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Sunday, March 3, 2024

World cultures celebrated 

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The aroma of exotic spices and herbs, the laughter of children and different dialects and languages all came together at Hugh MacRae Park on Saturday, June 21.

The park was the center of cultural diversity and awareness as the Interfaith Refugee Ministry celebrated World Refugee Day, a global holiday on June 20 that commemorates refugees.

“[The event] allows refugees to mingle and a chance to meet others,” said Mariah Williamson, a member of the ministry’s Wilmington Advisory Council. “It’s more of a happy celebration.”

The Interfaith Refugee Ministry is a nonprofit organization that seeks to supply local refugees with housing, clothing, food and employment. The group is located in New Bern, but has a Wilmington branch.

“Two-hundred-eighty-two refugees have settled in Wilmington,” said Sara Pascal, coordinator of the ministry’s Wilmington branch. “About 95 percent of our clans are coming from Burma in southeast Asia.”

Burma is home to many ethnic groups including the Chin and the Karen, many of whom are fleeing Burma due to political persecution, said Kate Griffin, a volunteer with the Interfaith Refugee Ministry.

Thang Tling, a refugee from Chin, immigrated to Wilmington several months ago. Chin is comprised of many different languages and dialects, Tling said. Burma consists of seven states, each one home to different ethnic groups.

“We’re supporting refugees here in our community, to take time to commemorate the forcefully displaced people of the world,” Pascal said.

The event kicked off at 9 a.m. with a walk around the park.

“The walk was a way to walk in their shoes,” Pascal said. “We had signs around the park with information about refugees, like there are more than 15 million displaced people around the world.”

The event featured individuals describing their experiences as refugees, surviving political and violent persecutions, their moves to the United States and the culture shock after settling in; but also about the opportunities that were given to them while in Wilmington.

Event goers got a taste of life different than their own with cultural dishes lined up on picnic tables.

The featured cultural dish for the Chin group was a traditional soup called Sabuthi soup, comprised of corn and beef.

“[Chin] people plant corn and rice on mountains,” Tling said. “We eat [Sabuthi soup].”

Traditional dances and music were also sprinkled throughout the day as a group of Karen children danced in traditional garments.


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