Book Review: The Translator by Daoud Hari

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The Translator: a Tribesman’s Memoir of Darfur is the story of Daoud Hari, a member of the persecuted Zaghawa tribe, who returns to the Darfur region of Sudan.

Hari had been in Egypt and Israel seeking employment in order to provide for his family, but got arrested for doing so illegally.  After being held in Israel and then Egypt, he is finally going to be handed over to Sudan.

Fortunately, with some help, he was able to escape to avoid being handed over to the government that wants his people dead.  Now released,  he wants nothing more than to see his family again.

Yet, he doesn’t make that his only goal. He decides to do what he can to help his people by using his language skills to translate for researchers and journalists who will get the word out about the genocide.

I must admit, I was quite ignorant about this region. This was a great introduction for me in to what Hari describes as the complex genocide in Darfur.

Of course, the details of the genocide are quite appalling. But Hari does a good job of not focusing on the graphic natures of the horrors nor glossing them over.

He had some interesting things to say about genocide prevention and the American government. He had good things to say about the American people, but not necessarily about the American government. He says, “The proof of a democracy is surely whether or not a government represents the hearts of its people” (p. 86). In context, he seems to be implying that the American government in fact does not represent its people, as the people want action in Darfur, but the government remains inactive.

I also find it saddening to see the role that imperialism had on the region and the negative consequences still felt today. Of course, I’ve seen the negative impact of forcing “superior” Western political ideals on other peoples in my studies of other regions (even after the Western nation relinquishes sovereignty), but here’s just another example.  We in the United States and Western Europe can’t just sit back and point our fingers…our nations aren’t innocent.

If you are as ignorant about Darfur as I was, I’d recommend this book (and even if you know something about the conflict in Darfur). It’s short and personable, and a easy way to begin to grasp the complexities and atrocities in Darfur.

Why Let Death Damper My Fun in the Sun?

Did you catch the story a few weeks ago that happened on a beach in Italy? A couple of Roma (Gypsy) girls drowned, and while their bodies were still on the beach covered with beach towels, sunbathers continued enjoying the sun nearby as if nothing happened.

This story struck me for two reasons. First off, the fact that these were Roma girls means something. I heard a national talk show host talking about this story, and he glossed right over this fact, clearly not understanding the history behind it. Gypsies have been a despised people in Europe for hundreds of years, and have been subject to enslavement and ethnic cleansing. Because of the discrimination they face, they often are seen begging and often travel from place to place. Though I don’t know that the sunbathers knew that the girls who drowned were Roma, it certainly seems likely considering the reports say that they had been begging prior to getting into the water.

Secondly, the response of the Italian sunbathers to the death of those around them was a sharp reminder to me that I all too often take this attitude towards the spiritual death of those around me. Like those sunbathers, I have fun and pursue my own interests, not letting the thought that those around me are actually dying dampen my day of fun in the sun.

American Christianity is really good at this. We spend our money on Christian trinkets and read the latest self-help books with a Christian veneer trying to learn how to be happy. How easy it is to forget that my own happiness is not my reason for being here!

This story has spurred me on to try to be more purposeful in everything I do. May God open my eyes to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of those He has placed in my path, and may He give me what I need to address them.