Reconcilers Together – a Journey of Hope
Ayla Rehn reflects on the first Module of ‘Journey of Hope’ – a 9 month immersive pilgrimage for Christian leaders to transform themselves and their communities through peacemaking.
Inside Stories: stories of resilience during the pandemic is a series of conversations with people who have been displaced by war, conflict or persecution about their lives, thoughts and hopes for others during COVID-19.
Tamador grew up in Sudan and after completing her degree, she married and spent several years teaching Geography and English in Yemen. Returning to Sudan, she spent over ten years working with the United Nations, as part of the African mission in Darfur (UNAMID) as a language assistant interpreter, and in supporting the work of the UN Human Rights office. Tamador has been living in the UK with her family since 2018.
How has life been for you during the pandemic?
I want to start with a piece of wisdom that I have loved since I was young; ‘A believer does not bite from the whole twice’. This means that when you experience problems you will learn things and so when other problems come to you, they don’t affect you because you are already strong enough.
I am saying this because I come from a country that experiences a lot problems like war and violence and I feel that whatever is happening to me now is not more difficult than that.
My people have a saying that” life is like school; every day you learn from life”. So that’s why during the pandemic I have learned a lot in this difficult time as well.
What has kept you going?
I have invested in this pandemic period. I’ve been doing on-line English classes, including with language initiative Xenia, and have been applying to university. My first language is Arabic so what I need to do now is learn English fluently so I can do my academic writing well and use my experience of working with the United Nations to apply for work in a big organisation here. This motivates me. My challenge is now set: a job!
Before the lockdown I used to go and volunteer with London-based organisation, Akwaaba. I have friends among the many different people there and it gives me a sense of things I did in my home. In Sudan I was talking and listening to victims and survivors from the war. At Akwaaba, there are people who are homeless and need someone to talk to; they left their families and their loved ones behind so they need friends. During lockdown when everything closed, I stopped going to Akwaaba and just made calls with friends from home, but now I can resume my work. With people from all over the world and being able to help others, Akwaaba reminds me of the United Nations.
‘My people have a saying that” life is like school; every day you learn from life’.
What are your hopes for the future?
For myself, I hope I can defer my degree course to next year and get my bachelor degree.
For others, I hope people can live in peace and bring the pandemic to a conclusion. There is this saying, you know, ‘prevention is better than cure’. So if people have all the information about the virus and we have a vaccine, people will not lose their lives. So many people have lost those they’ve loved. I was raised by my grand-mum and I like elders – so when I listened to the radio and heard the stories of people who hadn’t seen their mum for two months and didn’t even get to say good-bye, I cried a lot.
And I hope peace will arrive in Sudan. That the displaced people will all return to their villages and nobody kills them or rapes their women. Really this is one of my hopes.
Is there anything in your past experience of being displaced that carries you forward in difficult times?
I don’t give up.
When my family and I came home to Darfur from working in Yemen it was hard. My teaching experience wasn’t recognised, all my colleagues who graduated university with me were at a top teaching grade but I was at the bottom and had to begin again. I was earning very little money and working in western Darfur, which was very dangerous at that time. My husband and I went to Forabarnga because we needed to work; we couldn’t survive without the work because we have kids.
Then I was asked to join the United Nations Mission in Sudan as a language assistant interpreter in Arabic and English. My mission was talking and listening to the victims and survivors for UN reports. Later, I was promoted to the Human Rights office. This is a very difficult office because in their mind, the Government is thinking you are the opposition because of the UN reports. But we are not the opposition; we are just Sudanese. Although this work was also challenging, I didn’t stop. I just kept going because I want to help the people of Sudan; because I am educated and there are many people there who were not educated, and just waiting for the violence. So I needed to help them to raise their voices.
My faith is also important and sustains me. I am Muslim and that means that I’m praying and asking God, Allah, to give me strength or the will to be strong because I have plans for the future and I’m asking God to help me with them.
Lastly, I want to write down the names of my friends who sacrificed their precious time for me and my family, and whom I would like to thank: Claire Milne, Larne Abse, Lisa Fischer, Michael Boyle, Mary Boyle, James Wan, Manuela Carra, Anna Aitken and Terese Jonsson. And whose names were accidentally dropped off, I sincerely apologize for that. I cannot express my gratitude enough to these people.
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St Ethelburga’s is a ‘maker of peace-makers’. We inspire and equip individuals and communities to contribute, in their own particular contexts, to activating a global culture of peace.