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Dr. Tesfa G. Gebremedhin, West Virginia University Life is like a journey on a train with its passengers and stations. We are all aboard the train and travel on it until it is time for us

Dr. Tesfa G. Gebremedhin, West Virginia University

Life is like a journey on a train with its passengers and stations. We are all aboard the train and travel on it until it is time for us to step down from it.  The journey on the train is endless; it goes on forever. The passengers travel on the train of life until the time comes for them to step down at their respective stations to their final destination. Both the children and their parents travel on the same train of life together for some time and for some distances. However, when the time comes the parents step down from the train at some stations one after the other leaving the children behind to travel the journey on the train of life until their time comes to step down from the train at their respective stations. There are also other people aboard the train such as friends, relatives, and others and when the time comes they do step down from the train at various stations like everybody else. Many people leave the train unnoticed and we may not even know that some of the people we know have already vacated the train of life.  We all do not have prior knowledge when and at which station we have to step down when the time comes to leave the train of life. Once we step down from the train we can never aboard the train again. Since our individual journey on the train of life ends sooner or later, we need to realize if we are leaving behind some memorable stories of ourselves. Before the time comes for us to step down from the train of life we need to love and forgive each other and leave the best mark of ourselves for our children. The following story by Michael F. Friesen elaborates upon a good reason as to why we should leave behind beautiful memories and a legacy for those who continue to travel the journey on the train of life.  This story is worth narrating in a desired modified form to convey the necessary message for Eritreans in Diasporas.

        Once upon a time two brothers lived on adjacent plots of farmland they had inherited from their parents. Zeriga (ዘሪጋ} is the younger brother and Taages (ተዓገስ) is the elder brother. For many years, they had farmed together, supported each other with labor, farm machineries, seeds, and other goods. Their children played together and their families shared meals together in good and bad times without a hitch. Being that their plots of land were adjacent, they also both drew water from a creek that divided their two plots. Historically, they contently shared this water supply without any problem, but there came a time when Zeriga increased his use of the creek water such that by the time the water reached Taages’s access to the creek it became more of a stream. Because Taages’s supply of water reduced, animosity developed between the two brothers which eventually led to anger. The conflict initially began with a small and simple problem and it grew into a major conflict that exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence and separation. Taages had enough of Zeriga’s behavior and as his water supply trickled to almost nonexistent, he hired a carpenter to build him an eight foot high wooden fence around his property. The carpenter was puzzled and asked him to explain the purpose of the fence. Taages told him about his younger brother’s selfish use of the creek water. He explained him that neither of them really owned the water and for many years that they shared the water without any problem, but now things had changed. ­He told the carpenter that he wanted the fence built so he wouldn’t even have to see Zeriga and his family. Taages went to town to bring supplies so that the carpenter would be able to get the necessary materials ready for the job. He then went away on a trip. When he got back from his trip, he was both surprised and angry to see that instead of a fence the carpenter had built a bridge over the stream that divided the two plots of land. He walked over to the bridge and found Zeriga standing on the other side of the bridge. Before he knew how to react, Zeriga ran across the bridge, threw his arms around Taages and embraced him. Wiping tears off his face, Zeriga told Taages that he was surprised when he saw the bridge being built while Taages was away on his trip. Zeriga said, “Instead of harboring discontent and hatred, you built a bridge to demonstrate your love for me.” Confused, but somehow very pleased with the unexpected outcome, Taages had nothing to say or do but to accept Zeriga’s noble gesture of love and appreciation. Taages looked over to see the carpenter packing his tools in the back of his pickup truck. As he wrote a check to pay him for his efforts, he told him how shocked he was to find that his initial orders had been ignored. However, he also expressed his gratefulness. The bridge he built seemed to have healed the wounds resulting from the two brothers’ disagreement about the water. In effect, they found a way for both of them to again benefit from the idea of using the creek. Taages went on to tell the carpenter that he had more work to be done around the farm and he would be pleased if he would do the work for him. The carpenter politely declined the offer and told him that he had other bridges of peace to build elsewhere.  

The moral lesson of the story is that there is more than enough love and kindness in this world for every one of us to share and to enjoy life in peace and harmony. The children of the two brothers who were separated from each other by the small and simple conflict of their parents can now come out of their farm houses, cross the bridge of peace and harmony and play together happily as cousins on either side of the bridge. Likewise, similar unfortunate and ridiculous situations have happened and still prevail in our Eritrean communities and religious institutions in which our innocent children are deliberately isolated and separated from their friends and relatives because their stubborn parents fell apart and separated from each other due to differences and disagreements in their political activities and disputes in religious practices. It is imperative among Eritreans in Diasporas that we need to learn to forgive and forget, to accept and respect each other, to throw our guns away, to resolve our political and religious disputes with dignity and integrity, Only then can we bring beautiful flowers of love and friendship to our Eritrean communities and religious institutions that our children and grand-children can inherit from us and cherish the legacy from their parents forever.

As it has been clearly indicated by the social media, UN reports, and by prominent Eritreans who have recently visited Eritrea and by concerned church leaders from inside Eritrea that the country is in an unpleasant situation. The objective reality in Eritrea is characterized by massive exodus of Eritreans of all ages, particularly the most productive young ones, to Ethiopia and other countries, by the influx of Ethiopians to major Eritrean towns and ports to buy and sell goods in an unfair and unregulated market structure and the plan to establish Ethiopian Naval Base and other military forces in our islands, and by the intervention and control of our ports and other parts of our Red Sea coastal zone by Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates for military and other undisclosed purposes. Given the current situation in Eritrea we have two choices to make a decision. It is either a choice to get involved in the emancipation and salvation campaign of the country, or it is a defection to join the adversaries in the subjugation and deprivation of human rights of our people. At this crucial time period neutrality or abstainity is considered to be out of order.  Subsequently, before the time comes for us to step down from the train of life at our respective stations to our final destination, we can never find a better time and reason than the present that can bring us together and rally in unity to uphold and raise our voices and deeds for peace, justice and prosperity in our country. It is now the right and best time to walk on the bridge of peace and harmony and join hands in unity and solidarity with the large population of Eritreans who are determined to make a difference in the lives of our Eritrean people. We, need to resolve our small and petty political or religious disagreements and senseless frictions by building bridges of peace and harmony among ourselves. We can be very much concerned about the wellbeing of our children, the welfare of our people, and the sovereignty of our country only when we come together in unity and create peace and harmony among ourselves.  At the present moment the members of the Eritrean political groups, religious institutions and Eritrean communities should be able to talk and listen to each other with decency and great respect instead of building barbed wire fences around themselves and exacerbate and escalate the existing conflicts among themselves. We should be able to build bridges that can help bring about good resolution and reconciliation among the various political functions and the restoration of friendly relations between the two religious groups.  We should not always seek to have our own way, but we need to find a common ground that can embrace all of us in unity and solidarity. We should be able to form a joint coalition that can bring the various groups together to organize and build a united front under the banner and zeal of building our people’s empowerment for peace, justice and human dignity. This endeavor should be followed by forming small groups or teams within the united front to undertake division of labor. For instance, a certain group does the task of diplomatic relation or lobbying for support from governments and international organizations (UN, EU, AU and others), another group is delegated in raising fund for the united front, another group is organized to get involved in recruitment and mobilization of members, etc. It means that we should create a strong institution that can engage us in various activities of the united front. Words of peace or war expressed by concerned Eritreans by talking in various social media or by writing about the Eritrean situation in many websites are not and cannot be as much effective as getting organized in a form of united front and advocate and work for a practical change. If we prevail in an organized form, we can even remove any mountain from its place or captivate any raging wild beast in a cage when we are united and organized. There is more power in unity with diversity than in division and separation because nobody is better or complete without the help of the other. It is evident that “Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy.” History has already told us that where there is unity of our people, there is always victory. We must be united in heart and mind because in union there is always strength and there are no problems we cannot solve together. We must be aware that upon the conduct and behavior of each one of us depend the fate of all of us. The light of unity is powerful; it can illuminate and shine bright on all of us.  Nowadays, we should not be separated by outdated way of thinking and divided by senseless purposes when it comes to the destiny of the people we care and the country we love very much.  We should all stand firm and strong together in unity before the time comes for us to end our journey and step down from the train of life at our respective stations to our final destination which could be either to hell or heaven depending upon the kind of joyful or painful situations we create and leave behind in our Eritrean communities and religious institutions in Diasporas. Thus, we need to learn an important lesson from President John F. Kennedy’s speech when he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” God bless Eritrea and its people!

Review overview
  • k.tewolde November 19, 2018

    Fact is that Eritrean train is fast emptying,many disembarking prematurely leaving only the gang of brutal conductors and their crew steering it to oblivion.Lets pray.>>>>Otherwise,the voice of prudence of big brothers like you is timely and of essence,thank you Dr. Tesfa.

    • Asmara Eritrea November 21, 2018

      What a warrying anlage – train and Eritrea, especially when the train driver happens to be drunken lunatic.

      Eritrea forever, death to dictatorship.

  • Gezae November 19, 2018

    I heard the food of one man is another man’s poison for a well known reason.
    Hurtful words are like a blade,
    They sear the heart, a scar they leave.
    Words of anger, words of hate,
    Like poisoned darts they hit their fate.

    Instilling doubts of worth and psyche,
    Destroying confidence and peace,
    Can cut deeper than a machete,
    Causing fragile friendships to cease.

    Words can hurt but also heal emotion.
    Helpful, caring words can bring good relation,
    Forgiveness, settlement and composition.
    Long way off non-sense precondition
    That’s why words of hope trump words of dissension.

    Hence, let us use our words in a very keen,
    To build our national pride up and not tear down,
    To create a love, peace, and reconciliation.
    That brings a serenity and not a belittle or frown.

  • kaled November 20, 2018

    “We must be aware that upon the conduct and behavior of each one of us depend the fate of all of us. ”

    Dr. Tesfa G. Gebremedhin

    Very true.
    Dear Dr. Tesfa, take the next step: we want see our intellectuals more involved in organizing an effective opposition. Is it possible for you and other Doctors and Professors get together and do something for your country ?
    Thank you Dr. Tesfa

  • rezen November 20, 2018

    Subject: A JOURNEY ON A TRAIN OF LIFE FOR PEACE, JUSTICE AND HUMAN DIGNITY by Dr. Tesfa G. Gebremedhin, West Virginia University, 19 Nov 2018

    Dear Sir,
    Permit me to ask questions with sincerity. First let me make a wild guess: I estimate that there are two thousand (2000) highly educated Eritreans of the Highest Order with Doctor of Philosophy Degrees from acclaimed Universities around the Globe. For a country of three to five millions [wild guess] in the category of UNDERDEVELOPED level, 2000 scholars are jewels of the country.
    Here are my questions:

    a) Why is it NOT possible to have a group of Scholars (e.g. about 20) get together and come up with a PLAN to extricate Eritrea from the yoke of absolute indigenous dictatorship?

    b) Why wasn’t it possible for Eritrean Intellectuals to RAISE their VOICE [from a safe distance]?

    c) Why was it not possible for Eritrean Intellectuals of the Highest Order to RAISE their VOICE in World Arena when eleven high ranking officials – leaders of the Eritrean Liberation Force – arrested in the middle of the night and made to disappear for ever?

    d) What is the OBSTACLE against Eritrean Intellectuals that prevented them from getting together in ONE force, for ONE purpose >>> i.e. to maintain the noble goal of the 30-year war at horrendous sacrifice.

    If twenty (20) Scholars couldn’t get together and, at least, attempt to solve the problem of a newly independent betrayed country, how would it be possible for the Eritrean people to be a cohesive force without a radar.

    Dear Dr. Tesfa,
    Like your name, YOU and YOUR Colleagues are the only HOPE for the Eritrean People. It is a different struggle. I mean it from the bottom of my heart. Any other attempt is just a gimmick – a waste of time – and a waste of human [Eritrean] Life — and eventually the inevitable DISINTGRATION of a country and people >>> As the ትግርኛ saying goes, our history will then become a legend፡ ጽዊ ጽዋይ።

    • k.tewolde November 20, 2018

      Dear rezen,you have been asking those elusive questions for a while now and the intellectuals have responded with an eerie silence,intellectualism alone doesn’t lift downtrodden masses from destitution and oppression,total commitment and devotion to that cause does,so far it is the other way around the commitment is coming from those who want to like you said,”our history will then become a legend፡ ጽዊ ጽዋይ።” Keep pounding the door rezen,an Eritrean Dr. Martin Luther King might crack open the door one day.

    • Simon G. November 20, 2018

      Brothers rezen/K.T:
      ስለምንታይ ናይ ሕጂ ወለዶ ብዙሕ ኣብ ትምህርቲ ኣቓልቦ ዘይገብር ይብል ኔረሞ ሕጅስ ክበርሃለይ ጀሚሩ።
      ነዞም ምሁራት ኣካላት ዝበልኮሞም ቁምነገር (in terms of political change) ክገብሩ ስለዘይረኣዩ ዶ ኾኑ?
      If you have paying attention, most of our youths are into Uber drivers and alike. These are young, high school graduates or higher but you don’t see them taking advantages at the many community colleges.

      Going back to rezen’s questions: Personal ego could have also been the issue with these PhD holders. They may all think no one is better than them. If that is true, it will prevent them from listening to others. If they don’t listen, what they have is their own knowledge, and that is very limited (mostly to the subject they have studied).
      Maybe they should start doing these:
      1. There are a lot of people smarter than a specific person and drop the ego
      2. Apply 90% listening and 10% talking

      • k.tewolde November 21, 2018

        Simon,let me share with you and those good people out there what I learned from university of life,it is not about those credentials you hang on your office wall or prestigious schools you went to or a lucrative career you command because of your rare skill set,I work around those people all day long some blow me away with their sheer natural gift from the lord,some make me puke,some send me home with the thought of starting a new career at this late stage of the game….these are all intellectuals,that is all they are!! And there are those deep thinkers,full of wisdom,rare breed who will listen and mirror you even if you don’t make sense,those who love you for who you are and put themselves in harms way because they cherish your life as much as theirs.They are special people,they speak in a special way and tone,they penetrate the human soul sending it into a rational epiphany to seek the truth nothing but the truth,they are selfless disruptors and revolutionaries,they are hard to make and rare to come by,we had them once and we lost them,they are like the Holly’s Comet,they illuminate the night briefly once in a celestial years and disappear,when are we gonna get one of those swooooosh!!! by in our homeland.

  • rezen November 21, 2018

    Dear k. tewolde, As usual, you are eloquent with the depth and usage of effective words – a testimony that it is NOT the volume of words that matters but the inherent quality of the words used. Thank You.

    Dear Simon G. Truly speaking, you captured it ALL — addressing the spectrum of our society and the inherent malaise that became obstacle to our progress as reflected by bizarre attitude of our society. The Eritreans of ‘YESTERDAY’ were known to be dedicated family oriented; hard working, gallant, ambitious, efficient in their undertakings, always hungry for education aimed at excellence (and achieving it), culminating in boundless LOVE and PRIDE for their ERITREA. Those were the days — a true reflection of Eritreans — cannot simply be forgotten.

    Alas, All is gone, ‘with the wind’. No wonder the YOUNGSTERS of TODAY are hopeless and disillusioned as they do not have an example to latch to. The normal human trait is to look up to parents; to teachers; to indigenous society at large; to friends; and to the outside world. At present WE ERITREANS found ourselves in a vacuum >>> nothing to latch to; and to aspire to. Dear Simon G, your observation about our young people is EXACTLY to the point “…ናይ ሕጂ ወለዶ ብዙሕ ኣብ ትምህርቲ ኣቓልቦ ዘይገብር…” It is insightful observation. With my uncontrollable unwise emotion, I would have dropped the word ብዙሕ out of the sentence, making the sentence absolute. In any case, I do NOT blame our young people. THEY WERE LEFT IN A VACUUM – unnatural to Eritrean family oriented active society. It is NOT emotional statement that I am making but a reflection of true trait of Eritrean society of ‘YESTERDAY’.

    What happened? Where did we go wrong? The answer is one and simple: >>> WE ARE ‘ROBED’ in BROAD DAY LIGHT. What we see TODAY is NOT the CHARACTERISTI of Eritreans of ‘YESTERDAY’. We lost our ambition, our kindness, our identity, our TRUE LOVE for WHAT WE WERE. We lost it ALL. I must, however, quickly add: I am not saying that Eritreans are chiselled out of Angels. We have our internal problems, like any other country around the Globe. In fact, if we do not seriously attend to our share of problems, we may find ourselves disintegrated into pieces. Or, putting it into practical reality, we should never forget that Issayas Afewrki Abraha used it efficiently and craftly to divide the country based on sociological division of Eritreans for his own agenda. Beyond THAT, we Eritreans must accept the consequences of OUR failure based on OUR own actions.

    Where do we go from here? We have no choice but to knock at the doors of Eritrean Intellectuals to get together and save their beloved country, Eritrea. THERE IS NO ANY OTHER OPTION – other than abdicating the entire country to Ethiopia or to any other countries based on our fractured sociological squabbling on parochial matters. In which case, the 30-year liberation struggle — and 27 years of suffering under indigenous cruel dictator — would be historically recorded as an example of weird and horrendous loss of human lives and environmental destruction >>> ALL FOR NOTHING. Is that what WE ERITREANS wish to leave for History? We must be better than that. We must have an ounce of valour, pride and sense of history in our veins.

    I STOP here, not that I am exhausted of what I wish to say but out of respect for YOU Dear Readers — and respecting the limitation Rules of , without which we cannot communicate. THE END

    Footnote: In the early nineties, I met a gentleman in Asmara [for the first time] and he shared a”joke” with me in a whisper, considering the delicacy of the reference. I was a little surprised that he shared the joke to a stranger but I paid attention without any comment.

    Background: Issayas was fond of saying [with pride, I suppose] in those days that his government moves in slow motion like a Turtle. The commentary of the gentleman goes like this:

    “ከም ኣባ ጎብዬ ቀስ ኢልካ ምጉዓዝ አይኮነን እቲ ሕቶ፣
    እቲ ኣባ ጎብዬ ናበይ ገጹ ይኸይድ ከምዘሎ እዩ እቲ ቀንዲ ሕቶ ። wow! what an observation; in the EARLY times too.

    • Simon G. November 21, 2018

      Honorable brothers rezen/kt
      Your humble response amazes me every day and thank you for that!
      “ከም ኣባ ጎብዬ ቀስ ኢልካ ምጉዓዝ አይኮነን እቲ ሕቶ፣
      እቲ ኣባ ጎብዬ ናበይ ገጹ ይኸይድ ከምዘሎ እዩ እቲ ቀንዲ ሕቶ ። ”
      This reminds my my first physics class when out teacher asked us the difference of speed & velocity.

      Velocity ናበይ ከምትኸይድ ከምዘለኻን ቅልጣፈን ክሕብር ከሎ Speed ድማ ከም መዘንግዕ ናበይ ገጹ ከምዘምርሕ: ኡስ ኢሉ ይሕምበብ በሎ: ሓደ ንፉዕ ተማሃራይ። ሰሓቕ ብሰሓቕ ኮነት ክላስ።
      መዘንግዕ ሳጓ ዝነበሮ ዕሽው ዝበለ ተማሃራይ ኔሩ ኣብ ክላስና

  • Gezae November 21, 2018

    This is a very interesting comment. Your comment drives the importance of individuals in enabling change or reform. I believe the same all successful reforms efforts for ultimately change is how individuals behave around and critically hold on to that core of this simple truth. The same approaches to that listed in the piece primarily reflect the emphasis on changing behavior and the knowledge for reform activities in a fair and systematic fashion.
    However, in my view, I wish first of all, you/we need political goodwill for all & you/we need to stop whining about and overstate how every little thing is the end of the world. Secandly, as the fight for democratic reform demands a wholistic multi-pronged approach to be successfull; I would also say it should not be left only to the elite body/ies but rather all sectoral stakeholders involvement.
    In short, last, but also not least you/we need to comprehend that Eritreans never stop fighting for democracy and reforms. Yet they didn’t, and will never stop pursuing that. However, if you are talking about a “revolution or radical change what so ever”, I am sorry, Eritreans are smarter than that of the old time now. Eritreans have learned that in a sovigner country a revolution can’t guarantee democracy, because it will definitely bring collapse and blood. Just look at what is happening in Syria, Egypt, and Ukraine. Maybe—and it is a big “maybe”—these countries will have their better days in future, but many people’s lives are sacrificed and many more will be until the “better day” come.
    So big NO, Eritreans don’t /will not want to “fight” for democracy if “fight” means like the so known Justice Seeker what so ever called revolution or radical chancge.

  • ሽማንጉስ ላዕላይ November 22, 2018

    Well I believe president Isaias built the bridge to Ethiopia & people are eating & buying construction materials. So could the moral of the story be also about መደመር እህል ለመብላት. welldone President Isaias .

    • k.tewolde November 22, 2018

      Habrom, forget building a bridge,he can’t even fix the one that was there since nell trenta cinque,keep following him you will end up in #%@*.