Using Soccer to Build Peace and Harmony
The Dayton Refugee Justice program took advantage of the World Cup-induced soccer fever to sponsor a unique event: The Umoja Afrika Cup tournament on June 12, 2010.
More than 50 young people from Burundi, Kenya and Senegal participated in a round robin style tournament, buoyed by sheer excitement and unfazed by rain, reported Migwe Kimemia, program director. “The Burundian refugees were extremely excited as this was their first such experience since they arrived in Dayton about two years ago,“ he said. “It got even more exciting after they upset the Kenyan team by 7 goals to 2.”
Unlike other soccer leagues in Dayton, the AFSC event is based on values of compassion, community, inclusiveness, love, non-violence and respect – what Migwe describes as “compassionate competition.” The purpose of the tournament was to organize African immigrants while developing team leadership among youth, and building friendships across cultures and religions.
After winning against the Kenyan team, the Burundian team played the Senegalese team, but lost 2-1. No matter. Everyone, including five members of the Dayton Program Advisory Committee, enjoyed the day. They are looking forward to another tournament being planned for August to celebrate World Youth Day.
“I will never forget the smiles these refugee young adults brought to the soccer field!” Migwe said. “I think their past resilience to hardships coupled with their courage and determination to succeed in a strange land will facilitate their smooth integration into the Dayton community. “