Middle East Christianity — True Story

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With little by way of introduction, except to say that the poem below, written in the last couple of days, comes rooted in reality, and is a means to help me continue to pray into the pain of persecuted Christians and Muslims in the Middle East — thinking of the true stories of Syrian and Iraqi millions who have lost hope in this season of their darkness...

True Story

I watched the year on mashable(.com) tonight,
Depressing clips and horrifying sights,
ISIS there, protests here, endless madness.
And how often I come ‘cross a neighbor,
Who brings to life the stories on the news—
Stories of suff’ring, almost ev’ry one.
But do they register? Do we feel th’m?
Do we hear their “Unjust!” cries? How? Are they
Wafts of putrid air—we turn away from?
Paper-cuts of pain—we have learnt to ‘void?

What if we’d do what INCARNATION did?
Entered into skin of distant kindred,
Of Adams and Eves as potential friends,
Paused their story, looked in eyes, let pain come?
What if, once a year—no—month, day, week
(or when our hearts twitched), we didn’t delete?
But took true stories and made them more true,
Followed theirs paths to the back of the shed,
Where the blood was once fresh and their pains real:
Did hard net-searches, let our hearts bleed, tears?

Incarnation acts to sacrifice peace.
It searches for real peace and comes up short.
It stays in that place for thirty three years.
Then, prays John seventeen, and cries: Finished!
Will we do that? Will I try? More often?
If I did, would we be changed? Conversion?
But asking that’s just excuse—diversion!
The real questions are: When? Who’s eyes to see?
To enter in, search backgrounds, prick self by.

Will you try with me? Learn a name, give respect? 
They have histories, their lives are like ours.
Would that we were them, and they were us? Try:
Retrace their steps, follow your twitching heart…
His name’s Saleem. She’s a writer like me…
But better. An Arabic speaker. Full-blooded Syrian.
He fought for months with war-mong’ring ‘fficials.
She left with everything—‘rrived with nothing, 
And when he couldn’t open bank account—
She kept it in her room: slept fitfully.

The food, it’s all different, tasteless, sick’ning.
All thee eat is boiled—morning, noon, and night.
They speak the common language of neighbors,
But what they hear is wrecked by slang and slurs.
He’s a bit younger than I, we are so same…
She’s got eyes for beauty, her losses so great.
His name means Peace, and he has no peace.
“Peace, peace”—we all say—where there is no peace.
If only a word could heal a man-child.
For child he is. As are we all. And she’s too—

We saw it in them both, last night, when they
Came to join us, for an ‘eve of food ‘n fun:
Happened as they were coming to our home,
Ascending metro-steps with Egyptians,
Cool Cairo smog greeting them together…
Sudd’nly “POP! Bang!” kids just playing—
Saleem’s heart stopped—then overdrive—he ran!
Ducking, jumping, dodging, eyes open wide.
Pausing, crouched, under table looking ‘round:
Fire-works. Nothing. This is not that war-zone.

This Egypt’s not Syr’ia. None acts like he does.
No one needs to. Nor would they understand.
Embarrassment. Shame. Self-consciousness. Weeps.
Legs shaking, they ‘rrived—met us late, we ate…
We heard the tale, we saw the hurt. We felt.
For his sake, we watched a “gentle” classic:
“The Sound of Music”—together we sat,
Through three hours of song and too true story—
Only once did he let heart-felt tears out.
Grown man, they rolled slowly down his cheeks…

As Austria’s crowd sang, with fam’ly Von Trapp—
 “E-del-weiss, bless my homeland for-ever,”
She thought of Syr’ia not there any-more:
And he saw black-flags smoth’ring civ’lization.
Last night we entered pain’s story—have you?
For a moment, it was ours, like nail-piercings,
Incarnation, crucifixion, are means,
By which we feel and share and cry and pray.
Be sure you do more, this month, week, day:
Follow the twitch-prick of Spirit in your heart.

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