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Members of Waterloo (Ont.) Christian Reformed Church found that food bridges barriers of language and religion.

Last spring the church sponsored the immigration to Canada of Sahara Ismail Ali, a young Muslim woman from Somalia who had lived 13 years in a refugee camp.

Since Sahara attended a local mosque, she hadn’t met many of the congregation’s members, so the refugee committee planned a get-acquainted dinner. Sahara joined in enthusiastically, said Dennis Joosse, a member of the committee.

She helped choose a menu and immersed committee members into the local Somali community.

Joosse said Sahara took charge on the day of the dinner. “All of the food started from raw ingredients. There were hours of chopping,” says Joosse.

Nearly 150 people came to sample the goat, samosas, and even spaghetti—a traditional Somalian meal. They were surprised to find no tables or utensils, only cloths set on the floor. The food received rave reviews.

“Sahara told us she really wanted to do this, and she did it wonderfully,” says Joosse. “Somalians have a tradition of wonderful hospitality and wonderful food.”

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