Journalism department hosts interfaith dialogue through “Newcomers to Neighbors”

The book sheds light on the Middle Eastern immigrant’s experience in Southern California.


Andres Ramirez // THE CHIMES

Journalism students present their newly published book, “Newcomers to Neighbors.”

Stacy Rasmussen, Freelance Writer

On Thursday afternoon in the Andrews Banquet Room, Biola students welcomed people of different ethnicities and religious backgrounds to open up a dialogue surrounding their newly finished book, “Newcomers to Neighbors.”


A group of students worked for an entire semester on a book that introduces readers to the lives of Muslim migrants living in Southern California. This book celebration also had ethnic food to celebrate the launch. The food was provided by a restaurant from Little Arabia in Anaheim called Forn Al Hara, which was featured in the book. Some of the food included falafel wraps, flatbreads and baklava. 

Professor of journalism Michael Longinow opened up the event by explaining that the book is about bringing students into cross-cultural encounters with people of different backgrounds, languages and religions. The writers said they were impacted by learning about cultures and religions different from their own. 


The point of this event was to inform the community about the student-run book that has just launched, but to also share the experience and what the authors learned while creating it. Senior journalism major Alex Brouwer, a photographer for the book, explained that his part in creating the book changed how he interacts with people on a daily basis.

“The way I ask questions has changed because I now want to hear and let people tell their own stories rather than asking questions in order to tell my own,” Brouwer said. 


Multiple people whose stories were featured in the book also came to support the project and promote healthy cross-cultural conversations, including Father Joseph Boules from the Coptic Orthodox Church of Los Angeles.

“There are 15,000 people in the Coptic religion living in Southern California and people still don’t know who we are,” Boules said. “Events like this are nice because it gives us more exposure and allows others to be more educated about our religion.” 

The event had other guests such as Ali Mir, who is a representative from the organization Islamic Relief, and Eugene Fields who is the communications manager for the Council on American-Islamic Relations

Director for the Center and Study of the Work and Ministry of the Holy Spirit Today Oscar Merlo said he loved all of the neighbors that were in attendance, whether they share the same beliefs or not.

“It is a great joy to host our neighbors and [it] is our intention to extend our bodies into Christian hospitality,” Merlo said.

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