The Pirates of Somalia – Tom Doyle

“The Pirates of Somalia” is a short story from Tom Doyle’s book “Killing Christians.” It is based on truth and shares the story of Azzam, a Muslim turned Christian convert. Azzam is the son of a Somali pirate-warlord and they live in the heart of Muslim Somalia. This is a place where the law is written by the pirates and Christianity is punishable by death. Azzam begins having visions of a man named Jesus and seeks guidance from the town’s spiritual leader. He is ridiculed and told that the visions he sees are from the devil. During one of his visions he asks his mother if she sees the cross placed on his bed, but she has no idea what he’s talking about. Azzam’s brother watches the exchange and runs off to tell their father. “Leave, son, and don’t come back,” Azzam’s mother sends him away for if his father found him he would be beaten of even killed.

This short story really jerked my emotions, especially when Azzam receives an unexpected package from his father. “Nothing he had imagined prepared Azzam for the contents,” nothing had prepared me either. The package contained the cut up remains of Azzam’s mother. This made me realize what a bubble we live in, in the western world, as my brain cannot even comprehend how cruel a person would have to be to do this too their son. I guess this is because of the background i have been brought up in. I live in a country/ culture where it is completely unacceptable, and unlawful for murder. Azzam, however, has grown up in a cruel place with cruel people and to prosper one must do cruel things. “Have you finally killed someone?” This is a question asked to Azzam by his mother when she smells blood in his room. This shows how socially acceptable murder is in their culture. Azzam’s father would have grown up in the same conditions and this was an all-natural response from him to send a message to his ‘spiritually deviant’ son. This culture seems so beyond belief to me because the possibilities of my mother being murdered are so slim, i needn’t even think about it.

But, the most heart wrenching thing comes a few pages down. This is when Azzam confronts Yasin and Mahdi, his mother’s killers, when he spots them walking through his village one day. They are expecting Azzam to attack them as with the retaliation culture of Somalia, but are completely taken aback when he tells them “I’ve come to forgive you.” He forgives his mother’s murderers! That’s insane! Yasin and Mahdi have grown up in the same culture as Azzam, therefore they know that if they did not follow orders they would probably be killed as well. “We didn’t want to do it, but your father ordered us.” Azzam realises that as much as they didn’t want to do it they didn’t have a choice, so he chooses to forgive them. Yasin and Mahdi are so taken aback by this act of love that they become Christians themselves.  They have never known love as vast as this in their live’s, that they know this must be a God worth believing in. I have been brought up as a Christian and it is so encouraging to see God using discrepancies to bring more people to Christ. I recently went to an Easter camp in Christchurch and the theme of the camp was that God brings good out of bad. They had speakers which shared their stories of how they were abused as children and how negatively that effected their lives. Once they were saved, however, God flipped their lives around and they now guide and help people under the same circumstances. It is so cool hearing these stories as you know that whatever trials you are facing in your life God is going to bring something good from it, ‘Beauty from the Ashes.’ This is especially exciting for heavily cruel parts of the world such as Somalia, where Christianity is banned, as they so badly need God’s love and goodness.

Azzam’s story reminds me of my auntie who lives in India. She works with a freedom business called ‘Freeset.’ Freeset frees women from the Indian sex trade, and gives them real jobs within the business. Jobs include sowing tote bags, scarves and t-shirts. The cruelness in India is women are being lured away from their villages and sold into slavery in the sex trade. What the Freeset workers do is go out to the streets of the red light districts to show love and make friends with the enslaved women. They tell the women about the joy of working for Freeset and most of them take the opportunity to leave their old lives behind. This reminds me of Azzam’s story as Freeset, just like Azzam, are showing love to people who have never been given any. Freeset is founded by Christians and God works through the employees to bring people people to better lives. This is as God worked through Azzam to show Muslims a better way to live through a loving God.

One Reply to “The Pirates of Somalia – Tom Doyle”

  1. Billy, this is a good response thus far. You have chosen powerful moments in the text to respond to. You have also written a very engaging opening paragraph summary.

    One suggestion I have, is don’t end your personal reflections too quickly. When you explain what you felt, or learned, or compared these events to, go further to unpack why you may have had these responses. Remember the work that we did on the “Critical Literacy” poster at the beginning of the year- What forms the reader’s judgements, beliefs, values or prejudices? How does our background or experiences affect our interpretation of a text? We have discussed these things in class 🙂

    Keep going. This is a good start.

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