Almost camouflaged against the mottled stone of the church wall by her grey hair, grey skirt and beige cardie, Sister Christine, Catholic nun and community worker, locks the great wooden door behind her and hurries down the alley that leads to Poplar High Street. She hasn’t formed a plan yet, but she’s sure that by the time she meets up with the others she’ll know what to do. It’s a bright morning and already there are some kids in the street, hanging around outside the College, by the football pitches. She smiles as she passes them. Two young mums, pushing buggies, gossiping and laughing behind their hijabs, nod hello – on their way to the park she guesses. It’s people who matter to her, not symbols or grandstanding.
She touches the cross she wears under her smart white blouse. She can see the Islamist flag that has been adopted by ISIS, fluttering like a great black crow above the curved green metal of the gates to the Will Crooks Estate. Other smaller flags had been woven between the uprights, colourful testaments to the greatness of Allah and the struggle of Palestinians. They’ve been there for weeks, put up in spontaneous fellowship by neighbours dismayed by the bombing of Gaza, but this new one, this harbinger, like an ISIS flag, was planted in the dead of night and had brought nothing but complaints. It’s not an emblem of peace; it was put there to provoke by naïve young hotheads. It had to be removed.
Getting closer, Christine was glad to see her friends were there, underneath the pigeon of peace whose metal face was tickled by the tip of the Jihadi flag, and that they’d brought the step ladder she knew she’d be the one to climb. Behind her, the group of school kids who had followed her down the high street gathered.
Sister Christine Frost is a well-known and well liked figure in Poplar. This short story is based on an incident in 2014 when she gained a degree of notoriety for removing a flag from the neighbourhood which the council had failed to do. Newspapers hailed her as brave, but she saw it as pragmatic.
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