New Bedford Police Meet with Afghan Refugees
Last summer, you may remember that as the United States was ending its 20-year war in Afghanistan, there was an effort to help Afghan refugees who escaped to America -- Afghans who bravely sided with the United States, offering intelligence to the CIA and the military.
Staying in their home country would have been a risk to their lives without the American occupation, so they quickly boarded planes and were transported to the United States.
Twenty-eight Afghans have settled into a new way of life in New Bedford.
Needless to say, life in America is much different than in Afghanistan. Martin Bentz from the Islamic Society of Southeastern Massachusetts says the cultural attitude toward police is much different in Afghanistan.
"Police are not looked at as an ally," he said. "When they see the police, they go the other way. They're either afraid of them or they don't want to be hit up for a payment (of protection money)."
That's why New Bedford Police Chief Paul Oliveira wanted to build trust with the refugees by paying a visit to their mosque.
The goal was to demonstrate the diversity in our community and teach the basics of how the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts work and the way police in America operate.
Bentz says the Afghans weren't entirely surprised by separation of church and state and freedom of religion. After all, they had worked closely with Americans while they were in Afghanistan (which is how they earned the privilege of coming to the United States).
"They certainly welcomed these concepts and don't take them for granted," said Bentz.
The meeting included Domino's Pizza donated by Nelson Hockert-Lotz and Tony Squizzero. The Afghans have had the opportunity to eat American-style pizza since their arrival last year, and they seem to enjoy it.
New Bedford Lt. Scott Carola says that a number of toys donated to the “Safe Zones-Fill the Bus” campaign were handed out to deserving children.