Sevcik's Blog

A year in Cairo Egypt

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Nuer Tribe Women's Bible Study

In the past few days I’ve learned much more about Sudanese issues and I need to share the knowledge I’ve gained. With each day that I work with the Sudanese, I am finding their situation more and more complex. All I can say is the reality of the situation reminds me of Palestine/Israel—there are so many questions and so many frustrations and not a lot of great answers.

Yesterday I spent 2 hours in a Nuer woman’s bible study. The Nuer population is the second largest tribe (second to the Dinka tribe) in South Sudan, and there are many living in Cairo. Each Wednesday at St. Andrew’s they meet for bible study and reflection. I tried to attend the bible study a couple weeks ago but for the first time in well over a year only two women showed up—the rest were at the sit-in demonstration at Moustafa Mahmoud Mosque (see alternative blog entry). Yesterday we begin the bible study by talking a bit about the demonstration.

Lynn led the group in study, but none of the women speak English so an interpreter was there to help us communicate. We learned that people are losing their flats and their jobs in order to participate in the demonstration. Some of the woman didn’t seem that bothered by this—they said they aren’t even guaranteed money at work (cleaning Egyptian houses). Still, this is frightening, because it means they will continue to demonstrate until they get some type of action, now that they’ve lost so much.

The women wanted to read Psalm 100 (read it now), and they explained that they believe God has turned His back on them as the psalm reads. Still, they believe in Him. “If we die, we are still alive,” said one woman, who clearly believes in a world beyond this life. Lynn asked, “How do you know God is with you?” One woman said, “If I didn’t know God was with me, I would kill myself.” Soon this woman was one of the first to stand up and begin singing Nuer praise and worship songs to the Lord as the rest of us followed by singing (if we knew the language) and clapping.

At this point Mary Anne and I were introduced to the group, and as hospitality has it, we were instructed to go to the front pew as honored guests. The women smiled at us, nodded to us, and shook our hands. As broken as they are, they were all still full of energy and life, excited to talk about God and share “woman to woman” time together. They were more than welcoming and it humbled me.

Lynn then started talking about wholistic health. She explained to the Nuer woman that there are three parts to our health: our body, our minds, and our spirit. You can have a good body and mind but still not feel whole if the spirit is missing. Whenever we have problems in any of these three areas it pulls us away from the center (overlapping area) and we do not have great wholistic health.

This discussion was supposed to lead us into a discussion on forgiveness and the Prodigal Son. We first discussed the deep wounds in life—when we experience acts of disloyalty or acts of betrayal. Lynn then gave the group scenarios that Western people would describe as painful disloyalty or betrayal. One of the first examples was about a husband who had an affair with his friend’s wife. The question was, “Is this a deep wound for you?” The woman began talking amongst themselves and I soon realized they were trying to figure out if it was betrayal or not! Finally one of them asked, “Is the other woman’s husband dead?” Apparently if the other woman’s husband is alive, then yes, it is a problem because that man may come kill your husband and then you are left without support. But if he is dead there is no problem.

Wow. Of course, this led us into a tangent to talk about relationships and marriage. I discovered that Sudanese men can take many wives, more than 7 or 8 even! It is the responsibility of the first wife to make sure all material resources are split evenly between the wives. The last wife is the only one to live with the husband. Getting married is a general mixture of choosing for love and arranged marriage. If you love a man and he loves you, both of you must ask your parents for a blessing. If you do not receive your parent’s blessing, there is no wedding. It’s a very deep wound to have a daughter choose her own husband without going through this process. It is also a deep wound if a man leaves you because he loves another woman but it’s not a deep wound if he takes another wife but still loves you.

We told the woman that in America it is legal to take only one wife, but if you divorce her you can take another. They asked, “Where do the children go?” We said usually with the mother. The woman became all excited and our interpreter explained, “They have an agreement with that.” In Sudan, if you get a divorce (which doesn’t happen often) the father gets the children. The woman then asked, “Do you beat your children?” We explained issues of domestic violence (with both children and partners) and they quickly asked, “Will this lead to a divorce?” In Sudan, if a wife is beaten, it’s no matter. There is nothing she can do. We asked the group of 13 women if they have been beaten by their husbands at some point in their live and they all shouted out, “Yes, of course!” One woman said, “We think a man isn’t a man if he doesn’t beat his wife.”

I was fuming, of course. A man isn’t a man if he doesn’t beat his wife?! Thankfully Lynn then asked, “Once Jesus came into your life, how has your relationship with your husband changed?” (By the way, in this particular group of women, some husbands have run off with another woman, some are dead, and some have not been found.) The women said there is still a bride price, men still take multiple wives, and children still go with the father, but as women they are no longer “treated like a donkey,” literally carrying the burdens of the world as slaves. With Jesus, the beatings either stopped or decreased. To them, Jesus has made a big difference. By the way, Sudan is one of the only countries in the world where it’s still “legal” to have slaves; women and children are often stolen and sold.

Please pray for these women. They need to hear and see Christ in their lives. It is obvious that their faith is the only thing sustaining them right now, but even then it only brings so much comfort to their broken worlds and destroyed hopes.
**Please read the Massive Sudanese Demonstration/Protest blog entry!!

2 Comments:

  • At 10/28/2005, Anonymous mostafa said…

    Your blog is incredibly interesting. Especially that you cover topics that many Egyptians don't know about.

    You might want to add your blog to the Egyptian blogosphere. You don't have to be Egyptian to sign up.

    Posts from blogs listed in this ring are aggregated in another page. A large number of people will be interested in the topics
    you write about.

     
  • At 10/28/2005, Blogger Hurtig's said…

    My goodness, so much to learn. I cannot believe a quiet person like yourself could get upset over women thinking a man is not a man unless he beats his wife. Until you can change that attitude, these women will continue to teach that to their daughters. It unfortunately is a situation still present here in the US. Keep your "tude" and make some changes. It got cold here yesterday, winter is upon us. later, Steve

     

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