Pakistan saw it’s darkest hour when innocent kids were brutally massacred in Peshawar by terrorist last week. As every single Pakistani was in mourning, the whole world beyond borders and beliefs stood by us. Thousand miles away here in Canada, Peel District School Board lowered it’s flag half mast for whole week. In India every school observed 2 minutes silence. Twitter trended #IndiaWithPakistan.
Christian community in Karachi sang prayers for Peshawar kids. I hear now that the Christian community in Pakistan has decided not to celebrate Christmas this year.
This takes me down to my memory lane, a decade and a half ago, when I was working in Saudi Arabia in an institution which employed 27 other nationalities.
An Irish Catholic nurse worked with us. She used to fast in the month of Ramadan, out of respect for Muslim colleagues. We all loved her for her understanding of our feelings and for respecting Islam.
A few months later came the last week of December, days before Christmas. Muslim employees quietly circulated a memo, which was mandatory for all Muslims to sign, mentioning that “Muslims are to refrain from wishing Christians on Christmas.”
I was upset. I approached Muslim friend, who reluctantly avoided discussion, as this was the right thing to do.
She tried to explain, “Actually they add rum to the Christmas cake, and hence if we wish, we will have to eat the cake too.”
I was upset even more at her lame explanation.
I came home and searched for answers. Honestly I couldn’t find one, either in favor or against it.
All that was coming up again and again was: “Allah judges you by your intentions.”
On Christmas eve, since it was not a statutory holiday, she was there for work.
Knowing Christmas is an important day for them, and it felt even worse.
I went up to her, “Merry Christmas, how come you are at work today.”
She ignored my Merry Christmas and said, “Yes I couldn’t take off.”
Her silence could tell she knew I had signed the memo not to wish her.
I felt horrible. My eyes could not lie. She patted on my shoulder, and I began to cry. She hugged me and just smiled.
“I am sorry Carol.”
She was not sorry at all. She smiled and tried to change the topic.
I asked her, “Carol, where is my Christmas cake?”
She said she has it at home, and will bring it tomorrow. “Actually you can eat it. I don’t put Rum in the cake since many years.”
She said, “Lets meet over lunch in the cafeteria. Today’s lunch is on me.”
We met at café at noon and chatted for an hour.
She shared a touching story.
In Dublin, some 10 years ago, I used to see an Arab man selling souvenirs on the footpath. I saw him several times pack up his stuff, turn his back on the pile and pray.
I was curious. He said he was a Muslim from Tunisia.
On asking, why does he not keep the pile in front of him, he replied, “Sister my God will protect my stuff, while I am prostrating for Him.”
He was an illegal immigrant, yet had so much positivity in him.
Being a Catholic, I thought it was Christianity who preached peace, but he himself was so much at peace, that I was touched.
“On my way to the grocers, we used to exchange greetings. He always asked, “Hello sister, how are you? Hope all is well with you.””
Once on Halloween, I took some pumpkin pie for him. He said he was fasting, and will take it home and eat when he breaks the fast at sunset.
“Since then I began to fast, in support for a young man who stood all day hungry selling things. I learnt fasting teaches us self control. I developed a deep respect for him and for Muslims. Hence I wanted to travel to Middle East.”
I thought she will continue, “But….”.
But she did not. Instead she said, “I learnt from this young man how to stay positive even in tough situations.”
“I trust Allah will not be offended if I wish her back for her respect for Muslims?” I reminded myself silently.
Are being kind and grateful not Islamic virtues?
Just recently a Christian couple was burnt for a false charge of blasphemy in Pakistan, yet we see the generosity of our Christian community to fore go their celebrations for kids massacred in Peshawar.
Did we even think of not celebrating Eid when the church was burnt down in Peshawar for no reason?
In an event where I was sharing the table with Canadian MP Brad Butt, he mentioned, “I have to go to Pakistan Consulate for their Christmas celebrations with the Canadian Pakistani community.” It felt incredibly good.
Allah knows what is in our minds and hearts. If this is to be grateful to our Christian brothers and sisters, for their solidarity with Pakistani kids, I know what is right thing to do.
And if this will open their hearts for a Muslim me, I know my Allah will love my action.
Merry Christmas !!