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Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Rotation

God,

Is Lebanon simply spinning its wheels? Could success come instead by rotating portfolios?

A deadline to form a new government has passed. Agreed by political parties with France, France then said there is no deadline.

Will then the pattern of negotiation return? Will it be months until government forms?

Months in extension of Lebanese suffering.

Following US announcement to sanction their allies, Shiite parties insist on keeping the Finance Ministry.

Sunni parties say all ministries should rotate. No sect should have exclusive claim.

But finance is money, and money is power. Power to place or withhold a signature.

No government policy proceeds without it.

In possession do they dominate, God? In absence are they squeezed?

What is fair? What is right? What is good?

Not the paralysis that stymies formation. Not the insistence that prevents reform.

God, weigh the intentions of all foreign nations. Bless them accordingly, to the degree that they help.

But weigh also each sect in its various politics.

Do they seek domination? Do they need to be squeezed?

From abroad, from the people, from their consciences, God, help them find consensus.

For profit, for power, for patriotism, God, lead them to what is right.

Your principles of service, of sacrifice, of sharing.

Of salvation.

God does Lebanon run, only in circles? Is it only a gear, turned by agenda?

Plant her cedars, make them strong. May the birds of the air come and nest in their branches.

And may the people rest in their shade.  

Amen.


Lebanon Prayer places before God the major events of the previous week, asking his favor for the nation living through them.

It seeks for values common to all, however differently some might apply them. It honors all who strive on her behalf, however suspect some may find them.

It offers no solutions, but desires peace, justice, and reconciliation. It favors no party, but seeks transparency, consensus, and national sovereignty.

How God sorts these out is his business. Consider joining in prayer that God will bless the people and establish his principles, from which all our approximations derive.

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Prayers

Lebanon Prayer: Pulse

God,

Can there still be life?

One month since the explosion, a search and rescue team from Chile believes it found a pulse.

Buried deep under the rubble of a collapsed building in Beirut, the dig requires utmost speed and all precaution.

Just like the rescue of Lebanon.

One month since the cabinet resigned, a reform or sanction president from France believes he has a plan.

With a schedule full of specific details, his roadmap requires difficult consensus and political sacrifice.

And to welcome his efforts, political leadership rallied to appoint a new prime minister.

Like the one before him, he is a political novice without popular backing. He pledges swift formation of a small cabinet.

Can he rescue Lebanon?

The protest movement rejected him as the next desperate patchwork solution of a discredited political class. But as their street mobilization wanes, they celebrated a civil society victory.

The World Bank pulled back funding for a controversial dam. Dismissing their fears over environmental impact, a politician lamented that Lebanon would one day need the water.

God, is Lebanon’s pulse at the level of thirst?

As inflation and poverty continue to plague, give each man his daily bread.

Give wisdom to the new prime minister. Increase his authority, as he follows your roadmap. Help him judge how it fits with the French.

And may Chile discover someone alive. But it now appears the pulse has faded. No survivors.

Thank you for hope, God, however fleeting. You rallied so many Lebanese behind them.

They long for a miracle. Give them living water. Give them new life.

Utmost speed with all precaution, God. Difficult consensus and personal sacrifice.

Keep Lebanon alive.

Amen.


Lebanon Prayer places before God the major events of the previous week, asking his favor for the nation living through them.

It seeks for values common to all, however differently some might apply them. It honors all who strive on her behalf, however suspect some may find them.

It offers no solutions, but desires peace, justice, and reconciliation. It favors no party, but seeks transparency, consensus, and national sovereignty.

How God sorts these out is his business. Consider joining in prayer that God will bless the people and establish his principles, from which all our approximations derive.

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Current Events

Friday Prayers for Egypt: Competition, Good and Evil

Flag Cross Quran

God,

There is pleasure in struggle, but spite is so easy. Egypt found a long-lost joy, an international opportunity, and a rare but familiar reminder.

For the first time since 1990, the national soccer team qualified for the World Cup. Frequently the African champion, the streets filled and horns honked after the stoppage time winning goal.

God, thank you for the popular release. Times have been tough, and sport matters little. But you have been pleased to give us diversions. Let the unity created last.

For the first time ever, an Arab nation could have led UNESCO. Egypt and Qatar vied with France to head the UN cultural body, but both fell short. Still at odds with the wealthy peninsula, Egypt threw her support behind Europe, in the end.

God, bless the work of international cooperation. There are rifts in the Gulf, rifts with America, and controversy over Palestine. But place culture above it all. Let it, in unity, craft.

For the first time in a long while, a Coptic priest has been murdered. Visiting an area in lower-class Cairo, an assailant stabbed him to death. Details are unclear, extremism is suspected.

God, comfort his family, his church, and his country. Rid Egypt’s specter of sectarianism, protect her streets from violence. Some see religion as contest, while others are offended. Let not her unity pass.

The fight is worthwhile, God. We prove ourselves against others. Let the winners be humble, the vanquished esteemed.

But not all is competition. Good or evil, there is always better.

Bring Egypt together, and the world with her. For our greater pleasure, and in us, for yours.

Amen.

 

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Current Events

Hijabs, Burkinis, and Assumptions

Burkini
A woman wears a Burkini in the south of France Credit: PA (via ITV)

A quick word to not judge by appearances, or to make assumptions about religious values.

Our family took a vacation to the Red Sea recently, at a hotel with a healthy mix of European speedos and Egyptian burkinis. It was quite the contrast.

From what we could tell, everyone behaved respectfully and enjoyed themselves.

While nowhere as revealing as a traditional bikini, the burkini is quite shapely. One night at dinner two Egyptians rose to dance to the folk band that came through. One was bareheaded, the other wore a hijab. Both knew well the techniques of belly dancing, and took no mind of the onlookers.

Was one a Christian, the other Muslim? If hijabed, why would she dance so? And while the burkini is an innovative development to help conservative Muslims enjoy the beach, is it conservative enough?

Within this discussion a recent article at CairoScene took my attention. A popular Egyptian comedienne decided to take off her hijab: 

Mostafa stated through her official Facebook page that she had been wearing the hijab since she was in primary school up until high school, and she believes that, in the beginning, it was internalised by her as ‘normal’ because it was just part of the way you’d look in the society and community she grew up in. However, when she really started asking herself if she was wearing it for herself, God, or people, she realised she was doing it out of pure conforming to society – “The concept of God wasn’t there,” she stated.

Mostafa started wearing it in different ways, like the fashionable turban-style hijab that has been more prevalent lately in Egypt and around the world for hijabis. But, that did not go well because she was once again attacked for wearing hijab “the wrong way,” though she asserts is something a lot of girls do in terms of their choice in clothing that is only coupled with a scarf over the head.

Her decision to take off the hijab came to her when she refused contradicting herself. She states that once she takes it off, which is what she is comfortable doing now, perhaps she will become convinced of the concept of the hijab on a personal level, and if that happens, it’ll be the right decision because it’ll come from within.

[Read on to discover the largely negative reactions to her post.]

As you encounter Muslim women in your everyday life, be careful not to make assumptions. Some wear the hijab because of their culture. Some wear it because of their husband or father. Some wear it because of piety. Some wear it as a political statement.

What they actually believe, and their personal character, may bear no relation whatsoever. Or maybe it does.

We were in church the other day and a hijabed lady came in with an uncovered friend. This is unusual in Egypt, but it doesn’t have to be a scandal.

My daughter asked, surprised, “Daddy, is she a Muslim?”

“I don’t know,” I told her. “Some Christians cover their heads in church.”

My daughter protested. It was clearly a Muslim hijab.

“You’ll have to ask her,” I said, smiling wryly.

My daughter didn’t like that answer either. It is sort of an awkward question, both in Egypt and America.

Unfortunately, it is much easier to make assumptions. What we need is conversation. When you next encounter that hijabed woman going about your daily life – yes, it is awkward – do your best to say hi.

Who knows what assumptions will be undone next.

 

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Current Events

Photos from the Salafi-Jihadi Protest at the French Embassy

There are several strands of Salafism in Egypt, and the differences are not easy to understand. The group which is called Salafi-Jihadi – they do not necessarily call themselves this – is differentiated easily by the second part of their moniker. While many Salafis have joined the political, democratic process in Egypt, these reject it outright. Instead, they favor the continuation of a violent struggle against the Egyptian regime, of which they see the Muslim Brotherhood and other Salafis as selling out to the world anti-Islamic system.

This group held a protest on January 18 against the French military intervention in Mali. In Mali criminal-cum-jihadists have piggybacked onto a tribal Tuareg rebellion in the north. The central government, along with many surrounding Arab and African nations, has sanctioned France’s effort to resist them through force of arms. Salafi-Jihadists, however, support them due to their desire to implement sharia law.

I hope to write more about Salafi-Jihadis soon, but for now, please enjoy the protest through these pictures and video.

Click here for the first video. It is only two minutes long because it represents the length of time necessary for their full march to approach the site. There were only a couple hundred protestors in total.

Click here for the second video. It also is only two minutes because this was about the length of time the protestors jostled with police who had set up a barricade preventing them from reaching the embassy. After that they accepted their place about 100 yards further down the street.

Crowd Pressing

Next to the man in the police cap is Ezzat al-Salamony. He is a leader with the Islamic Group, not the Salafi-Jihadis, and worked to restrain the crowd. He later gave a rousing speech against the French, though, calling for jihad in the lands of the infidels.
Next to the man in the police cap is Ezzat al-Salamony. He is a leader with the Islamic Group, not the Salafi-Jihadis, and worked to restrain the crowd. He later gave a rousing speech against the French, though, calling for jihad in the lands of the infidels.

 

Eventually a car drove up with speakers to serve as a platform for speakers. The police maintained their line, but were left in peace from then on.
Eventually a car drove up with speakers to serve as a platform for speakers. The police maintained their line, but were left in peace from then on.

As speakers condemned France, other protestors set up their banners. This one reads: Jihad will continue until the Day of Judgment.
As speakers condemned France, other protestors set up their banners. This one reads: Jihad will continue until the Day of Judgment.

After a little while the star of the show arrived. Mohamed al-Zawahiri is the brother of Ayman, the leader of al-Qaeda. Everyone pressed around him.
After a little while the star of the show arrived. Mohamed al-Zawahiri is the brother of Ayman, the leader of al-Qaeda. Everyone pressed around him.

As he hung around for hours, eventually the crowds dissipated around him. Here is awaits giving an interview to al-Jazeera.
As he hung around for hours, eventually the crowds dissipated around him. Here is awaits giving an interview to al-Jazeera.

Around 5pm, the police relented and allowed the protestors to advance and demonstrate in front of the embassy, though the police presence guarded it and otherwise surrounded them. Graffiti and other banners were hung in the area, this one across the street on the wall of the Giza Zoo. Pictured are Osama bin Laden and Mohamed's brother Ayman. The sign reads: God have mercy on the jihadists. They are the men who gave victory to God and his prophet. Where are you?!
Around 5pm, the police relented and allowed the protestors to advance and demonstrate in front of the embassy, though the police presence guarded it and otherwise surrounded them. Graffiti and other banners were hung in the area, this one across the street on the wall of the Giza Zoo.
Pictured are Osama bin Laden and Mohamed’s brother Ayman. The sign reads: God have mercy on the jihadists. They are the men who gave victory to God and his prophet. Where are you?!

 

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