The following post was written back in August of 2012, in the beginning stages of the Peoples Next Door project.
It is called Little Kurdistan.
Not a fifteen minute drive from honky tonk bars and the Country Music Hall of Fame, the largest population of Kurdish peoples in North America goes about their daily lives. Largely the result of refugee resettlement, Nashville’s Kurdish population has ballooned to somewhere between 10-15,000 over the last several decades.
A reaction to genocide in their native countries, the first refugees made their migration to Nashville in 1976, starting with a small group, no larger then 50 people. Since that time, several waves of Kurdish refugee resettlement resulted in thousands moving into the Nashville area.
But why Nashville?
In a public television documentary, Little Kurdistan, USA, commentators suggest Nashville’s strong economy and open policies concerning refugees contributed. However, many factors play into the development of this self-sustaining micro-community in Nashville. Remarkably, Kurdish residents claim they enjoy the warmer attitude of Nashville residents to other areas in America, and that even the climate feels similar to the one they left back at home.
This phenomenon has created a cultural home for Kurds in the United States. In this community, Kurds are able to live and work in much the same way they did at home. Shops sell traditional goods and the smells of Kurdish food waft out of the open doors of little restaurants. Driving down the road, many signs wear both English and Arabic lettering.
What is more, Islamic community centers continue to sprout up in converted storefronts. In 1998, the Salahadeen Islamic center opened as the first Kudish-speaking mosque in North America. The area is one of the few neighborhoods in America where a truly Kurdish expression of Islam exists.
For the church, opportunities exist all over America in places like Little Kurdistan. The Kurds are the largest people group in the world without a designated state. They live in small enclaves in Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran, but they have no official place to call their own. Furthermore, the states where Kurds currently reside are often hostile to an American presence, particularly Christian missions.
Yet, as God draws the nations into our borders, the church gains unprecedented access to these peoples. Nashville has one of the strongest evangelical footprints in America, with many churches and religious organizations located in the area. With such a solid church network already established, the resources are in place to execute a church planting movement amongst the Kurds of Nashville, TN.
May the Kurds placed in the shadow of the Southern Baptist Convention’s home offices see the glorious light of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For more information on the Peoples Next Door project or mapping and engaging people groups, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. This project is part of the Urban Resource Initiative at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. The above content is copyrighted (Copyright © 2012 by C. Keelan Cook) and is used with permission.