Ishi: Coming together in peace

Just had a great cab ride back from downtown Nashville to the ecological disaster they call the Gaylord Opryville. What an amazing conversation!

I always like to talk to cab drivers and learn something about the city, the people, the milieux of the place I’m visiting. Last month in New Orleans we had a cabbie who was a black gangsta version of Mario Andretti, and we cruised Nawlins with open windows, screeching tires, and rap music blaring out something incomprehensible that included “sojer boy” and “crib on 40 acres.”

This time coming back to the hotel we had Ishi, a black Muslim cabbie originally from Ethiopia. He chatted about war, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and where he was from. Then we got on the subject of religion when I asked if it was true that Eritrea was mostly Muslim and Ethiopia mostly Christian.

Turns out he’s a Muslim. The wonderful thing is that he was very open to talking about religion and other religions … the opposite of the “infidels must die” that we see too often in missives from the middle east. A clue as to why is his name, “Ishi,” which means “coming together.” His father gave him that name because one parent was Muslim and one parent was Christian (I forget which was which).

I told him he was carrying a bunch of Christians in his cab, slapped his shoulder as we both laughed, and then we drove right into a conversation about the Old Testament, New Testament, the Quran, and more. Neither of us converted the other 🙂 but the beautiful thing about the conversation was that we were having it … and no-one was shouting or angry or upset. In fact it was a wonderful conversation in which we shared our beliefs.

It turns out that Ishi has been in America for 17 years, and loves the multi-cultural aspects of his adopted country. He talked about Egypt and Iraq as places where religious differences end in death, and deplored that reality. And he was thankful to God that he’s been give the opportunity to live in a land and raise his family in a country where there is safety, the rule of law (he must have mentioned that 3 or 4 times) and the ability to have conversations where differences are expressed without anger, hatred, and violence.

When he pulled up at Opryland, we stayed in the cab for another 5 minutes, chatting. Finally we paid, I shook his hand, wished him the best of God’s blessings, and departed.

There is hope for peace among people of goodwill.

 


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