Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: SWEET HOUR OF PRAYER (don’t write about the song) (04/30/15)
By Jack Taylor
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The rumpled brown suit slumped down onto the cloth covered bench with its owner. A wisp of smoke drifted up from the cigarette clenched between tobacco-stained fingers. Drooping eyelids almost hid piercing dark eyes. A bushy moustache bobbed up and down. â€śPeace to you, Suleiman.â€ť
Suleiman pushed a pot of tea across the small table and nodded back. â€śAnd Peace to you, Ibrahim.â€ť He secured a sugar cube between his teeth and took a slurp from his own mug. He swiped at a fly buzzing too close and looked past the litter, the scattered rocks and the hulk of a burned car.
â€śWhat are you staring at?â€ť Ibrahim poured his own tea and slurped it through his own sugar cube.
Suleiman wiped a few crumbs off the table onto the tiled floor. â€śDo you see the mark on my bakery?â€ť
Three quick taps of the cane silenced him. â€śThe U with a dot above it? ISIS thinks it belongs to a Nasrani (Nazarene), a Christian. The military police in those new beige uniforms marked it last night.â€ť
Fingers clenched and unclenched. Suleiman rotated his shoulders slowly. He lowered his head as if staring at the patches on his knees. â€śMore than one-hundred thousand followers of Jesus have already gone. We have lived here since the apostles. These jihadists have erased all of history.â€ť
Ibrahim released his smoldering butt and crushed it under the heel of his scuffed leather shoe. â€śThis is what they will do to you if you continue to speak your mind. Over three-hundred thousand have fled this city. You Christians are not the only ones. The arrests, raids and executions terrify everyone.â€ť He looked around the crowded café and focused on the scribbled menu on a chalkboard near the entrance.
Suleiman nodded slowly. â€śI pray for their souls every morning and night, for an hour. We were once the largest minority in Nineveh.â€ť He took another slurp of tea and played with a new sugar cube. â€śChurches, mosques, libraries, graves, statues â€“ they have destroyed everything. Even the shrine of the prophet Jonah is reduced to rubble.â€ť
Ibrahim waved at a grizzly bearded Arab. â€śBring us two falafels.â€ť
Suleiman added, â€śand more sugar.â€ť
â€śI am ashamed that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi preached in my mosque here and calls himself Caliph Ibrahim.â€ť Ibrahim waited as the falafels and sugar cubes were brought and set on the table. He slipped a few bills to the owner and watched him leave. â€śI know al-Baghdadi is trying to restore the honour of Islam through this purge by ISIS, but not all of us agree with his version of Shariâ€™a Law.â€ť
Suleiman nodded again. â€śI will pray for you. I know that the ISIS extortionists push you hard to pay your profits for protection from the Shia loyalist forces from Baghdad. I know they took your son to their training camp.â€ť
Ibrahim waved his hand in the air. â€śWhen they take your son then losing dominoes, cards, movies and the hookah seems like nothing.â€ť
Suleiman chomped on his falafel and spoke between chews, â€śI will join the medical services team and I will pray. They are refusing relief aid to Christians. If they catch me then perhaps I will die with the others before me.â€ť
Ibrahim wolfed down his own meal and slurped his tea. â€śThey cannot last. Their power is fear and one day people will forget their fear. No electricity, no food, no help. They will look somewhere else for help.â€ť
Suleiman rubbed his jaw and stared at his friend. â€śI have already looked somewhere else for help.â€ť
Ibrahim stopped chewing. â€śThe West does not have the power you think.â€ť
Suleiman put another sugar cube between his teeth. â€śI donâ€™t look to the west,â€ť he said. â€śI look to God where the true power lies.â€ť
Ibrahim smiled. â€śYes, every day, morning and night, you pray for your hour. What change have you gained?â€ť He waved over at the boarded up bakery once owned by Suleiman. â€śIs this what your prayers accomplish? Your family dead, your business closed, your city and your religion in ruins?â€ť
Suleiman bowed his head. â€śIt is time for me to pray. God once used his prophet Jonah to bring this place to its knees. He can do it again.â€ť
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