There’s a running joke among my coworkers: If Meg interviews you for a story, you’ll cry. I don’t mean for people to cry, but I like to talk about difficult topics. Sometimes tears are unavoidable. Sometimes I cry with them.
Once, for a grad school research paper, I interviewed a U.S. State Department employee named John about a community media program he had supported in Syria. I was interested in his colleague, a Syrian journalist named Raed Fares.
Raed ran a radio station in embattled northern Syria, where he reported news and wartime know-how: emergency first aid, airstrike warnings, even foreign language classes.
Until he was killed. Assassinated for his reporting.
“You are trying to kill me because my word has no room among you,” Jesus tells his followers. I love the physical metaphor of words made corporeal, elbowing for space in a crowded room. Words are prophetic, threatening conduits. As for Jesus, words would spell Raed’s death.
When I asked about Raed, John’s voice choked with tears. We were friends, very good friends, he said.
Meanwhile, I sat safely in a university building, in a room with crown molding and windows that overlooked the Irish Sea. Anger thrummed in my chest, and tears burned in my eyes. Everything felt silly and small—how can I sit here writing a research paper while hospitals and schools and people crumple under missiles? While his friend is dead?
Similar questions claw at me amid each new global or local injustice. Why? What am I meant to do?
The lack of answers frustrates me, so I reach for words—bitter, glorious things. For me, storytelling is a ritual in making meaning, in making room. An imperfect offering, but I believe—perhaps naively—that stories can transform us. After all, though deadly in his own time, the word of Christ endures.
- How can you make room for prophetic voices this Lent?
MegAnne Liebsch is the communications manager for the Office of Justice and Ecology of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. She holds a master’s degree in media and international conflict from University College Dublin and is an alumna of La Salle University. She is based in Washington, D.C.