Promoting cross-cultural communication
“Assalaamu alaikum,” Rhimo Bachaumi will say to you in greeting. “It means peace be with you,” she explains, and it is the first thing spoken upon meeting someone in Morocco because “Islam is essentially a faith of peace.” For Rhimo, this observance is a vital part of representing her country as “the genuine Morocco.” Interestingly, Morocco is a blend of cultures, including Berber, Arab, Sub-Saharan, and European, producing its famously graceful and ornate architecture, colorful ceramics, and fountains set among stately date palms, oases, and coastal resorts so typical of her home city of Tangier and of the nearby Tetouan where she attends a university. Yet, “the beautiful life in our country is threatened by the horror of a prospective war,” Rhimo says, referring to protests, refugees, and events such as the bombing several years prior in the modern city of Casablanca.
A universal issue that has remained unresolved throughout human history is that of regionalism versus nationalism. Non-dominant cultures within a nation often spawn separatist movements that are, in turn, supported by rival nations, and all-too-often the result is war. Morocco is just one of the countries plagued with this problem. Those living along the southwestern coast of Morocco at the edge of the Sahara have demanded independence and global recognition. Neighboring Algeria helps arm them and hosts its many refugees.
“The people of so-called West Sahara are our neighbors,” Rhimo explains. “We share common factors, those of history, geography, language, and religion.” The conflict has a negative effect on people, she says, “threatening brotherhood and the friendship between nations and the peaceful existence of every local population.” It is clear to many young people of Morocco like Rhimo that instead of walling off the separatists with a nearly 2,000 mile berm, an ongoing dialog needs to be a priority and embody common sense, tolerance, and wisdom. She hopes to help broaden international links to widen the scope of such negotiations.
Rhimo is currently a senior at the Abdelmalek Essaadi University in Tetouan, majoring in English literature and cross-cultural studies. She became an officer in the cultural committee of the Future Horizon Club and also participates in a number of volunteer activities to help the people of her community. The Wad Martil Association is a relatively new NGO which Rhimo has dedicated herself to in order to develop its organization and outreach. On Sundays, she focuses on educating illiterate people and gives classes for children or entertains them. Through her efforts at Wad Martil, she has learned leadership skills such as using dialog and problem-solving techniques to enhance teamwork. She found that the more she interacted with her students, both young and old, the greater her sense of responsibility toward them became. “The reward of my perseverance,” she says, “was that I gained their love and respect.”
On religious holidays, Rhimo participates in efforts to feed the poor, and over the summer, she works with the Help and Relief Association. She concludes, “My theory of leadership includes having a sense of responsibility, taking initiative, creativity, stamina, long-term vision, and, above all, communication and optimism.”