Tag Archive: human-rights

Keeping Hope Alive: How One Somali Woman Changed 90 000 lives

keeping hope alive

Hawa Abdi is one of the most amazing people in the world. She has the Mandela gene in buckets. In 1991 when things fell apart in Somali Abdi was there, a newly qualified doctor trying to make a small difference. How she chose to respond to the catastrophe in her country positively affected hundreds of thousands of Somalis.

A refugee camp sprung up around a small hospital Abdi had created outside Mogadishu and at its height there were hundreds of thousands of people living on her land, looked after, fed and protected by her, and loyal to her.  Abdi would not engage in the clan warfare in Somali, always preaching that people should be united by their Somali-ness rather than separated by their clan divisions.

Abdi got international recognition for what she was doing, and used this to increase the international help available to the people she was looking after. At great personal risk, to herself and her family, Abdi hung in there, believing in Somali and in its future.

To do this in a civil war is amazing. To do this as an African woman in a civil war with religious (Muslim) overtones is simply astounding. Abdi was captured and a lot of what she had established was destroyed at one stage simply because she was a woman and would not let the feuding warlords tell her what to do.

The sadness of Somalia is a character all of its own in this book; Somalia and all other countries ripped apart by this kind of senseless violence.  Then all the journalists and other international  participants in the situation in Somalia dash out of Somalia to report on the Rwandan situation, the hopelessness of the situation globally is almost overwhelming.

Hawa Abdi finally had to leave Somalia and despairingly, despite all the years and all the efforts, Somalia is still a mess. An entire generation of children has been born into a war-torn country. What hope do these countries have when their future leaders are ex-child soldiers and victims of awfulness?

A valuable book worth reading.

Born in Tibet

Chögyam Trungpa

I was sorely disappointed in this book – it shifted my perception of Buddhism in a way I wish it hadn’t.


The journey the man did to escape from the Chines invasion of Tibet could have been interesting. It’s a bloody long way to India via all those mountains, and that a group of people managed it is amazing. But the drone of the story-telling made me not really care after a while. I kept hoping they would run out of leather to boil or eat their actual last bit of food and expire. I lost count of how many times they ran out of food only to have more in the next chapter.


But worse than the boring telling of what could and should have been a fabulous tale of survival were the aspects of Buddhism I saw and did not like.


The author is the reincarnation of someone or the other, as it seems is almost everyone in Tibetan Buddhism. As such he is treated close to royalty from when he is a little boy.

Snag 1 – isn’t Buddhism essentially supposed to be non-hierarchical?

He is surrounded by people there only to look after him. Hmmm – that doesn’t sit happily with me.


During the escape the monks have to ditch their monkly attire and wear normal clothing so as to be less conspicuous. The author talks about how very distressed the monks are at having to do this – they feel lost and discombobulated (my word, not his) out of their robes.

Snag 2 – what happened to the non-attachment lesson of Buddhism?


Then during the escape a horse falls off a ravine and the author’s comment is that none of the goods the horse was carrying could be retrieved.

Sang 3 – a being died and the Buddhist was worried about his belongings – really? Hmmm – nope, doesn’t work for me.


The author was not likeable much – the only time his personality ever showed was when he was laying down the law with all the people following him. And he kept buggering off to do a retreat while those following him were starving and freezing.


Maybe my escaped catholic roots expect a little more from a religious or spiritual leader.


I have since spoken to a Buddhist friend of mine and apparently this kind of things is a little typical of Tibetan Buddhism – and Tibet Buddhism is a very specific strand of the believe system.

Phew – cos I like the idea that I aspire to be a Buddhist – I’d have hated to lose all that cos of one monk.


I am reading a book at the moment that has rattled my cage and set me to some serious thinking

It is a book written by a Palestinian and is really about the Israel/Palestine ‘situation’

I do not know very much about the situation to be honest. I am shamefully ignorant in fact. But what I find so interesting is my struggle with maybe actually thinking Israel is wrong. Phosphorous bombs that set babies alight for days? Really – how is that not a war crime I wonder?

And yet it is very hard to conceive of being anti-Israel and by extension anti-Jews and by extension again anti-Semitic when the other option is to be anti-Arab and anti-Muslim

Being anti-Semitic is something no one wants to be called – I certainly do not. But anti-Muslim – well since 9/11 and the ‘with us or against us’ speech – anti-Muslim is kinda almost expected

Why is that okay? Why is anti-Semitism so not okay but anti-Muslim practically applauded? In what way are they different at their core?  How is anti-any group more ‘okay’ than any other prejudice?

And how does any group who was massacred for who and what they are even contemplate doing the same to another group.


I think maybe I am just anti-human. We are a disgusting species.