Columbia Star

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Coming to America: African dignitary tours Washington

Originally published March 11, 2005

Dr. Naby Camara

Dr. Naby Camara

Dr. Naby Camara, a Muslim, was struck by the religious spirit he found in America. He commented many times, “Before you eat, you pray. Before you work, you pray. Before you sleep, you pray. Everyone says, ‘God bless you.’ This must be why America is such a powerful country.”

At his request Dr. Camara was taken to the Macedonian Baptist Church in Camden by Dr. Barbara Fisher. After the service, he said, “ This Christian church is different from our mosques. You sing and dance. You pray to God in simple and personal words. We have the same God, but you approach him differently. It is good.”

Dr. Jim Fisher and I drove Dr. Camara to Washington, D.C. to catch his Air France flight back to Guinea. While in D.C., we visited the Guinea ambassador to the U.S., Rafiou Barry. Dr. Camara informed him of the many awards he had received and the research he had done while having eye surgery in S.C.

Dr. Camara wanted to thank Congressman Joe Wilson for helping him get a visa to the U.S. In Wilson’s office we met Eric Dell, the congressman’s chief of staff, and several interns. Wilson took us to the capitol gallery and we watched him give a brief speech on the House floor. Later, Tillman Busbee, a Wilson assistant, took us on a tour of the capitol. Dr. Camara was especially interested in the many pictures and statues of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr.

On Dr. Camara’s final day in America, Congressman Joe Wilson took us to the White House for a personal tour. Once again Camara was amazed at the grandeur and openness of official buildings. He continued to be impressed with the courtesy and friendliness of Americans at all levels of society. He asked the Secret Service Agent, “Is it true President Bush and his wife live here?” The agent replied, “ Yes, sir, right up those stairs.”

As we entered the last hallway, Dr. Camara stopped at the famous painting of President John F. Kennedy. He stared for a long time, then asked, “Is he praying?” I told him, “Maybe. Maybe he is meditating or just thinking.”

After a long pause, Dr. Camara said, “He must be thinking of the enormous weight he has on his shoulders. He is the most powerful man in the world, but he must do what is right for all people. He looks sad…”

I was sad as we bade farewell to our good friend. He came to America to heal his eyesight. He left with a new vision of Americans, the way we live, the wealth we have, and the manner in which we respect each other. It was a good trip for him and for all who had the privilege of meeting him.

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