Speakers advocate global solidarity, to raise awareness and inspire change

By Grayce Turnbach and Vickie Pap
February 21, 2008

Megan Pellegrino

Almost a decade ago, Ishmael Beah was running through the war-torn country of Sierra Leone, in western Africa, in hopes of living one more day or possibly being reunited with his family.

Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2008, he stood in front the Cabrini community, discussing his story of transformation from a boy soldier to an average 27-year-old American citizen. “I feel lucky and by the grace of God, I am standing here today,” Beah said while speaking with students about his book, “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.”

Beah arrived at Cabrini in time for the unveiling of the new book, “Stories of Transformation.” The book consists of a collection of personal narratives in search of the common good, written by Cabrini students and faculty, CRS representatives and people around the world that have been transformed by a specific moment in their lives that directly affected them.

These inspiring stories go hand in hand with Beah’s remarkable account of his experiences as a child soldier. They embody the power to transform the manner in which society views the wounded world around them. “As human beings we are always dwelling in our differences and preconceived notions,” Beah said.

Civil war erupted in Sierra Leone in 1991. The land that Beah calls home was subjected to atrocities caused by disagreements between the government and its people over diamonds and mineral resources. Before 1991, Sierra Leone was just another country in Africa that went unnoticed. Its rich culture and traditions among its inhabitants were never recognized.

Sitting by the fire and telling stories, learning hip-hop, going to school and learning Shakespeare were just some of the enjoyable things to do for Beah and most children his age at the time in their homeland, but after the war these pastimes were forgotten and wiped away.

“There was a Sierra Leone that existed before the war, during the war and the possibility after the war,” Beah said. “I loved living in my country. It was the happiest time of my life. I lived a remarkable life and the simplicity of it, I miss the most.”

Beah brought attention to the need for education and the genuine desire to learn about places like Sierra Leone and other countries before the tragedies happen. With this knowledge human beings can develop the compassion and the capacity to understand why people are suffering and eventually will want to help and make the changes that this world is desperately searching for.

“Each human life is valuable and is the same,” Beah said. “We are closer than people want to believe.”

Rehabilitated from a soldier who mercilessly killed innocent people without ever knowing why he was committing such crimes to an educated young man who selflessly tells his story with hopes of putting a face to the many tragedies happening in the world today, Beah radiated the power of transformation while standing behind the podium in the Grace Hall Atrium.

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Grayce Turnbach and Vickie Pap

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