On Monday morning we were admiring the white seamless beaches of Togo, breathing in the sounds and sights of the Atlantic waves teeming with energy. Thirty hours later we were picked up by MCC Manager, Matthew and as we drive back to Jos from the airport he was on the phone with his niece who was beside herself with anxiety over the uncertain fate of her police husband posted to Bama, Bornu State. The next morning we woke up to newspaper headlines which screamed, “55 die as Boko Haram hits troops, prisons, barracks.” We learn later that the husband of Matthew’s niece was one of the victims.
We traveled to Lomé, Togo, for MCC leadership meetings last week. We took the opportunity to spend the weekend at Coco Beach Hotel. The best parts of Coco Beach were the waves. An old road 100m out into the Atlantic Ocean served as an initial break to the 3-5m waves, creating foam laden spray unmatched by today’s modern fountains. After breaking against the road, the waves continued to wash up on the pristine sandy shore giving us an extra energetic display of power and beauty.
We did go in to the water but quickly found that we were no match for the power of the waves as we were thrown around like rag dolls, mixing our bodies with the foam and the sandy beach. As much as we tried to control our bodies and tame the waves, they kept reminding us that they are not to be tamed; the remains of the road we found on the beach attested to their relentless power.
What does it mean to work for peace in a place where the rule of law exists but impunity can be “purchased” with money, threat or indifference; where life is precious to some but has little value to others; where shalom seems to be as elusive as a leisurely swim on the shore of the Atlantic?
Yesterday morning, as we were preparing to fly to Jos, Matthew’s niece had just boarded a bus to travel to Bama to visit her husband. She called him to let him know that she was about to leave. He warned her that it was not safe to come. “Can you hear the gunshots in the background?” were among his last words to her.
We wonder if these incredible waves of violence will end…