Tag Archives: religion

Easter and hope

Easter is a very special holy day for Christians.

As a little girl, I loved Easter very much because my sister and I would wear new dresses, new shoes, and new hats (bonnets) for church.  We decorated eggs and then the Easter bunny hid them so we could search for them on Easter morning.

Easter eggs

Easter eggs

The very best were the chocolate Easter bunnies.

Chocolate Easter bunnies

Chocolate Easter bunnies

As an adult, Easter means “hope” for me.   That four-letter word is what I’m hanging my hat on for the future — for my granddaughter, for my family, for my friends, and for Palestine and Israel.

Merriam-Webster defines hope: to cherish a desire with anticipation; to desire with expectation of obtainment; to expect with confidence.
In a world stressed with the challenges of climate change and horrific projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline, hope can seem far-fetched.
In a world plagued with intractable conflicts, such as Israel’s occupation of Palestine, hope can seem downright foolish.
But I can’t imagine life without hope.  That is the human spirit, that makes us different from plants and animals.  We have the power of imagination and creativity to believe in something better and to hope.
Christianity, Judaism and Islam all share that common denominator of hope. Now, if they could just share it together!
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Christmas Eve in Gaza

Gaza is predominantly a Muslim community.  There’s a Mosque on nearly every corner, a room to pray in almost every public and private building, and the call to prayer is heard several times during the day.

Honestly, I was going to write-off Christmas this year because I haven’t seen a church in my 3 months here.

One part of the holidays I do NOT miss is the consumer gluttony that turns normal Americans into crazy nuts at this time of year.   I don’t miss the flurry of TV ads trying to lure people into stores.  I don’t miss the Santa hoopla.

However, I DO miss making fudge and Christmas cookies and pumpkin bread for family and friends.  I miss putting out the luminaries along the street and walking to Old Town to see the festivities there.  I miss the smell of pinon burning and cheerful greetings.   I miss my family!

On Christmas Eve, several Palestinian friends and Westerners living in Gaza came to my rescue, even offering to go to church with me.

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Holy Family Church in Gaza

The Holy Family Church near the Old Town in Gaza is beautiful.  We arrived early and watched the church fill up; I estimate 200-250 parishioners attended.  The service, of course, was in Arabic.  Many of the Christmas songs were familiar.

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The same cheerful greetings and festivities and families reminded me that Christmas is very special everywhere.

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Holy Family Church in Gaza

As I sat listening to the sermon (not understanding a word of it), I thought about the Christmas Truce  98 years ago when the British and German soldiers in the First World War laid down their weapons. They didn’t ask the generals or the politicians for permission, they just did it.

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My wish for Christmas 2012 is that the Israeli soldiers and the Hamas fighters just put down their weapons and say . . . “enough is enough” . . . “we can find a better way to live on this tiny sliver of land where Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, and all of the great peacemakers walked so many years ago.”

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Baby Jesus in Gaza

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Filed under Gaza, Peaceful, Spiritual - Religion

Sacrifice!

My first Eid — the religious holiday for Muslims worldwide — was celebrated in Gaza.

As it was explained to me, Eid al-Adha is a special occasion because Muslims are remembering Abraham’s devotion to Allah and his willingness to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, as God commanded.  Once Allah saw that both Abraham and Ishmael were going to submit and make the ultimate sacrifice, he sent a sheep to be sacrificed instead.

The tradition continues today with the slaughter of sheep and dividing the meat to share portions with relatives and family and some with the less fortunate.

These goats are oblivious to the Eid slaughter.

I’ve been thinking alot about what sacrifice means.  As a mother, I think the ultimate sacrifice must be to give the life of a child.   I know I wouldn’t be able to do that.  Imagine the faith Abraham must have had in Allah!

What does sacrifice mean in today’s world?

For me, I think it might mean giving up, letting go, tossing aside some cherished beliefs about the world.  As a Westerner from America, it might mean letting go of my sense of entitlement to consume the lion’s share of the Earth’s resources and a lifestyle that is both lavish and dangerous by global standards.

In the Middle East, sacrifice might require giving up cherished beliefs about the future — by both Israelis and Palestinians — based on their faith that the Almighty has a better future planned for both.  That may be a sacrifice that is too big for either side to make, unfortunately.

So I’ll focus on the sacrifices that I need to make and hope that Allah, God, the Almighty is taking care of things in the Middle East.

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Filed under Islam, Spiritual - Religion

Root cause of the Middle East conflict

A recent opinion piece in ynetnews.com (available here) reminds me how toxic the discussion about religion can be.   The author believes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not about land or borders, but about religion.  Whose god is greater?   Dan Calic writes:

Hatred of Jews has been a cornerstone of Islam from its birth, which explains why the contentious relationship between Arabs and Jews is not a 20th century phenomena. It also offers insight into why today’s conflict has nothing to do with incorrect accusations of Israel wanting to subjugate Arabs, or “occupy their land.”

Indeed the modern conflict stems from Islam’s goal of destroying Israel and annihilating the Jewish people, in accordance with Islamic eschatology, expressed in the Quran. It also helps explain why Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 didn’t bring peace. It’s because Israel still existed after the withdrawal. Islam’s objective is the elimination of 100% of Israel. Nothing less is acceptable. Far too many people fail to understand this critical point.

These words are enlightening, but not for what they purport to teach about Islam or the conflict.    The author has donned his Islamophobic robes and is preaching hatred of the “other”  just as he believes Islam teaches hatred of Jews.

I experienced the anger and violence perpetuated by Islamophobes first hand earlier this  Spring on the campus of the University of New Mexico and wrote about it here.

Extreme Islamophobes like Nonie Darwish and Dan Calic are dangerous because of the hatred and violence they incite with their words, but not as dangerous as the hundreds or thousands of people who silently believe this worldview.    I think I may know some of them.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to convince these type of people that Islam is a religion of peace;  that Muslims are people like you and me with the same dreams and faults;  and that all three major religions have lived together in peace in the past (La Convivencia in Spain) and can do so in the future.

Norman Rockwell’s Golden Rule

Fortunately, the Golden Rule —- treat others as you would want them to treat you —- is found in every major religion, including Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

I’m going to remind the silent, quasi-Islamophobes that I meet to read their religious texts and relearn the early lessons of their spiritual faiths.

And I hope my Albuquerque friends will see Paloma at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, a play about a modern day Muslim, Jew and Christian searching for love and understanding.

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Filed under Islam, Spiritual - Religion, Uncategorized