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Site Last Update: 19 Oct, 2019
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A Slave Girl’s Tears of Joy
Siwema was a young girl belonging to the Yao people who lived in a small, but beautiful village in the Livingstone Mountains near Lake Nyasa in Malawi. The abrupt death of her father sank her family into crippling indebtedness. She and her mother were seized by Arab slave traders in payment of the debt and led on a harrowing and painful trek to the Indian Ocean coast. During the journey the Arab slave-caravan leader murdered her mother before Siwema’s very eyes. After reaching Bagamoyo, Tanzania Siwema embarked upon a horrible sea voyage to the island-coastal slave market at Zanzibar.

Upon arrival in Zanzibar, Siwema herself was thrown into a garbage heap by a slave trader who was disgusted by her ill-health. There a jackal picked at her weak body, but, rescued by a young man from Réunion who attended the mission, she entered the care of the Sisters and became well again. Siwema's life changed completely. She helped the Sisters wherever she could.

The Sisters invited her to attend religious instructions. The Spiritan Fathers, able to speak her language, told her about God who sent his own son Jesus Christ to bring love to all. All should forgive, all should love everybody, even enemies. Siwema was fascinated. She asked if also she could become a Christian. "Yes", she was told and got further teaching. She was so happy.

One night she had a dream. In her dream she saw the cruel Arab with the white beard who had killed her mother and who treated her so badly. He was lying on the ground, full of blood. She went to him. She killed him. Next morning she attended religious instructions. The Father taught about the Lord’s Prayer. He came to the quotation: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive our trespassers". "No, never", Siwema cried. "Never, never shall I forgive! For all the years of my life I shall never forgive him!" "I understand you,” the Father said. "Deep in my heart I understand you. But with such a big sense of hatred you cannot be baptized. All of us, you and me, have to overcome their sins. You have to overcome your hatred also."

Days later Siwema was called by the Sisters to the hospital. A British ship had captured a ship of Arabs smuggling African slaves from Bagamoyo to Zanzibar. The Arabs defended their load and many were injured. One very badly. The Sisters asked Siwema to clean his wounds. Siwema entered the room where the Sisters had laid him down on a mat. Her heart almost stopped beating. She saw an Arab slave trader. She recognized him. It was the cruel man with the white beard. He was bleeding. Blood came out of his head and nose. “The Arab!" Siwema cried. Hatred came back into her heart. But there was also something else. She saw the cross on the wall. She saw Jesus on the cross. "Jesus, did you die on the cross for this Arab too?" she asked. Suddenly she heard herself praying: "Jesus, please, forgive me my hatred as I forgive this Arab."

She was not aware that she was praying in a loud voice. One of the Sisters was in the room. "Siwema", she said, "do you know that you were saying the Lord’s Prayer?" Do you know that you are now ready for baptism?" Siwema cried, but they were tears of joy. The next day Siwema was baptized and received the Christian name Mary Magdalena. Later she entered the Sisters’ congregation as a postulant.