Posts Tagged ‘Africa’


August 6, 2012
Uganda Sings

Uganda Sings

UgandaSpeaks is grassroots voices in Uganda speaking on Uganda. It provides an interesting perspective on Uganda to the one we normally see and hear, if we see and hear at all.

Uganda Sings is a music collaboration involving some of the most talented musicians in Uganda. Five musicians contributed two songs each to the album.

Uganda Sings commemorates the golden anniversary of Uganda’s independence (1962-2012).

Proceeds from the sales of the music will benefit Uganda Speaks. The initiative is an online social media project founded by Ugandans to take back the global narrative about Uganda. It will allow Ugandans to share stories with the world from their own perspective using their own words and images.

The collection of songs takes the listener on a musical journey through Uganda. The diversity of artistic styles cover subjects that are uniquely Ugandan. The album begins and ends with songs about cities. In between are songs about relationships, struggles, and the natural beauty of Uganda.

Unfortunately Uganda Sings has not been releaased on bandcamp. An oversight which hopefully will be corrected if they wish to reach maximum exposure.

The Parable of the Person Who Couldn’t Find God

December 21, 2011

Once upon a time a certain East African country had many mountains and valleys, rivers and plains. All the people lived in one big valley. The large extended families included grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and many children. These East African people were ordinary human beings with both good and bad qualities. They followed all the seasons of human life:

A time for giving birth … a time for dying.

A time for planting … a time for uprooting.

A time for knocking down … a time for building.

A time for tears … a time for laughter.

A time for mourning … a time for dancing.

A time for loving … a time for hating.

A time for war … a time for peace.

A man named John Shayo lived in this large valley. He was a faithful Christian who prayed every Sunday and regularly participated in his Amani Small Christian Community. He helped the poor and needy especially the lepers who lived on one slope. John tried to fulfill all his Christian responsibilities. From time to time he failed, but in general he was a very good Christian.

In this large valley there was jealousy, fighting, drunkenness and all kinds of discord. Thieves and tricksters walked about openly and regularly stole cows, goats and sheep. Families and villages lacked peace and harmony. Witchcraft and superstition were part of daily life. After patiently enduring this bad situation for a long time John Shayo decided to move somewhere else. He said, “Certainly God isn’t present here. He is the “All Peaceful One” who doesn’t like fighting and discord. He wants peace and harmonious relationships in his human family.”

John Shayo saw a very high mountain far in the distance. It rose majestically in the clear tropical air. John said, “Certainly God our “Great Ancestor” lives in peace and quiet on the top of that East African mountain. I will go there to find God who “Dwells on High With the Spirits of the Great.” So John set off on his long safari. At the end of the first day he reached the foot of this high mountain. The burning equatorial sun had drained his energy. He rested. Very early the next morning he started out again. After three hours of difficult climbing he was tired and sat by the side of the rough footpath.

After a few minutes John was startled to see a bearded man about 30-years-old making his way down the mountain. They greeted each other. “Jambo (‘Hello’). What is the news?” John told the traveler that he was climbing to the top of the mountain to find God our “Creator and Source.” The traveler said that his name was Emmanuel and that he was climbing down the mountain to live with the people in the large valley. After talking together for a few minutes they said good-bye to each other in the traditional African farewell: “Good-bye until we meet again.” As John continued his safari up the steep mountain he said to himself: “That man is a fine person. He is very intelligent and speaks well. I wonder why he wants to go down to my former valley?”

Soon John Shayo was engrossed in his arduous climb. The air grew thinner. He climbed more slowly. By late afternoon he reached the top of the mountain and said to himself: “There is peace and quiet here. Now I will surely find God.” He looked everywhere. No one was around. John was very disappointed and asked out loud, “Where is God?”

Suddenly a gaunt old man appeared and greeted John. “Welcome. Relax after your long, hard safari.” Shayo began to describe the arduous trip and his desire to meet God the “All Peaceful One.” The old man said, “I’m sorry, but God isn’t here on the top of this high mountain. I live alone here. Surely you met God on the mountain path. He was going down to the big valley to live with the people there and to help them with their problems and difficulties.” John was astonished and exclaimed out loud, “You mean the traveler I met on the path was God. I didn’t recognize him. I thought that I would find him here on the top of the mountain.”

The old man said, “I’m sorry. You see God doesn’t want to live here all by himself. He wants to join with the human beings he created. That’s the meaning of his name “Emmanuel. God is with us.” John Shayo exclaimed: “But in the valley there are arguments and fighting. Many of the people are thieves, tricksters, troublemakers and drunkards. Why does God want to live with them?”

Quietly the old man answered, “God knows the lives of his people and their problems and weaknesses. There is a myth about an East African hunter who disobeyed God’s command and shot an arrow into the clouds. The sky bled and God withdrew into the high heavens to get away from human beings. But God the “Great Elder” loved his human family and wanted to show his tender care. So God our “Great Chief” sent his Son to pitch his tent among us, to live with us, to share our joys and sorrows, our successes and failures, our strengths and weaknesses in order to save us. We celebrate this mystery of salvation on the feast of Christmas — the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ our “Eldest Brother.” For this is how God loved the world: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

John Shayo was deeply moved by these words and listened intently as the old man continued. “Jesus Christ — Emmanuel” was born and lived among us human beings as an ordinary person. He surrounded himself with simple, needy people just like the farmers and herders in the villages of your valley. He helped the people with their daily problems. This is the meaning and mystery of Christmas — we learn to live like Jesus, Emmanuel our God and a person for others.

“John, from time to time you can come to this mountain top to rest and pray, but know, my friend, that the heart of Christmas is to live with the people in the valley and share their daily problems and difficulties.”

John suddenly felt that he had learned much wisdom on this East African mountaintop. Deeply touched he said, “I’ve changed my mind. I’ve decided to go back to the large valley and live with the people as Jesus Christ Himself does.” The wise old man put his hands on John’s head and gave him a blessing.

John Shayo turned slowly. Seeing the large valley stretched out below him, John began to walk down the mountain.”

A short story by Rev. Joseph Healey posted on African Proverbs, Stories and Sayings:

This story was originally “created” out of discussions with the Christians in Iramba Parish, Musoma Diocese, Tanzania on how to communicate the joyful and saving message of Christmas in a fresh and African way.

The third of three African stories read by Virginia McKenna at An African Christmas with the Occam Singers at St Nicolas Church.

I am indebted to Virginia McKenna for introducing me to this wonderful Christmas story and for telling me where it and and many other wonderful African stories are to be found on the net.

An African Christmas
Love Wins
Like the Flowing River
The Fifth Mountain

Parable of What Language Does God Speak?

December 12, 2011

Once upon a time there was a man in the Serengeti District of western Tanzania called Marwa. In the sixth grade he studied the Christian religion. At Baptism he chose the name Emmanuel which means “God is with us.” After finishing high school Emmanuel read magazines and books about God. He believed that God is truly present among us, but he asked: “What language does God speak?”

Emmanuel posed his special question to different church leaders in his village. The old catechist answered. “I think that God speaks Latin.” The chairperson of the parish council guessed, “God speaks our local language Ngoreme.” But the searching youth Emmanuel had doubts. “When I get the right answer,” he said to himself, “I’ll know immediately and feel great joy.” So the young African set off on a journey. In the neighboring parish he asked again: “What language does God speak?” One Christian suggested Kuria, another local language.

Again Emmanuel had doubts. He began to travel across the whole of Tanzania visiting small towns and big cities. In one place the Christians were certain that God spoke Swahili. People in western Tanzania said Sukuma while residents in the northeast said Chagga. Emmanuel was not satisfied with these answers. Remembering the African saying — “traveling is learning” — he journeyed outside Tanzania. The Kenyans said Kikuyu and the people of Uganda answered, “God speaks Ganda.” In West Africa he got different replies: Lingala in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Hausa in Nigeria and Arabic in Morocco.

He decided to travel the whole world if necessary. Passing through Europe he was told “French, German and Italian.” The Christians of North America said “English” while South Americans replied, “Spanish.” In his heart the young Tanzanian knew that these answers were inadequate. Determined to find the real truth he went to China where the local people insisted that God speaks Mandarin or Cantonese. Emmanuel was tired from his long travels but he resolutely pushed on. In India he was told Hindi. He reached Israel late in December. The local inhabitants said, “Surely God speaks Hebrew.”

Exhausted by his long travels and the unsatisfactory answers, Emmanuel entered the town of Bethlehem. The local hotels were filled. He looked everywhere for a place to stay. Nothing was available. In the early morning hours he came to a cave where cows and sheep were sheltered. He was surprised to see a young woman with her newborn baby.

This young mother said to the traveling youth, “Welcome, Emmanuel, you are very welcome.” Astonished to hear his name, the young African listened in awe as the woman called Mary continued: “For a very long time you have traveled around the world to find out what language God speaks. Your long journey is over. God speaks the language of love. God loved the world so much that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

Overjoyed to hear these words of Mary the young Tanzanian understood Gods language of love for all people, for all races, for all nations. Emmanuel exclaimed, “Truly, today God is with us.””

A short story by Rev. Joseph Healey posted on African Proverbs, Stories and Sayings: Many stories just “happen.” One Advent in Iramba Parish in Musoma Diocese, Tanzania we decided to create an original story for the Christmas homily. Congregations on big celebrations such as Christmas and Easter are very large, mixed groups. Many of these people only come to church on the biggest feasts of the year. A didactic homily or sermon may not communicate well, but a story always will. This particular parable came from asking Christians in Iramba Parish the provocative question: “What language does God speak?” Their answers and the accompanying discussions became the basis for creating this African Christmas parable. It uses different means of social communication such as African languages and African sayings.

The second of three African stories read by Virginia McKenna at An African Christmas with the Occam Singers at St Nicolas Church.

I am indebted to Virginia McKenna for introducing me to this wonderful Christmas story and for telling me where it and and many other wonderful African stories are to be found on the net.

An African Christmas
Love Wins

The Legend of the Showoff Who Prepares For the Visit of Jesus on Christmas Day

December 11, 2011

Once upon a time when Jesus was still in this world, there was an African woman named Kwiyolecha which means “The Showoff” or “a person who wants to make a big impression” in Sukuma, an important language in Tanzania. After hearing him speak as no person has ever spoken, Kwiyolecha met Jesus in Shinyanga town three days before Christmas and asked him, “Lord, when will you come to visit us? I see you visiting other people, but you haven’t come to our home yet.” Jesus replied, “Dear woman, just wait three days and I promise to pay you a visit on Christmas Day.”

When Kwiyolecha heard this she was delighted and immediately went home to prepare for the coming of the Lord Jesus on Christmas Day. The Tanzanian woman cleaned her house very well and decorated inside and outside with many ornaments of the Christmas season. She hung colorful African cloths everywhere. She and her servants prepared special food and drink especially the local beer. They slaughtered the bull that they had been fattening. Having prepared everything to the best of her ability, Kwiyolecha dressed in her finest African dress. Then she sat down and waited for the Lord’s arrival with joyful expectation.

Early on Christmas morning a bent old man with sores on his legs appeared at Kwiyolecha’s house. Upset at this intrusion, she told the man sharply: “What have you come here for? I’m waiting for an important visitor and I don’t want you messing up my house. Go away immediately.” Without saying a word the bent old man left.

Some time later a very old lady appeared dressed in rags and supporting herself with a stick. Exasperated and angry, Kwiyolecha said to herself, “Why are all these things happening to me?” She rebuffed the old woman and told her, “Get out of here.” The very old lady did as she was told.

Finally at midday a badly crippled Tanzanian boy appeared. He raised a cloud of dust as he dragged along his twisted legs. Kwiyolecha was very annoyed when she saw him and said, “What is this wretch doing here?” She told the boy, “Get away from here as soon as possible and don’t come back again.” The boy immediately went away.

Then for the rest of Christmas Day Kwiyolecha waited patiently for the Lord Jesus, but he never came.

The next day, which happened to be the 26th of December, Kwiyolecha met Jesus in Shinyanga town and said: “Lord, why didn’t you come to our home yesterday? I waited and waited for you. Why didn’t you keep your promise?” The Lord replied, “Kwiyolecha, I came to visit you three times, but you did not receive me. When you refused to welcome the bent old man, the very old lady dressed in rags and the badly crippled boy who came to your home, you refused to welcome me.”

At first Kwiyolecha was dumbfounded. Then she remembered Jesus” words in the Gospel of St. Matthew: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” She began to realize for the very first time what it means to be a follower of Christ and the real meaning of Christian hospitality. So Kwiyolecha looked for another opportunity to celebrate Christmas by welcoming Jesus in a bent old man, a very old lady dressed in rags and a badly crippled boy who might come to her home.

Posted on African Proverbs, Stories and Sayings, this African Christmas story is based on a Sukuma (Tanzania) adaptation of a traditional universal legend. The adaptation is written by Father Don Sybertz, M.M. and Father Joseph Healey, M.M. and is found on page 172 of the book Towards an African Narrative Theology (Pauline Publications Africa, 3rd Reprint 2000 and Orbis Books, Second Printing 1999). There are many wonderful versions of this lovely centuries-old legend such as “Where Love Is, God Is” by Leo Tolstoy, “The Christmas Guest” as told by Helen Steiner Rice and the children’s story “The Woman Who Met Jesus” by Elizabeth Chebet.

The first of three African stories read by Virginia McKenna at An African Christmas with the Occam Singers at St Nicolas Church.

I am indebted to Virginia McKenna for introducing me to this wonderful Christmas story and for telling me where it and and many other wonderful African stories are to be found on the net.

I am reminded of the End of Days, when Jesus sits in Judgement, the sheep to be separated from the goats: Why did you not give me a drink when I thirst, feed me when I was hungry, clothe me when I was in rags? But we did not see you Lord. I was the beggar who approached you.

I am reminded of Desmond Tutu who makes the point everyone is welcome, inclusive, not exclusive.

I am reminded of Canon Andrew White and St George’s in Baghdad where everyone is welcome, Jews, Muslims, Christians.

In the Koran we are told that only those who believe in the One True God and who do Good will achieve Salvation.

I am reminded of the stories Paulo Coelho tells in his books and on his blog.

An African Christmas
Love Wins
Like a Flowing River

Grolsch tax avoidance

December 1, 2010
schtop corporate tax avoidance

schtop corporate tax avoidance

Everyone has heard of the Vodafone £6 billion unpaid tax bill, a tax bill which if paid would mean the £7 billion welfare cuts would not have been necessary. Well ok, few people have heard of it, not a single one I have spoken to had, which only goes to show the power of the mainstream media, power that is to protect vested interests.

Another tax avoider is SABMiller. Who, is a reasonable response? SABMiller is the owner of Grolsch (the beer in the fancy bottles) and as Action Aid has exposed, they do not pay their taxes in Africa.

How little tax? its Ghanaian brewery manages to pay less tax per year than a local firm selling its beer at a food stall! SABMiller controls more than 30% of Ghana’s beer market, yet its operating profit there is a mere 0.69% of its income. Why? Because it ensures its ‘profits’ are recorded in low tax havens. As a result of this practice, the company paid no tax to Ghana for three of the last four years – a significant loss to a country where corporate income tax accounts for £1 of every £7 in the public purse.

SABMiller would argue that what they do is not illegal, though the jury is out on that one. Whether legal or not is beside the point, it is immoral.

The money that African countries lose each year could put an extra 250,000 children in school.

We are quick and rightly so to highlight corruption of African leaders, but what of corrupt practices of Big Business that operates in those countries?

The World Bank and IMF are quick to restructure poor countries, force them into a fire sale of their assets. Why are they not so quick to deal with large companies who exploit their position? IMF and World Bank have the resources which poor countries lack to ensure these companies pay their taxes, have decent working conditions, pay fair wages etc, not as too often facilitate their exploitation.

Tax dodging costs poor countries billions each year – far more than they receive in aid. The more money poor countries can raise in taxes the less aid they will need.

Please sign the letter to SABMiller chief executive to pay their taxes. Add to the letter you will be encouraging everyone to stop drinking their lager.

Please pass the word. Post on facebook, re-tweet, e-mail to friends.

Back in the UK, Top Shop has been added by UK Uncut to Vodafone as a major avoider of tax. Like Vodafone, their shops are now legitimate targets to be occupied. Is it not a bit rich that billionaire tax dodger Sir Philip Green (owner of Arcadia Group which includes Top Shop, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge) is Prime Minister David Cameron’s efficiency adviser? But then the finance director of Vodafone is advisor to Chancellor George Osbourne on corporate tax. Maybe they would both like to advise on efficient collection of corporate tax.

But help is to hand, UK Uncut has formed the Big Society Revenue and Customs (BSRC). Staffed by armies of citizen volunteers they will replace the HMRC and, in their own unique way, make sure that corporate tax avoiders pay.

UK Uncut has the support of Jubilee Debt Campaign, War on Want and a rapidly growing band of activists.

In light of the hard dedicated support by UK Uncut on behalf of society, please nominate for a Big Society Award.

Also see

ActionAid exposes tax dodging by UK brewing giant SABMiller, owners of Grolsch

Schtop fleecing Ghana

Tax Justice campaign

Calling time on tax avoidance

New target for Dec 4th day of action is Sir Philip Green

Philip Green to be target of corporate tax avoidance protest

Haringey Vodafone unpaid tax protest

Grateful Vodafone executives say a big thank you to Chancellor George Osborne

Nationwide shut down of Vodafone stores

Vodafone £6 billion unpaid tax bill

A story to inspire all of us

November 18, 2009
Tererai Trent on Oprah Winfrey show

Tererai Trent on Oprah Winfrey show

‘When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dreams.’ — Paulo Coelho

‘Any time anyone tells you that a dream is impossible, any time you’re discouraged by impossible challenges, just mutter this mantra: Tererai Trent.’ — Nicholas D. Kristof

‘My personal story is not about me. I think my story personalises the possibilities Heifer International offers to women and girls who are struggling to achieve equality and social justice.’ — Tererai Trent

Tererai Trent (pronounced TEH-reh-rye) was married off at the age of 11 to a man who regularly beat her, had less than a year of formal education (her father thought education was wasted on girls). Hardly the most auspicious start in life. Sadly the tale of many women in rural Africa. When Heifer International visited her village in Zimbabwe and asked what were her dreams, she wrote them down on a sheet of paper: study abroad, obtain a degree, a master’s degree, then a PhD. Most unlikely goals for a semi-literate African women, equally surprising that these gaols should enter her head, that she was even aware of a master’s degrees or doctorate.

What Tererai Trent found hard to believe was that the head of Heifer International Jo Luck had come to her village and was prepared to sit down in the dirt with them and ask them to express their dreams.

She went to work for Heifer and several Christian organisations as a community organiser. She saved every penny she could, undertook correspondence courses.

In 1998 she was accepted into Oklahoma State University, but she insisted on taking her five children with her. She feared that if she left them behind her husband would marry them off. Her husband would only agree to her taking them with her if he came too.

Heifer pitched in with funding, her mother sold a cow, friends and neighbours helped. She managed to raise $4,000 and set of to the US with kids and unwanted husband in tow.

An impossible dream come true, but the dream turned into a nightmare. She had no money, mouths to feed and a bone idle husband who refused to work but regularly beat her.

With no money they were forced to eat out of trash cans. She worked all hours to try and earn enough money to get by. The crunch came when behind with her fees she was facing expulsion from the university.

Luckily for her the local community and church stepped in to help her. She was found low cost housing. A sympathetic Wal-Mart employee would give her the nod and leave past sell-by-date food for her to pick up. Her violent husband was kicked out of the Sates and deported back to Zimbabwe.

Working all hours, she managed to get her degree on education in agriculture, then whilst she was working on her master’s degree, her husband returned from Zimbabwe dying of AIDS. Feeling sorry for him, she took him back and looked after him until he died.

She has now completed her dissertation on AIDS prevention in Africa for her PhD at Western Michigan University, whilst at the same time working as a programme evaluator for Heifer.

Next month she will be awarded her PhD. Finally she will be able to tick of the last item on her list, and yes, she still has the sheet of paper on which she had written her dreams. The list she had placed in a tin and buried in the ground. She would return, unearth her tin box and tick off her dreams one by one. She is now encouraging other girls to do the same, write out your dreams, bury then in a tin box so that they are not forgotten, then as your realise your dreams, return to your tin box, unearth it and tick off your dreams.

How many people are told their dreams are unrealistic, to forget them?

Tererai Trent is now the Deputy Director for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation at Heifer International.

Maybe she is the exception not the rule.

In Bangladesh, Muhammad Yunus established the Grameen Bank. He knew nothing about banking, but he did not let that stop him. He lent small amounts of money to people who needed it. People who commercial banks would not lend to. The only criteria was that they needed the money and the community would stand as guarantors. But only to the women as the men could not be trusted with the money.

The attitude Muhammad Yunus takes is if you can survive in the Third World on less than $1 a day, then you have amazing entrepreneurial skills. All you need is a little seed capital to succeed. And his faith in people has been justly rewarded.

I went to a very rough school. The people I used to know then are either dead or in prison. It was the sort of school where you carried a knife and knew how to us it. You were dumped into shit jobs. You were brainwashed into taking shit jobs. When asked what I wanted to do I said go to university. I was laughed at. But I proved them wrong.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a modern fable. Santiago an Andalusian shepherd boy decides to follow his dream. He sells his sheep, with gold in his pocket, he travels across to Morocco. But tragedy befalls him on his very first day. He allows a stranger he trusts to run off with all his money, leaving him with nothing. The day before he had been a shepherd with a flock of sheep, that morning he had gold in his purse. Now he is left penniless in a strange and foreign land. Most people would have given up. Santiago sits crying in the square, but then he picks himself up, and thinks to himself, well I always wanted adventure and this is the start of a great adventure.

The universe conspires to help us realise our dreams. Santiago learnt to read the symbols, the language of the Soul of the World.

How many of us follow our dreams? How many of us bemoan our fate? The difference is there are those who grasp the opportunities life offers us, those who do not.

I am often called upon to help the less fortunate in life. I will help them to get back on their feet, but if it is tea and sympathy they are looking for, then they have come to the wrong person. For what I find in nearly all cases is that it is not that Fate has dealt them a bad hand as they would like everyone to believe, it is because they have failed to grasp the opportunities life has given them. Even when you give them a helping hand and point them in the right direction, rather than heed the advice given and help themselves, they would rather expend the effort on bemoaning how hard done by they are.

Next time someone bemoans their hard life and tries to tell you their hard luck story, tell them the story of Tererai Trent, hand them a copy of The Alchemist and suggest that they read it.

Special thanks to Paulo Coelho and Jane Stewart for drawing to my attention the story of Tererai Trent and Priya Sher for pointing me to the article on luck. And for my lovely friend Claire from Zimbabwe who was impatient to read what I was writing.


Triumph of a Dreamer

Half the Sky

Hope in a Box

Creating a World Without Poverty

Be lucky – it’s an easy skill to learn

10,000 hours

The Alchemist

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