If you’re reading this, you might be familiar with the general Saharawi story. (If not: History). Colonization. War. Occupation. It’s a moving story that continues unfolding, one injustice after the other while the rest of the world turns a blind eye.
In contrast to the pressing affliction in this story, when a visitor comes to the refugee camps and experiences daily life – the warm smiles and genuine hospitality of the Saharawi who have been living in such harsh conditions for generations – they forget just how unfair it all is. The story of their plight starts to seem abstract and we can be fooled into thinking things have worked themselves out and the Saharawi people are settled, they are alright. In so many ways the Saharawi have learned how to manage their circumstances and be content with their lives as it is in the camps. The unspoken question then is does this story need to be recognized? Does this story need to have a different ending then the one currently being written?
That’s when we need to go deeper into this story, beyond the surface. The smiles and hospitality are genuine. The Saharawi truly live generously in spite of having so much taken away. The entirety of their story however, includes generations of hurt and pain that needs to be considered. In order to really understand the gravity of what has happened and what continues to be allowed, we have to be willing to ask and to listen to more of the story.
Several of the foreign teachers at our English School have been able to speak in Hassaniya – the language of the Saharawi – through our language curriculum called ‘deep life sharing’ and have been shocked to find how profound the stories are. Generations of a people group having their worth as humans stomped on and their rights denied has affected their culture deeply. We are that much more amazed in working with them, how delightful they are despite their pain. Knowing what pain the generosity and kindness of the Saharawi rests upon makes it that much more incredible and it speaks to who they are more than being informed of their political situation.
Of course there are many people who care about the Saharawi cause who might not get the opportunity to get to know the Saharawi’s story to this depth, but the importance of sharing life-stories is significant among all people. The rewards of asking, listening and asking more – getting to know someone at an uncommon depth – are beyond expectation. I challenge you to consider taking the bold step of asking someone to tell you about their life and diving for the details. Knowing people at such depth is such a precious privilege.
Post By: Micah Neely, December 10th, 2019