The Centre on Religion and Global Affairs

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Our approach to the interplay of religion and global affairs in 5 simple paragraphs!

1. Religions and beliefs play a major role in the way human beings locate themselves in the world and live their day-to-day lives, both as individuals and as communities. Therefore, religions are not simply a matter of personal beliefs about life after death or matter of transcendence. They have direct implications for social, political and economic interactions.

2. At their core, religions are attempts to offer a moral reading of the universe and answer fundamental questions of meaning, and how individuals and communities should live their lives, interact with each other and handle the process of human life. Thus, religions manifest not simply as theological beliefs formulated from sacred texts, but also as social structures and social forces offering belonging, as well as stability and order, to communities. Through rituals and activities of their clerical structures, religions maintain their networks and provide spiritual and physical support to their followers. For this reason, religion often demonstrates itself as the most basic form of civil society in most parts of the world, and emerges as one of the strongest form of mobilisation — cutting across ethnic, socio-economic class, and political differences. Continue reading “The Centre on Religion and Global Affairs”

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Ziya Meral – A Theology of Guantanamo Bay

Guantanamo

Note: My Turkish friend Ziya Meral wrote this six years ago. Today, my Lebanese friend Martin Accad sherd it on his Facebook wall. Nothing more appropriate, in light of the recent report on the CIA use of torture.

This is a sobering and dangerous text. Read and pray. I may change your worldview. It is also worth reading the comments.

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Thursday, 27 December 2007

Philosopher Giorgio Agamben reminds us of the Roman figure homo sacer – the Sacred Man – who, according to the Roman law, can be killed with impunity but cannot be sacrificed to gods. His biological life is divorced from political life putting him outside of the boundaries of what constitutes a human and what the rights of that human are. He not only does not belong to the realm of the ‘human’, but neither to the reality of the gods. What is not human and what does not have a ‘value’ can not be sacrificed to gods since its sacrifice would defile the sanctity of gods. Thus, homo sacer exists only as a biological body, not as a human. A theology which ascribes such a status inevitably shapes political forms.

During the 19th and 20th centuries a similar systematisation of which biological bodies would be ascribed the status of a ‘human’ was accomplished with the marriage of theological assumptions and the ‘findings’ of science that cemented the difference between biological life and political life. Theologically, there was developed the order of creation, levels of perfection and purity, and at which of these levels the Image of God is expressed in its perfect condition. Out of this cosmic ordering, there emerged the political theology that identified the nation, its security, significance and rights with this stage of advanced human lives, whose superiority has been proved by the shape of their skulls in line with the predetermined intellectual and athletic potential of ‘races’. Thus, Jews, Gypsies, mentally and physically handicapped were nothing but mere bodies that could and should be done away with so that they won’t ‘contaminate’ us. Continue reading “Ziya Meral – A Theology of Guantanamo Bay”

Dr. Martin Accad on the Silent Majority of Religious in the Middle East Who Want Peace

October 2014

Martin Accad, of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, Lebanon, tells Catalyst Live of the silent majority of religious in the Middle East who want peace.

Hind Makki – 7 Questions to Ask Before Asking if Muslims Condemn Terrorism

Many in the Western world, especially among Christians, are asking why Muslims are not condemning terrorism. As if this would be a self-evident fact.

They at least ask. There is, however, even among Christians, especially those of a more fundamentalist persuasion, a growing number of people who are simply accusing Muslims that, in fact, they are not only NOT condemning violence in the name of Allah, but in fact they are condoning it. And, tho this, they add that violence and terrorism is intrinsic to the Muslim faith and the Qur’an.

Such people are guilty of conveniently forgetting the violence done in the past, or present, by Christians, in the name of their own faith,  from the Crusades, to the present so-called ‘war on terror’, as well as the violence and terrorism used by Jews, in the name of Yahweh, either in the so-called Joshua genocide, or the use of sheer terrorism in Palestine prior to the establishment of the state of Israel, in 1948. Not to speak of Israel’s state terrorism during the present bloody war in Gaza.

This being the case, it is good for us to listen to the voice of moderate Muslims, as we may learn a thing or two from them. During my work for World Vision, I had myself the privilege of meeting a few such moderate voices, among which I have to mentioned Dr. Muhammad Farooq Khan, from Pakistan, who paid with his life for his convictions and his actions on behalf of peace and inter-faith reconciliation.

I copy here below a set of questions that Hind Makki, a Muslim journalist in Chicago, suggests we should ask before wondering if Muslims condemn or not violence in the name of Islam (an example of which you can see in the video clip above). Here are the questions: Continue reading “Hind Makki – 7 Questions to Ask Before Asking if Muslims Condemn Terrorism”

Ahmad Sarraf – O Christians, Get Out of Our lands!

Ahmed Sarraf
Ahmed Sarraf

Dr. Martin Accad, Director of the Institute of Middle East Studies in Beirut – Lebanon writes: This is a powerful lament by a Muslim over the fate of Christians in the Middle East. Or more accurately, it is a lament over the fate of Muslims after Christians leave the ME…

I have taken the pains of translating it quickly (informally) into English for the sake of English readers. I have deep respect for this kind of writing, not because it glorifies Christians and their contribution to the ME region, but because it humbles me, as an Arab Christian, that a Muslim writer would be willing to attribute so much to ME Christians. I am also posting it because I know that Sarraf’s piece reflects the feelings of a vast majority of Muslims in the region over the fate of Christians in Iraq and elsewhere. So my English translation is a tribute to my Muslim friends:

“O Christians, get out of our lands!” (an article written by Ahmad Sarraf that first appeared in Al-Qabas newspaper on 21/07/2014 – this translation by Martin Accad is not an official translation and was done for the sole purpose of sharing on Facebook). Continue reading “Ahmad Sarraf – O Christians, Get Out of Our lands!”

Martin Luther King jr – Loving Your Enemies – Sermon Fragments

Martin Luther King jr

Sermon delivered on 17 November 1957 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church [the underlining in the text is mine]. Please find the time to browse through this amazing sermon. You will not be sorry.

I dedicate this to my many enemies (they know who they are) and I pray that, by God’s grace, I love them as Jesus calls me to do it. Kyrie eleison!

I want to turn your attention to this subject: “Loving Your Enemies.” It’s so basic to me because it is a part of my basic philosophical and theological orientation—the whole idea of love, the whole philosophy of love. In the fifth chapter of the gospel as recorded by Saint Matthew, we read these very arresting words flowing from the lips of our Lord and Master: “Ye have heard that it has been said, ‘Thou shall love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.’ But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”

Certainly these are great words, words lifted to cosmic proportions. And over the centuries, many persons have argued that this is an extremely difficult command. Many would go so far as to say that it just isn’t possible to move out into the actual practice of this glorious command. They would go on to say that this is just additional proof that Jesus was an impractical idealist who never quite came down to earth. So the arguments abound. But far from being an impractical idealist, Jesus has become the practical realist. The words of this text glitter in our eyes with a new urgency. Far from being the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer, this command is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization. Yes, it is love that will save our world and our civilization, love even for enemies. Continue reading “Martin Luther King jr – Loving Your Enemies – Sermon Fragments”

Ethics Daily Interview with Dr. Martin Accad on the 2014 Consultation of IMES

Martin Accad, director of the Institute of Middle East Studies at Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Lebanon, talks with EthicsDaily.com about IMES’ 11th annual Middle East Consultation, which aims to foster more understanding between Muslims and Christians. For more information, visit the ABTS website.