Here’s an idea for Lent that will do more good than giving up desserts: Read a book about contemporary sub-Saharan Africa. It’s not a penance, though it can hurt. And seeing how much of the rest of the world lives sure does put a lot of our minor irritations, and even major problems, in perspective.
Consider reading a novel or memoir by an African author, such as …
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)
Tsotsi by Athol Fugard (South Africa)
A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah (Sierra Leone)
When a Crocodile Eats the Sun by Peter Godwin (Zimbabwe)
Or read a journalist’s first-person account, like …
What Is the What by Dave Eggers (Sudan)
Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder (Burundi)
The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuściński (post-colonial Africa)
We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch (Rwanda)
Or, if you’d rather watch a movie, try one of these …
The Devil Came On Horseback (Sudan)
Tsotsi (South Africa)
War Dance (Uganda)
Hotel Rwanda (Rwanda)
What do you think?
Are there books or movies that you’d recommend as aids for spiritual reflection during this Lenten season?
One might find it strange that a guy who spends his time writing and speaking about reconciliation is sticking his neck out on the volatile issue of health-care reform. The attitude of a reconciler, a peacemaker, would seem to be at odds with that of someone who is outspoken about political issues. But the more I understand reconciliation, especially the biblical principles behind the idea, the more I find myself unable to keep my opinions to myself.
In the end, I am not as concerned about whether health-care reform passes or fails as I am with how people who represent Christ to the world are thinking through and communicating what they believe.
A Note to Readers: As an African American Christian living in France, my views on America’s raging health-care debate were bound to be out of the mainstream. But a recent trip to Burundi, one of the poorest nations in the world, has given my point of view another twist. As a result, I am writing three op-ed articles for UrbanFaith on the health-care issue from my specific perspective as a black American based in Paris who does reconciliation work in Africa.
One of the questions people always ask about the ethnic killings in Burundi and Rwanda is how it was that Christians were able to do such terrible things. As you meet people and talk about the conditions that led to ordinary people hacking their neighbors to death with machetes, you learn that a major factor was the role played by political leaders who used underlying group attitudes to their political advantage.