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May 4, 2015
Similar to our Vocation of Peacemaking series, The Borders I Cross is a series of reflections from BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz members and friends about their peacemaking journeys. This particular series focuses on the many borders crossed for peacemaking, which include physical borders as well as those such as language, culture, race, religion, nationality, generation, class, and sexual orientation. These essays come from people from all walks of life; those who cross borders as students, in their paid professions, in their volunteer time, in their family lives and/or in retirement. We hope you enjoy this new series from the BPFNA!
I always hear many white folks from the Western world saying; "I am going to Africa!". Unfortunately, every nation in Africa is “Africa” to them. They do not put any geographical boundaries within and among different African states. Is Africa one? No, this is seriously not true! I hear media houses talking about Ebola in West and Central Africa as Ebola in Africa. Alas, this is only a small part of Africa. Even within those regions not everyone has the disease. Most of us are guilty of not studying African history and geography. It disturbs me to hear some high profile persons taking about; "African culture, African politics, African economy". There is nothing like that. I know it, I have experienced it in my two years of crossing African borders through preaching the gospel of conflict transformation using experiential methodology.
I was born and grew up in a small, peaceful Southern African country of a population of only 13 million. Zimbabwe is my home, which I cherish so much. Two years ago I was invited in the deep village of Kamwaura in Kenya. It was so remote that you could only use a boda boda motorbike (Boda boda is a cheap and fast way of transporting passengers in East and West Africa). This caught me unaware! I travelled for 100km in the dusty, muddy roads. We do not have boda boda in Southern Africa! I politely asked for a helmet but this is not expected in this part of the continent. I arrived there with a swollen back! I was working with three different tribal groups who had been affected by the 2007-2008 Kenyan election violence. We built several houses for the displaced families. I am not a builder myself , but you do not need any expertise to build a house in that part of the village. It is only pole, mud and corrugated iron sheets on the roof. It was amazing to see former enemies from different tribes building houses for each other. This was a remedial experience for everyone!
Everywhere I went, I faced some difficulties in the way we speak English differently. English is my training method language. Whilst I was in Malawi, I trained 30 young people who were coming from seven different ethnic groups within the country. They had seven different English accents. They could not hear me, I could not hear them, they could not even understand each other perfectly. I needed translators, but it was not possible to have seven translators.
Uganda was ravaged by civil wars long before I was born. I went to an area where the chief atrocities were committed, and I conducted a training for employees of an orphanage. They gave me the opportunity to meet the kids. What I saw was astounding. We never had a civil war in my country. I saw kids whose mouths, ears, and noses were cut off. Some had legs and hands amputated. It was horrific. I saw their smiles in the face of my sorrow. They were so intelligent, I sang a simple song with them. I was feeling pity for them, but they did not need my sympathy. They wanted me to walk with them in their journey of conquest. They had seen a lot and had every reason to rejoice. Whilst we were singing, I saw those with broken mouths singing pleasantly, those with broken ears listening conscientiously, those with broken bones dancing. They did not use their mouths, ears, legs, hands, but they used their hearts to sing, to dance, to listen. I always cry that I am poor, but this time I saw plenty in scarcity.
I love Africa, I love being black, I love being artistic. I have natural dreadlocks, and I take my time to beautify my hair. This has been giving me problems! In all the African countries I have visited they cannot initially accept a morally upright person to wear dreadlocks. It is associated with negative things. Fortunately, after the training many will realise that we need to cross borders of our physical appearance as it is the heart that matters the most.
Perhaps you will come to visit us – perhaps you will pray for us – do not say you are visiting and praying for “Africa” – think instead of Zimbabwe, Uganda, Malawi, and more, a continent of many countries, many peoples, many languages, many troubles, many joys – a land in which I cross many borders to make peace!
Lancelot Muteyo is a young man living in Zimbabwe and is the President of Pan African Peace Network. He is a travelling peace activist and a talented poet.