A Patchwork of Color
Whenever I think of our Creator, I am deeply humbled because He made us so alike yet so different. Planet Earth is beautiful because it has a patchwork of colorful people. Here are a few of them who inspire one to be patient, to endure, to be humble, to speak out, to be yourself, to be kind, to be one step ahead, to be daring, to be resilient and to be still.
Aung Sang Suu Kyi – She is perhaps one of the most famous contemporary prisoners of conscience. The Prime Minister that the people of Burma/Myanmar never had, Ms Suu Kyi has been in and out of house arrest for over a decade and had to endure a painful separation from her family including her husband who passed away while she was under house arrest.
A 1991 recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace, she is quoted as saying – It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it
Ishmael Beah – I have not yet seen the movie, Blood Diamond, but read in the synopsis that the character played by Djimon Hounsou is trying to save his son who has been conscripted as a child soldier during the civil war in Sierra Leone.
Nowadays, when I think about child soldiers in West Africa, Ishmael Beah comes to my mind. His story which is published in Long Way Gone – Memoirs of a Boy Soldier – is one of a real life child soldier who due to a number of events in his life at the time that the war broke out in the country of his birth, joins forces with the rebel forces killing more people that he can remember.
In coming to terms with his past in order to go on with his life Ishmael has been quoted as saying – One of the lessons that I learned from the tragic events of my life, summed up in a parable of my country, is that “once there is life, there is hope for a better future.
Rolake Odetoyinbo – Living with HIV/AIDS, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, can be tough. In addition to confronting issues of non-availability of the life-extending drugs, one is faced with issues of stigma and discrimination which Rolake Odetoyinbo calls ‘the twin brothers from hell.’ She confirms that many of the people who are infected in Nigeria are in acute denial and most would rather die than disclose their HIV status, others do not voluntarily seek to be tested and there is little community support or involvement echoing the statistics from the WHO which state that a high percentage of the people who are HIV-positive in today’s world do not know their serostatus because they refuse to be tested because of stigma and discrimination issues which HIV-positive people are faced with. As Project Director for Nigeria for the Positive Action for Treatment Access , Ms Odetoyinbo continues to be one of the most vocal voices advocating for improved access to treatment for people living with HIV in Nigeria.
Paul Rusesabagina – They say that true character is revealed in extraordinary situations and such is the case with Paul Rusesabagina whose chivalry in the face of incredibly unusual and dangerous set of situations during the tribal genocide in Rwanda is the subject of a critically acclaimed movie. He has set up the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation which assists victims of genocide in Rwanda and other African countries. He narrates his experiences in a book aptly titled – An Ordinary Man
Commenting on the current state of war in Darfur and comparing it to what happened in his country, he writes – The proposed extinction of an entire race should now be considered an override clause to the rule of national sovereignty. Rwanda is over and everybody mourns it comfortably. We ought not to wait until Darfur is over to start saying – Never Again yet again.
Waris Dirie – Born into a family of nomadic Somalians, she ran away from home in order to escape an arranged marriage to an older man after enduring the ritual of female genital mutilation (FGM) which is regarded in some parts of the world as a rite of passage but is more often than not harmful to the girls and women who undergo the procedure.
Her exodus took her to the capital of Somalia and later to London where she was discovered by a photographer and embarked on a sucessful modeling career.
She has been a UN spokesperson against FGM and wrote in her memoirs – When I imagine more little girls going through what I went through, it breaks my heart and makes me angry She tells the story of her life and subsequent reunion with her family in three books – titled Desert Flower, Desert Dawn and Desert Children
John Dau – The term Lost Boys of Sudan refers to young boys who were directly affected by the Second Sudanese Civil War (1984-2005) and who were part of an international rescue resettlement mission which took the boys from Sudan and brought them to the United States. Theirs is the story of the power of resilience. One of them is John Dau whose story is among many chronicled in the 2006 documentary God Grew Tired of Us.
Mukhtaran Bibi – While there are different accounts of the incident that changed her life, the fact remains that sometime in the summer of 2002, Ms Bibi was punished by being gang-raped in her village in Pakistan because of an inter-clan dispute involving a male member of her family . The international outcry which followed that event led to her being placed under semi-house arrest and prevented from leaving the country by the government – an issue which was later resolved after global pressure was exerted. She was able to transcend illiteracy and poverty to lead efforts to end a cultural practice which permits women to be used as objects of punishment for the perceived wrong-doings of male family members – getting the message to the world that one should fight for their rights and for the rights of the next generation
Immaculée Ilibagiza – Another survivor of the genocide in Rwanda, she lost her family in the tribal bloodbath but rather than seek vengeance and retribution for the people who murdered her loved ones, she took the higher ground by making the most amazing selfless and beautiful gesture of forgiving. One of the ways she has been able to overcome her past is by writing a book called- Left to Tell, of which she says – my goal in writing the book, I wanted to tell the story, as it happened. But there were also those moments, you know, where God came to my help, where I was, you know, changing of my thoughts. For example, when I was angry and I was so bitter, I wish I can revenge — I call revenge at that time, and when I changed my ways of thinking, you know, thinking, you know, in a way of loving those people, my anger left me.
Rania Al-Baz – It is not easy being a woman in Saudi Arabia, you have few independent rights and any rights you have are tied to your predominant male relative and for married women, their husbands, who often do with them whatever they want without any scruples. While domestic violence continues to be one of the least spoken forms of violence that women endure worldwide, for women in Saudi Arabia who are faced with a situation where a woman does not have a voice, cases of domestic violence are rarely heard. Rania Al-Baz made a choice not to be silent when she became a victim of domestic abuse which left her battered, bruised and unconscious; an announcer with a Saudi TV station, her voice resonated so loudly it echoed on the global stage. She became the first woman in her country’s history to press charges of domestic abuse on her husband. I want to use what happened to me to draw attention to the plight of women in Saudi Arabia
Margaret Mukacyaka – When the fires of the tribal war in Rwanda were put out, a number of legacies were left for the souls that survived. For one young lady her legacies were a child and a disease – pregnant and HIV-positive as a result of a series of rapes during the war. She refuses to be a statistic or dwell on these events that changed her life rather she cares for son now 12 – Today, all of my relatives are dead except for my mother. The boy is all I have left. And I am all he has. What will he do, if something happens to me?