He arrived in the mountains; his first words were “I hate foreigners.” A young man, quiet, withdrawn, an absence of happiness wrapped as a cloak around shoulders carrying a large burden. His name was Lulama*.
Lulama was a participant on an Educo Africa Rites of Passage programme. A programme developed to mark a period of significant change in the life of the young person. This is his story – testimony to his courage and the wisdom inherent in the ancient rock and wild winds of deep mountain.
Ten days before,Lulama’stwin brother had been knifed to death by some foreigners in a shabeen in his home township.
“The last time I saw him alive, he waved to me as I passed by the shabeen – ‘hey bro’ he said, ‘ buy me a beer’. ‘Later’I said,‘when I come back.’ ”
A few hours later Lulama was called from his friend’s home by a young boy to come quickly as his brother had been attacked.
“My brother was lying in his own blood – holes in his body – dead.”
A group of foreigners had accused Lulama’s twin brother of stealing their possessions in the previous week. An accusation that held no truth as both he and Lulama were in the Eastern Cape at that time.
Lulama had gathered his friends, armed themselves with axes, spades,- any weapon to bring revenge on the foreigners who had killed his brother. The mother of Lulama had heard of their plans, the police were called, further violence prevented.
The next day Lulama’s friend had convinced him to join the Educo Africa Rites of Passage.
“He wanted me to go with. He said he I had to go to be safe, maybe this Educo thing would be good for me. I knew he wanted me away from the temptation to kill.”
On the fourth night of the programme, Lulama along with eleven other participants walked away from their tents and into the mountains to spend a night on their own, in reflection; alone with the Earth and their God. Time alone thinking onmemories of days past and dreaming of days to come.
The group returned the next morning, walked back into the camp with the rising sun. After breakfast the group gathered in a circle and were invited to share their stories from the night’s solo.
When it came to Lulama’s turn, he sat silently for a while, as if to gather his strength. It was in this circle that Lulama brought the story of his brother’s death, of the planned revenge attack, of pain and hatred.
“I spent the night praying to learn to forgive the people who did this to my brother, this time in the mountains, as we have hiked. I have thought more of forgiveness and less of revenge. I cried a lot in the night, if only I knew that my brother was alright. I watched the stars and the moon as it moved across the sky. Eventually I fell asleep. In my sleep I dreamt of my brother, he was standing in this place. He greeted me saying that it was all okay, that he would wait for me until I got there. We even joked; he said that I still owe him a beer. When I woke I knew that the anger had been taken from my heart, I knew that I could return home and forgive the murderers. I knew that my brother was well.”
When the last story was told, the group sat quietly for a while. When the stillness was complete young people stood up and moved back towards their tents, to pack backpacks and close the camp prior to the long hike back to the Educo Africa base-camp.
Lulama sat for a short while, a lone figure amongst a memory of stories. Eventually he leant forward and gathered the four stones that symbolised the four shields of human nature as used in rites of passage work. He held the stones and turned to Sphesh, the Educo Africa facilitator: “Sphesh I want to take these stones back to my community, I want to sit with my friends in a circle around these stones and tell them my brother is well, that there is no need for revenge, I want to ask them to forgive as I have learnt to do.”
When we go into the mountains as a facilitator for Educo Africa, we walk with humility. It is not us that bring the teaching or the healing. It is rather the deep stillness of the Earth that provides a gateway to a knowing that resides in us all – sacred, whole and complete. It is the knowing of relatedness to all. It is the re-awakening of this knowledge that catalyses profound change in the young people who journey with us.
Educo Africa met with Lulama to ensure his permission was granted in publishing this story. Lulama requested that the following be added as he wanted to acknowledge the role of his friend in supporting him during this time. “When days are dark friends are few, fortunately I had homeboys that we supportive. Firstly we had a prayer in our youth club. My one friend Bulelani did everything for me whilst I was in the Eastern Cape (during the funeral). He organised my clothes, my equipment and what was needed for the camp. He even carried my bag to the pick up spot, and I am very grateful for that. I know no words can express my gratitude, big thank-you BujaMfethu.
Lulama is now wanting to work in the field of child and youth care or youth development. Educo Africa is currently trying to secure him a position within our partner network.
.* Lulama has given permission to use his real name and for this incredible story to be published.