Spiritual Opportunism

Young boys wearing torn dirty clothes carrying tin cans, plastic containers or cups asking for money. A common scene at every corner in Senegalese towns. As soon as they see a foreigner, they hound like scavengers on a carcass. I learnt to say “etcho” (go away) which seemed to work most of the time. It got old very fast. Senegal has 3 things in abundance: mosquitoes, flies and beggars.
On the crowded bus, preachers get on and start their typical sing song preaching in very loud voices that wake up the devils inside you. They’re selling items to whoever bites. I don’t understand Wolof but I recognize the Arabic Quranic verses they sprinkle in their speech.
We were told these are “Baye Falls”. They’re a religious group who follow a “Mouride” (Arabic for “one who desires”. The word is used in Sufism to mean a spiritual guide). Mourides don’t work. They’re supported by their followers, so they send them begging for money to sustain a living. Poor families send their kids to learn the Quran, they’re called “talibe” (Arabic for student), and in the process, they learn begging. I guess dealing with rejection is a very good skill to have after all.
It all sounded like exploitative spiritual opportunism and blatant child abuse. Reminded me of gangs that kidnap children, give them physical handicaps to make them more profitable in begging. Cruel and disgusting. At least in Senegal they don’t physically disfigure the kids. Needless to say, my opinion of “Baye Falls” was very negative after experiencing all that.
Because of my interest in intentional and Eco communities, I followed a friend’s tip to visit a Senegalese community in the desert. It was an enlightening trip that gave me a completely different understanding of the Baye Fall culture; the exact opposite of everything I had heard or imagined about them. An eye opener! Every story has more than one angle. A reminder not to label, judge or jump to conclusions based on what you hear. Travel is great!

#senegal #westafrica #africa #bayefall #mouride #begging #religion #tradingwithreligion #spiritualopportunism #childabuse #dakar #africanlife #exploitation #travel #travelstories #traveladventure #travellife #travelblog #traveladdict #nature #naturephotography #donotjudge

2 thoughts on “Spiritual Opportunism

  1. So, this is more a question. – Even knowing there is a whole exploitative business system around begging (blatantly eviden in affluent cities like Paris!), the level of poverty and suffering breaks my heart and makes me feel so helpless. Even if I gave every person that asks 100 dollars, I would run out of money in no time, and it would make no effing difference at all, not to most recipients. It feels like throwing into a big black hole, becaues unless someone finds their own way to help themselves, no support will make a difference. Yet, a lot of our systems and society makes it way, way hard to help oneself…How do you deal with this?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t engage in activities in which I don’t believe. Even though many people are in need, I don’t support begging. There are many other avenues to helping them. Finding ones that you can stand behind whole heartedly is key.

      Liked by 1 person

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