“FIGHTING in Somalia is a tradition” said Erasto,* who arrived in the UK from Somalia 15 years ago as an asylum seeker. “People don’t always know what they are fighting about. Our grandfathers were fighting – and we are fighting.
“I came to England hoping for peace. Yes, the UK is peaceful, but the weather is terrible especially when it snows! Africa is just sun and rain, sun and rain.”
Erasto lived for a while in London and Crawley before settling in Coventry in 2003. Some of his friends call him “Smiler”. Why? Because he’s constantly smiling and “always likes to look on the positive side of life” – an amazing feat when you hear his story:
“In 2003, I was working at Central Six Shopping Centre as a car valeter. One evening I had run out of cigarettes and nipped out to buy some in a nearby shop in Bell Green. As I came out of the shop, a group of kids gathered around me and called out, ‘Give us a fag!’ I knew they were underage and said, ‘No’. Next minute they attacked me with a baseball bat. That was the last I knew; I was bleeding badly and had a serious head injury. My partner rang the emergency services and I was taken to hospital.
“I was in a coma for a year, strapped to a machine. Later I spent time in rehab. I’m epileptic now; sometimes I get a bit angry and aggressive too. It’s all connected with my head injury.
“Two years ago a friend told me about Coventry Jesus Centre. I was living in Peace House on the Stoney Stanton Road at the time. I felt very comfortable when I came. I come to every session of The Bridge drop-in and have free breakfasts. I also do IT with Tony and go to Your Space. I’ve made plenty of friends here. Coventry Refugee Centre helped me with accommodation and I’ve got my own flat now.
In 2003, Erasto became a Christian – his partner was a Christian and she persuaded him to try Jesus.
“I really enjoy the ‘Jesus Times’ in the Bridge,” he says, “I love to hear other people talk about their experience of Jesus and I learn from them. Tschaka, a volunteer at the Centre, has prayed with me too.”
Keep going ‘Smiler’. We at the Jesus Centre have so much to learn from you too.
*Name has been changed to protect identity