It is ‘Maghrib’ time here where I am. Only three weeks ago, you could touch on the stillness of the late evening and hear the crystal fragility of fracture and the stillness shatter when the Mullahs around would begin to sing their songs. It was more the stillness you notice than the noise. But lately it is the stillness you long for. Around me every mosque is sending out the call to prayer, some as close at my left ear and some as distant as an old movie where the birds fly off into the horizon. The Adhan, or call to prayer, does not really disturb me. Dadi always encouraged us to think of it as a time to pray and hear God’s heart for the people who would be bowing before the creator God.
But lately it has been noise all day. From early in the morning through the night neighbors have their TVs blaring. The nation has become politically sensitive to the goings on in the capital city. But having a political opinion is NOT the same as having a hatred. Friendships are breaking up. If you make your position known you are in trouble. I prayed about this very much. I prayed about who to vote for in the previous election. I spoke to Baba, Ami and Abraham. People look at you with the question in their eyes ‘Who do you support?’. My friends have refused to talk to me because I have refused to indulge in political conversations. As Christians we learn very early in our lives that anything we say can become a point of accusation against us. We become cautious in airing our opinions and having our say. But this is different. I am certainly cautions because everything becomes religious eventually. What is purely political today has undertones of religion built in. There is no way that won’t raise its head in a more sinister way.
However as the weeks have progressed, the political anger in the country has changed color. From angry red blood pressure raising speeches that took some 40,000+ people to the Capital to protest against the current government to a white livid rage among the people that caused them to storm the grounds of parliament, local media channel buildings and call for a whole new ‘Independence Day’ for Pakistan to a cooler gray space where people are saying they support one party over the other in order to appear ‘more elitist’, ‘more liberal’, ‘more informed and intelligent’ about their choices.
While the hate speech has filled the air across the country, my neighbors have blasted both the bitter insulting speeches into the air as well as the instant switch 5 times a day to say their prayers. I am tired. I am tired of the ranting, the hatred, the broken relationships, the aching hearts, the elitism and arrogance that fills the air.
‘Maaria you cannot be apolitical any more’ Hajira said to me. From her sedated state, she had got out of bed, dressed up and gone out to the streets to protest and call for the hanging of the Prime Minister. The man who gave her mother the snake’s venom amulet had told her to do so. She had deleted the numbers of all others in her list but those who were fellow supporters. ‘Everyone else is a liar a criminal and a thief’ she had hissed.
Friends from other parties has sat smugly, waiting for the rain to fall on the protesters and make them disperse, waiting so much for the rain to come that they forgot when the rain comes it will wash away hundreds of thousands of homes and men and women and children will be homeless and isolated. Did Pakistan not already have some 800,000 internally displaced people walking around looking for a place to call home because the Taliban and the Government had been fighting and blew up their homes? When will the poor man wake up with hope that he may one day be able to send his children to school? When will the barren woman not be afraid of her future just because she has no son to protect her? When will power crisis in Pakistan be resolved? When will floods stop killing us year after year?When will our economy and our education improve?
Maaria is not apolitical. In fact, above her political opinion, Maaria knows that she can only rely on the Lord. As 160 people die in the floods that have ravaged the country, as she comes up to the 1st anniversary of the deaths of well more than 100 brothers and sisters in All Saints Church in Peshawar, as she hears news of ISIS making its way into Pakistan from the Northern Borders, as she looks around and wonders how to turn tears into water for the seeds of prayer she is planting, she is becoming increasingly aware of another power at work. The enemy. Every time, the sounds of insulting speeches on TV fade and their place is taken by the Mullah calling the faithful to prayer, she is on her own knees.
Today I am thankful. Today I am thankful for prayer. Today i am thankful that Jesus loves every political leader in Pakistan. Today I am thankful Jesus loves every terrorist who has been recruited by ISIS. That above all this, despite the power hungry tactics of politicians and revolutionaries, despite the hatred of terrorists: this I know- my God is a wonderful counselor and He will bring His Gospel and His invitation to even the angriest most livid protestor on the streets of Pakistan and the most broken hurting brother or sister in Iraq. Maaria is holding on to Jesus’ hem and asking Him to send His holy Spirit to her brothers and sisters in the West, that they may be urged to stand with us in these broken hurting times. When the noise gets too much I play a simple song that has encouraged my heart a lot: ‘God is here.God is here, One thing I know God is here’.