If #all lives matter then don’t #black lives matter?

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism

I am struggling with how to express what I am feeling. We are a week or so away from the terrible terror attacks at Charlie Hebdo in Paris. This was a horrendous incident. What makes it even more awful is that the two young men who carried out the attack at the magazine office were targeting a specific group of people. They were targeting journalist who pride themselves on being able to exercise free speech. It is hard to believe that in 2015 that there would be anyone that was against free speech, but many are. Because there are those who oppose free speech, violence occurs.

Gathering of LCCN

Gathering of Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria

Now of course the ideal of anyone being affected by violence breaks my heart. But, what bothers me almost as much as violence is injustice, racism, and prejudice.  I am mentioning injustice, racism and prejudice because sometimes it seems to me that our media is suffering from some inherent, maybe unconscious prejudice. Or maybe, it is not actually the prejudice of the media, but the prejudice of our culture. In the US, it seems, we live in a culture that is not ready to be equally concerned about those who are black.

This was brought to mind as my news feed on Facebook between January 4 and 7 began showing me news articles from across the world of a tragedy in Nigeria. There was a massacre in Baga in Northern Nigerian. This massacre was carried out, the reports said, by Boko Haram. My google alerts were blowing up with this news. Yet, there was nothing on ABC, NBC or CBS. Yet, on the morning of January 7 when the attack on Charlie Hebdo began, every major news outlet was covering it. It was not until January 9 that I saw a mention of violence in Nigeria on Good Morning America. Maybe I was not paying attention and missed something, but I don’t think so.

These tragedies were happening almost at the same time. As people in Paris were being held under siege, thousands of Nigerians were being terrorized. Many were killed and it took days for me to see the story from Nigeria in mainstream media. How as a brown person am I supposed to feel?

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Archbishop and bishops of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria and me.

Perhaps the reason that I feel some kind of way about this is that western culture is left in the dark about much of what happens on the continent of Africa. Or should I say, seems to prefer to remain in the dark. The Ebola crisis doesn’t mean anything until westerners are in danger, civil strife is ignored unless westerners are hurt….do not black lives matter? As I work and walk with the people of Madagascar, West and Central Africa I see the image of God in black faces; I see the light of God in brown smiles; I see worth, value, talent and intelligence; I see so many gifts of God, just as I see  the gifts of God in my western friends. All lives matter, all lives are gifts of God. That means that #blacklivesmatter.

I hope you agree as I continue to be westafricabound.

Tribal dress for a celebration in Nigeria

Tribal dress for a celebration in Nigeria

Out of West Africa

I am taking a break from my conversation about race and posting sermons to write something that isn’t exactly work related. Yet, in a way it is. Because of this family, I was able to say, long before taking a call to be the Area Program Director for West Africa, that I was familiar with West African culture. Anyway, here goes.

In June, I was in New York City. I was there to attend the concert of a dear friend held in a wonderful venue, Jazz at Lincoln Center. The view was spectaculor.10488050_10204171743683222_1015058927789807878_n

This friend was born and raised in Togo, West Africa. The concert was dedicated to his father Papa Marc a music teacher, who also worked for the Peace Corps in Togo. In his work as a teacher and a worker for the Peace Corps he touched countless lives.(Including the life of a colleague of mine who was in the Peace Corps in Togo in 1978). My friend credits his father for raising him to be the man that he is and infusing his life with the love of music. He wanted to give this concert while his father, who is now 87, is still alive.

He told the gathered audience that he wanted his father to see what happened with that first piano lesson he gave to his son. The results, I am sure his father would agree, are amazing. This friend has been teaching music for over twenty five years. He has taught in schools and played in churches. He is a very talented musician and for this he credits his father.

You should see what he can do with children… he motivates them, helps keep them focused and brings out the best in them. What he does, is pure magic. One of his students now graduating from high school attested to this. She said that if it had not been for Mr. John she would not have progressed and she was grateful. This student is one of many who is now going to college to pursue a career in music. I have been watching him do this since 1998 and his talent still blows me away.

My friend was nurtured in West Africa, his talent was born in West Africa. I have seen talent like his as I travel. In Sierra Leone I met a young church musician who stirs up his choir to sing wonderful praises to God. In Cameroon, I have heard voices that sound like angels singing. In Senegal, the creative artistry of the people is evident everywhere. I have been priviledged to see the great gifts of God in my friend and many others.

I am so blessed to be westafricabound.

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