Mazin: A Syrian Story Unwritten

  Photo Credit CNN

Photo Credit CNN

Another atrocity in Syria.  

More blood...more pain...more fear.

We consume media coverage looking for a trifle of peace in the form of blame or retaliation when the truth is still covered by orange tarps and gas masks. If you are feeling anger and hate for whomever pushed the red button, while simultaneously feeling inexpressible compassion and grief for the victims of the recent chemical attacks, you may have stumbled directly into the complexities of this war.

President Assad is Muslim.  

The rebels are Muslim.

The victims...also Muslim.  

Watching a bomb drop in front of his grandfather’s house, 13 year old Mazin Youssef witnessed the end unfold as his beloved patriarch, wheezing and gasping for breath, finally succumbed to death – the same death 18 others of Mazin’s family endured that day. When you watch the interview with Mazin, his face plays the movie of his soul. One moment he is recounting the atrocities he witnessed in a matter of fact tone with a sense of pride that he has been allowed to tell the world what is happening to his country. Then, almost without warning, his heart begins to scream for answers to the questions left on everyone’s minds:  

Why is this happening? 

Who should I hate?

Who will save Syrians?

What am I going to do?

For you and me the answers to those questions are shrouded in misinformation, confusion and ignorance. But our response is painfully easy. We have the luxury of turning the channel or clicking on the next pop-up ad. In fact, by now we may have completely forgotten about it, honorably distracting ourselves with thoughts like “we have our own problems in this country.”  We wave our warrior flag as we contemplate important matters like minimum wage and march for women’s rights. But Mazin can’t click away. There is nothing else to see; no distraction. So he is sentenced to his thoughts and to the torturous search for adult answers in a child’s heart.

It is here, in the mind of Mazin and millions like him, that terrorism prevails. Not because of a persuasive ISIS recruiter. Not because his father begs him to carry on the family’s honor by picking up a grenade. Not even in the name of revenge. Mazin will consider a dark and violent future simply because he has no idea another option exists.

For now, Mazin struggles with the pain and grief of profound loss; more than any 13 year old should ever have to endure. As he sits in the hospital waiting room, he will contemplate for hours because there is no escape when he closes his eyes. He will begin by asking how these horrible things can happen to his people. Maybe this is the work of ISIS, he wonders, distorting all he had been taught about Allah and Islam. His honor/shame culture will demand he offer the president the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the Youssef family was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time while the president was trying to protect them from a greater enemy. Maybe the media is making it look like Assaad is to blame when really, it’s those American “Christians” who are trying to resurrect the era of the Crusades and obliterate all Muslims. Mazin now works to suppress his anger. If his grandfather were alive, he would tell him for the millionth time, “Mazin, we are to always pursue peace and submit to the will of Allah”. The grief and loss in his heart begs to respect and honor both his grandfather and his God, so he stuffs his feelings under his belt and wipes his tears.  

Suddenly, Mazin realizes the memory of his grandfather has offered him the hope and solution his heart has been looking for.  

Allah.

Of course. “Allah is all merciful and oft forgiving” his grandfather so often quoted the holy Qur'an. His father told him. His uncle told him. His culture told him: To be Muslim is to follow the way of Allah. So Mazin will cling to this hope and express his faithful submission to Allah in the only way he was ever taught: prayer, fasting and passionate pursuit of his faith.

At first, this gives Mazin complete peace. Serving Allah means helping the poor and needy. It means tireless hours of abandoning his childish ways and becoming a man in a matter of days.  He will devote himself to prayers and washing and honoring his family name by doing good. It could take many months or mere moments for Mazin to encounter a phenomenon more devastating than the chemical attacks: debilitating lack of peace.

All his pursuit, all his service, all his prayers somehow refuse to fill the hole in his heart, but rather seem to create an insatiable need to do more. “It’s not enough” he hears his religious leaders in the back of his mind. “Only those who are perfect in the way of Allah will ever taste the fruit of paradise.”

It is here Mazin indulges in a luxury 80 percent of the Muslim world cannot afford. Driven for peace and a passion to serve the only authority still alive in his life, Mazin exercises his education and Muslim servitude and picks up the Qur'an and reads the original text in the only language allowed: Arabic.

In an astounding stroke of solidarity with millions of Muslims world wide, Mazin will find himself reading, for the first time, the words of the prophet Muhammad as given by Allah. This global trend of returning to the foundation of Islam has brought a faith-crisis of epic proportion. It is here, all of the Mazins of the world are discovering for the first time that the Qur'an is on the side of ISIS.  The torment of reconciling the message of their ancestors - a message of peace and kindness and love of piety - will suddenly erupt into chaos as they read passages from their holy texts that promote jihad with few confusing exclusions. This endeavor leads them to the most critical moment of their lives.

Clinging to his love for his lost family and his immeasurable sense of duty to Allah, seeing no alternative, Mazin will consider the course of his life and claw through the Qur'an looking for his life-map. It is at this juncture Mazin’s world unravels and the seed of Jihad falls to the floor of his empty soul.

Today, the ending of Mazin’s story is written faster than technology can report.  In some cases, Mazin is introduced to an ISIS recruiter and begins his life of death.  

But in an unprecedented turn of events, like nothing we have seen in centuries, Mazin’s story often takes a divine twist.  

A dream. Jesus. A Book.

This Injeel, God become flesh, burns up the seed of terror and roots itself in his heart, bringing with it the soil, the water and the fertilizer necessary to blossom into a very scandalous kind of refreshing fruit: Peace. 

More Muslims have come to know Jesus Christ in the last 20 years than in the previous 1,400 years combined. Despite what we see in the media, the truth is terrorism is experiencing heavy losses. More and more Muslim youth are encountering the Word of God online, in international universities, via satellite and through the bold witness of authentic Christians who are moving past their stereotypes and anxieties to get the Word of God into the hands of Muslims around the world.

Will you join us in promoting the only true, lasting solution for Jihad: the Gospel of Jesus Christ?