However, I am a strong believer that all religions, as organized institutions, should stay out of politics and public affairs, clear and simple.
That being said and over with, there have been moments in my life when I’ve felt overwhelmed and snuggled by faith. These moments are not frequent to say the least. I have to be alone or oblivious to those around me. Then, a certain word, uttered; a certain vision, seen; a smell, a tune, a breeze; a loyal dog eying me, a baby giggling, a child laughing, an old man crying, a young man dying; if the vibes are serene, I might find myself floating in a womb of faith.
I reached the Convent of Seidnaya after a climb on a magnificent desert road dotted with vineyards and guarded by imposing outcrops in the surrounding hills and mountains. The convent is perched high on a rock at an elevation of 1415 m above sea level. I was so lucky there were very few people about. When I parked my car at the foot of the stairs, it was the only one. When my pilgrimage ended there were two more. I had the marvelous chance of spending 45 minutes, almost alone, in the splendor and grace of Saint Mary. After entering through the humbling main entrance, I followed a series of mazes to reach the chapel. It was much smaller than I expected.
Inside, a solitary nun was attending the candles. I took to a corner in the small space and was overwhelmed by a feeling of security and peace. I lit up a candle and prayed in silence.The nun asked me where I am from and I told her that I came from Tartous. A woman and her child crawled in. She too lit a candle and sat facing the wall adorned by icons and pictures of the Virgin Mary. She started crying at first and then went into a sobbing fit. I was transfixed and paralyzed with the moment that stretched to the gates of eternity.I came out of my reverie and modestly walked the narrow passageways of the convent. I heard low voice and murmurs echoing on the blessed walls. I glimpsed shadows floating on the charming verandas overhead.
When I walked back to my car, I was still a faithful Muslim but not a religious one, honored to have been in the presence of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Christ.
Why do both adversaries I’ve mentioned in the beginning refuse to believe that it ought to be this simple? It’s a shame.