CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 November 2018

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The danger of stereotyping

As young people at World Youth Day in Krakow were preparing to welcome Pope Francis to Poland, the most visible reminder of his anticipated arrival was the battery of armoured cars and tanks surrounding Wawel Castle, where his first appointment with political leaders; the president, Andrzej Duda; and the local bishops was scheduled.

Despite the large red crosses on each vehicle, the sight seemed so unnatural to some, but for a young woman from Iraq, Fatima Kassid, it was everyday fare. As she pointed out, the reaction depends a lot on where you come from.

“The fear I see in my peers before the armoured cars and tanks makes me think how different we are,” AsiaNews quoted her as saying. “For us, missiles, walls riddled with gunshots and rubble is now the norm.”

The different eyes with which Kassid and a group of young French delegates from Lyon looked at the scene told them different things. For the French, the bristling armaments were like some harbinger of disaster.

But for Kassid, the fear in their eyes was a sign of hope, as she said it means war and hatred have not prevailed in their world—despite the terrible violence their country had suffered in recent days.

However, she was upset when they accused her country people of pampering terrorists and, although she could see they were a bit drunk, she cried and replied, “We have them at home, it is true, but we do not protect them.”

She then pointed out that while Europeans may worry that terrorists from the Middle East are among those knocking at the doors of their borders, the attacks on the murdered priest and people of Nice were perpetrated by children of Europe, not people fleeing violence to wreak more violence.

Although the group from Lyon, as well as Kassid and her Iraqi friends, were upset, they eventually calmed down and went for a beer together.

But while the beer may have been healing, it was not redemptive, and Kassid knew that more needed to be done to insure that some good would come out of their little encounter. So she invited them to an Arabic language catechesis.

Maybe feeling a bit sheepish, the group from Lyon went along and stayed for lunch, where they came to understand what both ordinary Iraqis and Syrians have learned—that more and more people behind the suicide massacres are not fanatics of Islam, but mostly misfits and loners.

“Many are duped by promises, but more and more people agree to kill for money. There are no jobs and there is little hope for the future, so if some vague promise of paradise is added to the money, you will find many people ready to commit suicide. At least to help their family,” Kassid explained to her new-found friends from Lyon.

The young woman, who has lost family and friends to assassins’ bullets and terrorist bombs said that she has learned that her only protection is to keep smiling, as fear is the key to being conquered.


But she insists, it is not just about forgiving, but also about being redeemed. “I try not to hate,” Kassid said, as she explained she believes her redemption can be found in Pope Francis’ message of mercy. JiM