Mar Musa Monastery
Mar Musa, a sixth century monastery in Syria, which was founded by the son of an Ethiopian king who gave up his throne, is a testament to this. The phrase Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Raheem, 'In the name of God the Merciful and the Compassionate,' written in Arabic calligraphic script adorns the walls of the church, nestled between frescoes that date back to the 11th and 12th centuries. This phrase is also the first verse of the Quran. Daily services are often conducted in Arabic and during the prayers God is referred to as Allah. Apart from the obvious theological differences, most notably references to Jesus as the son of God, a lay person would have trouble telling these prayers apart from Islamic prayers. The service I attended was conducted by Father Jihad, a name which is unfortunately often only associated with militarised extremists.
The author with Father Paolo Dall'Aglio
Outside the church is a tent called 'the tent of Abraham' indicating one of the purposes for which this monastery was restored in the 1980s. Father Paolo Dall'Oglio, an Italian Jesuit priest and an erudite polyglot, and a hulk of a man, envisioned the monastery as a place that would facilitate inter-religious dialogue particularly between Christians and Muslims. Indeed the majority of the visitors to the monastery were Muslim.
Following the Syrian uprisings, Father Paolo was asked to leave Syria by Al-Assad's government and he was kidnapped by ISIS exactly a year ago on the 29th of July 2013 while trying to negotiate for peace between different rebel groups. His family has issued an appeal for his release hoping that he is still alive although confirmed reports suggest he has been executed in Al-Raqqa. If he has become yet another victim of the evil propagated by ISIS and its ilk then the world has lost a man who brought 'light' unto the world. As a friend of mine recently said, “the true strength of a person, religion, or people lies in the ability to criticize the actions of the in-group,” in other words the group or groups to which they belong. Father Paolo was a man who was willing to criticise his own church and his opposition to the Vatican’s support of the Assad government bears testament to this.
Today there are protests in support of the Palestinians in different cities across the world and Muslim communities in particular have mobilised in support of Gaza. I have argued elsewhere that the biggest misperception is that the Israeli-Palestinians conflict is about Islam. It is about a people's right to their homeland. In India various Muslim religious leaders have made statements condemning Israeli aggression and people have taken out rallies, courted arrest and used social media to protest. Sadly however there has barely been any mention of the thousands of Christians who are suffering the same fate as the Palestinians and are being uprooted from communities, some of which are more than 1600 years old. A small number of young people have changed their Facebook profile pictures to the letter 'Noon' in solidarity with the Christians of Iraq, others have tried to raise awareness by posting articles and news items but these gestures, although commendable, are simply not enough.
Why are public platforms not being used to raise awareness of the persecution faced by Christians in Iraq? Why are there no protest marches? Why are there no aid packages being dispatched? In societies where literacy is not that high, it falls on the social, political and religious leaders to speak up. Perhaps the truest measure of a person’s humanity is their ability to transcend ethnic, racial, religious and tribal differences and treat the suffering of others as their own. For surely, one of the best forms of worship is to be of service to those who are less fortunate, regardless of their background.
Ali Khan Mahmudabad is a PhD student in History at the University of Cambridge who writes a fortnightly column for the Urdu Daily Inqilab
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Anwaar >> but just add up how many millions were killed by internecine warfare in European countries, the two Crusades that they brought to Palestine, the conquest of North and South America, the colonizations in Africa, Asia and Australia
Is it not pretty rich about someone who is settled in USA, lives and enjoys the American Dream to complain about the colonization of America by white man? Is it not amusing for a gentleman and CAIR activists who earns and pays tax dollars to Washington DC and then complains about israel killing gaza folks?
Come on be honest and accept YOU ARE ALSO PART OF THE PROBLEM..
BTW your retirement and 401-K bucks and whatever is pretty safe with the Jewish Bankers of wall Street and your Prophet will have never approved of it, why dont you then change the system instead of complaining? For a start, come back to India and invest here.. Will you?
>>>> "That is a tiny minority but no people in the world have destroyed other peoples' countries as much as the Europeans and the Americans have."
It may be rubbish to a lying hate pracharak like yourself, but just add up how many millions were killed by internecine warfare in European countries, the two Crusades that they brought to Palestine, the conquest of North and South America, the colonizations in Africa, Asia and Australia, the Nazi Holocaust, the Soviet massacres of kulaks, the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the American-Israeli massacres of Arabs since 1948 and the disruptions in the Middle East to quench Western thirst for oil. I do however sympathize with you because once you become a hate pracharak lying becomes an essential tool of the trade. Keep going!
"That is a tiny minority but no people in the world have destroyed other peoples' countries as much as the Europeans and the Americans have." CAIR pracharak
Rubbish. Muslims metastasized from Arabia to infest a huge region from Spain to India, killing, looting, raping and enslaving people for 1000+ years. Advanced civilizations from the Byzantine and Coptic Christian civilizations to the numerous Hindu civilizations in India were exterminated by these savages. It has been estimated that some 270 million people perished in the slaughter-house of Islam. Muslims enslaved 15 million black Africans, compared to roughly 10 million blacks enslaved by Europeans. And that does not even count the millions of our people enslaved in India.
The world had forgotten how barbaric Islam is. It is now relearning that lesson.
>> "muslims cranks are disproportionately higher everywhere"
Not judging by this forum!
>> "try to destroy the country they are living in"
That is a tiny minority but no people in the world have destroyed other peoples' countries as much as the Europeans and the Americans have.
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