Av min vän Natali:
I grew up in Beirut Lebanon, during a time when the country was ravished by civil war. Beirut was then divided into two sectors. The red line defined the region, but friendship between the people on both sides was stronger than the danger that accompanied crossing that red line.
Together with my father and my sister, we were a few of the many who made trips to the other side. Our unforgettable trip was when we were around nine or ten years old. Dressed up in our red and blue outfits, we sisters sat in the back seat of the car. However, our giggles were abruptly interrupted by the tense and shivering voice of our dad as we were driving back into our side of Beirut. Gazing through the glass, we realized it was what everyone feared, "a flying checkpoint." Thugs from both sides of Beirut were famous for unexpectedly setting up checkpoints, stopping cars, pulling people out, and what saved ones life was his religious affiliation. Otherwise, people were shot at point blank and dumped in the ditch.
With only four cars between ours and the checkpoint, my dad realized that if our Christian identity was revealed, our fate would not be any different from those already resting in the ditches of Beirut.
I remember my dad’s brown eyes when he saw the little golden crosses my sister and I had around our necks. In thin golden chains we carried those crosses to protect us from harms way. Clinching to the steering wheel, my dad repeatedly said: take your crosses off. Take them off now! His eyes were wavering between what was going on ahead, and our two crosses. His tone grew fiercer as the number of cars ahead of us got smaller. And then there was my sister’s voice. Her firm and yet soft voice calmed my dad’s gaze as she uttered. "No dad, NO! My cross will always protect us, from all evil and danger. It is never coming off my chest." I still remember her tiny hands grabbing the cross around her neck. I imitated her.
Ok then, anxiously said my dad. Just get down. As my sister and I curled down in the back of the car, I remember my dad putting the car in first gear, stepping on the gas pedal and rapidly driving past the other cars and through the checkpoint. The closer we drove to safety, the more vague did the howling of the enemy become as the bullets of their Kalashnikovs pierced the air around us.
Thinking back, it was a relationship between our cross and us. My sister’s tiny hands showed me how to embrace the cross and that was all about faith. What really mattered in that anarchy and confusion was our faith. It was real then, and even more real now, that we are alive today.