Book Review by Kanga
“Give your enemy fresh milk.” This memorable Somali aphorism from will stay with me for a long time—a highlight of the powerful life story of Ahmed Ali Haile. In Teatime in Mogadishu: My journey as a peace ambassador in the world of Islam, readers can discover the reconciliation work and faith journey of this Somali-born peacemaker. His story, part of the “Christians Meeting Muslims Series,” is told with the help of David W. Shenk, who has lived in East Africa and works with Eastern Mennonite Missions.Throughout his life Haile has given witness to the power of love and forgiveness. The book’s title refers to the priority Haile has given to hospitality—setting an example for others of a loving home, expressing God’s love to everyone (even when it might not feel “convenient”). In his effort to live a life in keeping with the peacemaking teachings of Jesus, Haile describes Romans 12 as “an ethical manifesto” for his family, and, truly, his life exemplifies the call to live in harmony with one another, and to overcome evil with good. This book provides inspiration for those of us who long to listen for God’s call in our lives, and to live out that call with integrity and passion.
Born into a loving, pious Muslim home in central Somalia in 1953, Haile grew up with an awareness of God’s blessings and a desire to serve God. As a serious student of his religion, Haile was interested in learning more about the monotheistic faiths that preceded Islam, and which are mentioned throughout the Qur’an. When he had an opportunity to study the Bible, the life of Jesus spoke to his heart and he decided to convert to christianity. At that time, the political regime in Somalia forbade the practice of any religion except Islam. Within this environment, it was heartening to read that Haile’s parents were very supportive of his decision. They knew Haile was not rejecting the religion of his birth, but rather that he felt called by God to follow the path of Jesus.
During the 1970s, while Somalia experienced revolution and war with Ethiopia, Haile had the good fortune to receive a scholarship to study peacemaking and development in the U.S. When he returned to Africa in 1982, Haile worked to nurture healthy relations with the Muslim community and his extended family, meeting weekly with elders from his clan. “We ate and fellowshipped and conversed vigorously together. In that way, our covenant of peace was renewed each week.” This kind of relationship-building is an important foundation for restorative justice, and builds on pre-islamic clan traditions.
Through his studies and his life experiences, Haile determined that neither traditionalist nor modernist forces would bring peace to Somalia—only God could do that, for true restorative justice requires the healing work of the Holy Spirit. Even after losing his leg to a violent attack in 1992, Haile continued to work tirelessly for peace, and, as part of the Somali diaspora in the U.S., he continues his efforts still.
Once again, Mogadishu is in in the news, and at the center of humanitarian crisisand violent conflict. Ahmed Ali Haile’s story demonstrates that we must persist in working for peace, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. This inspiring book includes discussion questions for each of its short chapters, which will be very helpful for book groups and Sunday school classes that use this book as a resource.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge from Herald Press. No fee was received for writing this review.