9/14/2010

Respecting the Religion of Your Brother


It really did not matter which one of the muezzins woke me up. The melodic reciting of a call to prayer from one of the minarets at 4:45 in the morning on the next to last day of the Holy Month of Ramadan could have come from any of the mosques surrounding the Holiday Inn hotel in the Western part of Amman, Jordan.
Soon, I was asleep again, even though it seemed that the call to prayer was endless. It was still before sunrise, and why was he doing it at such an ungodly hour, I was asking the little man in my head.
Waking up an hour or so later, my head gave-in to a bit of an early morning reflection. Just like with any other varieties of life, cultivating an approach of have open mind allows acceptance of diversity. That's what I like to experience in my global village.
So, sleeping and dreaming will come soon enough, I said aloud to myself.
As a participant of a consultation on "Teaching Respect for Religion" my Amman experience was a valuable lesson. My own lesson. The hosts - The Arab Bridge Centre for Human Rights and Development - did not have to argue how tolerant the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is. After all, churches and mosques are frequently coexist next to each other with only a fence providing a gentle reminder of diversity. What matters is that being a Jordanian yields respect, even acceptance, for your brother's or sister's religion.
A few phrases from the Meeting of Experts of the International Association of Religious Liberty (IRLA) stand out in my mind - I say 'no' to tolerance. Instead, I call for 'mutual acceptance' - Hasan Abu Nimah, former Ambassador of Jordan to the United Nations; We are all in a global classroom and a part of education for good or for bad - Dr. Gunnar Stalsett, Bishop Emeritus of Oslo, and vice chairman of the Norwegian Peace Prize Committee; In America, we have an incomplete view of religious liberty - Mitch Tyner, Esq, from IRLA.
The Amman conversation spoke plainly about what makes or breaks social harmony. Without a decisive practice in the realm of commonly held values in all and any milieu, we will not halt the effect of an erosion of such values, irrespective of a religious tradition that guards them.
The current European experiment with social interaction and freedom in the midst of secularism does not bid well for the nurture that Christian tradition seems to claim for itself. When the human person,and his or her dignity, ceases to be at the center of human interaction, the loser is always the humanity itself.
Is there is a room for an option that would allow respect to be a circumvented by some other lofty ideal? Respect should always walk hand-in-hand with the acceptance of one's identity and the professed truth. Authentic religion calls for a respect, sensitivity and acceptance of another's beliefs and practices. Do unto others ... the saying goes.
Last week, there was a moment when all participants of the Amman conversation were feeling the effect of a call by an obscure Pentecostal clergyman in Florida to burn Koran. It was a media-driven stunt to be held. Such an expression of hatred and intolerance could have unleashed an avalanche of violent repercussions across the globe, who knows.
But, rhetoric of hatred and an atmosphere of fear is not what creates peace and respect. Thus, the Amman exchange of views and expression of shared values was timely, to say the least.
As I listened to muezzin calling the faithful to pray according to an Islamic tradition, I thought that such a "wake up call" was actually timely. For myself. I was called to respect a religious moment of my brothers and sisters in Jordan.
Was this a private lesson in tolerance, in spite of the ungodly morning hour?

Easy distinction: Red and white for Jordanians. Black and white for Palestinians.

Ramadan afternoon prayers on a local Amman strip-mall.

Petra merchant: 'Half a liter of water for one dinar, and you can take my picture.'

Petra security for tourists. 'Watch out for falling rocks!'

One 'travel guide' photo: If you did not take this photo in Petra,
you have not been there. Camel included.

Cave games for children: No sudoku in Petra, James!

A visit to Petra by carriage is the preferred way preserve one's feet.
It is less authentic, some claim. "Forth years of wondering in a desert, anyone?"

At a step No. 800, or so, a young jewelry maker entertains sweaty
and out-of-breath pilgrims to Petra.

Millions of feet at work: The Roman Empire left an antique
stonework for anyone to polish.
[A walkway next to a well-preserved Amman Roman Theatre].

A Bedouin shepherd at work. They say that the goat cheese
is expensive, but also second to none.

Like it or not, one needs to climb (or ride a donkey) 950 steps in Petra
to discover what world's end is.
For sure it is not the Negev desert down below.

9/01/2010

Moments to Remember


Summer months in Maryland can be rather overbearing. The 2010 summer months were both hot and humid. And very hot and very humid. One is better off when an opportunity allows to travel elsewhere. Over the last two-three years, a summer vacation in Poland offered moments one does not forget. One's camera usually doesn't lie when focused on people and their spaces.

A selection of moments to remember offers a few caught in a moment images from a land where people are fair, easy going, and romantic. Not many comments to make, so let the images offer a few thousand words ...

Amber craft vendor in Gdansk.

'There are millions of them swimming.' Scouts checking for fish at Sopot pier.

'A model I will become.' Sopot pier.

A boy with a black cat. Torun.

Moments happen. Who cares on Nowy Swiat [New World] Street? Warsaw.

Thirst will go away. Gdansk Old Town.

A T-shirt message. Things to do today: 1. get up; 2. live through it; 3. go to sleep. Gdansk.

Moving sands, near Leba.