There is a sacred spot outside of Damascus called Sednaya.
It is a very old monastery run by nuns, on top of a steep hill, overlooking the whole of Damascus and its surrounding areas...
Inside this monastery, there is a tiny worship place, a sanctuary.
You need to bow down as you enter...
In the middle of this sanctuary, there are hundreds of candles burning and the smell of incense.
The main wall is adorned with golden icons, and in the middle, there is a small niche, glowing with light, and this is where Mother is. Our Lady Maryam, had appeared in Sednaya and has healed many...
Pilgrims flock from all over the Middle East, Christians and Muslims alike, invoking Mother, supplicating her, asking for favors, for healing, for blessings...
I was there too. The tiny sanctuary was very crowded and we waited in line to visit this niche and talk to Mother... I stepped aside, and found a corner. I kneeled..I had a lot to tell Her.
As I usually do, I pray first for my family, my friends and those who are close to me in mind and heart, those I care about.
Then my prayer extends to all the departed ones all the way to my ancestors.
Then, I pray for Iraq. All of its people, its women, its men, its children. I have a special prayer for the orphans and the widows, the sick and the homeless...
Then I pray for the people of the Middle East, in particular the Palestinians.
From there my prayer extends to everyone in need regardless of their nationality or religion. Then I pray for the earth and all that is on it. Then I pray for my enemies...
This last one is the most difficult one.
That day I asked Mother to help me with this last prayer. And this is what I said to her.
Gracious, Blessed Mother. You who knows the secrets of the Heart for you have been touched by the Divine Light- Light my path.
You have healed many, heal my heart.
I am asked to rise through Love, yet I feel no Love in me. I feel no Love for my enemies. They have inflicted so much harm, pain, viciousness, cruelty...I find nothing loveable about them.
They have killed, and destroyed thousands of lives. Have turned thousands little ones into orphans and have ripped through a thousand widows hearts.
They have raped, stolen, cursed, bombed, tortured, maimed, thousands of innocent ones - young and old.
They have forced thousands into exile, facing harsh conditions, unwanted and abandoned.
The indifference is thicker than silence, thicker than the darkest veil, and has fallen on so many eyes...Tell me Mother, how can I love them?
Some of them are not that way. But what about the majority who are careless? Are they not accomplices too, through their carelessness?
There are a very few of them who are aware, but what about the silent majority, who see nothing but themselves, when the worst of atrocities are committed in their names? How can I love them Mother?
Help me please. I have to go through every day keeping a sense of normalcy, when everything around feels abnormal...
I see members of my family rotting away in prisons on no charges, some of them were killed, some were tortured, some lost their homes, some lost their sons, some are fearful of returning for they carry the wrong name, some are ill and can’t afford treatment, some are cooped up at home and harassed daily, some are no longer able to feed theirs...
Am talking about my own family Mother. This is just one person. Can you imagine that one person's grief multiplied by millions? Where can I find the Love, Mother?
We are all scattered to the winds, our lives have been radically changed in a short time. I no longer recognize anything or anyone. There has been an inner upheaval, a 360 degrees turn, upside down. All my points of reference have been destroyed. Everything I believed in has been plucked from its roots, all the notions, concepts and beliefs I held about humanity have been smashed to pieces...
Even my faith is shaky, doubtful, tethering on the brink of an abyss...
So tell me please where can I find the Love? Where can I find the forgiveness? Where?
It's ongoing, it has not stopped and does not look as if it is about to end...
Where can I find all these noble states of being that everyone preaches to me about ?
All has disintegrated, all has been destroyed, where can we start anew ?
On which grounds, when the grounds themselves have been cracked wide open turning into holes, deep holes that pave our paths?
And which path Mother ? Which path when we can see no future?
So tell me, where can I find the Love?
I must have prayed or talked for a long while. I did not feel time pass by, it was suspended. And when I raised my head, the sanctuary was empty. Everyone had left and here I was alone in the darkness, a darkness illuminated by the burning candles and the smell of incense.
I raised my head and looked at the niche where Mother was watching like through a little window...like through an opening. There was a peaceful silence, a heavy peaceful silence.
I heard no reply to my question.
One of the nuns in charge of the sanctuary came towards me and gave me a small piece of cotton soaked in sacred oil. She said :
“Wipe yourself, It will ease it...”
I took it and thanked her.
I left the sanctuary and headed to a court-like open space that overlooks the whole of Damascus. The horizon stretched for miles ahead, as it to encompass all of this land, well beyond Damascus...
I held the piece of oily cotton in one hand, and contemplated the scenery. That sense of peaceful silence did not leave me. I felt it again as I was looking on, far removed, detached from the tumult, on top of this steep hill...
Then it occurred to me - my prayer was answered.
I was not supposed to love or forgive my enemy, that was neither my obligation, nor my duty.
I am to do other things - I am to “ease it” for my family, my people and myself.
As for the unwanted, imposed enemies, whoever they are, what I needed to do, was very simple - really.
I only had to remember that sacred niche in the East, where Mother appeared.
That land in the East, where she was born and where she took root and that by itself, that firm knowledge, unshakeable knowledge, will “Ease It”...Out.
As I looked on, to this land that seemed to stretch to infinity, I realized it was nothing but a question of Time.
Painting: Iraqi artist, Rakan Dabdoob.