Despina Namwembe, the Regional Coordinator for the Great Lakes Region of Africa for the United Religions Initiative, leads a peace-building workshop in Uganda.
Recently, a colleague of mine in Kampala, Uganda emailed me, offering her prayers for the people of the United States in the midst of this election, and calling upon the global community to do the same. Her words touched my heart, cutting through the constant barrage of accusations and apocalyptic predictions, lifting my spirits out of the depths of concern and anxiety, and reminding me about the greatness that is the human family.
I am writing to share my voice about what is happening in the US currently. The issues surrounding this election have affected many globally, especially those who believe in human rights, diversity and what the US First Lady once termed as "basic human decency." I know that some people may ask why I care about the US elections when I am not a US citizen. But probably that is because some don't know me fully and how I value every human being on earth. The US is considered a point of reference for many of us around the world. Sometimes people may think that because the US is a super power, it doesn't need to be prayed for. But to me this is not right. The US needs our prayers now not only because of its global influence, but because of how interconnected we are as humans. When the world prayed for the kidnapped Chibok girls in Nigeria, we acted because our human nature is one of inter-connectedness as people of many different religious backgrounds, spiritual expressions and Indigenous traditions. A peaceful election and post-election healing are much needed in the US for our brothers and sisters, colleagues, friends and relatives alike, and for people around the world. As the world struggles with so many situations of division, hate, conflict, discrimination and human rights abuses, we need to use our spirituality for cultivating the good within ourselves and beyond our borders. May peace prevail in the US. May peace prevail everywhere on earth.
Blessings from here and thank you, Despina Namwembe
Amidst economic and political turmoil, on top of the threat of terrorism that is a part of daily life in Uganda, Despina found herself thinking about and praying for those of us in the United States. That in and of itself is an extraordinary act of kindness. But her prayers also challenge us all to reconnect with our sense of compassion and respect for one another as fellow human beings during the days, weeks and months ahead. Will we accept her challenge?
Neither Despina nor I mean to say that those whose words encourage hate, promote prejudice and incite violence should escape responsibility. Whether it be in Uganda or the United States, those who terrorize must be held accountable for their behavior according to the laws that protect the civil rights of all people. But for the rest of us who hold political perspectives that may conflict, there is more at stake in this election than which nominee or party will guide the country for the next four years. Given the acrimony that has characterized this campaign, Americans have a decision to make. Will we embrace the democratic principles forged over two centuries that necessitate respectful dialogue and compromise with those whom we disagree? Or will we continue to follow the path that further descends into the social fragmentation caused by dehumanizing rhetoric?
Despina, and sisters and brothers across the world, are watching and praying that we will awaken from our moral slumber, and embrace the spiritual values of compassion, love and respect for every human being upon which a healthy and peaceful society is built. Thank you, my sister Despina, for your prayers. May we accept your kindness and honor your hope for us.