Saturday, March 30, 2013

"God, in judging us, loves us"

I do not wish to add too many words. One word should suffice this evening, that is the Cross itself. The Cross is the word through which God has responded to evil in the world. Sometimes it may seem as though God does not react to evil, as if he is silent. And yet, God has spoken, he has replied, and his answer is the Cross of Christ: a word which is love, mercy, forgiveness. It is also reveals a judgment, namely that God, in judging us, loves us. In judging us, he loves us. If I embrace his love then I am saved, if I refuse it, then I am condemned, not by him, but my own self, because God never condemns, he only loves and saves.

--Francis, Bishop of Rome

Friday, March 29, 2013

Orthodox Kurds? An interview with Seraphim Maamdi

I have recently become aware of the topic of Christian Kurds. Historically Kurds are Muslim or Yazidi, but very few are Christians. Of those who exist, most are evangelical (as with most all converts from Islam), but there are some Catholics, and some Orthodox.

Here is an interview with an Orthodox Kurd from a Yazidi background living in Russia. Wrap your brain around that!

—Are there many Christians in general amongst the Kurds? How far back does the history of Kurdish Christianity go? 
—We know that the ancestors of modern Kurds, the Medes and the Parthians, received Christianity during its first centuries. There were even separate Kurdish principalities that confessed Christianity. There were many Orthodox Kurds in eastern Anatolia, and some of them are parishioners of the Constantinople Church to this day. With the rise of Islam, everything changed. Kurds found themselves surrounded by Moslems, and Christianity was gradually uprooted from the Kurds. Now, in Georgia, Kurds are becoming Orthodox en masse. It is notable that this movement is coming from the people themselves—no one is missionizing; they are going to church on their own initiative. Of course, if there were an dedicated mission to them, there would be more fruit. The success of various Protestant missionary groups among the Kurds is an indication of this. The exact number of Christian Kurds is unknown, and there has been no research into this, but it is estimated that there are tens of thousands, and the number is growing. In Russia, there are many Orthodox Kurds. If the Lord blesses, and I hope, there will be a Kurdish Orthodox community in Moscow.

Read the whole interview at Pravoslavie. Note how when he sought baptism at the Orthodox church he was not turned away. Good for that priest! Most Muslims who seek conversion at Orthodox (or Catholic) churches are indeed turned away and end up staying Muslim or becoming evangelical Christians. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gay Marriage, Love and Taxes

Gay Marriage, Love and Taxes
by Abu Daoud

I suppose I should have learned to expect this from America, a nation of takers and whiners. (Ok, mostly, not entirely.)

The argument goes like this, it is not fair to same-sex couples that they not be able to get married because they cannot enjoy the same tax breaks that traditional couples enjoy.

Yes, and this is fine. Traditional couples can (and usually do) produce offspring who will become the tax-payers of tomorrow. It is entirely logical for a country to privilege such couples with tax benefits because it is in the interest of the state for population to stay steady or increase. SS couples may adopt or do IVF or whatever, but their relationship cannot be fruitful. When traditional couples don't have kids it is the exception and it is because they stop them from being conceived, kill them before they are born (abortion), or because their bodies do not function correctly (sad to say).

All of this comes back to the fundamental error in American thinking: that marriage is somehow fundamentally about love and feelings. Sorry people, but a country that is convinced of such a silly and ridiculous idea deserves to decline into decrepitude and senility. From the point o fthe view of the State, marriage is beneficial because it provides a future generation for a given society who will be well-rounded and well-adjusted. If mom and dad love each other, very nice. If they don't, but they treat their marriage covenant with respect, then that can be happy and good and blessed as well.

Sorry I'm frustrated people, but I am. It is sad to see one's own country become such a bastion for foolishness under the guise of a love for freedom and 'equality'.

Monday, March 25, 2013

What does the West owe to Islam? Very Little...

One often hears, ad nauseum, about how much Europe owes to Islam for this and that. I have from time to time shared how suspicious I am of this hypothesis. I mean, it does a lot to inflate the self confidence of Muslims who live in countries that (excepting Sub-Saharan Africa) are the worst in the world in areas like economic growth, education, new technologies, human rights, corruption, and so on.

And then I find there is a whole book about the topic of what Europe owes to Islam. Sylvain Gouguenheim has proposed that the West owes very little to Islam in his book (only in French, alas) Aristote au Mont-Saint-Michel. Here is a section from a review of the book by Roger-Pol Driot (Le Monde, 4 April 2008):

Now this serious academician, a professor of mediaeval history at l’École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, refutes a number of convictions that had become dominant. During the last decades, following the works of Alain de Libera, or Mohammed Arkoun, Edward Said, or the Counsel of Europe, a wrong turn had been taken regarding the role of Islam in the history and culture of Europe … Should we follow this book, it will be necessary to revise further our judgments. Rather than believing that the entire body of European philosophical knowledge was dependent on Arab intermediaries, we should remember the major role played by the translators of Mount-Saint-Michel. They had transmitted all of Aristotle directly from Greek into Latin, several decades before the same works were translated in Toledo from the Arabic versions. Instead of dreaming that the Islamic world was both open and generous and offered to dark and dormant Europe the means for its renewal, it is necessary to remember that Europe did not receive all that learning as a gift. It had to go and search for it. And it was Europe alone that applied that knowledge both in the scientific and political fields.
Have any of you read the whole book? If so, what did you think?

Kenneth Cragg on the dishonsty of Edward Said

Here is what Kenneth Cragg had to say on Edward Said:

There is, it would seem, a degree of Palestinian nationalism in Edward Said's approach. He insists that all knowledge turns on power and there is no western orientalism not funded by political, commercial, or imperialist interests. It would seem, on this count that only insiders to it can know a culture, seeing that all outsiders bring unsurmountable prejudice. The dishonesty lies in propounding this view from within an eastern insidership, which has so eminently demonstrated a capacity to know the West and its ethos and literature on the part of one, by origin an outsider. It would have been generous to acknowledge similar capacities in reverse on the part of those orientalists, e.g., Hamilton Gibb, whom he mostly castigates.
The Arab Christian, page 302

The irony of this is that Said presents himself as an insider who can really know an understand Oriental cultures from the inside, but as I have mentioned elsewhere, he was not an insider. He was a wealthy Christian who grew up in Cairo!

Bat Ye'or takes on Edward Said

Bat Ye'or, author of the famous books Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam and Islam and Dhimmitude, had this to say about Edward Said:

But the politicization of history initiated by Edward Said has obfuscated the root causes of Islam’s traditional hostility toward Jews and Christians from the seventh century onward. Edward Said was a Christian raised in Egypt and educated in America; he taught English literature at Columbia University. A great admirer of Arafat and a member of the PLO’s top Committee, he endeavored to destroy the whole scientific accumulation of Orientalist knowledge of Islam and replace it with a culture of Western guilt and inferiority toward Muslims victims. The obliteration of the historical truth that he constantly pursued from 1978 – starting with his book Orientalism – as well as his hostility to Israel, has prevented an understanding and the resolution of problems that today assail Europe and challenge its own survival.
Well put, Bat Ye'or, well put. Quoted in 'The Legacy of Edward Said, a 20th Century Dhimmi' by Jacob Thomas.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fantastic web resource: Maghreb Christians

I am glad to introduce you all to a great website with tons of articles, links, and great information on the Christians in North Africa.

Maghreb Christians

Check it out and enjoy.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Edward Said: Spokesperson for Palestine, Liar

This is not some anti-Palestine Zionist rant. I don't do those. But I will say that in academia you find this guy mentioned a lot. His most famous book is Orientalism (which I will not even provide a link for).

Thanks to Justus Weiner for exposing many of the outright blatant lies of Edward Said, though. Bravo! Or should I say mozel tov? Whatever...

When I say 'lies', I do mean lies, not incorrect opinions, or what have you. Here is one example:

The unraveling of this mystery began as I was preparing an article on "Peace and its Discontents: Israeli and Palestinian Intellectuals Who Oppose the Current Peace Process," which appeared in the Cornell International Law Journal (Winter 1996). Part of my research included reading Said's book Peace and its Discontents: Essays on Palestine in the Middle East Peace Process.
Out of natural curiosity, I tried to find out more about this highly persuasive and influential intellectual-academic and his tragic childhood/adolescence in Jerusalem, especially since I had lived around the corner from what he nostalgically referred to as "my beautiful old house" on Brenner Street, and I had worked for years in an office behind St. George's school which Said claimed to have attended.
Edward Said actually grew up in Cairo, Egypt. His childhood friend Professor Hoda Gindi of Cairo University, who lived downstairs in the same apartment house, confirmed that Said was the scion of a wealthy Cairene family. As was discovered, his father was an American citizen who moved to Cairo from Jerusalem a decade before Edward was born. Living in Cairo until his departure to attend prep school in America in 1951, Edward Said resided with his family in luxurious apartment buildings in the exclusive Zamalek neighborhood, played with childhood friends in the manicured private gardens of the Aquarium Grotto, attended private English and American schools, was driven around in his father's large black American cars by his chauffeur, and enjoyed the facilities at the exclusive Gezira Sporting Club as the son of one of its only Arab members. 
Well, take that, Edward Said. He had the chance to defend himself in an interview with Mr Weiner, but did not return calls. So much for Said. I will never reference the liar in one of my papers.

Just goes to show that in higher education fraud and falsification can get you far :-)

Read the whole essay here.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A question about the Jews and the Arabs, Israel and Palestine

A younger Christian and friend of mine recently posed this question to me:
I know a lot of Messianic Jews and gentiles who pray for Israel, as we should but they DAMN the ARABS. When I say 'For God so loved the World...' and to pray for the innocent Arabs, I'm told that Satan is using me to spread lies... your opinions sir?
And this was my response:
There is a whole movement undermining Christian Zionism today. Check out the material by Stephen Sizer, for instance. It is very good. Also, remind people that in 1 Peter it is Christians who are 'a chosen people' and that Paul said, 'For neither circumcision nor non-circumcision matter--what matters is a new Creation!'
The history of Israel is much darker than most Americans know. Ultimately only the Christian faith has the power to overcome the animosity between Jews and Arabs. Neither Islam nor Judaism have the radical command to love the enemy. There is no political solution.
What do you think? Anyone living in the Middle East (it matters not which country) has to tackle these questions sooner or later.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Poppycock about the Papacy and Europe

What is all this trash I hear about Francis being the first bishop of Rome not from Europe since our local guy, Peter?

Absolutely false!

CNN (of all sources) has it right:
The last time someone from outside Europe led the Roman Catholic Church was the year 741. That's when Pope Gregory III, born in Syria, ended his 10-year reign.

Before him, there were popes from Bethlehem (St. Evaristus, from 97 to 105), Jerusalem (Pope Theodore I, from 642 to 649) and modern-day Libya (Saint Victor I, from 189 to 199).

And, of course, the church counts Peter, disciple of Jesus from [the Galilee], as the first pope.

Several other Syrians have also served as pontiff.
From HERE, though they are also missing two of the three African Popes: Gelasius I and Miltiades.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Lack of Religious Freedom in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

People often have an uninformed and positive view of Jordan in relation to religious freedom. The country is certainly better than some other places in the Middle East, but this is a good summary of the lack of religious freedom for Christians (who are ex-Muslims) in Jordan:
For example, Jordan has no codified laws on apostasy. Its legal system, being dominantly secular, limits the use of shari’a mostly to the Status courts. Article 104 of the Constitution creates two different court systems on religious matters: a) shari’a courts for Muslims, and, b) courts for recognised non-Muslim religions, whose members are exempted from shari’a. Although these courts do not have any criminal punishment mandates, their decisions on civic matters, such as marriage, inheritance and official registrations, can have serious consequences for an apostate. 

When a convert is taken to the Status court, accused of apostasy by a relative or spouse, the court refers to shari’a law. Since the court has no authority to hand down a criminal punishment, and because there are significant international implications in response to a ruling of capital punishment, apostasy charges take on the equivalence of the annulment of marriages, denial of inheritance and custody rights, removal of official records and confiscation of identification cards. In this way, even though apostasy is not a codified ‘crime’ in Jordan, a convert from Islam faces the risk of ‘civil death’. 
From No Place to Call Home by Ziya Meral (Surrey, UK: CSW 2008). And that's your tolerant, kind Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

PS: This report used to be available for free, online, but that link is now broken or the server is not working. Because of this, I have posted the document on Scribd:

No Place to Call Home, by Ziya Meral 

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Ben-David on the lack of integration of Muslims in Europe

Interesting theory here from Esther Ben-David on why Muslims in Europe do not integrate well:
Many forecasts regarding the Muslim immigration to Europe expect that immigrant Muslims will eventually integrate into society. However, marriage immigration ensures that the immigrant population never progresses past the stage of first and second generation immigrants, frustrating integration. Also hampering demographic forecasts is the fact that many second generation immigrants prefer to marry spouses from their parents' home country. Studies among Moroccan and Turkish youth in Belgium show that they often prefer to marry spouses from "back home" rather than marrying a fellow second generation immigrant like themselves.[19] Boys, dissatisfied with what they see as the Westernization of immigrant women, opt for more traditional women from the home country. Moroccan immigrant youth visiting their home country are often accosted with offers of sex and money in exchange for a visa by local girls desperate to get to the "Promised Land."[20]
Check it all out at Middle East Forum.

Friday, March 08, 2013

An Arab Pope? Cardinals Representing the Arab World

So, the Cardinal Electors are all in Rome, as are many of the older calrdinals who do not get to vote, but nonetheless may become pope or influence the decision of others. So who is representing this little flock of Catholic Christians (not necessarily Roman Catholic, of course) here in the great, big Middle East? Here is what I have found:

From Egypt, Antonio Naguib (نجيب), Patriarch emeritus of Alexandria of the Copts (Coptic Catholic Church), Egypt. Age 77.

From Iraq, Emmanuel Delly III, Patriarch Emeritus of Babylon of the Chaldeans (Chaldean Catholic Church), Iraq. Age 85.

From Lebanon: Bechara al-Rahi, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites (Maronite Catholic Church), Lebanon. Age 73.

Also from Lebanon: Nasrallah Sfeir, Patriarch emeritus of Antioch of the Maronites (Maronite Catholic Church), Lebanon. Age 92.

From Sudan: Gabriel Zubair Wako, Archbishop of Khartoum, Sudan. Age 72.

And that is all I I missing anyone? No one at all from Israel, Iran, Jordan, Palestine or Syria?

Anyway, it does not appear that any of these people are actual Arabs (though they speak Arabic as their native tongue, likely). Naguib and Wako are Africans (yes, Copts are Africans), and the Maronites are descendents of the Phoenicians (not Arabs), and Delly is of the Chaldean Church meaning he is ethnically a Christian Kurd (aka Assyrian).

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Egypt's faded glory and Islamization

Not to make the connection to closely, but note that the greatness of Egypt was prior to its Islamization. Note the same thing with Constantinople: it was the worlds leader in art, theology and science--before Islam. One might point out other cities (Carthage?), or the reverse direction: Israel has become a leader in technology, education and economics, but only after it was partially de-Islamized and rule was given to the British Mandate and the ultimately it achieved sovereignty. In Egypt's case (as in all the cases above actually) note that the successes were achieved not only by non-Muslims but by entirely different ethnic groups. It was the Copts who built the pyramids, not the Arabs. Again, don't make too much out of all this, each example is fairly complex, but it is worth noting.

This pattern will be replicated as Europe continues to be Islamized: decline in all areas: economics, rule of law, education, art, science, and so on.

[...]The pyramids are proof of Egypt's endurance and what distinguishes it from modern confections, like Saudi Arabia, a nation founded 76 years ago, named after a family and built on oil wealth. But these monuments to Egypt's early ingenuity are also an ever-present symbol of faded glory. It is hard to escape comparisons between an Egypt that once led the world in almost everything and modern Egypt, where about 40 percent of the population lives on $2 a day.

"Can you believe our government can do nothing for us, and this thing that was built thousands of years ago is still helping me feed my family?" Ahmed Sayed Baghali, 49, said as he sat in a plastic chair selling postcards to tourists outside the Egyptian Museum here, which displays millenniums of antiquities. "Who would buy my things if they were not about the pharaohs? People come here from very far to see the pyramids, not to see Cairo."[...]

From IHT (an old article...)