When I think about my experience teaching for a year in a Muslim College in Perth, one particular student comes to my mind. Not long time ago I opened the West Australian Newspaper and there she was,standing with Nicole Kidman, an UN ambassador discussing with young University female students the future of Kosovo and their ongoing fight for their independence. I looked at the Saranda's enthusiastic
face looking admiringly on our Australian actress and my memories came back.
The first lesson I had in Saranda's class, I taught 'Folk Fables and Legends' and asked students to give me examples from their cultures. Saranda stood up and told the class the Albanian legend as it was told to her by her Grandmother.
I would like to share with you the Saranda's legend as well as life of one Muslim teenager, one Muslim refugee who lived in our state for a while.
THE LIGHT OF LIFE
/Albanian Legend as it was told to Saranda by her beloved Grandmother/
A long time ago when the ancient Illyrian tribe roamed all over the vast territories of Albania, the sky was always dark and hung very low over the land nearly touching the highest peak of our mountain
range. With every person born, one sunflower grew from the grass next to his/her home. This sunflower gave the person enough warmth and light to live. There was a special man, who Illyrians called 'Light
man'. Every evening he gently bent all the sunflowers, so they and the people could rest in the dar, and every morning he gengly stretched all teh sunflowers, so they could shine again. The 'Light man'
was very well known and respected, as he never forgot his duty. He was a very precise man, the cycle of dark and light repeated exactly the same way every time.
The 'Light man' had one more duty to do. Whenever a person died, their sunflower died too, so he gently picked its flower and walked up to the highest peak of our mountain to place it on to the sky above. ALthough the dead sunflower stopped to give warmth, it still glittered little bit in the dark. People used to look at it before they went to sleep to remember the dead person.
There was also another man called 'Enemy'. He was never satisfied with what he had and always wanted to have more than others. When he married a beautiful girl and it was his time to built his own house, he was not satisfied with an ordinary house inside the tribe. He built himself a stone castle on a small hill above the settlement, so he could see all the land around. But there was no chance to lighten up and warm the huge damp place with only two sunflowers. So he visited the 'Light man' and asked him to give him more sunflowers as his house was so much bigger than the others and needed more light.
The 'Light man' shook his head at this unusual request: " I can't give you, what is not mine."
But the cunning 'Enemy; asked: " What if someone give me the light, I can't refuse the offering."
"That's true," said the 'Light man': " But remember, you can't take the offer, if someone's existence depends on it."
The cunning 'Enemy; didn't go to ask the strong men and women, but the weak ones. He visited all the sick and very old people of the tribe, when no one was near them and asked them to give him their 'light of life' as they would die soon anyway. Since the sick and very old people were too deaf or weak to understand, they only nodded their heads as in agreement.
'Enemy' took their sunflowers with him to his castle. Suddenly all the sick and very old people of the tribe died and there was no one sunflower left near their houses to put on the sky.
Soon the sunflowers died in the stone castle, as they had been too old and 'Enemy' let them shine all day and night.
Next day 'Enemy' decided to go and ask all the babies to give him their sunflowers. Since they were young, he thought, their sunflowers would last longer than the old peoples.
He watched for a moment and when their mums weren't around, he asked for their sunflowers. The babies smiled and giggled at him as in agreement. He took their sunflowers to his castle and let them to shine all day and night.
Suddenly all the babies of the tribe died and the wailing of their mothers didn't stop. There was not one sunflower to put for them on the sky.
'Light man' went to the stone castle and found all the sunflowers of dead people and babies too. He picked them all up and went on the highest peak to put them on the sky. As he didn't know which one is which, he made a crescent shape on the sky using them all to remember all the victims of 'Enemy'.
Then he returned back to the tribe and started to pick up the sunflowers of the living people. Firstly he carried them in his hands. Later he piled them up and shaped them in a huge ball to roll them up the highest peak. When the people realised that 'Light man' had taken their 'light of life', they surrounded the highest peak and cried for him to give them the sunflowers back.
He turned to face them and pointed at the 'Enemy': " He is responsible for your misery."
People turned to him at once and started to throw stones at 'Enemy'. He quickly ran back to his castle lost in darkness.
'Light man' rolled up huge light ball right up the top. He picked it up with all his might and put it on the sky for all the people to share the 'light of life'.
'Enemy' was too scarred to leave his dark castle. Every time he peeped out, people started to scream: "Enemy is coming". All the weak, old and young ones then quickly gathered together inside the tribe settlement.
All the strong men faced 'Enemy' with stones in their hands.
FROM THiS TIME ON, PEOPLE HAD NOT ONLY RECOGNIZED THE MEANING AND IMPORTANCE OF THE STARS, MOON AND SUN IN THEIR LIVES BUT ALSO THEY INTRODUCED A NEW WORD INTO THEIR VOCABULARY: ENEMY. ENEMIES STARTED TO FIGHT AGAINST EACH OTHER AND WARS STARTED AND HAVE NOT STOPPED EVER SINCE...
Saranda loved this legend because she lived all her childhood with Serbian oppression of her homeland. She was born as the 'enemy' of Serbia. She came to find refuge in Australia and she was marked as the 'enemy' of Australia and whole Western world because of her 'Muslim upbringing'. What does it tell about us?
This ancient Albanian story resonates in me, because it also reminds me of our human greed. I believe that we need our own 'Light man' who would protect our earth, our environment from us, before we replenish it and destroy it all.
The story also reminds me of our human indiference. We know about suffering of others /it the story the old, weak, sick and babies have been robbed of sunflowers, but people only started to protest once their own sunflowers were taken away/,
but we do nothing if it does not concern us or our closest family.
Is this old Albanian story resonate in you?