The Asbury Collegian

Campus Faces: Ethan Garrett

By Megan Gieske, Staff Writer

When sophomore Ethan Garrett, whose family lives 150 yards from a mosque, hears the Muslim call to prayer he thinks about the early mornings in Dakar, Senegal.

Garrett, a Media Communication major, first flew to Senegal with his parents when he was 3 months old. He was born in the U.S. on furlough to two missionaries. His mom leads their community in nutritional therapy and his dad “teaches university students English, integrating faith conversations (into their learning material),” Garrett said.

The air in Senegal is still and hot all day. Heavy and scented, it tastes of arid lands. Tall, sauntering women balance vessels and baskets on their heads. Egg sellers walk house to house, often with stacks of egg cartons 3 feet high above their heads. In this city, the streets are lined with stalls of fresh veggies and fruits. Like any underdeveloped country, there is “begging and often a little bit of trash floating through the air,” Garrett said of the streets of Senegal.

“The cars are not driving on the right or the left but the best side of the road,” Garrett said. “While you’re walking down the street, you’ll play games to see how many taxis you can touch between home and school. If there’s a break in traffic, you run across the street. That’s how it is in Senegal.”

The word for Senegal is teranga, which translates from Wolof (a language of Senegal, the Gambia and Mauritania) to English as “hospitality.” While 95 percent of Senegalese are Muslim, according to Garrett, it’s even common in the cities for animists, those who believe that non-human entities posses a spiritual essence, to wear amulets (called “gris-gris”) or to consult with diviners or marabouts for protection against evil spirits or to place a curse on another person.

“But Islam is a religion of peace,” Garrett said. “Their greeting is ‘peace be with you.’ There’s a big misunderstanding (in our country), because when you start learning anything about Islam, you realize it’s similar (to Christianity).”

Reverent Muslims believe in and learn some of the same Old Testament stories as Christians—Moses and the exodus from Egypt, the celebrating of Passover or Ramadan and the sacrifice of Isaac or Eid.

 “But Islam is a religion of peace,” Garrett said. “Their greeting is ‘peace be with you.’ There’s a big misunderstanding (in our country), because when you start learning anything about Islam, you realize it’s similar (to Christianity).”

Garrett wears a ring engraved with the outline of Africa. It’s a class ring from Dakar Academy, a K-12 Christian private school, where he graduated after enrolling in the fifth grade. Garrett wants to return to assist in Media Communication post-graduation.

“We may be a third world country with a poor infrastructure and a corrupt government that needs some assistance from developed countries,” Garrett said, “but when you hear about Ebola and how it’s in ‘West Africa,’ it becomes a very blanket statement that affects a whole bunch of countries.” He’d like to report on Africa with a new accuracy, by working for tourism companies like I Love Senegal and promoting the Muslim culture of peace.

While Africa remains a continent that comes back year after year like a perennial flower, its history is changing rapidly. Garrett thinks there is still a role for to play there.