A common expression in Africa that we hear often is, “I’m going to cane you!”. Caning is just what it sounds like, it is to hit someone with a wooden cane to punish them. Sometimes there is one cane and sometimes many, sometimes one parent, two classmates or a large group, depending on the circumstance. Sometimes quite undeserved. In Jinja we heard the phrase frequently and saw canings as we drove down the road or visited a school. At the schools, there are children put in charge of caning the other children to keep them in line. There we could just ask those children in charge to not do so. It might be short lived, but we saved a few children some unnecessary pain. But when we were driving down the road and would see a mob with a big, thick, metal rod pursuing someone for the crime of theft usually, we gently told the girls to cover their eyes or distracted them, while we drove passed. We were instructed never to get involved in these kind of situations, for they could turn on us and more, likely than not, we wouldn’t understand the circumstances or cultural rules enough to be helpful, so we stayed out and prayed. Stories were numerous and it hurt to hear them, so again we went to our faithful Father and discussed the matters of heart with Him.
While we lived in the village and the canings were not something observed by us parents alone as we drive down the road, but were face to face. They were running past David or the boys as they were out with the people. I have been so fortunate to have missed all of these live episodes, but not so for my family. Josiah ran inside the house one day quiet concerned, “They are caning another women.” We asked many questions to ascertain what he saw or knew. Sure enough at the corner, just a half a block away the village people, men and women both, were grabbing sticks to bring their justice to bear. The question with personal justice or even judicial justice is the one in charge of carrying it out. Real justice is brought forth by the truly righteous. If we have warped morals what kind of justice will be brought about. I believe that is why Jesus said, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Just a few months in the village brought such clarity to this common incident.
Caning is a very real part of this culture. Children are caned for disobedience or maybe just because the parent is angry, drunk, isn’t particularly fond of what a child has said or done, or maybe doesn’t know what else to do. Theft is handled first by caning. If they live past it, the offender will possibly go to jail. The jails are full and not so proficient, so it is easier on the police if the people bring justice by their own hands. If you break the lines of culture, public caning might be your punishment as well. That is what happened the day Josiah ran into the house concerned.
This is a burden to us. We are close enough that we hear the stories, offenses, crimes, and even though we agree there was a wrong done usually, is a caning the right answer? Yet, it is not our culture and not our say. We cannot speak into it or can we? At this point, NO, but David does go down and speak to his friend Olugo, who has influence in this village. That day, we huddled together to pray as a family about this alarming dilemma and had a discussion afterward. God usually has a bridge in the culture, which can be used to communicate the gospel. What if caning was that bridge to Jesus. Jesus received a caning and then was hung on a tree to die and raise to life, to offer forgiveness, life, and freedom to all those who will believe in Him. What a great avenue for us all to come together to pray that these people might know and love Him who made them in His image and called them into His wonderful light and learn what true justice is.