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Lessons from a Non-Violent Volcano

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Lessons from a Non-Violent Volcano

Mt CameroonRecall the recent “Je suis Charlie” episode?
If I may ask, are you a Charlie?
Its been tough lately

Can I share a thought with you?
Please, come with me to to Africa.
Will you?

At 1,000M above the Atlantic Ocean, the University of Buea stands
at the hip of the Mt Cameroon, an active volcano, and Africa ’s second tallest peak.

In 1993, there was an eruption! This time, it was n’t the mountain.
It was the students at the newly opened University, and I was one of them.
They protested against paying 50,000F, (~$100) tuition fee.

Authorities condemned the protest. One professor did not hide his feelings.                                                                                                                       “If you can’t pay 50,000F, go and grow your peanuts, sons of peasants!”

Those disgusting words came from many

Offensive and nauseous remarks. We were deeply hurt.
Provocation often breeds resentment and sometimes,
It breeds discord and deepens the valley of distrust.

Such provocations banded us together like glue.
We stormed the school, chased out faculty, guards and sealed the gates
Thank God, nothing was destroyed at all. I mean nothing.

An eye for an eye justice
Leaves the entire village blind
That’s anatema!

Chanting kumbaya with placards, posters, plastics, potted plants,
We marched up and down the streets of Molyko singing;
“Down with the chancellor! Down with the chancellor.
Our Common Peril – We May Be Delusionally Illusive As Humans
We inherently have unrealistic favorable attitudes of ourselves,
We even have inflated positive views of our abilities
Often at the expense of others

Because are so steeped in some of these psychological biases,
We often fail to see the beauty in others
This is part of our tragedy.

Can we afford to think we ‘re the only pretty ones?
And everyone else is like cow dung?
Does not smell right to me…

Big Lesson #1 from Buea – Cameroon
In all that madness on the streets of Buea, I learned an unforgettable lesson.
All the students prayed together: Christians, Muslims, Animists, Atheists etc
Nobody claimed his or her religion was more virtuous.

Who ever led the prayer, or reflection everyone else bowed,
Christians, Muslims, Animist, Voodoo, Atheists
No insults, no taunts, finger-pointing

Welcome to an island of religious tolerance,
Cameroon ’s ethnic and cultural diversity runs deep
She has over 300 languages and different cultural groups

With over 20M people you wonder how they get along
There ’s never been any religious conflict or skirmish
No burning of bibles of Qurans, that is alien!

Religious authorities are revered,
Places of worship are sacred across the land
No restriction of Yaweh, Allah, God, Budha in public schools.

Lots of Christians love to wear Islamic costumes
And lots of Muslims also to wear non Islamic regalia.
Religion serves as a force for good, not discord

A Muslim returns from the Haj in Mecca every one celebrates,
A new priest is ordained, Imams all leaders are invited to observe
There is much cultural inter-mingling and sometimes intermarriages.

First president was Muslim, he handed over power peacefully to a Christian
Sorry, no further comment here…

Cameroon might not be a beacon of democracy for the world,
But I believe she could be a model for religious harmony
Yes, I dare to say, she is worth of a study

Big Lesson # 2 – We Must Close the Empathy Gap
Human understanding tends to be “state” dependent
For the Charlie and Non Charlies out there
Lets all bow our heads and hearts

In respect of each other ’s values
Each other ’s heroes
Every hero is a hero