When my children were small I had a special prayer for them, that one day they would appreciate and love each other as I did.
As kids grow up they test rules and boundaries.
That is normal and a process they need to go through even if it can test the parent’s patience.
Now my sons are 31 and 29, my daughter will be soon 24 and my prayers have been answered so many times already.
I grew up in a dysfunctional family, with lots of alcohol and abuse.
I have an older sister and a younger brother. My parents passed away years ago and I have no contact with my siblings.
When I grew, I decided that I would never treat my future children as I was treated and with the help of God I managed to keep that promise.
It wasn’t easy, but I managed and I am proud of myself.
My sister is six years older and my brother is nine years younger than I.
We didn’t become close growing up as there are so many years between us.
We lived on a farm, far away from others and there were no kids near, no one to play with.
My sister fled the home as soon as she was able to, I fled in to my books and my brother became a mama’s boy.
This is not natural and I wished better for my own kids.
I had read in some of my books about girls who could speak with their mothers about everything.
They could get comfort from their mothers when a heart was broken and they could share moments of joy with each other.
I had this childish dream that I could do the same, but I realised that it was only a dream. Instead, I learned to hide my emotions, no matter the source of them.
The few times I let something slipped, I deeply regretted it for a long time after.
Mistakes were punished, nagged about over and over again and spread in the endless phone calls with my aunties in Finland. This was too hurtful and I decided never to do that with my future children.
Whenever I spoke about them with others I only mentioned the things I was proud about or something fun they had done or said.
It was no one else’s concern if some of my kids had disappointed me somehow.
I knew that my kids were disappointed with themselves at these times so why tell it to someone else but their father? From my mouth to God’s ear came endless prayers that I should never become as any of my parents.
I thank God every day that He listened to me even if I didn’t realise that until later.
When you are busy with life; caring for one’s home, cooking, cleaning, taking care of the kids and working outside the home, it can be hard to notice the results.
Some of it doesn’t appear until later and that is something we need to be aware of.
For those of you, dear readers, who find it offensive to write about one’s parents like this, I beg you to understand.
Not everyone has parents who love them and things don’t get easier by hiding the truth.
I know there are many of us who have faced similar hard upbringing and we are struggling the effects of it many years afterwards.
Why I find it important to speak about these things is because it is so easy to repeat the history without any thought of it.
Go back in your mind to your early childhood. What do you remember? If you only remember love and security I congratulate you, you have got the best start in your life.
If you remember punishments, fear and humiliation I send you my deepest sympathy and ask you to join our worldwide club of abused children.
You see, it doesn’t matter that you are an adult now; your inner child will always be there inside you.
Have you asked yourself why you get a certain strong reaction about things others might think are nothing to bother about? It’s because your inner child hasn’t forgotten and dealt with the abuse.
Still there is a silent voice whispering: Why? Why are you doing this to me?
In the old days, here in Sweden, kids were considered as small adults waiting for growing up so they could be useful.
The more kids you had the better because you needed a lot of hands for the heavy work.
Most people lived on farms until the industrialisation took over our country at the end of the 19th century.
The infant mortality was high and many women died at childbirth.
A lot of children lost their parents because of starvation
. Some were taken to orphanages; others were sold to farmers to be workers.
Homeless children slept wherever they could, they tried to survive on almost nothing.
It was worse here actually as the winters can last for six months, so many froze to death.
Can you see the similarities between our societies? We are not as different, the big difference is that your society is in many aspects, a hundred years behind in the level of development.
There are many reasons for that but with a progressive government we could develop The Gambia in a much faster pace than the current.
I wonder why it is so hard to understand that the trauma people have been through causes problems in people’s minds? It can’t be harder than to think back on your own hardship and how that has affected you.
Having influence and power doesn’t only mean that you should try to get as many benefits you possibly can while you are on the top. For what reason did you get elected? Why did you promise this and that when deep in your mind, you could see yourself laughing all the way to the bank? What a happy moment for you when you check your bank account without any thought of those you used to get to the top.
Speaking about corruption is one thing, fighting against it is another. The Gambia will never develop and be a true modern society if we don’t stop this ”scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” mentality. We need good leaders who have a genuine love for their country.
Leaders who are able to listen to people and care about their problems. We need leaders who understand that the trauma people have been through needs to heal.
Traumatised people need help and that can’t wait. Who is truly helping the children who became orphans when they lost parents because of the oppression and starvation? Youngsters who fled The Gambia for the back way and came back traumatised – who is helping them? They left with nothing but the hope for a better future.
Many died in the Sahara desert, others drowned in the Mediterranean Sea.
Who is helping those who survived but saw what happened to their friends? How can we expect them to be a part of the development of The Gambia when their souls are shattered?
Help is available if you ask for it.
Advice is to find if you first consider the issues and make a list of your questions.
What has happened through the years in The Gambia is nothing unique. Look around in the world, even in surrounding countries and see what they have done to help their people.
There are organisations packed with professionals who offer help in any considerable way if you only contact them.
The same mistakes don’t have to be done over and over again. Let’s learn from them and learn from the mistakes of others.
I know I keep on repeating this, but it is very important.
Ramadan is over and we have celebrated Koriteh.
A month’s focus on NOT satisfying our needs and lusts. A month of prayer and contemplation.
For what have we asked others for forgiveness? Why have we given money or food for charity? Is it to get more points on God’s scoreboard or because we feel like good people when we do it? For what reason do we feel good about it? Is it the same feeling an actor gets after the play is over and people applaud the show? Ask yourself if it feels important for you that others see what you give? Do you seek attention for your actions or do you try to be as discrete as possible? If we give from our heart we don’t need an audience.
If we give from our heart we don’t need any attention, we can even be anonymous because someone will pray for us anyway.
Asking for forgiveness during Ramadan can
be a beautiful thing, but it shouldn’t only be words.
It is easy to repeat phrases we have learned since childhood, but do we mean them? Can we act differently during the other eleven months of the year and then suddenly be forgiven everything during Ramadan? Shouldn’t we keep the same mind all year round and not only for one month and then be over with it? I have been struggling a lot with these questions all my life.
I didn’t grow up in a religious family so I was always alone with my questions. Since my early childhood I disliked fake people, I easily sensed if they were true believers or not.
While I was studying to become a music teacher at the university, I worked some extra playing in the churches. Oh dear Lord, how many fake people I met during those years! People who called themselves pious, who felt they had all the answers and who never hesitated to tell others how they should live.
This made me question God because if this was how a Christian should behave I wouldn’t have it. I fought against God but He was patient and waited for me until I was done.
He led me to Islam instead and I am happy for that.
I am not blind for mistakes made by pious people no matter whether they call themselves Christian or Muslims, my heart was seeking God and our relation is more important than anything.
I feel that one of my missions is to show our similarities as well as our differences, no matter whether it comes to religion or society.
Narrating my life experiences here is a way of showing how much we actually have in common and how much we can learn from each other.
Hopefully, I can plant some seeds in your mind that can slowly grow into something beautiful.
I have learned so much from my visits in The Gambia and when I lived in the Casamance for a while.
The amazing people I met planted their seeds in my mind and these have grown into a flower garden. L
et us celebrate Ramadan all year round, let us seek forgiveness and learn from our mistakes.
Let us treat others as we wish to be treated.
That is called the Golden Rule and if we keep it in our minds we don’t need any other rules.