My 6 Hour Flight with A Man From Somalia - Muslims Seeking Peace
When I traveled home from Dubai, I flew via Swiss Air, and my trip from Dubai to Switzerland was the most memorable of all flights I have ever taken in my lifetime. I spent 6 hours with a man who lives in London who stated his nationality was Somalian. He had just returned from Somalia and was headed home to London via Zurich, Switzerland and I was headed to Chicago ultimately.
One of the reasons why I write so often about Unity 101 is the fact that I basically grew up with many different nationalities in college. As many of my college friends know I dated a wonderful young Muslim man from Pakistan all throughout college. He and many of his friends introduced me to many new religions, many new cultures with all with a new appreciation of God’s immenseness.
Cuba - Castro
Map of Somalia - South of Saudi Arabia or the United Kingdom
Map of Somalia on the Continent of Africa
Years of fighting between rival warlords and an inability to deal with famine and disease have led to the deaths of up to one million people.
Comprised of a former British protectorate and an Italian colony, Somalia was created in 1960 when the two territories merged. Since then its development has been slow. Relations with neighbours have been soured by its territorial claims on Somali-inhabited areas of Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.
Unity 101 Articles
What Is Unity 101?
It is about peace, equal right, justice for all. It is about loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself. It is about ending hatred and wars. It is about celebrating great pilgrims of peace and acts of kindness.
The 911 Connection
Dubai was not a trip of my choice. I didn’t really want to spend the money. I had never traveled alone. I prayed hard about this decision and looked for every opportunity to not attend this business conference. I had trouble obtaining a price for the hotel. So immediately I gave up – wasn’t in God’s plan I figured. Later, just weeks before the conference, reluctantly I felt I must try again. Typically when you check flight prices closer to the departure timeframe, the prices go through the roof. I am sure it was the hand of God who intervened and allowed the price of the airplane ticket to actually go down! This is unheard of! Clearly this was a sign that I was supposed to go forth bravely so I proceeded.
The obstacles did not end there. According to the conference timetable, I was scheduled to depart and fly in the air on September 11th. I didn’t mind flying, traveling alone, IF I was suppose to attend but no way was I, an American, going to be in the air on a plane over foreign countries on September 11th. So I changed my flight to the day before. Here I was intrepid about the date of the flight for the departure, little did I anticipate the real concern would end up to be on my return flight!
The Fervent Catholic Limousine Driver
God works in many strange and wondrous ways. Amazingly, on the way to the airport I was literally inundated by a very pro-Catholic limousine driver. He talked my head off about religion and being Catholic. Being a new Catholic I was very confused why God had placed this limousine driver in my pathway. I listened to his fervor and was confused – why? Soon the answer would be clearly revealed to me.
A Little Piece of Paper with a Website
At the end of my limousine ride, the fervent pro-Catholic handed me a slip of paper with a website on it. The website was something Christian, perhaps Catholic, something about finding God’s peace specifically for Muslims. To this day, I have no idea what website that was – I just pray it was helpful to that man with the very dark soul.
A New Seat Assignment – Closer to the Front of the Plane
Amazing at the airport I requested a seat closer to the front. I was late in requesting the seat and was shocked to find one available about 10 rows forward! Later while I was waiting to board the plane, all passengers were requested to go to the desk. All of us were required to fill out another piece of paper detailing who to phone in case of emergency. Many people would find this kind of information disconcerting just before an airplane flight. I was completely calm and had no fears. I should have been alarmed I knew but my sense of peace from God clearly overrode any logical concerns that I should have. Little did I know how eventful the trip would end up being and how my mindset would forever be changed.
Scared of the Stranger Next to Me
In all the flights that I have taken, I have never been afraid of the person next to me. I normally love people and enjoy hearing their stories. This man who was about 10 years my junior instantly made me uncomfortable.
Normally when I start a conversation with a stranger on a plane, I start with family. I wanted no intimacy with this man. I wanted to be as friendly as possible and not show how scared he made me feel. I worked hard to mask my emotions. So I began the conversation with simply where he was traveling from and to. He stated he was living in London but he was originally from Somalia. From the man’s appearance, I guessed he was from Somalia, although I have never before met or seen a person from Somalia. He was approximately 10 years my junior which placed him about 33 in year 2006.
Rather than speak about family, I asked what places in the world were on his radar to travel to. I figured this would be a less intimate question. I wanted nothing to know about this man. I wanted desperately to move my seat but that would only showcase my great alarm. Remember, my calmness back at the airport with filling out the form of whom to contact in an emergency, all of that calmness was gone. I was clearly uncomfortable with this man and was doing my very, very best to be as friendly and cordial as possible.
An Aura of Darkness
Why was I so uncomfortable? The young man had no distinct smell, had dark skin but that never before troubled me, I simply had this overwhelming feeling that this man was evil and dark. Some people claim to see an aura of someone’s light around the person. I have never had or experienced that degree of uncomfortableness. If ever I could imagine a dark aura it would have clearly have been emanating from this man. But nothing was visually disturbing to me. But his presence made me greatly uncomfortable and now I was sitting next to him and for no less than 6 hours! Oh, my!
His Love of Castro
To answer my question about his travel dreams, he quickly replied he wanted to travel to Cuba because he greatly admired Castro! He then asked if I had ever traveled to Cuba, I politely explained to him that as an American citizen I wasn’t allowed to travel Cuba because of political differences between the countries. He must have heard the uneasiness in my voice as I carefully crafted my answer so not to voice my love of democracy. Now that all the alarms were clearly ringing in my mind and my heart, I quickly changed the subject to his family. Remember, I didn’t want to go there but now I felt had to quickly change the subject smoothly and permanently. I was forced into hearing about his personal life! The very subject I didn't want with him!
The Stranger's Personal Life
I learned about his first wife, I learned about his current wife. The talk of his family seemed to calm him with fond reminiscence. I didn’t want to know more so I tried to stay simply on that subject and only that subject.
The man never smiled, never asked about me other than IF I had ever traveled to Cuba. I think he appreciated my soft voice. During our long bouts of silence, I was not just grateful but prayed hard.
Ending the 6 Hour Flight with the Stranger
6 hours after the start of this emotional trauma for me we stood up together in the aisle. I didn’t know what to say. We had spent 6 hours together, sleeping and eating elbow to elbow. I didn’t wish to know more about this man, I so desperately wanted to run away but I was trapped, the aisle were small and confined. I was searching for words when I remembered the piece of paper handed to me by the limousine driver who was a fervent pro-Catholic. I found the piece of paper with the website name in my pocket. I took it out at the last moment and handed it to him without any explanation other than he might find this helpful.
Here I was a strong believer in Christ, a new Catholic and I could not talk to this man about religion. I couldn’t talk to this man about much – I was terrified of him. But through God’s wonderful work, he gave me a tiny piece of paper to make a lasting impression with a simple statement that he might find this helpful. You would have thought I was handing this man a gold brick. He was so very appreciative. He almost not quite, almost smiled.
Now I understood why I was suppose to journey to Dubai. Now I understood why I was preached at by the limousine driver in Dubai. I was suppose to hand this 33-year-old From Somalia man who resided in London a small piece of paper with a website to help him find Christ.
Our flight turned out completely uneventful. No need for my emergency contact, no disruptions during the flight. However, this flight and this man forever left an impression upon me. I had been trained to be comfortable with a diverse populace. I had been trained to pray for strength. I had been tested to politely reply to this man’s questions. And I had been appointed to deliver a tiny piece of paper to a very lost and dark soul.
I pray for that man often. Perhaps not as often as I should. I now pray daily for all nations, all religions. I was not in fear of my life; I was in fear for his very soul. His whole persona was so very dark. I pray that that website brought him some light and peace to his life. I am forever thankful that the trip was not eventful in the sense of any possible emergency.
In looking back, I know could understand why the seat next to him was vacant – it was left vacant on purpose until I asked to move forward. Now looking back, I am certain our entire conversation was taped. I can only imagine the laughter of the agents when I replied so politely about the United States having political differences with Castro. I can only imagine the agents listening carefully to my direct change of subject. I can only imagine the agents’ wondering what a 44 year old blond female traveling alone was doing and the agents’ amazement and great relief when the trip was uneventful. Would the trip have been different if the seat next to him were vacant? Would the trip have been different if another person was place next to him? Would the trip have been successful in God’s eyes IF I didn’t have that tiny piece of paper from the devout Catholic limousine driver? God works in miracles all of the time. Touching someone’s life may only take a tiny piece of paper with one web site on it. Sharing with other God’s love comes in many different forms.
Unity 101 is reaching out to others, seeking to share with our friends – all of our friends God’s great love. I write about unity because of my love for my college friends who were from the Middle East. These friends forever changed my perspective of life and of the world.
From the New York Times
The moderate Islamist government of Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, a former high school teacher who became president in February 2009, is widely considered to be the country's best chance for stability in years.
For the first time in decades -- including 21 years of dictatorship and the 18 years of chaos that followed -- Somalia's new leader has both widespread grass-roots support inside the country and extensive help from outside nations, according to analysts and many Somalis.
source: www.nytimes.com as accessed on 12.29.2009 and dated 9.28.2009 provided here without permission for educational purposes
Unity 101 and the Symbols Surrounding 911
I didn’t feel compelled to write about unity until now. The world is different from my college days in the 1980’s. The need for unity is so much greater. 911 is a symbol in the United States for emergency. The symbolic date of September 11thwas no mistake. And my return flight from Dubai I am sure was no mistake. God’s grace is all around us. He is calling to each of us to say a little something, put a small piece of paper in our hands, write an article, write a hub, to reach out to others how much God loves us.
I wasn’t brave enough on that flight to say the many words I wanted to that stranger from Somalia. Hub Pages is my courage. It is a friendly, safe place to reach out to others from around the world. I don’t expect the stranger from Somalia to read this but I am hopeful a relative, a friend, a work associate shares God’s love with that man from Somalia. I pray that website touched the darkness of this man’s soul and brought him some light. I pray that the Internet touches all around the world with how very similar we are all – that we recognize our unity and seek as Jesus guided us – to strive to love God and love our neighbor.
Share Your Light
When traveling overseas, take in your pocket a small piece of paper with your favorite religious website name. Keep that piece of paper handy to share with the stranger next to you on the plane or perhaps your limousine driver, your cab driver, your bellman, your waitress, etc…
Share the light of God with those you meet momentarily. Share the light of God with others. As my Mother used to say, two ships that pass in the night. Let your passing be for a purpose. Give a smile, a kind word of encouragment to those that you encounter. Share your light.
Map of Somalia and Surrounding Area Denoting Ocean Shelf for Coral Reef
Somalia Today - Strife and Suffering
Sadly, news from Somalia remain with stories of increased suffering. Bumper crops helped the hunger but now reports of rampant rapes and attack on children are surfacing.
Somalia has the longest coastline on the continent. If you look at the African continent, Somali is the eastern most coastline in the middle.
I don't understand the dollars - $45 million in arms from the United States alone and yet this tiny county with a population of 9.9 million and the per capita income is $600.
Some historical facts:
- "In March 2009, Somalia's newly established coalition government announced that it would implement shari'a as the nation's official judicial system.
- Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 there has been no central government control over most of the country's territory.
- The Central Bank of Somalia indicates that the country's GDP per capita is $333, which is lower than that of Kenya at $350, but better than that of Tanzania at $280 as well as Eritrea at $190 and Ethiopia at $100. However, the CIA puts Somalia's GDP per capita at $600. About 43% of the population live on less than 1 US dollar a day, with about 24% of those found in urban areas and 54% living in rural area"
- "Along the southern Somali coast form part of the Somali Current Large Marine Ecosystem, encompassing 700 000 km2, and extending 800 km between Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and Ras Hafun (Saudi Arabia - see map located above). Abundant biomass develops here due to upwelling."
- The coral reef area off of Somali is not monitored and not protected.
- Muslims Seeking Jesus home page
Muslims Seeking Jesus
Post Script: - The Website
Muslims Seeking Jesus
After I published this hub, several people wanted to know the name of the website. The website I was given which I gave out in a tiny piece of paper - took some rusty memory but I found it! The website is Muslims Seeking Jesus. It is an amazing website detailing all the controversy - and most importantly seeking unity. Here is a summary of the website:
"Muslims Seeking Jesus (MSJ) is a not-for-profit ministry dedicated to helping Muslims and Christians have a closer relationship with God through the Gospelof Jesus Christ. MSJ is made up of volunteers from all Christian denominations. MSJ provides information, referral services and moral support to those who are seeking to learn more about the Christian faith, but are not sure where to begin.
We think it is natural for Muslims to want to know more about the Gospel since there are many references about Jesus and the Gospel throughout the Qur’an. The Qur’an speaks with reverence towards Jesus and the Gospel..."
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