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Suffering as a Choice

As we lay on our mother’s lap, my elder brother and I did not know what to say except, “Mother, we are very hungry.” Most of the time the answer we received from our mother was a tear filled eye or “Drink water and sleep.”

Ours was a small Christian family, in a country where the majority of the population was Muslim. My brother and I never saw our father. It was at the age of ten that I came to know that my father got converted to Islam and became a Muslim. He forced my mother to become a Muslim too. Since she refused, he left her and got married to a Muslim woman. But my mother neither left her children nor her faith. She was everything for us. She gave sufficient food for our spiritual life. She worked hard in the neighboring houses to give us adequate physical food. However, all of her hard work was in vain. Our neighbors, the so-called holy Christian families, treated my mother worse than they would a slave. They were the main reason for making my family carry the heavy burden of poverty and suffer limitlessly. But my mother bore everything silently. My brother and I began to work hard, at an early age.

As we were coming from our work, I said to my brother, “Brother, at times I feel that life is miserable because of these sufferings. But I feel happy and joyful whenever I think of our mother, you and the Christian faith. Suffering has made us one.” My brother began to yell. “I am fed up of this suffering. We work hard day and night but we gain nothing. We cannot enjoy our childhood as our neighboring children do. Suffering is making me like a wild beast and I am experiencing hell.” And he paused. He was also telling the truth. I could sense his feelings, as we were in the same boat and carrying the same cross. Then he continued, “I need to put an end to this suffering.”

My brother went away from the house one day without saying a word, and did not return. I searched for him everywhere, but in vain. Days of suffering and waiting for my brother turned into months and years.

One night, a group of men, dressed in black and armed with guns, forcefully entered our house. One of them went straight to the crucifix hanging on the wall, and threw it on the ground. My mother ran to pick it up. Suddenly a rain of bullets fell on her. She died. I cried aloud and rushed towards my mother. But two of them pulled me back and held my hands. Then I looked at the man who shot my mother. I was terrified. It was her son, my brother! Then a loud wailing and crying made me look outside the house. I saw many men dressed in black, and also my neighbors running helplessly, to save their lives. But these men were killing all of them, mercilessly. I did not understand anything.

Then one of them came forward and placed a gun before me beside the crucifix. He said to me, “Choose! Do you want to suffer and die for the sake of that toy or convert and become a Muslim and take up that gun to build the Islamic State? If you choose the latter, bliss and glory are yours on this earth and in heaven!”

I looked at the crucifix and then at the gun. Suffering and death, or bliss and glory?

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By Sch. Amith Sandeep D’souza S.J.

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