By Sadika Kebbi
Sadika witnessed the Lebanese civil war. The atrocities and the horrors can change a human being into a monster. Is there any hope for tolerance, love and forgiveness after such an experience? “Uncle George” made the difference.
For a print friendly version of the transcript, click here: Be Human Find the George Within You
- Why would a city and country where people of different faiths that get along find itself in Civil War?
- What causes people to go to war over religion?
- How do people heal from traumas such as losing loved ones during a war?
- What in Uncle George’s character allowed him to risk his life to protect his friends? Would you be willing to go to similar lengths to protect your friends?
- Sadika Kebbi TED talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ee6JrASKiD0&feature=youtu.be
- War’s Other Voices: Women Write on the Lebanese Civil War by Miriam Cooke
- Family and Childhood
- Muslim Americans/Muslims
- Taking a Stand/Peacemaking
Hello, my name is Sadika Kebbi. I will take you back in time to the Abba and the Bee Gees whose hit, Staying Alive was the anthem of the 70s. For the 70s, my small country Lebanon, was known to be as the Paris of the Middle East. Where Jews, Christians and Muslims were one entity and religion wasn’t an issue. We always strived for knowledge, culture and fashion.
And like all Lebanese, my friend Jana and I were only 10 years old, and we worked our magic to look older and more fashionable with what we had – our clothing and of course our mother’s accessories high heels and makeup. Not to forget the oranges; we kept on laughing and crying our hearts out trying oranges for the right size until the 6th of December 1975 when the Lebanese civil war took its toll and Christian militias took the lives of many innocent Muslims in a bloody killing spree.
This day became to be known as Black Saturday.
On the evening of that day, I heard shrieks that drove me out of my bedroom and I heard words I never heard in my life before. I will kill Christians! I hate Christians and I will hate them forever!
I rushed out of my bedroom and my mother tried to stop me, but I pushed my way through a group of adults standing by the doorway and I sought my friend Jana to play with her.
I found Jana lying on her pink mattress. But why is she under the sheets? Why can’t I see her face?
Oh, she’s playing hide and seek. And before anyone could stop me I uncovered the spotted seats and I saw her slit throat.
It looked like the mocking smile of a clown telling me here’s you’re Pirates of the Middle East. Here is the new fashion statement of the Lebanese.
I didn’t cry on that day. Instead I put the human within me to sleep and allowed the adults around me to determine my foes. My small country shattered into pieces and all of them became my enemies. I wanted all the Christians gone.
Two years after Jena’s slaughter, our neighborhood was heavily bombarded, and my father took us to safety to the house of his Christian childhood friend known to us as Uncle George.
A few hours later violent knocks shook the houses door and a split of a second uncle George was by my side. He took me in his arms, handed me a Bible and whispered into my ear, “No matter what happens, don’t look at the door – keep on reading this Bible tonight. Your name is Mary.”
The door opens and I hear voices ask Uncle George to hand in the Muslims he was hiding.
Uncle George stood his ground and convinced those men that he was only hosting his brother Elly, his wife and their two children Mary and Joseph.
My world became confused. A Christian just saved us from Christians? Uncle George arose my curiosity and I started watching him closely. He woke me up early in the morning to perform my morning prayer.
He made sure I didn’t miss any of my five prayers. I stood on my prayer mat while Uncle Joe sat by my side holding his Bible and rosary in hand. We prayed together, and he kept on repeating, “My little Sadika, my sweet Mary, when you hold God in your heart, the human he created reveals itself by serving others and then and only then even your enemy becomes human.
And since there was no school, I tagged along with Uncle George. We stood in endless line, in endless lines at the doorsteps of bakeries to buy bread. Bread was scarce, and we had rations at the time. Uncle George was bought as many bread as possible. He kept one loaf for both our families and distributed the rest to families with larger numbers in the neighborhood.
He had people fill their bottles with water. He helped with the injured. He helped bury the dead. Everything he did, it was done in service of others.
And slowly his words trickled into my hardened heart like seeping water and awakened the hibernating human within me. When you hold God in your heart the human he created reveals itself by serving others and then and only then even your enemy becomes human. Within each one of us there is a torch ready to go beyond labels. Ready to go beyond borders. Just listen to him. Let him guide you and let his words seep into your heart as they did within mine.