A Lebanese Christian BeautybySamuelx©
Josephine Al-Mansur stepped out of the shower inside her lovely suburb in the Barrhaven suburb of Ottawa, province of Ontario. The young Lebanese woman wore a bright smile and nothing else as she read a text message from a male co-worker. She was having the most exciting day ever. And it didn't even have anything to do with her exciting job as a computer technician for the Canadian Revenue Agency. Not a bad job considering she only had a bachelor's degree in computer science at Carleton University and Canada was going through the last dregs of an economic crisis. No, Josephine's feelings of triumphalism came in the face of a more personal victory. Tonight, she was tossing out her old rule and going out with a special someone. Thomas Adebayo, a handsome gentleman from her workplace. That was a major no-no in her book but this guy was different...
Born in the City of Baalbek in the Republic of Lebanon to a Christian family, Josephine Al-Mansur was no stranger to having to defend who she was and what she believed in against those who did not share her views. In the Republic of Lebanon, where Christians were forty percent of the population, tensions with the Muslim majority were inevitable. Even though the President of the Republic of Lebanon was a Christian, the Lebanese Christian population was basically arming itself to defend itself and what it believed against from an Islamist onslaught. The Lebanese Christians had no desire to end up like the Coptic Christians of Egypt, who numbered at twenty percent of Egypt's eighty-million-person population. They wouldn't go down without a fight.
Josephine Al-Mansur was only nineteen when her father, Adam Al-Mansur, decided to send her and her mother Catherine Ibrahim Al-Mansur to live in the Ontario region of Canada. The continent of North America had a sizeable population of Lebanese people, spread all over America, Canada and parts of Mexico. Most of the Lebanese people living outside the Republic of Lebanon were Lebanese Christians, who feared that a day might come when Lebanon's increasingly violent Muslim majority might rise against them. Josephine didn't want to leave her beloved hometown of Baalbek but she understood why her father was doing what he did.
Adam Al-Mansur worked as a civil engineer in metropolitan Baalbek, and he had the respect of the city leaders. However, he knew that war was coming between Christians and Muslims, not just in the Republic of Lebanon and nearby Egypt but across the entire Middle East and perhaps soon, the Western world itself. The Muslims did not want to live in peace with other religions. Their leaders preached hatred for Christians, Jews and Pagans. Lebanese Christians knew this better than anyone, except maybe Coptic Christians in Egypt. In sending his wife and daughter to live in Canada, Adam Al-Mansur believed with absolute certainty that he was protecting his family.
Josephine Al-Mansur missed both her father and her homeland but she knew what she had to do. She pushed herself through school, graduating from Algonquin College's computer tech program and then enrolling at Carleton University where she earned her bachelor's degree in computer science in three years instead of the standard four. Shortly after she became a permanent resident of Canada, she applied for a job with the Canadian Revenue Agency and got it. The government assigned her to an office located not far from downtown Ottawa. There were one hundred and seventeen employees at that branch of the Canadian Revenue Agency. Most of them were White, which was to be expected since this was Canada. There were nine Blacks, eleven Asians, six Latinos and twelve Arabs among the employees. Among the Arabs, Josephine Al-Mansur was the only Christian. Most of the others came from places like Yemen, Algeria, Mauritania and Tunisia. Countries with overwhelmingly Muslim populations.
Even though she knew that as an Arab woman and a Christian she would seem like an odd duck, Josephine Al-Mansur was proud of her Christian faith. She always wore a crucifix around her neck every place she went. The fact that an Arab woman was a devout Christian surprised everyone around the office, and although they didn't display it, Josephine knew that the Muslims at work were against her. Nothing surprises or frightens Muslims more than an Arab person who identifies as anything other than Muslim. Arab atheists, Arab Jews and Arab Christians are despised by Arab Muslims. They are routinely accused of betraying the Arab culture by being non-Muslims and by being pawns of the West, even though Western societies didn't seem aware of the plight of Arab Christians in places like Egypt and the Republic of Lebanon. In Western societies, Muslims often claimed to be harassed minorities, while in Arab societies, Arab Christians were the persecuted minorities. The Arab nations had done a great job both of persecuting Arab Christians and also supressing any mention of them in both Arab and Western media. And so far, they were succeeding.
Josephine Al-Mansur did her job well, but being the odd duck at the office took its toll on her. Fortunately, she found an ally and a friend in a most unlikely place. Thomas Adebayo, the latest hire by the Canadian Revenue Agency. Thomas Adebayo was born in the City of Kano in the Republic of Nigeria. His parents were members of the Igbo clan, and they were a largely Christian group among the Nigerian people. In today's Nigeria, conflict was coming between Nigerian Christians and Nigerian Muslims due to the actions of Boko Haram, a radical Nigerian Muslim terrorist group. They were responsible for thousands of deaths across the Republic of Nigeria. And so far, Goodluck Jonathan, the Christian man elected President of Nigeria, seemed powerless to stop them. Around the world, Muslims were rising against Christians. The radical Muslims of Sudan were constantly attacking the mostly Christian nation of South Sudan. And the United Nations did nothing while Christians died.
When he was younger, Thomas Adebayo came to Ontario, Canada, with his family as refugee claimants. In the town where they lived, Muslims and Christians were at war. Christians were leaving the region of Northern Nigeria because the locals, mostly Muslims, wanted to impose Sharia Law and separate from the rest of Nigerian society. Just like the largely Christian and secular nation of South Sudan split from the mainly Muslim nation of Sudan, the vastly Muslim communities of Northern Nigeria wanted to split from the mainly Christian remainder of the Republic of Nigeria. Hoping to avoid genocide based on religion, Thomas Adebayo's father and mother, Louis and Marie Adebayo, came to Canada on visas and threw themselves at the mercy of the Canadian immigration authorities. After several years of back and forth between this court and that one, with the threat of deportation to Nigeria hanging over their necks, the Adebayo family was finally allowed to stay in Canada. They were granted refugee status.
Thomas Adebayo was young while his family endured these trials and tribulations, but he remembered the horror of having their house in the City of Kano, Nigeria, set on fire by the radical Muslims whose religious leaders encouraged them to slaughter Christians. He remembered his parents fleeing in the middle of the night, and hiding in the woods while angry Muslims armed with guns and torches hunted them. These men and women were their friends and neighbors, yet they were tracking them down like animals simply because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Thomas Adebayo didn't understand why so many Nigerian Muslims hated Nigerian Christians, who composed fifty percent of the prosperous African nation's population. After all, the deity called God by the Christians, Yahweh by the Jews and Allah by the Muslims was the same entity. The Patriarch called Abraham by Christian and Jews and Ibrahim by the Muslims was the same man. Why fight and kill in the name of a God who loved all of His worshipers equally? Thomas Adebayo wished he could have asked his Sunday school teacher this question, but his father told him the Muslims of Kano City burned down their church. Little Thomas wept when he heard this.
Growing up in the City of Ottawa, Ontario, Thomas Adebayo had a wonderful time. He was young enough to adapt quickly to Canada, unlike his parents who struggled because of linguistic and cultural barriers. Thomas father Louis was once a university professor in Nigeria. In Ontario, Canada, he found work as a security guard and parking attendant. In Nigeria, Thomas mother Marie was a university librarian. In Ontario, Canada, she worked as a sales clerk at Wal-Mart. Nevertheless, the thirty-something couple wanted a good life for themselves in Canada so they went back to school. At the age of forty, Thomas Adebayo earned his Master's degree in business administration from the University of Ottawa. As for his wife Marie, she studied Nursing at Carleton University and found work as a nurse at the City of Ottawa's Civic Hospital. The brave Nigerian couple struggled at first in Canada but they were determined to succeed. After all, they endured far worse in Nigeria than anything Canada had to throw at them. Their son Thomas was starting high school when they not only finished the university studies they had to begin again in order to work in Canada but also they finally became Canadian citizens.
Thomas parents drilled into him a passion for two things, his Christian faith and education. Unlike a lot of young Black men born and raised in the Capital region of Canada, Thomas valued education and faith above all else. While the other brats he knew in school partied, smoked and had illicit fun, Thomas basically went to school and went to church. He stayed out of trouble. He graduated with honors from Saint Augustine Academy and then enrolled at Carleton University, in the Criminology program. The young Nigerian man wanted to do his parents proud. That's why he graduated with honors from Carleton University's Criminology program, finishing a year ahead of his peers because he took summer courses every chance he got. He'd gotten accepted at the University of Ottawa's prestigious School of Law but needed the funds to continue. So he applied for a job at the Canadian Revenue Agency and to his surprise and delight, they hired him.
Thomas Adebayo was thrilled to be working for the Canadian government, the country which practically saved his beloved parents from persecution and gave them so many opportunities. However, his father cautioned him. There was still a lot of racism in Canadian society, and the growing immigrant populations, especially those from Africa, Latin America and Asia, were seen as a threat by many Canadians of Caucasian descent. Thomas father reminded him to always do his best and to trust in God while remaining wary of his fellow man. Not everyone who greets you with a smile and a handshake is your friend. Quite often, that person wants to stab you in the back. A lot of Black men born in Canada never got to where Thomas was because they wasted their lives by doing drugs, committing crimes and chasing loose women. Also, many of them fell victim to Canadian racism and institutional discrimination. As an educated Black man on his way to success, Thomas would be seen as an anomaly by some and as a threat by others. The young Nigerian professional knew he had to be careful. Traitors often wore a friendly face.
Thomas Adebayo went to work every day with conviction and determination in his heart. He wore his old crucifix around his neck proudly. Real men love Jesus, that's what his old Sunday school teacher used to say. God he missed that old man. He had no idea if the old dude was alive or dead. And he had no way of finding out. His family were forbidden from ever setting foot in Nigeria again. Canada was becoming increasingly xenophobic. There was a case in the media of a guy who came to Canada from another country as a refugee claimant returning home for summer vacation after obtaining Canadian citizenship. He was stripped of citizenship by the conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper because they revoked his original refugee claim. If he really feared for his life in his old country, he wouldn't return there after becoming a Canadian citizen, that was their logic. Thomas read that bit of news in the Ottawa Sun newspaper one morning while on the bus on his way to work, shaking his head at Canadian intolerance. Damn.
Thomas Adebayo was so absorbed in his lecture that he didn't notice that a certain lady sat on the seat next to him. That person was a tall, bespectacled but still good-looking young woman with long Black hair, brown eyes and bronze skin. She wore a stylish dark blue sleeveless jacket over a White silk shirt, Black silk pants and soft Black boots. Around her neck hung two things, a silvery crucifix and a lanyard with a picture ID around it. Too late he realized that he was staring. The lady flashed him a slightly annoyed look with a raised eyebrow. Thomas cleared his throat and apologized, saying that he hadn't seen anyone wear a crucifix in Ottawa in a long time. The young woman eyed him, and her gaze softened somewhat. She shrugged, and told him that her Christian faith mattered to her. She added, somewhat darkly, that religion wasn't a casual matter where she came from. Thomas chuckled, and told her that in his ancestral homeland, religion was currently causing war. The young woman smiled, and asked him if he came from South Sudan. Thomas grinned, shook his head and introduced himself as Thomas Adebayo of Nigeria.
The young woman smiled, shook his hand and told him her name. Josephine Al-Mansur, formerly of South Lebanon, presently of Ottawa, Ontario. All-around computer nerd. Thomas smiled. So, she was Lebanese. Cool. He knew very few Arabs, and the three he knew came from Libya. Still, he lived in a nice apartment building in the east end of Ottawa, not far from a Maronite Church built by the Lebanese Christian community of Ottawa. He told her as much. Josephine's eyes widened, and she laughed, telling him that it was the church she went to. Thomas chuckled softly, wondering at how small the world was getting. Yeah, he walked by the Lebanese church all the time. He usually walked to Hurdman Station to catch the bus to All Nations Full Gospel Church, the mainly Nigerian church of Ottawa.
The two of them bantered for the whole bus ride, and then finally the bus stopped in front of the large grayish building where they worked. Twenty or so men and women of various ages and ethnicities got off the bus, heading into the Canadian Revenue Agency building. Thomas was one of the last to get off the bus because he often sat in the back, something his Detroit-born buddy Brandon Jasper teased him about constantly. Jasper was a tall, broad-shouldered and quite brash and loud Black man whom Thomas met in the Criminology program at Carleton University. He worked for the Ontario Provincial Police. Jasper always teased Thomas about his shyness. Well, today, Thomas took a page out of Jasper's book. He walked out of the bus with Josephine, continuing their conversation as they made their way to the building. He slipped her his business card before they reached the elevators. Smiling, Josephine wished him a good day. He held out his hand for her to shake, but instead she kissed him on the cheek. Then she walked away. Thomas watched her, stunned. Wow. What the fuck?
Josephine Al-Mansur smiled to herself as she made her way to the tech tower. Her morning was starting out pretty great, considering she woke up late and forgot to grab her Tim Horton's coffee. Normally, she was quite reserved when meeting new people but she had a good feeling about Thomas. Most of the people she met at the Canadian Revenue Agency were sharks. The White men and White women at the agency felt threatened by any minority person with a college or university degree working alongside them. And they constantly put them down in direct or indirect ways by asking impertinent questions about their origins and their qualifications. Many of them were surprised that Josephine got hired by the C.R.A. tech department with only a bachelor's degree from Carleton University. The fact that she was currently studying for her Master's degree online didn't seem to impress them. They were racist to their core.
And the other minority employees were no help. The other Arab employees at the C.R.A. viewed her as an alien because she was a Christian and she avoided them as much as she could. The Chinese and Hindu employees had no love for Arabs of any faith or origin. And the Blacks at work disliked everyone because they were disliked by everyone. Josephine Al-Mansur tried to befriend a certain Ethiopian Christian lady at work, fellow techie Isabel Suleiman. Unfortunately, Isabel was an ass-kisser who was having an affair with Jake Reilly, a White guy at work who was one of the division managers. Josephine hated butt kissers. She got where she was through hard work and determination. She refused to bow down to either Arab Muslims hatred of Arab Christians or White Canadians hatred for racial minorities. She would make it, one way or another, without compromising who she was.
Josephine went to work, repairing the surprisingly vulnerable firewall network around the Canadian Revenue Agency's website. At lunch, she normally stayed in the tech tower but today, she actually got a visit. A visitor came up the elevator, in the form of a tall Black gentleman in a red silk shirt and dark blue silk pants. Thomas Adebayo of Nigeria. Smiling, he held two cans of Pepsi in hand. Josephine smiled in spite of herself. The boldness on him. Grinning, she walked up to him. Thomas smiled and told her he was just walking around and thought she might need a drink. Josephine smiled, coyly reminded her that there was vending machine on her floor but took the Pepsi can from him anyway. Thomas smiled, and asked her to grab lunch with him. Josephine told him she had other plans, and he looked crestfallen. Grinning mischievously, she tapped his shoulder and invited him to share her lunch. She went to the kitchenette, opened the fridge and took out two sandwiches. Thomas scratched his head. He was surprised. Josephine told him she didn't believe in wasting money on lunch since the Canadian government was really cheap when paying its employees.
Laughing, Thomas Adebayo nodded at that. The Canadian government was cheap alright. He had a bachelor's degree in Criminology from Carleton University and was getting his Law degree from the University of Ottawa next year but for now, the Canadian Revenue Agency's legal department felt he was only worth twenty bucks per hour. Before taxes. He was going to be a lawyer someday soon but all they made him do was computer research, printing stuff, and helping the 'real' lawyers. He was basically a paralegal without the title. Damn. He shared that with Josephine Al-Mansur as they sat down and ate near the sunlit window. On a sunny day like this he felt like being outside but nerds like Josephine were the indoors type. Still, she was a hot nerd so he didn't mind being inside her. Oops, he meant inside with her.
While eating, he admired Josephine Al-Mansur. In spite of the tomboyish outfit and nerdy glasses, the Lebanese gal was really hot. Earlier, he actually gawked at her fantastic-looking ass while she walked away after giving him a peck on the cheek. It thrilled him and bothered him at the same time so he asked her about that. Josephine playfully tapped his shoulder and told him that the Lebanese people were the most friendly and playful of all the Arabs. And they knew how to have fun. They were an affectionate, touchy bunch, especially Lebanese Christians. Thomas smiled at that, and told her that Nigerians were the same way. While talking, she excused herself for a moment and took out her cell phone. Thomas smiled, but inside he was annoyed. He hated when people did that in mid-conversation. He looked out the window while Josephine punched numbers into her cell phone.