Friday, July 12, 2013
This statement is in response to Craig Buchanan’s letter of July 10 regarding Muslims’ influence within the United States, Walla Walla and U.S. airlines.
Our family has volunteered for two years now to host Muslim exchange students through AFS, a 60-year-old intercultural, nonprofit program promoting cross-cultural understanding between cultures in more than 40 countries.
It is mainly comprised of volunteers. The students’ full scholarship, referred to in the letter, consist mainly of a plane ticket and a small monthly stipend. Moreover, the exchange program also benefits our American students who serve abroad as “youth ambassadors” of the United States, promoting mutual understanding, attending local high schools, acquiring leadership skills and learning about the host country’s society and values.
Furthermore, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton cannot take credit for this wonderful program. The YES program, an extension of AFS, was established in 2002 by Congress, during the Bush administration, in response to the events of 9/11. It is a bipartisan program enacted by Republican Sen. Richard Lugar and Democrat Sen. Ted Kennedy.
The Lugar-Kennedy YES Abroad program is administered in partnership with the U.S. Department of State and by a consortium of nonprofit organizations led by the American Councils for International Education. Similar exchange programs were enacted after World War II to promote understanding and peaceful relations with Russia.
As we recognize that not all Muslims are terrorists, likewise, our foreign exchange students also learn that not all Christians endorsed the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, slavery, the treatment of the Native Americans, the Jim Crow laws, etc.
Finally, I would encourage people to broaden their horizons and check out the top 10 friendliest countries toward tourists. Almost half of them are Muslim countries.
Last year, our family vacationed in Morocco — number three on the list of friendliest countries — and visited our exchange student’s family. Their hospitality and kindness were unsurpassed. And yes, the airline crew, the pilots, security personnel and the majority of the passengers were Muslim. We had the most amazing and unforgettable travel experience.
Our third exchange student will arrive soon. She will go to Wa-Hi with our daughter Mimi. She is from Thailand — and she is Muslim.