Thursday, June 5, 2008

Dear God: Why have you forgotten Africa?

My love,

I just met my sweet friend Birame outside on a bench. I asked him if he had class to go to and he informed me that the professors were on strike, again, for the 4th day in a row. We chuckled a little bit...TIA, after all. But then Birame said, ¨Dear God, why have you forgotten Africa?¨

The world is okay.

Cath, he said, we are poor. We have no time to waste, yet we go on strike. The system here is so inefficient. Why, why is life so very hard in Africa? Why did God choose to make Africa so difficult and unequal?

And in the end I realize that I am more free than I have ever been.

God made everyone the same, I tried to explain, he loves us all the same and cares for us equally. It is humankind that has messed everything up, because of our sorry human nature.
Why does my voice have so little hope?

We were expected to dream big and live lives less ordinary but there were still expectations- will always be expectations.

Tell me what to do? You and your people have succeeded. Why can’t Africa succeed? Look, Cath, look at the poverty and sickness and starvation and AIDS and injustice and war...

My gentle, genuine friend Birame was talking not out of a jealousy or anger against the Developed World, but his voice had the small quake of someone who is just very, very tired.

He was a very, very old man and his life’s work was keeping himself alive. A little before he died he came to church and talked about how he couldnt keep up the work any more.
And someone stood up, to combat this easy forfeit with the battle cry that we are all to worship in every breath we take, every movement of a hand, every word and heartbeat, and that there are many, many types of worship, and that work is worship.

It’s true. These terrible epidemics exist here in Africa beyond New York Times articles and Jeffrey Sachs books and trendy Bono campaigns.

I tried to tell him that the problems that exist here exist throughout the world, even in America.

Oh Mama Africa, the fact of the matter is, the West is better off than us. Almost everyone has a car...or at least a sink. If we could forfeit sleep, we should, because we need to work hard to get out of poverty. Success is our only option. Failure’s not.

I wish you all the best in your last month there.

Oh Biramey, don’t compare this place to the America. Your solutions, the solutions of your generation, will be organic and genius and truly African.

It has made me ache for days in the way that only something beautifully and recklessly constructed can.

I just told him that you cannot change the world, but you can give it your all to influence your own little sphere. You cant make policies for President Abdoulaye Wade or President George Bush, but you can teach your children to be generous and loving. You can participate in local politics and you can fight for justice, even when it’s not the popular choice, even when you will be hated...

This was sort of a quiet, thoughtful letter but I feel like I am on the cusp of so many things that only God and my heartbeat are steady in it. I feel like I have to be careful what I talk about or I may shatter tiny, baby plans.

Fight for injustice, even when it’s not the popular choice. Even when you will be hated. Even when it will take you years to have enough money to send your children to school. Even when you will eat rice every day of your life. Even when you yourself will be trapped in these socioeconomic and educational black holes. Even when people are tortured in your own backyard, having their ears cut off by rebels. Even when you may never own a sink. Don’t stop the fight. Ne jamais abandonner. Do not forfeit.

And I suppose that is not a bad thing, to be wrapped up only in my human-ness and the Divine.

My heart renders apart. What can I do? Why am I here? What, after all, is the purpose of me in the face of all of this?

I love you so much.

It just looks like the whole world to me.

You have everything you need to face the next challenge. I am so proud of you.


molly said...

oh cath, my heart was breaking as i read this story. Please know that i am praying for you to have wisdom and Love and for little Birame and all those who are frustsrated like him. Please let him know how much i enjoyed meeting him and talking with him.

I'm so proud of you.

Anonymous said...

cathy - hang in there, and hang tight.

Amoctad said...

As african I'm very sad, when I read this message. But, like Obama I still think: Change we can believe in!