Thursday, 19 August 2010

Learning about the Caucasus Emirate...

... has not been easy for me, a lifelong sympathiser with the Chechen cause (well, up to this February...).

When we were at school and the first Chechen war was brewing and breaking out, I remember the unanimous support the ethnically Latvian population gave to the Chechen's fight for independence. Just think about it! We were small - so were they, we broke away from imperial agression - they wanted the same, they were overpowered by brutal force - so had we been. Volunteers streamed to fight on the Chechen side, the ideal of freedom, the right of self-determination, of breaking away from Russian dominance was powerful, was calling, was something we could all identify with.

And this is certainly one side of the truth. The call for national freedom is a strong and powerful means of uniting the nation. The people, most of whom were and still are Sufis, by the way (and I absolutely love Sufis!), got inspired by it. We got inspired by it.

And I remember my classmate, a Russian guy, blurting out, "Only eradiating them (the Chechens) to the last soul will solve this".

This seemed horrendous, awful, not simply intolerant or ill-informed, but directly evil, what is more, it seemed to prove our point of view - that one cannot give up in face of this brutal agression (talk about Kuhn's paradigms! Whatever the part with another paradigm says only seems to prove yours).

With years, of course, you do get to realise that nothing is black-and white (and it certainly isn't!), but the general antipathy towards the Russian way of dealing with the problem remained (and the Russian way is by no means democratic).

Things did change in Israel, but it has been more of a hunch regarding Chechnya, rather than anything specific. Only a few weeks ago did I first hear the words Caucasus Emirate. It rang a bell. Many bells, in fact.

The umma. The universal chaliphate. The fight for independence as a first step. A quote such as this: "Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity is there only for tactical reasons. The Establishment of a Palestinian state is a new expedient to continue the fight against Zionism and for Arab unity" (1977, Zoheir Muhsin, Head of PLO Military Operations).

First, people rise for a national idea. This is good, this is popular. But as militant islamism knows no nation (the umma is homogenic, really) - the next step is inevitably religious unity, one more step, one step closer to the dream of universal chaliphate (a radical dream, yes, insane, perhaps, but still doable. For comparison - No elderly German I had known ever supported the Nazi ideal - did you ever wonder why their voices weren't heard? Where did the monster come from and why nobody stopped it?..)

The Caucasus Emirate, a-self proclaimed state (2007) consists of what we know as Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, Stavropol and Krasnodar, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachaevo-Cherkessia and North Ossetia. To what extent does the emirate reflect reality, is, of course, a good question (and for the time being it is probably a virtual reality), but the fact is that this is an ideal many are willing to sacrifice their lifes for. And, more often, sacrifice the lifes of others for.

And the savoury bit. A website. To die for. Check this out:

(supposed to be in many languages, although I assume Russian would have the most information available)

This is real, guys. Just like the fellow Catholic who told me yesterday she wished we had armed police with us during procession on Saturday night.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Memoir: Maundy Thursday on Malta, 2009

I came across this diary entry of mine from 2009, when we spent the Holy Week and Easter on Malta:

We have been to seven altars and one Mass, and I feel I cannot get enough, almost like I stayed too short a while, like I should have sat until midnight... The travel routine of wine and cheese and meat pies is broken by the spirit of pilgrimage, it seems, all too easily. It matters where you go, and it matters how you go.

Malta is a blessing. It feels like being on a pilgrimage from day one. Perhaps it is. Perhaps it is a pilgrimage you embark on without knowing it... Perhaps it's the place. Perhaps it's St.Paul's prayers...

How can I explain and convey what I saw and felt. The Altar of Repose at St.Dominic's, with two angels on both sides of it. One on the right, holding a cup, another on the left, holding stalks of wheat and red and white grapes. Is it the over-exposure to visual impressions that does it to you? Jesus reposing. Grapes not yet vine. Wheat not yet bread. I will feed you with the finest wheat. For grapes to become vine our Saviour has to drink the cup.

If it is so, if indeed re-living His mysteries when He was human helps us to contemplate God, because they are at the same time completed and forever re-lived (because Jesus is both God who lives outside time, and man) - if it is so, could it be that this surreal wake was seen by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and somehow helped Him? I felt it did, in a way that cannot be explained, in a way that even cannot be understood by those partaking.

Streets filled with people, rosaries, praying aloud around the altars, old men and young, children and babies, women and girls... Someone starts to laugh when saying a rosary - this happens to me too often when I do it with my husband... Surely crowds seated before the Host enclosed on the most intricately decorated altars - surely these crowds that fill the streets, going from church to church, surely they want to be with Jesus? While the disciples were sleeping, could Jesus then see that all these crowds would want to be with Him? Perhaps it was those people who gave Him strength?

It was certainly those people who gave me faith. It seems this kind of faith is contagious. Problems at home seem surreal and far away. Buying clothes seems ridiculous - I already have more than enough. Placing Passion figures and crucifixes with a lance and a sponge in windows requires an attitude of placing one's faith before all else. Even subconsciously. As soon as you decide there are more important things, you won't do it. You won't walk a two-and-a-half-hour way of the cross to St. Paul's grotto, even in a Pauline year (are we supposed to get a plenary indulgence.

The many churches of Valletta are crowded and will probably be until midnight. People pray aloud before the Sacrament. May this never change.


Thursday, 12 August 2010

On Robert Sungenis and Hebrew Catholics

I absolutely admire Robert Sungenis for reverting to the Church, and for writing a wonderful refutation of the doctrines of Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide. As an apologist, he is recommended by other apologists I deeply respect. The Church needs apologists, now more than, perhaps, ever, and it is good and noble of him to stand up for his beliefs.

While his credentials and volume of knowledge are certainly higher and better than mine, no apologist or learned man can ever know everything, nor, I believe be right about everything. Certainly, his advocacy of the geocentric system (!) somewhat diminishes his credibility, in my view in any case. The fact that it stems from his over-literal interpretation of the Bible rather than scientific research doesn't help much, but only makes things worse, discrediting him in other aspects (where he is, undoubtedly, right).

I recently came across some opinions Sungenis expresses on another topic, and it leaves me sad and frustrated that such a learned man apparently refuses - or has no time - to consider the simple, generally-accesible facts. The matter in question is his critique of Hebrew Catholics and their apparent Zionism. Since I, too, believe that the Jews have a right to a country of their own, just as the French, the Latvians and the Russians do, I must be a Zionist, as well - so, yes, I do take some of his criticism personally.

Dr. Sungenis writes, in his refutation of Catholics for Israel, "The only part of the Torah that the Church has taken as its own is the moral commands, for they were created by God long before the Jews existed". I had somehow thought that Abraham and his descendants were chosen precisely to deliver God's moral commands to the world, and that was their special place, their calling and mission - to be the chosen people who brought the word of God into the world (and eventually also the Word made flesh). Was Moses not a Jew?

He continues, discussing God's calling and gifts: "The New Testament did, indeed, revoke the land of Israel from the Jews, since the Jews who were once given the land of Israel had those property rights revoked when the Old Covenant was revoked... The Torah is clear that the land of Israel was part and parcel with the covenant between God and Israel. Hence, if there is no separate covenant for the Jews there is no separate land for the Jews"

But Dr. Sungenis, where do they go?! The 800 000 refugees from the Arab countries, who had been driven from their homes, and have neither compensation nor the right of return. Do you know how many tried to escape the imminent death in European concentration camps - and were never allowed into Palestine? Do you know those who moved to Eretz Israel, and worked 20 hours a day to fight malaria (yes, doctor, malaria, lots and lots of malaria) on an empty, uncultivated land? What does this have to do with any coventant? Or, by denying the Jews preferential treatment, do you wish to fall into the opposite extreme, and deny them even a right to exist as a nation?

When they could not protect their own children and relatives from being exterminated, is it so surprising that the founders of Israel decided not to be at the mercy of any other government, and not to rely on anyone's protection any more? Well, has anyone protected them - on a governmental level, I mean? Have they? (Ah, yes, the Ottomans in the Balkans have always done it, as one of our Norwegian PhDs wrote - forgetting, apparently, that they had to pay for this protection by giving up their boys to slavery) Inded, Zionism did arise before the Holocaust (and was one of the most important reasons for it), but it sprung into being along with other nationalist movements, that, put into simple terms, strove for nation-states? The fact that the Jews rejected our covenant is a matter of religion, but should we deny them their nationality, and their right to statehood, as well? Isn't that, well, disproportionate?

Yes, I believe my Protestant Zionist friends did more harm than good by constantly referring to Israel's divine right to the land. That was the reason, the only reason actually, I felt annoyed by the questions like "Do you love Israel?" That sort of preferential treatment seemed unjustified for a secular state. Justifying political actions done by secular people on the basis of divine right is annoying, Robert Sungenis is right when he implies it. The problem is that these actions can be justified on other grounds - legal, logical, historical, you name it.

It is strange to me to read that for Sungenis, the Torah is clear that the land of Israel was part and parcel of the covenant between God and Israel. For the land had been given to Abraham unconditionally, prior to the either the covenant or the Law. It does seem that Israel's disobedience had caused several exhiles as disciplinary means of punishment, but if anything, the supposedly clear teaching can, and has been argued by many.

Dr. Sungenis writes: "It is only Jewish political aspirations that seek to support the accupation of Israel as a divine right, otherwise known as Zionism, the very political movement that the author of Catholics for Israel advocates..." And following: "Anti-Zionism is a rejection of the political belief that the land of Palestine belongs to Jews alone". I am not quite clear on whether this wording was intended to be what it is, or whether Dr. Sungenis has been somewhat rash in his conclusions. For it does indeed smack of propaganda, mixing truth with a healthy dose of lies.

In Sungenis' view, religion and politics cannot be separated for Zionists, thus the movement has to be rejected on religious grounds (or is it in his own view of the Jews? Since they failed religiously, no political entity of their own should be alloted to them). For surely, he has read David Ben Gurion's appeal to Arab residents of Palestine, calling them brothers and seeking to acommodate them in the new state? And the reply thereof - stating that there is no misunderstanding, and the intention is clear, but the Arab population does not wish to be a minority, a status the Jews are all too well familiar with. So, where does this alone come from? Perhaps from the fiery sermons of Al-Husseini? Who came to Berlin begging for the final solution so that they do not come and take away our land and destroy our holy places, and, of course, drink the blood of our children. OK, I am exaggerating and being unfair, but so is the use alone in Sungenis' definition of Zionism.

Just for the record, Sungenis' bishop did desribe some of his writings on the subject of Jews and Israel as "hostile, uncharitable, and un-christian". For the record still, I am not, and never have been, a supporter of the dual-covenant theology, but I do believe that due to the nature of Christ the Christians share a special bond, a relationship with the Jewish people, that will only do good to cherish and to live with, no matter how complicated and unresolved.

A more in-depth analysis of the subject matter at hand can be read here: (without me necessarily agreeing, or disagreeing, with ideas and opinions expressed in that blog)

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

MEMRI: Friday Sermon in Gaza: Muslims Should Wage Jihad to Liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the Filth of the Jews, the Brothers of Apes and Pigs

MEMRI: Friday Sermon in Gaza: Muslims Should Wage Jihad to Liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the Filth of the Jews, the Brothers of Apes and Pigs

I don't know what it takes to change a paradigm. Often I feel it's no use even trying. Apparently, paradigm shifts are rare in lifes of individuals, as well as nations. But then, it happened to me... At least twice... Anyway, we've heard a couple of those, for sure. Maybe English translation helps...