Religions teach us empathy, tolerance and co-existence

Mariam al Balushi is a woman who dedicated her life to helping stray animals. Occasionally, I’d bump into her at the veterinary clinic. She’s the friendly type who’d welcome you with a big smile. When she walks into the vet, I can’t help but feel embarrassed as I compare my lone cat cage (the one I’d spent the night contemplating and planning on how to trap) with her 4 or 5 cages, and an occasional dog on leash.
Last week, I heard about a video on YouTube that talks about her called “the heart of mercies”.In this video that has English subtitles, Mariam talks about how she’d started her rescue work by helping cats abandoned around her neighbourhood and veterinary clinics.
People then started dumping cats at her doorstep and the number of strays kept increasing.
Mariam took a loan from the bank and bought a house next to hers.
She turned it into an animal shelter, where she has sheltered 181 cats and 7 dogs.
The video shows street cats and breed cats, that Mariam had rescued from cages of black markets.
In those shops, cats are locked up in cages for their lifetime and treated as breeding machines.
Mariam showed one of those cats that she bought for RO 25 only.
The cat was half dead in her cage and the breeder wanted to get rid of her.
Mariam brought her back to life and now she’s healthy but shy.
Also, there are 4 blind cats that Mariam is taking care of.
Rida is one of them, a white stray that responded to Mariam’s voice and ran towards her direction when she called him.
Mariam goes around the house pointing out changes she made to accommodate the cats.
She also thanked Omani women who help her with food and paying large veterinary bills that — at times — go up to RO 4,000.
Her gratitude was also extended to women around the GCC countries, who donate monthly to pay for one of the helpers in the house.
Mariam’s only wish was that her efforts gets recognized by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos and to run an official charity for animals.
At the end of the video, she pleads viewers to have mercy on strays, the way our religion had taught us.
Despite the mournful music that accompanies this short video, it’s uplifting and leaves you in total awe.
The comments on that the video were mainly supportive.
Many people (women in particular) thanked Mariam for her great efforts and even asked for contact details to send donations.
Astonishingly, men were the most opposing, commenting that the money spent on those animals should be used to help the poor and the orphans instead.
Comments like: These are stray animals that are supposed live on the streets, why rescue them in the first place? Is it for fame? Many people don’t realise that abandoned animals are mainly bred in cages or domesticated since birth, which means that they’d lost the instinct and ability to live on the streets.
As for the strays, food chains are constantly destroyed due to urbanisation.
Animals also get sick and injured quite often which calls for veterinary intervention.
You’d be surprised to know that during summer time here — when temperatures cross 40 degrees centigrade — cats and dogs could suffer a fatal heat stroke.
To those who oppose the idea of helping animals, I’d say: God’s mercy extends to all creatures.
Religions around the world teach us empathy, tolerance and co-existence with other beings.
And as our prophet PBUH said: “Have mercy to get mercy in return.”
Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja.