Happy birthday, Abouna

Republished from Siria Libano


In the dark night, we miss the full moon
(Antara bin Shaddad)

A cake of chocolate and white cream, pinned with 59 candles, and with the words: “Happy Birthday Paolo” signed by the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”: many people imagine that al-Qaeda’s chef has thoughtfully prepared this for you. Al-Qaeda has used the same thoughtfulness not to disclose any information about where you are kept prisoner and under what conditions we could demand your release.

We haven’t spoken for a long time, dear Paolo, and so, on your birthday, we’ve decided to interrupt your isolation and sit next to you, to talk with you, and ask: “where were we?” But it would be an agony to sum up what has happened since July 29: the day you stopped explaining yourself what really happened.

Let’s piece together the fragments of recent history: indiscriminate massacres committed under the eyes of the whole world, the chemical attack on Eastern Ghuta, the second thoughts of the young Obama, month-long sieges, no food and no water, just shameful global tears shed over the fear of a wide-scale conflict after more than two years of Syrian war. It is natural to wonder why all this happened! But, why should we sadden you with the summary of a deterioration that you already predicted, understood in depth, and overtly denounced?

Even in Italy things are going as you expected: we have now “discovered” that Muslims are savage animals (with the exception of Hezbollah militias and Pasdaran); we have turned President Asad into a disciple of Montesquieu, and the Syrian revolution into mere banditry. This is nothing new, and most of this is already written in your book, that “Anger and Light” that many journalists and intellectuals have preferred to keep on the shelf of unread books.

The people who know you well are sure you’d recall what you wrote in your latest book:

“Those who dream of Syria as the place where Sunni political Islam is delivered its final blow are likely to prompt the victory of the Asad regime. This way, Asad would become the Avenger of the Iraqi and Afghan humiliations… exactly because, with no moral scruples and without the journalistic trammels and opinion red tapes that ruined the West, he’d be totally able to operate the final solution, as auspicated by his indirect allies”.

The people who know you well have no single doubt that over these 126 days of captivity – from July 29 till today, November 17, 2013 – you’ve never ceased to seek dialogue with your captors. Speaking your flawless Arabic in all its registers and proving to the self-styled Islamic purists that you know Islam as much as them, and that you’ve worked relentlessly for decades to make Abraham’s sons meet one another.

You’ve considered more feasible the attempt to correct Syria rather than Italy. It’s exactly for this that you went to Raqqa: to go witnessing with your head, hands, feet and your staunchness, in the Era of Treason. If we’re allowed to say this, you were looking at Syrians as Mother Mary looked at Jesus Christ on the cross: suffering, taunted and abandoned by all. And like she refused to forsake Jesus, you refused to forsake the Syrians.

The people who know you well are certain that you haven’t lost your hope, you won’t lose it, and you haven’t made us lose it either.

Happy Birthday, Paolo. There will be neither cakes nor candles in your dark cell. And you know this. You won’t surely think “what inelegance, what barbarians”… No. It doesn’t matter if your detractors, as numerous now as then, say that you’re blowing candles dipped in the chocolate and the white cream of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, while they’re sacrificing themselves and traveling the world to open everyone’s eyes to the barbarism of some. This is an upside down world, Paul. But we don’t think of them. It’s you that we want to hug wholeheartedly.

Happy birthday, Abouna.

P.S. In a bid to shed light on the dark indifference around your destiny, we intend to exhibit a red flock till the time you’ll be back among us.

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