Welcoming Strangers Premiere

On Friday, May 19th, the world premiere of the documentary Welcoming Strangers, Finding Brothers and Sisters took place at First Baptist Church. Butler University’s College of Education’s Dr. Brooke Kandel-Cisco and Dr. Susan Adams presented the documentary. With help from Butler students, they created an inspiring film about the Karen community from Burma and the response of First Baptist Church to this community of refugees in the Nora neighborhood of Indianapolis.

First Baptist Church was the subject of the film, and those featured in the documentary were able to sit in the audience and discuss how their community was portrayed. The Karen community began coming to First Baptist Church and the controversial response of those in the changing congregation was explored in the documentary.

The Karen people have settled in refugee camps in Thailand on the border of Burma. After spending years in camps, they were fortunate enough to be granted asylum in the United States.

Baptist missionaries had converted a significant number of Burmese people and when the community resettled in an apartment complex near the church they naturally started coming to the church.

There initially was some tension, but the church began to welcome them and started service in their own language. The church partnered with an organization called the Burmese Community Center for Education (BCCE), which helps integrate refugees into their new community and helps them learn English. After the film, refreshments were served and attendees were given the chance to meet Burmese church members. In addition to watching the film, the audience was able to get to know the people in the film by the means of a meet and greet.

The film will be shown at multiple religious communities and venues across Indianapolis. The purpose of the screenings is to raise awareness about the Burmese community in Indianapolis and engage faith communities in conversations that will foster interfaith cooperation and collaboration in welcoming refugees.

By: Phil G.

The event was made possible due to funding from Indiana Humanities and the Indianapolis Foundation.

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