Intermezzo – Christians allowed into the Paradise Gardens?

Christians allowed into the Paradise Gardens?
Intermezzo by Marlies ter Borg

My father, Frits Neervoort, was born in what was then the world’s second largest Muslim majority country, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, specifically in the Dutch East Indies. He grew up in Bandung as the child of parents who met in the Lutheran orphanage in The Hague. He was in his eighties when he and I discovered together that the figure, central to his faith, also played an important role in the Qur’an – Jesus.

In the meantime, back in Holland, he had in his eighties, befriended an Afghan refugee who helped him with chores in house and garden. They reached an understanding: you pray for me on Friday, I’ll pray for you on Sunday. In the last year of his life (just after 9/11) Frits showed a never-faltering interest in ‘our’ Qur’an and Bible project.

On his deathbed he was suddenly gripped by that old fear, that he would not be allowed to pass through Heaven’s gate, and neither would his wife who believed a little bit of everything. I told him about the Gardens.

“You can both enter the gardens of paradise”, I said: “husband and wife, as a couple.”

“If that’s true,” the mortally ill 86-year-old cried, half in joke: “I am converted,” he said chuckling. Call an imam!”

“There is no need, Dad, Christians may enter paradise as People of the Book; and there are so many gates that there is really no wall left.”

That very moment, a cleaning lady came in, wearing a headscarf. I asked her to refrain from a rigorous a cleaning, as my father was soon going to paradise

“We will all go to paradise,” the Muslima answered.

My father sank back into his pillow, a blissful glow in his tired eyes

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