Fall 2022 newsletter
Joanne Miya, Tanzania
Greetings from Uzima Centre. We hope and pray that you are all doing well.
In the United States, autumn means the children are back in school. Since the Tanzanian school year is Jan-Dec. our students are preparing for final exams.
The differences between the United States and Tanzania are many, but one common misconception is that it is more dangerous to live here than in the United States. I have now lived here for 38 years and during that time there has not been a single school shooting. In fact, there has never been a mass shooting of any kind. Other than a terrorist attack on the U.S. embassy in 1998, gun violence is rare. The most common question I’m asked by Tanzanians is “Why are there so many shootings in America?” The idea is unthinkable here.
In June, the Institute for Economics and Peace released its Global Peace Index of the most dangerous countries in the world for 2022. The United States ranked 36, while Tanzania ranked 108, a significant difference.
Does this mean that there is no violence in Tanzania? No. Domestic violence and gender-based violence are common problems. No matter where we live, conflicts will exist, but violence of any kind is a choice.
Marie Dennis, a long-time leader in promoting nonviolence, explains, “Nonviolence is a phenomenal witness to a world that is hungry for a new way to relate to each other. It’s a spirituality, it’s a way of life, it’s a global ethic.”
Last year we conducted a survey of our teens at Uzima Centre. Sadly 96% reported that they are hit regularly at school, by their teachers. Shockingly, 64% of the girls had been sexually assaulted. This year, during their monthly meetings, we have covered topics of self-awareness, gender-based violence, and reproductive health. In the coming months, classes will include teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and substance abuse. Often a session will end with an original skit which reveals a lot about the violence they have experienced.
I previously shared about Gaudensia, whose stepfather tried to force her to drop out of school and get married. Recently this stepfather kicked Gaudensia’s mother and the children out of the house. Her mother took the younger children and fled to the village; but Gaudensia is in her last year of secondary school, with just a few more months until graduation. She came to us in tears, not knowing what to do.
I remembered that Dorothea, a friend of Gaudensia, had been living with her grandmother, Martha, who is one of our HIV-positive clients. Dorothea had recently moved out. Would Martha be willing to take in Gaudensia? It turns out she was more than willing to help. Gaudensia now has a safe place to live, and Martha has someone to help her. It is a win-win situation. Uzima Centre is providing a monthly allowance to offset the additional cost involved. Martha explained that this is not the first time she has taken in a young woman with no place to stay. She assured us that some of the money will be set aside to buy charcoal so that Gaudensia can iron her school uniform. (Without electricity, clothes are pressed using a charcoal iron.) How thoughtful!
St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
I share this story because, although acts of violence can seem overwhelming, we always have two choices: to look the other way or to enter into the situation with love and compassion. Things break. People break. But they can be healed and made whole again.
Maryknoll Lay Missioners has recently reaffirmed our commitment to nonviolence. Within our organization, our ministries and in our hearts, we strive to be instruments of peace. Ultimately the work of nonviolence starts with each of us.
James Baldwin once said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Whether you are partnered with us through your prayers, donations or encouraging words – know that you are helping to create a more compassionate and nonviolent world. We are facing this together.
Please consider making a special gift to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ “Walk With Us” campaign, which raises money for the recruitment, training and ongoing support of all of us lay missioners. We can only “walk with” the people here because you are “walking with” us. Thanks to matching gifts, every $100 given to the campaign in effect becomes $150. To donate ONLINE, click the “Walk With Us” button below. Thank you so much for your generosity!