I couldn’t believe it! One person? I read further about the case (something I often neglect) learning he was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years imprisonment for starting a web site for social and political debate. His lashing would start today after the call to prayer in Saudi Arabia. Under the headline “What you can do” I squirmed when I saw the numbers to the Saudi Arabian embassy in Oslo. The office opened at 9 am and it was 10:13 am.
I read on, then looked at the numbers to the embassy again and clicked out of the web browser. I just didn’t want to call. But could I do nothing? As a Christian or even as a fellow blogger? I clicked open the petition and the signatures updated to 3419. Ah, that should let me off the hook.
Then I imagined the call to prayer in Saudi Arabia with the impending lashing drawing ever nearer. The least I could do was call. For someone I will never meet, but also for myself. The urging became overwhelming. I had to use my voice.
I clicked on the number and my iPhone asked if I wanted to call or cancel, I took a deep breath and pressed, “call.” My heart began pounding in my ears. When no one answered at the communications office I was tempted to hang up. But I clicked “1” on the main menu for the general consul. I promised myself that I could hang up if no one answered.
Immediately a woman with an accent answered. I began my introduction, “Hi this is Liana Norheim. I am calling to protest the lashing of Raif Badawi.”
“Ok, hold on one moment.” Was I imagining it or did I sense her urgency to pass this message on?
A Norwegian woman answered the transferred call and I thought I heard the same tone in her voice as she asked me to hold the line.
Then the general consul answered and I managed to croak out my entire message in Norwegian. When I was finished with my three or four sentences he answered in an irritated tone, “Do you speak English? I can’t understand Norwegian.”
Yes. I speak English. I took a breath. Then began again in a clear, strong voice.
“This is Liana Norheim. I am a friend of Amnesty International. I’m calling to protest the punishment of Raif Badawi,” I paused looking at the Norwegian lines in front of me, “Because it is violates the international laws against torture.”
I stopped. There was a flash of silence. I imagined the general consul leaning back in his chair. Did I hear a sigh? Then he responded most unexpectedly and sincerely, “Thank you for calling. Have a nice day.” And the call was over.
I got up to clear the table. I leaned against the sink and held out my hands. They trembled before me like the last leaves of autumn rippling in a breeze. And I thought of Raif and sent off a prayer for him. For strength and courage no matter the outcome. That good will be birthed from his pain.