Ann Njeri Says: Prejudices & Assumptions? Send them to HELL!!
Of Prejudices and Assumptions. Better send them to HELL!! It is my hope and prayers that this gets you on top of the day! I am now in Ethiopia where I have been staying happily for the last three weeks helping in Harambee Leadership Training Programme for young Africans.
That I reserve as a story for another day, for now I would like to rewind you to my three months period in Australia where I had gone to primarily help plan and execute an International Creators of Peace Conference. It was a moment of re-learning and recharging..take a walk with me.
It is mid July, I arrive in Australia with a great amount of fear on "will anyone have time to listen to me and my friend from Uganda?" I already had my preconceived prejudices of what Australians will do and react to this two African ladies; snoopy, arrogant, unwelcoming faces, Indifference, racist, name them! But my first shock was at the immigration after landing in the blessed soil of Australia
"Hi gals" said the immigration officer with a BIG smile "Welcome to Australia and please enjoy your stay" Well, I have to say this was unexpected. It had never been so easy going through the immigration in other countries and getting this sort of care in Australia caught both of us by surprise! And that was just the beginning of emptying my prejudices and enjoying a beautiful and enriching stay in Aussie-as they call it.
The Australians made good use of our presence in their country. Right from the beginning they organized events where people came to listen to our experiences through Action for Life programme. And to my surprise, people would come! I expected them to be snobbish! I mean, they are supposed to be very busy and no time to listen to some two young African ladies dreaming of making this world a better place!!
I was especially humbled by more than 10 women who spared two days to attend a two days "Creators of Peace Circles" workshop which we were facilitating. And the invitation to go and speak in World Vision organization Australia was another one that left my mouth gaping. We had to make a presentation to the staff over lunch hour You must have seen posters around this place, we have advertised your event to our staff, and those who are interested to come will be having their lunch as you speak. The lady who was organizing the event said to us as we went to set up the room. And I wondered if anyone would come. They did come. And they got hooked up that even though we were a bit late to finish- the more than 50 people were still glued!
My other shock came when I came in touch with the most vulnerable and promising generation of any given society-the youth of Australia. In my minds, they were supposed to be the most unruly, rude and unmanageable kids! Both heaven and hell must have known right from the beginning that I was wrong. We made nine schools presentations in different cities, five of them I did all alone. During my presentations, I was always afraid that I would hear some shout from the back of the hall "That's bullshit men...getta hell outta here" But after most of the speeches, the students would surround me to shake my hand "I just wanted to say thank you for your talk ...I was very inspired" "I feel very motivated"
In one of the schools where I spoke to over 900 students, you would have heard a pin drop as I spoke. Could this be true? Seven girl students from two of the schools I visited came to the Creators of Peace international Conference that took place on the 30th Sept - 4th Oct, 2009 which I was helping prepare! That wasn't a bad sign.
There is one more thing that I really wanted to know and confirm. I had heard people speak of racists, and I really wanted to meet one. But I was always in very safe crowds- of people who are working towards social justice, reconciliation, healing, etc and this people will naturally always play and pray clean in such issues. I decided to test it with the unknown. People who had no idea who I was and what I was doing in Aussie.
I used to go for jogging every morning for 30 minutes around the estate where we were graciously hosted and I would meet with lots of people going wherever. I decided to smile and say "hi" or "good morning" to them- total strangers. I wanted to see if anyone of them would give me a dreadful look, refuse to respond or worse- look straight into my eyes and say "I hate you!"
Everyday I would at least engage 5-10. But believe me not, they all smiled back and responded! I happily failed in my mission to get a "certified racist" and my hope for a healthier world defined not by the colour of our skin but by the uniting spirit of mutual understanding, respect and humanity was really enhanced.
Soon it was mid September and my time in Australia was running out, and the Creators of Peace International Conference was approaching fast. All the endless planning meetings were getting into my last nerve. And finally, around 250 women from 23 countries around the world came together in Sydney to share and learn how women can create peace in all levels of the society.
It was an absolutely enlightening moment for many. On the very last session of the conference, as I sat listening to the women pour out their hearts, it came to my minds that for those five days that we were together, we were re-learning how to love, trust, respect, understand, how to forgive, apologize, appreciate etc and this "basic and simple" things sounded magical! I couldn't believe that our society has become so crooked that what is supposed to be obvious and normal-like forgiving, loving and appreciating people- is not normal anymore!
I overheard one woman saying ...Nowadays I get shocked when people do good things... What a shame! I feel that without humanity, our sophisticated technological and intellectual development will remain volatile and threatened with wars, violence, diseases, broken families and the results-troubled hearts and minds!! And it was time for me to say good bye to Down Under I can never be more grateful to so many people who loved and cared for us unconditionally; to people who so sweetly adopted and mentored us all through our time there.
Thank you Australia for helping me send my destructive prejudices and assumptions to hell!!
My life and journey continues.
Ann Njeri Ndiangui