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Intercultural Communication for Christian Ministry

Honour in Morocco

A few days ago my wife’s engagement ring was stolen from our house when we had

a tradesman over. To be honest we felt that it would be gone forever. North

African’s very rarely admit being at fault because it is too shameful. Also to

be called or to be known as a thief is a very grave insult. It’s very hard to

explain just how powerful this concept of honour and shame is. Right and wrong

is not as important as honour & shame.

There are two men who run a hardware store nearby. I try to find reasons to

buy something there and chat to them… a few thumbtacks here, wire there etc.

They’d recommended the tradesman to me and I’d bought the supplies from them.

It was the local way, mixing relationship and business and I felt like our

friendship was starting to strengthen. Last night I went and told them about

the situation, asked them what to do and was careful not to shame the

tradesman by accusing him outright. I came home frustrated, unable to

understand them when they became animated.

We prayed a lot, realising that it was just a possession and

hoping somehow to turn the situation into an opportunity to show grace.

My wife felt that we should ask if the ring had “fallen into his bag” when the

bedside table was moved, even though we all knew that the bag was in another

room all day. I took our team mate with better Arabic back to the hardware

shop and we explained the situation again asking that they mediate for us. We

said that we didn’t want to publicly shame him and that we knew that they

themselves were honest men. This morning the tradesman came to my door asking

me to please forgive him because the ring had “fallen into his bag” when he

was packing up. I thanked God that the ring had been found and told him that

there wasn’t any problem between us. The strange thing is that we all know he

took the ring but by giving him an excuse, he was able to return it and not

feel shame.

Source known but withheld.