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Monday, August 12, 2019

An evening miracle: on healing hate

Blog readers may remember the end of the CSB football season, when a crucial match against our rivals at St. Mary's Simbya ended with me rushing a bleeding teacher out of an unruly mob of their students who had punched her in the face, and Scott getting tear gassed as the match devolved into chaos and soldiers fired guns in the air.  It was frightening and dangerous and a depressing reminder of the way that a sense of scarcity, of fear, of blaming others, of division, can escalate into violence. It was only a football match . . . but underneath was the perception that CSB wins too often and the perception that Simbya was cheating. Each side skeptical, wounded.

Multiply that by ready access to automatic weapons, and you have El Paso and Dayton and hundreds of other American events. When we choose to see others as threats to our survival or just success, as less human or deserving of life, it is a short jump to throwing punches and rocks and pulling out guns.

There are many things I admire about Africans, but one of them is the readiness to forgive. Our CSB staff, since the changes in administration, have been looking for ways to reconcile with Simbya and in fact to demonstrate a spirit of collaboration with the district. Scott has spoken of this numerous times and his leadership shows. Yes, we are deeply invested in Christ School, but as a means to the end of life for Bundibugyo in general. We can only educate a few hundred students per year; it is good for the people if there are other strong school options!

So when we heard that the CSB staff and Simbya staff planned a "friendly" football match, teachers against teachers, we were hopeful but nervous. We had not met as schools since the violent implosion. And we knew that the best laid plans for reconciliation can be derailed by thirst for victory, by competitive spirits, by perceived slights.

On Friday evening, the two schools fielded squads of teachers. I had envisioned a slow-paced mixed male and female low-talent game.  But no. Each school put their youngest, fittest, fastest teachers on the pitch, including some stretches of the definition to recent grads who may have once helped teach something. Crowds came in the gate, students cheered, the sun was setting as rain clouds threatened.  CSB was behind, then scored the equalizing goal minutes from the end. The match ended 3-3.  Perfect.

But what happened afterwards was even more amazing.  All of the students who attended from both schools were seated on the midline, for a short ceremony. One of our teachers, Baguma Godfrey, preached the Gospel of reconciliation. Unity. Love. The students were laughing and happy, hugging and relaxed. Then each head teacher (we have our deputy acting as HT now) was given a chance, and the DJ played dance music over the loudspeaker as these two men busted out moves!! The students went WILD with delight. Then Scott was called up and he did the same! It was festive, joyful, fun. Talk of mutual success, of academic collaboration as well as sports. We have already shared exam preparation materials with the association of secondary schools.

In the old days, clans in this district held dance competitions as a proxy alternative to warfare. I think sports and music and dance all give that opportunity to excel and shine and be seen, to blow off steam and prove oneself, without death.

Let's pray that this spirit continues in Bundibugyo. The pitch was a swirl of color as the uniforms from two rivals mingled, the music played, and everyone left hopeful. Nothing prevents violence as well as the humanizing lesson of actually being together face to face.

So let's support people who respect our common humanity, promote understanding and the mutuality of success in a non-zero-sum universe. And those with some good dance moves.

Basime is the school librarian whom we sponsored for university . . he has had more than his share of sorrows (orphan, nearly blind, lost first child) but his two daughters are about the cutest ever. Here he is in uniform with his post-game fans!

One of our greatest joys is reconnecting with our kids' friends. This young man took the parallel Ugandan path of service to Caleb's American one. He was on leave and came to visit.


Hunter Dockery said...

PICs of Scott dancing???

Mike Forrest said...

I second that!