Sunday, July 20, 2008

Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda's most recent book

Pope Shenouda has several books out worth reading. One of the mostr recent is "Have You Seen the One I love." Here is the book's web page.

Here is the Pope's biography from his web page:

Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria is the 117th Pope of Alexandria and the Patriarch of the Holy Apostolic See of Saint Mark the Evangelist of the Coptic Orthodox Church. He has served as Pope of Alexandria since November 14, 1971, presiding over a worldwide expansion of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

A graduate of Cairo University and the Coptic Orthodox Seminary, Nazeer Gayed joined the Syrian Monastery of the Ever-Virgin Mary the Theotokos and became a monk under the name Fr. Antonios the Syrian, later to be elevated to the priesthood. In time, Pope Cyril VI summoned Fr. Antonios to the patriarchate where he ordained him Bishop of Christian Education and Dean of the Coptic OrthodoxTheological University, whereupon he assumed the name Shenouda. On November 14, 1971, His Holiness was chosen to be the 116th successor of St. Mark the Evangelist.

During his papacy, Pope Shenouda III has appointed the first-ever Bishops to preside over North American dioceses, as well as the first Bishops in Australia, France, England, Scotland, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and the first Coptic Churches in South America. He is known for his commitment to Christian unity and has, since the 1970s, advocated inter-denominational Christian dialogue.

In 1973, Pope Shenouda III became the first Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria to meet with the Pope of Rome in over 1500 years. In this visit, Popes Shenouda III and Pope Paul VI signed a common declaration on the issue of Christology and agreed to further discussions on Christian unity. He has also had dialogues with various Protestant churches worldwide.

Pope Shenouda III is well known for his deep commitment to Christian unity. In an address he gave at an ecumenical forum during the International Week of Prayer in 1974, he declared, "The whole Christian world is anxious to see the church unite. Christian people, being fed up with divisions, are pushing their church leaders to do something about church unity and I am sure that the Holy Spirit is inspiring us." His Holiness is one of the Presidents of the World Council of Churches and the Middle East Council of Churches and pursues Christian Unity worldwide.

In the year 2000, His Holiness was awarded the UNESCO Madanjeet Singh prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence by UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura on the recommendation of an international jury.

In August, 2007, Pope Shenouda III received an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from the University of Lawrence in Michigan, USA for his efforts in spreading the values of peace, human love and tolerance in the world. This is the eighth Honorary Doctorate which His Holiness has received in his life. The Letter from the Institute declares that Pope Shenouda is a "man of peace who works in his utmost efforts to maintain more understanding between the Middle Eastern people, regardless their religions or nationalities". The letter continues by saying that His Holiness "shows us the way of reconciliation in that region which is torn apart by wars".

A prolific author, His Holiness has authored over 100 books in Arabic, English, French, Spanish, and German. His Holiness offers a unique ability to speak to the multitudes, drawing on over thirty years in the pontifical See of St Mark. Moreover, he draws on the entire Bible as a vehicle to bring the reader to a better understanding of their spiritual life.

The solitude of the barren desert provided His Holiness with the strength necessary meditate on the Holy Scriptures and solidify his union with the Lord. It is from these years of monasticism in the Egyptian desert of Saints Antony, Macarious and Pachomius that His Holiness emerges and radiates experience in love and union with our Lord. Since becoming Pope in 1971, His Holiness delivers weekly addresses at St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo, defending the faith in this overwhelmingly Muslim society, promoting love and peace.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Holy Land Lost By Raja Shehadah, Reviewed by AAI President Jim Zogby

Holy Land Lost

by James Zogby

Al-Ahram Weekly , On-line Issue No 905: 10-16 July 2008

"Raja Shehadeh's Palestinian Walks provides a rare historical insight into the tragic changes taking place in Palestine." - Jimmy Carter

The very words "Holy Land" evoke powerful imagery. But the scenes that come
to mind are rapidly disappearing from the landscape.

The occupation of the West Bank -- a military and political reality that dominates the lives of Palestinians -- has become concretised: with massive housing projects connected by ribbons of highways; a wall and barbed wire barrier winding its way from north to south, cutting through villages, encapsulating others; and hundreds of checkpoints -- all overtaking and transforming the once open terrain.

Raja Shehadeh has described all this in vivid detail in his most recent book, Palestinian Walks: Forays into a Vanishing Landscape. A hiker from a young age, Shehadeh tells his story in a novel way. Detailing six walks he has taken in and around his home in Ramallah during the last 30 years, he invites his readers to witness the transformations that have occurred, that increasingly circumscribed his movements and marred his beloved land.

In his early years, Shehadeh set out roaming the hillsides to discover the life his parents and grandparents lived. The hills of the West Bank, once described by Western travellers as desolate and barren, come to life in Shehadeh's narrative.

Dry one season, yes, but in the spring they were covered with flowers and new life. Conforming to this rough environment, generations of Palestinian farmers adapted their lives to the seasons and mastered these hills, naming every spring, wadi (valley) and cliff, and cultivating olives, grapes and family plots. It was the world they knew and the land they loved.

As they defined the land, it, too, defined them, shaping Palestinian culture and social relations for generations.

This is what Shehadeh saw, in the beginning. The cycle of life, at one with its environment, that had existed for millennia. It was the Holy Land we know from picture postcards, lithographs and biblical stories. But it is being lost, and this is a tragedy -- not only for the Palestinians, though
especially for them.

"The biography of these hills is in many ways my own, the victories and failures of the struggle to save this land also mine. But the persistent pain at the failure of that struggle would in time be shared by Arabs, Jews, and lovers of nature anywhere in the world. All would grieve, as I have, at the continuing destruction of an exquisitely beautiful place."

As the book progresses, the landscape changes; marked by the ever-increasing intrusions of the occupation. Walks became more difficult and, in some cases, fraught with danger.

"The other day I had to plead with a soldier to be allowed to return home. I told him that I really did not know a curfew had been imposed on Ramallah. I was away all day and hadn't listened to the news. 'I'm tired,' I said, 'please let me through.' Oh, the humiliation of pleading with a stranger for something so basic."

"How unaware many trekkers around the world are of what a luxury it is to be able to walk in the land they love without anger, fear or insecurity, just to be able to walk without political arguments... without the fear of losing what they've come to love, without the anxiety that they will be deprived of the right to enjoy it."

As settlements grew (there are now almost half a million Israelis living in settlements in these occupied lands), not only did Palestinians lose ancestral lands and agricultural areas, they also lost freedom of movement, their way of life, and their hope for the future.

"The [settlement] master plan viewed our presence here as a constraint and was aimed at preventing 'undesirable development'. By creating new human settlements where none existed, connecting them with roads and isolating existing ones, it would not only strangle our communities but also destroy this beautiful land, and in a matter of a few years change what had been preserved for centuries."

Jerusalem, too, was impacted. At first, cut off from the rest of the West Bank by a ring of settlements and a maze of highways, and now by a meandering and oppressive wall, the heart has been excised from the rest Palestine. Both the city itself and its once surrounding communities have suffered. The impact has been economic, social, cultural and psychological.

"As we descended towards East Jerusalem... I realised that the beautiful Dome of the Rock was no longer visible. It was concealed by new construction. This was by design. Not only had Israeli city planners obstructed the view of this familiar landmark, they had also constructed a wide highway along the periphery of Arab East Jerusalem, restricting its growth and separating it from the rest of the city. Highways are more effective barriers than walls in keeping neighbourhoods apart. Walls can always be demolished. But once built, roads become a cruel reality that is more difficult to change. No visitor would now sigh, let alone fall on his knees as many a conqueror and pilgrim in the past had done, upon beholding the Old City nestled in the hills. Now contorted, full of obstructions, walls and ugly blocks, it is a tortured city that has lost its soul."

There is much more to Palestinian Walks. Woven through the narrative are stories of the author's family and accounts of legal challenges to land confiscations (Shehadeh is a noted human rights lawyer).

This is not an explicitly political book filled with diatribes and prescriptions. Nor is it a hopeful book. Shehadeh has written about a land fighting against time. "As our Palestinian world shrinks, that of the Israelis expands, with more settlements being built, destroying forever the wadis and cliffs, flattening hills, and transforming the precious land that many Palestinians will never know."

This book is real, and it is disturbing, and deserves to be read by everyone who calls that land Holy.

The writer is president of the Arab American Institute.

Web link

“Palestinian Walks: Forays into a Disappearing Landscape”
Raja Shehahdeh
Publisher: Scribner
Published: 3 June 2008