Entries tagged with “Africa”.


We made it pretty clear that one of the things we were most excited about in moving to Minneapolis was the large African/International population based here.  With over 70,000 Somali refugees there are plenty of opportunities to talk and learn about Africa.

We have tried really hard to connect with and engage this population.  One way we did this was by connecting with a group that is teaching English to primarily Somali adult women.  This has been a great way for us to learn about the culture while providing a valuable service.  It has also given us, especially Christy, the opportunity to build friendships.

This resulted in us being invited, with some friends, to a student’s son’s wedding.  She is actually Oromo, which is a distinctive Muslim culture within Ethiopia.  On a side note, many of the local Oromo people have learned to speak and understand Somali. In part because they are often lumped together – even though traditionally there is an underlying conflict between the two people groups. So back to the story.

We were told to arrive at a banquet hall around noon for the wedding lunch which would go from 12-2.  Knowing the culture we showed up at 12:30 and were still the first people there.  We waited around for awhile and finally one of her son’s came to open the hall and he said we could come back at 6pm.  We questioned that and then he said between 2 and 3.  Long story short we ended up coming back to the banquet hall around 2:30.  There were many women around finishing up the food preparation.  They said, “She is coming, she is coming.”  So we waited…

We tried to be patient and the banquet hall was filling up.  We had almost given up (we did have other commitments) and were told that she was almost here, “maybe even in the parking lot.”  A few minutes later we decided to leave and almost missed her.  She came and was very excited to see us which was great – but she wanted us to sit and stay and eat.

Her English is very limited so we thanked her and tried to explain that we needed to leave soon. She kept insisting on us eating, but we didn’t want to be singled out to eat before everyone else.  We finally had to leave at 3:45 and were able to say goodbye, but everyone kept insisting on eating!  I finally realized that this was a HUGE deal for them and said we would go into the back room and eat. We had some great food. Injera, rice, chicken, and other special sauces. Yummy.

This was a great cross cultural learning experience.  I think we all wished we could have spent the whole day and actually gotten to enjoy the wedding and take part in that experience.  But it is so great to be able to have this experience within our city.  We drove 10 minutes and got to experience a part of Africa.

While we were waiting we discovered the Holy Land grocery store. There is a small one at the Global Market, but this was much larger and included random things like lamb heart, goat’s feet, beef tongue, and much more!

Another quick story that makes me happy and reminds us of our great life happened at work the other day.  You might recall that many of the students at the school  I work at are East African (Somali, Oromo, and Ethiopian). We also have a significant African-American population.

Last week was the last day of after-school classes, so for the last 15 or so minutes I took my group of kids outside to have some fun.  They mainly played basketball but there was also a girl’s soccer group outside playing soccer.  While standing around watching the kids I felt like I was back in Africa.  All of the kids (and other adults) were black, some wearing flowing multi-colored burqa’s or hijabs.  It was a great feeling.

Another really random story! I was taking a group of students that I work with to work a banquet for the volunteer department of the school district.  Again most of them were East African and inner-city students.  We got on the bus and started driving when the kids asked for the driver to turn the radio on.  They should have known better since the driver was wearing a cowboy hat.  He turned on country music!  The kids didn’t like it at all!  They kept yelling at him to turn it off and he would give them the thumbs up and turn it up! It was really funny to me since I grew up on a lot of country.

So there you go, a few stories about the great life we lead here in Minneapolis.

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Here are a few recent news articles about Sudan and Somalia.  I don’t want to turn into a spammy blog, just reposting news stories, so these reflect my passions and highlight two major crises in today’s world.  These stories are no joke.

The Star-Tribune reports (from an AP wire story) that with Sudan kicking out aid groups over 1 million will lose access to food:

The U.N.-Sudanese assessment team toured Darfur from March 11-19 after the groups were expelled.

About 1.1 million people now dependent on food aid will not receive their rations starting in May if the aid gaps aren’t filled, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Sudan, Ameerah Haq, said on behalf of the team.

She warned that money will run out within four weeks for spare parts and fuel needed to provide drinking water for 850,000 people.

And more than 600,000 people are in danger of not getting materials needed to build shelters before the upcoming rainy season, Haq said.

We allow this to continue in the name of national soverignty – even though international laws have been broken.

Change.org’s genocide section has a great article about the politics involved and Obama’s quandaries:

According to Gerson, the U.S. and the international community thus “faces a decision”: Do we take a soft-line with Bashir in hopes that aid groups are readmitted, or do we accept the short-term consequences likely to come from increased pressure on Sudan, but that also has the potential to break Bashir’s death grip on the region?

It’s a messy political calculus, any way you shake it— either caving to Bashir’s tactics in Darfur, which hold innocent lives hostage in a no-holds-barred international power struggle, and thus nearly guarantee that this upper-hand will be used again in the future, and to the detriment of millions, or (if you’re President Obama, in particular) taking the risks that come with stepping into the ring.

If one thing is clear, it’s that any attempt to deal with Bashir will not succeed with one foot in, and one out. The full “diplomatic toolkit” must be on the table, including the credible threat of military force. It’s not a simple question of black-and-white moral certitude: Consequences on the ground in Darfur will be grave (though, they already are), and on the international political scene, Obama has to weigh the cost of further angering the Arab world at a time when his agendas in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel/Palestine also hang in the lurch.

It’s not a one-off — it’s a diplomatic package deal. So the decision comes down to: Are the lives of the millions current subjected to the whims of Bashir’s genocidal regime worth not only the political cost of action, but the on-the-ground consequences as well?

Gerson concludes:

“Not every global humanitarian crisis justifies this kind of commitment, or else America would be endlessly overextended. But if genocide does not justify such action, it will never be justified. And we would lose the right to say, ‘Never again.'”

I’d argue that we’ve already lost the right to say “Never Again,” but that does not lift our responsibility to answer the question, “What will we do, right here, right now?”

I’d agree.

Somalia is a strongly Muslim country where people are killed for being Christians or even just non-Muslim.  The 30 Days website offers some insight into life in Somalia.

God’s forgiveness filled him with hope! Libaan’s relatives heard that Libaan had become a Gal (Somali word for a pagan). Most Somalis can’t imagine that Christians may also be people who fear God, because they assume that Christians live a very worldly lifestyle (including drunkenness and immorality). Returning to see his family Libaan insisted that he not be called a Gal. In his view he was submitted to God, the Almighty. While his family received him well at first, later they rejected him. This experience broke his heart. Somali believers are few in number. They experience loneliness and rejection even from their most beloved family members. Only encouragement and comfort from God helps them to overcome.

Be sure to read the comments on that post.

Finally, Oxfam recent released a report on condition along the Kenyan-Somali border in the refugee camps.

According to inter-agency projections5 the most likely scenario given the continuing crisis inside Somalia is that an additional 9,000-10,000 new refugees will continue to arrive in Dadaab each month throughout 2009, even if the border remains closed and despite registration delays and shortage of adequate services. In a worst-case scenario, up to 200,000 people could arrive in a very short time period. In the current situation of extreme congestion none of these new arrivals will be allocated plots or materials to construct their own shelter, and will not have access to adequate sanitation facilities. They are likely to experience delays in obtaining access to food rations and health services. Competition over water resources will increase. Cholera is already present, and a serious outbreak remains a real risk in Dadaab. The ever-increasing overcrowding and poor sanitation and waste disposal facilities, as well as the lack of investment in hygiene promotion, are only exacerbating this risk. In short, a humanitarian emergency will unfold in 2009 in Dadaab unless at least 36,000 of the existing population are immediately served in a decongestion
site near to the existing camps and new camps are constructed to receive the 120,000 new arrivals projected for 2009.

Learn more and take action.

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Is it possible to have both peace and justice at the same time? Yes, but not always.

We have some great historical examples of where peace reigned and justice prevailed. Tragically, there are probably more examples of when this didn’t occur.

The most recent and relevant is related to Sudan and the ongoing extermination of the Darfuri people.

What are Peace & Justice?

PeaceFor our purposes, peace is a freedom from civil disturbance a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom or a state or period of mutual concord between governments as in a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity. (Webster)

Justiceis the concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, fairness and equity. (Wikipedia)

So in the case of Darfur, peace would be the absence of conflict, improved security and safety around refugee camps, and a return of the refugees to their original homes without a fear of violence.  Justice would be the prosecution and imprisonment of individuals involved in illegal activities, such as rape, murder, pillaging, arson, and other similar atrocities.

Advocates around the world have been actively seeking a combination of the two to occur in the Texas sized province of Darfur in Western Sudan.  However, at times their actions and advocacy have not always aligned with the best interests of the refugees and aid workers.  I am just as guilty as the next advocate in this instance.  We have been advocating for peace since 2003 and haven’t had any real success in that regard.

Governments around the world took action… but failed the people of Darfur with their token responses.  We send peacekeepers without proper equipment, underfund them, and understaff them – setting them up for failure yet again.  What is the purpose of documenting atrocities instead of preventing them?  Yes, you must document a crime to prosecute it… but how many must die in the process?

In the past few weeks the International Criminal Court issued an indictment for the President of Sudan.  The first time such an indictment has been issued for a sitting head of state.  It may also be the first time that it is clearly a head of state allowing crimes against humanity and war crimes to occur.  Read more at the ICC’s Darfur Page.

This indictment was a clear step toward justice and holding an individual accountable for the actions they knowingly allowed to occur.  The debate in many circles is… was that a wise move?

I don’t know claim to know everything but there definitely are some problems related to this.  Everyone knew that after the indictment all the humanitarian aid workers would be either kicked out or harrased and that came to pass.  Everyone also knew that the indictment is almost impossible to enforce – Sudan and many of its closest allies are not signators (nor is the US) on the charter of the ICC.  This means that we and they have no responsibility to act on its warrants.  The president is fairly safe to travel around within those countries without risking arrest.  It is almost impossible to arrest him in Sudan because he has popular support within the capital and much of north Sudan.

So why go after justice knowing that it will be hard to serve and create everything but peace? I agree it should give Darfuri people hope that ultimately justice will be served and their death and suffering will be vindicated.  I can’t imagine that will mean much as they continue to suffer each day.

Jim Wallis gives a clear account of what has happened since the ICC indictment:

Over the past few weeks, 13 international humanitarian organizations have been expelled from Sudan at the dictate of Omar al-Bashir, president of Sudan. These actions came soon after the International Criminal Court handed down an indictment of al-Bashir and issued a warrant for his arrest for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Darfur. As a result, 1.1 million Darfuris are without food, 1.5 million without health care, and more than 1 million without access to clean drinking water. If there was any doubt as to whether or not he was truly acting in the best interest of his people, his use of food and water as weapons of war show that he just does not care about the people of Darfur.

and continues

With the expulsion of these humanitarian organizations, al-Bashir has shown that he has no interest in the well-being of the people of Darfur or in bringing piece. These actions show that once again there comes a time when a political leader has so violated standards of international law and morality that he should no longer be treated as a sovereign, even in his own country, but as a criminal. Actions like this show that he should no longer be president, but prosecuted and brought to justice like the international fugitive of the law he now is. If he was serious about peace and progress, the first thing he should do is welcome the aid organizations back into his country, and without that he has ensured that this warrant will be pursued.

There is no doubt that if we continue to watch there will be neither peace nor justice.  We must act for both. Hoping and praying that somewhere along the way somebody with power will stand up and say ENOUGH and take immediate action that will end the pain and suffering of millions of innocent children, women, and men.

Other good reads include

ICC Not as stupid as the cynics may have thought

If Not Peace, Then Justice

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The crisis continues in Somalia.  Refugees International is one of few organizations working in East Africa with Somalia refugees.

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Why was Jonah willing to save the boat full of pagans, but not go to Ninevah?

That was a tangental question David threw out during last week’s sermon. He didn’t want to dig into it since it was really related to the overarching topic.  But was still a good point to ponder…

I e-mailed him a response over the weekend:

Something similar has been on my mind lately… especially regarding things like Darfur, Somalia, HIV/AIDS…

I think Jonah didn’t want to save those people over there, you know those foreigners.  Why would God want us to be uncomfortable to benefit someone besides ourselves?  Why should we care about Africa when we have problems here…

But once those foreigners became part of his life.  We don’t know for sure who was on the ship but I imagine that at least one of the sailors was a Nineveh-ite.  They had some shared experiences playing poker, dropping back some rum, you know hanging out.  Their relationships probably became stronger as the storm picked up.  Adversity tends to bring people together.

When Jonah and the sailors figured out what was happening he faced a few choices, do nothing and hope everyone lives, be pragmatic and realize that people are going to die, take a risk and jump overboard, get thrown overboard.  Jonah must have been a pretty decent fellow since God wanted him to prophesy on His behalf, so it seems Jonah was willing to do whatever it took to help is new buddies.  Plus if he died, he still wouldn’t preach to Nineveh!

I think once we’ve experienced Africa or know someone with HIV, it becomes real and personal.  You are more willing to act and take risks to help them.

Does that make sense? What do you think??

I would definitely, be interested in hearing your thoughts and reactions to that question in the comments.

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It has been almost a week since I finished my first marathon!!! Yes I made it the entire 26.2 miles!

It was quite an adventure as the rain pelted down on us for at least 4-5 miles of the race. But it was very thrilling to reach the finish line and to know that I had accomplished such a large feat. My finish time was 3:25. My Dad asked, “What does that mean? Is that fast, slow, really fast or what?” He’s not a runner so that’s understandable. Most of my running friends know what that means – I finished in the top 10% of all the finisher’s in Sunday’s race. I didn’t quite make the “gold standard” of a Boston Qualifying time, but for my first marathon I am quite pleased with the effort!

I have already posted two reviews of the race, so I would encourage you to check them out. The first is Grading the Race Plan and the second is a more traditional Race Review.

On a similar note I am very excited to say that we have surpassed our $2,000 goal for Team World Vision!! Isn’t that awesome. So thank you to the many of you that donated and supported this effort. It was a pretty amazing and overwhelming feeling to know that my running a marathon changed my life, but also lives of children and families in Africa. Thank you for being a part of the journey with me.

As I write this today, pretty much all of the soreness is gone, but you can ask Christy and she will tell you that I kinda hobbled around Sunday and most of Monday! The truly insane part is that I’m already thinking about running another one sometime next year (maybe I am a little nuts!)

I wanted to give you an update on the marathon and thank you for your support. If you were planning to make a donation you still can! Tax-deductible and secure donations can be made at www.firstgiving.com/teamcross

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Play this game (a little cheesy) of driving a dirt bike around Africa delivering Malaria Nets to individuals in need.

Malaria is one of several curable/preventable deadly diseases that is ravaging Africa. Nothing but Nets has this to say about the disease:

Malaria, from the Medieval Italian words mala aria or “bad air,” infects more than 500 million people a year and kills more than a million— one person dies about every 30 seconds. The disease is particularly devastating in Africa, where it is a leading killer of children.

The disease is a self-perpetuating problem with large-scale impact on societies and economies. Malaria accounts for up to half of all hospital admissions and outpatient visits in Africa. In addition to the burden on the health system, malaria illness and death cost Africa approximately $12 billion a year in lost productivity. The effects permeate almost every sector. Malaria increases school absenteeism, decreases tourism, inhibits foreign investment, and even affects the type of crops that are grown.

Despite the magnitude of the problem, there is a simple and cost-effective solution to prevent malaria deaths. For just $10, we can purchase a bed net, deliver it to a family, and explain its use. Bed nets work by creating a protective barrier against mosquitoes at night, when the vast majority of transmissions occur. A family of four can sleep under an insecticide-treated bed net, safe from malaria, for up to four years. The benefits of bed nets extend even further than the family. When enough nets are used, the insecticide used to deter mosquitoes makes entire communities safer—including even those individuals who do not have nets.

Although $10 for a bed net may not sound like much, the cost makes them out of reach for most people at risk of malaria, many of whom survive on less than $1 a day. Nets are a simple, life-saving solution, but we need your help to provide them to those in need.

You can make a monetary contribution or play their game. This is a partnership created by the United Nations foundation.

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