Body, climate, Islam… young people express themselves

Here is a set of letters written by teenagers (1).

I really don’t know if what I am going to write will be of interest to anyone, but it is something that is close to my heart and I want to share, the purpose, perhaps, to let some people know each other, to feel less alone.

I was born in a very caring family, my parents always went out of their way for my sister and me. When I was young, we didn’t have much money. My mother worked quite a few odd jobs and my father, I don’t remember exactly if he worked.

I don’t have many positive memories of my parents and I sometimes blame myself for that because they did their best. My mom has been depressed since she was 13, I don’t think she’s out of her depression yet. He was always out of step with others. At 21 he had my older sister with someone I didn’t know. Then he gave me 27, then my younger sister, a year and a half later.

My father had a difficult childhood. He did not know his father and left home at the age of 16. He becomes intoxicated and bruised. My father has borderline disorder.

Now that I’ve set the scene, I want to talk about my role in my family. When my sister was born, we were barely a year and a half apart and I quickly became attached to her. The older we got, the more inseparable we became. But we were completely opposite: my sister had a strong character and always had a lot of anger in her. He often lost his temper. Me, I was a smart, quiet little girl, that no one worried about. I was often told that I was too sensitive.

When I was 7, my parents divorced. A few days ago, my mother changed jobs and so she had to leave quite early and come home quite late. From there I became the responsible guardian of my younger sister. We had to wake up and go to school by ourselves. I was the tallest, so I had to feed my sister, see if the door was closed, turn off the lights, etc. All this work did not bother me, I was the only one who could do it. But my sister started getting more and more irritable. He was free on me. What started as a little girl crisis turned into beatings, violence. I was too young to handle a baby.

But I didn’t want to make any trouble, I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to disturb them because they were tired. Eventually I got used to my sister’s outbursts and began to withdraw into myself. I was no longer sociable without making real friends. My life got complicated when I started middle school. I continued to care for my sister without knowing who I was. I just wanted to disappear.

My sister had a friend. They started making fun of me, my looks, my clothes. He can, from one moment to another, completely change his face, get really angry, hurt me, then forget.

I want to say to all the kids who, like me, have to take a place that doesn’t belong to them: You are valid. You have the right not to take on this parental responsibility, you have the right to say that you have too much to bear. You don’t have to be a parent, that’s not your role.

Susan, 16 years old

We are at the beginning of the holidays and in a few days we are going to Morocco.

To accompany me during this journey, I decided to buy a book that a friend had told me about: Sufi is my love, by Elif Shafak. I wanted to make this trip a spiritual trip. I was full of religious questions and I needed answers. I was born a Muslim or, to be more precise, this religion was assumed to be mine by those close to me at the time of my birth. My family followed him and I followed him.

As I grew up I became aware of something. Something to do with the rules I applied without really questioning them, and I had a hard time with the idea. I had a hard time telling myself that this belief, which was limiting my life, was a bit like a biological trait that I had inherited and over which I had no control. So in part I began to question what made me.

I wondered what my place really was in the birth of my own spirituality.

It’s D-Day.

Loaded with cars beyond reason, here we are on the road that leads to the land of my ancestors. A few hours later, I open the book, I read the first page and I’m blown away. I read with passion the true story of Shams and Jalal ad-Din Rumi of Tabriz in 13th century Iran. One is a Sufi mystic, the other a poet, ulama (Arabic for “man of religion”), writer and philosopher.

Their preordained meeting will upset their creatures. Crossed by Sufism, they will live a powerful and indescribable story of friendship and love.

When I closed the book, my questions found their answers: “I want to be a Sufi”. Sufism is a more spiritual branch of Islam.

His philosophy can be summed up in one word: love. The love that God has for us, the love that we have for God. The love that binds man to man, man to earth, man to humanity.

In this paradigm, we must learn to question the weight of norms, the weight of religious guilt, what is forbidden and/or permitted. Find the true meaning of the principles we adopt and get rid of the image of a punishing God as the supreme master of our lives. All this to hatch a sincere and desired faith. From this stream arose the kindness, the warmth, the gentleness that I fell in love with. It matched who I was. This Islam is universal, because through religion it makes others exist, regardless of their faith.

In their time, these people had a vision that went beyond comprehension. Let’s learn from them. I will end this lesson with one of the Forty Laws of Love by Shams of Tabriz:

“A life without love doesn’t count, don’t ask yourself what kind of love you should be looking for. Spiritual or material, divine or earthly.”

Eastern or Western, love has no label or definition. It is what it is, pure and simple. Love is brandy and a burning spirit of a loved one. When fire loves water the universe spins differently.

Fati, 24 years old

After all, what is a body? For some people, it is a work tool, for others, a means of transportation. Still others will tell you it’s their soul house. But to me it is synonymous with pain.

My body hurt me, I hurt it, and our relationship was always conflicted. We often argue, but we agree on one thing: the outside world is more toxic than our relationship.

In reality, our intercourse was difficult because of the outside world. I loved it when we played football together, when we climbed trees. Then it evolved and I was told I could no longer do what I loved because my body had chosen another future.

That’s when we started not listening to each other. I let it go to waste because I don’t want to take care of it anymore. In retaliation, he made me suffer while developing. Meanwhile, the rest of the world was also attacking us, pitting us against each other.

As the years passed, my body loathing grew. Then one day he gave up. This day made me realize that despite our differences, we need each other. I couldn’t live without him, and he was useless without me.

This episode made me realize that we are both suffering. Even if intercourse is complicated, we form a whole for the two of us. We were insulted, hurt, touched, just as we were hugged, admired and loved together.

I still do not agree with him, what he is, what he does, but I realized that it was not his fault. Our relationship isn’t the healthiest and calmest, but it’s ours.

Alex, 16 years old

I let a vacuum form
As deep as a waterless well.
This sterile well in the middle of the village,
Stripped of its primary function, is easily noticed.
As long as without bread, the neck of the animal is bent
But the world below does not reflect their smiling faces, their soft eyelashes.
“There’s nothing left”, I want to tell them, but I’m so thirsty
My friends, my family, thirst to find a greener planet.
Only desolation and misery germinate in this dry land.
The two associates rub their hands when the last drop of the well is drunk.
Now they count grains of sand like I count my gold coins.
It is impossible for me to drink in the sun.
I am withering like a mummy in a desert hollow.

Alice Zurstrassen

(1) Letters published on this page (except Elise Zurstrassen) were sent by Scan-R. Scan-R is an organization that organizes writing workshops and helps young people aged 12 to 25 express themselves in writing. The aim of this project is to give young people the opportunity to talk about issues in which they are actors or witnesses. “Our idea, as we can read on the association’s website, is that giving young people pens, bikes, pens, pencils or even keyboards – and especially the most excluded and excluded – is better than giving pebbles. … When pebbles break, destruction. By doing, harming, or hurting, writing and the process it entails make it possible to tell stories, to be confident, to imagine, and to chart new paths that are not new dreams but a new reality.” Scan-R is used by young people (youth centers, prisons, psychiatric hospitals, etc.) offers workshops on assembling frameworks. Workshops are accompanied by a facilitator paired with a journalist. Info: https://scan-r.be/

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