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Because everyone is your people

Sunday, November 1, 2009 by Marianne Elliott

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I've just finished reading 'The Translator', a memoir by Daoud Hari. It is one of the most humane and powerful books I've ever read.

Hari writes about his experiences of the genocide in Darfur. His own village is attacked and his family decimated and scattered. He goes on to work as a translator for UN investigators and journalists in an effort to get the truth told about what had been done to his people. He writes with an extraordinary combination of elegant poetry and brutal honesty and his moral insight is as sharp as a knife.

He is asked why he takes the risk of traveling back into Darfur, over and over again, when he is wanted by the Sudanese government and lives with a constant death threat hanging over his head. In response he says that as long as his people were not safe he could not be safe anywhere. The next line spoke to me so clearly I imagined I could hear his voice here in my kitchen with me:

"How can you be safe if your people are not safe? And so who are your people? Perhaps everyone is your people."

That, my friends, is why I write about the Gaza Strip and Afghanistan. That's why I write about climate change affecting farmers in Tanzania and why I've worked for Oxfam, the United Nations and the Palestinian Human Rights Centre. As long as our people are not safe, how can any of us be safe? And is not everyone our people?


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14 Responses to "Because everyone is your people"

  1. idelette says:

    Oh, I love this … Yes, yes, yes!

  2. and that, my friend, is why i read what you write. and why i feel so connected to you.
    and why i want to travel the world capturing images and stories–to find and open doorways to freedom–so that we can all be free.
    so much love…

  3. Paris Parfait says:

    This made me cry. And this is one tiny example of why I admire and adore you and your big, open heart that embraces all those in life who need justice. xoxox

  4. megg says:

    You have given me goosebumps. The part of me that is cracking open and learning how connected we are is SO AFRAID of that connection. To know that everyone is my people takes away my ability to disconnect with that which makes me uncomfortable – and that scares the life out of me. Thank goodness that I know that you are in the world – just reading your blog makes me feel like you are there holding my hand – helping me to see through the scary and into the humanity.
    Thank you.

  5. Sara says:

    Beautiful, Marianne. Thank you.

  6. Stefanie says:

    Yes. And again. Yes.
    So tell me why I am surrounded by so many liberatians who believe we so all only pay for what we need.
    Life doesn’t work like that. And is shouldn’t work like that. We are supposed to care about one another.

  7. aj bush says:

    EXCATELY!!I love reading your post, they always make me stop and think. Keep writing girl!

  8. Corey Dragge says:

    Amazing book. I found you via twitter and couldn’t agree more with what you said about Hari.
    Books often make me look inward or give me perspective but “The Translator” did more then that. It is the only book that I can remember that made me cry. Capturing the chaotic horror of Darfur, this book touched my soul. I speak to high school and college classes about Darfur from time to time and I use a powerful passage from this book as part of my lecture.
    Keep up your amazing work.

  9. Lubna says:

    I must read this book. But I have to add, that you are truly inspiring.

  10. Michelle says:

    I found you via twitter as well. Beautiful post – I agree wholeheartedly. It resonates with the African concept of Ubuntu. We are all connected.

  11. Marianne says:

    Thank you so much for your comment. You are not alone, I also cried. It is a harrowing, beautiful and wise book that makes me wonder what it will take for us all to wake up. You do important work, I wish you strength to continue.
    Sent from my iPhone. Please accept my apologies for brevity or typos.

  12. Marianne says:

    And I know that you are one of us, we who know that we are all each others people. So happy to have found you. X
    Sent from my iPhone. Please accept my apologies for brevity or typos.

  13. Steffi says:

    So beautiful, wise and true. That is why we hurt when someone else hurts. That is why we laugh when someone else laughs.
    Thank you for sharing!

  14. Swirly says:

    Your book is also going to inspire, educate, enlighten and uplift many readers. You do this everyday just by being you, so your book will follow the same path. I love you.

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