The youngsters said they have much in common with American teens.

PARIS – Teens are teens are teens.

Or so seems to be the lesson learned by the rural teens of the Oxford Hills area when they had a chance to talk with teens who lived thousands of miles away on the east coast of Africa.

Two Somali teens and one from Ethiopia, all girls, were the subject of a question and answer session as part of the high school’s Respect Week activities.

There were many similarities between the teens.

Independence, junk food, fashionable clothes and spirituality were high on the Somalis’ list of important things in life, as they were with the Oxford teens.

The Somalis were accompanied by Dale Morrell, director of education for St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston.

He has been working to ease the resettling of the Somalis through Catholic Charities.

Morrell gave the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School students a quick history on how some Somalis had to leave their homeland when a civil war erupted in the 1980s. He said they were considered refugees by the United Nations and were relocated internationally. Most of them stayed in refugee camps before being relocated to various cities across the United States and other parts of the world.

He said the Somalis had no choice concerning destinations.

A teen asked the Somalis what they thought of Maine and each of them, now living in Lewiston, answered that it was too cold.

Morrell told the teens that in Somalia and Ethiopia it is extremely dry and gets so hot that businesses close down in the afternoon.

The three guests Daryslame Mohammed, 19, Kia Zewede, 16, and Mona Yonis, 15, all lived in hot climates before moving to Maine. Mohammed and Zewede lived in New Orleans and Yonis in Atlanta.

They all said they have felt discrimination and weren’t used to being looked at as different. They all plan to continue their education after high school, all like junk food and dressing neatly, they said.

Morrell explained that Somalis feel dressing in clothes with holes or in an unkempt manner is disrespecting yourself.

The teens also felt that people became more accepting in Lewiston after the Many in One rally in January.

The teens were asked what branch of the Muslim faith they practiced and what is their opinion of Iraq.

Morrell answered that they were all Suni Muslims.

Yonis said all Muslims were not the same.

Morrell added that there are extremists in any religion and that there is bad in every culture.

He also said the “holy war” that many Muslim extremists promulgate is a misrepresentation of the meaning of the term.

He said the holy war is intended for Muslims to internally cleanse themselves and do right in front of God.

After the question and answer period, the Ethiopian and Somali teens got a chance to mingle with the students, which they said they prefer to the formal proceeding.



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