Wednesday, March 15, 2006
New Friends from Cote d'Ivoire
On Monday, we enjoyed the company of a delegation from the Ivory Coast, West Africa.
The Reverend Oguie Ohua Augustin (a Catholic priest), Al Hadj Kone Ibrahima (an Islamic leader) and Ouattara Koffi Tehua (an Evangelical leader) were accompanied by two translators from the U. S. Department of State.
All are traveling across the United States as part of the U. S. State Department's "International Visitor Leadership Program," designed to increase understanding between other nations and the United States.
Their particular excursion was arranged by the Institute of International Education and carried the official title, "Religion and Community--A Project for Cote d'Ivoire."
Prior to their arrival in Dallas, our new friends had spent a week in Washington, D.C. and several days in New York City at the United Nations.
The purpose of their trip was to gain information regarding how faith-based organizations manage delivery of social services to people in need. The recent history of their country and its terrible unrest provided an urgent feel to our conversation. Civil war tends to magnify every "normal" problem by a factor of at least 10. The Ivory Coast has been locked in internal, violent conflict since 2002.
Our visit was more than fascinating.
As we talked, it became very clear to me that the problems we face, both here and in their nation, are very much the same.
No doubt, the depth and intensity of the challenges facing the poor in the Ivory Coast are greater than what we face in Dallas. And, again, the political climate and the instability of life and institutions there greatly complicate every issue and every strategy.
Still, the issues are basically the same.
Furthermore, the faces of the poor reflect the same kind of despair and hope.
Our conversation worked well and proved stimulating, even through our French translators.
We talked about funding, the role of government, the significance of American corporations here and in their nation, the place of faith communities and the importance of building international friendships among small groups of people like us.
Talk about an engaging hour!
These special leaders enjoyed a tour of several of our locations around the city.
I believe they left feeling as if we had assisted them in several ways.
I know that they helped and inspired us.
One additional thing I know: we are all the same, we really are.
I am learning that this realization is essential to being effective in an urban context. I expect it is also useful in developing an adequate view of the world.
There is no place for arrogance in life today.
As I reflect on our guests and our amazing visit, it is clear that humility, human kindness and a passionate desire to really connect made arrogance impossible in our little conference room at 409 N. Haskell.