“You don’t get tired of doing God’s work,” said Shamsa Abubakar Fadhil, the Kenyan peace mediator and community mobilizer, better known as Mama Shamsa, a Muslim by faith who was educated in Roman Catholic schools. She is known as a mother for thousands of youth in Kenya.
“We have to talk to each other. I have to know what you feel and you have to know what I feel,” said the Kenyan woman who was a keynote speaker at the 5-14 July Emerging Peacemakers Forum. “We have to have capacity to build our youth and give them purpose.”
Mama Shamsa spoke to 52 young people from Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe, the youngest being 20, taking part in the forum hosted by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Muslim Council of Elders, and Rose Castle Foundation, just outside Geneva, Switzerland.
Showing the way
The setting for the forum is the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, overlooked by Swiss Alpine mountains and Lake Leman, far from the crime-ridden area of Kenya where Mama Shamsa does her work.
She was among the 2023 honorees of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity, an annual international award recognizing individuals or entities worldwide who lead by example to bridge divides and create genuine human-to-human connections, often at great personal sacrifice.
Mama Shamsa recounted how, in her culture, when a young woman started menstruating, she was pulled from school—but, for her, in secret collaboration with her parents, Roman Catholic priests educated her, encouraging her in her Muslim faith.
Two young Kenyans from her area who had turned from crime to community-building recounted how Mama Shamsa had taken them in and helped turn them around, after they nearly joined the Al Shabab terror group in Somali.
“When I see a society, which has broken down with youth who have lost respect, with youth on drugs …As a parent, it is our duty to show the way,” Mama Shamsa said.
“I come from a village in Kenya, which is very hostile. There are a lot of criminal activities going on there – a lot of drug users. Actually it is the hardest drug abuse in that area.”
In an interview after she spoke, Mama Shamsa said: “In order to be a good human being, you must have spiritual nourishment. It is not defined by which religion you come from. All religions talk about peace. Spiritual nourishment comes from being a human being. First you have to practise humanity.”