Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Brouhaha at Abraha Atsbeha : A Kid Crosses the Line.


The confrontation

Slapped in the face by his father, the kid, all of 10 or maybe 11, stood shocked and embarrassed in the hostile circle of villagers and children. Such a change from a few minutes ago, proudly showing his family his 'find‘- a camera he had taken home, just before the posse of village children tracked him down. We’d enlisted their help to recover a camera one of our tour group had lost, probably taken from her pocket, while being mobbed by excited children. One of the older kids had been suspiciously absent. They found him...those kids knew everything that went on in their village. 
Waiting for the posse to return.
 Village justice can be tough and uncompromising. Honour is at stake. Tourists are guests here, and hospitality is extended and no harm should come to their guests. But one of the kids had now brought shame and disgrace upon the village, and he'd embarrassed his father and family in the eyes of the rest of the village. Now he stood before them.

Concerned, I asked our guide what would happen to the kid.

"Oh, he may go to jail!"

What?! A kid that age. A kid tempted by a shiny gizmo we tourists flout in their faces! A mere toy for us, but an unattainable sign of wealth...and that camera strap was hanging out of her pocket.…

Abraha Atsbeha overlooking the village.
We boarded our bus, glad to finally be on our way, late and a long drive ahead of us. But my thoughts kept returning to that kid, and his future. Jail? Ostracism? Branded a thief by the village? I felt sick about the mess.

And we'd changed him forever. We had intruded into his life. We’d caused the circumstances that placed temptation in his way. We insist on flaunting our wealth in front of kids with no shoes, and ripped and patched clothing!

What chance did he now have of just being a kid, or growing up leading a normal life?

We had been visiting Abraha Atsbeha, in eastern Tigray, Ethiopia. A semi-monolithic church, the original rear portion was whole cut from the rock in the 10th century, and with a portico built during the Italian occupation. The church stands high above a scattering of farmlets and a small village where  we parked. The interior of Abraha Atsbeha is richly adorned with paintings depicting biblical scenes.

The expulsion from Garden of Eden.

My camera did not focus well in the gloomy interior, but
you will see a magnificent photo slide show here-
This workman posed for the photo.

Outside local people were repairing one of the outbuildings which will be turned into a museum. They showed off their  masonry skills proudly as they carefully chiselled perfectly formed blocks from rough odd shaped rocks. 

The incredible thing about all Ethiopia's churches is they have a huge quantity of icons and ancient books dating back centuries. Not just one or two, but piles of large, thick volumes, leather bound and hand inscribed on vellum ; goatskin tanned to a paper thin texture. That museum will have to be huge...

Later as we travelled down the unsealed road, we passed a large group of men, some merely teenagers, all dressed in faded green type fatigues, escorted by AK47 carrying uniformed men. These were prisoners our guide informed us, out doing road repair.

My thoughts swung back to that kid being slapped by his father. What would happen to him?



Jorie Pacli said...

I still cannot believe a kid at that age will be jailed just for stealing a camera! That is really insane! Well, it could be a slapped on the father's face but it should not take away the kid's freedom to say the least...

That painting by the way is really beautiful... It tells a thousand words...LOL

Cheers Jim! And, thank you for sharing! You're the man!

River said...

That's a sad situation; makes you think how easy our kids have it over here.

sheril said...

Its really sad to hear these kind of news..

Mary said...

Jim, that is a heart-wrenching story. Now, I will wonder as well what fate that boy faced:(

Beautiful photos and information, as always:)

Jessica Brant said...

I am touched as always with your travel adventures.
That poor, poor child. Was there nothing you could do to help the child?
God I hope the child is okay.
Beautifully done

Nelieta said...

Hi Jim, this is really sad. I think there is a lesson to be learned for all of us. I hope he will be ok.