ONE Magazine

The official publication of
Catholic Near East Welfare Association

Celebrating 50 years | God • World • Human Family • Church

“In the Depths of My Pain…”

Excerpts from the letter of a 14-year-old boy named Walid, who lives in the midst of war.

I can still hear the sound of cannons telling me that people somewhere hit by stray shells are dying.

Ever since we left the village, I feel as though something within me has gone to pieces. We lost everything. Our house was burnt. My books have been torn up. Our furniture was stolen. But what is more important is the fact that the nights of the village and its fresh mornings are gone forever. It is as though I have lost my roots and have become like grass blown by the wind, as the psalmist puts it.

Time is no longer the endless ticking of hours and minutes on the big clock at the entrance of our house. I have even lost my childhood memories. The old clock and its monotonous ticking, which seemed as though it measured the heartbeats of all those in the house – the clock has been broken, and time with it has come to a standstill. I had thought of it as the endless chain of sleeping and waking up, of work in the fields. It was the time of life. But time now scares me. It belongs to the one in a military uniform who stands behind a cannon. It is the time of death.

One night in September, shells poured on our village. We fled in the night. We did not take anything with us. We hid in a cave near the bridge and waited for the mad night to subside so we could go back home. We waited for a long time, but the thundering cannons did not stop. So we fled through the fields and through the valley until we reached Beirut. There we stayed with some relatives.

We thought we had escaped the mad night. But the night caught up with us in its madness.

Are we going through a nightmare? Has time really come to a standstill as the clock on the wall of my grandfather’s house in the village fell to pieces?

The amount of war and the thickness of death have gone way beyond measure.

Then someone came and told us that our house in the village, my grandfather’s house, was burnt down. “So and so” set fire to it with his friends after they had ransacked it.

My fear and my sadness grew into hatred.

How strange is this hatred. It acquired for me the shape of a face, the face of the one who had set fire to our house.

This hatred is like a sore. It grew roots within me and spread death inside me.

I let it grow inside me and obsess me, and it fed on my flesh and blood.

It grew and spread like a sore which is filled with emptiness and pus.

I woke up to the thundering cannons in Beirut. I asked myself: How can a young man stand behind a cannon and throw shells all around us in the block? I thought of this young man, and to me he acquired the face of the one who had ransacked my grandfather’s house and set fire to it up in the village.

And in the midst of the noise of thundering cannons, in the depths of my pain, I finally understood:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have no love, 1 am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.

Love alone forbears all things and is patient.

Love alone can bear the burden of the living for there is nothing love cannot face. It can suffer the one who stands behind a cannon and the one who has set fire to my grandfather’s house.

We carry our dead with us like open wounds.

Each one of us has to bear the wound of loved ones who are no more. This is a difficult task.

But if we let the wound obsess us, it grows and spreads inside us like a sore which is filled with emptiness and pus. It grows within us unto death.

But the time of life is different.

It is the time of love which overcomes death. It overcomes it for it does away with the burden of death and rests in the hope that keeps no score of wrongs but rejoices in truth and endures all things and suffers all things and hopes all things. Love alone never fails. Love alone heals wounds.

Our world is torn up and our hearts are bleeding. Love alone is our peace, our consolation, and our resurrection.

A copy of the letter by Walid was shared by the Orthodox Relief Service in Beirut. Walid and his family emigrated to Canada in 1985.

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