Happy birthday, Paolo



وفي الليلة ِ الظلماءِ يفتقدُ البدر
In the dark night, we miss the full moon
(Antara bin Shaddad)

(read this letter in ArabicFrench and Italian)

Letter written by Riccardo Cristiano and Lorenzo Trombetta

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.

Paolo, per questo tuo compleanno l’hai scampata. Ma il prossimo ti porto a mangiare dallo Spaccafegato alle tre del mattino. Lorenzo

Sai Paolo… per seguitare a parlarti mi sono fatto regalare dai tuoi familiari il tuo “Innamorato dell’Islam, credente in Gesù”. Che bello sentirti dire che il cristianesimo è “religione in movimento” (e citi la frase sul sabato fatto per l’uomo e non viceversa): che consolazione, mentre sento salire il clangore dell’identitarismo tribale, giudicante, immobile nella sua servizievole devozione al Sultano… A presto! Riccardo

Caro Padre Paolo, 
nel farti gli auguri per questo tuo compleanno, vorrei usare una tua stessa frase. 
“Mi è difficile parlare la lingua materna in esilio, a casa, sarei più felice di parlare la lingua della mia sposa, quella per la quale si lascia il padre e la madre, per unirsi per sempre, ed è quello che è capitato tra me e la Siria”. Vorrei quindi usare la lingua della tua sposa Paolo, Sana helwa Abuna. Alberto Ti aspetto, per riassaporare il tuo umorismo acuto e tagliente, che brilla di umanità. Estella, “al-bint al-muzallata”, come mi hai soprannominata.

 Ti ho conosciuto il giorno prima del tuo viaggio a Raqqa. Ricordo ancora il senso di sacrificio con cui annunciavi la tua discesa verso un dialogo con gli al-qa’idisti, un dialogo ai miei occhi impossibile. L’ennesimo debito di riconoscenza verso la tua Siria, forse un ultimo tentativo di salvare una rivoluzione deturpata da ogni fronte. Anche se è passato tanto tempo, spero che anche solo uno dei tuoi carcerieri abbia compreso il tuo messaggio e lo porti con sé. Buon compleanno Abuna. Andrea

Sei più vecchio di me di 7 giorni, Abuna. Ti chiedo quindi un regalo per il mio compleanno: torna. Vorrei avere la fortuna di conoscerti al di là di qualche scambio di mail. Gli auguri vorrei farteli a voce. Elena

Ho un grande debito spirituale con te che comincia nel 2009, data del nostro primo incontro. Rimango in tua attesa per poterlo saldare. Buon compleanno Padre Paolo. Scadi
 Mi hai chiamato “la Regina di Saba” la prima volta che ci siamo incontrati a Mar Musa, diversi anni fa. E io mi sono offesa molto. Anni dopo, quando ti ho ricordato l’episodio, hai riso, col tuo vocione e quei tuoi occhi buoni. Ci aspettano ancora tante risate insieme. Torna presto Abuna. Buon compleanno. Caterina

Mi manca la pace della tua voce… che mi protegge nella nostra solitudine. Buon compleanno Abuna. Eva

Caro Padre Paolo, auguri! Qui a Mashhad un ragazzo siriano che ho conosciuto nel dormitorio universitario mi ha parlato di te dicendo “Padre Paolo ha un bel progetto per la Siria”… con una punta d’orgoglio gli ho raccontato di quanto ti sei speso per fare conoscere la situazione siriana in Italia. Anche in Iran non ti dimentichiamo! Ti aspettiamo. Giacomo

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