It was a long a distance drive with a gentleman whose been my friend from high school days. We usually chat on various subjects ranging from spiritual matters, history, economics, to local and international politics. You see we come from way back. At high school I was the headboy and he was my deputy. I was the Scripture Union chairperson and he was the vice. He was the JETS president and I was his coordinator. Today I am a pastor and he is my assistant.
On this long drive we were (with our wives) heading to Choma, in Southern Province of Zambia, the land of Tongas. Reaching in Mazabuka we decided to stop by and have refreshments. We went to a supermarket to buy some foodstuffs. On the till my friend greeted the cashier,
“Muli bwanji?” and the lady graciously returned “Bwino, mulibwanji?“
Returning to the car my friend started to talk:
“These people here are tribal! They always love to speak their language. Many times when they come together, they will keep on speaking their language to each other even when they know that there is one among them who can’t understand it!”
“I beg to differ comrade!” I answered.
“What language did you just use to greet that woman on the till? A Tonga can speak Nyanja when in Lusaka and will be able to speak Bemba when in Ndola. As for us, if we are Bembas we will keep on speaking Bemba even when there is a Tonga around. Our assumption is that he or she obviously knows the language! Comrade, who is biased here?”
My friend listened attentively, nodding his head. I continued:
“This is not to say tribalism doesnt exist. It exists on both divides. As a matter of fact, it seems a human being when not enlightened, he or she gets tribal either by social adaptation or as a reaction to negative labels imposed on them by the people. “
“Comrade, did you notice how Africans were happy when Obama became president? Well, one of their own was now leading the most powerful country in the world. Well, one will say, it was a historical moment considering how blacks were mistreated in the past. True, but it was still tribalism, only stretched to a higher level called ‘race‘. This tendancy manifests in societies in different ways. If it is Malawi playing soccer against Ghana, you will see southern African countries supporting a country in their region and the same will happen in West Africa.”
But, thankfully, this world also has people who are enlightened. By “enlightened” I dont mean educated people for I have seen many educated idiots everywhere I go. When one becomes truly “born again”, he no longer gets influenced by labels of this world. When I was in a remote village in the Philippines, the people there seemed to have never seen an African. As I disembarked from a motorcycle with my host, a small group started forming looking at me. Women with children on their back started following us in trying to take a closer look at the negroid. Children came up from different directions. Men watched from afar. Later it was a little crowd around me as other people watched from their upstair wooden structures. I told my host, “Let me entertain them for a few minutes.”
I started speaking aloud:
“I guess you are all surprised at why I look dark.”
“I will tell you a story of how I became dark.”
“Its because I have been drinking a lot of coffee!” I exclaimed.
People chuckled in laughter and I knew I was communicating.
I continued to speak:
“But why are you white? Is it because you drink a lot of milk?” There was laughter again.
“If I get a razor blade and I cut myself, what color do you think my blood is? Black?”
“No!” came the answer. At this time, more people came closer to hear what the black stranger was talking.
“You see, it will be red. What about you, what is the color of your blood?” I asked. “Red!” came the answer.
“Oh, just like mine? It seems we have the same maker then!”
At this point the sermon began, “You see, in the Beginning…”
Dearly beloved, always remember that God is one, and His family one. His family is not identified by tribe, race, or language but by the revelation of Truth and the power of the Blood of Jesus Christ which washed away our sins! Amen.