Sabbath Day: West Africa
I spent most of this past week on the banks of the Hudson River at the beautiful Garrison Institute with my colleagues in the GreenFaith Fellows Program. We are a multi-faith group of religious leaders committed to resisting further climate change while simultaneously building communities that can live lightly, carefully and gracefully on this new eaarth. With the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference scheduled for Paris in November, there is a lot of work to do. Countries are submitting voluntary goals for emissions reductions – but it is already clear there will be a sizable gap between these voluntary limits and the necessary changes to prevent more than a 2 degree rise in global temperatures and irreversible change. With the conference scheduled to open on November 30th, we are inviting folks to WEAR GREEN ON THE 30TH DAY OF EACH MONTH from now until the conference begins as we speak and pray for a strong climate treaty.
As for my continued multinational reading, I spent this week among WEST AFRICAN authors (Benin, Cameroon, Cape Verde Islands, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leonne). In 2011 Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Lameh Gbowee (2011) shared the Nobel Peace Prize for their contribution to ending the war in LIBERIA. I read Gbowee’s memoir, Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer and Sex Changed a Nation at War, back in 2012. This week I read Sirleaf’s biography, This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life. Liberian Finance Minister, member of the World Bank, investigator of the Rwandan genocide, participant in successive Liberian governments or exiled in resistance, and finally her return to become Africa’s first women president. I also read a crime thriller, Murder in the Cassava Patch by Bai T. Moore, which is still required reading for high school student in Liberia. A truly disturbing story, which gave me pause thinking about the violence of the civil war.
I also read the first part of Lamin Sanneh’s autobiography, Summoned from the Margin: Homecoming of an African. Sanneh is the D. Willis James Professor of World Christianity at Yale University. I only read this memoir through his childhood in Gambia and his conversion during adolscence from Islam to Christianity.
Finally, I toured most of the other West African countries with two anthologies in hand, Guns and Soldiers: The Penguin Anthology of Contemporary African Writing collected short stories and excerpts from new novels, while The Penguin Book of Modern African Poetry provided riches on every page. With the poetry in particular I wept, held my breath, got lost in thought, and underlined, underlined, underlined.
“The hatred one has eaten / can never be destroyed” (Joseph Miezan Bonging, Cote d’Ivoire)
“It has been a hard life since I ran out of cynicism” (Mbella Sonne Dipoko, Cameroon)
“The fire of metaphors the venom of verse” (Syl Cheney-Coker, Sierra Leonne)
“Let me breath the smell of our dead, let me contemplate and repeat their living voice, let me learn / To live before I sink, deeper than the diver, into the lofty depth of sleep” (Léopold Sédar Senghor, First President of Senegal, 1960 – pictured below)