Thursday, June 18, 2009

Abp Williams calls for sustainable peace in Sudan

This news was a little late appearing, as it just appeared today, calling for a day of prayer for Sudan today. Episcopal Life has the story here. It begins:
The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has issued a statement in support of Sudan Day of Action, June 18, which calls for a renewed commitment to sustainable peace in Sudan.
The Sudan Day of Action, organised by Baroness Caroline Cox and the Sudan Action Group, aims to raise awareness for the desperate plight of the people of Sudan.
Read the whole story.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Thoughts on racism after Lui

A little girl in Lozoh checks her hand while shaking mine.
Thoughts on racism after Lui
Dan Handschy

Somewhere I read that one of the sounds most familiar to a young black man is the sound of the electric locks on car doors being locked. I have to admit that any number of times, I've been stopped at a light on Lindell or Vandeventer or some other street in town, and seen a group of three or four black men walking by, and hit the lock button. Somewhere along the line, I have received training to be afraid of a group of black men, especially young black men.

As you can imagine, I became aware of this unconscious response in Africa. In the car from the airport at Entebbe to the guest house in Kampala, along the long and crazy road late at night, I wondered what would happen to me if the car broke down. I was aware the fear was irrational, but there it was. Throughout my stay in Lui, as a group of us would be walking down the road, I would become aware that many heads were turning to watch us. I would wonder why people were watching us so closely, with that fear not far below the surface. Then it would dawn on me -- oh, yeah, they're watching us because we're white!

It really struck me the day the Baptists came to Lui. We were walking to church, and I saw a head of red hair under the mango tree, and said out loud, "Look, there's a white guy at the Cathedral." Deb laughed and said, "Yeah, I know. I'm walking next to him." We were pretty obvious. People looked at us, because we were out of the ordinary. But never, never did I experience the equivalent of the electric car locks locking. No one was afraid of us, the way white people are afraid of black people in this country. At the worst, we were treated with indifference, but never fear.

Several times, walking down the road, I would notice a group looking at us, and I would feel a bit of that fear, as they watched us closely. But then someone would break away from the group, and run over to us, and say "Deb-o-rah!" Someone she had worked with or known from her first trip would greet Deb, and our group would stand on the road for introductions and greetings. What had felt threatening (for no good reason) turned out to be an occasion for joy.

When I was a kid, a carpenter was working on the house across the street. He was a black man, and one day he brought his son with him. They boy was a year or two younger than me, so we were playing in the front yard. After shaking hands, I remember looking at my hand to see if the black rubbed off on me (I lived in a really white neighborhood). I noticed his palms were lighter than the rest of him, and wondered if that was why. Of course, the black didn't rub off. I wonder how he felt about me checking my hand.

I got the chance to know. Everywhere I went in Lui, kids came up to me and wanted to shake my hand. I felt a little like the Pied Piper. And always, they were laughing. I guess I looked goofy in my floppy hat. I noticed several of those kids check their hands after shaking mine, to see if the white rubbed off!

So, I'm left wondering how I received that training to be afraid of black men. After Lui, I find myself wishing I were back among the people of Lui. I wonder if black people in this country ever get tired of people being afraid of them. I will never have to live with people being afraid of me. Even the kids who checked their hands were only curious about my strange color, rather than afraid of it. I'll bet it gets really old.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Safely Home

Over at LuLuLui, Debbie Smith reported at 7:33 p.m. that our travelers are safely home. I expect it will take them a while to rest and readjust to life back home. Debbie promises she will post photos soon.

The Companion Diocese Committee will meet Sunday, June 14, along with our three missioners. We all look forward to hearing their first-hand reports of all that was shared and done and learned in Lui. On behalf of the Committee (and the Diocese, I hope), I express deep thanks to the missioners for being our presence in Lui over the past couple of weeks.

Well done, thou good and faithful servants!

Thank God for their safe return.

Living Libraries

Dictionary Dan demonstrating a skateboard
Morris looking at the book from Advent

Morris and his wife

Living Libraries
Scroll Article for June, 2009
Deb Goldfeder

Someone said, when a person dies, a library burns. The life experiences, the stories heard from elders, the observations from one particular life lived are all lost at that moment. For those of us who have computer records of every thought we have ever written it may not be quite the same but, for the people who live in a verbal culture, the loss is tremendous.

Every time I asked a question about the past history of the Moru people or Lui the people around would say, “Ask Morris.” Sure enough, Morris would tell me the history of the Moru people, the origins of the word for “spoon” in Moru, or whatever other question I might have. Morris is a gifted teacher. He teaches children English and the clergy and laity Theological Education by Extension (TEE). He also runs the bookstore where you can buy the Moru Bible which he helped translate and that he typed! He has a wonderful curiosity about things and a great kindness. He was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Lui and served as the Archdeacon of Lui Parish for a time. He accomplished all this despite a third grade education. I have often pondered what Morris might have accomplished had his life not been so disrupted by war, famine and social upheaval. As it is, Morris is the library for Lui.

Morris has a great sense of joy, too, and he often could be located by the sound of his laughter. I was never sure where, exactly, he lived but his wife lived in Wiroh (pronounced Willow). When I asked why she lived fourteen miles away (or seven miles by the cutoff) he told me that when the Arabs were bombing Lui he felt he had to stay there anyway. He said he was not so important. His wife, however, was very important so she stayed with the children in her home village while he continued to work in Lui.

It was Morris who taught me about Moru dancing. I first saw what I thought must be authentic dancing at Christmastime but Morris said, “No, that is not the real dancing.” Finally when we went with Bishop Bullen to confirm candidates in Wiroh, Morris rounded up some of the elders of the community (men and women) including his wife and, with Morris beating out the rhythm on a little drum, they showed me REAL Moru dancing outside the church! Morris was my library of Moru history and culture.

I had another “reference” in Lui. Gordon, the administrator for the diocese, could always be counted on for another source of knowledge. Gordon carried the satellite phone for the diocese. Satellite phones work best outside and away from any large buildings that might obstruct the signal from the satellite so Gordon could always be found sitting under the mango tree on the cathedral grounds aiming the phone at the southern sky and waiting for calls from the diocesan offices in Nairobi. Although he is very serious, he has a great “yuk, yuk, yuk” kind of laughter which carried in the quiet of Lui. Once I commented to him that he was always sitting under the tree and he said he was, “Jeremiah 33 verse 3,” and then he quoted the Scripture to me: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Then, he laughed that great belly-laugh again.

I discovered that Gordon, who had lived from the age of eighteen to thirty-six in the bush as war was raging all around and who had been ordained without formal theological education, could tell me where to find any verse in the Bible I could think of. As I was called upon to preach at a moment’s notice, I would turn to Gordon and ask him where to find this or that verse and he never hesitated. He was better than any concordance sitting on my shelf at home. Gordon was my human concordance.

This past December we carried a small spiral-bound book from Church of the Advent’s kids. They each had written something of their lives, families and interests on a page that held a photograph of them. We brought it for the church in Lozoh so the children there could know who was praying for them. It was probably the most popular thing either Dan or I had carried there. Each day people would gather and we would try to explain what skateboarding was, how baseball was played, what coffee hour meant (a remarkable number of Advent’s children said their favorite thing about church was coffee hour!), or any number of other things the children had written about. We tried with words to explain things so different to them but always resorted to drawing with out hands or with a stick on the ground or, most usually, acting them out.

Sylvester, the priest in charge of Lui parish church and one of my former English students, was enjoying the explanations one day when he looked at me, smiled, and said the nickname my former English class had given me—a nickname I had completely forgotten—and we both laughed. Sylvester made me think about how each person is a library. To teach English I had to use a Ugandan book so I had to explain things they didn’t have like post offices, banks, newspapers, sports and games. How ridiculous I know I looked standing over an imaginary Titleist with an invisible putter trying to sink a fifteen-foot putt into a fictitious hole [“Why do people do this?”] or skipping across the compound or hitting an imaginary backhand down the line. I’m just glad I was the only person with a video camera! My students called me the “Two-Legged Dictionary.” When I saw Dan “pushing” an invisible skateboard he had drawn in the dirt for our friends in Lui, I knew he was a Two-Legged Dictionary, too.