africa for two more years while Samuel was vetted by refugee authorities. (Samuel had been forcefully separated from other family members who are still in Africa.)
Finally, last November Samuel and Muhizi were welcomed into the U.S. and wound up being resettled in the Radnor area. “We come to survive, to work, to help America, to pay taxes, to be a good citizen,” Muhizi, who hopes to attend college, told a local newspaper.
Samuel, who spoke virtually no English when he arrived here, was a ninth grade student at Radnor High School this past year and worked after school at a supermarket. He has struggled with the new language. “I feel really good and thankful,” Samuel told this reporter in an email exchange.
“What I would like to study in college is politics so I can get power to use my opinion to change what I can to world be better. I meet with many people and different personality, good personality and bad personality, but I trying to figure out how to be with all of them cuz I know every where there are.”
Samuel has made a great deal of progress in learning English in less than a year. Imagine how well you or I would do with the native language if were dropped off in central Africa for one year. When asked if he would ever want to return to his native country, Samuel said, “I think I don’t want to go back in Congo, but I have to go back cuz I want to do some think to help people who crying every day begging for help, but they don’t get it, and I know one person can save so many people in different ways.”
This sensitive and courageous young man was asked about culture shock in the U.S. and if he has ever encountered any negative reactions to his being here, in view of the Trump anti-immigrant crusade. “The biggest culture shocked me in U.S. is how people have right to speech and chance to open up their thought with no worries (about consequences) … I never be any situation like that with negative people or negative situations.”
Samuel was asked who is his hero and whom he would most like to meet in the entire world. “Who is my hero in my life is my mommy. I learned a lot things from her. (Ed. Note: Samuel has not seen his mother since leaving the Congo, and he does not know if she is alive or not.)
“Who I would most like to meet in the world to spend one hour with him when he’s not front of camera, when he’s not working so for that I can know for sure why people like to judge him and to see if he really deserve to be President of U.S., like biggest country on the planet.”
Regarding the anti-immigrant sentiments expressed often by Trump and his supporters, Cyubahiro told another local reporter, “We are all different, but we are not perfect. I don’t come here to do something wrong. If some refugee does something wrong, judge him. But don’t judge me because of what they did.”
According to the Rev. Joseph Smith, of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, who has welcomed Samuel into his home and extended family, “Just when we thought we were done raising kids and ready to enjoy our empty nest, God surprised us. Our surprise was an 18-year-old young man seeking refuge right here on the Main Line. Despite not having an empty nest, Samuel coming into our lives has been such a blessing.
“I’m amazed at Samuel’s resilience. He is the kindest, most gentle young man I’ve ever met with wisdom well beyond his years. It would be easy for anyone who has lost his entire family — mom, dad, brother and sister — to have resentment and hostilities built up, but Samuel somehow channels all that energy.
“Samuel’s number one priority right now is his education. He knows and understands that the excellence found in our school system is the key to his future, and he plans on making the most of this opportunity. Because Samuel understands the opportunity he now has, he is intent on paying it forward. There are two young men from his tribe, Brown and Vincenty, who are now trying to make a life in Rwanda. Samuel wires them money whenever he can so that they can have food to eat. His goal is to raise enough money for them to rent a larger house, $60 a month, and then to enroll them in school; $180 three times a year. Samuel says, ‘Once they get a good education, then they will be in charge of their own destiny.’”
If you would like to help Brown and Vincenty, email Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org