Eid without sheep

24 Sep

Once upon a time there was a boy on a chopping block. How he ended up there? God had told his dad to kill him, and the boy thought his dad should listen to God. Cause wasn’t God always right? ‘Don’t worry dad’, the boy said, even though he was scared. ‘I really don’t mind.’

As a kid, I always thought it was a horrible story. I didn’t understand how Isaac, cause that’s what he was called in my children’s bible, didn’t put up a fight or run. And how Abraham’s love of God was apparently stronger than his love for his own son. Trust they called it? I called it betrayal. And why didn’t Isaac’s mom didn’t come to his rescue?

As I got older, and had read not only the grown folk’s bible but also the koran, I wondered whether Muslim kids were just as horrified by the story of Ismael and Ibrahim, as they were called, as I had been. I was quite shocked to find that the exact same story that had always frightened me, was at the basis of the most important holiday on the Islamic calendar: Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice.

Not exactly a feast for a convinced vegetarian such as myself. But try to explain that to your neighbour who with all the best intentions puts a bloody plastic bag in your hands. ‘Eid mabrouk, a blessed feast!’. Because that sheep, I was told, is traditionally cut in three pieces: one for the family, one for the neighbours and one for the poor. Lucky me.

Many of the refugees who have reached our country over the past few weeks, must have celebrated their feast just like that. Piece of meet for themselves, for the neighbours, for the people who were less well off. Praying at the mosque. New clothes for the kids, presents, some extra pocket money maybe. But I’m afraid this year most of them don’t get to buy a sheep, or toys or new clothes for the kids. Cause those people who are less well off, well, that’s them now.

They must feel out of place today, during the Feast of Sacrifice, Eid al-Adha, without sheep, without family even sometimes, without mosque or the neighbours. If you’ve lost almost everything, how do you celebrate your faith in God?

Would they follow the news on their smartphones, the digraceful shallowness that’s been domininating the debate on their future for days, weeks, months? The talks in Brussels that rapidly reduced them to numbers, to for or against, to yes or no? The negotiations on quota, people calling for measures to ‘close the borders’? The naysayers, the haters, the tsunamipreachers?

I hope not. God, I hope not. I hope they will hear about how many volunteers have signed up to help at the Red Cross, how people are donating their time and clothes, how many kids are helping them at school. Yes, I truly hope that they feel welcome, especially today. That ‘they’ become ‘we’ and that that warms their hearts on this cold Eid.

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