Monday, December 26, 2011

Dear Mohammed Bouazizi, for a man and his vegetable cart, your anniversary.

Dear Mohammed Bouazizi,

Ever since you struck that match the flame has not died. We saw the flames it has been difficult to rest, Mohammed. Then you were 26 years now you are an ancient giant. You should be as present as yester- history. It is Christmas time and you kept ringing bells in my ears, Mohammed. I weep. I meditate on you, Mohammed, during this Christian festive season. I cannot detach myself and watch history. I am sure we should be lacking in foresight if we thought you only died for Tunisia and for Arabs. In my mind you died for many. Many had died silently before. Maybe others had chosen fire alone too. But your fire was the one chosen to be loaded with meaning, to spark a revolution, an Awakening that the world should not turn away from. An awakening that must turn the world. An Afrikan Awakening too.

See Nigeria. Questions of faith too. Christianity and Islam. Burning the other. You immolated yourself. Is it true that we are so lost in small divisions where the Northerner in any country claims difference with the westner and the southner with the centralist and eastner? Is it true that belief in God must kill us?  Is it true that it is us who speak peace in churches where we do not turn to our neighbour because she is Sudanese and Nubian and not of our Arab ancestry? See India's castes. Division is built on economic trouble, inequality of opportunities. Incapacity to live with differences. Our view of the 'other' is so complex. You taught me that to make room for the other I may need not be present everywhere but tribe in Kenya cheats me the opposite. I take the teaching, I try to leave the cheating.

Is it true that at home tribe marks tribe and in Europe race and tribalism live on? Is it true so many people wanted to change the world when they were teenagers? Is it true that old men and women are meditating? Is it true that we light candles on graveyards and place wreaths of peace?  

I hear the name word Tunisia and my thoughts turn to you. I hear Libya it is the same. I hear of Syria today engaged in such massacres and killings and Assad will not hear and I wonder about why you did not live and others died. What have we done to bring the Awakening that must happen in so many lands. Where are our values as humanity?

In the backdrop of what is happening in Syria, Egypt and many lands we may not find in our media because they seem to fall  of the map of the world's attention, I think of you. It is for the Arab Awakening that you Mohammed Bouazizi struck the match. Your flames are still burning for the world needs them. You doused yourself in petrol and went up in flames. You were saying you had enough of a world full of injustice not just in Tunisia. Mohammed, we are not able to light up our minds. Dictators hold on as so many people die. The world has betrayed Syria. Sakharov, Vaclav Havel and you and many others are disappointed. We buried all of you? Do we not ignite ours then? You challenged us with a match Bouazizi and you left your mother crying, and us. I sometimes so wish that we could see you watching the world. See your spirit. Touch it.

From Al Jazira. Mohammed must live in our minds. I do not want to see this again! 

I do not like it that matyrdom was forced on your psyche. You were seeking to live. I praise you for your courage because sometimes there is no other language possible. You did not take the life of another. I remember your name suddenly hit us as between the 17th of December and the 4th of January, you struggled for your life in hospital all bandaged up. Doctors had done their best. They stood by your bed with nurses. Some important people visited you and took photographs and the whole world was paralysed by this at Christmas. I know now that my Christmas in Norway, in Kenya, in wherever I may be will never be the same again.

I listen to carols at this time and every little boy, every child, every market woman offering bananas lifting them high to a traveller on a bus window reminds me of you. Those men I have seen in Nairobi pulling a cart with their stomach as if they have horsepower remind me of you. My cousin pulls one in a smaller town. I know that life. I  know his children waiting for Christmas. I know his faith and effort.

Someone killed two vendors in Firenze on 15th of December. They said he was right wing and angry. He killed himself too. The news was splashed for a while. It is practically forgotten. Those two vendors from Senegal who were shot dead in Firenze, Florence, the other day remind me of you. Four people were injured. The mothers' of those vendors received corpses at home.I was thinking about this when I read in La Stampa, which does not yet carry posthmous postal stamp that indeed his colleagues said, Someone will have to tell Samb's mother. La pieta comes to mind again and no pity. How long with a mother with broken limbs, dead children in her hands, a mother holding ashes at the Ganges, a mother weeping have to live? This mother lonely and filling the face of the earth. This mother holding out her children to us hungers for justice. We cannot sleep. We must unmask our feasts and ask the world what our children will celebrate tomorrow.

I saw photos of Senegalese men on the street demonstrating. I did not see demonstrations anywhere else in the capitals of Europe. I did not see people come out as human beings: Not race, not religion but people who care about the life of another. This event was very close to the UN International Human Rights Day, 10th December. 

I know that the mayor of Firenze reacted fast and condemned this. I remembered that I was in Firenze on 9th December  2010 at the Nelson Mandela Forum. I remembered young Italian children 14- 18 filled a stadium with love. I remembered how they celebrated Mansur Raji and I. I remembered one boy who just wanted to call my name and when I looked up he smiled and run away. I remembered hope. I felt pain because I know there are many people who would not have this happen but a few who seem to work harder than the rest of us to be heard.

I know a young boy who was killed here on 26th January 2001 in Oslo for being Benjamin Hermansen. In the 2010 demonstration that my friend took me to, there were very few people compared to the beginning. We are weak. There are many things we shall not root out. Our self immolation does not require that we set fire on ourselves. We need to set fire on our thoughts, on our souls and hearts. We need to act. Nothing is over yet, everything remains from slavery to bombings. The world must show us who is leading it today. Where is the bigger voice. The Pope of the Roman Catholic Church reflected on Syria on Christmas Day and asked for prayers, but in Northern Nigeria in Jos, someone killed many Christians in a church. Which language shall we speak Mohammed?

If you try to Google shooting of boy.. . without his name, no matter what year you put, your finds will be filled with Anders Breivik and Utøya.  Here, where I live for sometime now, we like to console ourselves. We say that our racism is hidden? Is it? I see it not only on Benjamin but in many places. What is hidden to the world and why? Mohammed, thank you. May we learn to burn bright that which is still hidden in darkness. May we just at least try, to step out for humanity. You inspire me even as I hurt deeply seeing that we do not have enough with the awful natural disasters.. in the Philipinnes, Somalia, U.S.A, Australia and Japan. What are we learning and doing? Why are those against ideals so much more active than those of us who are pro humans? Ask us Mohammed, ask us. We owe you many answers.

Hermansen was 15 years old when he was shot just before midnight on 26th January 2001.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Burden of Peace for theree wise women, Nobel Peace Prize 2011

Gentle smiles of enduring peace
Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Patricia Howell from Jamaica in Oslo 8th Dec 2011

Nobel Peace Prize  2011- the feet of them that bring news of peace!

Celebrations now come on! There are some reflections, one can only make with the body! It ached then. It dances now. Three women have journeyed from afar.  See their first steps, barefeet and full of pain. See them dance today.

Celebrations now.. come on!

See me dance for them. See me. I am full of joy. Three wise women. They are in Oslo this historic day, of December 10th. This is the day when every year some outstanding personalities stand before us and make us one in hope. It is Human Rights Day.

I know there are controversial issues but today let me rejoice in these women. After all, it was in a workshop titled Defending Defenders in Nairobi  where I met one of these women, Leymah Gbowee. It was organized by  Urgent Action Africa then directed by Betty Kaari Murungi. There were women from Africa and Asia.

Many great sisters were there and I know today they are recalling that workshop in many parts of the world with joy because Leymah was there and because women are on the worlds’ podium for honor today.

There is a party going on right here..

The Nobel Peace Prize and its history still retains  great prestige and meaning. It remains a high peak. It is a big responsibility to receive it. I love the fact that this onus is on our wonderful sisters Tawakul, Leymah and Ellen Jonson Sirleaf in 2011.   

To walk in the company of Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Chief Luthuli, Wangari Maathai, Nelson Mandela,  Kofi Annan and so many great people is a great thing!

Should I liken these three sisters to the three kings of yore? No. They are not all from the orient and the one that is may not have the three kings in the hadiths. Is this story part? It is December 10th 2011. Well, from that story let me steal the lesson that they must remain people who are moving towards others who are seemingly lowly as it was with kings travelling miles on camels to see a little baby in that Christmas story. Leymah Gbowee Prayed the devil back to hell sometime back with a large group of women. You can see the documentary on this today. She led.

Muslim and Christian women came out and challenged Charles Taylor who had taken liberty from Liberia.  They wanted their children back. They wanted to see their boys grow up and their girls and mothers not raped. They like many queens insisted their children had to live. It is about time women showed no fear in uniting even across religious groups. The world is challenged by serious divisions. Will women bring us the frankincense and myrrh we need for our healing?

United across age groups. Ellen Jonson is a torch bearer, Leymah runs strong and Tawakul is the youngest in age and certainly wise... they are all youthful!
 So celebrations..

I could be in my warm winter bed sleeping. It is so early. It is one of the days that my 4am alarm has rang after I have woken up. I thought I switched it off on my mobile phone and then it sweetly rang again after ten minutes. I remembered as I put it off how one feels when sleep embraces the eyes forcing them closed and an alarm rings. That you want that snooze. It is that snooze I cannot afford in life. And, I am in Oslo, how can I not write about this?

Part of Oslo will show great excitement  today. Sadly, some other people got used to it.  I am part of the ones trembling with joy, excited, even as I sit and write and am not invited to the concert which only big people go to. We can’t wait for the public torch parade and for the brief appearance of the Nobel Peace Prize winners at the historic window!  It is the land of equal opportunities! I am honored that  I read a poem in a gathering where one of the Nobel laureates was invited. I am contented that we- a group of African women-  saw one of the Nobel laureates barefoot  . and we joked about the dignity of the Nobel Prize!  Who would not celebrate the feet of women like these? It is not always our turn to mourn.  We loved seeing their families happy. We celebrate!

Tawakul, what is the use of the revolution if we only die and not dance? I hope for you so much. I hope the best. My mother says part of you name means lamp in her language.. Tawa, and so it was to be, and my son says that the other part is ‘cool!’ This is how domestic you have become in my village too.. so... Drive that energy into changing the world! All three of you, the work has only just begun. The world needs real changing, even here on the ground on which you receive the Nobel. Ask us.

Let me not dwell on what others say regarding deserving. This will always come up. It is not new. Give these women a break! Put your fears regarding this or that into something else.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has played a big part in peace building at home regardless of what some say. For me, it is just that. What they must say. Three women will receive the Nobel Prize for Peace. Tawakul is the youngest. She is from Yemen. She moved the revolution forward in the Arab Spring, in her country.

I am reminded of Martin Luther King Jr. I am reminded of non violence. I am reminded of some aspects of his amazing life and his ever living dream.

I am reminded of Martin Luther King Jr’s own acceptance speech of the Nobel Peace Prize on the 10th of December 1964 where he spoke more about the masses than about himself.

“Everytime I take a flight I am always mindful of the many people who make a successful journey possible, the known pilots and the unknown ground crew. ..You honor the ground crew without whose labor and sacrifices the jet flights to freedom could never have left the earth.”

We will always celebrate those who come and return to the people with words of peace regardless of a world that would rather they were not celebrated. Celebrate now!