ONE BEACH, ONE HEAVENLY SHORE
by Anton Wills-Eve
ONE BEACH, ONE HEAVENLY SHORE
Asif felt the tiny make-shift raft bob up and down on the waters of the Aegean Sea. Land was in the distance, but far, far off. As far as he could see. Only his sister’s hand in his, as she slept, kept him in touch with any sort of reality. His mother and father had thrown them on their hastily assembled craft shouting “We love you. May Allah bring you safely to some foreign shore.”
Asif was only five years old and had lived all his days surrounded by angry shouting men, and ran rather than danced to the beat of guns. He knew he had to pray to Allah, but he had never been taught how. His kinsfolk had never had the time for luxuries like teaching between their daily forages for food in a land of mortar shells and flying stones. He looked at little Samia, a year younger than himself, and felt a glow of strength as he held her hand.
“Allah, whoever you are, wherever you are, don’t let my little sister die,” was all the little boy could ask and then, despite his new found valour, started to cry. A day and a night, a night and a day the little raft zig-zagged over the waves but Asif was sure the land was getting near. Samia had given him the few drops of water from the plastic bottle in her pocket and any crumbs that were left from their parents’ meagre pouch. Her big brown, sunken eyes looked pleadingly at her brother.
“Asif, I am hot and cold and hungry. Tell Allah for me, please.” Once more the little boy begged his only source of hope to save them both, then brother and sister clung to each other all night for warmth. As daylight dawned on the third day they stared in amazement at the land ahead. A sandy beach was getting nearer every second. Their spirits rose as salvation seemed at hand. But a final hazard still delayed them. The wind got up and several yards short of sanctuary the raft at last gave out and sank. Samia could not swim but Asif made her cling to him, her arms round his neck as he made for the shallow waters from which he finally could walk to the beach. On land they both smiled and collapsed.
Father Francisco was taking his morning stroll along the sand before returning to say Mass as he did every morning on the tiny island with its hermit’s cell and altar. Other brothers would not visit him before lunchtime. Suddenly he blinked in disbelief, rubbed his eyes and stared again. He thought it was a mirage at first, a trick of the green sea light, but no, a little boy and girl lay on the beach. Blessing himself, thanking God and guessing their origin he thanked his Lord again for teaching him some basic Arabic as well as Italian. He knelt and offered his hands to the little waifs.
Asif stared at this strange figure clad all in brown with a circle cut in his hair. He had but one thought in his head and, barely audibly, asked the hermit,
“Are you Allah? I asked you to help little Samia and me, and you did. Thank you Allah. Thank you.”
Tears streaming down his cheeks Father Francisco replied in the little boy’s own tongue. “It was the will of Allah that you should be found, I am merely the person he chose to help Him. Come, I will find you some food.” As they walked towards his dwelling he went on, “Children, there is only one God. He made us all. You call him Allah, I Christ, many people use many other names. But He does not mind. He is just glad that he has been able to show you how much he loves you by bringing you safely to this beach, this heavenly shore.”