As immigrants establish themselves in new countries, they feel forced to either maintain all religious and social customs of their homeland or completely reject those customs to adapt to new environments.
But Rev. Yared Halche of Fort Wayne encourages a different approach.
"I encourage immigrants to keep their ties to their roots, and at the same time, still hold onto their current identity that is now being formed in the Western culture," Halche said, pastor of Saint Augustine Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne.
Today, Halche works as mission director of the African Immigrants Ministry in Fort Wayne to help immigrants and their children develop hybrid cultures with a healthy combination of homeland and American customs.
The African Immigrants Ministry is hosting a forum Saturday called "Raising a Spiritually Vibrant and Socially Responsible Generation: The Case of Immigrant Youth in the United States." The event will help cross-cultural immigrant youth live with values and integrity, Halche said. The forum will also help their parents better understand their children's multicultural identity.
An immigrant himself, Halche was born and raised in Ethiopia before he studied in Europe. He moved to Las Vegas, in 1999, and came to Fort Wayne in 2006 to finish his doctoral studies about immigrants and their cultures at Concordia Theological Seminary.
"I have been impacted, shaped and reshaped by my immigration experience, and that motivates me to help other immigrants who are in the same journey," Halche said.
In 2008, Concordia Theological Seminary published Halche's book "A Sociocultural Analysis of Leadership Approaches [sic] in Ethiopian Immigrant Churches in the United States: Leadership Styles and Implications for Missions."
The same year, he became the mission director of the African Immigrants Ministry, a cross-cultural, Fort Wayne-based group started in 1998 under the auspices of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) Indiana District.
The group focuses on reaching out to an emerging generation of African immigrants, refugee communities and others in the Fort Wayne area "through the love and mercy of Jesus Christ," according to www.multiethnicmission.org.
Although the July 21 event primarily targets immigrant youth and parents, Halche says anyone interested in cross-cultural relationships and issues is welcome.
The African Immigrants Ministry recognized a need for the forum in a group of immigrant youth who do community work through their program.
"They really inspire us to do more research so we can help them and other youth with their culture," Halche said.
As these first-generation youth grow and develop in American culture, Halche hopes their parents will not force them to choose between the Western world they know and their homeland identity, which may be foreign to them.
"We need to encourage youth to stretch their identity to cover both cultures," Halche said. "Studies show immigrants can navigate between different cultures, and that's what I want to encourage them to do."
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