Ali Had Waited An Entire Year For This Moment
You can kill me. I know where I*m going. You have no assurance, but I know where I*m going to go. Rashik spoke through lips that were swollen and bleeding. He would wear the bruises from this beating for many days. For a while his walk would not be straight and his left arm would dangle limply at his side.
Ali stiffened. It*s what he deserves, he said under his breath. But those eyes continued to unnerve him -- Rashik*s eyes, clear and unafraid.
Ali had taken part in the beating. Ali had instigated it.
Rashik was his brother.
A year earlier Rashik had betrayed the family by becoming a Christian. Even when faced with the ultimate choice -- renounce Christ or be denounced by the entire family -- Rashik did not for one moment hesitate. He had already made his choice.
It would cost him dearly.
Ali had waited an entire year for this moment when Rashik would be alone, not surrounded by his new Christian brothers.
When Rashik had walked into the crowded bazaar that morning and stopped to look at a stand of juicy mangoes, Ali had seen him standing alone. Ali*s heart beat faster and his fists clenched. Blood rushed to his ears. This was the moment to take revenge.
Ali*s friends had noticed his stillness. Their eyes had followed his gaze and seen the traitor. Their eyes, too, narrowed with hatred; their mouths, too, smiled in cruel anticipation. The time had finally come. Slowly, they had walked toward Rashik.
Ali saw his brother stiffen. He could tell that Rashik knew they were there, and yet he closed his eyes for a moment. Ali saw his brother*s mouth move and knew Rashik was praying. Any compassion Ali might have felt left him quickly when he looked at his brother*s bowed head.
Rashik was surprised but did not resist when Ali and his men dragged him from the bazaar. Others came to join in the taunt. No one tried to stop the beating. Everyone knew that Rashik had abandoned his religion, his family, his way of life. He was a traitor.
Rashik made no sound, not even to beg for mercy. He did not cry out. He only winced and tried to avoid the blows as they kicked him. Ali knew his brother was still praying, and so the anger burned in him more fiercely.
When they tired of beating him, the men forced Rashik to stand before his brother. They threatened to kill him. They threatened to harm his family. They told him to renounce Christ or face death.
That is when Rashik opened his bruised and swollen eyes, looked straight at Ali and spoke. All the fiery anger drained from Ali*s body as Rashik peacefully stated, You can kill me. I know where I am going to go.
For a moment, Ali*s face reflected his confusion. How could his brother show so much peace in the face of death? Christianity was just a religion, wasn*t it?
Rashik noticed his brother*s hesitation and answered the question in Ali*s eyes with a warm, forgiving look.
This reaction to the brother who had beaten him. How could Rashik look at Ali like that after what Ali had done?
He*s my brother, Ali remembered, and began to weaken.
What are you going to do with him?
Ali shook his head to clear his thoughts. Then he realized his friends were looking at him, puzzled, waiting for his choice of judgment. Ali*s face hardened. He knew they had seen the confusion in his eyes. He did not want them to think that he, too, might become a traitor.
Leave him.. See if his God will let him survive the night.
Immediately the men released Rashik and let him fall to the ground in a bloody heap. One by one the men turned their backs. The sound of their footsteps faded as they walked away.
Ali looked at his brother. Rashik was unconscious. Ali doubted he could live through the night without help. But Ali could not show weakness now. He was aware of all the people watching from the bazaar. His back straightened and he walked away, not once looking back.
But at night, under the welcome cover of darkness, Ali returned. The moon seemed to sense his shame and hid behind the dark gray clouds. Bazaar shops stood empty, their tables still set up for tomorrow*s fruits and vegetables.
Rashik was not there.
Ali had not realized the tightening in his lungs until it released in one relieved breath. The Christians must have taken Rashik to safety. He would live.
Days later Ali crouched outside Rashik*s mud house, hidden by the shadow of a cluster of trees. Once he was sure that no one had followed him, he crept into the small dwelling. Standing to his feet he saw Rashik across the room, lying on a low cot. Rashik*s eyes were swollen shut, but he heard someone enter.
Rashik*s sharp gasp when Ali spoke increased Ali*s shame. Taking a deep breath, begging for courage from the God he did not yet know, Ali spoke. Forgive me, my brother . . .
For a moment, Ali could say no more. His throat tightened before he continued to speak to his brother. I am not here to harm you. I came to learn how you could face death with such peace. I am here to listen . . . to learn . . . I am here to find your God.
Bruised and swollen lips moved. Ali saw his brother*s smile, and his eyes welled up with tears of joy.
Note: These events happened in Bangladesh. Names are changed, and some details of the dialogue cannot be confirmed.