Over at Sojourners, Julie Polter provides the weekly ministry of producing SojoMojo, an in-house newsletter for our local community.
She’s been doing it for years. It’s a little “handmade” gift of the heart that knits together an amazing community of faith. Below is an excerpt from last week’s Mojo:
Prayers, concerns, and joys: Please remember all mourning the death of Fay Walker this week, mother of former Sojourners intern Susanne Walker Wilson (1991-92). Fay was a remarkable Christian activist, with much to inspire in her life story.
For those suffering famine in Somalia and the surrounding region. All those who mourn.
For refugees and outcasts, sinners and the sinned against, the victims and the aggressors; for all who hunger, mourn, or despair; for all who have no one to pray for them. For those things we’re afraid to talk about and those things we’re afraid to hear; for love instead of fear, abundance instead of scarcity, compassion instead of anger; for turning cheeks without turning away.
The Somali news outlet WardeerNews is telling a very different story about the “pirates” in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia than what we are hearing in the U.S. news.
There’s no easy answer to dealing with a failed state such as Somalia. The “Somali pirates,” as they are lumped together, are a mix of jihadis, drug dealing gangs, and poor people driven to desperate measures to feed their families. But escalating violence by the international armada is not the right direction, nor will it lead to a lasting solution.
Listening carefully to the complicated factors “on the ground” (or the high seas) and valuing the legitimate grievances present by those on the bottom IS a good direction.
An April 12 op-ed by Muuse Yuusuf writing from Somalia gives context for what’s going on. Here’s an excerpt:
The dumping of toxic and industrial waste in Somalia’s waters is another issue that has not been fully investigated or taken up by the media. However, UN reports indicate that as early as 1990s European companies had been dumping hazardous industrial waste in Somali waters, as this was the cheapest option for them. This is what a UN official has to say about this sensitive issue; “Somalia has been used as a dumping ground for hazardous waste starting about the early 1990s and continuing through the civil war there,” he noted.
“European companies found it to be very cheap to get rid of waste there, costing as little as $2.50 a ton where disposal costs in Europe are something like $250 a ton. And the waste is many different kinds. There is lead. There is heavy metal like cadmium and mercury. There is industrial waste and there is hospital waste, chemical wastes. You name it,” said Mr. Nuttal, a spokes person for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The Somali news outlet WardeerNews ran an op-ed piece last December titled Piracy in Somalia: An Act of Terrorism or a Territorial Defense Mechanism?.
Their editorial conclusion:
WardheerNews believes that the real solution lays on-shore. Short of reinstating the Somali nation state would successfully solve either the piracy problem at hand or larger terrorist activities which lately became a main stay in Somalia. The world community must articulate a comprehensive strategy to stop the piracy in Somalia without further violating the territorial integrity of Somalia.
What’s behind the Somali “pirates”? Are they sea-thieves or rebels against empire? What are we not being told?
More importantly, who’s dumping nuclear and medical waste in Somali waters? I guarantee you, it’s not the Somalis. Is it possible that these “marauders” are the Horn of Africa’s desperate version of Greenpeace?
Read Johann Hari’s article You Are Being Lied To About Pirates.
Here’s an excerpt:
The words of one pirate from that lost age, a young British man called William Scott, should echo into this new age of piracy. Just before he was hanged in Charleston, South Carolina, he said: “What I did was to keep me from perishing. I was forced to go a-pirateing to live.” In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country’s food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.
Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.
Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: “Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury – you name it.” Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to “dispose” of cheaply. When I asked Mr Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: “Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention.”
Also read Marcus Ridker’s great book Villians of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age for an historical perspective on pirates as organized rebels against empire.