Saturday, February 28, 2015

2015 - Year of Love and Hate

I am not sure I can write anymore.  I have been out in the world, away from my former home, living the international scene for 2 1/2 years now and while each day brings new wow moments, some great photo opportunities, sharable stories... I have felt paralysed lately when it comes to sharing them.  I certainly don't want to bore people.  Also the notion of "exotic" has worn off.  A trip to NYC this Christmas brought me up short with a new understanding that everyplace is exotic and new to someone, but in the end... it's also just plain home to many more someones.                                                            

Casablanca Morocco is just another home.  I have my routines, my community, my church, my life here right now.  The fact that cows and sheep and donkeys share the city freely... that men in the little pointy hooded djalabas shuffle along on every street corner, that camel heads hang wide eyed and disembodied in the market, that fresh fruit vendors inhabit every neighborhood, whole families ride on one motorcycle, and time as I once knew it... does not exist here.  These are simply facets of my daily life here, now.

I do like Morocco.  It certainly isn't the same as Turkey.  It doesn't, in fact, compare to anything I have ever experienced, with the possible exception of life briefly lived in one of the barrios of Pueblo Colorado. And that's kind of funny because there seems to be a Mexican connection to Morocco oddly enough.

But that is not what this post is about.

I am teaching a course right now in intercultural competency.  There are eight students in the class, with some great diversity... a Moroccan male that was educated in the US, an American man who was born and has lived most of his life in the US, but also has lived internationally for the past 5 years in Columbia and now Morocco. Four young women who are US born, but have worked and lived for some time here in Morocco - and even among them there is some lovely diversity - a daughter of physician parents, an artist, a Mexican/American who has lived for some time in the military, and a young teacher just getting started in her career.  There is also a Palestinian woman who teaches Arabic, and a very intelligent young Moroccan born woman who is covered and who brings some great insight to class.  I have learned a lot from these people.

Our perceptions and insights are just as varied as our backgrounds.  Yet there are some commonalities among us.  We all work in education.  We all live in Casablanca Morocco.  We all work at the same school.  We disagree on some points and agree on others.   We all have hopes and dreams and loves and the desire to live out our lives peacefully.

Last month, about 2,500 kilometers from here... a tragedy of unspeakable brutality took place in North Africa.  21 Egyptian Coptic Christian men who had been held in captivity for some time, were marched out onto a beach on the shores of Libya, forced to kneel.. and simultaneously beheaded by hooded thugs in black who shouted "god is great" in Arabic, as the 21 martyrs cried out to Jesus, also in Arabic.
                                               Mohammed El Shahad AP/Getty

This event sent my heart and mind reeling for days.  I could not comprehend the wickedness that would without love or compassion, commit such an atrocity and believe it to be sanctioned by the Creator of all things.  Also on this same continent, south of here in Nigeria... a related event took place, committed for the same reason... the wholesale slaughter of 2,000 men, women and children in a Christian village in Nigeria... because they would not recant their faith.

Yet the world kept silent.

Keeps silent still, as if we really don't want to cast our gaze that way.  It's too frightening, too sad. Too incomprehensible... so we choose to ignore it and pretend that it is so far away... it will not come to our doorsteps.  But it is on mine.

And it is on yours.

  I am sick and tired to death of the multitude of people on this planet who think that religion is a scourge because they are only capable of  looking at the surface of things and not deeply into the reality of life.  While parts of our world are in turmoil because of the twisted beliefs of some... that does not remand the wholesale abandonment of all things related to worship of a divine and holy GOD.  Though I can "imagine" a time when people in power will think they are doing humanity a favor by outlawing all behaviors related to any kind of worship.  Indeed, if one reads the comment sections of any on-line news article about a conflict involving faith.... the amount of people calling for the abolishment of religion is stunning... both in magnitude and assumptive ignorance.

My principal at the school where I work sent me a very well written article from the Atlantic.  I think it is an extremely insightful piece of writing - though it only brings to mind more questions. It is worth a careful read, and a pondering between the lines.

In the end... this "holy war" is not really about holiness.  It is about the destruction of love and life.  It is based on a mandated morality that would deny free will - and places man on the throne of GOD as an enforcer of "holiness" as defined by human minds.

All of those commonalities that I share with the members of my intercultural class... can be, I think, aggregated into a few simple human desires;  the desire to be free, the desire to love and be loved, the desire to be at peace in one's life.  The desire to raise one's family free from fear, and the desire to worship in peace.  Make no mistake... ANY faith's efforts to force "righteousness" on the world will fail as it always has.  Only GOD's presence can require that, and any man who acts in HIS stead is bound for ruin.

I don't have the answers, other than this... in my short life and my small travels and explorations on this planet... I have come to steadfastly know there is a GOD and that people of many tribes and nations belong to HIM out of personal choice and knowledge.  GOD is love.  GOD is holy.  GOD is just.

I will preach no more this particular post.  I only want to share with you one more thought... this place we live... whether it is Toronto, or Anchorage, or Casablanca, or Istanbul, or Mumbai, or Sandpoint, or Bogota, or Benghazi. or name a million other cities, towns, and villages.... we are life, we are precious and we can live in peace.... if we choose it.

If we choose it.

I have a former friend... (I say former as this dear long time friend has forced a distance between us because I refuse to recant my Christian faith) she loathes the fact that I find comfort in worshiping at a church and solace in reading and sharing scripture.  Her reasoning; she knows evil people who also spout scripture.  Just like the ISIS devotees who spout Koranic verses out of context to justify their behavior.  I don't think it's a very wise approach - discounting something just because someone misuses it... but it all comes back to that hating of religion, and refusing to look deeper than one's own external experience.  CS Lewis' short story - The Great Divorce demonstrates this point of view quite remarkably and quite effectively.

Anyway.... here is a scripture for this post.  Please don't take it out of context.  It is a very simple precept, and I believe its a choice we all have.... even as a blade is descending upon our necks...

I choose life
Peace to you
Brothers and Sisters

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