Saturday, 14 June 2014

Sinai “a Holy place or a curse d place?”

Mount Sinai as we read in the Holy Bible, is a place where human being had an encountered with God, the place where God gave his commandments to his people through his servant Moses (Exodus 24:12-18and chap 34).
These days, this reality is raising a number of questions in the Horn African countries. Starting from the last the name “Sinai” sends a chilling feeling particularly in the countries like Ethiopia, Sudan and Eritrea.  It has become a place full of violence and human trafficking. To talk or write regarding the uncountable, incredible situation of slavery in “Sinai” needs all the best writers in our world of today and an ocean ink.
Although, my contact with the victims, started in 2008 that by telephone, hearing their screaming and crying which was very painful it is not like what is seen and experienced.
 In this article I would like to concentrate on a particular fact of my experience.  It was in a holy week of 2013 that I decided to visit this famous place where the human slavery is exercising. The main purpose of my visit was to participate in the suffering and pain of Jesus and to touch his wound by my hand (Mtt25:31-46).
 In fact, I left Cairo at 5; 30a.m on a Good Friday. We were three; an Eritrean lady, the driver (an Egyptian) and myself. Our first stop was in Bir-Elab then Nekel to visit the prisoners were joyfully surprised of seeing us.
In the prison, we found 17 men and 7 women with different life experiences. It was heart breaking to see them with wounds physically visible in their bodies and we also heard of their incredible inhuman mistreatment a manifestation of the inner wounds caused by neglect.
We continued our journey towards Al-arish where there were three detention centers. We visited the first and second police station where we found 19 and 22 prisoners respectively.
The physical and mental situation of the 65 prisoners, plus the hot weather that the sun was burning, the tiredness and hunger did not allow us to continue. At this point we decided to take rest.  It was 3:30p.m when we went to a restaurant to eat something and rest a bit. After 15minutes a police car accompanied by a military tan stopped near the window of the restaurant beside us. Two police came in and told us that they had been sent by the official to accompany us to the next prison.
Even though we highly appreciated their welcome and kindness, we felt we were being controlled. It is not easy to drive in between the police cars, we felt like prisoners and we were aware of vulnerability incase of attack. We told them that we were to rest and have lunch and they told us that they could wait for us till we finish our lunch. We offered them lunch, we suggested to them to continue the day after since we were tired.
As soon as they left we moved from that place. Until late in the evening we visited some friends who helped us for the last decade burying the dead with dignity i.e the bodies of those who died in the hospital of the prisoners.
Around 7:00p.m we continued our journey towards Sinai. We reached 2K.m to the border of Israel. We were welcomed by the family of Sheik Muhamed. There was good recreation from the children. Since we were veiled they thought we were Muslims even they offered me a “Holy Quran”. I asked them about the people who are under the traffickers. For them it is like a joke, the people who were there are less human beings. They called the place “Sudanese center” and they were telling us that some young people of their neighbors are working in this center. The way they were telling us was as if it is normal. At night the traffickers heard that there were strange people around and they were looking for us the whole night.  However, since the family of Sheik Muhamed was respected, no one entered his compound. We had a feeling of fear but we entrusted our safety to the hands of God. In the morning before we left some of the family members went round to check if the surrounding place was safe or not, then they accompanied us far by their car and we went around to see the place where the kidnapped people are staying. When we finish they escorted us near the border of “Raffa”. They kept calling us constantly until we reached Al Arish. 
In Al-Arish we went to visit the prisoners in the third police station. The police asked us why we did not sleep in the restaurant and they wanted to know where we passed the night.  We told them we went to our friend’s house, and asked us their full name and address. We told them that we don’t remember it, only we have their number. At that time we called them telling them to tell them their proper address and to assure the police that we slept in their house. At the end they accompanied us to see the prisoners and also they escorted us till about 20 K.m towards Cairo. When we reach in every stop they were asking us to show them our documents, then they were calling each other that we passed that particular place.
We reached home safely at 8:30 p.m just on time to attend the Easter Mass that started at 9:P.M.

Sr.Tereza-Kidanemariam Egypt-Cairo

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