While the whole world is focusing on the Coronavirus Pandemic, there is other news. Some interesting things are happening in the world, and there are lessons that we could miss.
As I write this, Muslims are in their month of Ramadan which according to the information I have runs this year from April 23 to May 23. About 1.8 billion people are counted as Muslim, and this year’s Ramadan is complicated with the restrictions of a pandemic lock down.
A few years ago, I worked as a trainer for a bus company, and that meant I drove a school bus when a driver phoned in sick; and someone always phoned in. One morning I drove some children for a bilingual Arabic-English program, so they were from immigrant families from the Middle East. I heard two little girls talking behind me, about ‘those people’ which meant people like me. One little girl said “and they don’t have Ramadan!” They both seemed shocked by this information.
That was a lesson for me; these people take their beliefs very seriously, and they pass them on to their little children.
In Egypt, where the majority identifies with Islam, there is a tradition in the holy month of Ramadan. Television networks introduce new shows during that month. This year, there is a new science fiction story, set in the future, in the year 2120. In that fantasy world, with androids and robots, a history lesson is given to some children. In their history, and in our future, the Arab Muslim neighbours have destroyed Israel and forced all Jewish people to leave the region. Also, the United States is destroyed, broken into regions, and the children are told the U.S. is the main supporter of Zionism, the Jewish return to Israel.
The futuristic lesson is: it is right and good to destroy the nation of Israel and drive away the Jews, and to be happy when nations that support Israel are also destroyed. The video does not mention that Egypt is a supporter of Israel in 2020, with a peace agreement that is almost half a century old.
The Government of Israel has protested the ideas in the Egyptian television series. Israelis live in peace with their Egyptian neighbors. The two nations agreed to stop fighting in 1978 and signed a peace treaty the next year. The Israelis are alarmed that the idea of destroying the Jewish state is still popular with the neighbors.
So, what is the lesson for us?
This is not politics, it is theology, religious beliefs that will not go away. In the year 634, Islamic armies conquered the region of Israel. To Muslim believers, that region is now in the Dar es Salaam, the region of peace. It is a liberated zone, in the war to bring the whole world into submission. Note: Dar es Salaam is also the name of the large city in the African country of Tanzania. Arab merchants gave the name to identify the status of the region, like planting a flag.
Centuries later, in 1096, Europeans who identified as Christian pushed back, with a war of liberation, also known as the First Crusade. Devout Muslims see the Crusades as a war against God, a push back in the progress of their truth. The Crusaders were eventually defeated, and then, much later, in 1917, in World War 1, the British army conquered the region of Palestine. Britain controlled the region for about thirty years and let Jewish people return to their lost homeland. In 1948, the Jewish State was born, and in 1978, the Egyptians stopped trying to reconquer their lost ‘Land of Peace.’
Now, the idea lives on in science fiction.
Religious belief is a powerful thing. The violence in the Middle East is religious first, and then political, with wars that never seem to end. The presence of Jews ruling over Muslims in the heart of the oldest Land of Peace, is an offence for devout believers. The prosperity of Israel is like a statement saying ‘Your religion is wrong.’
The rest of the world thinks differently. Christians like me believe God’s promise to Israel, and we don’t talk about the destruction of that nation:
“I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3)
Also, in the Bible, the first Christians planted small churches in Roman cities, and Christians were a tiny minority surrounded by hostile neighbors. Much later, numbers increased and regions were controlled by Christians. They became “Christendom”, our Land of Peace, the places where everyone was a Christian, even if they didn’t act like it. In my family, I was expected to be a Christian and nothing else would do. The great struggle of my young life was to make my own decision.
The world is a dangerous place, and the future does not look good, when we believe that religions can own people and places. We each find God alone. Jesus told his followers “If anyone would come after me.” God owns what each person gives Him; there are no liberated zones.
Then Jesus told his disciples:
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? (Matthew 16: 24 to 26)