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Posts from the ‘Islam’ Category

1
Oct
bus-stop-art-baltimore

Q marks the spot – Treasure Map 73 (October 2014)

Sacred Treasure

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30
Sep

Faith under fire in Bethlehem: Mitri Raheb’s FAITH IN THE FACE OF EMPIRE

At last year’s launch of veteran travel writer Dervla Murphy’s remarkable book, A Month by the Sea – Encounters in Gaza, she made a simple but telling point. “The Palestinians’ predicament is that they are the victims’ victims”. Of course, in Faith in the Face of Empire, an equally remarkable book by a Palestinian Christian pastor, victimhood (despite its postmodern attractions) is a dangerous mantle. Read more

1
Sep
air-timelapse-spinning-photos

Q marks the spot – Treasure Map 72 (September 2014)

Sacred Treasure

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2
Aug
The-Pure-Package-Treehouse-31

Q marks the spot – Treasure Map 71 (August 2014)

Sorry this late – It’s been an absolutely CRAZY month (including finishing a job, moving house and going on a couple of week long meetings.) Soon, normal Q service will resume, I promise!

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER, I SUPPOSE.

Sacred Treasure

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1
Jul
streetview-murder_2928520k

Q marks the spot – Treasure Map 70 (July 2014)

Sacred Treasure

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1
Jun
TGV

Q marks the spot – Treasure Map 69 (June 2014)

Sacred Treasure

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1
May
Rev Tom Hollander

Q marks the spot – Treasure Map 68 (May 2014)

Sacred Treasure

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1
Apr
Spaghetti Harvest

Q marks the spot – Treasure Map 67 (April 2014)

Sacred Treasure

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1
Mar
Miles Davis at Columbia Records 1957 - Aram Avakian

Q marks the spot – Treasure Map 66 (March 2014)

Sacred Treasure

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1
Feb
ScarJo

Q marks the spot – Treasure Map 65 (February 2014)

Sacred Treasure

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18
Jan
A ruined street after heavy shelling in Aleppo

Wartorn faith: a conversation from the Aleppo front line (1)

This is the first of what I hope will be a regular posting. Yesterday, I was able to chat on the phone with a pastor friend in Aleppo in Syria. He is the pastor of a community that has witnessed in the city for over 150 years. But Aleppo is on the front line of the appalling conflict in Syria (as this helpful, interactive map demonstrates).

It was remarkable to be able to chat with almost crystal clear clarity, even if for only a few minutes – despite the fact that he lives with his family right in the heart of a war zone. Read more »

21
Oct
2008_Nigeria_Jos_Church

What to say when they burn down your house and church

I came across this remarkable, inspiring story at the end of David Smith’s excellent The Kindness of God, a plea for a new missiology appropriate to these troubled times. It comes a professor friend of his who has ministered for many years in Jos, Plateau State in northern Nigeria. Jos sits on Africa’s great faultline between the Muslim north and Christian south – and thus has faced terrible things in recent years. Read more »

15
Nov
Bozcaada

Caught in the crossfire: the Pain of Exile and Friendship in Dmetri Kakmi’s Mother Land

I set out for Greece today to do a long weekend of training in Athens: a country and city wracked by austerity measures, riots and fearful pessimism. And the complexities of the situation extend back far in the country’s history – they certainly defy soundbite rhetoric or easy-blame zingers. But as I return, I’ve been thinking a great deal about one person’s experience of this history, a history inextricably if painfully linked to that of its neighbour, Turkey: Dmetri Kakmi’s Mother LandRead more »

7
Nov
Hagia Sofia

When the living have to bury their own dead

Church-planters probably never even consider factoring this in when they start. That was certainly the case for some friends of mine in Turkey. For who would have guessed that setting up a cemetery might have to become a key feature of their growth strategy? Read more »

5
Oct
Sebag Montefiore - Jerusalem

Jerusalem – the city with its very own book.

I really don’t think this book lives up to its hype, but I did work my way through roughly 3/4 of Simon Sebag-Montefiore’s epic Jerusalem, The Biography. It is a very uneven and, at times, curiously flat read. It is also (perhaps inevitably)  littered with sweeping statements and an over-reliance on just a few partisan scholarly perspectives. This was especially frustrating when it came to plumbing the huge depths and breadths of biblical and archaeological scholarship. But there were clearly some gems and insights. And so thought I’d share just one or two. Read more »

1
Apr

Q marks the spot – Treasure Map 31 (April 2011)

Sacred Treasure

  • Martin Bashir is interviewed about his interview of Rob Bell. I was particularly struck by his perception of what C S Lewis called chronological snobbery in contemporary theological debates – whereby those over a certain age (ie 30!) are dismissed out of hand.
  • Ian Paul has offered a really helpful response to the BBC1 series Bible’s Buried Secrets
  • A wonderful example of doing good to all – let’s hope it works in all senses… Christopher Hitchens and Francis Collins.
  • And while we’re thinking about him, here’s a nice if brief interview with Francis Collins – quite old now (originally from 2007), but I’ve only just seen it.
  • At the other end of of the spectrum, here is a list of the 25 most influential atheists (though quite how you measure influence is anyone’s guess)
  • In case you missed it, here is the extraordinary testimony of Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s assassinated government minister: Read more »
1
Mar

Q marks the spot – Treasure Map 30 (March 2011)

Sacred Treasure

  • And while we’re on the subject of unjust leaders, Peanuts nails it as ever! (HT Nancy H)

Topical Treasure

  • The flight of a lifetime: catch this unique view of the last ever Space Shuttle launch (HT kouya):

Quirky Treasure

  • And finally, this is brilliant – clears up all possible confusions
30
Nov

Sherif is home!

Following on from previous post, there is GOOD NEWS.

Thank you so much for all your support of Sherif. Phase 1 of the campaign is complete! Fantastic. SHERIF IS HOME!!

Now for Phase 2 – this should never have happened. And who knows how many others there are out there suffering the same fate but without voices to plead their cause?

We will be working out how best to rephrase the letters to send out – and we’ll hopefully be able to explain more about exactly what has happened. But it is still worth working at this, even if the urgency has gone.

We will keep you posted and the website updated in due course. Watch these spaces

27
Nov

Release Sherif Hassan – detained in Egypt because of his faith

On 9th November, we had the terrible news from friends at All Souls. Emma and her Egyptian husband, Sherif, who only got married at All Souls in the summer, were travelling to Cairo to visit members of his family. She was immediately put back on the plane she had come in; Sherif was detained. Over the last couple of weeks, contact has been sporadic, mainly by email but one brief phone call.

I was asked to set up a campaigning website for them, and this is now live. The address is www.ReleaseSherif.com

On it we are posting:

  • up to date information of Sherif’s situation
  • letters that you can write to your MP, William Hague (UK Foreign Secretary) and the Egyptian Ambassador to the UK
  • links to background information about the situation of human rights and persecution of the Egyptian church

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE

  • Pass the message around – we’ve set up a TWITTER hashtag: #ReleaseSherif – please follow this for more news
  • Write letters to your MP and other key figures
  • PRAY for Sherif to be released
4
Nov

Lauren Booth’s conversion to Islam: a symptomatically western testimony?

Lauren Booth is Cherie Blair’s half-sister, and therefore Tony Blair’s half-sister-in-law. She is a journalist – and in the last few years, she has become a Muslim.

So it was fascinating to read her account of her conversion to Islam in yesterday’s Guardian.

She describes how her experience of meeting people in the Middle East punctured the ‘swagger of condescension’ of ‘a western woman with all my freedoms’. Having expected only to engage professionally with men in positions of power, she found herself surprised by the wide diversity of women in a wide diversity of roles. She had succumbed to the prevailing prejudice and Islamophobia of which she claims now to be a victim.

But at one level there is nothing remarkable about this – my experience of working in various Muslim contexts has had a similar effect on me. These are real people, with real lives – and many are lovely people who have become good friends.

Yet it is interesting how Booth found that the removal of prejudices led to being further intrigued:

My own path to Islam began with an awakening to the gap between what had been drip-fed to me about all Muslim life – and the reality.

One of her big concerns is in what she sees as the disparity between the media’s portrayal that obsesses with Islamic terrorism, and the experience of ordinary Muslims going about their everyday lives. And she has a very reasonable point. There are a billion or so Muslims – very few are terrorists, relatively speaking. And let’s face it, out of the 2 billion or so Christians, there are going to be more than a few nutters. You can’t tar the whole with an individual brush. Booth’s article is certainly a helpful dispelling of myths (and I was struck by the last paragraph where she explains what is going on when people cry out “Allahu Akhbar!”).

So one thing that this story does illustrate is how dangerous ‘straw men’ are – for reality is seldom even remotely connected with such caricatures. Encounters with genuine articles lead people up all kinds of paths. Any effective case against something must have worked doubly hard to present an acceptable and fair description of an opponent’s position.

The Path to Conversion

But what led to her conversion? She seems to have become used to praying to Allah as opposed to God without really finding that strange (as she suggests other converts do). But the key seemed to have been her growing relationships with Muslims:

Then came the pull: a sort of emotional ebb and flow that responds to the company of other Muslims with a heightened feeling of openness and warmth. Well, that’s how it was for me, anyway.

She seems then to have had a ‘spiritual experience’ while praying:

Finally, I felt what Muslims feel when they are in true prayer: a bolt of sweet harmony, a shudder of joy in which I was grateful for everything I have (my children) and secure in the certainty that I need nothing more (along with prayer) to be utterly content. I prayed in the Mesumeh shrine in Iran after ritually cleansing my forearms, face, head and feet with water. And nothing could be the same again. It was as simple as that.

There have been significant life changes too:

In the past my attempts to give up alcohol have come to nothing; since my conversion I can’t even imagine drinking again. I have no doubt that this is for life: there is so much in Islam to learn and enjoy and admire; I’m overcome with the wonder of it. In the last few days I’ve heard from other women converts, and they have told me that this is just the start, that they are still loving it 10 or 20 years on.

Western Culture Exposed

But what interested me most of all was her realisation of what is really going on in western culture:

How hard and callous non-Muslim friends and colleagues began to seem. Why can’t we cry in public, hug one another more, say “I love you” to a new friend, without facing suspicion or ridicule? I would watch emotions being shared in households along with trays of honeyed sweets and wondered, if Allah’s law is simply based on fear why did the friends I loved and respected not turn their backs on their practices and start to drink, to have real “fun” as we in the west do? And we do, don’t we? Don’t we?

And she even uses that great epistemological paradigm of the Truman Show, much-loved by Christian preachers (including me!):

And so I now live in a reality that is not unlike that of Jim Carey’s character in the Truman Show. I have glimpsed the great lie that is the facade of our modern lives; that materialism, consumerism, sex and drugs will give us lasting happiness. But I have also peeked behind the screens and seen an enchanting, enriched existence of love, peace and hope. In the meantime, I carry on with daily life, cooking dinners, making TV programmes about Palestine and yes, praying for around half an hour a day.

I want to say Amen to pretty much all of that. But still, I’m not propelled towards Allah.

Perhaps, one of the prevailing myths in the Islamic world is that the west is as it is because of, and not despite, the influence of Christianity. I can’t remember where I discovered this, but it’s said that TS Eliot’s extraordinary modernist masterpiece The Wasteland was a major influence on Osama bin Laden, because of its brutal dissection of the lostness of the west. However, as a Christian, I would want to argue that it is by no means as simple as that. There are certainly unfortunate residues of Christian culture misapplied or twisted. But the cultural factors that leave people living the hollow lives Lauren Booth escapes from are as much the result of the Enlightenment and a de-Christianisation as anything else. This was something Eliot himself was on about.

Believing or Belonging?

All in all, there was one issue revealingly absent from this testimony: truth. Islam’s beauty, compassion, community, new perspectives, cleansing etc. But not truth. Or an apologetic. Of course many other Muslims work hard to build an apologetic. But that’s not what happened here. Lauren Booth found that reality confronted and dismantled her prejudices – which then led, in turn, to exploring being part of this faith community. Which resulted in deep spiritual experiences. She belonged and experienced, then gradually believed.

It’s not hard to see this being paralleled by countless people coming to Christ in the west too. Of course, this path is not exclusively western or modern – but Booth’s story is intriguing to me as a symptomatically western experience of religious conversion (whether Christian, Muslim or other). A need for community, a despair at the inability to change lifestyle, a sense of the hollowness of modern life, a longing to be spiritually connected.

The Christian community offers all of that. Or rather it should. Or rather it MUST. It is a scandal when it doesn’t.

But it does have one asset that is lacking anywhere else. And that is a message of grace. And grace needs to be lived out; and grace needs to be spoken. For the combination of the two is the greatest apologetic: a community of grace and truth following a Lord who is the Truth and the embodiment of grace.

Which is where, for all my profound respect and love for my Muslim friends, I must differ from them.

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