DAY 114: Kjølig yule!

December 23rd, 2014 § 0 comments

You’ll recognize this as ‘Cool Yule’ in some Scandinavian language. I got lost in Google Translate trying to get the maximum number of weird characters and not succeeding; but best wishes to you all, particularly the Orthodox who – see previous post – will have to wait three weeks or so to celebrate, fasting for the time being (since it’s Advent) while their heretical neighbours are pigging out on turkey, mince pies, 5554392-a-meal-of-roast-turkey-with-all-the-trimmings--brussels-sprouts-roast-sweet-potatoes-roast-parsnips--1sprouts, and what not. Why stick on the filioque clause? Don’t get me started.

Christians are anyway given to drawing parallels between the time when Isa ibn Mariam was born (in a manger, or under the trunk of a date-palm depending on who you believe), and the current situation of occupation. Here, from Naim Ateek, is this year’s sample, the occupier’s rule having been at its most brutal last July and August:

Sabeel Christmas Message 2014
“Do not be afraid…” (Luke 2:10)

From a Palestinian world view, there are certain similarities between the political conditions in Palestine during the times of Jesus’ birth and the political situation in Palestine today.  There is a flagrant occupation that dominates and oppresses people; and there are words that describe what people go through: fear, insecurity, instability, suffering, grief, despair, and other negative feelings that a repressive empire and an Israeli rightwing government can produce.

That is why the words of the angel to the shepherds in the Christmas story strike a relevant chord, “do not be afraid; for see I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people…”  What constituted good news for the shepherds in first century Palestine and what would constitute good news for our Palestinian people today? It is nothing less than FREEDOM AND PEACE, because both can produce a life of dignity, security, and stability to people.

(For images of Palestinian demonstrators in Bethlehem dressed as Santa being tear-gassed see here.)

In the midst of these difficult times, the implication of the Christmas message to oppressed people is basically clear:  God knows and sees the suffering of the oppressed and God is doing something not through the people of power but through the birth of a baby who ultimately holds in himself the answer to the human condition of injustice and insecurity; therefore “do not be afraid.”

Furthermore, the angels gave the shepherds the formula for peace on earth, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace, goodwill among people.” (Luke 2:14)  This implies the need for two essential elements:  On the one hand, peace on earth is possible when people including those in positions of power are willing to humble themselves before God, love and serve others, and give God the glory and the honor.   On the other hand, Peace is possible when people cherish goodwill towards one another. article-2531566-1A59D19800000578-412_634x424 Goodwill on all sides is essential for the realization of peace.   From the Palestinian perspective one of the major obstacles to peace has been the lack of goodwill.

[It's time for something more cheerful, so the moderator has requested:

15-Trigonopterus_attenboroughi'A newly discovered species of beetle has been named Trigonopterus attenboroughi – in honour of the television naturalist, Sir David Attenborough.

Alexander Riedel, the researcher who discovered the 2.14mm-long attenboroughi along with 97 other new beetle species, said the one called after Sir David was the first and easiest to name.'

Which is all very well, but as usual it shows that our journalists are completely innumerate. How can you say that a beetle is '2.14 mm long'? Let's suppose that you measured 100 beetles (did you? With 98 species being discovered at once, you may only have measured 980, 10 of each species, not very accurate); then likely you found that the mean length was 2.14 mm and the standard deviation was 0.2 mm (I'm guessing). In which case the correct report is '2.14±0.02 mm long', giving the usual formula for the confidence interval. Anything which claims more exactness is plain dishonest. 'Roughly 2 mm long' would have been better stylistically. I don't blame Sir David, or Alex Riedel, but sloppy journalism.]

Throughout the Palestine-Israel conflict, there have been summits, agreements, accords, roadmaps, understandings, etc. What was lacking was goodwill on the side of Israel.   The Israeli government continuously tries to impose its will on the Palestinians rather than accepting the will of the world community and international law which the Palestinians insist upon.  Goodwill means eliminating all barriers that prevent the enhancement of the dignity and the quality of life of the other.  Goodwill means negotiating in good faith.  Peace and goodwill are possible on earth when people are willing to acknowledge God’s overall sovereignty and relish goodwill and compassion towards their fellow human beings.  It is as simple as that.  And we believe this has been initiated and proclaimed through the life and work of Jesus Christ, the savior and liberator and through his teachings about the upside-down kingdom of God and through his death and resurrection.

But in this broken world where the powers seem to be in control, people are not willing to listen to God’s formula for peace.  The government of Israel is a case in point: it oppresses and dominates our people, steals their land, evicts them from their homes, humiliates them and denies them their most basic human and political rights.  And more recently, the proposed Israeli Nationality Law does not reflect goodwill towards the Palestinians.  However, the coming of Christ conveys the will of God whose very nature is love, compassion, and justice; and whose longing is to see the realization of peace on earth

180px-Virgin_Mary_and_Jesus_(old_Persian_miniature)Mary under a date-palm

and goodwill among people.  That is why Jesus said, those who work and promote peace are God’s children. (Matthew 5:9)

As followers of Jesus Christ, we have the responsibility to be peacemakers and to promote this formula of peace and goodwill.  We need to do whatever we can to implement it.  It is an awesome responsibility but we can and must do it.  This Christmas season emboldens us and gives us a renewed incentive to double our endeavors in working for a just peace in Palestine-Israel.

“Glory to God in the highest heavens, and on earth peace, goodwill among people.”

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Naim Ateek, President of the Board


We bloggers are nothing if not incestuous – I include myself. ‘Why don’t you make a book out of your posts?’ someone asked me. I couldn’t, although it would be hugely entertaining, because so much of the material has been stolen from the blogs of others. Now my sister publication Jadaliyya informs me that Dabiq, the propaganda journal of the Islamic state, is showing signs of anxiety, copying the evidence as usual to fill up another post. To contrast the two publications’ styles:

Jadaliyya: ‘Far from attempting to “liberate” women by unveiling them, as simplistic liberal understandings of veiling would have us believe, the Saudi state is actually extending its control over Saudi subjects through these selective practices of unveiling, wadjda-7-576x324a process in which foreign media, which often reproduce these representations of “exceptional” women, play an important part.’ (Foucauldian/social critical)

Dabiq: ‘A number of the narrations concerning the events that take place in Shām as the Hour draws closer include the mention of ‘Īsā Ibn Maryam (‘alayhis-salām), one of the five Prophets known as ‘ulul-‘azm – the Messengers of strong will. These narrations typically speak of the final battles that the Muslims will engage in with the Christians and Jews, including the confrontation in which the Muslims are led by ‘Īsā (‘alayhis-salam) against the Dajjāl.’ (Apocalyptic Islamic)

Not much in common, eh? But Jadaliyya and Dabiq certainly are agreed in their opposition to the current regimes in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Israel, and most other places. Is this enough for a tactical alliance? And what of Jesus – to return to him – or ‘Īsā (‘alayhis-salam), who is apparently going, improbably, to lead the Muslims against the Christians – who you’d have thought were his fault – and Jews?

Notice by the way that while Jadaliyya is commenting on Dabiq, it doesn’t go the other way round. And neither of them is commenting on me.

Anyway, here’s the nativity story from Surat Maryam, in lieu of poetry.

16. And mention in the Book (the Qur’an, O Muhammad , the story of) Maryam (Mary), when she withdrew in seclusion from her family to a place facing east.

17. She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them; then We sent to her Our Ruh [angel Jibrael (Gabriel)], and he appeared before her in the form of a man in all respects.

18. She said: “Verily! I seek refuge with the Most Beneficent (Allah) from you, if you do fear Allah.”

19. (The angel) said: “I am only a Messenger from your Lord, (to announce) to you the gift of a righteous son.”

20. She said: “How can I have a son, when no man has touched me, nor am I unchaste?”

21. He said: “So (it will be), your Lord said: ‘That is easy for Me (Allah): And (We wish) to appoint him as a sign to mankind and a mercy from Us (Allah), and it is a matter (already) decreed, (by Allah).’ ”

22. So she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a far place (i.e. Bethlehem valley about 4-6 miles from Jerusalem).

23. And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a date-palm. She said: “Would that I had died before this, and had been forgotten and out of sight!”

24. Then [the babe 'Iesa (Jesus) or Jibrael (Gabriel)] cried unto her from below her, saying: “Grieve not! Your Lord has provided a water stream under you;

25. “And shake the trunk of date-palm towards you, it will let fall fresh ripe-dates upon you.”

26. “So eat and drink and be glad, and if you see any human being, say: ‘Verily! I have vowed a fast unto the Most Beneficent (Allah) so I shall not speak to any human being this day.’”

27. Then she brought him (the baby) to her people, carrying him. They said: “O Mary! Indeed you have brought a thing Fariya (an unheard mighty thing).

28. “O sister (i.e. the like) of Harun (Aaron) [not the brother of Musa (Moses), but he was another pious man at the time of Maryam (Mary)]! Your father was not a man who used to commit adultery, nor your mother was an unchaste woman.”

29. Then she pointed to him. They said: “How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?”

30. “He ['Iesa (Jesus)] said: Verily! I am a slave of Allah, He has given me the Scripture and made me a Prophet;”

31. “And He has made me blessed wheresoever I be, and has enjoined on me Salat (prayer), and Zakat, as long as I live.”

32. “And dutiful to my mother, and made me not arrogant, unblest.

33. “And Salam (peace) be upon me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive!”

Accordingly, as we agreed earlier, the virgin mary had a baby boy. I guess we’d better settle for that.



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