By June 7, 2012 5 Comments

Beacons of Light

I was probably eleven years old when both my younger brother and I were sent to St. Joseph’s School – Cornet Chahwan in Lebanon.  My parents enrolled us there out of necessity as there were no schools in Qatar offering the curriculum desired for us.

During the weekdays we boarded at the school and on weekends we stayed with our grandparents who lived nearby.  I hated that school.  It was soulless, cold and I used to look forward to the weekends for it meant being away from the nasty teachers and the other students, the majority of whom were bullies.  The only consoling aspect of the school was the large library, I used to spend most of my time there.  I knew it was the one place the bullies despised and I loved reading…

The civil war was confined to Beirut and we were relatively ‘safe’ in our village, however we could still hear the rare distant and sporadic booms and bangs.

Although we were located away from the war, evil still found ways to slither into our village and pollute the minds and hearts of our once simple community.  Family members and old friends split as a result of politically charged disputes.  Such differences invariably led to broken homes or confrontations, frequently ending in bitter physical altercations and even death.

All sorts of stories circulated about ‘the others’ i.e the Muslims.   Conversations shifted with the tone of ‘them’ and ’us’.

I found it impossible to listen to or even accept obscene jokes about other religions.  I was brought up in Doha, Qatar a Muslim country.  Our home was open to people of all religions and cultures.  It was a home decorated with religious symbols, holy books and scriptures from various religions.  I was born into a Christian family but I did not feel different to any other religion.  In fact, at my young age I did not think that there was a difference in religions in the first place.

St. Joseph’s School was a strict Christian school.  We were forced to attend mass in the school church every Monday morning.  I remember the priests preaching to us about love and how Jesus taught us to love our enemies and to forgive them.  Religion fascinated me and I found myself immersed in the teachings.  I felt that I was on the right path and proud of being a Christian.   I tried to follow the teachings and forgive the bullies but it was very hard at times…

As the war evolved, further divisions started to emerge.  It was no longer Christians against Muslims, the war transformed into a situation where Christians had become divided and engaged in battles against one another.

My parents were having building work done to my grandfather’s house and a group of builders were attending to the task on a daily basis.  One day, as I stood at the entrance of the house, I saw a large red car pull up at the front.  Four burly, scary armed militiamen emerged from the car brandishing AK47’s.  I watched the proceedings in silence, frozen to the spot.  The militiamen saw me at the entrance but they ignored me and went straight for the petrified and panicking builders.   Right before my eyes, the militiamen pounded the builders’ heads and faces with their AK47’s

They beat them, slapped them, punched them and when one of them fell to the ground they started kicking him.   There was blood everywhere and I distinctly remember the sounds the machine guns made as they impacted on victims’ skulls.

I had never seen adults behave in such a manner, the anger was immense, it was terrifying and rather than run away into the house, I remained mesmerized and fixated rooted to the same spot.  There were screams, shouts and cries of pain and eventually the builders were led away by the ‘growling’ militia and ordered to leave.  At one point one of the militia cocked his machine ready to fire at them and they again begged to be allowed to leave and they left.

The militiamen left in their red car, tires screeching loudly, the engine roaring like a wild animal.  My grandfather called me into the house and I saw that he was angry with me because I had not returned to the house when it all started.  I could not reply, I was in shock and my grandmother noticed the trembling and made me drink some water and they tried to distract me and my brother, but I could not erase the sequence of events from my head.

My grandfather’s face was solemn for the rest of the day; he was deeply troubled.  I asked him to explain what had happened and I learned that the builders were from an opposing political party so the local militia attacked them.  I knew that the local militia were Christians but how could they beat the builders with such savagery.  Are they not supposed to ‘love their enemy’, to follow in the steps of Christ and his teachings?

My perspective of my school, the church and all the preaching started to change.  Our teachers used to beat us to punish us; I may accept their punishment and attribute it to their ignorance.  We were intolerable at times and they were forced to exercise the only form of discipline they knew best.

The cruelty that I witnessed on that day changed my life and perspective on religion forever.  I learned that people are born into different religions but it does not necessarily mean that they are genuine believers.

We were eventually moved to another school in another country and we left the bitter memories behind.  As I grew older I learned more about the war and I saw that what I had witnessed was tame compared to other atrocities that were committed.   I remember seeing a photo of the corpse of a priest being dragged by a car driven by Christian militia.  He was alive when his legs were bound and tied to the car and dragged through the streets to die horribly and slowly.  His crime – he was a Palestinian.

Yet again I found myself in turmoil, how could Christians do this?  Where is God’s supposed love for us?  His ‘children’.

Years later, I was having a coffee with a dear friend who is a Muslim and he told me a story from the Holy Quran.  I beg my Muslim readers to forgive me if I do not recall it properly.

The story goes that when God banished the devil from heaven the enraged devil turned to God and said:

“…I shall stand on their left (referring to the humans) and I shall stand on their right.   I shall stand behind them and in their path so that they will never reach you…”

Equally interesting is the following excerpt from the movie The Exorcist between the two priests who are trying to save the helpless girl Regan from the devil’s possession:

“KARRAS: Why this girl, it makes no sense?

MERRIN: I think the point is to make us despair… To see ourselves as… animal and ugly… To reject the possibility that God could love us.”

It is very sad to see that the devil has indeed won on many fronts and to some degree he has succeeded in making us turn against one another and against love but equally, I know that in this darkness there are beacons of light to keep us illuminated and warm.  Individuals who refuse to succumb to evil and continue to believe in all that is good despite the odds.  As long as they give of themselves, our paths will forever remain illuminated.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article.  Please feel free to share it.

Blessings

Garo Dedeyan
7 June 2012
London, UK

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5 Comments on "Beacons of Light"

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  1. Tona Missi says:

    كارو كتابتك رائعة عم بقرأ كل كلمة وعم بتعيشني معك بهديك الأيام بحلوها ومرها واحلى شي بالموضوع اني عم افهم كل كلمة لأنو بتعرف انكليزيتي على قدا بس كتابتك السلسة ساعدتني كتير ، رائع انت بالكتابة وبالتصوير واخيرا بالإخراج يعطيك العافية حبيبي

  2. Garo Dedeyan says:

    شكرا يا خالتي الغالية

  3. Claudine says:

    So happy to see you writing again!

    Love from your biggest fan!

    Patout x

  4. Layal says:

    You are simply talented in every way my dearest friend and brother.

  5. MFN says:

    Please can u advise how I obtain permission to use beacon of light photo

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