Sunday, July 20, 2008

Are You Peaceful?

If you were to travel in the northeast region of Kenya, along both sides of its border with Ethiopia, you would most likely encounter The Gabra, a nomadic tribe of 31,000 people originally a Somali people and gave up Islam. They are an eastern Cushitic speaking people who originated in southern Ethiopia. Their economy is centred on camels, which they graze in the harsh desert environment in which they live.

Perhaps most symbolic of the Gabra's identity is the proverb: "a poor man shames us all." Since mutual support is imperative for their survival as nomads, no Gabra may be allowed to go hungry, go without animals, or be refused hospitality or assistance. The practice of camel lending exemplifies this support system to fellow Gabra.

Customary of The Gabra is to greet each other with the saying, “Are you peaceful?” The usual response is “I am peaceful.” But, what if a herdsman was not peaceful, then what? And what does this have to do with us at this moment anyway?

For one thing, such a response offers an opening to find out what afflicts his or her clansmen; followed by doing something about it.

Perhaps you will agree with me that in our culture we are apt to respond to a greeting of “How are you?” with “I’m fine, or I’m good” even when sometimes we are not. I have done it myself. Why? Because we may feel the person we are addressing is busy and doesn’t need to be cluttered with our problems. Or we don’t know if we can trust each other with our secrets.

Yet, as a tribe or a people who follow Jesus are we not supposed to comfort, encourage and edify each other?

James 5:16 reads: Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Ahh, so we have permission to seek each other out, and listen, and come to know how we can pray for each other. That could include the person you work or bowl with, the person who always sits next to you n church or at a soccer game, and certainly includes your neighbour. If you belong to a church like I do this scripture and the process of praying affirms we are to be a community that should and does prays together. If we don't, we need to ask why not?

Of course, it may not be fruitful to approach a stranger and say, "Let me pray for you?" I am sure it will not be a long conversation. However, adopting a new greeting such as, "Are you peaceful?" (are you full of peace) may create curiosity and open up opportunity for dialogue, and hopefully prayer.

Are you peaceful?

No comments: