I sit in the shadows watching as an old priest in orthodox tradition, giving the liturgy in Arabic…talking about salvation and mercy. Some parts of Cairo are pristine and untouched. Then suddenly as one turns a corner, nothing but skeletons; the bare bones of old memories and long ago picked carcasses of history. The rhythmic timbre of his voice, like musical notes slipping through time and entering my thoughts,
[…]You don’t hurt others to save yourself. God will not accept your salvation on the backs of another. God won’t have mercy on you in the end. Have mercy on those who help you, care for you and take care of those who take care of you and your soul will be washed or cleansed and you shall be first in salvation[…]
His incantation, but a slow murmur; almost hypnotic as he slips between Arabic and Greek. The building empty, except for 2 old women whispering in the corner and a young mother dragging her little one across an isle. His voice filling the void between chaos and calm. My heart beating faster as I hide in distractions from my own thoughts and memories. Sometimes the suffering becomes too much. Then I realize, maybe it’s me and not them. I look around and life is moving forward. I’m standing still. His voice bleeds into my thoughts. His monotonous tone suddenly lifting and swaying in comforting rhythmic waves.
[…] There is no power greater than sacrifice…sacrifice and redemption require compassion and mercy. Be kind to those are kind to you. Have compassion for those who hurt you and love those who will love you back. Sacrifice for those who will sacrifice for you. The offering fuels the calm…To be among the merciful is the highest calling there is[…]
I wasn’t really listening after that. What stuck in my head most was:
“[…] you don’t hurt others to save yourself […]”
I’m not sure of the intended focus of his topic. I could only hear bits and pieces though my own distractions. There was an odd silence and a slow hum. I could hear voices beyond the walls, speaking rapidly and sometimes I could hear laughter in the distant night. Maybe it was the influence of my journey to get here. Maybe it was my own paranoia. I heard every sound, even the silence was overwhelmingly and unnerving. In the distance, was it gun fire or just my imagination out of control? Every shadow, friend or foe?
I try to relax and put on a façade-confident and unafraid. That’s my reputation. I’m tough, fearless and self-assured. I’m reminded. It’s amazing what a person can get used to. Not tonight. Tonight I sit watching shadows fading from place to place. I watch lights flicker and burn away. I hear every sound and nothing at all. I watch the everyday, as people come and go. I’m startled out of my thoughts and jump slightly as I hear the sounds of an angry mob. I pause for a moment, uncertain; take a deep breath, I remind myself. I look around. No one is moving. When in Egypt…I walked slowly through the aisles and toward the front entrance. I see a crowd running past. The new normal of Cairo…the peace and chaos meshed into some unimaginable new civility.
I’m not too bright when it comes to danger. Most run from it. I tend to run to it. I would be that person running into the woods alone at night chasing after some mysterious figure , all for the satisfaction of assuaging my curiosity. That’s me. I walk down the road following the crowd. Nothing serious, but only in my own mind. Just a wedding; a moment of happiness and joy in in all the chaos; something good and positive rising from the rubble. How amazing that life goes on. When morning comes, I still can’t sleep.
It’s the mundane that I take for granted. I take for granted all of my every days, my usual trip to the gym without a worry or my bi monthly grocery shopping spree. It is not only Egypt. I’m a Muslim woman in an uncertain world, the violence growing, the attacks against my community and so much anger and hate, drowning out any semblance of peace. So maybe this security which I once took for granted, isn’t so assured now. Maybe what I am seeing here, is a glimpse into the future of my adopted homeland. This is new normal, the calm-chaos of everyday life. Did that already happen? Did I become numb to the chaos and violence? I did not noticed until I had no other choice.
Life continues, through the anger, through the pain and even through the destruction. We are a resilient species. It is another sign of mercy in an uncertain existence.
Churches burnt to the ground all in the name of Islam, I’m told.
All of this for what? It is not in the name of Islam. It is in the name of power and control. People being the victims to another oppressive force, superimposing itself upon Islam to achieve an agenda. They don’t even pretend to follow Islam. Not by action or thought. It’s just the facade placed upon them to validate the existence and aggressive nature of their intentions. The world coming apart it seems.
…just stuck in my head the rest of the morning.
This is not my Islam. This is some vapid creature that not even the Prophet would recognize.
It reminded me of a saying by the Prophet Muhammad(pbuh)…Allah will not be merciful to those who are not merciful to others…