A day after Dr Abd Al Masih Nwiya, Bassam Michael and Ashur Abraham were executed by ISIS, I need to find some escape from reality. I go out and on my way home, I call a friend from Church to confirm a coffee catch-up later on. Unsurprisingly, we start talking about the execution when he tells me that one of the martyrs was my neighbour’s relative. Suddenly the knot in my stomach gets bigger. I realise that on some level, I already knew that. Somehow I felt it yesterday. My neighbour is a widow. Her husband’s aunt and 5 cousins were kidnapped from Khabour in February. She fears for their safety and for this reason has asked me not to disclose the name of her cousin.
On my way home, all I can think about is how this war keeps getting closer to home. Now it’s in my neighbourhood. The very suburb I used to play in happily as a kid now seems full of sadness.
As I open the door, I hear crying. It’s my neighbour! What will I say? I feel weak!! It feels like the grief is never going to leave, not just her but anyone. “How much longer can we all endure this?” I wonder as I take a deep breath and walk in. I feel guilty but I don’t know why. I feel the room getting warmer as I approach her to give her my condolences. My tears start to flow with hers. “Please God not again!” I think. “Don’t let me breakdown! Please give me strength.” Nuri’s article “We often cry, but cannot give up” comes to mind.
I try to talk to her but she is quiet. I know she is thinking of her nephew. My tears won’t stop. How I can I have so many tears left in me?? I feel like I’ve been crying for over a year. Me and everyone on the ADFA. Bitter, endless tears.
When she finally finds her voice she says, “ What can I say? We don’t have any new information. We know that they were murdered 2 weeks ago. There could be others who have died since then. Who knows? My thoughts are with the girls and the women. We really don’t know anything.”
I don’t tell her what I think. My thoughts are too dark to share. As I watch her begin to cry again those feelings of guilt start to come back. I am not sure why. Logically, I know there is nothing I could have done to prevent this. And yet, I can’t help wonder if there was something more I could have done.
I ask her if there’s anything more she wants to share.
“We can only pray to God because I don’t see any help coming from international players. I pray that God will strengthen them in their belief! And I pray that God can lead the Islamic State onto the right path. Just as Jesus asked God to forgive his murderers as he was dying on the cross, I ask He forgives them. I pray for Syria. Not just for Syria but everywhere there is war!”
As I leave the room, I feel even guiltier. I struggle to understand how if I, someone who is not in politics, who doesn’t have an army or billions at my disposal, can spend so many sleepless nights thinking what I can do to try and help, then how do those who can actually make a difference sleep at night? It’s not right. Those 3 men were sons and brothers and husbands. They had lives and dreams and hopes. And now they are gone. Murdered.
As I write this, the family is still hoping for that IS will return the bodies to the Assyrian Church for a proper burial. If they do, it will give the family a chance to say their final goodbyes. It’s a goodbye we all hoped would not have happen. And yet here we are. How many others await the same fate? How many more? I shudder to think and the tears come again.
Peter El Khouri