This is a story that can only start in the middle because it has no beginning or end.
Damascus 1988 or thereabouts, that is the middle. Two prior years in Cairo had initiated the change and by 1988 it was fast gathering pace.
A cleansing of racism. Not the hard-edge racism of the deep South. But that quiet, ugly, unassuming racism that penetrates your soul even without speaking. The coolest teacher in school had remarked (why I should remember it so clearly?) that he was not racist except for Arabs because they were dirty and cruel. This ugly seed germinated, watered by the media (still the same media we see today) and ignorance.
But it was not going to survive five years in the Middle East! My photo albums are full of images of me eating on floors with Syrian families. I can’t remember their names. I met them in the street, at parties, when asking directions or while sitting in cafes. There we are, Loreto – taking the photo – and me, chatting with another beautiful family about the weather, children, sport. I am growing cleaner.
A second dimension of change – coming home. Here I am (a lot younger) in front of a very, very old church – almost 2000 years old. Older by hundreds of years than the oldest church in Europe. The core of my faith was born in this ancient land. It is in its rocks. Christ was a Jew. Among his first followers were Syrian Arabs. They built churches that stand to this day. And that faith lives on in Christian villages were Aramaic is still spoken. And Christian, Muslim and Jew can and do live side-by-side. I began to re-find my faith when I understood that the sons and daughters of Abraham are sisters and brothers still.
Oh and did I mention the donkey?
A short illustrated article on racism.