Friday, October 21, 2011

Somali community in Toronto hosts book launch

Mary Ellen Leaman - 08/25/11

Eastern Mennonite Missions

When Ahmed Ali Haile’s memoir, Teatime in Mogadishu, was released the day after his death on April 26, 2011, friends from the Somali community in Canada began making plans to honor him with a book launch. 

Asha Ahmed, left, in pink dress and matching head cloth, catered food for the occasion from her business, Wiff Restaurant in Toronto. Her family had a similar business in Mogadishu before the war. Photo provided.

Canadian planners Mohamud Togane and Abdi Hosh invited David Shenk, the author who penned Haile’s story, to speak, and booked the community center in Etobicoke in northwest Toronto for July 30. 

Around 50 people attended the event. Many were from the Somali community; others included Haile’s wife Martha and her sister Linda, as well as many former missionaries to Somalia.

Hosh, a Somali politician who had hoped to be present, was called away to Mogadishu where he is working on reconciliation efforts. But he took the time to connect with the assembled group via telephone.

Togane served as master of ceremonies for the launch, which featured original poetry by a young Somali poet, stories from Haile’s life, and a description of how the book came to be – spiced with lots of savory Somali food and conversation. 

Martha Haile spoke of the peace, truth, and hope expressed in her husband’s life. She experienced him as a man who created a home across cultures, with Jesus at the center. 

Others shared memories of Haile as mentor, a friend across clans, a man of hospitality, a peacemaker willing to iron out differences between himself and a brother, and one who was humble enough to ask for forgiveness. 

Referencing the current crisis in Somalia, Barbara Reed, a former EMM worker in Somalia, said, “Our hearts bleed for Somalia. Today is Friday, the day of crucifixion, suffering and death, but Sunday is coming, the day of resurrection, restoration, and hope. That’s what I believe for Somalia.” 

The theme of peace ran throughout the event as Shenk and others stressed Haile’s keen desire that both Christians and Muslims would know more fully that “Christ is our peace.” 

Shenk explained that the title of the book referred to tea being offered to clan leaders who had excluded Haile and came to his home to challenge him. After efforts of persuasion, they finally accepted hospitality from Ahmed and Martha and drank tea together.

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