The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas 2011

Over the past week or so I've come across several news stories, most related to Christmas, that I decided might be of interest to those who read this blog. I found these stories intriguing because they span the globe and don't really form a cohesive whole or obvious pattern. The events described depict our world in all its often contradictory strangeness, and show us how ill-advised it can be to draw general conclusions from single events. I'll refrain from making too many editorial comments and will let the stories speak or themselves, letting you draw your own conclusions.

Indonesia. Members of a number of Muslim groups attended Christmas Masses in Catholic churches and services in Protestant churches in an effort to discourage attacks by Islamic terrorists who have targeted these churches in the past. 1,500 members of one of these groups, the Muslim United Organization, actually patrolled Christian churches to protect them from attack. The result for Indonesian Christians was one of the most peaceful Christmas seasons in recent years. To read more: Muslim commitment ensures peaceful Christmas

Bethlehem and Gaza. This is the story of two Christmases, one in Bethlehem, a city in Israel governed by the secular Fatah of the Palestinian National Authority, and the other in Gaza, ruled by Hamas. This Christmas in Bethlehem, over 100,000 Christians from across the globe celebrated Christmas, worshiping the newborn Jesus in Manger Square. For Fatah Christmas is a real money-maker, and they also must accept that large numbers of Arab Christians still live in Bethlehem. But in Gaza, where all is controlled by the Hamas Islamist terrorists, there were no Christmas celebrations by the Christians living there. They know better. Any public display of their Christian faith can have dire consequences. Even the UK's leftist, pro-Palestinian Guardian found the plight of Gaza Christians worth addressing: Hamas cancels Christmas. To read more on the difference between these two celebrations: Bethlehem and Gaza

USA and Canada. From Toronto to Florida it's apparently become an "in thing" to steal the Baby Jesus from nativity scenes. The thieves seem to be interested only in the Baby Jesus and generally do not take the other statues in the nativity scenes. Although I have my suspicions, I won't hazard any guesses as to the motives behind these odd thefts and will let you decide for yourselves. Read more here: Baby Jesus thefts

Nigeria.  For the second straight year, Islamist terrorist have attacked Catholic churches in Nigeria at Christmas. This year 39 people were killed in the attacks; last year 32 were killed. And each year dozens more have been seriously injured. The group responsible for the attacks, Boko Haram, has as its goal the institution of Sharia Law throughout Nigeria. According to their spokesman, "There will never be peace until our demands are met. We want all our brothers who have been incarcerated to be released; we want full implementation of the Sharia system and we want democracy and the constitution to be suspended." I suspect such a group is not likely to engage in meaningful negotiation. To read more: Church attacks in Nigeria

Boston. The famed MBTA, Boston's subway authority, donned a Scrooge suit on Christmas night instead of the traditional "gay apparel", and reprimanded one of their dispatchers for programming the lyrics to "Deck the Halls" on the Park Street LED sign that normally displays only the date and time. Apparently the authority's authorities considered any display of Christmas spirit in the bleak underground world of the MBTA to be undesirable. Passengers, however, seem to disagree. Speaking of the cheery sign, one rider, Miriam Monlisa Gharavi, stated, “'s probably one of the best things they’ve ever done. I can’t remember the last time the T made somebody smile.” To read more: MBTA Scrooges dispatcher

Vatican City. Pope Benedict XVI, in his final general audience of 2011, urged the faithful to focus on the truth and reality of Christmas and not so much on the often distracting externals. In his words, "Christmas greetings, which are exchanged in these days, must not lose their religious significance in today's society and the celebration must not be absorbed by external aspects that touch the heartstrings. Certainly, the external symbols are beautiful and important, provided they do not distract us, but rather help us to experience Christmas in its truest sense, which is sacred and Christian, so that our joy is not superficial but profound." The pope added, "Today - every day - we are invited to discover the presence of God's saving love in our midst. In the birth of Jesus, God comes to us and asks us to receive him, so that he can be born in our lives and transform them, and our world, by the power of his love. The Christmas liturgy also invites us to contemplate Christ's birth against the backdrop of his paschal mystery. Christmas points beyond itself, to the redemption won for us on the Cross and the glory of the Resurrection. May this Christmas fill you with joy in the knowledge that God has drawn near to us and is with us at every moment of our lives." To read his entire address: Papal Audience

Bangladesh. An interesting effort undertaken by a Buddhist has resulted in the construction of a hostel for that welcomes orphaned, abandoned and disabled tribal children, Buddhist and Christian, with the aim of educating them so they will have a significant impact on the future of the nation. Joined by several of his colleagues, the founder, Mong Yeo Marma, who spent much of his own childhood in an orphanage, has already built a Christian chapel and a Buddhist temple on the grounds of Hill Child Home. According to Mong Yeo, "This sense of frustration is something you carry inside you from when you are small. This is why this hostel is so important. It provides opportunities for these kids to grow up in an environment where they feel welcome and accepted for who they are, where they can explore, discover and develop their talents, to learn respect for and the value of women. Even the tribal children are the future of this country and education plays a fundamental role. Only when the entire population is educated, can there be a real development of the state. Education is the cornerstone of a nation." To read more: Bangladesh hostel

Yes, it's a strange, unpredictable world. Thank God for God, and the power of His love.

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