Thursday, March 27, 2008

Be Not Afraid to Acknowledge Christianity as The Truth

Tuesday March 25, 2008
Message of the Pope's Baptism of Prominent Muslim: Be Not Afraid to Acknowledge Christianity as The Truth
Wouldn't it be obvious that true Christians would want all people to know the truth? Not the relativist Christians.

Editorial by John-Henry Westen

Magdi Christiano AllamMarch 25, 2008 ( - On Saturday night at the Easter Vigil in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI baptized Magdi Allam, one of Italy's most prominent Muslims who upon his conversion took the name Cristiano - which means Christian. Allam, the Deputy Director of one of Italy's largest newspapers - Corriere della Sera - wrote of his baptism the following day, saying, "Yesterday evening I converted to the Christian Catholic religion, renouncing my previous Islamic faith . . . For me it is the most beautiful day of [my] life."

As a prominent Muslim critic of Islamic extremism and terrorism, Allam had already received many death threats and had official Islamic death warrants - fatwas - signed against him. He was thus forced to live under constant security. He underwent his very public reception into the Catholic Church with the full knowledge that it would lead to much more dire death threats. "I know what I am headed for but I face my destiny with my head held high, standing upright and with the interior solidity of one who has the certainty of his faith," he wrote.

The most important part of Allam's Easter Sunday message, however, was the portion where he pointed out that the Pope made a "historical gesture" in personally baptizing him in a public event that would be televised worldwide. "His Holiness has sent an explicit and revolutionary message to a Church that until now has been too prudent in the conversion of Muslims, abstaining from proselytizing in majority Muslim countries and keeping quiet about the reality of converts in Christian countries," he said.

Allam surmised that the Church was acting thus, "out of fear. The fear of not being able to protect converts in the face of their being condemned to death for apostasy and fear of reprisals against Christians living in Islamic countries."

While true in many cases, that fear is used as an impetus for a relativistic attitude which has been creeping into Christianity for decades. The approach sees Christianity not as the one and only truth, but one truth among many. The phenomenon also expresses itself in dealing with the various denominations within Christianity. Thus invitations to convert to Christianity - or from one denomination to another - are quietly tolerated at best, and at times openly criticized, even by those who call themselves Christian.

For instance, take the recent debacle in the Church of England over homosexuality. The result has been a fracturing of the Church of England between those who wish to remain true to the Scriptures and those who have embraced sexual immorality. A group of the faithful were looking to enter the Catholic Church en masse. The Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), which may represent as many as 400,000 Anglicans, was speaking with Vatican officials about such a move.

One would think the reaction of those within the Catholic Church would be a heartfelt reception with open arms to brothers who are struggling to hold to the truth about human sexuality amidst turmoil within their denomination. Insiders reported that Pope Benedict would be pleased to receive the group; however, the reaction of one high ranking Church official spoke volumes about the relativistic attitude of many Christians.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, commented on the proposed entrance of the TAC into full communion with the Catholic Church, suggesting that the Church was resistant to the move. "We are on good terms with the Archbishop of Canterbury and as much as we can we are helping him to keep the Anglican community together," Cardinal Kasper told The Catholic Herald in a story published December 6, 2007.

When asked whether he felt encouraged by the TAC's request, the cardinal replied: "It's not our policy to bring that many Anglicans to Rome." He added, "Of course, as a Catholic I am happy if one person joins our Catholic Church but I doubt such a big group is coming - I think there are still many questions to solve first."

The question of conversion of the Jews to Christianity raises the same point. A worldwide controversy was stirred up after Pope Benedict gave general permission for the Tridentine form of the Latin Mass to be celebrated. Nominally Jewish groups - such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) - complained bitterly that praying for the conversion of the Jews was unacceptable.

The Good Friday prayers in the 'extraordinary form' - as the Latin liturgy is now called - contains prayers for the conversion of the Jews to Christianity. A slightly revised version issued by Pope Benedict reads: "Let us also pray for the Jews: that God our Lord might enlighten their hearts, so that they might acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Savior of all mankind. Let us pray. Let us bend our knees. Almighty and eternal God, whose desire it is that all men might be saved and come to the knowledge of truth, grant in your mercy that as the fullness of mankind enters into your Church, all Israel may be saved, through Christ our Lord. Amen."

A similar uproar to the Good Friday prayers occurred in the secular media when conservative pundit Ann Coulter spoke on air with CNBC's Donny Deutsch about her desire for all people, Jews included, to become Christian. Deutsch became hysterical when Coulter tried to explain that Christianity considers itself the continuation of Judaism, and thus Christians wish followers of Judaism to complete the journey - "we want Jews to be perfected" she phrased it.

Deutsch called Coulter's comment uneducated, "hateful and anti-Semitic" and went so far as to compare her to Iran in wishing to "wipe Israel off the earth." Again the ADL complained bitterly, calling Coulter anti-Semitic.

But why the hue and cry about Christians hoping the Jews will convert? Wouldn't it be obvious that Christians, true Christians, who believe in and follow Christ as 'the way, the truth, and the life' would want all people to know the truth?

It would be obvious to true believers of any religion, but not to relativists.

Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Yehuda Levin, the spokesman on moral issues for some 1000 Rabbis, explained this to me once in an interview on the Coulter kerfuffle. Rabbi Levin noted that Coulter's remarks could not be construed as anti-Semitic and that Jews who practice their faith were not scandalized by the remarks. "The Orthodox are very comfortable in their beliefs of their religion and their practices," he said. "The Jews who would be more offended by this are those that are not involved in day to day practice of Judaism."

Michael Medved, the well known practicing Jew and movie reviewer, commented on Coulter's remarks saying, "(A)ny American Jew who doesn't already understand that sincere Christians want the whole world ultimately to come to Christ - including us - is an ignorant fool. Yes, Christianity believes in converting people: and most of us received that memo about 2000 years ago. The proper response to the declaration that Christians want all of humanity to become Christian shouldn't be outrage or indignation; it ought to be, 'Duh!' If your friends or neighbors seek to share with you the greatest gift they've ever received, it's not usually a sign that they hate you; in fact, it's very likely an indication that they love you."

Levin pointed out moreover that true followers of Judaism, like true Christians and sincere believers in several other religions, feel they have the fullness of truth, and thus in charity hope for a day when all people will embrace the fullness of truth. He explained that especially on Jewish holidays special prayers are said, even several times a day, especially for non-Jews, that they will come to accept the truth.

All this is not to dismiss the very valid concerns over the safety and well-being of converts to Christianity from Islam. The newly baptized Cristiano Allam points out that even in Italy there are "thousands of Muslim converts to Christianity who are forced to hide their faith out of fear of being assassinated by Islamic extremists who lurk among us." He hopes that the Pope's action and his testimony will allow Christian converts from Islam to live their faith openly. "If in Italy, in our home, the cradle of Catholicism, we are not prepared to guarantee complete religious freedom to everyone, how can we ever be credible when we denounce the violation of this freedom elsewhere in the world?" he asks.

Allam suggests, "Benedict XVI, with his witness, tells us that we must overcome fear and not be afraid to affirm the truth of Jesus even with Muslims."

We must also reject the fear of public criticism and belittlement that comes from many quarters when we give public affirmation to faith in Christ. Giving in to such fear leads to a false ecumenism, which is nothing more than relativistic denial of absolute truth.

In his own Easter message delivered Sunday, Pope Benedict called on not only Christians, but all "men and women whose spirit is sincerely open to the truth," to realize that "Jesus Christ died and rose for all; he is our hope - true hope for every human being."

Welcome home Cristiano, and also to the battlefield.

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Further reading: Homepage Magdi Allam

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Great Britain: Muslims 'to outnumber traditional churchgoers'

By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent
Last Updated: 2:15am GMT 26/03/2008

Muslims in MosqueThe increasing influence of Islam on British culture is disclosed in research today that shows the number of Muslims worshipping at mosques in England and Wales will outstrip the numbers of Roman Catholics going to church in little more than a decade.

Muslims kneel for prayer in a London mosque: Muslims 'will soon outnumber traditional churchgoers'
Projections show Muslims are to outstrip Catholic Sunday worshippers by 2020

Projections to be published next month estimate that, if trends continue, the number of Catholic worshippers at Sunday Mass will fall to 679,000 by 2020.

By that time, statisticians predict, the number of Muslims praying in mosques on Fridays will have increased to 683,000.

The Christian Research figures also suggest that, over the same period, the number of Muslims at mosques will overtake Church of England members at Sunday services.

Church spokesmen point out, however, that a growing number of Anglicans worship at other times of the week.

The projections show that, if the Churches do not reverse their historical decline, there will be more active Muslims than Christians in Sunday services across Britain before the middle of the century.

The figures, based on Government and academic sources and the latest edition of Christian Research's Religious Trends, come amid growing tensions over the place of Muslims in British society.

They follow fierce rows over the extent to which Islamic law should be recognised and over claims that "no-go" areas for non-Muslims are emerging in parts of the country.

Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, provoked criticism by saying the introduction of some aspects of sharia into British society was "unavoidable".

The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, faced death threats after writing in The Sunday Telegraph that Islamic extremism was turning some communities into "no-go" areas "where adherence to this ideology has become a mark of acceptability".

Peter Brierley, a former Government statistician who edited the latest Religious Trends, said that the continuing growth of the Muslim population since the 2001 census would have significant implications for society.

St Francis and the Conversion of the Muslims

St Francis with Sultan Al Kamil


I recently finished an amazing book called St. Francis and the Muslims by Frank M. Rega from TAN. This book makes clear that St Francis made it his priority to convert the Muslims. Unfortunately St Francis' image has been distorted by liberal revisionist writers over the years who have created a false notion of him as a passive "PETA" pantheists who just happened to be Catholic. This book will tweak this modern notion of St Francis by revealing the truth of who he really was--an inspiring, courageous, Catholic who loved the truth and sought to boldly bring Jesus to everyone-- even those who were blinded by heresy.

Rega has thoroughly researched Francis and stands on firm ground in his telling of the story of Francis and his attempt to convert the Sultan. The famous meeting begins when Francis accompanies the crusaders to Damietta, Egypt with the goal of having a private audience with Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil who was the Islamic ruler of Egypt.

Prior to the battle of Damietta, Francis received a prophetic vision that the crusaders would lose the battle. He hesitatingly revealed his vision which was dismissed. The battle went forward, and the crusaders lost.

The crusaders losses were many. As one chronicler wrote--John the Baptist gained many companions that day due to the great many beheadings. "This horror befell about fifty horsemen, of the Knights Templar, thirty of the Germans, and over twenty Hospitallers."

Remarkably it was the loss at Damietta that gave St Francis the opportunity to finally meet the Sultan face to face in an attempt to convert him to the Christian faith.

St Francis sought permission to enter the camp of the Sultan from the Papal Legate who was hesitant to grant permission since al Kamil had reportedly stated that "anyone who brought him the head of a Christian should be awarded with Byzantine gold pieces". Eventually when confronted with the insistence and persistence of St Francis, the Papal legate allowed Francis and one companion, Brother Illuminato, to go into the Muslim camp.

Early documents all agree that upon entering the camp Francis and Illuminato were treated very roughly. One account states that they were insulted and beaten yet showed no fear even when threatened with torture and death. They kept repeating to their captors the word for "SULTAN" and were eventually dragged before him.

St Francis and Illuminato informed the Sultan that they were messengers sent from God. An early writing purports to contain the essence of their first words to the Sultan: "If you do not wish to believe we will commend your soul to God because we declare that if you die while holding to your law you will be lost; God will not accept your soul. For this reason we have come to you. They added that they would demonstrate the truth of Christianity to al-Kamil and his imams.

Surprisingly the Sultan was captivated by the sincerity of the men's concern for his eternal salvation. Al-kamil willingly listened to St Francis and permitted them great liberty in their preaching.

The Sultan told his imams that beheading Francis and Illuminato would be an unjust recompense for their efforts, since they had arrived with the praiseworthy intention of seeking his personal salvation. He said to Francis: "I am going to go counter to what my religious advisors demand and will not cut off your have risked your own lives in order to save my soul."

The Franciscans were the guests of the Sultan for many days. During that time the Sultan made certain that the men's wounds were taken care of.

Rega points out that although it might seem unusual that the Sultan would seemingly be so attracted to Christianity we must remember that Francis was one of the most charismatic and remarkable saints that the Church has ever seen.

There is a question as to whether the Sultan had a deathbed conversion to the faith as a result of his encounter with Francis. One historian writes wrote that: al-Kamil before dismissing the friar, privately asked him to pray that God would reveal to me the law and the faith that is more pleasing to Him. Illuminato remarked that the Sultan, after hearing Francis fervently preach the Gospel, always had the Christian faith imprinted on his heart."

According to the Little Flower of St Francis which is a widely read historical account of the first friars lives, Francis prophesied that the Sultan would have a deathbed conversion. After Francis' death he appeared to two friars and instructed them to find the Sultan and teach him the faith. It is also reported in the Little Flower that the Sultan instructed his sentinels to watch for two friars in the ports. When the friars were found the Sultan received them with great joy. "The friars after instructing al-Kamil in the faith, administered the Sacrament of Baptism to the dying Sultan and 'his soul was saved through the merits of St Francis'".

This book is a must read in our day when the zeal of Islam has been rekindled and so many are ready to violently confront the West once again. St Francis did not seek "dialogue" with the Sultan in order to minimize or diminish the differences that existed between the Catholic and the Muslim faith. Instead he boldly proclaimed the truths of Christianity. There is a naiveté on the part of so many liberals today who feel that we can simply dialogue until we find similarities between Catholicism and Islam.

If we equate our religion with theirs, it only leads to confusion and contempt. As demonstrated by St Francis's approach, Muslims are far more respectful and willing to listen to a person who acknowledges the great division that separates the two religions than to a person who says that all the religions are the same; that we all believe the same things; we all have the same faith.

Although Francis was not on a formal mission of peace, converting the muslims was his attempt to bring about peace. According to one scholar, Christopher Maier, "Francis like the crusaders wanted to liberate the holy places of Palestine from Muslim rule. What was different was his strategy...He wanted their total submission to the Christian faith."

If only there were even a few zealous Catholic missionaries who were willing to risk martyrdom by preaching Christ to the Muslims as boldly as Francis did--the face of the world could change. This book reads like a manual for our tumultuous times.

"He who will have lost his life for My sake shall save it for eternal life." (Luke 9:24; Matthew 25:46). "Do not fear those who kill the body" (Matthew 10:28), "and after that have no more that they can do." (Luke 12:4).

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Santiago and El Cid in the Reconquista

Forging a Unique Spanish Christian Identity:
Santiago and El Cid in the Reconquista

by Laura Elizabeth Gibbs

St. James the Moorslayer, one of the most valiant saints and knights the world ever had … has been given by God to Spain for its patron and protection.
— Cervantes, Don Quixote (1)

This is the will of God and of all His saints. … You see the sword bloody and the horse sweating: Thus it is that one [El Cid] conquers the Moors in the field.
— Poema de mío Cid (2)
In 711, Muslim armies from North Africa crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and entered the southern region of Spain. During the next seven years, the Muslims conquered the weak kingdom of the Visigoths and firmly established themselves on the Iberian peninsula. They called their territory al-Andalus or "Vandal land". Christian resistance to Muslim advances began almost immediately. However, the notion of a Christian holy war designed to exterminate or at least to expel the Muslims, and not simply to reconquer Spanish Christian territories, did not set in until the eleventh century during the reign of Alfonso VI (1085-1109). In this era of crusading reconquest, a need arose for the living presence of religious-national figures, capable of rallying around themselves the Spanish Christian forces. (3) Two figures emerged as emblems of Christian strength and supremacy: El Cid and Santiago. They fulfilled the needs of the Iberian Christians for heroes to emulate, and united them in their struggle for political and religious independence from Muslim rule. As Christian paragons, Santiago and El Cid became increasingly identified with one another. Christians attributed identical symbols to them, and their images merged to the point of indistinguishability in the artistic depictions of these historical individuals in the eleventh through thirteenth centuries. The unification of the spiritual and the secular, symbolized by the convergence of these figures’ images, marked the birth of the formation of a united Spanish Christian kingdom, and the creation of a unique national-religious identity in Spain.

Under the leadership of Alfonso VI a decisive program of crusading reconquest began. The monarch’s objective entailed uniting all of Spain under one crown and one religion. Tolerance and coexistence with the Muslims were no longer options if Alfonso sought to create a truly unified Spanish Christian kingdom. Thus, Santiago and El Cid grew to immense national and religious proportions because both fulfilled an historical need. Santiago represented the spiritual component of Alfonso’s agenda. The Leonese monarch called upon Spaniards to fight against the Muslims and establish the supremacy of the Catholic church. To ensure the success of the reconquest, Spaniards believed God sent his vassal Santiago to lead them in battle and help them realize their goal. El Cid represented the secular element of the Christian reconquista. As Alfonso’s vassal, El Cid united the Spaniards in their struggle to oust the infidels and reclaim the peninsula for the Spanish Christian monarch Alfonso and his peoples. The Christian reconquest created faith in Santiago and El Cid as leaders who inspired resistance to the Muslims, and promised ultimate victory over Islam. Despite the similarities these figures acquired in their roles as Spanish crusaders, their origins could not be more diverse.

Santiago or St. James was the son of Zebedee, a fisherman in Galilee, and Salome, the sister of the Virgin Mary. He and his brother John the Evangelist were devout disciples of Christ, and such zealous preachers of the good news that Christ named them Boanerges, "the brothers of thunder." In 44 A.D. Santiago became the first of the Twelve Apostles to suffer martyrdom when Herod Agrippa I arrested and beheaded him in Jerusalem. Tradition places Santiago in Spain proselytizing prior to his execution. Why then would his body be buried in Spain if he died in Jerusalem? According to legend, Santiago’s disciples Athanasius and Theodore took his body back to Spain when a ship miraculously appeared, guided by an angel, to transport them. They buried the saint in the area known today as Compostela, "field of stars," where Santiago lay forgotten for nearly eight centuries.

The rediscovery of the saint’s long-forgotten tomb in the ninth century occurred, tellingly enough, in a time of need "when Christian political fortunes in Spain were at there lowest ebb." (4) Christians suffered defeat time and again at the hands of the Muslims, until God unearthed the saint’s remains, and inspired them with the confidence that God was on their side, fighting in the battlefield with them through the figure of Santiago. "God gave us aid and we won the battle." (5) Christians endorsed the veracity of this claim by referring to the battle of Clavijo in 844. The night before the battle, Santiago appeared in a dream to the leader of the Spanish forces, King Ramirez of Castile, and promised him a victory over the Muslims in the fields of Clavijo. (6) The following day, as Christians fought the Muslims, the warrior-saint appeared on the battlefield in full armor riding on a white charger, with a sword in one hand and a banner in the other. Together with Santiago Matamoros, the Moorslayer, the Christians slaughtered the Muslim invaders and won a decisive victory. Undoubtedly, Santiago appeared in the battlefield at Clavijo for he left behind impressions of scallop shells (his symbol as the pilgrim saint) on the rocks in the field and even on the stones of neighboring houses. After this battle, Santiago’s name became the Christians’ battle cry, and his appearance in warfare the symbol of Christian victory.

According to legend, the saint aided the Spaniards at least forty times in earthly warfare, including the battle of Clavijo. This was a "brave assertion of faith in St. James, in the miracle at Clavijo, and in the patron saint’s heavenly care for Spain." (7) The Spaniards "needed Santiago as the supernatural ally who would sustain their courage and bring certain success to their arms." (8) This strong faith identified Santiago with the religious element of the reconquest and the revival of Spanish fortunes. It follows then, that at the end of the eleventh century when a decisively religious element entered the equation of the reconquista, an aggressive program of dignifying the apostolate of James and of exalting Compostela as the "second Rome" took place. (9) The image of Compostela as a "second Rome" points to the site’s religious significance, and established its importance as a preeminent place of pilgrimage. (10)

The successful ouster of the Muslims in 1492 was followed by skepticism regarding Santiago’s role in Spain’s holy war. Skeptics accepted Santiago as the patron saint of Spain, and even the possibility that he inspired Christians in warfare. But they flatly rejected the validity of the battle of Clavijo and the absurd notion of Santiago taking personal part in the conflict by slaughtering Muslims. In the eighteenth century, Pope Benedict XIV rebuffed the unbelievers, and stated that Santiago’s Spanish mission was an historical fact and that there was no further doubt or debate on this subject in Rome. Speaking for all of Christendom, Pope Benedict declared Santiago’s participation and leadership as an essential and factual element of Spain’s Christian warfare against the Muslims — case closed. (11) The Pope’s declaration reaffirmed the tie between Spanish nationalism and Christianity established by Alfonso in the late eleventh century.

Santiago’s and El Cid’s fearless and victorious participation in the crusading reconquest acquired grandiose and mythical dimensions. Both became national-religious heroes during the reconquista, but El Cid was neither a disciple of Christ nor a saint. Nevertheless, in the minds of his followers he was the perfect secular counterpart to the ecclesiastical figure of Santiago. He was born in 1043 to a family of noble origins in the town of Vivar, and named Rodrigo Díaz. He acquired the Arabic honorific title sid meaning "lord," as well as the epithet Campeador, meaning "champion." While it is difficult to disentangle history from myth, there is little evidence to suggest that either of these were used by contemporaries as official titles when addressing El Cid. (12) It is probable that after his death in Valencia in 1099 the heroic exploits of El Cid were preserved, and magnified, in Spanish oral tradition. By the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, Rodrigo was no longer simply a gifted knight--he was the ever-victorious warrior lord, the Campeador El Cid.

The first documented use of the title "sid" appears in the epic Poema de mío Cid or Cantar de mío Cid. In this poem, composed in the Spanish vernacular in the early thirteenth century, "the hero is presented as a paragon, one whose lack of any self-destructive defect -- like the wrath of Achilles or the pride of Roland -- makes him the most perfect of all epic protagonists and the most successful." (13) El Cid represented the ideal Christian warrior, invincible in battle and flawless in character. The extraordinary image of El Cid developed in this epic prevailed over the less fantastic, but more realistic, image of the religiously indifferent, intelligent, successful medieval military strategist and warrior. Nevertheless, the legendary aspects of his character prevailed, serving as standards which Christians could follow on their path toward victory. This poem creates a window to the past into medieval Spain of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. It describes the hero in all his grandeur, and provides the context in which El Cid assumes his importance as the Campeador -- the unconquerable Christian warrior. In the legendary words of El Cid, "Thanks be to God Who is lord of the world/ I win battles, as pleases the Creator;/ Moors … go in fear of me." (14)

In 1072, El Cid became the vassal of Alfonso VI. To further secure his loyalty, in 1074 Alfonso arranged for El Cid to marry his niece Jimena Díaz. These were calculated efforts by Spain’s monarch to secure El Cid’s support for the national-religious warfare against the Muslims. Alfonso made careful attempts to thwart "any significant opportunity [on the part of El Cid] to exercise his military talents" without the king’s knowledge. (15) The king appears to have had a specific political-religious agenda, in which El Cid played an integral role.

During his reign, Alfonso "continued and extended the policy of alliance with the great French Benedictine monastery of Cluny, then achieving European prominence under Abbot Hugh the Great (1049-1109)." (16) By cooperating with the church and instituting Cluniac reform, Alfonso played a preeminent role in the Christianization of the reconquest. (17) His effort to create a unified Christian kingdom of Spain in the eleventh century sparked the need for religious and national figures under whom Christians could unite to defeat the infidel, satiated by the personages of El Cid and Santiago. People in Spain "were coming to believe that relations between Christians and Muslims were necessarily and justly hostile, that Christian warfare against Islam bestowed positive spiritual merit on the participant, and that the Muslims should be driven out of Spain." (18)

In accordance with his monarch’s wishes, El Cid participated in the unification of the religious and political spheres during the latter part of the eleventh century. One of the most important roles he played as a Christian war hero and patriot of the reconquest was the victory of his siege in Valencia and the Muslims defeat (1093-1094). (19) This triumph of Christianity was celebrated over a century later in the epic: "Great is the rejoicing in that place/ when My Cid took Valencia . . ./ My Cid rejoiced, and all who were with him,/ when his flag flew from the top of the Moorish palace." (20) In his role as a loyal Christian ruler El Cid converted Valencia’s Great Mosque into a Christian church, St. Mary’s Cathedral, in 1098. Furthermore, he proclaimed the Cluniac cleric Jerome of Périgord the bishop of Valencia. These acts indicated his solidarity with Alfonso and Cluniac reform, and his participation in the crusading mentality of the century.

An important manifestation of the crusading mentality during this time was the creation of an iconography of Santiago along national lines, using imagery rooted in the historical reality of the reconquest. As in the legend surrounding the battle of Clavijo, this iconography associated Santiago with the warfare against Islam; in it

Santiago is represented on a galloping [white] horse . . . sword in the right hand and the banner of victory in the left. Behind him the defeated infidels, crushed to the ground, helplessly moan; in front of him the powerless enemy surrenders . . . . Appropriately enough for the historical reality and the temper of the times, such an iconography of Santiago has received the designation of Matamoros . . . the slayer of the Moors. (21)

Through this iconography Santiago practically becomes El Cid: a folkloric figure riding upon a horse, leading the Christians to victory. The similarities in the depictions of these national religious heroes revolve around the use of four primary symbols: the sword, the banner of victory, the white horse, and the Muslims who lay dead at the feet of the victorious crusader. The banner of victory, like the horse, is usually white. This color symbolizes the spiritual purity of the Christians who will spill the red blood of the Muslim infidels. The most important of these symbols is the instrument of death, the sword, generally attributed to gods, heroes of unconquerable might, and Christian martyrs. It signifies military might, power, authority, and justice. (22) The Poema de mío Cid heavily emphasized the power of the sword, victoriously wielded by El Cid over the Muslims. For example, the epic describes the Almoravid leader Yusuf’s defeat at the hands of El Cid thus:

As pleased the Creator, they [the Christians] overcame them [the Muslims].
My Cid used his lance and then drew his sword;
he killed so many Moors that the count was lost;
above his elbow the blood ran.

My Cid was joyful, and all his vassals,
because God of His grace had given them triumph.

Thus he rode on Babieca, his sword in his hand. (23)

Using three of the four symbols, this excerpt indicates the Spaniards’ confidence that God empowered their national-religious heroes who ultimately led the Christians to victory. Once drawn, the sword of Santiago or El Cid, through the grace of God, became the tool by which Spain successfully expelled the Muslims, and completed its spiritual and secular union.

The development of a religiously and culturally homogenous Spanish kingdom, and the association of the images of Santiago and El Cid as paradigm Christian combatants continued throughout the remaining four centuries of religious reconquest. For Santiago, the process of intertwining his role as belligerent saint with crusading warfare culminated in 1170. In this year, the most famous Spanish military order, the Order of the Knights of Santiago, emerged, modeled upon the international order of the Knights of the Temple. (24) The Knights of Santiago was only one of several military-religious orders established to protect pilgrims on their journey to Compostela (the saint’s burial place), and most importantly, to fight against the Muslims. Like Santiago Matamoros, the knights "combined priestly devotion with soldierly blood-thirstiness. Their motto was Rubet ensis sanguine Arabum — ‘My sword is red with the blood of the Arabs’ — and their symbol was a sword-like cross with the scallop shell on the crosspiece." (25)

El Cid’s image as Christian and soldier evolved in a less militaristic and institutionalized manner. After his death in 1099, a "Cid-cult" grew up around his burial site in the monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña. In fact, many of the myths invented about El Cid and incorporated into history originated in Cardeña. The growth of the legend of El Cid occurred during a time when Christians were winning victories over Muslim forces in the East. The impact of the fall of Jerusalem in 1187 may have been felt in Spain, leading, for example, to a renewed interest in the paragon of Christian crusaders. By 1200, El Cid "had grown to uncommon heroic stature" outstripping even Spanish royalty as the subject of legendary interest. (26) This interest manifested itself in the composition of the epic Poema de mío Cid. In this poem, El Cid assumes Santiago’s role of Moorslayer and instills a combination of fear and admiration in both Christians and Muslims alike. His mission aimed at the complete reconquest of Muslim-Spain for Christianity; he would be satisfied with nothing less. As the Muslim Abengalbón laments in the epic, "In peace or in war he will have what is ours;/ who does not know the truth I hold stupid." (27)

The histories of Santiago and El Cid contain an inextricable mixture of historical fact and mythical legend. The legendary component fueled Spaniards’ faith in their ultimate victory over the Muslims. It gave them confidence when faced with an uncertain future. Thus, the mythical forces gave credence and urgency to the reality of divine intervention in Spain’s crusading reconquest. This intervention manifested itself in the forms of Santiago and El Cid — figures whose images over time intimately intertwined and became one. The resulting image was of a knight of uncommon heroic stature riding upon a white horse over a battlefield of slain Muslims, with a bloodied sword in one hand and the banner of victory waving in the other.

Spaniards believed God had brought Santiago from heaven to the battlefield and made El Cid invincible in war. Inspired by their heroes and inflamed by their passion for a united Spain under Christendom, Spanish Christians continued undeterred in their struggle against the infidel. Their struggles did not go unrewarded. When Pope Urban II called for the First Crusade in 1095, Spain had already experienced two significant victories against their Muslim opponents by retaking Toledo (1086) and Valencia (1094). The eleventh through the fourteenth centuries saw the gradual deterioration of Muslim power in Spain. By the twelfth century, the political-religious geography of the Iberian peninsula had changed radically from the tenth and eleventh centuries. In the fifteenth century Muslim rule in al-Andalus collapsed. The Muslim defeat in Spain was paralleled by an increase in the strength and power of the Christians. Guided by their religious national figures, Spaniards had succeeded in ousting the Muslims when they captured the city of Granada in 1492. The capture of Granada ended the chapter of Christian reconquest in Spain’s history, and ended Santiago’s and El Cid’s roles as inspirational leaders and invincible warriors in the eight centuries long reconquista. Spain succeeded in expelling the Muslim peoples and their religion, while simultaneously forging a new national Christian identity. The Iberian peninsula emerged from the Christian reconquest — as Alfonso VI intended it to be — unified under the Spanish monarchy of Isabela and Ferdinand and by its Christian faith.

1 Quoted in Ellen O. Feinberg, Following the Milky Way: A Pilgrimage Across Spain (Ames, Iowa, 1989) 82.

2 Poema de mío Cid, Canto 95, trans. W. S. Merwin, Medieval Epics (New York, 1959) 528.

3 William Melczer, The Pilgrim’s Guide to Santiago de Compostela (New York, 1993) 15.

4 Melczer, 15.

5 Poema de mío Cid, Canto 43, 497.

6 Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art, ed. James Hall (New York, 1974) 166.

7 T. D. Kendrick, St. James in Spain (London, 1960) 148.

8 Kendrick, 185.

9 Melczer, 21.

10 Santiago de Compostela continues to draw people from around the world to Spain to embark on a pilgrimage and visit the burial site of this country’s patron saint.

11 Kendrick, 185.

12 Richard Fletcher, The Quest for El Cid (Oxford, 1989) 3-4.

13 Edmund De Chasca, “History and Legend of The Cid,” The Dictionary of the Middle Ages. Vol. 3, ed. Joseph R. Strayer (New York, 1982-89) 387.

14 Poema de mío Cid, Canto 122, 553.

15 De Chasca, 384.

16 Bernard Reilly, The Medieval Spains (Cambridge, 1993) 93.

17 Pope Urban II (1088-99), a Cluniac, preached the First Crusade in 1095, one year after El Cid’s victory over the Muslim taifa state of Valencia. It is possible that the Spanish reconquista inspired Urban to appeal for the defense of Christendom against the infidel Muslims in the East, using El Cid as the prototype of the Christian crusader.

18 Fletcher, The Quest for El Cid, 50.

19 Aside from being a significant tactical victory, Valencia paralleled Santiago’s legendary participation and triumph at Clavijo in importance as a propaganda tool; both battles boosted Spanish Christian soldiers’ morale and confidence in their ability -- with God’s help -- to rid the Iberian peninsula of Muslims.

20 Poema de mío Cid, Canto 74, 512.

21 Melczer, 65-6.

22 Illustrated Dictionary of Symbols in Eastern and Western Art, ed. James Hall, illus. Chris Puleston (New York, 1994) 87-88.

23 Poema de mío Cid, Canto 95, 528.

24 Richard Fletcher, “Reconquest and Crusade in Spain c. 1050-1150,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Fifth Series 37 (1986) 45.

25 Feinberg, 182-83.

26 Colin Smith, The Making of the Poema de mío Cid (Cambridge, 1983) 55.

27 Poema de mío Cid, Canto 83, 521.

Back to the 1996 Table of Contents

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ecumenismo: ebrei e islamici, discendenza di Abramo o figli del demonio?

39 Gli risposero i giudei: «Il nostro padre è Abramo». Rispose Gesù: «Se siete figli di Abramo, fate le opere di Abramo! 40 Ora invece cercate di uccidere me, che vi ho detto la verità udita da Dio; questo, Abramo non l'ha fatto. 41 Voi fate le opere del padre vostro». Gli risposero: «Noi non siamo nati da prostituzione, noi abbiamo un solo Padre, Dio!». 42 Disse loro Gesù: «Se Dio fosse vostro Padre, certo mi amereste, perché da Dio sono uscito e vengo; non sono venuto da me stesso, ma lui mi ha mandato. 43 Perché non comprendete il mio linguaggio? Perché non potete dare ascolto alle mie parole, 44 voi che avete per padre il diavolo, e volete compiere i desideri del padre vostro. Egli è stato omicida fin da principio e non ha perseverato nella verità, perché non vi è verità in lui. Quando dice il falso, parla del suo, perché è menzognero e padre della menzogna. 45 A me, invece, voi non credete, perché dico la verità. 46 Chi di voi può convincermi di peccato? Se dico la verità, perché non mi credete? 47 Chi è da Dio ascolta le parole di Dio: per questo voi non le ascoltate, perché non siete da Dio».

48 Gli risposero i Giudei: «Non diciamo con ragione noi che sei un Samaritano e hai un demonio?». 49 Rispose Gesù: «Io non ho un demonio, ma onoro il Padre mio e voi mi disonorate. 50 Io non cerco la mia gloria; vi è chi la cerca e giudica. 51 In verità, in verità vi dico: se uno osserva la mia parola, non vedrà mai la morte». 52 Gli dissero i Giudei: «Ora sappiamo che hai un demonio. Abramo è morto, come anche i profeti, e tu dici: "Chi osserva la mia parola non conoscerà mai la morte". 53 Sei tu più grande del nostro padre Abramo, che è morto? Anche i profeti sono morti; chi pretendi di essere?». 54 Rispose Gesù: «Se io glorificassi me stesso, la mia gloria non sarebbe nulla; chi mi glorifica è il Padre mio, del quale voi dite: "È nostro Dio!", 55 e non lo conoscete. Io invece lo conosco. E se dicessi che non lo conosco, sarei come voi, un mentitore; ma lo conosco e osservo la sua parola. 56 Abramo, vostro padre, esultò nella speranza di vedere il mio giorno; lo vide e se ne rallegrò». 57 Gli dissero allora i Giudei: «Non hai ancora cinquant'anni e hai visto Abramo?». 58 Rispose loro Gesù: «In verità, in verità vi dico: prima che Abramo fosse, Io Sono». 59 Allora raccolsero pietre per scagliarle contro di lui; ma Gesù si nascose e uscì dal tempio.

Parola di Dio

GV. 39-59

L’Islam réel et l’Islam imaginaire

Par l’abbé Michel Boniface

Cet article fut d’abord publié dans le numéro de juillet-août 2001 de Pour qu’Il règne, la revue de la Fraternité en Belgique. M. l’abbé Boniface, prêtre de la Fraternité actuellement posté au Mexique, est d’origine syrienne, et anciennement de rite araméen. Sa famille vit actuellement en Belgique.

Brigade mulsulmane de l'armée bosniaqueLes autorités civiles et religieuses du monde jadis chrétien se font une dangereuse illusion au sujet de l’islam. Selon eux, il y aurait d’une part un islam bon, ouvert, pacifique, tolérant, et d’autre part l’islam fondamentaliste, intégriste, violent qui serait une falsification de l’islam. Sur quelles preuves s’appuie-t-on pour prétendre cela et imposer cette image à l’opinion publique ?

L’interprétation séculaire du Coran, de la loi islamique, les exemples de la vie de Mahomet, l’histoire des nations islamisées, relèvent malheureusement de l’islam soi-disant fondamentaliste. La volonté de forger une image d’un islam libéral est le fruit d’une philosophie idéaliste qui ne tient pas compte de la réalité. Et la réalité se venge toujours.

Le rôle de l’islam pacifique

L’islam pacifique et ouvert fraie le chemin à l’islam fondamentaliste. Il y a des musulmans réalistes qui, intelligemment, profitent du moment favorable pour implanter l’islam dans les nations déchristianisées. Leur attitude « ouverte » contribue à fortifier l’islam. Leur réalisme les empêche d’exiger que l’islam règne en maître absolu. Les modérés savent cela et leur manière d’agir est très avantageuse pour l’islam. Cependant, ils n’oublient pas que l’islam est par nature théocratique, qu’il régit toute la vie de la cité. Ils savent qu’il n’y a pas de distinction, et encore moins de séparation, entre la religion islamique et l’Etat. Prétendre le contraire, c’est vouloir dénaturer l’islam; c’est imaginer un islam qui n’existe pas réellement.

Les musulmans fondamentalistes

Les musulmans qui prennent leur religion au sérieux et veulent la mettre en pratique telle qu’elle doit l’être, sont traités d’intégristes, de fanatiques ... Cette accusation est injuste car leur manière de voir et souvent d’agir correspond, malheureusement, à la doctrine islamique. Le Coran et la loi islamique les justifient. Que l’on soit en désaccord avec une telle doctrine est tout à fait légitime, mais vouloir fabriquer un islam imaginaire est illégitime et dangereux. Imaginer un islam à l’instar du christianisme, où il y a distinction entre le politique et le religieux, est une illusion supplémentaire, car le Coran lui-même, la tradition islamique, les faits et paroles de Mahomet la contredisent. Le Coran, pour les vrais musulmans, est la norme, la règle, parce qu’il est parole « divine ». Le Coran donc étant parole d’Allah, il doit, par les lois qu’il contient, régir toute la vie sociale et religieuse.

Les musulmans modérés ne nient pas cela. Certains libéraux le nient en pensée. Mais les uns et les autres préparent à long terme le terrain aux musulmans du Coran qui, lorsqu’ils seront forts et que les circonstances seront favorables, exigeront par tous les moyens la mise en application du vrai islam... Alors, nos idéalistes civils et religieux seront étonnés de ce que la réalité ne corresponde pas à l’islam de leur imagination. Alors ils auront peut-être du regret de n’avoir pas christianisé les musulmans qui dans leur immense majorité sont des descendants de chrétiens islamisés par la force, la menace, les lois discriminatoires qui les humiliaient, les brisaient et les acculaient parfois à la misère. Faut-il rappeler que tout le Proche-Orient et l’Afrique du Nord étaient chrétiens ? Ne serait-ce pas les principes gravés dans le Coran, les faits et dits de Mahomet et la loi islamique, imposés par la terreur à tant de nations chrétiennes, qui les ont islamisées ? L’islam intégriste est l’islam véridique, qui met en pratique la doctirne islamique. Le problème n’est pas l’intégrisme islamique, c’est l’islam tout court. L’intégrisme islamique tire ses principes du Coran et de la tradition islamique. L’action des intégristes effraye les ignorants qui ne veulent pas voir que l’islam par nature est conquérant, GUERRIER et non pas grossier. Le meilleur service que nos autorités civiles et religieuses peuvent rendre aux musulmans eux-mêmes et aux chrétiens c’est d’évangéliser les musulmans, de leur communiquer la connaissance et la croyance du Dieu Trinité qui est Charité. Toute autre attitude est une illusion.

Le Coran et la guerre

Les vrais musulmans qui veulent la guerre sainte suivent le Coran. En effet, le djihad est une prescription essentielle de l’islam. Le Coran, sans lequel il n’y aurait pas d’islam, le recommande avec véhémence : « Les vrais croyants disent : Dieu n’a-t-il pas ordonné un chapitre qui ordonne la guerre sainte ? » (Sourate 47 : 22) ou encore : « Tuez les idolâtres partout où vous les trouverez, faites-les prisonniers, assiégez-les et guettez-les dans toute embuscade » (Sourate 9 : 5) et « faites la guerre à ceux qui ne croient pas » (Sourate 9 : 29). « Quand vous rencontrerez les infidèles : tuez-les jusqu’à en faire un grand carnage, et serrez les entraves des captifs que vous aurez faits. Ensuite, ou vous les mettrez en liberté, ou vous les rendrez moyennant rançon » (Sourate 8 : 57). Selon le Coran, un non-musulman est un moins que rien : « Il n’y a point auprès d’Allah d’animaux plus vils que ceux qui ne croient point et restent infidèles » (Sourate 8 : 57). C’est pourquoi il faut les islamiser par la force, en les humiliant. Et ceux qui résistent contre l’islam et son fondateur doivent être châtiés selon le Coran : « Voici quel sera le destin de ceux qui combattent Allah et son envoyé : vous les mettrez à mort ou vous leur ferez subir le supplice de la croix, vous leur couperez les mains et les pieds alternés. Ils seront chassés du pays » (Sourate 5 : 37). Et comme les musulmans sont réalistes, ils tiennent compte des circonstances pour faire une paix temporaire ou la guerre : « Ne montrez pas de lâcheté et n’appelez point les infidèles à la paix quand vous leur êtes supérieurs » (Sourate 47 : 22).

En un mot, le Coran étant la parole d’Allah pour tous les musulmans, il est valable pour tous les temps, pour tous les peuples jusqu’à la fin du monde. Il doit être mis en application selon les indications qu’Allah lui-même donne à ses fidèles. Ceci explique logiquement ce qui se passe au Soudan, en Algérie, et dans de nombreux pays musulmans. Idéaliser l’islam c’est le plus grand tort que l’on puisse faire aux musulmans eux-mêmes. "

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Kosovo tragedy

In early 2001 the world was alarmed by reports that the Afghani Talibs destroyed the gigantic statures of Buddha, unique monuments of ancient culture. At that time the topic of prostrate sculptures firmed up in the headlines of major newspapers and news reports from leading TV networks. Almost unnoticed against this background was another tragedy, which had begun a little earlier and continues to this day, namely, the destruction of monasteries and churches in Kosovo.

It did not happen in a remote country where the Talibs exercised complete sway, it, the crucifixion of Kosovo, was taking place in the very center of Europe, before the very eyes of peacemakers from the most developed countries. The Albanian extremists were finishing now what they had no time to complete during World War II. According to the data from the Serbian Orthodox Church, nearly 150 churches and monasteries have been destroyed for the last five years in Kosovo and Metochia, the cradle of Serbian Orthodoxy.

It was not just cultural monuments or sacred things that were destroyed. What was profaned was the very soul of a nation with rich traditions and an outstanding fate, a nation which helped to liberate Europe from fascism 60 years ago, sacrificing to the Victory about a million of its people.

According to many experts, Kosovo today has been turned into a breeding-ground of terrorism for the whole of Europe, a transfer point for drug dealers. Only a few surviving churches and the ruins of the churches which had no chance to survive the new barbaric times stand as tacit reminders of the past of that land.

The Religion portal, together with the Foundation of St. Andrew the First-Called, publishes a gallery of Kosovo churches as they were before the destruction and as they are now. Perhaps these pictures, more eloquently than any words, relate the tragedy of one of the largest European nations, which, strangely, was bypassed by world news reports.

Source: Interfax - Relgion - Kosovo

Absolute MUST-Read: The Destruction of the Christian Kosovo

Video shows Muslims desecrating a Serbian church in Kosovo - 25.02.2008

The video shows Muslim soldiers as they desecrate a Serbian Church. They obviously enjoy destroying pictures of saints, throwing around church benches, and spraying the Cross with machine gun fire. Can we think that with such images that Kosovo is truly "free"? This all happened not more than 1000 km away from us at the heart of Europe. We pray that these images remain the exception and do not become daily life for Christians in Kosovo. Additionally, the question is to what extent religions are an escape valve for a political anger, or are used for this purpose? (Source: