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Students share stories of hope through conflict

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Jam Riyan Hamza (‘21), Belal Krayem (‘18), and Mohammed Aljadart (‘19) share stories about their childhoods in conflict areas.

Jam Riyan Hamza (‘21), Belal Krayem (‘18), and Mohammed Aljadart (‘19) share stories about their childhoods in conflict areas.

Rozlyn Paradis (‘18) | Chips

Rozlyn Paradis (‘18) | Chips

Jam Riyan Hamza (‘21), Belal Krayem (‘18), and Mohammed Aljadart (‘19) share stories about their childhoods in conflict areas.

Rozlyn Paradis, Staff Writer

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Three Luther students, Belal Krayem (‘18), Mohammed Aljardat (‘19), and Jam Riyan Hamza (‘21) shared their stories of growing up in areas plagued with deep-rooted conflict in a roundtable discussion on May 9 in Olin 102. The discussion was moderated by Kim Chham (‘21) and sponsored by the Center for Ethics and Public Engagement.

Despite the fear and uncertainty of their childhood surroundings, the students provided messages of resilience and hope inspired by their family and friends from home.

Krayem’s home Libya was under a dictatorship for  over 40 years before the Arab Spring Uprising of 2011. The uprising had a significant influence on Krayem’s life and family.

“I had to leave the country to get a better education,” Krayem said. “I moved [to Italy] and left my family behind. The emotions knowing I [couldn’t] come back to visit were always in the back of my mind.”

The situation in Libya is still dangerous which means returning home is not currently possible for Krayem.

“I was accepted to Luther in 2014 and haven’t had a chance to go back,” Krayem said. “Going back isn’t an option. I am afraid for my life there, but also the [travel] ban by Trump wouldn’t let me return if I did go home.”

Aljadart also experienced conflict growing up as a Palestinian in Jerusalem.

“Seeing the military presence everywhere created a lot of fear in my life,” Aljadart said.

Aljadart’s mother, also a Palestinian, lived in East Jerusalem but the family later moved south of the West Bank, leaving her family behind. Once Aljadart turned 16 and had a Palestinian ID he could no longer easily pass through checkpoints to visit his mother’s family.

“The situation back home is really hard,” Aljadart said. “The right of movement within the city is limited. Growing up like this made me really confused. It didn’t make sense because I could go on the roof of my house and see Jerusalem. But I couldn’t easily go there.”

Hamza is from Pakistan and his life was affected by gangs, terrorism, and the Kashmir conflict. The Kashmir conflict took over Hamza’s childhood in many ways, including four and a half years of military service.

“People fall onto the military for support instead of education,” Hamza said. “Kashmir is the most annoying thing that has happened to me and is still affecting me now. Because I went to India to study my friends from back home hate me.”

Hamza feels optimistic that these conflicts can eventually be resolved.

“I just wish the people from my home were more open to one another,” Hamza said. “There is more understanding with interaction. I feel the future is bright.”

Aljadart also has hope for the future.

“[Conflict] definitely creates a unity,” Aljadart said. “When people share the same struggle they look out for each other and try harder to understand each other. Through the many shared values that go through those hardships, hope arises.”

The sense of hope was present in all the stories the speakers told according to Attendee and Executive Director of the Center for Global Learning Jon Lund.

“There was theme of resilience with conflict in what [they were] all saying,” Lund said. “I am left with this feeling of hope and optimism for the future.”

Attendee Nazario Jap dos Santos ‘19 felt the conversation was important for the Luther community.

“[The conversation] connects the children of the war to the Luther community,” dos Santos said. “And we can hope it will create a better community that can understand…people’s stories because stories are what make people connect.”

Krayem suggested that his domestic peers could connect to international students better by following what is happening in the news. Both Hamza and Aljadart expressed a desire to share their stories and talk about their homeland. They urged their domestic peers to just ask if they are interested.

Director for the CEPE Victoria Christman also saw this as an event to help connect international and domestic students.

“Surely one of the first moves in improving any relationship is getting to know one another better,” Christman said. “I hope that [the round table] provided a step in that direction.”

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