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Reflections on Khat

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : July 27, 2006

I just read a Star Tribune article that tells of a major DEA drug bust that involved 14 Minnesota residents. The bust involved the East African drug khat. Here’s a snippet:

Fourteen Minnesota residents are among a 44-member international drug trafficking organization that was responsible for smuggling more than 25 tons of khat from Africa into the United States, the Drug Enforcement Administration said today.

The khat, a natural plant stimulant, was worth more than $10 million, the agency reported.

Thirty members of the organization, 10 of them from Minnesota, had been arrested by midday.

The 18-month investigation, dubbed “Operation Somalia Express,” culminated in indictments announced this morning in New York City.

…Once the khat was sold on the street, the proceeds from the sales were laundered through “hawalas,” informal networks used in Africa and the Middle East to transfer money.

200px-Catha_edulis.jpgI don’t know much about the affects of khat. However, I find it interesting that Somali folks would embibe khat but still frown upon alcohol consumption. The big question that this incident raises, however, is this: Since khat is a very social drug (very similar to drinking beer is to the typical American), if I were given the opportunity to socialize with Somalis through the use of khat, should I say “yes” in order to receive hospitality or “no” in order to honor the law?

I think I already know how I would respond, but I thought that this would be an interesting case study for incarnational ministry.

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