Tag: Christian

Sri Lanka: The new jackals are the old jackals

Monday, 22 April, 2019

British journalist Simon Reeve began investigating the 1993 World Trade Center bombing just days after the attack. The result was a book titled The New Jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden and the Future of Terrorism, which was published in the UK and USA in 1998. Classified information cited by Reeve detailed the existence and aims of a shadowy terrorist group named al-Qaeda, and he concluded that an apocalyptic terrorist strike on the West by al-Qaeda was almost inevitable. Snippet:

“Officials from the CIA and the State Department were soon channeling other theories into the FBI’s command centre. On the same day as the World Trade Center explosion a bomb had been placed in a small coffee shop in Cairo, killing four people. It was one of the worst acts of political violence in the Egyptian capital for years — perhaps there was an Egyptian connection. ‘The modus operandi of the bombing was very similar to what we’d seen with Islamic extremists overseas, but we really didn’t know. We looked at several different groups that we thought were capable of doing something like this,’ said Neil Herman. ‘We started to get a series of investigative leads, none of which really took us anywhere.'”

Eight years later, on 9/11, those “Islamic extremists overseas” arrived in the US and then delivered the apocalyptic strike that Simon Reeve had anticipated.

Yesterday, in Sri Lanka, a similar act of barbarism was carried out by another pack of jackals, the Islamist group National Thowheeth Jama’ath. It’s a strong supporter of the global jihadist movement and such groups now act as subcontractors for Islamic State and al-Qaida. Worryingly, many Muslims from Sri Lanka and the Maldives fought for IS in Syria and Iraq and now that their caliphate has been destroyed, the foreign fighters are coming home with barbarism in their jackal hearts.

Sri Lanka massacre


Shrovetide

Monday, 4 March, 2019

“Shrove” is an interesting word. Has its origins in the Catholic practice of confessing one’s sins and being absolved or “shriven” of them. The word comes ultimately from the Latin scribere “to write”, which is the source of the English “scribe” and the Christian meaning evolved via the sense of “to prescribe penances”. The three days prior to Ash Wednesday are known as Shrovetide and, traditionally, it was a time of eating, drinking music making and card playing. Then came the fasting, one of those ancient rites in which food intake is limited and physical activities are reduced to the point where the person fasting enters a state of quiescence comparable, symbolically, to death. Today, it’s much less extreme, but if the “digital detox” trend ever gains traction in Lent, phone addicts who give up their addiction for the required 40 days and 40 nights may enter a state comparable, symbolically, to death.

Shrove Monday is an observance falling on the Monday before Ash Wednesday every year and it’s part of diverse Carnival celebrations that take place in many parts of the Christian world. Shrove Monday (Rosenmontag) is central to German, Swiss and Austrian Carnival calendar. In the Rhineland, as part of the pre-Lenten Fasching (Feast of Fools) festival , it’s a day of parades, marching, revelry and the display of satirical floats that poke fun at the political class.


He caught the fever that reaped a harvest

Saturday, 2 February, 2019

Poetry provides visions and so does fever. The great C.P. Cavafy combines the two here.

Kleitos’s Illness

Kleitos, a likeable young man,
about twenty-three years old—
with an excellent upbringing, a rare knowledge of Greek—
is seriously ill. He caught the fever
that reaped a harvest this year in Alexandria.

The fever found him already worn out morally
by the pain of knowing that his friend, a young actor,
had stopped loving and wanting him.

He’s seriously ill, and his parents are terribly worried.

An old servant who brought him up
is also full of fear for Kleitos’ life;
and in her terrible anxiety
she remembers an idol she used to worship
when she was young, before she came there as a maid,
to the house of distinguished Christians, and turned Christian herself.
She secretly brings some votive cake, some wine and honey,
and places them before the idol. She chants whatever phrases
she remembers from old prayers: odds and ends. The fool
doesn’t realize that the black demon couldn’t care less
whether a Christian gets well or not.

C.P. Cavafy (29 April 1863 – 29 April 1933)

*Translated from Greek by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard


Adventus

Saturday, 1 December, 2018

The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming” and the central theme of Advent is the coming of Christ to earth. The Advent season begins tomorrow and it’s observed by Christian churches as a time of waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.

The Coming by R.S. Thomas, a 20th century Anglican poet-priest from Wales, centres on a conversation between the Father and Son about the suffering of humanity. Thomas invokes the hardship of life in a small farming community in rural Wales, but his “scorched land” could refer to any country torn by conflict: Syria, Yemen, Ukraine…

Thomas imagines the Son’s response to the suffering and pain the Father asks him to look at, but the decision is reserved until the final line. Looking at the “bare hill” and the “thin arms” of the hungry people, the Son finally responds: “Let me go there.”

The Coming

And God held in his hand
A small globe. Look, he said.
The son looked. Far off,
As through water, he saw
A scorched land of fierce
Colour. The light burned
There; crusted buildings
Cast their shadows; a bright
Serpent, a river
Uncoiled itself, radiant
With slime.

On a bare
Hill a bare tree saddened
The sky. Many people
Held out their thin arms
To it, as though waiting
For a vanished April
To return to its crossed
Boughs. The son watched
Them. Let me go there, he said.

R.S. Thomas (1913 – 2000)


Cecilia

Thursday, 22 November, 2018

One of the oldest musical institutions in the world is the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. It was founded at the command of Pope Sixtus V in 1585, who invoked two saints: Gregory the Great, after whom Gregorian chant is named, and Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music. Her feast day is celebrated in the Catholic, Anglican and Eastern Orthodox churches on 22 November. The story goes that Cecelia was a noble lady of Rome, who, with her husband Valerian, his brother Tiburtius and a Roman soldier named Maximus, suffered martyrdom in about 230 under the Emperor Severus Alexander. She was buried in the Catacomb of Callixtus, and her remains were later transferred to the Church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere.

This portrait of Saint Ceclia is by Il Lucchese, Antonio Franchi (1638–1709). After training in Lucca with Domenico Ferrucci, he moved to Florence to work under Medici patronage. He also published a text on the occupation of painting titled, La Teorica della Pittura.

Saint Cecelia


All our Saints’ Day

Thursday, 1 November, 2018

Initiated by Pope Boniface IV, who consecrated the Pantheon to the Virgin Mary and the martyrs on 13 May 609 AD, All Saints’ Day may have been intended to co-opt the “Feast of Lemuria,” which the old Religio Romana used for placating the restless spirits of the dead. The Christian holy day was established on 1 November in the mid-eighth century by Pope Gregory III as a day dedicated to the saints and their relics.

Our saints

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”
— Saint Francis


Tecla: key saint

Saturday, 23 September, 2017 0 Comments

Santa Tecla is regarded as the patron saint of Tarragona in Catalonia and her September feast day is the town’s major holiday. The event is accompanied by non-stop drumming, firecrackers and spectacular fireworks after dark.

Tecla celebrations

Note: In many Spanish-speaking countries, Santa Tecla is also considered the patron saint of computers and the internet, from the homophony with the Spanish and Catalan word tecla (“key”).

Tradition: Tecla (Thecla) was a saint of the early Christian Church and a follower of Paul the Apostle. She was miraculously saved from burning at the stake by the onset of a storm and then travelled with Paul to Antioch of Pisidia where an aristocrat attempted to rape her. Tecla fought him off and was put on trial for the crime of assaulting a nobleman. She was sentenced to be eaten by wild beasts but was again saved by a miracle, when the female beasts protected her against the male aggressors. She rejoined Paul in Myra and became a healer. Such was her popularity that the physicians in the city lost their livelihoods, so they hired a gang of young men to attempt to spoil her virginity at the age of 90. As they were about to take her, she called out to God and the ground opened up and then closed behind her. She was thus able to go to Rome and die in peace beside Saint Paul’s tomb.


The silence of the Jesuits in Edu Japan

Friday, 25 November, 2016 0 Comments

“Two trees, made into the form of a cross, were set at the water’s edge. Ichizo and Mokichi were fastened to them. When it was night and the tide came in, their bodies would be immersed in the sea up to the chin. They would not die at once, but after two or even three days of utter physical and mental exhaustion they would cease to breathe.” Silence, Shusaku Endo

In his 1966 novel, Silence, Shusaku Endo explored the many intricate, terrible torments feudal Japan devised to kill Jesuits arriving to spread the word of God. The plight of those “hidden Christians” (隠れキリシタン Kakure Kirishitan) convinced Martin Scorsese to turn the book into his latest film, which will have its premiere next week in front of a very critical audience at the Vatican.

“It’s called the pit. You’ve probably heard about it. They bind you in such a way that you can move neither hands nor feet; and then they hang you upside down in a pit,” so writes Endo describing a popular torture venue above which Christians were hung upside down and bound. They were then cut slightly behind both ears, just enough so that blood trickled out, leading to a lengthy, painful death.

Andrew Garfield, who plays Father Sebastião Rodrigues in Silence, told Fandango he spent a year preparing for the role: “I got to spend a lot of time with Marty and with Jesuit priests; one in particular being Father James Martin, who’s become a real mentor to me and a spiritual director for me, basically. Teaching me about all things Jesuit in a visceral way, not just an intellectual way. In a ‘lived’ way. I just fell in love with the whole process of what it is to be a Jesuit priest.”


Houellebecq and the capitulation of cover art

Thursday, 5 March, 2015 0 Comments

“For the purpose of Appreciation and Categorization” is the motto of The Book Cover Archive, and there is much to appreciate and categorize on this World Book Day when it comes to book covers. Think of the art of Roger Kastel for Jaws by Peter Benchley. With Soumission, the latest novel from Michel Houellebecq, however, we’re seeing a different kind of cover art. The art of capitulation.

In his book, Houellebecq paints a picture of an old, ailing Christian nation, France, submitting to a more vigorous ideology: Islam. It is a bitterly funny critique of the tolerance of the intolerant and a terrifying vision of the multicultural endgame. The book is a best-seller in France, Germany and Italy, despite the best efforts of its publishers to neutralize its appearance. The two-tone cover of the original French version is devoid of art; the German version, Unterwerfung, features the head of a bird, and the Italian cover of Sottomissione dispenses with imagery completely. The US publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, is silent about the cover of Lorin Stein’s forthcoming translation but one fears that the supine trend will continue. Given the vital role of cover art in the history of book making, it is hard to accept that publishers would willingly embrace aniconism, the proscription against the creation of images, but Sottomissione is the proof.

Soumission Soumission Soumission

The plight of the Assyrians and the Yezidi

Monday, 1 December, 2014 0 Comments

“We cannot resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians, who have professed the name of Jesus there for two thousand years. Many of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted and have been forced violently from their homes. It even seems that the value of human life has been lost, that the human person no longer matters and may be sacrificed to other interests. And, tragically, all this is met by the indifference of many.”

So spoke Pope Francis I and Patriarch Bartholomew I in Istanbul yesterday.

Born in Syria and living in Los Angeles, Sargon Saadi made The Last Plight to combat the world’s indifference to the suffering of the Assyrian and Yezidi people living under the barbaric rule of ISIS. We cannot resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians.


The Persecution of Egypt’s Christians

Wednesday, 21 August, 2013 1 Comment

“Violent aggression by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists, including those sympathetic to al-Qaeda, continues to be directed at one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, following the military’s break up last week of Brotherhood sit-ins. The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party has been inciting the anti-Christian pogroms on its web and Facebook pages. One such page, posted on August 14, lists a bill of particulars against the Christian Coptic minority, blaming it, and only it, for the military’s crackdown against the Brotherhood, alleging that the Church has declared a ‘war against Islam and Muslims.'”

That’s Nina Shea of The Hudson Institute in a National Review article titled “Egypt’s Christians Are Facing a Jihad.” Mark Movsesian of the Center For Law And Religion Forum at St. John’s University School of Law references Shea’s piece in “The Persecution of Egypt’s Christians,” and he offers three reasons as to why the Muslim Brotherhood and its followers are adopting this strategy of oppression:

First, Islamists attack Christians because they can. Christian churches, monasteries, and schools are soft targets, especially when the security forces are occupied elsewhere.

Second, the Coptic Church has taken an uncharacteristically strong stand in support of the military. Coptic Pope Tawadros appeared in the video announcing the overthrow of the Morsi regime in July — as did the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, it should be noted — and last week, he endorsed the military’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.

Third, one must recognize the perception Islamists have of Christians. Although not all Islamists advocate a return to dhimma restrictions, most have a nostalgia for classical Islamic law, which tolerates Christians as long as they accept a subservient status in society. Equality is out of the question. For Christians to assert equality with Muslims, or cooperate with Muslims’ enemies, is, in classical thought, a grave affront to the community which must be punished.

Meanwhile, in Ireland, the fate of four jailed Morsi supporters dominates media coverage of Egypt. In the Washington Post, the front-page story is, “Ravaged churches reveal sectarian split feeding Egypt’s violence.”