Friday, March 14, 2008

In the Gulf

The first Christian church in Qatr has opened in quiet circumstances. "And when 5,000 faithful flock to Our Lady of the Rosary to celebrate its historic consecration this weekend, they pray no one will notice.

Father Tom Veneracion, the parish priest, is worried about a backlash. "The idea is to be discreet because we don't want to inflame any sensitivities," he says. "There isn't even a signboard outside the church. No signs at all."

Kudos to Qatr, which has courageously agreed to let the church be built. That may not sound like much, but in this world it is. Abdul Hamid al-Ansari, the former dean of the Islamic law school at Qatar University wrote that "having places of worship for various religions is a fundamental human right guaranteed by Islam."

Tom Veneracion is a Filipino Catholic priest. That was an easy one to predict. They say demographics is everything and in this case numbers probably played a large part in Qatars decision to tolerate a Christian church. In 2004 there were close to 60,000 Filipinos living in Qatar, nearly a third of the estimated 200,000 natives. How do you deny such large numbers the right worship?

As this site has pointed out, one of the most ignored aspects of today's Middle East are the vast numbers of Third World Christians who work in it under conditions approaching slavery. Qatar is one of the best countries in the region to work. It is almost in another universe from Saudi Arabia.

The Our Lady of the Rosary church was built in part by fund-raising among poor people. One fundraisers must have been truly remarkable, with Celine Dion, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston and Shania Twain turning up in the audience to watch Filipina singer Judi Estrada raise funds for the church.

The leadership of the Rowan Williamses is being quietly assumed by people we've never heard of. And would it not be remarkable if, when the story of first conflict-ridden years of the 21st century are written we should belatedly discover the role played by Chaldean Archbishops and Filipina housemaids? That wouldn't be surprising to the carpenter from Galilee. The Reverend Jeremiah Wright might do well to remember that there is more to this world than color or hate.

Some day, after we have mastered the wind,
the waves, the tides, and gravity,
We shall harness for God the energies of Love.
Then, for the second time in the history of the world,
we will have discovered fire.

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Blogger Fred said...

According to Sharia Law, no church may ring bells or have loud chanting or singing. The churches must be plain and must be at height levels lower than Muslim dwellings. In fact, they cannot even hold classes in catechism or bible studies inside. Services only. And very, very low key.

It's not a sign of tolerance, but of submission to the Dhimma.

But I'll bet some Muslims and non-Muslim, groveling apologists use this as an example of "interfaith progress."

3/14/2008 07:23:00 PM  
Blogger said...

It's probably the minimum allowable. All the same, some of the most amazing stories in future years will come from the saga of underground Christians in Muslim countries.

3/14/2008 07:29:00 PM  
Blogger jj mollo said...

I have also read a piece or two about the Christians of North Korea. Humans are amazing creatures.

3/14/2008 07:51:00 PM  
Blogger Shropshirelad said...

The spirit of man is like water: it will find its level. It responds to laws impossible to legislate against.

3/14/2008 07:52:00 PM  
Blogger Fred said...

In most of the Muslim world, Christians who can leave are leaving. Same with the few remaining Jews in the Muslim world. Two weeks ago AQ's cell in the city of Mosul killed the cleric companions of a Catholic archbishop, kidnapped him, and then killed him.

But, yeah, I take this church going up in Qatr as an example of the indomitable spirit of those Christians. Certainly not an example of Islamic tolerance. In fact, I fear that they will use this against credulous cardinals in the Vatican when they have this annual meeting with Muslim clerics the Pope has announced.

3/14/2008 09:16:00 PM  
Blogger some said...

"Abdul Hamid al-Ansari, the former dean of the Islamic law school at Qatar University wrote that "having places of worship for various religions is a fundamental human right guaranteed by Islam.""

Oh really? When are the synagogues going to open?

3/14/2008 11:47:00 PM  
Blogger said...

Oh really? When are the synagogues going to open?

When the number of Jews gets to about 1/3 of the number of indigenous Muslims. I say this without facetiousness or intent to be flip. Demography creates its own dynamic. Many hospitals, technical services, engineering firms, etc in the Middle East would simply stop operating without expats to man them.

When you leave your kids with the Filipina maid and eat the food prepared by her hands; when your X-ray gets read by a tech called Juan de la Cruz and he administers the the tracer dye it makes you a little cautious about insulting his religion.

3/15/2008 12:02:00 AM  
Blogger Insufficiently Sensitive said...

According to Sharia Law, no church may ring bells or have loud chanting or singing. The churches must be plain and must be at height levels lower than Muslim dwellings. In fact, they cannot even hold classes in catechism or bible studies inside. Services only. And very, very low key.

Going back in time before the Wahabis perverted the Saudis and the rest of the world, Muslimity was considerably more tolerant of its conquered people. After the Turkish conquest of the Balkans, the indigenous folks enjoyed arguably better treatment than others who were conquered and governed by European expansion. They maintained their languages and religions - oh yes, with restrictions - furnished a number of superior viziers to run the empire, and kept their civilizational spark glowing for four or five centuries until the Turks weakened and they returned as fledgling nations... and once again turned on each other.

Stavrianos: 'The Balkans since 1453'.

3/15/2008 09:27:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

"All the same, some of the most amazing stories in future years will come from the saga of underground Christians in Muslim countries."

I wish we could just get religion already behind us. For the life of me, I can't see what's the great appeal in being servile to someone else's idea of a deity, and all the nonsense that comes with that.

3/15/2008 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger Fred said...

insufficiently sensitive,

My only response is that you should read the books on dhimmitude by Bat Ye'or, which delve very deeply into the topic of how dhimmis were more or less consistently dealt with under Islamic Law. It's not pretty, however much revisionists in the last 20 years labor to reinterpret it.

I would also recommend Serge Trifkovic's books and papers about what life was like in the Balkans under Islamic rule.

Finally, Andrew Bostom has written books and articles about jihad conquests down through the centuries.

All of these scholars draw upon solid material and have been posed the kinds of challenging opinion that you have put up. It would be impossible for me to adequately summarize the material across these three authors, but having read them voraciously I am convinced that Islamic rule of "People of the Book" was cruel, oppressive, and degrading. The distinction between Wahabbism and traditional Islam which you allude to is difficult to make, when one reads the Qur'an and the English translations of hadith Bukhari and hadith Muslim which round out and explain the Qur'an.

This is a fecund topic that has been the subject of numerous articles and books by Robert Spencer, who has carefully researched the textual basis of traditional Islamic teaching. Again, to my satisfaction, he and others have made the case for there being no distinction between "Wahabbism" and traditional Islam. The cultural permutations in Islam in other parts of the world reflect the fact that classical Arabic is not their language, and so the Qur'an is mostly memorized and hardly ever understood.

The practice of devshirme in the Balkans and in Eastern Europe was very cruel. Add on to that the heavy taxation of the jizya, along with very strict restrictions on the practice of the Christian faith, and one can understand why these people would want the Muslims gone. Add on to that the humiliation of seeing their children seized by devshirme becoming the janissaries who would wage jihad, and one can understand the depth of humiliation that the dhimmi suffered.

3/15/2008 01:07:00 PM  
Blogger slimslowslider said...

Freuds thoughts on religion were interesting..."a means of giving structure to social groups, wish fulfillment, an infantile delusion, and an attempt to control the outside world."

I think it can also have something to do with the "feeling of it" kinda like a long distance runner's endorphine release.

Freud also illustrates the impossibleness of integration as a jew in germany...
"My language is German. My culture, my attainments are German. I considered myself German intellectually, until I noticed the growth of anti-Semitic prejudice in Germany and German Austria. Since that time, I prefer to call myself a Jew,"

Rat in the past, in his way, blamed the jews for not being able to do more to stop the nazi war machine and seems to be convinced that this generally unarmed, integrated minority made it too easy for the nazis to exterminate them. to his credit, i don't think he really understands what was really done to these people on such an extreme systematic level.

3/15/2008 01:19:00 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

In this thread people run to demonstrate how benign slavery was under the "old" Muslims and in the next thread how awful slavery was under those lousy white guys. What are you? Nuts?

The insult to humanity is not just how cruelly the supremacist treats his subject but the very idea that one man can control another man's life so completely. Anybody who seeks to justify or even minimize Islam's built-in, institutionalized, jurisprudentially vetted supremacism has not done any homework.

Freud, Nietzsche, Darwin et al lost the secularization battle at the gate. Other than among a very small group of Western educated types religion is very much a part of life for the overwhelming majority of the human population. Not only that but religion is becoming even more popular with Christianity the world leader in mass conversions.

3/15/2008 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...


Here is a Jew that was put in an impossible situation, and managed to do the impossible:

This is the true story of Salomon Sorowitsch, counterfeiter extraordinaire and bohemian. After getting arrested in a German concentration camp in 1944, he agrees to help the Nazis in an organized counterfeit operation set up to help finance the war effort. It was the biggest counterfeit money scam of all times. Over 130 million pound sterling were printed, under conditions that couldn’t have been more tragic or spectacular. During the last years of the war, as the German Reich saw that the end was near, the authorities decided to produce their own banknotes in the currencies of their major war enemies. They hoped to use the duds to flood the enemy economy and fill the empty war coffers. At the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, two barracks were separated from the rest of the camp and the outside world, and transformed into a fully equipped counterfeiters workshop. “Operation Bernhard” was born. Prisoners were brought to Sachsenhausen from other camps to implement the plan: professional printers, fastidious bank officials and simple craftsmen all became members of the top-secret counterfeiter commando. They had the choice: if they cooperated with the enemy, they had a chance to survive, as first-class prisoners in a “golden cage” with enough to eat and a bed to sleep in. If they sabotaged the operation, a sure death awaited them. For THE COUNTERFEITERS, it was not only a question of saving their own lives, but also about saving their conscience as well

3/15/2008 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger LarryD said...

You cannot expect extraordinary heroism to be the norm.

3/17/2008 06:25:00 AM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Most of the states & larger cities in the UAE have multiple churches. Some purpose built, some other buildings used for churches in off hours. I have been to mass in a number of them.

I have a booklet on the Vicariate of Arabia and there are pictures of the old churches which are indistinguishable from ones we are used to. However, in the late '70s those were tore down and replaced with more inconspicuous buildings (hmmm, what else was going on in the late '70s?).

The oldest hospital in the city in which I lived was set up by Methodists and is where the city's Methodists worship.

Our Parish conducted catechisms & bible studies. El-Shaddai and other charismatic group met in the compound. A weekly masses was said in Arabic and Urdu and occasionally we would have Tagalog masses and masses said in the various Indian languages. No bells, the church was located on the edge of the industrial section, but I am guessing the singing carried outside the compound on Easter Sunday & on Christmas.

I did not seen any differences in the Omani churches from the UAE churches.

Saudi does not allow such, but the pay to work in Saudi is generally greater too.

3/17/2008 09:23:00 AM  

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