Mixed Emotions: Some Reflections on Life and Death

iraq 1991

by Jesse Wheeler

Life and Death

At 4:30 AM, 16 February 2016, my wife went into labor. In joyful anticipation, we scrambled out of bed, got dressed, grabbed our bags and rushed to the hospital.

Then… we waited. And waited. And… waited some more.

The baby came two weeks early, but this was no problem. After a month of pre-term labor, coupled with an unfortunate insurance complication leaving the delivery and any post-natal care which might have been required uncovered, we had spent every moment up to this point as if strapped to a time-bomb with a broken timer, each passing second an eternity.

Now, with only two weeks out, we were on cloud nine and more than happy to wait a little longer ‘in eager expectation for the child’ to come. I may be taking exegetical license, but nowhere is Heaven closer to Earth than in the face of a newborn child. For whoever welcomes a child in Christ’s name, welcomes the Author of Life Himself.

So, as has become common in our digital age, I spent many passing hours in the hospital browsing Facebook posts, reading articles, and sharing status updates. And as all my thoughts and emotions were focused on this beautiful new life about to be welcomed into the world, I scrolled upon a profoundly disorienting post forcing me, in the midst of this most holy of moments, to confront the gruesome underbelly of human existence. Continue reading

Reasonable and Peace-Sowing: How the Bible Calls us to Think and Act in Times of Fear

ted ashley crop

By Ashley al-Saliby

As we observe this global moment, Western fears about Islam and Muslims seem to be surging again. There are political and religious leaders quick to point to anecdotes or news clips which only further incite tensions and hostility, emphasizing horror stories and brutal tragedies that can affirm our worst suspicions about a religion and its followers that still seem very foreign to us, although many Westerners have lived or worked peacefully alongside Muslim neighbors for years. When the threat of violence seems imminent, or is made to appear that way, our tendency to be fair in our analysis and opinions decreases. And that’s why, at this combustible moment in history, I think listening to voices like that of Dalia Mogahed is more vital and helpful than ever. Continue reading

“Marhaba” or Two? Arabic to Fill the Gap

By Rabih Hasbany

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Marhaba!”

Marhaba is an Arabic word that simply means “hello” and is a commonly used greeting in the Middle East. I hear it on average 8 to 10 times a day, and especially so while spending a weekend in my family’s lovely village where everybody knows each other and greets one another constantly.

However, when I hear the word from a non-native Arabic speaker it initiates a different response from me. Continue reading

Come Follow the Crucified! An Interfaith Reflection on Easter

by Photos8.com

By Martin Accad

My father worked for the Bible Society in Lebanon for most of his life, serving as its General Secretary for over 25 years. Growing up, several of my summers were spent in the distribution of Biblical literature and in organizing viewings of the Jesus Film in Christian, Muslim and Druze villages. I have mostly fond memories of drinking icy lemonade and mulberry juice on hot summer days, listening to pleasant conversations about religion and about Jesus in the atmosphere of friendly home gatherings.

Continue reading

Forgive us, as we Forgive: Visiting Internally Displaced Persons in Iraq

IDP Iraq 2

by Kathryn Kraft

“Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

The challenge in the words of this prayer have taken on a new weight for me after spending some time in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), getting to know Christians who are taking refuge from the so-called Islamic State, or Da’ish.

According to the International Organization for Migration, close to 1 million people fled the city of Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh Plain region during the summer of 2014, when Da’ish took control there. They didn’t flee the violence. Mosul has seen more than its fair share of conflict during the past decade, but many people chose to stay in their homes even when surrounded by fighting and instability.

This time was different. A million people fled, because they simply could not stay. Almost all of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from the Nineveh Province are Yazidi or Christians. What happened? Continue reading

The Seduction of Binary Thinking

by Mike Kuhn

“Perhaps what is outside is also somehow inside, what is alien also intimate.“ (Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction)[1]

“There are two kinds of people in the world…”  That’s the opener.  Then a clever, self-appointed guru proceeds to divide the entire population of the world (7.4 billion by the way) into two distinct categories.  The dividing lines could fall at any number of angles depending on the speaker’s point of view—liberals and conservatives, spenders and wasters, gay and straight, embracers and homophobes, blue-collar and white-collar, God-fearers and God-haters, introverts and extroverts, decent citizens and riff-raff, believers and non-believers, righteous and sinners, right and left, haves and have-nots, collectivists and individualists and the list goes on ad nauseam.

It’s tricky though, isn’t it?  Continue reading

Responding to Syria: Five Years On

Photograph: John Bowen 
Location: Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

(Photograph: John Bowen – Location: Bekaa Valley, Lebanon)

by Suzie Lahoud

“I wonder why all children are happy around the world enjoying Christmas decorations, different colors, new clothes, but the children in our country live, every year, with a hope that the next year will be better, yet they discover that it is more painful than the year before.” – Tartous, Syria; December 2015

I have never been able to reconcile myself to the disparities of the world. Growing up, I used to regularly travel across time and space from the raw want of the former Soviet Union to the wealthy consumerism of the United States.  In Uzbekistan, the average “middle-class” citizen owned two pairs of clothes, and was annually wrangled into picking cotton in the fields without pay in the hot, summer months.  When we traveled back to America each year I sometimes wandered the streets of the neat, suburban neighborhood that I used to call home and just wonder how people there lived. I longed for a bygone day when that was all that I had known.  When everyone lived in comfortable houses and children rode happily on their bikes in quiet streets.

I believe that today the world is facing a similar coming of age.  We long for a bygone day when children didn’t wash up on sea shores, and mothers didn’t have to walk for miles with bloodied feet just to reach the next border.  Continue reading

Why Do We Believe As We Do?

by Arthur Brown

What do you believe?

And, how do you decide what you believe?

Do you believe what you believe because you read it somewhere, because someone you know and trust told it to you, or because you witnessed or experienced something that led you to draw a particular conclusion? Is it as a result of your tradition that you believe certain things? Is it out of some kind of loyalty to a particular view?

And, how do you determine the ‘sources of authority’ from which you are more or less likely to draw your view[s]? From a particular media source? In which case, which one? From material you have read – which material?

From people you know? What led them to draw their conclusions that they have passed on to you? What have they read or been taught? To whom are they loyal, and why? Might it be that they have had a negative experience at the hands of someone or a particular group, and as a result are more likely to hold a negative view of a particular political or religious community?

Okay, so you have a view on something, someone…. or some group? How, then, might your view be changed? What would need to happen for you to change your opinion?

I apologise for asking all these questions, but I guess I want to stress the idea that asking the right question[s] is often significantly more important than obtaining ‘the right’ answer. Continue reading

Syrian Refugees and the Church in the West: Some Practical Suggestions

By Martin Accad

In recent months, I have received a number of invitations from the West to speak about the crisis in Syria, and particularly about the massive refugee migration into Europe. The question that keeps coming is: ‘How should the church in the West respond to the massive refugee influx?’

I am currently in Switzerland in response to such an invitation, and I thought of putting down a few practical suggestions resulting from my own reflection as well as from some conversations I’ve been having with some good friends of mine on the topic. Continue reading

Pushed into Deep Waters: Migrants, Refugees, and the Mission of God

by Robert Hamd

A Catalytic Moment

I first learned about Sami* many years ago when a dear friend of mine came to me, pleading for my help. Sami had been languishing in a Lebanese jail for months without any due process. His crime? A lapsed residency permit. Lebanese police routinely stop African and Asian migrants, and refugee men and women demanding to see their residency papers (ikama). In many cases, poor and vulnerable people do not have proper papers, and when Sami was stopped, he had two choices: pay the “freedom fee” or go to jail. Unable to come up with the $600 dollars needed to secure his release, he found himself in a cold, dank, and dark freeway underpass structure that was converted into a jail by Lebanese Internal Security.

What could I do? Continue reading