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The Word on the Week

Islamic Awakening

The growing unrest in the Middle East has dominated the news over the last few weeks as the domino effect awakened countries who were shackled for years by dictatorships. One country after another seized their moment to strike out against their authorities who, in many cases, had been propped up by Western aid. This aid promoted stability in the region and ensured low oil prices for the West but disregarded the welfare of the Arab citizens who were kept under control by state controlled forces loyal to the government. The Egyptian crisis has played out live on television minute by minute, hour after hour, in an incongruous clash of the modern and the ancient: the opponents fought with stones and on horse and camel, while the watching world looks on via satellite, skype, twitter and cell phone. This same technology helped organise the stone-throwers until the authorities turned off the networks last Friday. In the absence of clear leadership the Muslim Brotherhood (whose European HQ is said to be in Dublin) are waiting in the wings. Iran, with an eye on the destruction of Israel, thinks their moment has come. Their spokesman likened the situation to a volcano erupting and said “this time there would be no second chance for Israel”. What comment can the Bible offer this week? A Muslim intellectual said recently that he had read both the Koran and the New Testament. In the Koran he found no advice as to how a Muslim should live in a non-Muslim country. In the New Testament he found no instructions for a Christian living in a Christian country! This intellectual had missed the fact that Christians are living for another country and are not there yet! The writer to the Hebrews, writing historically, put it well in Chapter 11. “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own…. they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one.” The other factor, which is absent from the Koran, is the concept that God is love. St John in his 1st letter chapter 4 summarises the Christian relationship: “this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” It is only by seeing what Jesus has accomplished on the cross on behalf of sinners such as us that we can begin to comprehend the vastness of the love of the God we have come to adore. Dictatorships, democracies, wealth and armies are all part of what is passing. St Peter at the end of his 2nd letter recognised their transitory nature; “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” And that can best be done by enlisting for life in Jesus army.