Mob Justice

A Tree in Bwindi

This morning I woke up feeling so blessed.  I had seen giraffes yesterday, and more hippos and elephants than I can count. Additionally, as I left Bwindi and received so many heartfelt wishes for a safe journey, asking me to bring their love to all my family and friends as I travel home, I felt that my heart had been expanded by an entire continent. Then, I saw a terrible sight on the road to Gulu.

We were flagged down by a police officer in  a small town who needed a lift to an accident site.  As we approached I saw maybe 75 people lining the road and branches of tree’s indicating for drivers to slow.  Initially I couldn’t see the accident.  Then I saw.  A woman had been walking by the side of the road, as most people do, when she must have been hit by a truck.  There was no car to be seen.  There were parts of her that were unrecognizable.

As my driver and I drove on, we talked about how life can be so unpredictable.  I prayed for her family and friends who had no idea it would be her last morning with them.  I prayed that they would find peace.  I added prayers for the driver of the car, though I couldn’t understand why he would drive away, when he would have known that he hit someone.

When I arrived in Gulu, my friend John explained that he would also leave, (Though he added that he would have picked up the person, taken them to hospital, then turned himself in to the police.) since the idea of mob justice is so ingrained. Its likely the driver could have been killed by the mob if he stopped.  I have read about this type of mob justice happening in other countries in East Africa and remember listening to similar stories from Northern Ireland.  Though in Northern Ireland it wasn’t mob justice but, alternative justice, exacted by the paramilitaries who had little, to no faith in the criminal justice system.

I still couldn’t help feeling that the woman left on the road was just left alone.  Forgotten.  Please join me in praying for her family and friends, and for the driver.

To be of use

Greek Amphora's at the Ringling Museum of Art

Greek Amphora’s at the Ringling Museum of Art

This poem was given to me by my 9th grade english teacher, Ms Gardner.  What I remember about her classes was being amazed by the works of literature and captivated by the creativity of people. I was unaware then just how many lessons I would learn for my life in those readings.  To be of Use has been my creed since perhaps that day. I found the copy she gave me hidden away in some book a few years ago. I read over the words as if visiting an old home again.  Familiar and yet shaded by the distant years.

To be of use
by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.

Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

I like the poem even more as I embark on this new adventure. Though every beginning seems like an adventure, the one I started just 9 months ago is one I never thought I would be called upon to take.  I left my home and my job that I loved to move into a great unknown.  As my friend said, I was given an book with a beautiful cover, but no words inside.  Its funny how easily I talk about embracing the mystery of God, of life, and when I actually try to live that way, how much harder it all seems.   These months have been full of sadness, great joy, and change, so much change.

The following posts will be a mixture of self reflection, travel log, research report, and amazement reports.  I hope to add to this journal pictures and videos.

I will be searching for experiences of the sacred in Uganda and Tanzania.  Specifically I will travel to Gulu (the area where the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) operated) to talk to leaders about how they use sacred narrative to reclaim space that has been violated by violence and tragedy.

I will also go to Bwindi and visit the Batwa tribe, who were forced out of the impenterable forest, when it became a World Heritage Site, to protect the mountain gorillas.

I will end my time visiting two volunteers in Tanzania who are working with the orphans of Angel House Orphanage in Tarime.