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In the tiny country of Senegal on the western coast Africa, Teranga is a big deal. Teranga is hospitality but it is more. Teranga is to do unto others so they will be in peace. I was a volunteer in Senegal, working with residents to build a well for a women’s communal garden as a Community Development volunteer for the Peace Corps. And I experienced how the Senegalese people faithfully practice Teranga within a diverse context. Ninety-two percent of the population is Muslim, consisting of two Sufi sects, the Tijani and the Mouride, and the remainder are Christian, mainly Catholic and Animist. Although the official language is French, thirty-six languages are spoken in the country among twenty different “nations". The four largest are the Wolof, Serer, Pular and Joola. I lived in the Serer and Muslim community of Nguecokh (In-gek-o). Water is a big issue here. It doesn’t rain in Senegal nine months of the year. Villages in the countryside lack household running water and irrigation systems, relying mainly on hand-dug wells as their source of water for drinking, cooking, bathing, laundry and gardening. But digging a well was not so straightforward in Nguecokh because we were situated three kilometers from inland salt tributaries flowing from the Atlantic Ocean. When many wells had been dug in the past, often the water had been too salinated for human consumption. I enlisted the help of the international Catholic global development organization, CARITAS, and one of their technicians from France who had overseen the building of wells in a number of nearby communities along the coast. He told me he would bring an expert who would be able to precisely identify the right location for the well. My first thought was that he was referring to a groundwater surveyor. But I was mistaken. The expert, it turned out, was a Senegalese Catholic Monk from a Benedictine Monastery, near the capital of Dakar. The CARITAS technician said, “He’s a savant and will identify an accurate site for finding potable water. Believe me, he’s been doing it for years and has a great reputation.” When the Land Rover pulled up to our compound a few days later, I immediately spotted the savant. He was dressed in a full-length white-hooded flowing robe; a brown rope tied around his waist. Brother Joseph Sarr approached and held out his hand, introducing himself. Though we were from different places, we greeted each other in the local language, breaking the ice. We went through the customary pleasantries, learning his family was from Lambaye, a nearby village, and after exchanging names of relatives, discovered that he and the chief, a Catholic and a Muslim, were distant cousins. We led him to the fenced area that was the designated site of the women’s communal garden. Brother Joseph advanced, asking that we all stay back while he surveyed the area. We stood still and watched. He took big steps toward the center of the fenced-in perimeter, his large sandaled feet striding across the ground contrasting against his white, flowing, gown in the bright, baking sun. He stopped abruptly, heaving back and forth as though he was in a trance. Next, he lay down on the spot where he had been standing and put his ear to the ground. Arising briskly, he repeated his steps until he seemed to find the place he was searching for and knelt down in silence. A tiny black book appeared from his pocket that fit snugly into his palm and his lips moved like he was reciting a prayer. Reaching in his pocket again, he removed a silver ball on a chain about the size of a quarter. He swung it around several times, and it arched in a natural circular motion. Then he held it still and swung it another few times. I was utterly transfixed and uncharacteristically impatient for him to be finished. The CARITAS technician approached with a stick, pitching it in the ground where Brother Joseph was pointing to and announced, “This is the spot where the well should be dug. Fresh water will be found at exactly 17 meters.” Several months later the well-diggers hit water at exactly 17 meters and the women's communal garden was launched. Whether Brother Joseph found the location of fresh water through his spiritual powers or scientific ones will forever be a mystery for me, but I can’t help wondering if it was actually Teranga that was responsible for the miracle that happened on that day. About the Author: Naomi Shank served a Peace Corps Community Development Volunteer in Senegal from 1989-91. Over the years she has returned to the village of Nguecokh and continued to support efforts led by the residents to improve the quality of life in their community. EDITOR’s NOTE: Committed to interfaith work and interreligious dialogue, Ms. Shank works for the The Russell Berrie Foundation. On May 10th, they are co-sponsoring a unique dialogue with Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee. Her interfaith work between Christian and Muslim women brought Liberia’s 14-year civil war to an end. If you wish to attend or live stream Ms. Gbowee in dialogue with American Jewish World Service Global Ambassador, Ruth Messinger, information is available at: The Jewish Theological Seminary. Learn more about Leymah Gbowee at the Nobel Women’s Initiative and the Leymah Gbowee Foundation.