Do you understand, sir, do you understand what it means when you have absolutely nowhere to turn?” Marmeladov’s question came suddenly into his mind “for every man must have somewhere to turn…
(Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment)
Several things got stuck in my heart today.
We made a plan to visit friends in Kadiolo, 104 km south. My wife and I hopped on the motorcycles about 6:30 AM and left Sikasso.
We drove passed two boys, about eleven years old, one on each side of the road, with a rice sack. They were picking up little minuscule pieces of cotton off the shoulder of the road, small fibers that blew off of cotton trucks on their way to the factory. They were not cotton balls, just little wisps. Their sacks seemed to be filled with about eight inches of cotton each. Hours of predawn work with the small fibers they were reduced to gathering.
How desperate is their situation, that the boys are trying to gather what even most Malians, among the poorest on earth, do not see as worthwhile? It kind of broke my heart as i thought of them through the day. Seeing such things permanently breaks, or at least bends something in the human psyche.
“A man who has been in another world does not come back unchanged.”
~ C.S. Lewis
The Police, Military and Malians have a heavy heart today. Three days of national mourning have been declared after yesterday’s tragedy.
Suicide bombers entered the militray camp in Gao, Mali. Their detonation killed as many as 75, and wounded around 115.
On the return motorcycle journey we stopped in the shade of a tree near a police stop. Of course, two white heads in such a remote region, on motorcycles no less, drew their attention. One of the officers crossed the road to us with his AK47 and asked where we came from, and where we are going. I explained how we were in Kadiolo visiting friends and now on our way home to Sikasso. He never even asked to see papers.
“Don’t you know what is happening in our country? You should not be out driving motorcycles at this time.”
I commented that we had heard the sad news of sixty soldiers killed. He informed us the radio was just saying 75 killed and over 115 wounded. They upped the numbers. I covered my mouth in sadness and gave my thoughts.
I could tell it was bothering him. He said we should not be driving motorcycles. I commented they are better in the bush. But he said there are bandits everywhere these days and they are in the bush too.
I shared my observations with him, that you military and policemen are suffering much for us these days. I thanked him for all he, and his kind do to protect us all.
They probably never get thanks here.
When we arrived home I checked twitter and some news sites.
It’s a huge national tragedy, but not getting near the coverage as the hotel attack on the Raddison in Bamako last year, even though many more were killed.
The French military posted that the Malian military suffered 118 attacks in 2016. This is why Mali is the most dangerous UN Peace Keeping mission on earth for several years.
The instability is not only in the North. Mopti, and even the Segou region is seeing serious signs of fracturing to radical incursions, threats on locals, recruitment, and some sharia law like rules being forced on villages by undefined local groups.
I was walking through one of my work villages and i heard this sickening earthy thud sound that vibrated the earth. A mud brick wall fell, or a mud roof collapsed. That sound kind of sickens you because when a wall falls, or a roof collapses people can get killed.
My friend and I ran to see if everyone was ok. Turns out it was a planned demolition. A bunch of young men had just pushed out the long back wall.
So my friend and I got a big stick and began prying on the end wall, and we got most of that down for them. I actually did some village demolition of a mud hut. That was a first for me. Here is the wall i took down.
Tearing down walls.
Walls of Poverty… cotton picking boy poverty.
Walls of war, radicalism, religion, tribalism, all causing human butchery here.
Mud hut walls…. tearing down old hut walls to make way for a new mud house construction for a young family.
“The children of this approaching reformation..will respond quickly and easily. The elders of the empires will take much more work.”
Tearing down walls of fear.
How can you work and serve here with constant fear? You can’t live like that, can you? Yet I am reminded some people indeed, do have to live with fear, with terrible things around them. It must hurt, it must turn your whole heart, soul, mind, and world upside down.
“We have to abandon the myth that if we could just kill enough people we could make the world a better place.”
~ Keith Giles