Monday, January 25, 2016

Christian Arabic Summer Course in NJ

Beth Mardutho in Piscataway, NJ has expanded its Syriac summer courses to include a course on Christian Arabic:

 Christian Arabic (July 11-22, 2016, 9 AM - 1 PM). Instructor: Alexander (Sasha) Treiger
The course will introduce students to Christian literature in Arabic written from the eighth century to the present. Students attending this course must be able to read Modern Standard Arabic and Classical Arabic. The readings will cover select genres of Christian literature in Arabic: biblical and patristic translations, apologetic and polemical literature, lives of the saints, and world chronicles. Select texts will be read in printed editions (whenever available) and in manuscripts. Additionally, the course will offer a general survey of Middle Eastern Christianity, its ecclesiastical, ethnic, and linguistic divisions, and Christian Arabic Studies as a field of research.

For more information, click here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Fr Georges Massouh: The Syrian Hell

Arabic original here.

The Syrian Hell

The crimes that are being committed in Syria have surpassed any atrocities and horrors that the human mind might anticipate. There is no doubt that in our miserable Middle East we have become accustomed to this reality that is pulling us down to the pit of hell. Here is the great atrocity, that we accept what is occurring and go on with our daily life as though nothing is happening-- indeed, we justify what is happening because it is a defense of matters of fate or a war against terrorism. Again and again, it is as though there are those who want to convince us that terror is eliminated by an opposing terror.

The fertile minds of artists, writers and poets have invented depictions of hell on their canvases and in their writings. Likewise, religious texts have given a terrifying description of hell, its fire, its worms and its serpents. Icon-painters and muralists have depicted hell and its unbearable torments. But there is no one whose imagination has reached the level of creativity in depicting hell that has been achieved by the criminals in Syria, coming from every direction, in order to make Syria-- in fact and not in the imagination-- into a real hell surpassing any imagined hell.

We would not have reached this hell had we not accepted the atrocities that were committed over the years. What is happening today is the result of years of our being silent about the crimes of dictatorial regimes and totalitarian parties, whether "secular", "religious" or "sectarian". It is the result of years of turning a blind eye to wars launched in the name of God, in the name of shari'a, or in the name of defending this or that minority. All of us are participants in fueling this raging hell.

We would not have reached this hell had we not justified acts of slaughter, massacres, forced expulsion and barrel-bombing... Someone who becomes accustomed to justifying one crime becomes accustomed to justifying all crimes. We have become addicted to crime. We have become without feeling. Sin, as it is defined by one of the fathers of the Eastern Church, Saint Isaac the Syrian (7th century), is "a lack of feeling." Here also the words of Saint Ambrose of Milan (d. 397) come to us: "He who is silent about supporting the oppressed is a partner with the oppressor."

How can someone who prays, fasts and remembers God every day remain silent-- not to say complicit-- when he sees people before him dying of hunger? "Have you considered him who denies the Judgement? It is he who drives away the orphan, who enjoins not the feeding of the poor.
 Woe to those who pray, but who are negligent in their prayer; who dissemble, and withhold liberality" (Surat al-Ma'un).

Hell has come to us. We do not need to wait for the end of the world in order to go there. We have dragged it here before its time. It was within our power, had we so desired, to bring paradise to our present world and not to have to wait for it to come on the last day. We preferred hell to paradise. Here we are devoured by flames. We are destroyed by hunger. The cold shakes us and oppression puts us to death...

We have seen walking skeletons, wavering between life and death. We have seen fleshless skeletons wrapped in dry skin. We have seen skeletons with bulging eyes that refuse to die, carrying a glimmer of hope. This burning coal of light will bring life back to those bones before they become cadavers. No one can extinguish the bright flash in those eyes that long for life. Those eyes will extinguish the blazes of the Syrian hell.