Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah's Advices to Muslims Living in the West

1 : Prosperity on earth by means of building and cultivating in the land

Cultivation of the world has 2 implied meanings here – material and spiritual. Material in a sense that God has given man every thing he uses today from the earth he walks on (Subhanallah), this includes wood, metal, oil, glass, etc… And spiritual from the perspective of ‘how we live together’ and ‘how we deal with each other’. The key point to note here is ‘how we live and deal with each other’, notice that it does not say ‘how we deal with Muslims or Christians or Buddhists but rather how we deal with each other as humans and how we use that which God decreed for us (material) to better our interaction with each other. This (believe it or not) is apart of how we as Muslims worship Allah (SWT) which is the essence of what the 1st condition means.

2 : Faith – Iman and submission to Allah (SWT)

Here is the part that focuses on strengthening our Iman and our system of belief. The challenges today come in being a part of a community that does not believe in what you believe in. How can we believe with full conviction and not fall into the current culture? How does man worship? And how do you implement this in your own life? Implementing religion is found in the 5 pillars (Testifying with conviction that there is no god (or deity) worth worshiping but Allah (SWT), Praying, Fasting, Charity, and Hajj (for those able to perform the pilgrimage)). But you couldn’t do them unless you know things such as the time of prayers, and how many prayers are due at which time, and what is involved in fasting, etc…). These Ibaddaat (acts of worship) are all due to Allah (SWT). If you merely say kind, gentle, peaceful words while failing to do and implement Islam then this becomes faulty. There is creed and deed, these 2 have to be present in Islam. They are necessary for us to establish our relationship with Allah (SWT). Allah (SWT) says it is binding upon humanity to make a pilgrimage to the house but to do so you need the knowledge on how to do it. Your beliefs (La Ilaha Ila Allah) are elevated (not by your words but…) by the actions you do (i.e. praying, fasting, being charitable, etc…) without these your beliefs do not elevate.

3 : Muslim house

This doesn’t necessarily mean that all the occupants in your house must merely be Muslim. A Muslim house is a house that implements Islam. This is a big challenge. Some fathers nowadays let there children go to college without understanding their Deen. The collective spirit of the house should be a spirit of Islam (i.e. the Muslim house will recite Quran during one day of the week as an example to ensure that collectively there is an Islamic practice taking place). The idea is not to leave your wife (hypothetically) and focus on yourself only. This is Wrong. Because it’s about the familial ownership of the total spirit. The cooperation of the husband and wife is very important in order to set an example for their children. The Muslim is not selfish by nature and your first concern should be family. This is the 1st brick of the Islamic spirit.

4 : Muslim Community

This is pivotal because of their cooperation to build mosques, Islamic schools, etc… These will be the initial steps to teach new children how to build relationships with Allah (SWT). However, this does not mean that you shouldn’t cooperate with others. You can have a Muslim house but you must belong to other Muslim houses to build an Islamic spirit. The idea isn’t to close in on yourself and become ghettoized. Allah (SWT) said ‘let there be among you a community that enjoins in good and forbids evil.’ Encouraging each other to be patient because when you’re in the minority and calling out to people to build this community people will back lash.

5 : Learning Islam

How do we learn about wife/husband relationships? Halal and Haram, etc… There must be schools that teach (in the west) the way of Islam. How do we apply Fiqh to our life and transfer it to our youth so that they don’t fall into extremism. Fiqh means a deep understanding and this is firm rooted which not only takes time but also a firm mentality. This challenge of creating institutions that convey this is pivotal. What distinguishes the Muslim from the non-Muslim is knowledge (through knowledge we pray, etc…). There are communities that already exist but how do we indigenize (ingrain) people to Islam? People have to understand that Islam hasn’t come here to pass by; it has come here to stay. But in order for us to be able to make appropriate decisions in the west we need scholars that understand the conditions of the west so that they may be able to pass on rulings that are fit for our environment. This doesn’t mean changing the religion but it rather takes a scholar who is well versed in the Quran, Seerah, Sunnah, Hadiths, Aqeeda, Fiqh, and the life of Muslims in the west in order to be able to pass on Fatwa’s (religious rulings) that are fit for these Muslims. This is more specifically referred to as ‘fiqh ul’ qilah’ (The Fiqh of minorities).

6 : Building Bridges and relationships with others

The Muslim should never view himself/herself as a guest on the earth but as the permanent resident in order for him/her to perform his/her duties as such. Some Muslims live in foreign lands and don’t care much about the politics and way of life. That is wrong. The Muslim shouldn’t abandon the worries of his neighbor and fellow citizens. The good Muslim is a good citizen and this is only understood by telling others (Muslims) that your religion promotes interactions with others and makes it a law to do so. We have to develop means by which we engage the people around us. We should be happy for what others have and at the same time share their difficulties and problems. The Muslims isn’t only encouraged to work with other people but also to share in their prosperity! This is building the bridge to other communities.

7 : Becoming an active participant of the community

This condition is about reaching the stage of Yusuf (AS) when he said ‘make me in charge of your cabinets (finances)’. This wasn’t a Muslim society or a Muslim kingdom yet he stepped forward to aid in their political system. Muslims must be active among other communities only to be known as ‘active people’. This means running in elections, voting, participating in community/city forums, etc… There are others that criticize the participation of Muslims in a non-Muslim political system but this is a rather harsh way/response. Islam is but a gentle way of life. But in order of us to be involved in our communities we must be people of shared interest to our fellow citizens. In ancient India, Muslims ruled it while the country maintained its own religion – how did this happen? – the people of the land were simply fond of the Muslims and wanted them to rule.
Courtesy: Khaled Al-Qinneh

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

“Ridiculous to define modern democracy as rule by people” – historian

courtesy: RT Russian international English TV

“We believe that the contents of the report (The annual US Report on Advancing Freedom and Democracy) prove the fallaciousness of the very principle ‘who is not with the US is not democratic’ which is, in fact, exactly the criteria for assessing the situation in some countries ..the path to democracy, a direction for democratic development, is chosen by the people living in a country, not by the US Department of State...Russia, for its part, is open for a constructive dialogue based on mutual respect, but not for lectures and morals on how to build true democracy.”-Russian Foreign Ministry. The Russian Foreign Ministry recommended their American colleagues to pay more attention to their “own problems with observing human rights, including general rules of international law on the matter.”
“Ridiculous to define modern democracy as rule by people” – historian

Published 25 August, 2010, 11:34

Since the birth of the idea in Ancient Greece, the term “democracy” has undergone many changes in definition and essence, historian and political theorist John Dunn told RT.

“Democracy is a Greek word for naming that particular set of Greek arrangements a long time ago, and those arrangements essentially disappeared 2,500 years ago roughly. And they haven’t really reappeared except on a very small scale,” John Dunn said. “They haven’t much to do with the way in which any modern state is governed – modern states are much bigger and they are governed through complicated public bureaucracies. They are governed by relatively small numbers of, in a sense, professional politicians. That is a very different structure.”

Dunn pointed out that democracy is both the name of a form of government – not very clearly defined form of government – and a political pretension or political claim, “which is that form of government is actually authorized by the people at large.”

“But if you ask how the people actually do their authorizing, the answer is they have a very-very small bit-part, really,” the historian said. “They intervene in some countries barely at all, and in any country only every few years and very briefly, and in a way that gives them extremely little control over the outcome.”

courtesy: RT Russian international English TV

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Taliban is part of will of Afghan people – WikiLeaks chief

UK, London : Australian founder of whistleblowing website, "WikiLeaks", Julian Assange speaks to media after giving a press conference in London on July 26, 2010. (AFP Photo / Leon Neal)

Courtesy : RT Russian international English TV channel.

Taliban is part of will of Afghan people – WikiLeaks chief

Edited 01 August, 2010, 14:34

RT spoke in London to Julian Assange, the founder and editor-in-chief of the whistleblower website, responsible for the leakage of the documents on Afghan war, which was the biggest in US military history.

RT: You’ve had a wide range of responses to this publication detailing the everyday of war, ranging from praise to criticism. Is that what you were expecting?

Julian Assange: We knew this was serious material. It covers a six-year period of war in 92,000 reports and almost every serious incident in the US military – who was involved, together with the times and locations, number of people killed, etc – so we knew it had great importance as a historical document and as a primary resource to be used for further investigations. We also know from those sorts of cases that we’ve dealt with previously – we always get “pushback”. Whenever we reveal abuse by some organizations, we always get that organization or its friends pushing back to try and steal the message away from the allegations that have been raised.

RT: One of the main criticisms that has been leveled at you is that you’ve published the villages, the names and in some cases the GPS-co-ordinates of people, Afghans, who’ve co-operated with the US military. You’ve even come under some criticism for human rights organizations for that. A US official has called it “a potential hit-list for the Taliban”. What’s your response to that?

JA: This appears to mostly be a media beat-up. We’re looking at the issue seriously to see whether that is true. We did hold back 15,000 reports for further review because they had that sort of classifications that suggested that maybe that they contain that sort of material. We approached the White House to ask them for assistance in reviewing material before we published. The White House did not accept that request. Now all of this is coming from The Times of London, and The Times did not tell us about any of these reports whatsoever. In fact, today I see that there is a title of an article: “Afghan men already dead”. Actually if you read the article you can see, at the bottom, is in fact that the men died two years ago. So at this stage we’re looking at this as mostly a media beat-up. Of course we’re very concerned to make sure that innocents are protected, so we are very happy to see any evidence which report is possibly revealing information about someone who is innocent. But once again, at this stage we have not confirmed those allegations at all. In fact when we actually looked at them we saw that those allegations are not correct.

RT: There has also been a suggestion that the release of this information will make it harder for allied forces to get Afghan citizens to co-operate with them.

JA: Well, what we reveal – and that’s what we’ve been doing for the past four years – is the truth about how organizations actually behave. Now if Afghans don’t like how those organizations actually behave, then of course it is their right to engage with them or not engage with them.

RT: It’s not so much that, it’s the potential danger that they may be in now that such a huge body of information is in public domain.

JA: Once again, this is an allegation by The London Times, a [Rupert] Murdoch publication that is in oppositional relationship to The Guardian, the paper that we collaborated with. They printed 14 pages on Monday in relation to this issue. The Times of London printed zero pages in relation to the issue on Monday. So they are now in an adversary relationship because they weren’t invited to the party.

RT: This has been a media sensation. You released the information to actually two selected media outlets, three newspapers. Since then you’ve given over a hundred media interviews including appearing on the Larry king show. Are you a publicity-seeker?

JA: That is just ridiculous. I mean, far from that. In fact, we try to have no publicity, we try to work under the same rules that The Economist does, where everyone has a shared byline.

What we have found is if the public demands that someone speak for an organization. Because of the security threats to the certain work we do, not many people are willing to step forward and speak. In the end, someone has to do it, and while I am already a public figure – so I am the person who does that.

RT: These documents date from the period between 2004 and 2009 – why do you publish them now and not earlier when they could have made more of a difference?

JA: We only received the material recently. We publish it as soon as possible.

RT: And what is the process that you did go throw between receiving it and publishing it?

JA: When we receive material like that it is very difficult to read because of the internal military language, internal jargon. The format is some of a computer format and it is impossible in fact for a person to read. So we had to understand a format, re-format it, make it in a presentable way, and then explore the material to pull out the stories and set up a coalition of media groups to do just that. That took quite a lot of work, not just for us, but for the three other organizations involved.

RT: There must be a huge amount of expertise involved in doing something like that. Where does your expertise and the expertise of your organizations come from?

JA: Well, we have 800 people involved as specialists in different areas, in different regional areas, computer specialists in different ways and former intelligence officers and so on. And we draw on that expertise. We are trying to understand any material like this.

RT: Washington says that these documents are outdated. Is there any truth to that claim?

JA: It depends on what you are talking about. If you are talking about how the war has progressed – of course it has been outdated, the war has been going on since 2001 – it’s been going for nine years. This material covers the last six years, with the exception of the last several months. That exception is important to some degree. It means that the material is not of tactical significance. It does not talk about troops that are just about to do something, which means it’s of essentially no threat to the US military forces, but it is deeply important for understanding the purpose of the war. The White House said, “Well, the material isn’t going up until December. In December we released the new Obama policy.” But Obama’s new policy on the war was, in fact, a continuation of the previous policy, except more troops. So why should the war change so dramatically just because relatively small changes have been put into place? The trick was to say “Suggest that there was no overlap between Obama’s new policy and this material.” In fact, Obama’s policy came on December 1st, and this material carried through up to the end of the year.

RT: You’ve said that the under-reporting of civilian casualties starts at the bottom of the common soldiery, that really no policy change at the top is going to. What do you think could make a difference?

JA: It’s an extremely hard situation. The answer is not for Western forces or ISF members to go away tomorrow, because that would lead to a power vacuum. The answer is probably a staged withdrawal, making agreements between the Taliban and the Afghan government. I predict there will be a continuation of the civil war, unless the allied forces establish some kind of equilibrium. Then we will see an increase towards peace. There are no easy options on the table.

RT: Who will gain from the release of all this information?

JA: The Afghan people. That is their country, and this is the history of their country. And they are to be able to effectively manage their destiny. They need this information to understand what is happening to their country. We can also say that people from the US, the UK, Australia, who are in the coalition and are actually paying for this war and their soldiers are being killed in this war. Those people also have their rights to understand what is actually happening. All those military companies are making extraordinary profits by providing services to troops, weapons, clothing and so on.

RT: But isn’t the Taliban and the Afghan insurgency likely to gain from this as well, because you have inadvertently maybe exposed the weaknesses of the allied forces?

JA: We have to be careful there. Remember, this is a civil war. Everyone says Taliban, but in fact, the Taliban are Afghans. This is a civil war that is going on. And Taliban are a part of the will of the Afghan people. They are also part, probably, of the Pakistani secret intelligence service, and maybe, of course, part of the will of Saudi Arabia, who is giving some money to this. But in terms of the bodies on the ground, people are actually doing their work. The Taliban is part of the will of the Afghan people. And the United States and the allied forces need to recognize and understand that it’s part of the Afghan people and if you are shooting Taliban, you are shooting the Afghan people.

That does not mean they do not have blood on their hands.

This material does not paint the behaviors of any military groups in a nice light – there is blood on all sides.

Courtesy : RT Russian international English TV channel.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

WikiLeaks reveals civilians are fair game in US war tactics

Courtesy:RT Russian international English TV

WikiLeaks reveals civilians are fair game in US war tactics

Published 27 July, 2010, 09:40

The US military is desperately trying to close-in on the sources behind the biggest leak in its history: the latest major Wikileaks exposé that includes evidence of the killing of innocent citizens.

Pentagon chiefs admit it will take weeks to assess the damage to US-led operations in Afghanistan after the latest revelations on something that any military would try to keep under wraps – civilians killed during an operation.

This April, the Pentagon saw one of its skeletons walk out of the closet: a secret video of American soldiers opening what looks like indiscriminate fire in a Baghdad suburb three years ago.

Back then, more than a dozen people were reported dead, including two Reuters news staff. Two children were wounded.

The incident was investigated and the US military concluded that the actions of the soldiers were in accordance with the law of armed conflict and its own "Rules of Engagement". So while the US military is OK with causing some “collateral damage”, (as civilians deaths in the course of action are known), a number of soldiers who were involved in those killings are now speaking out, saying this should not be a norm of warfare.

Ethan McCord, a solider with the unit that is shown in the video, says it was not a one-off experience. He went as far as to say soldiers in his unit were ordered to kill civilians in certain circumstances.

McCord said the message they got from their commander was: “If someone in your line gets hit with an Improved Explosive Device – 360 rotational fire. You kill every motherfucker on the street.”

Josh Steiber served in the same unit as Ethan McCord. He refused to talk about the order because of, he claims, the threats and warnings he has received from his former army fellows.

But the secret video of helicopter killings seemed nothing unusual to him.

“From my experiences, what was shown in that video is not uncommon. Things like that happen on a fairy regular basis,” confessed former soldier Josh Stieber.

Josh says the training they went through did not ingrain much sensitivity either

Josh and a group of other former soldiers are now touring the US, telling people of their experiences and their regret.

“To me, it was when I was finally able to put myself in the shoes of other people and really start to imagine how I would feel if people were doing to me what I was doing to the people on regular basis – storming into people’s homes, sometimes in the middle of the night, and see children’s faces.”

Some blame the type of war the US was fighting for the psychological trauma so many American soldiers are now going through.

“It was a very disorienting and destabilizing condition of warfare for most American soldiers to try to separate the benign populace from the insurgency that wanted to kill him that were indistinguishable from regular civilians,” claimed New York writer Jim Frederick.

Ethan McCord and Josh Steiber signed a letter of apology to the mother of the children hurt during the operation, and pledged to change from the inside out.

America's military chiefs are bracing themselves for more to come. The WikiLeaks website is promising that further revelations are on the way.

The online whistleblower is now checking into reports dealing with American conduct in Iraq.

It is thought they could expose similar findings to the thousands of documents already posted online.

They include details of civilian casualties at the hands of US and allied troops, as well as concerns that Pakistani intelligence helped the Taliban insurgency.

The White House described the release as a breach of federal law and a threat to American military personnel.

Courtesy:RT Russian international English TV

Sunday, July 25, 2010

“I think Israel’s leaders will invent a pretext to drive the Palestinians off the West Bank, into Jordan, Syria or wherever"-Alan Hart

“I think Israel’s leaders will invent a pretext to drive the Palestinians off the West Bank, into Jordan, Syria or wherever. And the blood will flow. The West Bank will be soaked with blood, it will be mostly Palestinian blood… That wouldn’t be the end of the story. It would so inflame Arab and Muslim masses that you will be opening the Pandora’s Box of a much wider conflict.”- Alan Hart

Courtesy: RT Russian international English TV

Hamas poses no threat to Israel

Published 26 July, 2010, 04:29

Alan Hart, a British writer and journalist with a special focus on the Arab-Israeli conflict, told RT that the very idea that Hamas can pose a threat to Israel is ridiculous.

“If we take a step back, why did Israel invade Gaza in that brutality at the end of 2008 and the beginning 2009?” Hart said. “Hamas had actually kept the cease-fire for 6 months. The cease-fire was actually broken by Israel’s action. They had been looking for a pretext to move on Gaza, to try to break the will of the Palestinians. So the idea that Hamas represents a threat to Israel is playing stupid. Hamas’s real position, and it’s on the record, is that they would be willing to accept a two-state solution based on Israel’s withdrawal to 1967 lines, with Jerusalem preferably an open city and the capital of two states.”

However, the author points out that the two-state solution is dead.

“The two-state solution never would have given a fair complete solution to the problem,” he said. “It’s now much too late to happen. Israel’s colonization of the West bank is about 42 percent of the land area and it’s stretching.”

According to Hart, only two outcomes are possible at the moment. The first is a one-state solution with Jews and Arabs having equal rights. That option, however, the author deems very unrealistic.

“I think Israel’s leaders will invent a pretext to drive the Palestinians off the West Bank, into Jordan, Syria or wherever. And the blood will flow. The West Bank will be soaked with blood, it will be mostly Palestinian blood… That wouldn’t be the end of the story. It would so inflame Arab and Muslim masses that you will be opening the Pandora’s Box of a much wider conflict.”

Courtesy: RT Russian international English TV

Monday, June 14, 2010

On the Issue of War in Afghanistan there’s been An Enormous Disappointment for many in the United States

“President Obama chose to expand the war in Afghanistan. And I would say, on the issue of war, there’s been an enormous disappointment for many in the United States,” - Amy Goodman

Published 14 June, 2010, 10:30

RT has spoken to US journalist, and TV and radio host Amy Goodman on how the Obama administration deals with its main challenges, and what the American people think of their leader.

“President Obama chose to expand the war in Afghanistan. And I would say, on the issue of war, there’s been an enormous disappointment for many in the United States,” Goodman said.

“Then there’s an issue of who gains in the United States with the economic meltdown. And I think [President Obama] also surprised many people by the fact that he surrounded himself by the same players who were people deeply involved with the financial institutions they were supposed to be regulating,” the journalist believes. “And so people across the United States have gone bankrupt, have lost their jobs – unemployment is an enormous problem in the United States. And yet the banks have made out like bandits – banks that Americans bailed out.”

Courtesy: Russian English TV RT [ ]

Monday, May 24, 2010

On Common Good : Selected Excerpts of the Latest Message of H.E.Pope Benedict XVI

On Common Good : Selected Excerpts of the Latest Message of H.E.Pope Benedict XVI

Selected Excerpts

"Today more than ever the human family can grow as a free society of free peoples so long as globalisation is guided by solidarity and the common good, and by social justice"...

"The common good is the goal that gives meaning to progress and development, which otherwise would be limited only to the production of material goods. These goods are necessary, but without the orientation to the common good consumerism, waste, poverty and inequality come to prevail, which are negative factors for progress and development". of the greatest risks of the modern world lies in the fact that "'the de facto interdependence of people and nations is not matched by ethical interaction of consciences and minds that would give rise to truly human development'. Such interaction, for example, seems to be too weak with those leaders who, in the face of renewed episodes of irresponsible speculation against the weakest States, do not react with adequate decisions to govern finance. Politics must have primacy over finance, and ethics must be the guiding force for all activities".

..."the common good is made up of a number of factors: material, cognitive and institutional good, as well as moral and spiritual good. The latter two are superior and the former must be subordinate to them. Our commitment to the common good of the family of peoples, and to that of each society, means we must give support to and avail ourselves of the complex of institutions that give juridical, civil, political and cultural structure to the life of society". ..

"We must ensure that the economic-productive order remains socially responsible and of a human scale, through joint and unitary action on various levels, including the international level. In the same way, it is important to support the consolidation of constitutional, juridical and administrative systems in countries that do not yet fully enjoy them. Economic aid must, then, be accompanied by measures that aim to reinforce the guarantees of the rule of law, a just and efficient system of public
order in full respect for human rights, and truly democratic and participative institutions.

"The fundamental priority for the development of the entire family of peoples, however, is to strive to recognise the true scale of goods and values. The notion of integral human development presupposes such things as subsidiarity and solidarity, and interdependence between State, society and the market. In a global society made up of many different peoples and religions, the common good and integral development must be achieved with everyone's contribution. Religions have a crucial role to play in this, especially when they teach fraternity and peace".

AC/ VIS 20100524 (600)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Russian Church Opposes Misinterpretation of Human Rights to Eliminate Divine Faith and Promote Sexual Perversions

Patriarch Kirill calls to expose discrimination against Christians in Europe

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church on Thursday called on the world to expose cases of bias and discrimination against Christians in Europe.

"We should realize today that Christianophobia is taking place in many countries," Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, who is winding up his three-day visit to Armenia, said in the Yerevan State University.

A website hosted by the NGO Europe for Christ, explains the notion "Christianophobia" as "intolerance and discrimination against Christians." "The term means... irrational animosity towards or hatred of Christians, or Christianity in general," the website says.

Some people think that as Europe strives for implementation of human rights and freedoms, it sometimes selectively understands the notions of rights and tolerance, providing in reality more opportunities to some groups in society to the detriment of others.

In February 2009, the Daily Telegraph cited a survey showing two-thirds of the Church of England General Synod believe Christians are discriminated against in the workplace. As an example, the paper cited the suspension of a community nurse after she offered to pray for a patient's recovery.

Kirill said many states now wrongly interpret the notion "human rights" and promote the viewpoint that if "religion can't ensure the rights of all minorities," then it should be withdrawn from public life. The patriarch cited last year's ban on crucifixes in Italy.

In November 2009, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that crucifixes in Italian schools insult the feelings of children belonging to other faiths and atheists, and said the authorities should remove the Christian symbols. Italy's government said it will appeal the ruling.

The Russian Church leader said that it is very dangerous to oust religion from public life. "I think all Christian churches should unite to expose this phenomenon and prevent Christian values from being ousted from the life of modern Europe and the entire world," he said.

Earlier Patriarch Kirill strongly criticized the rise of homosexual partnerships and euthanasia.

"Homosexuality is a topic that has stopped worrying Europeans. A lawful marriage is equal to a homosexual one - that is how they understand freedom of choice there," Kirill said in September 2009.

"An English baroness, a philosopher, proposes that old people commit suicide so as not to burden their near and dear with worries. Each person is creating his own reference frame," the patriarch said then, praising European values but warning that Europe should not "break away from its religious roots."

Baroness Mary Warnock said in an interview with the Church of Scotland's magazine Life and Work in 2008: "If you're demented, you're wasting people's lives - your family's lives - and you're wasting the resources of the National Health Service."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Selected Excerpts from the Vatican Press Release 24 APR 2010 (VIS) and COMMENTS

Selected Excerpts from the Vatican Press Release 24 APR 2010 (VIS)

1. 'digital divide', which separates the included from the excluded

2. other separations which already divide nations, both from one another and within themselves

3. the dangers of conformity and control, of intellectual and moral relativism, which are already evident in the diminution of the spirit of criticism, in the truth reduced to an interplay of opinions, in the many forms of degradation and humiliation of individual intimacy. We are witnessing a 'pollution of the spirit which clouds our faces and makes them less prone to smile'

4. need to focus on promoting the dignity of persons and peoples, they need to be clearly inspired by charity and placed at the service of truth, of the good, and of natural and supernatural fraternity

5. The task of all believers who work in the media is that of 'opening the door to new forms of encounter, maintaining the quality of human interaction, and showing concern for individuals and their genuine spiritual needs

6. human life and dignity are a precious resource to be defended and promoted resolutely, especially on the basis of natural law". The Church "wishes to be a factor of harmonious coexistence among all peoples

7. the Church, as an institution, has the right to express herself in public. ... She respects the right of everyone to think differently from herself, and would like to see her own right to expression respected. ... The Church, having the common good as her objective, wants nothing other than the freedom to be able to present this message, not imposing it on anyone, and respecting people's freedom of conscience

8. without truth, without trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power, resulting in social fragmentation, especially in a globalised society at difficult times like the present

VIS 20100426 (490)


VATICAN CITY, 24 APR 2010 (VIS) - This morning Pope Benedict XVI addressed participants in the congress: "Digital Witnesses. Faces and languages in the multi-media age". The congress was organised by the Italian Episcopal Conference, the president of which is Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa.

"The time in which we are living is seeing an enormous expansion of the frontiers of communication", said the Pope. "The Internet is by nature open, tendentiously egalitarian and pluralist, but at the same time it also represents a new gulf. Indeed, we talk of the 'digital divide', which separates the included from the excluded, and this must be added to other separations which already divide nations, both from one another and within themselves".

Benedict XVI also noted "the dangers of conformity and control, of intellectual and moral relativism, which are already evident in the diminution of the spirit of criticism, in the truth reduced to an interplay of opinions, in the many forms of degradation and humiliation of individual intimacy. We are witnessing a 'pollution of the spirit which clouds our faces and makes them less prone to smile'.

"And yet", he added, "the aim of this congress is precisely to recognise faces, and therefore to overcome those collective dynamics that can lead us to lose a sense of the depths people have, to remain on the surface. When this happens those people become bodies without a soul, objects to be exchanged and consumed".

"And how is it possible to return to people's faces today?" the Pope asked. In this context, quoting from his own Encyclical "Caritas in veritate", he explained how the media can have a civilising effect "not only when, thanks to technological development, they increase the possibilities of communicating information, but above all when they are geared towards a vision of the person and the common good that reflects truly universal values.

"To achieve goals of this kind, they need to focus on promoting the dignity of persons and peoples, they need to be clearly inspired by charity and placed at the service of truth, of the good, and of natural and supernatural fraternity".

"Only in these conditions can the epoch-making change we are experiencing be rich and fruitful in new opportunities. ... More than by our technical resources, necessary though they are, we wish to identify ourselves by inhabiting the [digital] universe with a believing heart which helps to give a soul to the endless flow of communications on the Internet".

And the Holy Father concluded: "This is our mission, the indispensable mission of the Church. The task of all believers who work in the media is that of 'opening the door to new forms of encounter, maintaining the quality of human interaction, and showing concern for individuals and their genuine spiritual needs. They can thus help the men and women of our digital age to sense the Lord's presence'".

AC/ VIS 20100426 (490)


VATICAN CITY, 24 APR 2010 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Holy Father received the Letters of Credence of Charles Ghislain, the new ambassador of Belgium to the Holy See.

In his address, the Pope highlighted how "human life and dignity are a precious resource to be defended and promoted resolutely, especially on the basis of natural law". The Church "wishes to be a factor of harmonious coexistence among all peoples.

"Nonetheless", he continued, "it is worth pointing out that the Church, as an institution, has the right to express herself in public. ... She respects the right of everyone to think differently from herself, and would like to see her own right to expression respected. ... The Church, having the common good as her objective, wants nothing other than the freedom to be able to present this message, not imposing it on anyone, and respecting people's freedom of conscience

the Pope noted how "the art of consensus cannot be reduced to purely dialectic abilities, rather it must seek truth and goodness". This, he explained quoting his own Encyclical "Caritas in veritate", is because "without truth, without trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power, resulting in social fragmentation, especially in a globalised society at difficult times like the present".



to Bangladesh Khelafat Andolon
date Tue, Apr 27, 2010 at 11:31 AM
subject Re: Selected Excerpts from the Vatican Press Release 24 APR 2010

Dear friends,

Many thanks for your kindness in sending. I had not seen this.
Father Timm


from Asher Eder
to Bangladesh Khelafat Andolon ,
date Tue, Apr 27, 2010 at 7:05 PM
subject Re: Selected Excerpts from the Vatican Press Release 24 APR 2010

Dear Sirs,

referring to the last paragraph of the below, may I bring here the following:

Christian-Jewish relationship
according to the
Parable of the Olive Tree
(Epistle to the Romans chpt. 11:16-24)

"...if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches were broken off, and thou being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree, boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, the branches were broken off that I may be grafted in. Well, because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high minded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. For if thou were cut of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a goodly olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural ones, be grafted into their own olive tree?"

The parable brings a comparison with the practice of grafting known in horticulture and tree nursery. In order to understand the parable and its implications, we should first try to comprehend the procedure of grafting.

Let's say we want to grow sweet almonds. If we put an almond kernel into the ground, and wait several years till the growing tree brings forth fruit, we could be unpleasantly surprised in case they are bitter almonds. There is no certainty in advance what variety fruit trees grown from seeds will bring forth. But if we take a twig from a tree whose fruit we like, and want to get; and graft this twig upon an existing, preferably wild tree of the same kind (e.g. a bitter almond), we will get exactly the variety of the tree from which we took the twig (e.g. sweet almonds). There are some more advantages to the practice of grafting: usually the wild tree has a stronger, disease resisting root and stem than the goodly variety; and the grafted twig can draw more sap from the strong wild root, and thus be able to develop more branches and fruits. However, the gardener has to watch the grafted trees that their roots would not grow wild shoots besides the grafted twig, for they would take over and strangle it.

Now, our parable says that branches from a wild olive were grafted in the goodly olive tree "against nature", i.e. against the usual practice. Many say that Apostle Paul, by profession a tent maker, was not acquainted with tree growing; and made here a mistake. But by pointing out that something was done here "against nature", he tells us that he was well aware of what he was doing, and took into account that the wild twig(s) would bring forth few and small oil berries, but would grow an impressive foliage. Consequently, he warns his Gentile followers grafted against nature in the goodly olive tree, Israel, not to become proud and boast against the remaining goodly branches; for "not you (Gentiles) are carrying the root, but the root (Israel and its Torah) carries you".

The parable is quite in line with fundamental sayings of the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible. Let's have a look at some of them:

a) Noah, blessing his sons, established "God shall enlarge Japhet, and he shall dwell in the tents of Sem" (Gen. 9:27. Sem, one of Noah's three sons, is the "father of the children of 'Eber", i.e. of the Hebrews, Gen. 9:21. The word Shem [Sem, in English] means name, especially the Name of the Lord as in "hallowed be thy name", which the Cohanim (priests) were to put upon the children of Israel, Numb. 6:27; whence Semites. And "all the people of the earth shall see that thou [Israel] are called by the name [Sem] of the Lord", Deuter. 28:10).

b) The Lord, in his covenant with Abram/Abraham, decreed:
"... thou shall be a blessing; and ... in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:3). An ensuing specification says: "...and in thy [Isaac's} seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" [liter. bless themselves; Gen. 26:4].

c) Gen. 49:10 speaks of Judah and his scepter that "unto him the gathering of all the peoples shall be".

d) Exod. 19:6 designates Israel as a "Kingdom of Priests", that is, her very call implies a priestly function for the nations.

e) When King Solomon inaugurated the First Temple, he prayed also for the strangers that the Lord might hear them when they pray in direction towards it (1.Kings 8:27-29, 41). In this train of thought, Prophet Isaiah speaks of it as the "house of prayer for all nations" (56:6); for, as Ps. 133:3 says, the Lord has commanded the blessing in Zion.

f) Jer. 11:16 compares Israel to a green olive tree; and Hos. 14:6,7 sees Israel as the root of that “olive tree of his majesty” [=æéú äåãå] which is “casting forth its roots like the Lebanon". ((Obviously the Prophets are tracing back to a peculiar term in Deuter. 8:8. There, the Land of Israel is described as land of the goodly olive tree, liter. “land of the oil(giving) olive tree” [àøõ-æéú ùîï], apparently in distinction from other countries with olive trees; or from (wild) olive trees which do not grow oil berries)).

g) Ezra, then. enjoined the people to bring for Succoth “branches from the olive tree and branches from the oil tree” (Nehem. 6:15)- probably understood by Paul as referring to the wild olive tree and the goodly olive tree.

h) The vision that the nations would be on top for a certain time, i.e. would play the role of the head temporarily, is part of ancient prophecies:

"...thou hast grafted [ordinary] men to our head" (Ps. 66:12).
The passage is usually rendered "thou hast caused men to ride over [äøëáú] our heads", but the Hebrew word øëá which can mean to (cause someone to) ride, is often used in the sense of putting someone or something on top, as e.g. in 2.Sam. 6:3; 2. Kings 13:16; 23:30, where it is impossible to render it as riding. In fact, as we saw, the grafted twig, is above the root, or figuratively speaking, it rides the root.

The same thought expressed in Lament. 1:5, and 2:17, reads:

"Her [=Jerusalem's] adversaries became the head";

"The Lord has done that which he has devised, he has fulfilled his word that he has commanded in the days of old: he has thrown down, and has not pitied; and he has caused the enemy to rejoice over thee [Israel], he has set up the horn of thine enemies".

At the time of the compilation of the Epistle to the Romans, Rome was indeed the head of the nations, even put over Israel. It ruled mercilessly – with the crucifixion of the Nazarene as "King of the Jews", besides many other crucifixions, as one of the demonstrations of its rule. Prof. Shalom Ben-Chorin said once to the point: Yeshua (Jesus) was born a Jew; he lived as a Jew; and he died as a Jew. The destruction of the Temple as the seal of this rule was pretold, too (e.g. Hes. 3:43; Luke 21:20-25); and Rome commemorated this fact matchlessly by minting a special coin, inscribed "Juda capta".

All this shows that the destruction of the Second Temple and the Roman exile were not at all a punishment caused by the crucifixion of the Nazarene, as often alleged.

Many argue that the natural branches were broken off because of their unbelief, and that instead of them Christianity is now grafted in. But the parable says plainly that only some of the natural branches were broken off, not all of them. Moreover, that argument contradicts plainly Apostle Paul’s assertion that “he was entrusted with the glad tidings for the Uncircumcision as Peter was for the Circumcision” (Gal. 7): the former were offered co-citizenship in the Kingdom of God (Eph. 3:6). Yet, Christianity developed from early times a novel interpretation of the term belief, in fact an interpretation which is not covered neither by the Hebrew of the Tanakh nor by the Septuagint, nor by the original Greek of the Epistles.

The Hebrew word emunah, (from which Amen derives), as well as its Greek translation pistis, mostly rendered belief, convey the idea of trust, faithfulness (as in Ps. 33:4; 89:25,34; 119:86). That means to say both the Hebrew and the Greek word describe an attitude or behavior which result from one's certainty or conviction. The list of witnesses of faith in the Epistle to the Hebrews, chpt. 11, gives a clear picture of what is meant also in the NT as belief, or faith.

Be it mentioned in this context that most of the modern translations of Hebr. 11:6, which brings a definition of faith, say improperly "... for he who cometh to God must believe that he is...", while the Greek text states that one has to believe (liter. be living it, be faithful) because God is. In Hebrew thinking, God's existence is the cause of belief, or faithfulness. He is not the object of philosophical or theological speculations, nor of considerations whether the Torah and its commandments can be altered or done away with through a resurrection or ascension. The list of witnesses of faith in Hebr. 11:17-32 may give an idea about the Apostles’ understanding of faith.

The Jews, of course, had to reject these novel interpretations of belief. In turn, they were accused of unbelief, stubbornly sticking to the commandments of the "Old Testament"; and many Christians developed that kind of haughtiness with boasting against the root and its natural branches of which Romans 11:18,29 warns so severely.

Paul, “entrusted with the glad tidings to the uncircumcised” (i.e. the Gentiles; Gal.2:7), felt the task to graft them as branches from the wild olive into the goodly tree. In that, he offers co-fellowshipx) with the goodly branches to those who even during the "Times of the Gentiles" stay in faith; and do not boast nor become haughty; do not change the rules of the housexx); and do not missionizexxx) goodly branches to novel concepts. “Nostra Aetate” of the Catholic Church, and similar declarations of some Protestant Churches after WWII, may well be seen as opening the way of return to the original scriptures, coming in line with the "glad tidings to Abraham" referred to in Gal. 3:8:

"I will bless them that bless thee... and in thee all the nations shall be blessed". Eventually, the nations will “bless themselves” (=åäúáøëå) in Abraham (Gen. 22:18) and in his seed (Gen. 26:4). By using here the reflexive form “will bless themselves”, the Torah tells us that the nations, once they realize that all their crafts are of no avail, shall come unto Israel (cf Jer. 16:19), urging “Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob…” (Is. 2:3-4; also Zech. 8:20-23, 14:16,17; et al).

X) cf. Eph. 2:19; 3:6 where the Greek text addressing the believers from the Gentiles speaks of them as co-citizens; co-heirs; co-body; co-partakers; that is, it depicts them as joint to Israel (not as superseding her!) through “the mediator Jesus, the man” (1.Tim.2:5). This joining to Israel is perfectly in line with Noah’s dictum quoted above: “Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and he [=Japheth] shall live in the tents of Shem” (Gen. 9:26,27 – echoed in the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as in heaven..…”).

xx) Indeed, the Gentile believers are enjoined "to abstain from blood" (Acts 15:20); not to touch anything unclean (2.Cor. 6:17); “not to eat flesh … by which thy brother stumbles, or is ensnared…” (Rom. 8:21; 1.Cor. 8:13); not to teach differently (1.Tim. 1:3); to herald the Kingdom of God (Jerem. 30:9; 1. Chron. 285; 29:11; Acts 28:31; et al).

xxx) The "Great Commission" in Matth. 28:19, translated literally from the original Greek, reads: "Going, you will teach all the nations...". These words, addressed to Jewish disciples, say that by their they going will teach the nations; i.e. their way of life (äìëä, halakhah), as well as the exile and the return to the country will be a teaching to the nations (cf. Ps. 98:2-4; 117; Ezek. 36:23,24, et al). al)

Ask for Jerusalem-Peace

Jerusalem was known to the Jebusites as Salem but King David confirmed its present name.1

. Salem (Hebrew: Shalem) means whole, wholeness; and thus also peace; while the term Jerusalem (Hebrew: Yerushalayim) means “They will establish peace”.

Peace is -unfortunately- not an established fact; rather it is the hope of all, above all, of the people of Israel. Eternally linked to that city, its capital, the people of Israel finds itself more often than not in the middle of the storms raging over Jerusalem.

King David, in one of his Psalms, tells us how to establish peace:

Ask for Jerusalem-Peace ùàìå ùìåí éøåùìéí (Ps. 122:6)

This is usually understood as an encouragement to bring peace to Jerusalem. The Hebrew text, however, tells us to ask for the peace represented by Yerushalayim.

The pronunciation of that word indicates a dual form2 , that is, it comprises-- so-to-say-- two Jerusalems, the earthly and the heavenly: they form one unit3 . Without its heavenly aspect, Jerusalem would be like any other city, or capital, in the world. King David gave this dual aspect expression in the term Zion:
áùìí ñåëå åîòåðúå áöéåï

“His tabernacle is in Salem and His residence in Zion” (Ps. 76:3)

It is from and/or through Jerusalem/Zion that the Name of the Lord is to be blessed, and that mankind will find blessing and peace there:
áøåê éé îöéåï ùåëï éøåùìéí äììåéä
“Blessed be the Lord out of Zion, even He that resideth at Jerusalem. Hallelujah”
(Ps. 135:21)
éáøëê ä' îöéåï òùä ùîéí åàøõ

“The Lord that made heavens and earth, bless thee out of Zion” (Ps. 134:3)
òì äøøé-öéåï ëé ùí öåä ä' àú-äáøëä çééí òã-òåìí …
“… for there [=Zion] the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore” (Ps. 133:3)

Prophet Isaiah, expounding on our subject “Ask for Jerusalem-Peace”, lined out the pre-condition for peace, namely the peoples’ “going up to the mountain of the Lord, to the House of the God of Jacob, that He will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” … and then “they shall beat their swords into plough shares, and their spears into pruning hooks; and nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”4 (Is. 2:2-4).

This shows us that human beings – neither liberals nor Jihadists - cannot impose their respective concepts of Jerusalem and of peace upon that city; neither can. Jerusalem and what it stands for be subjected merely to political devices.

Peace can, and should, be attained on the basis of the words of the Prophets. Prophets do not contradict one another. Misconceived theologies do. NT and Koran5 are perfectly in line with the Prophets of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). A return to their original words would pave the way to peace, a way upon which politicians, economists, etc, could safely walk, for the benefit of all

1) Originally, Jerusalem was called Salem (Shalem):
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth…” (Gen. 14:18);
In Judah God is known, his name is great in Israel and in Salem is his tabernacle…” (Ps. 76:2,3)

In the time of the Jebusites the city was apparently simply known to them as Jebus:

“… and [he] came over against Jebus which is Jerusalem” (Jud. 19:10).

Apparently the town was called by this name during that Canaanite tribe’s rule (cf Jud. 1:7,21; and many others) until King David and the tribes of all Israel went up there:

“And David and all Israel went to Jerusalem which is Jebus” (1.Chron. 11:4)
“… and in Jerusalem he [David] reigned thirty and three years over all Israel and Judah” (2.Sam. 5:5).

2) Hebrew grammar has, in addition to singular and plural forms, also a dual form, as e.g. éãééí,

yadayim, a pair of hands; øçééí, rehayim, a pair of the two mill stones; also îéí, mayim,

water[s], (i.e. the “waters under the firmament” and the “waters above the firmament”, Gen. 1:6).

3) The idea is expressed even in Jerusalem’s topography: the lower “City of David” and the higher Mount Moriah, or Temple Mount, are geologically and topographically one unit.

4)Applying the term “God of Jacob”, the Prophet forestalls novel concepts of God and of a “new Israel of the spirit” which would supercede “the old Israel of the flesh – Jacob”

4) See my essays:
a) Christian-Jewish Relations according to the PARABLE OF THE OLIVE TREE

Dr. Asher Eder e-mail: