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Don't Let Me Catch You Praying!

Coen van Wyk

Posted on April 8, 2018 14:21

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There are various belief systems in the world, each with its own tension between inclusivity and exclusivity. Does that make you wonder?

Political jokes were finely honed under Apartheid. The story was told of a particularly crabby Deacon at a totally segregated Church, just for whites, who one day spotted a black woman on her knees in the Church. “What are you doing here?” He thundered. “Polishing the floor, Boss.” Her meek reply averted the anger. “Well, just don’t let me catch you praying!”

 

The Anglican Cathedral in Grahamstown. The Anglicans did not segregate their religious services, but most other churches did.

Djenne in Mali is the home of one the biggest buildings in the world, composed entirely of adobe or clay. It is a unique structure, and houses several interesting architectural aspects. For a Muslim it imparts a special flavor to the way Islam has evolved in this region.

When we were there in 2011 Shahnaz felt compelled to visit, photograph and, why not, worship here. She was the only Muslim in a group of tourists, and, throwing a scarf over her hair, entered.
 
“But only Muslims are allowed in here, and you are not one.” The doorman tried to stop her from entering. She nodded. “And what makes you think I am not Muslim?”
 
An argument ensued, and she pointed out that several non-Muslim tourists had been allowed inside. The doorman took her to the imam. She recited several verses to prove her bona fides. Then she was allowed in, but under accompaniment of several men, and without being given the opportunity to make the ritual ablutions.
 
On leaving the Imam, who had probably observed her prayers, and now apologized for the situation. “It is Ramadan, the time of forgiveness. You must forgive the doorman.”
 
Aware of the critical stares of her fellow-tourists, she shook her head. “It is right that you should seek forgiveness, but ask God, not me.”

The Djenne Mosque, with sign denying entry to non-Muslims

Is it not strange that we can find it in ourselves to protect our faith, that which we believe to be true, that which we believe we have to testify of before the world, by denying the very tenets of that faith?
 
The Apartheid church of which the story was told had an active Mission outreach program. The Central Islamic community of Mali was eager for new converts. And yet…
 
It reaches further, of course. These things always do.

Senegalese fishermen. In boats like these voyages of hundreds of miles on the open Atlantic were undertaken by aspiring migrants

In Senegal we saw the beautifully painted boats, built for fishing, but often used by enterprising people to take young men on a hazardous voyage to Europe. Most of the survivors were turned back by the very countries that vaunted their colonial and post-colonial successes, that worshipped money, exported their visions of supermarkets, flashy cars, beautifully groomed women and growing economies in television series.
 
When the young men and women from feudal societies and stagnant economies chose to worship the same faith, and made their pilgrimage to the altars of money, they were turned away.

Coen van Wyk

Posted on April 8, 2018 14:21

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Source: Daily Mail

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