New Life for Mohamed, Ann Arbor Sanctuary Guest since 2018

The local community is celebrating a new lease on life for Mohamed Soumah, who has been in sanctuary in Ann Arbor Friends Meeting House since October 2018. A deportation order at that time would have been a death sentence for Mohamed, 47, who has been on dialysis three times a week for a kidney condition that could not have been treated effectively in his home country of Guinea in West Africa. Thanks to an outpouring of community support, Mohamed won a stay of deportation in June 2021 under the new administration in Washington, clearing the way for him to get on a kidney transplant list. Last Sunday, September 4, 2022, Mohamed received a new kidney at Michigan Medicine.

Mohamed has been embraced by Washtenaw Congregational Sanctuary, a coalition of fourteen religious congregations and two unaffiliated groups in Washtenaw County that have offered support and protection from unjust and cruel immigration policies. Sabrina Balgamwalla, Mohamed’s attorney and director of the Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic at Wayne State University’s Law School, has been his legal advocate, with student lawyers also participating in his case.

Sheila Johnson, a member of Ann Arbor Friends Meeting, noted that “Mohamed wants to thank Washtenaw Congregational Sanctuary for their support, the donor whose kidney is giving him new life, and all the health care workers, especially the very kind and professional University of Michigan nurses who are caring for him during this time.”

The Rev. Dr. Deborah Dean-Ware, pastor of Church of the Good Shepherd, one of the local sanctuary congregations, visited Mohamed during his hospital recovery, and commented, “The Judeo-Christian tradition was founded by immigrants and refugees, starting with Abraham and Sarah.  Jesus himself was a refugee; therefore, our faith teaches us to honor human dignity regardless of nationality or citizenship. Mohamed is a beloved member of our community, and it has been a privilege to walk with him over the last four years. We are thrilled that he has this opportunity for renewed health, and we will continue to support him as he recovers.”

Washtenaw Congregational Sanctuary (WCS), an interfaith coalition formed in early 2017, includes the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (WICIR), the Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice (ICPJ), and other faith communities and people of conscience.

WCS represents people who have joined together to offer support and solidarity with immigrants and their families. Washtenaw County congregations that have joined the New Sanctuary Movement include:  the Church of the Good Shepherd/United Church of Christ in Ann Arbor, First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor (UUAA), Ann Arbor Friends Meeting (Quakers), First United Methodist Church in Ann Arbor, the Wesley Foundation, Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, Temple Beth Emeth, Beth Israel Congregation, St. Clare’s Episcopal Church, the Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth, St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Chelsea, Vineyard Church, St. Mary Student Parish and First Congregational United Church of Christ in Ypsilanti.

As Mohamed recovers from surgery, WCS will hold a press conference soon.