NIRV Topic: Faith and Freedom

Faith carries migrants and their dreams as they escape persecution and build new lives.

A selection of films from the New Immigrant and Refugee Visions (NIRV) collection – films by and about immigrants – that deal with faith and freedom. Before you watch them, please review the “Questions-to-consider…” at the bottom of this page.

  • Borrowing Fire, by Kebrewosen Densamo, 13 min – Yonas, a recent immigrant from Ethiopia, is a business man with a religious zeal. He is a evangelical pastor and the owner of a gas station and coffee shop – all put to the use of helping his community.
  • Seeking Settled Ground, by Mohammad Arifuzzaman, 13 min – a newly arrived Rohingya refugee escaped religious and ethnic persecution in Myanmar.
  • Navigating Hope, by Afghan refugee Sayed Najib Hashimi, 8 min  – a Christian escaped religious persecution in Bhutan and now helps others find peace and stability in America;
  • Worlds Apart at Home, by Abdirahman Abdi, 10 min – a Somali mother escaped the killing of her family in Somalia and now works to maintain religious and cultural traditions while accommodating the Americanization of her teenage children.
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Borrowing Fire (Original 13:07, Excerpt 1:31)
Filmmaker: Kebrewosen Densamo
Editor: Lydia Eccles; Additional Editor: Jorgy Cruz
“In Ethiopia, growing up, we used to go to the neighbor and say, ‘Can I borrow some fire?’ because we didn’t have matches.” Yonas tells this story to his congregation as an analogy for their relationship with God, borrowing God’s “fire” to warm and feed their own lives. It also symbolizes what Yonas sees as his purpose as an immigrant – to help people in his community recover from addiction, depression and homelessness. Contrary to stereotypes about immigrants and rural Americans, Yonas finds that his immigrant heritage, accent and personality opens doors for his work as a businessman and evangelical preacher.
Kebrewosen Densamo
Emigrated from Ethiopia in 2001, lives in Cambridge, MA
Kebrewosen has a degree in public health and works at Boston Children’s Hospital. Arriving in the United States in 2001 as a young girl, she has a special understanding of the challenges for youth in migration. She is actively involved with her local cable access station and hopes to use documentary filmmaking to integrate her love of film and her infectious desire to help people.
Discussion Resources:
Seeking Settled Ground (Original 13:57, Excerpt 1:21)
Filmmaker: Mohammad Arifuzzaman
Editors: Devvrat Mishra, Zayde Buti; Translators: Mustafa Samdani, Nahina Nasrin, and Mohammad Istiak
A young Rohingya man, Mohammad Anwar, escapes persecution in his native Myanmar, survives near death as a refugee and is finally granted asylum in the United States. Now he faces unimaginable obstacles as he struggles with a new language, the need for job skills – having only worked as a subsistence farmer – and the challenges of integrating into a new world and culture. He desperately misses his family, but is grateful to be alive and learning the ways of a new life that was inconceivable just a few months ago.
Mohammad Arifuzzaman
Emigrated from Bangladesh in 2015, lives in Quincy, MA
Mohammad is a software engineer with interests in music, theater and photography. He demonstrated incredible determination throughout the NIRV filmmaking process – filming all of one story only to have the family grow fearful about participating. His story about Mohammad Anwar is particularly relevant as so many Rohingya refugees have sought refuge in Bangladesh, his country of origin.
Discussion Resources:
About the filmmaking process and filmmaker:
About Mohammad Anwar, the subject of the film:
About the issues raised in the film:

More information about refugees and immigrants.

Sayed Najib Hashimi
Emigrated from Afghanistan in 2016, lives in Washington, DC
Sayed grew up in Afghanistan and was a refugee in Pakistan. He has a degree in literature from Kabul University. He worked from 2005 to 2016 as a journalist and translator with the BBC and NATO Media Group in Afghanistan. In Nov 2016 Sayed and his family were granted permanent residency through the Special Immigration Visa to the United States. Until recently he worked at the New American Center in Lynn MA assisting Afghan and other new immigrants and refugees. He and his family now live in Washington DC where Sayed is working as a Communications Officer at the Afghan Embassy.
Discussion Resources:
About the issues brought up by the film:
Worlds Apart at Home (Original 9:58, Excerpt 00:58)
Filmmaker: Abdirahman Abdi
Editor: Peter Rhodes; Additional Sound: Mubarak Muwonge Nsamba
Samira Ahmed Fiin escaped with her family from Somalia as refugees to the United States in 2007. Now she negotiates tensions between parents and teenagers – as the young try to fit into and enjoy American culture and the old try to hold on to their Somali traditions.
Abdirahman Abdi
Emigrated from Somalia in 2007, lives in Roxbury, MA
Abdi came to America as a young boy and has remained active in his local and Somali community. He has volunteered his time and multi-media production skills to advance the work of the Somali Development Center and the North American Somali Students Union. Abdi graduated in May 2018 from UMass Boston with a degree in media communications and sociology. With continued mentoring from CSFilm, he has continued since the NIRV training to produce short documentaries on economic and social issues in his Roxbury neighborhood.  Abdi was hired in 2020 as a freelance videographer and editor by Boston news station, WCVB-TV, Ch 5.
Discussion Resources:

About the filmmaker and film:

About the issues brought up by the film:
About Issues of Acculturation and Assimilation:

More information about refugees and immigrants.

Questions to Consider While Watching These Films

  1. What role does faith play in your life? Do you think of new immigrants as being more or less religious then native-born Americans?
  2. Are immigrants increasing or decreasing economic growth and opportunity in the United States? How does this impact you?
  3. Have you ever been, or witnessed someone being, misunderstood, stereotyped or attacked for who they are, what they look like or what they believe? What does being American mean to you? What actions do you take to deal with these differences and confrontations
  4. In what ways has this film affected the way you view refugees and asylum seekers? What was the specific moment that triggered this?
  5. Some describe the US as a melting pot and others as a salad bowl? What is your opinion of this distinction and how does it affect you?
  6. What stood out to you? What will you tell your friends about? 
  7. What did you relate to? What reminded you of things in your own life? 
  8. What felt unfamiliar, new or surprising?
  9. Can you think of an occasion when you changed your mind about an issue? What would change people’s minds about immigrants or immigration?
  10. What do you want to change in your community after “meeting” these immigrants and learning about their experiences? (e.g., Individual behaviors? Public policies? Local media perspectives of your immigrant neighbors?)