The Biblical Land: Given By God But Not Without Conditions

Posted on August 27, 2017

The presenter in the video above makes a good point. While according to the Old Testament, God issued a land grant to Abraham and his descendants, the biblical texts also tell us that the gift did not come without conditions. It was a contractbasically. And the Israelites failed to live up to it. This is what’s recorded in the biblical narrative. Sadly, many Christians today seem oblivious to the fact that the modern day state of Israel is following the same blind path. Hopefully the above video can make things a little clearer for them.

Back in June of this year, Palestinian Christians published an open letter to the World Council of Churches (WCC) asking that it recognize Israel as an apartheid state. I put up a post about it at the time, commenting that while the document makes no specific reference to Christian Zionism, it does nonetheless assert that Palestinians are suffering “because of one political declaration from a Western empire, based on a twisted theological premise.” And as I also remarked in the same post, the phrase “twisted theological premise” is an apt way of describing Christian Zionism. At any rate, I thought now would be a good time to re-post the open letter to the WCC, and so that’s what I have done below.

You’ll notice that among the signatories to the letter–the one at the very top of the list in fact–is the Arab Catholic Scouts Group. A bit earlier this month a group of Catholic Scouts were on a camp out near the West Bank village of Jibya when they found their campsite under attack by Israeli forces. Here is what a Catholic website reported at the time:

Israeli occupation forces yesterday raided a Catholic children’s scout camp, near the village of Jibya, organised by the Palestinian Holy Family Group from the Latin Monastery of Ramallah. They destroyed the tents and threw sound and gas bombs before they left.

Fortunately, the children were away from the camp attending a class in a hall close to the campsite. No one was injured, but the organisers say the children were very frightened.

The scout leader Samir Habash, said: “We practice our scouting right within the Palestinian natural environment, which is guaranteed by international and local scouting laws, but it appears that this right is forbidden to us because of oppressive occupation measures.”

He appealed to local and international scouting organisations around the world to publicise this barbaric attack, especially because it was targeting children.

The Scouts of the Palestinian Holy Family (for boy and girl scouts) were founded in 1996 and have about 180 members.

If you follow the link to the article you will see a picture of the destroyed tents.

Yes, the belief that “God gave the land to the Jews” has indeed contributed to a lot of suffering. This has been going on for a long time, and as the letter below points out, “the situation is still deteriorating.”

By the way, the letter makes reference to two other documents, one of them being the Amaan Call, issued by the WCC ten years ago following a meeting held in Amaan, Jordan. The other document mentioned is the Kairos Palestinedocument, a letter signed by Palestinian Christians and published in 2009. This latest letter urges Christians of conscience not to “hide behind the cover of political neutrality,” and also calls upon the WCC to support the BDS movement.

In June of this year, the WCC did in fact release a “Statement on 50 Years of Occupation.” The statement notes that “half a century after the 1967 war, there is still no peace and no justice among the inhabitants of the land of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection.” It also asserts that Israel’s “matrix of control – in particular through the ever growing web of illegal Israeli settlements – is increasing rather than diminishing” hopes for peace.

Sadly, however, the statement does not include the word “apartheid,” nor does it endorse the BDS movement.

***

Letter from Palestinian Christians to the World Council of Churches

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. (Isa. 1:17)

Background

As we meet this month in Bethlehem in occupied Palestine, we are still suffering from 100 years of injustice and oppression that were inflicted on the Palestinian people beginning with the unjust and unlawful Balfour declaration. The injustice was intensified through the Nakba and the influx of refugees, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem and Gaza, the fragmentation of our people and land through policies of isolation and confiscation of property, and the building of Jewish-only settlements and the apartheid wall.

We are still suffering because of one political declaration from a Western empire, based on a twisted theological premise. Even some churches and Christian leaders supported the establishment of the colonial state in our land, and totally ignored—even dehumanized—the nation, our people who had already existed here for centuries and paid the price for atrocities committed in Europe.

Hundred years later, with thousands of lives lost, towns and villages razed from the face of the earth (though not our memory), millions of refugees, thousands of homes demolished, and continued incarceration of prisoners, our Nakba continues.

A hundred years later and there is still no justice in our land! Discrimination and inequality, military occupation and systematic oppression are the rule. Today, we stand in front of an impasse and we have reached a deadlock. Despite all the promises, endless summits, UN resolutions, religious and lay leaders’ callings, Palestinians are still yearning for their freedom and independence, and seeking justice and equality. Humanly speaking, we have reached the “moment of impossible,” as Emeritus Latin Patriarch Sabbah said recently.

Could it be that we have reached this “impossible moment” because things were built from the very beginning—a hundred years ago—on an unjust premise? Should we expect that such an unjust declaration will create anything but strife and destruction?

Today is also an opportunity to remember the 10-year-old Amman Call. We are thankful to those who stood with us back then in costly solidarity—those who stood for truth and justice. We are also concerned that 10 years later the situation is still deteriorating. Like other initiatives advocating end of occupation, the Amman Call did not achieve its goals in building and achieving just peace. We must ask ourselves today why that is.

We are also concerned by Israel’s systemic assault on Palestinian creative resistance, and on our partners worldwide who use this method to pressure Israel to end the occupation. Many new laws were issued in Israel and around the world to oppose this creative non-violent resistance unlawfully, and to stop all effort toward peace. Not only is this an attack on the freedom of conscience and speech but it is also an assault on our right and duty to resist evil with good. Israel is even now trying to prevent pilgrims from visiting Bethlehem, the city of Emmanuel!

While we are grateful for the ‘costly solidarity’ articulated in the Amman Call and exercised by many churches around the world, we are concerned that some churches have weakened their positions in the last 10 years as a result of Israeli pressure. Many still hide behind the cover of political neutrality, not wishing to offend their partners in religious dialogue.

Finally, we meet in an environment of religious wars and persecution in our region. Religious extremism is on the rise, and religious minorities have paid a painful price. We thank you for your efforts toward the refugees and toward ending the conflicts in our region. We also thank you for your support of persecuted Christians in places like Iraq and Syria.

Our Call

“God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness (Justice), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me”. (Matthew 5:10-11)

As we stand in front of this “impossible moment,” it gives us no pleasure to say that “we told you so” eight years ago when we declared the moment as a Kairos moment! We stand facing the impossible, but we have not lost hope, since as followers of the Risen One, we are the people of hope. However, we need you and we need you now more than ever. We need your costly solidarity. We need brave women and men who are willing to stand in the forefront. This is no time for shallow diplomacy Christians. We urge you to hear our call and adopt the following:

1. That you call things as they are: recognize Israel as an apartheid state in terms of international law and in agreement of what a person like Desmond Tutu said and as the UN ESCWA report said: “Israel is guilty of imposing an apartheid regime on the Palestinian people.. We are disturbed by the fact that states and churches are dealing with Israel as if the situation were normal, ignoring the reality of occupation, discrimination, and daily death in the land. Just as churches united to end apartheid in South Africa and whereby the WCC played a courageous and pivotal prophetic and leadership role, we expect you to do the same!

2. That you unequivocally condemn the Balfour declaration as unjust, and that you demand from the UK that it asks forgiveness from the Palestinian people and compensates for the losses. We ask that churches and Christians support the Palestinians in their request for justice.

3. That you take the strongest theological stand against any theology or Christian group that justifies the occupation and privileges one nation over the other based on ethnicity or a covenant. We ask that you adopt and live the theology suggested by Kairos Palestine and that you organize conferences to bring awareness toward this end.

4. That you take a stand against religious extremism and against any attempt to create a religious state in our land or region. We ask that you support us in combating the foundations of extremism and that you seek our council when acting against religious extremism so that you do not jeopardize and harm our standing here.

5. That you revisit and challenge your religious dialogue partners, and that you are willing to even withdraw from the partnership if needed, if the occupation and injustices in Palestine and Israel are not challenged.

6. That you lead campaigns for church leaders and pilgrims to visit Bethlehem and other Palestinian cities on this side of the wall in cooperation with Palestinian tourist and pilgrimage agencies, in response to recent attempts by Israel. We ask that you publicly challenge any attempt by Israel or other Christians that discourage pilgrims from visiting Palestinian places.

7. That you defend our right and duty to resist the occupation creatively and non-violently. We ask that you speak in support of economic measures that pressure Israel to stop the occupation and that you support atheltic, cultural, and academic measures against Israel until it complies with international law and UN resolutions urging the ending of its occupation, apartheid, and discrimination, and accepts refugees to return to their homeland. This is our last peaceful resort. In response to Israel’s war on BDS, we ask that you intensify that measure.

8. That you create lobby groups in defense of Palestinian Christians. We ask that you publicly and legally challenge Christian organizations that discredit our work and legitimacy.

9. We therefore propose as a matter of the greatest urgency that you create a strategic program within WCC similar to the program “To Combat Racism” to lead efforts to lobby, advocate, and develop active programs toward justice and peace in Palestine and Israel and maintain the presence of the Palestinian Christians through supporting their organizations, church work, and peaceful efforts.

As faithful witnesses, we acknowledge, affirm, and continue the long-standing prophetic tradition, especially the one started by the Amman Call and articulated in the Kairos Palestine document. We fully grasp the pressure church leaders are facing here and abroad not to speak the truth, and it is because of this that we are raising this call.

Things are beyond urgent. We are on the verge of a catastrophic collapse. The current status quo is unsustainable. This could be our last chance to achieve a just peace. As a Palestinian Christian community, this could be our last opportunity to save the Christian presence in this land. Our only hope as Christians comes from the fact that in Jerusalem, the city of God, and our city, there is an empty tomb, and Jesus Christ who triumphed over death and sin brought to us and to all humanity, new life.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Cor. 4:8-9)

12 June 2017

Signed By:

Jerusalem
Arab Catholic Scouts Group
Arab Orthodox Society, Jerusalem
Caritas, Jerusalem
Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees—Middle East Council of Churches
Greek Catholic Sayedat AlBishara Association
International Christian Committee
Laity Committee in the Holy Land
National Christian Association
Pontifical Mission Palestine
Sabeel—Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
Seeds of Better life
Union of Arab Orthodox Club, Jerusalem
Young Men’s Christian Association—YMCA
Young Women’s Christian Association—YWCA

 

Gaza
NECC office

 

Bethlehem (NCOB) Network of Christian Organizations in Bethlehem
The East Jerusalem YMCA—Beit Sahour Branch
The Arab Educational Institute
Holy Land Trust, Bethlehem
Wi’am Center, Bethlehem
Saint Afram Assyrian Society
Holy Land Christians Ecumenical Foundation, Bethlehem
Joint Advocacy Initiative (JAI)
Arab Orthodox Club, Beit Sahour
Arab Orthodox Club, Beit Jala
Arab Orthodox Club, Bethlehem
The Arab Orthodox Charitable Society, Beit Sahour
Bethlehem Bible College
Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies
Alternative Tourism Group, ATG, Beit Sahour
Senior Citizen Charitable Society
Environmental educational Center, Beit Jala
Saint Vincent Charitable Society, Beit Jala
Shepherds’ Children Society, Beit Sahour
Kairos Palestine
Advertisements

Hour before the Dawn

[ Ed. note – Another poem by Palestinian poet Nahida Izzat. Nahida is a Muslim. As I read her poem, however, it brings to mind for me, strangely perhaps, the following spoken by Jesus after the resurrection: “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The words are from the very last line, in the final verse, in the final chapter, of the Gospel of Matthew.

Indeed, we seem to be fast approaching the end of an age. As Nahida puts it, “Earth is throbbing/The avalanche is fast approaching.” The poem also contains suggestions of a soul preparing to make the journey from life into the afterlife: “Raise your gaze up to the sky/Note the signs to your dwelling place.” Yet worth remembering is that in the post-apocalyptic age to come, heaven and earth will merge. This is the case in Christian theology, at any rate, and I suspect Islam probably has its parallel.

In any event, when I read poetry like this I tend to become convinced that it is the Palestinians (and certainly not the Khazars!!! ) who are the true descendants of the earliest followers of Jesus. Christians should consider that we potentially have far more in common with Muslims than we do with Jews. ]

 

Hour before the Dawn

* * *

Earth is throbbing in curious anticipation

The avalanche is fast approaching

People dazed in deep sleep

Some eyes are peeled as if they know

* * *
* * *

Time to retreat, weary soul

Time to retreat

Rest in a niche where Light descends

Hand it all over to the One Supreme

Carve a hole in your heart, braid your loved ones in

One by one

* * *

* * *

O soul

Put your temporary house in order

Clean up the mess before the storm

Pluck up the weeds and plow the soil

Scatter the seeds for those to come

Give it back better than you received

Stunning… Atrociously beautiful

Humbly put your head down and pray

A modest sign of ample gratitude

* * *

* * *

Raise your gaze up to the sky

Note the signs to your dwelling place

Adorn the garden of your home eternal

Let love flow free, let kindness prevail

Follow your soul, she knows the way

Let her guide you to your heavenly abode

Beneath the Throne of a Gracious Lord

Gaze in amazement at the glorious sight

Wither to nothingness before the Majesty

Splendour no eye had ever seen

* * *

A Quote from Jesus that Perfectly Fits the Situation

Yesterday I put up a post on the book  Judaism’s Strange Gods that included a video with comments by a member of Neturei Karta, the group of religious Jews who have called for the dismantling of the state of Israel. In the video, the NK member talks about Jews in Israel who, through such acts as refusing to serve in the Israeli military, have suffered retribution. He refers to such people as having been arrested, beaten, and in some cases even murdered.

It seems very much as if Jewish leaders are leading their people over a cliff. In this, they are not dissimilar from the leaders of America. (No surprise that the two countries have such a “special relationship.”) How does one free oneself from leaders like this? We are talking, of course, about leaders who hold enormous power and who are ever intent upon accruing even more power to themselves. Power to control as many people as possible. A quote from Jesus sums up the situation perfectly–and indeed offers us a way out:

To the Jews who had believed in him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

To Jews who have suffered persecution for taking a moral stand against Israel: Jesus was the Jewish messiah. Shortly before his death in 30 A.D. he predicted the destruction of Jerusalem. Almost exactly 40 years later what he predicted came to pass. Now we have “modern day Pharisees,” as it were, playing with fire in a quest for global hegemony–foolishly providing support for terrorists while attempting to ignite a conflict with Russia (and seemingly coming ever closer to succeeding). Jesus was sent by God to teach humanity how to live at peace with one another. If we follow his teachings, the planet will survive and the human species along with it. If not, we won’t. We are all part of God’s creation, and as such we must learn to love and care for each other–this is Jesus’ teaching in a nutshell. And if we follow that teaching, and if we learn that truth, we will be set free.

Ave Maria

The music is by Franz Schubert, sung by Dolores O’Riordan, while the images are from the film The Passion of the Christ.

Ave Maria, gratia plena,
Maria, gratia plena
Maria, gratia plena
Ave Ave Dominus
Dominus tecum,
Benedicta tu in mulieribus,
et benedictus
et benedictus fructus ventris
ventris tui, Iesus.
Ave Maria.
Ave Maria, full of thanksgiving
Maria, full of thanksgiving
Maria, full of thanksgiving
Ave Ave God
Your God
Be blessed among the women
And blessed
And blessed be the product of your womb
Your womb, Jesus.
Ave Maria.

The Passion of the Christ came out in 2004 and was immediately labeled as “anti-Semitic” by its detractors. Though it never won an Academy Award, it holds the all time box office record for an R-rated film, having grossed $370,782,930 in the US and a whopping $611,899,420 worldwide. To the surprise of many, it became a major hit among audiences in the Arab world:

Mel Gibson’s controversial movie “The Passion of the Christ,” is breaking box office records across the Middle East. With the approach of Easter, Arab Christians identify primarily with the religious message. But it’s the film’s popularity among Muslims – even though it flouts Islamic taboos – that’s turning it into a phenomenon.

Islam forbids the depiction of a prophet, and Koranic verses deny the crucifixion ever occurred. For those reasons, the film is banned in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain. It’s also banned in Israel – but for other reasons.

“Banned in Israel–but for other reasons.” The above is from an article about The Passion that was published in the Christian Science Monitor on April 9, 2004. You’ll notice that the countries which banned the film–Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain–are today all allied with each other in the support of terrorists in Syria…where the film was not banned.

But to get back to the Christian Science Monitor piece. The article includes a quote from an Israeli Jew, who damns the film as anti-Semitic “both in intent and effect.”

“I have no doubt that the film is anti-Semitic both in intent and effect, but I’m very wary of some Jewish organizations’ reactions to it,” said Yossi Klein Halevi, who is identified as being affiliated with the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.

“It needs to be more nuanced,” Halevi complained. “When an evangelical in Colorado Springs sees it, he doesn’t see anti-Semitism. But when Yasser Arafat sees it and calls it an important historic event, he’s responding to that anti-Semitism. And the fact that it’s becoming a major hit in the Arab world, that has consequences… ‘The Passion’ is where Mel Gibson and Yasser Arafat meet, and it isn’t bound by a love of Jesus.”

As alluded to in Halevi’s quote, The Passion was commented upon by former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who is said to have attended a screening of the film along with Christian leaders. After the screening, an aide to Arafat remarked, “The Palestinians are still daily being exposed to the kind of pain Jesus was exposed to during his crucifixion.”

Here again, the passage of history is deeply significant. In October of 2004, Arafat came down with a severe illness, and on November 11 he died at a hospital in Paris. There was suspicion the death was not due to natural causes, but it wasn’t until 2013 that a team of Swiss scientists released the results of a months-long investigation showing Arafat most likely had died of polonium poisoning. Many today speculate that Israel was behind the assassination.

Ariel Sharon, who himself came to a bad end, was the leader of Israel at the time Arafat was poisoned. The former Israeli prime minister suffered from obesity and weighed 254 pounds, and on January 4, 2006, he was overcome by a hemorrhagic stroke. The last eight years of his life were spent in a coma.

“The Palestinians are still daily being exposed to the kind of pain Jesus was exposed to during his crucifixion.” When we recall what the people of Gaza in particularly have endured over the years, the analogy has validity. While I am not comparing Yasser Arafat to Jesus, the latter’s words from the Gospel of John, chapter 15, are worth recalling:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.  You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

Jesus was sent by God to teach humanity how to live in peace. He was born among the Jews not because Jews are “chosen” by God, but because Jews especially were in need of hearing this message. Jesus was the long-awaited Jewish messiah, but because he preached a message of peace rather than war and conquest, the Jews rejected him. Here are the words of Mary in the first chapter of Luke–a passage that is often referred to as the “song of Mary.”

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.

Ave Maria, gratia. And if you think about it, you’ll notice another deeply significant sequence of events. Mary’s words that God “helped his servant Israel,” is of course an allusion to the Old Testament narrative. But then came the birth of Jesus; his rejection and the calls for his crucifixion in 30 A.D.; followed by a stupendously stunning Jewish downfall just 40 years later–in 70 A.D.–when the Romans sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. One wonders if a somewhat similar type downfall may await the modern Jewish state.

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. Here is another rendition of Ave Maria sung by Dolores O’Riordan, this time accompanied by Luciano Pavarotti:

Ave Maria, gratia. Gratia.

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

[ Ed. note – The video above is of a townhall meeting conducted last week by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard in her home state of Hawaii. If you want to hear the congresswoman discuss the situation in Syria, fast forward the video to about 10 minutes in. Gabbard, who introduced the Stop Arming Terrorists act in Congress and who has drawn fire for challenging the media lies about Syria (most recently for questioning the narrative that the Assad government was behind the April 4 chemical weapons attack), is one of a number of a small number of prominent Americans who have been a voice of sanity in a world seemingly gone mad and moving closer and closer to war.

The article below,

“Blessed Are the Peacemakers,” holds up Gabbard, along with Professor Stephen Cohen, as models of modern-day peacemakers, and encourages Christians to follow their example. The irony of course: Gabbard is Hindu and Cohen is Jewish. The writer of the article, Yvonne Lorenzo, makes the point that there are “too few Americans who value the teachings of Christ on the primacy of peace—or at least value them enough to fight for them.” She is right. Something like 70 percent of Americans identify in some manner as “Christian.”

Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.

So said Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. If we truly want to be children of God, it is our duty to be peacemakers. And this means challenging the war mongers and speaking out as Cohen and Gabbard have done. We owe it to ourselves, our families, and to the planet we live on. ]

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

By Yvonne Lorenzo

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Matthew 5:9 

I am writing these words before Good Friday (including Orthodox Christian) 2017. Tensions between nations have never been greater. Although there are tens of millions of people in America who profess the Christian faith, there appears to be very little in the way of public protests against military actions and incipient war.

Recently, conservative talk show host Michael Savage publicly criticized President Trump’s decision to attack Syria. His conversation with author and columnist Pat Buchannan is on this YouTube of his broadcast on April 11th. In his book, Trump’s War, Mr. Savage wrote in the chapter “Trump’s War against the War Machine” these wise observations:

Just after the election, I saw Mel Gibson’s movie Hacksaw Ridge. It’s about the U.S. Army medic Desmond T. Doss, who served at the vicious Battle of Okinawa in World War II but refused to kill anyone. He became the first man in American history to win the Medal of Honor without firing a single shot.

This was the perfect movie to see in the context of Donald Trump as an anti-war President. While I was watching this moving film, Trump was speaking to Russian president Vladimir Putin, even though Trump hadn’t been sworn in yet. The two men vowed to work together…

One of the reasons I worked so hard to get Trump elected is I believe he will be a man of peace. Put everything else aside. The most important thing in this world is not the economy. It’s peace.

I’ve written about Desmond T. Doss and there are several excellent articles on Lew Rockwell’s site; I’ve also written about the work and writing of Professor Stephen Cohen. In his appearance on Tucker Carlson’s show on April 12th, 2017, he discussed the bombing of Syria:

[Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev] said American-Russian relations are absolutely ruined—ruined. He’s considered the most pro-Western member of the Russian leadership…and the politics in Russia today as we talk is if not the conviction the concern that America is preparing for war against Russia…my concern is that Russia will overreact…

(In forty years as a Russia expert) I’ve never been as worried as I am today about war with Russia.”

Yet far from most of the political leadership agreeing with Professor Cohen, they react with outrage against those who challenge their agenda; witness the attacks against Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard:

Sporting a sweet new “Resist” picture on Twitter, Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress and author of numerous embarrassing email exchanges with John Podesta, called on Hawaiians to oust their Representative, Tulsi Gabbard, for having the audacity to question whether Assad was responsible for the recent chemical weapons attacks in Syria…

Gabbard told CNN on Friday that she wants to achieve peace in Syria, “Why should we just blindly follow this escalation of a counterproductive regime-change war?”

“There’s responsibility that goes around,” Gabbard said. “Standing here pointing fingers does not accomplish peace for the Syrian people. It will not bring about an end to this war.”

Meanwhile, former DNC chair Howard Dean also decided to join in on ganging up on Gabbard, but he immediately got shut down by a follower who asked the obvious question of why engaging in dialogue was disqualifying for Gabbard but violating federal record retention laws and a Congressional subpoena was perfectly fine for Hillary.

Here is Gabbard’s official statement that enraged so many of our elected representatives:

It angers and saddens me that President Trump has taken the advice of war hawks and escalated our illegal regime change war to overthrow the Syrian government. This escalation is short-sighted and will lead to more dead civilians, more refugees, the strengthening of al-Qaeda and other terrorists, and a direct confrontation between the United States and Russia—which could lead to nuclear war.

This Administration has acted recklessly without care or consideration of the dire consequences of the United States attack on Syria without waiting for the collection of evidence from the scene of the chemical poisoning.  If President Assad is indeed guilty of this horrible chemical attack on innocent civilians, I will be the first to call for his prosecution and execution by the International Criminal Court. However, because of our attack on Syria, this investigation may now not even be possible. And without such evidence, a successful prosecution will be much harder.

I am not a Russia expert like Professor Cohen yet I believe we ignore his warning at our peril. Right now, there is the potential for military conflict with North Korea, Syria, Russia and Iran. Yet for a few righteous voices crying out and being either scorned or ignored, there are sadly too few Americans who value the teachings of Christ on the primacy of peace—or at least value them enough to fight for them. How will God judge us for not taking a stand when now more than ever it matters so much and literally the world is at stake?


Gabbard versus CNN


US Veteran Stands With Assad Government

US Marine Corps Veteran Angelo John Gage

Imran Hosein: Meeting with the Saker in beautiful Tobago by Imran N. Hosein

Meeting with the Saker in beautiful Tobago

by Imran N. Hosein

www.imranhosein.org
inhosein@hotmail.com

I have just spent 10 exciting days with my Russian friend, ‘The Saker’, in the enchantingly beautiful Caribbean island of Tobago. I was born in the island of Trinidad where I now live, and Tobago is located just next to Trinidad in the South Caribbean Sea close to Venezuela:

http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/map/central_america_map2.htm

This was the first time that I ever met with ‘Saker’, and I am happy to report that I succeeded in persuading him to come out in the open with his true identity, while putting his trust in the One God. As a consequence, his identity is now public. He is Andrei Raevsky, but he will continue to use his nom de plume of Saker. If you visit his website: http://thesaker.is/sakers-open-letter-to-the-saker-community/you will even see his photograph. Those who are not familiar with him will get to know him if they visit his website.

I also got him to agree to record a joint video with me in which I interviewed him for half of an hour, so viewers will soon be able to see us together in that interview in Tobago. It will be placed on my website at www.imranhosein.org as well as my You-tube Channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/SheikhImranHosein

We were joined in Tobago by my Serbian friend, the US-trained Attorney, Stefan Karganovic, and by his friend, a Serbian Neurosurgeon. I got to know Stefan a few years ago through the Saker, and we corresponded with each other by email before I travelled to Belgrade in 2015 to meet with him and so many others in what must be recorded as a blessed visit to that historic city. It was a dream come true for me to welcome my friend Stefan to beautiful Tobago.

Stefan has just completed the Serbian/Bosnian translation of my book on ‘Methodology for Study of the Qur’an’, and Prof Branko Rakic of the Faculty of Law of the University of Belgrade has written a long Foreword for the book. It will soon be published in a new edition with Prof Branko Rakic’s Foreword Insha Allah.

Both Saker’s wife, Ana, and my wife, Aisha, were also with us in Tobago.

I took them for an all-day tour all around the island of Tobago – driving from one end of the island to the other, while passing through Roxborough and Speyside where we stopped for lunch at a beachside restaurant with an absolutely stunning view of the Speyside Bay, until we reached the town of Charlottesville located at the other end of the island. Here are some pictures of Speyside Bay and Charlotteville:

https://www.google.tt/search?q=parlatuvier+bay+pictures+tobago&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwji4_zCgozTAhUESiYKHSBTDQgQ7AkIJA&biw=1163&bih=545&dpr=1.65#tbm=isch&q=speyside++bay+pictures+tobago&*

https://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotos-g1463485-Charlotteville_Tobago_Trinidad_and_Tobago.html

We then drove through the rain-forest from the eastern side of the island across to the western side, got stuck in soft mud at the side of the road, and eventually found a rest-shed where we could enjoy our desert – which, inevitably, was pineapple.

Perhaps the most beautiful sight of all was when we looked down at the Parlatuvier Bay (otherwise known as Englishman’s Bay) from high up a hill. My guests were all absolutely amazed by the stunning natural beauty of Parlatuvier Bay. Here are some pictures of the Bay

We also made the trip by boat to Tobago’s Nylon Pool as well as to the archipelago known as No Man’s Land.

https://www.google.tt/search?q=tobagos+nylon+pool+pics&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjBwfW0hozTAhUGKCYKHYMbCd4Q7AkINA&biw=1163&bih=545

https://www.google.tt/search?q=tobago+no+man%27s+land+archipelago+pics&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjA96HehozTAhXqr1QKHXd9B3EQ7AkIMg&biw=1163&bih=545

Captain Phillips, who piloted our boat, assured my guests that whoever took a bath in the Nylon Pool would emerge looking ten years younger. Not only did they all look ten years younger at the end of their visit to Tobago, but Stefan eventually looked quite red. He spent endless hours enjoying himself swimming in the blue/green Caribbean Sea. I do not know why the native people who lived in what is now known as America, were called ‘Red’ Indians, but I am satisfied that Stefan should enter history as the first ever ‘Red’ Serbian who was authentically ‘red’.

Since it was the Christian time of Lent, when Christians have certain dietary restrictions, we bought lots of fresh fish at the Lambeau Fish Market, and took turns in cooking. I had my turn twice, and I was fortunate to escape, despite my somewhat unconventional menus, without any culinary disaster. I took lots of pineapples and two large watermelons to Tobago from Trinidad, and was very relieved when they turned out to be quite sweet. Indeed we ate pineapples so often that some of my guests may even have had dreams of sweet pineapples. I also took a local Indian bread called Dhalpouri Roti. It is soft, round in shape, and large enough for two people to eat one of them. The flour is mixed with yellow lentil called Dhall, which makes it very delicious indeed. My guests loved it.

Despite the time spent in cooking, touring, and bathing in the blue/green Caribbean Sea, we still found time for all four of my Orthodox Christian guests to visit Tobago’s Masjid al-Taubah to attend the congregational prayers known as Salaat al-Jumu’ah.

The Imam invited me to deliver the Khutbah (i.e., sermon) and to lead the prayer, and I delivered a Khutbah on Christian-Muslim relations which was based on verses of the Qur’an. 

Saker responded to the sermon with a declaration that he wanted all of Russia to be able to hear it, and Stefan had the same wish for all of the Balkans.

My sermon was based on verses of the Qur’an which explicitly affirmed faith in some Christians:

كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللّهِ وَلَوْ آمَنَ أَهْلُ الْكِتَابِ لَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَّهُم مِّنْهُمُ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَأَكْثَرُهُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ

“You (Muslims) are an excellent community evolved (by divine wisdom) for the sake of mankind, (provided that you) enjoin what is right, forbid what is wrong, and you have faith in Allah. If only the People of the Book (i.e., Jews and Christians) had faith (in Muhammad as a Prophet of the One God and in the latest Book, i.e., the Qur’ān, as His revealed Word), it would have been beneficial for them: amongst them there are those who have faith, but most of (the rest of them) are perverted transgressors.”

(Qur’ān, Ale ‘Imran, 3:110)

In consequence of the above unambiguous declaration by Allah Most High in which He affirmed that amongst the Christians and Jews (i.e., the People who have the Book of Allah as we, Muslims, also have the Book of Allah) there are those who have ‘faith’, while most of them are sinful in conduct, it became necessary for Muslims to make an effort to identify and demarcate the two groupsi.e., those Christians and Jews who act in a manner consistent with a people who have ‘faith’, and those whose conduct is manifestly sinful. A people who have ‘faith’ would not harbor feelings of hatred in their hearts for the believers in Allah Most High. Nor would a people who have ‘faith’ become friends and allies of those whose hearts are filled with hatred for Muslims.

I quoted the verse of the Qur’ān which explicitly identified Jews to be a people whose hearts will display great hatred for Islam and Muslims. While some Jews did not act in this way towards Muslims, most Jews did so. This was manifest in the life-time of Nabī Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم), and has once again manifested itself in the modern age in the conduct of Zionist Jews:

لَتَجِدَنَّ أَشَدَّ النَّاسِ عَدَاوَةً لِّلَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ الْيَهُودَ وَالَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُواْ وَلَتَجِدَنَّ أَقْرَبَهُمْ مَّوَدَّةً لِّلَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ الَّذِينَ قَالُوَاْ إِنَّا نَصَارَى ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّ مِنْهُمْ قِسِّيسِينَ وَرُهْبَانًا وَأَنَّهُمْ لاَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ

“Strongest among men in enmity to the believers will you find the Jews and Pagans; and nearest among them in love to the believers will you find those who (openly and publicly) declare, “We are Christians”: because amongst them are priests (who devote their lives to teaching and administering religious rites) and men who have embraced monasticism (and have hence renounced the world), and they are not arrogant.”

(Qur’ān, al-Māidah, 5:82)

Not only did the Qur’ān identify in the above verse the community of Jews as the People of the Book who are without faith, but it also went on to identify those (amongst the People of the Book) who display love and affection for Muslims – and hence display an important sign of faith. They are a people who declare of themselves that: “We are Christians”.

Christians who displayed love and affection for Islam and for Muslims, did appear in early Islam when the Negus of Abyssinia (i.e., modern-day Ethiopia) rejected the request of Makkah to repatriate the Muslims (who were slaves or semi-slaves) who had fled from persecution and oppression in Makkah, and had sought asylum in Abyssinia. Indeed, when the Negus died, and the news of his death reached Nabī Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) in Madīna, he performed the funeral prayer for him, thus recognizing him as a Christian who had faith in Allah Most High despite some of his Christian beliefs with which the Qur’an had taken issue.

There is absolutely no evidence that the Negus had renounced his belief in Jesus as the son of God, or that he had ceased to worship Jesus as God, prior to his death; nor do we have any such evidence from the community of Christians of whom he was the leader. When there is no such evidence from these two primary sources, dubious evidence from self-serving secondary sources is of no scholarly value. Yet the Prophet offered the funeral prayer for the Negus who was a Christian.

I argued in my sermon that such Christians who will be closest in love and affection for Islam and Muslims will once again emerge in the historical process in a time-frame that will match the contemporary emergence of Zionist Jews who have displayed unprecedented hatred for Islam and Muslims. That hatred is most visible in their barbarous oppression of the innocent people of Gaza in the Holy Land.

The verse of the Qur’ān provided important signs by which such Christians who would be closest in love and affection for Muslims, would be identified:

  1. They would be a Christian people who preserve the institution of priesthood and whose priests, from their Patriarch down to the lowest Priest, will demonstrate genuine love and affection for Islam and Muslims. This most certainly excludes the Vatican and the Roman Catholic faith, the Anglican Church (of England), and all other Christian churches in western Christianity.
  2. They would be a Christian people who preserve the institution of monasticism, and whose monks would display love and affection for Islam and Muslims. This most certainly excludes western Christianity which has almost totally abandoned monasticism and the monastic way of life. Monasteries in the West have almost all been sold, and have now become McDonalds Hamburgers etc.
  3. They would be a Christian people in whose conduct there is no arrogance. This again excludes those Christians who brought modern western civilization into being with an unprecedentedly arrogant agenda of imposing its unjust and oppressive rule over all of mankind at the point of a naked blood-stained sword.
  4. They would be a Christian people who would publicly and proudly identify themselves as ‘Christians’. This would exclude the secularized Christians of modern western civilization whose primary identity is with their nation or State, rather than with their religion.
  5. They cannot be a handful of scattered Christians who worship Allah as prescribed in the Qur’ān, and hence do not worship Nabī ‘Īsa (Jesus (عليه السلام as a third person in a trinity; and do not declare that Allah Most High had a son etc. Rather, they would have to be a community of Christians complete with their priests and monks, and hence can easily be identified. One would not have to search for them in some nook or cranny with a fine-teeth comb!

My sermon identified those Christians, referred to in the Qur’an, with the world of Orthodox Christianity.

When the prayer was over, the entire congregation of Muslims turned around and reached out to the Orthodox Christians sitting on chairs at the back of the prayer hall and greeted them with love and with affection. This first-ever visit to a Masjid was a very moving experience which Saker and his wife, Stefan and the Neurosurgeon, are unlikely to ever forget. No one turned away from them. No one rejected them. No one displayed any negative behavior towards them. I felt confident that they would have received the same welcome in all the Masajid (plural of Masjid) in the neighboring island of Trinidad. The only ones who would have displayed hostility towards them would have been those who took state-of-the-art weapons and heaps of US dollars from Santa Claus to fight their bogus ISIS Jihad in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

Unfortunately the sermon was not recorded, so we do not have a video of it which can be viewed.

In the ten days which we spent together in Tobago we had adequate time to engage in religious dialogue, and the remarkable thing about our dialogue was that it was always conducted with profound respect for each other, and for each other’s religion. At no time did our discussions reach a state in which either side was subjected to any deliberate discomfort. There was no hint of rivalry, and no debate, in which one side sought to defeat the other side, and yet, we never compromised in stating the viewpoint of our respective religions. In fact, what we did was to set an example for those who come after us, in engaging in Muslim – Orthodox Christian dialogue in a form and manner which was free from rancor and bigotry. In doing so, we conformed to Allah’s command in the Qur’ān in which He ordered as follows:

وَلَا تُجَادِلُوا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ إِلَّا بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنْهُمْ وَقُولُوا آمَنَّا بِالَّذِي أُنزِلَ إِلَيْنَا وَأُنزِلَ إِلَيْكُمْ وَإِلَهُنَا وَإِلَهُكُمْ وَاحِدٌ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُسْلِمُونَ

And do not argue or dispute with the Ahl al-Kitab (i.e., People of the Book, or followers of earlier revelation who are like us since we also have a Book) otherwise than in a most kindly manner, (or except with means better than mere disputation), – unless it be such of them as are bent on evildoing, (or who inflict wrong or injury) and say: “We believe in that which has been bestowed from on high upon us, as well as that which has been bestowed upon you: our God and your God is One, and it is unto Him that We [all] surrender ourselves.”

(Qur’an, al-Ankabūt, 29:46)

The above verse of the Qur’an has therefore prohibited Muslims from engaging in religious discussions with those who received the Torah, Psalms and Gospel, except in the best way possible. This prohibition did not apply, however, with such Christians and Jews who committed acts of Dhulm, i.e., injustice, oppression, wickedness.

The verse also went on to establish the very foundation of any engagement in religious discussions with Christians and Jews in the declaration that: “We believe in the revelation which has come down to us (i.e., the Qur’an) and in that which came down to you (i.e., the Torah, Psalms, Gospel); Our Ilah (i.e., God), and your Ilah (i.e., God), is One; and to Him we bow (in submission)”.

It is not my intention to write a comprehensive report of all subjects of our dialogue since Saker and I have decided to jointly write a book which will present both Islamic and Orthodox Christian Eschatology while examining the subject of Islam and Russia. Rather I choose to focus on only one subject of our dialogue and, in doing so, offer our readers a glimpse of what is to come when the book is written Insha Allah (God Willing).

Saker already knew that the Arabic word ‘Allah’ was a combination of the definite article (‘the’) and the Arabic word for God (‘ILAH’). Hence the word ‘Allah’ meant ‘The God’ i.e., The One God. Even though the Christian worshiped Jesus as God, he was still insistent that he worshiped One God since the Bible was unequivocal in its declaration: Know Oh Israel that the Lord, Your God, is One! Hence when I repeated to Saker on several occasions that his God and my God were One God, it built between us a solid common foundation for positive dialogue.

There might, unfortunately, be some Muslims who will be uneasy with the above verse of the Qur’an in which Allah Most High ordered Muslims to declare to Christians and to Jews that: Our Ilah (i.e., God) and your Ilah (i.e., God) is One. Their uneasiness would be in consequence of their knowledge that Christians worship Jesus as God. Allah Most High has already responded to such uneasiness by asking them whether they wish to teach religion to the Lord-God (Allah):

قُلْ أَتُعَلِّمُونَ اللَّهَ بِدِينِكُمْ . . . .

Say: “Do you want to teach your religion to Allah? . . . .

(Qur’ān, al-Hujurāt, 49:16)

It is remarkable that we conducted our religious discussions in exactly the opposite way from the boxing matches staged by the late Ahmad Deedat of South Africa which sought to expose several things in the Bible, belligerently so, as false and rancid. Many Christians were enraged by those boxing matches, and those who were not enraged were secretly smiling with Deedat’s Saudi sponsors since they shared a covert agenda of driving such a thick wedge between the two faiths as would preclude any possibility of friendship and alliance ever emerging between Muslims and Christians. I believe that Saker and I were more faithful to the Qur’an than Deedat and his acolytes ever were, and we set the right example of mutual respect and proper decorum for those who will now follow us Insha Allah, in Orthodox Christian-Muslim dialogue.

I asked Saker what were his expectations for the future of Muslim – Orthodox Christian dialogue, and he was very clear and precise in his response in directing attention, first of all, to those matters wherein we differed, and which appeared to him to be beyond resolve. Saker was forthright in his declaration that Orthodox Christianity does not recognize Muhammad as a Prophet of the One God, like unto Abraham and Moses (Allah’s blessings be upon them all), and does not recognize the Qur’ān as a divinely-revealed Word of the One God. However he did go on to explain that Orthodox Christianity does not have a book comparable in absolute authority to the Qur’an. Rather, Orthodox Christianity is dependent on both the Bible as well as the Church, and the collective wisdom of its luminaries through the ages, for an authoritative declaration of what constitute Truth and Faith. And so, it appeared to me that Orthodox Christians have a possible future in which the Church and its luminaries can modify Christian views through new interpretations of Christian religious symbolism and through divine visions etc. I therefore did not close the chapter between us pertaining to the status of the Qur’an and of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah Most High ever be with him).

I was familiar, of course with our own Islamic view that while whatever is clearly and explicitly stated in the Qur’an is eternally binding on all Muslims, there are other verses in the Qur’an which have to be interpreted, and hence that new knowledge would constantly keep on flowing from the Qur’an.

I did address the matter of Christian worship of Jesus as God, and as Son of God, and put the matter to rest between us when I quoted a passage of the Qur’an in which Allah Most High addressed Jesus on the subject:

وَإِذْ قَالَ اللّهُ يَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ أَأَنتَ قُلتَ لِلنَّاسِ اتَّخِذُونِي وَأُمِّيَ إِلَـهَيْنِ مِن دُونِ اللّهِ قَالَ سُبْحَانَكَ مَا يَكُونُ لِي أَنْ أَقُولَ مَا لَيْسَ لِي بِحَقٍّ إِن كُنتُ قُلْتُهُ فَقَدْ عَلِمْتَهُ تَعْلَمُ مَا فِي نَفْسِي وَلاَ أَعْلَمُ مَا فِي نَفْسِكَ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ عَلاَّمُ الْغُيُوبِ

AND LO! Allah said: O Jesus, son of Mary! Did you say unto men, `Worship me and my mother as deities beside Allah?” [Jesus] answered: “Limitless art Thou in Thy glory! It would not have been possible for me to say what I had no right to [say]! Had I said this, You would indeed have known it! You know all that is within myself, whereas I know not what is in Yourself. Verily, it is You alone who fully knows all the things that are beyond the reach of a created being’s perception.

مَا قُلْتُ لَهُمْ إِلاَّ مَا أَمَرْتَنِي بِهِ أَنِ اعْبُدُواْ اللّهَ رَبِّي وَرَبَّكُمْ وَكُنتُ عَلَيْهِمْ شَهِيدًا مَّا دُمْتُ فِيهِمْ فَلَمَّا تَوَفَّيْتَنِي كُنتَ أَنتَ الرَّقِيبَ عَلَيْهِمْ وَأَنتَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ

Nothing did I tell them beyond what You did bid me [to say]: `Worship Allah, [who is] my Lord-God as well as your Lord-God.’ And I bore witness to what they did as long as I dwelt in their midst; but when you took me (i.e., took my soul and hence made it appear that I was dead, and then returned my soul and raised me into the Samawat or parallel universes), You alone has been their keeper: for You are witness unto everything.

إِن تُعَذِّبْهُمْ فَإِنَّهُمْ عِبَادُكَ وَإِن تَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ فَإِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

If You punish them – verily, they are Your servants; and if You forgive them – verily, You are Almighty (and) Wise!”

(Qur’an, al-Maidah, 5:116-118)

I argued that this response implied that the matter of the worship of Jesus as God, and as the Son of God, should not become a subject of dispute and debate between Muslims and Christians. The Qur’an has advised the Muslim to let the matter rest until Allah Most High deals with it Himself on Judgment Day. This Divine wisdom seems to have escaped the attention of those misguided Muslims who ignore the Qur’an whenever they take up their boxing gloves to do religious battle with Christians and with the Bible.

This brief report does not record all the matters discussed between us, since there is a book coming, Insha Allah, which Saker and I will jointly write. He and I will endeavor to set the example, as well as the stage, for future such dialogue between Muslims and Orthodox Christians so that we can advance the cause of friendship and alliance between our two persecuted peoples.

Saker has already set the example of faithfulness to his Orthodox Christian creed, and I too will endeavor to ensure in my dialogue with Saker that I remain faithful to the Qur’an and faithful Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) who personally received in Madina a delegation of about 60 Byzantine Christians (including many religious scholars) who travelled from their native Najran in Yemen to meet with him. He not only welcomed them warmly and kindly, but offered them the Masjid itself as their place of residence and rest, as well as a place for them to pray, during their stay of approximately 3 days in Madina. The inter-religious dialogue did not yield any break-through regarding the central issues which divided the Christians and the Qur’an, but also did not result in bitter and acrimonious exchanges. Before saying good-bye and returning to Najran in Yemen, the delegation of Christians even requested of the Prophet that a learned and trustworthy Muslim be sent to them in Najran so that, among other things, the lines of communication for continuing dialogue could remain open. Despite all that has since occurred between our two peoples, and which unfriendly critics will now rush to relate, Saker and I are doing precisely that – we are continuing that Orthodox Christian – Muslim dialogue that was initiated in Madina in the presence of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and upon all the messengers of Allah Most High).

——-

Small post-scriptum by The Saker: with all due respect and love for the Sheikh, I don’t believe that he is correct when he writes that “it appeared to me that Orthodox Christians have a possible future in which the Church and its luminaries can modify Christian views through new interpretations of Christian religious symbolism and through divine visions etc.“.  The problem here is that for a teaching to be considered “Orthodox” it has to meet two criteria:

  1. It has to be the expression of the consensus patrum, the agreement of all the Church Fathers, and thus is cannot contradict the past position of the Church.  Saint Vincent of Lérins (5th century) expressed it in the following words when he said that is true that “which has been believed everywhere, always and by all” .  Thus, it cannot be the opinion of only some, contemporary, Church Fathers.
  2. It has to be “upward compatible” with what has been taught in the past.  Saint Athanasios (4th century) expressed this idea in the following words that the Orthodox faith is the faith “which the Lord gave, was preached by the Apostles, and was preserved by the Fathers. On this was the Church founded; and if anyone departs from this, he neither is nor any longer ought to be called a Christian“.  Thus no new teaching can be accepted if it contradicts what was taught in the past.

The Church having refused to recognize Muhammad as a prophet of God and having refused to accept the Quran as a divine book, She cannot under any circumstances change Her point of view.  On issues of faith and dogmatics the Church, being the Theandric Body of God filled with the Holy Spirit, She is infallible.

However, and as long as their is no compulsion in religion and as long as everybody recognizes the absolute right of each human being to follow his/her conscience, I totally agree with the Sheikh when he writes “the matter of the worship of Jesus as God, and as the Son of God, should not become a subject of dispute and debate between Muslims and Christians. The Qur’an has advised the Muslim to let the matter rest until Allah Most High deals with it Himself on Judgment Day“.

As long as our differences are not obfuscated or otherwise minimized, I do believe that it makes little sense to engage in disputes about them. What we all have to do is the explain our beliefs and make sure that the other is not mislead/misinformed about them.  But once that “informational” phase is over, there is simply no point in engaging in disputes.  Finally, we all have to recognize that the other is following his/her conscience with as much honesty, zeal and purity of faith as we do.  While we do not have to agree with the other, we do have to respect this quest for the truth in by the other.

These are my humble comments to the wise and kind words of the Sheikh.

The Saker

Some Thoughts on the Jews-Against-AIPAC Protestors

Posted on March 30, 2017

 photo innwhen2_zpsnsphtxx4.jpg

What to make of the emergence of yet another group of Jewish activists protesting the policies of Israel while openly and pointedly identifying themselves as Jews?

The group If Not Now first formed back in 2014 but seems to have taken center stage earlier this week at a protest outside the AIPAC conference in Washington. The protest was attended by roughly a thousand people, and Yonah Lieberman, an If Not Now co-founder, described it as “the biggest ever Jewish-led protest of AIPAC.”

One of course might ponder: why is it so important that the protest be openly labeled as “Jewish-led”?

The group’s name is taken from a saying by Hillel, the Jewish religious leader who rose to prominence in the years prior to the birth of Christ, and who once posed three questions: “If I am not for myself who will be for me? If I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?”

A visit to the group’s website reveals a rather Judeo-centric mindset:

Today, the Jewish community is faced with a choice. Will we choose a Judaism that supports freedom and dignity for all Israelis and Palestinians, or will we let the leadership of the establishment define our tradition as incompatible with our values?

Will we continue down the path of isolation and fear that’s destroying the lives of millions of Palestinians and alienating a generation of young Jews? Or, will we create a vibrant Judaism that emerges from the trauma of our past to bring our tradition to life in the present?

We have chosen. We are building a Jewish community that recognizes we cannot be free absent the freedom of Palestinians. No longer will our community be used by American politicians and the American public to justify the violation of Palestinian rights. Like those born wandering in the desert, we are rising from our people’s trauma in order to move us toward the ongoing promise of liberation.

It’s nice that we have a group of Jews who have reached the conclusion that “we cannot be free absent the freedom of Palestinians,” and the natural tendency is to applaud them. But the entire passage, and particularly the part about “the trauma of our past” suggests a very us-against-the-rest-of-the-world outlook that seems so deeply ingrained in Jewish thinking. Moreover, the part about the Jewish community being “used by American politicians and the American public” is a very peculiar way of looking at things. How exactly is the American public “using” the Jewish community when it is the American public that direly wants the “Jewish community” (as embodied by AIPAC and Jewish, pro-Israel PACS) to stop bribing our politicians to support Israel?

Of course holding protests for Palestine under the banner of an organization which loudly and openly trumpets itself as Jewish almost inevitably leads people to wonder: What exactly is the chief priority of the protestors? Is it to win freedom for the Palestinians? Or to redeem the Jewish public image? About a week before the AIPAC conference in Washington, If Not Now held a protest outside of the AIPAC office in Los Angeles. Seven people were arrested, including the young man in the photo below, whose chief concern seems to be proving to the world that such things as “moral Jews” do indeed exist. It’s a point worth making, but perhaps one should take care not to make it in too ostentatious a manner.

 photo innwhen_zps5j8lg9np.jpg

Not that the members of If Not Now would ever solicit my advice, but if they did, here is what I would say to them:

If you are going to protest in support of Palestine, do so as human beings, not as Jews. In other words, join the rest of the human race. Imagine how much more impact your protest would have had if, instead of proclaiming your membership in the Judaic tribe, you had announced your separation and divorce from it. Imagine if you had carried placards reading “We are no longer Jews.” Due to the corrupting influence of AIPAC and the crimes of Israel, the very word “Jew” has become toxic in modern discourse. I doubt that’s going to change significantly no matter how many “moral Jews” t-shirts you have printed up or how many protests you organize–and in proclaiming a bond and a tribal kinship with the same people committing crimes against humanity in Occupied Palestine you are creating a disconnect in most people’s minds–a disconnect that probably does more to damage your credibility than boost it. You say that “Jews won’t be free until Palestinians are,” but the way to win your freedom is by saying adieu and launching your exodus from this dictatorial tribe. By doing something of this nature at your protest in Washington–that is proclaiming your departure from Judaism–you certainly would have caused far more outrage inside the AIPAC conference (and if you truly had wanted to spark fury you could have converted to Christianity as well–that would really have gotten to them!) than with the protest you actually held. And while  I can well imagine that such a course of action ultimately would not be an easy road for you, the end result is that you would win your freedom.

In addition to the above, I would also suggest that members of If Not Now ask themselves: who showed more courage in standing up to the corrupt Jewish leaders of their day–Hillel or Jesus?

In the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John we see Jesus, in a conversation with a Samaritan woman, making a rather remarkable statement: “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews,” he tells her. It’s a remarkable statement because it’s one of the few instances in the Gospel of John in which the term “the Jews” is used in a positive sense. But in my view, the key word in the passage is “from.” Salvation, Jesus is saying, is not “with” the Jews, it is “from” the Jews. In other words, an exodus, a separation, a divorce has taken place.

And indeed it did. The Gospel of John was written by a group of people who formerly were Jews but who had ceased to identify as such. They were kicked out of the synagogues (John 9:22, 12:42), and there may have been instances in which Jewish Christians were even murdered by their fellow Jews (John 16:2). It isn’t only Christian sources who give us this view of early Jewish hostility toward Christianity. It can also be found in Jewish sources.

After the events of 70 A.D., the center of Judaism shifted from Jerusalem to Jamnia, where the Eighteen Benedictions were reformulated to include a curse against the minim, or heretics. Then, sometime around 85 A.D., they were revised yet again to include what appears to be a direct reference to Christians: “Let the notzrim and the minim perish immediately.” This is the wording in the twelfth benediction, the word “notzrim” generally being viewed by scholars today as a direct reference to the Nazarenes, or Christians.

After telling the Samaritan woman that salvation is from the Jews, Jesus continues with yet another remarkable comment (as so many of his comments were):

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

Spirit and truth are important, especially in the world in which we now find ourselves. But such things don’t seem compatible with an inward-looking tribal ideology. And maybe this is what the Jewish Christians of the first century realized.

If the young Jews of If Not Now want to help lead the world into truth and light, my guess is they would stand a much better chance of doing so by stepping outside the tribal matrix and taking their place among the larger human family.

%d bloggers like this: