Posts Tagged ‘middle east’

In the U.S. where I live, the second Sunday of May is celebrated as mother’s day. As a girl it became linked in my mind with church celebrations of Mary of Nazareth, mother of Jesus. I was raised Catholic, and while that no longer is my religion, the songs we sang to celebrate Mary powerfully shaped me and my early ideas about faith. I had a deep admiration for Mary’s courage and her sense of purpose. With Mary on my mind, I have been re-reading a couple of books.

978-1-62698-004-4To understand Mary in her cultural context and to explore the impact of her faith on her way of life, I recommend In Quest of the Jewish Mary by Mary Christine Athans. This book does a beautiful job of presenting historical details and guiding readers to imagine a figure of tremendous faith. The story opens with the personal journey of the author, who writes from a Catholic perspective that is full of respect for other faith traditions. This volume will be of interest to readers of any background who enjoy interfaith journeys. I wrote a complete review of Athans’ interesting book when it was published by Orbis Books in 2013.



For a discussion of scholarly studies on the role of Mary in Islam, I recommend Mary the Blessed Virgin of Islam by Aliah Schleifer, former professor at the American University in Cairo. I have met many non-Muslims who are unaware of the importance of Mary in Islam. In Islam Jesus is considered a prophet, and his mother is honored for her deep faith and model of pious living. Her story is told in Chapter 19 of the Qur’an, entitled Maryam.

Do you have a favorite title about Mary? I invite you to share in the comments below.


Disclaimer: The books mentioned here are from my personal library. No fee was received for this review.

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Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish lived through something out of a nightmare: three of his daughters were killed by a military attack on his home. His life-affirming response sets an example for people everywhere. For he was angry, justifiably so, yet did not seek vengeance. Instead, he sought to honor the memory of his daughters

Dr. Abuelaish has written his powerful story, entitled I Shall not Hate: A Gaza doctor’s journey on the road to peace and human dignity. Readers travel with Dr. Abuelaish from his childhood in a refugee camp, through his medical school studies, and into the life-saving jobs that shaped his view of peacemaking. Dr. Abuelaish experienced that medical professionals, as well as patients, can cross the divisions of ethnicity, religion, and citizenship. Published in 2011, the book provides helpful background for readers who want to better understand the current situation for residents of Gaza.

The work of Dr. Abuelaish provides critical support for the building of a peaceful future through education and empowerment. We need to support visionary organizations such as Daughters for Life while also alleviating immediate crisis. If you can contribute to emergency relief in Gaza, Mercy Corps is providing humanitarian assistance with an effective network of community organizations. Please give if you are able.

Disclosure: I borrowed this book from the public library. No fee was received for this review.

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As the humanitarian crisis in Syria escalates, I long to recapture the electric sense of hopefulness brought by the Arab Spring. Two years ago, people across North Africa and the Middle East bravely stepped forward to demand change from their governments. Readers have an opportunity to hear directly from movement participants in Demanding Dignity: Young voices from the front lines of the Arab revolutions, an excellent volume from White Cloud Press.

Editors Maytha Alhassen and Ahmed Shihab-Eldin brought together twenty contributors whose civic engagement and inspiration have been powerful tools. There is much sorrow in the essays, which document police brutality, imprisonment, and other injustices. Commenting on the violence, one essay asks,
if this is spring
what will winter be like?

However, there is a persistent thread of hope: “a seed has been planted”; “the work has begun”; “first small steps.” These writers bear witness to a potent force for change moving through their midst.

News reports make it clear that the revolutionary movements are unfinished. The Syrian people are under attack by their own government; troubles with the military persist in Egypt; unemployment continues across the region. However, hope has been awakened and it will not be crushed. The young people who are working for change in their countries will not be giving up. As a Syrian friend observed, “The older generation was scared. For decades, we lived with corruption. Now, the young people have said, ‘We have had enough.'”

As we keep our eyes on the Maghreb and Middle East, we are wise to welcome opportunities to hear the voices of participants living through these critical developments. Just today, news from Saudi Arabia announced the criminalization of domestic abuse in that country. This, too, is a social change that results from the ongoing activism of people who are committed to justice and dignity.

There is much to lament in the news, but the seeds of hope remain. Yemeni American writer Atiaf Zaid Alwazir writes, “The determination of a people seeking freedom is an unstoppable force: sooner or later freedom will prevail.” I urge you to read Demanding Dignity and to be inspired by the voices of brave and determined Arab activists who are striving for the betterment of their communities.

Disclaimer: The publisher provided an advance reading copy of this book for review purposes. No fee was received.

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In the past few weeks, when I sit down to write my book reviews, I simply cannot concentrate. Instead of writing, I revisit news sites, reading too much about the humanitarian crisis in Syria. I have a stack of wonderful books awaiting their reviews, yet I cannot share them with you today.

Today, I ask you to pray. Please, pray the God in God’s mercy will bring peace to Syria. Pray that God in God’s mercy will transform hearts so that justice and true security are restored to the people.

After you pray, please consider making a donation to Mercy Corps. They are doing wonderful work to help Syrian refugees with shelter, clean water, and trauma counseling. Imagine, nearly 2 million people have had to flee their homes. More than half of those people are children. Even if you only can spare a dollar, donate before August 31 and your donation will be doubled.

Mercy Corps: Be the Change

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