Looking betond terror, seeing hope

Deborah Mitchell - Contributing Columnist

Deborah Mitchell

Contributing Columnist


Time has a way of coordinating itself so that things happen in the right order.

This week, for instance, has been harrowing, in that the world has suffered yet another terrorist attack, this one in Brussels, at the hands of some of the same murderers who perpetrated the assault on Paris. In the midst of this shock and sadness, Christians around the world celebrated Holy Week, preparing for the solemnity of Good Friday, and then the joy of Easter Sunday. Then my extended family celebrates Easter together every year, a tradition established when my father, uncle, and grandfather all lived in Thayer. Now that they are gone, we celebrate in Sedalia, because on Easter Sunday, I must be at Broadway Presbyterian, leading the music – which, by the way, will be spectacular this year!

As we balance the good and the bad of this week, though, something else has happened to remind me that we are really all connected more than we are separate. My good friend Mirwais came to visit.

Many of you may remember my writing about Mirwais in my blog from Afghanistan. He and I shared an office with another Afghan man, Morid. Those two young men helped me learn about Afghan culture, customs, and history, as well as about Islam. Before I met Mirwais and Morid, I knew little to nothing about Islam, but they were patient enough to explain many of their religion’s beliefs and celebrations. It was through them that I was able to see young Muslim men who were not like the terrorists we see on television, those who kill their unsuspecting victims to make some point. Mirwais and Morid were young men like others I know, albeit from a different country in a different part of the world, and holding dear a religion other than the one I know.

I returned home three years ago, and in some ways, it’s as if I were never there. Oh, I see things on the news that remind me that I do know a different way of life, and the movie, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” brought it all back quickly and powerfully; however, the day-to-day connection I felt for so long has diminished over time. Seeing Mirwais here brought it all back, but even more important, his visit reminded me that we often harshly and unfairly judge people about whom we know little.

Mirwais came to America in September after I came home in February. Right before I left, he and I had dinner together in Kabul at a Lebanese restaurant that was blown up the next January, almost one year to the day we were there. While we were eating dinner, he told me that he was receiving a visa and would be coming to the United States, both because he knew he would be safe, and because he thought his son would have more opportunity here.

He moved to Maryland, right outside Washington, and for the past two-and-a-half years, he has been, just like every other young person I know, trying to make a life. He left Afghanistan never to see his father again, as his father died last year. Ever the dutiful son, Mirwais works two jobs so that he can support not only his family, but also his mother and three siblings who still live at home in Herat.

The confluence of these events – the horrible terrorist attack, our joyous family Easter, and seeing my old friend – was better than fate, or coincidence, or serendipity. I read Facebook posts condemning all people of one religion because of the attack, and I kept wishing that the people writing those dreadful posts could meet and know the people I met three years ago. Then, Mirwais showed up, offering me a refresher course on seeing through the vitriol, seeing people instead, people like us who experience joy, pain, contentment, love, and loss, who smile and who cry just as we do, and who offer us a different perspective on our place in the world. All in all, it was, just as Easter should be, looking at new beginnings, new faith, new hope. Peace.

Deborah Mitchell is a a local attorney and a Municipal Court Judge.

Deborah Mitchell is a a local attorney and a Municipal Court Judge.

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