Wednesday, December 28, 2005


by Shirley W. Madany

When it comes to robust health and communicable diseases we have made great strides. Young families are no longer faced with the threat of measles, chicken pox, mumps and polio, or the dreaded small pox. We are insistent on the use of immunization at an early age. Flu epidemics may still make inroads on school populations but the elderly are encouraged and offered suitable “shots” each fall to ward off whatever ‘flu virus may be expected. Good health is guarded by careful preventative measures. But how much thought do we give to building up our spiritual immunity against false doctrine, apathy or false religions? Right away the newly sensitive American would exclaim that such concepts are definitely not appropriate for a good American. Tolerance, in the form of excessive political correctness, has made us hesitant to have any strong dogmatic viewpoints.

We have a classic example in history of a once-thriving Christian population that completely disappeared. This was the community in North Africa that produced the church father, Augustine. The epidemic that destroyed every vestige of Christianity, was not biological, but spiritual. Church historians diagnose that quite probably the Christians in that region were in a weakened state, from heresies and from the battering they had received at the hands of the Vandals. When Islam in its infancy swept relentlessly across those desert lands, it met with little resistance. One after another, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco became Islamic countries. And the wave did not stop until Islam dominated all of Spain.

As we look around us today we would have to be blind not to read the signs of the times in the sad decline of Christianity in both Western Europe and the United Kingdom. And at the same time we are becoming more and more aware of the vigor of the new immigrants who are settling firmly in all these lands. It is no coincidence that they are from neighboring Islamic countries. And it is obvious they have a definite agenda—to promote the spread of Islam. Spain and France have predominantly North African workers coming from across the Mediterranean. Germany has a very large Turkish population. Britain has a mixture of Muslims from her former colonies, with a large number being Pakistanis.

Splendid cathedrals and humble churches are witnessing a decline in attendance. Writers tell us that we have entered a “post-Christian” era. Christianity that once flourished in Tunisia is now relegated to archeological ruins and museums. Are we going to witness the same thing happening again? Will more and more churches be turned into mosques?

These are challenging times for Christian families. How can we survive spiritually once we are weakened by our pagan environment? Certainly that is a legitimate way to describe our secular world. Television and Internet bring unwelcome people, situations and events into Christian homes. Movies have progressed (or regressed) to being art forms guided by philosophies, which play a part in the breakdown of Christian life. Permissive lifestyles are making themselves more and more “acceptable”. It is indeed difficult to maintain a healthy Christian walk through life.

There is a hymn that was popular in the 1950’s but is seldom heard any more. “We’ve a story to tell to the nations,..a song to be sung…a message to give….a Saviour to show—to the nations.” The chorus ends “And Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth, the kingdom of love and light.” How can we regain this vigor? That seems to be the question. We have watchmen on the towers, and we have just as much access to the scope of the Internet as the Muslims do, but we seem to be lacking direction and leadership.

Have you ever heard of the III&E? It stands for “The Institute of Islamic Information and Education”, operating out of Chicago, IL. Quoting from material received in 1994 we read: “The III&E has only one goal, that is, to educate the American people about Islam and Muslims and do it fast.” Some of their goals: “To remove the mis-information, mis-understanding, mis-perception, and mis-apprehensions about Islam and Muslims in American textbooks, media and the minds of the North American people.” Considering the 2-½ hour PBS special, “Islam: Empire of Faith” which is being frequently rerun and which shows a glorious Islam with its bad parts glossed over; and now an alarming new textbook, which must go beyond their wildest aspirations, one has to admire their achievement of so many goals within 8 years time.

Daniel Pipes, ( one of the most prolific writers on the Internet, has the clearest and most relevant response to daily events. He has brought everyone’s attention, on February 11th, to something that has been bothering Christian parents greatly, who have children in Grade 7 Public Schools and who are using a new Houghton Mifflin text book called “Across the Centuries.” It would appear that as part of their studies the children are being given an in depth introduction to the religion of Islam. They are urged to “think like a Muslim.” Now, if they had sufficient immunity that would be a good thing, but what accentuates our problem is our blissful apathy and lack of knowledge about this mammoth religion. Thousands of people
may not even be aware that it is a threat to our very way of life.

But back to Grade 7 and that new textbook. Students are learning about an Islam that is described in glowing terms. They are given assignments which may lead them to write about going to Mecca on the hadj – to write about what countries they would have to travel through, etc. Or another assignment was to write a journal as if you were a Muslim soldier on your way to conquer Syria (one of the first countries into which Islam expanded). The textbook endorses the key articles of the Islamic faith—can you imagine Christianity being given such an opening? It is becoming more and more obvious that people in areas of leadership are hesitant to even use the words Jesus Christ.

Now back to a declaration printed by the III&E in February 1994. You can quickly find this organization on the Internet. Reading from their web pages you will have to agree that they are progressing well in their aims. Other goals were “to take the message of Islam to the entire North American population by the year 2012, to educate and train new Muslims and help them to integrate into the Muslim community at large, to recruit and train manpower to carry out the above task, and to raise money and necessary material resources to complete the above task.” Already we see this powerful religion being put on an equal footing with Christianity and Judaism. In actual fact, we see Islam being given a preferred spot.

Islam is on the march. World conquest is a natural part of the Islamic thrust. Already it is the third religion in many European countries. In France it is the second. Mosques and cultural centers are appearing at an alarming rate. Not everyone realizes that in Islam the mosque is not just another word for church. With Islam state and religion are one.

In spite of, or because of, the tragedy of September 11th, the Muslims are proclaiming loudly that they are seeing an increasing number of Americans converting to Islam. These converts are finding the legalistic approach to life attractive. They see also a devotion and daring which is sadly absent from the average Christian community. Another challenge for us. Certainly our young people should learn more about Islam but not through the role-playing suggested by that particular textbook.

In fact, we all need to be prepared to answer for our faith. Empty churches are just the first ominous sign. For our own immunity the most important step will be our determination to seek the Lord for strength to live consistent Christian lives. How we need to “put on the whole armor of God!” When a church loses its zeal for the truth, the signs of weakening show first in the lives of its people. What must a Muslim immigrant think of our nations’s Christianity? Our lives have to exhibit an obedience to the Word of God and His commands. We will have to take a stand against all the ways in which the pagan world batters at our family’s door. Our actions should demonstrate a deep reverence for God and a desire for sanctification. It is possible, with the help of God; to live healthy Christian lives in the midst of a sick society.

Friday, December 16, 2005

More from The Mesopotamian blog site

December 15, 2005

Today was a tremendous moment of our history, a turning point and a real milestone. Say what you like; things are not perfect; there are countless problems; the “insurgency” is not going to disappear; the reconstruction effort is in shambles; there is corruption and thieving everywhere; errors and mistakes in everything. Yet despite all that, the political process is proceeding like a dream and the tree of freedom is taking roots, and that tree will continue to grow and grow and grow. The Iraqis are again confounding all the "pundits" and "experts". But some just cannot understand the true soul of a people. That this most profound revolution initiated by an act of liberation, by the daring praxis of the Americans, driven by some mysterious hand of the Providence, has touched the innermost womb of a nation, and that the present agonies of this nation are those of giving birth and new life. Oh no, that they cannot understand.

Well then, let them witness surprise after nasty surprise that will confound their logic and demolish their arguments. But the word mongers will always find something to say, as wild dogs are always wont to bark all the more hysterically as they are irked.The word of truth has a life of its own; it seems to perpetuate itself and spread in the consciousness and subconscious of peoples and generations like some incurable virus, that may remain dormant for a while but will manifest itself in the most dramatic way sooner or later.

Here is the outspoken view of an Iraqi, regarding the tremendous success of yesterday's election. It needs no further comment.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The St. Francis Internet Magazine

We would like to introduce you to a new Internet Magazine which we heartily recommend.
You will find it at In the current issue you will be able to find 7 new articles--even a complete MA Thesis--on topics that are of interest to anyone with an interest in Christian mission and the Arab world.

The following is what you will find in the December edition:

Challenges for Christian Theology in the Middle East by Dr. Bernhard Reitsma. Dr. Bernhard Reitsma argues that in the context of the Middle East, Christian theologians must be completely at home in the doctrine of Christ and the Trinity. He then treats some of the issues that are involved in this, and he argues for the need for a good pneumatology and a good theology about Israel. Tolle et lege!

Trinity and Christian Missions to Muslims by Rev. Bassam M. Madany. Rev. Bassam M. Madany argues that the doctrine of the Trinity is crucial to the life and health of the church as well as to Christian missions. This doctrine does not stand by itself, but forms an integral part of the Biblical revelation regarding God and His relationship with mankind.

The Jewishness of Jesus: Relevant of Essential? By Dr. Bernhard Reitsma. Dr. Bernhard Reitsma treats the Jewishness of Jesus in his article The Jewishness of Jesus: Relevant or Essential? No mission worker in the Arab World can doubt the importance of this matter and Reitsma's article, written in the context of his own work in Lebanon, is important.

Re-thinking Missions Today: Neo-Evangelical Missiology and the Christian Mission to Islam by Rev. Bassam M. Madany. Rev. Bassam M. Madany is a critic of far-going efforts at contextualization. His article Re-thinking Missions Today: Neo-Evangelical Missiology and the Christian Mission to Islam was written in 1985, but it is as relevant today as it was then. As Madany was the main Christian radio broadcaster from the 1960s to the 1990s, his views are important.

The Cross of Middle Eastern Christians by Daniel Hoffman. This article is written by Daniel Hoffman, the director of Middle East Concern (MEC). It was his Masters Thesis about the human rights situation of Christians in Syria, Libya and Sudan. Can mission workers ignore human rights issues?

Emigration: A Solution for Persecution?By Middle East Concern (MEC) . Middle East Concern (MEC) wrote this paper which argues that emigration is not a solution for converts from Islam, and instead gives three suggestions for how to help new Christians to survive and prosper in the Arab World.

The Missional Church by Don Golden. Don Golden of World Relief wrote The Missional Church. It underlines the need for church and mission to be united. They cannot be separated. Golden's article is worthwhile considering - many missionaries in the Arab World act as if they work isolated from the worldwide church, the historic church, and even from the national churches in the Arab World. This article was first published on A site full of relevant articles.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Translation of the Bible

When proclaiming the Biblical Gospel or teaching the contents of the Word of God to Muslims, one cannot ignore the baggage that Muslims bring to their hearing of the Bible in Arabic, or in any other Islamic language. Needless to mention that Muslims believe in the Qur’an as the final revelation of God to man, that it abrogates previous revelations, and that the Scriptures of the OT & NT have been corrupted prior to the rise of Islam.

The Christian messenger must do his utmost not to add any more difficulties, in his endeavor to bring the saving Word of God to Muslims. This is why, as a matter of principle, I do not favor having many translations of the Bible into Arabic, or any other Islamic language.
Let me be specific. Arabic is a living and changing language. I have personally compiled a list of the new Arabic vocabulary that I had not known or heard prior to 1950. Every time I look at Asharq al-Awsat or Assafir Newspapers, or the digital contents of BBC Arabic, I discover (now in 2005) new Arabic words. But, this does not mean that the language is of such a nature that ‘older’ Arabic cannot be deciphered by contemporary Arabs. Why? Because Arabic is based on the Qur’an. This document plays a very significant role in the life of all-Arabic speaking people, regardless of their religious affiliation. Arabic is tied to the Qur’an much more than English is related to the AV or to Shakespeare. Thus, the necessity for revision is much less needed than in Western languages.

One must always remember that any revision of an existing Arabic Bible is very confusing to Arabic-speaking Muslims. They cannot help but ask: why do you keep revising the Bible? We can and do read and understand the great books that were produced during the revival of Classical Arabic and Arab culture in the 19th Century; so why should the 1865 version of the Arabic Bible need revision?

But even a more serious reason for my refusing to believe in the need for new and newer versions of the Bible in Arabic is theological. I may be here stepping on dangerous grounds. The pioneers who worked on the translation of the Bible in the 19th Century were churchmen, and operated within confessional contexts. They adhered to the early Ecumenical Creeds and to the Reformed Catechisms and Confessions of Faith. They believed that that Reformation was a reforming movement within the Church, and that reformation can be achieved by turning to the Word of God. They had not rejected the Apostolic Tradition. They were not innovators, but reformers.

Part of being Confessionally Protestant (whether Lutheran or Reformed) is to believe that the primary means of grace is the preaching of the Word of God. See Romans 10 and I Corinthians 1 & 2. While emphasizing the importance of the written text of the Bible, the Reformers, and the denominational missionaries after them, believed that missions needed much more than a Bible translation. A.A. Hodge’s book on Systematic Theology was translated, and a great project of OT & NT commentaries was initiated. The Psalter was translated and we sang it in a beautiful Arabic poetic style.

If you would like to read the rest of this article please go to our web site and open up the new category of "Missiology".

Our web site is undergoing some changes which will make it easier to pursue certain subjects like Missiology, Theology, Islamics, etc. >

Posted by SWM

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Iraq in 1992

Letter from an Iraqi Refugee

An unforgettable letter from a northern Iraqi refugee reached us in November 1992 from Stockholm, Sweden: These letters demonstrate movingly how our daily radio broadcast enabled us to minister to people in transit through many countries, from Iraq to Sweden. We were a link with their past when they had listened to us in their home back in Irbil, Iraq..
“I have heard your voice for years—in Iraq, my homeland, then in Iran, next in Jordan and now here in Sweden. I am thrilled to be able to hear you. At last I can ask for and hope to receive all of your books.”
The following February, 1993, we received another longer letter which described and enlarged upon his first rather terse communication:
Dear Rev. Bassam Madany,
Greetings! I have just received your beautiful book, THE TEACHINGS OF THE HOLY BIBLE. I was so happy to get it and express my deep thanks. The books you are sending me are the only means of comfort in this land of refuge. Both my children and their mother are at present far away from me in another land of refuge. This forced separation took place around a year ago. I am now waiting on the Swedish authorities to bring the union of my family. Both my wife and my children are in an extreme need to be reunited with me and to find a better future.
We left our native land in northern Iraq around two years ago, exactly on 31st March, 1991. We were celebrating the first day of Easter. We dressed up for the occasion and went to church in our city of Irbil; I, my wife and three children accompanied by my aged mother and my older sister. We had left at home all the special food of Easter: colored eggs, stuffed chicken and many other of the nice things of our land.
Yes, we left for church at dawn as was our custom, and we never went back home. We were attacked (by Saddam Hussein’s army—this is a Kurdish area) and found ourselves fleeing on foot without food or drink. Finally we made it to Iran after a long march which took eight days over the Kurdistan mountains and valleys with snow and rain falling on us. The Iraqi army was following us with its huge guns and its air power. My story is very, very long. In fact, we experienced what the Lord mentioned in the Gospel:
“Let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak.” Matthew 24: 16-18
We left everything behind, and headed for the mountains. Our faith was strong that we were going to make it, having had communion early in the morning prior to the army’s attack. Would you believe it? They attacked us on that Holy Day in a beastly manner with their tanks, their airplanes and other weapons of destruction.
Please forgive me for these words. I just happened to remember those days and could no longer control my nerves and so had to express myself in this fashion. I will write again.

August 1993: Thanks for the three books you sent me which have become my constant companions. The Lord has listened to my prayers and yours. My family arrived recently from Jordan and they are all well. To God alone be the praise!

For more news about that radio ministry check our website

Posted by Shirley

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

"The American People" according to Lehrer and Shields

By Winnifred Thomas

“For more than three decades, Iraq’s life was sheer and limitless terror” Fouad Ajami

“Thus media attention is a whole weapon in itself, and the main one from the view point of this terrorist group, and this subject should be a matter of primary consideration to strategists and planners of the War.” The Mesopotamian blogger.

After years of habitual listening to Jim Lehrer and his news report, one finds oneself weary of Jim’s plaintive and repetitive search for the correct answer from each interviewee, and just about ready to quit the habit. Lehrer’s questions are often phrased this way: “Considering the terrible results, you don’t think that going into Iraq was a mistake?” There is always that surprise and anxiety in the inflections of his voice. He is waiting for the fish to take the bait and then he will reel him in. (He seldom says “don’t you think” – it is rather phrased “you don’t think” as if putting the person on the spot.)

In this past week, Lehrer had both Sen. John McCain and Gen. Peter Pace on his show for in-depth interviews. He tried his best to trip them up.

Meanwhile on Veterans Day we had been fortunate enough to hear our President’s stirring speech to a group of Veterans in Pennsylvania. At last he bluntly attacked his opponents and declared that they could criticize his conduct of the war, that was their right; but he considered their recent attempts to rewrite history to be akin to treason. He pointed out various individual approvals and comments made in both Senate and the House at the time we entered the war with Iraq. Because he made some similar remarks on his way to Asia, a few days later, our biased media declared that the controversy was “escalating!”

John McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona, had just given a speech in Washington on how the United States can, and should win the war in Iraq. Lehrer asked McCain if he “bought” the idea that the invasion and occupation of Iraq has created more terrorists than it destroyed. McCain said that he did not buy that theory. In fact he thought that the war in Iraq was more important than the Vietnam War. The astonished Lehrer echoed his words with horror and surprise in his inflection: “More important than Vietnam. In what way?” McCain then went on to explain the very different enemy.

Lehrer had one more try before letting his victim go: “You know as well as anyone what the opinion polls show about the American people’s feelings about the whole Iraq enterprise at this point. They are down on it, and they are losing support for it. What’s the cause of that? Why don’t they get it, what you just said?”

He got a typical politician’s answer for that. But we could insert our own. What American people is he talking about? What kind of genuine polls are being used? Why hasn’t the media reported all the success and real progress being made in Iraq? If anything is being manipulated, it is our own public opinion and that by a mainline media which cannot be trusted.

One last question to McCain: “Do you believe that the costs thus far in lives and money and prestige …have been worth this going into Iraq?” McCain hedged but did say that if we hadn’t gone in and removed Saddam Hussein, he would have been acquiring all those dreaded weapons and using them on his neighbors, in the same way he used them on his own people. Here came the last plaintive gasp of Jim Lehrer: “So you have no second thoughts at all about the wisdom of going to war?” McCain admitted to lots of second thoughts when a soldier’s life is lost. But he didn’t say we shouldn’t have gone.”

Now for General Peter Pace, the newly appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In this interview you got the crisp straight-forward answers of a life-time Marine. He managed to turn one of the first questions into a mini-lecture to Mr. Lehrer that “I truly believe that we do not want the American public or anybody else watching this broadcast to start counting bodies.” Lehrer was inclined to argue about that, as if the military had been quick to say how many insurgents or army men had been killed. Pace replied: “No. I am saying that anyone who, in the past, has been counting bodies has been presenting the wrong measure of success. The correct measure of success is how much of this country, how much of Iraq is being controlled by coalition forces to include, and most importantly to include the Iraqi armed forces themselves, how much security is being provided and it’s not about death counts. It’s about defining security so that the Iraqi people can live in freedom.”

Lehrer quickly switched to the matter of the insurgency and its strength. Pace replied: “The insurgents fear the fact the Iraqis will be able to pick their own future. So when I say that, no, to your question about how they are getting stronger, I believe they are not because of the elections—because the 64 percent of the Iraqi populous went and voted; because 210,000 Iraqis now serve in their armed forces and their police.”

So Lehrer then asked if it was just a matter of time and Pace replied: “I absolutely believe that, yes.

Every Friday night on PBS stations, there would be a summary of the week’s news dealt with by Mark Shields and David Brooks. We would then have to suffer through the mock indignation of Mr. Shields as he time and time again brought up with strangled voice the dreadful facts of “no WMDs”, Jim, we went in there and they told us untruths. We didn’t find any weapons of mass destruction. We have been deceived. It was all a big lie,” etc., etc., ad infinatum.

How one wishes that these two old friends, Jim and Mark, could be given copies of Kenan Makiyah’s “Republic of Fear” to read. Or that they could develop a taste for the numerous fine articles of Fouad Ajami, who teaches International Relations at Johns Hopkins University. They don’t seem to have a glimmer of feeling for the Iraqi people themselves and for their excitement over the success of both elections. In an article which appeared in the Wall Street Journal on September 28, 2005, Ajami remarked:
“For more than three decades, Iraq’s life was sheer and limitless terror.” He speaks out loud and clear for the Shi-ites in the south and the Kurds in the northern part of Iraq. “An edifice of Arab nationalism built by strange bedfellows—the Sunni political and bureaucratic elites, and the Christian Arab pundits who abetted them in the idle hope they would be spared the wrath of the street and of the mob—was overturned in Iraq.”

He imagines what it would have been like if oil had been located in Sunni provinces.

“They would have disowned both north and south and opted for a smaller world of their own and defended it with the sword. But this was not to be, and their war is the panic of a community that fears that it could be left with a realm of ‘gravel and sand.’”

“The claim that our war in Iraq, after the sacrifices, will have hatched a Shiite theocracy is a smear on the war, a misreading of the Shiite world of Iraq…..The new order shall give them what they want, a place in Iraq’s cultural and moral order, and a decent separation between religion and the compromises of political life.”

Fouad Ajami ends this article, which was called “Heart of Darkness,” with these words:

“It has not been easy, this expedition to Iraq, and for America in Iraq there has been heartbreak aplenty. But we ought to remember the furies that took us there and we ought to be consoled by the thought that the fight is a fight to ward off Arab dangers and troubles that came our way on a clear September morning, four years ago.”

By the way, Dr. Fouad Ajami who was born in Lebanon, and received most of his education in his native land, speaks now as an Arab-American.

If you look up the November 3rd blog from Baghdad, you will get something to think about: Summing up his talk about the media and about Al Jazeera television station in Qatar, our grateful friend says:

“What is paradoxical, is that the regime behind this outlet claims to be the most faithful ally and friend of the U.S. to whom it owes its prosperity and security especially in the face of historical claims by Saudi Arabia, and often makes very friendly gestures towards Israel, and where the biggest American military base is located housing the command of American forces in the entire region (Siliya, Qatar). To western people who do not understand the M.E., this may sound very strange. The answer however is very simple: Sectarian prejudice, i.e. the pathological hatred of the Shiaa sect, which is the majority in only one Arab country, which is Iraq. Indeed, the only Sunnis who are inclined to be more tolerant towards the Shiaa’s are the Iraqi Sunnis, especially in cities, having lived side by side for many centuries. Thus the fury of the Arabs and other Moslems against the Americans is not because they invaded and occupied Iraq, but because as a result of this action and the fall of the Saddam regime, the Shiaas have become liberated and acquired a louder voice. This by the way is also the main factor fanning the “insurrection” and terrorism in Iraq, a fact which is publicly proclaimed by people like Zarqawi. Thus, the development of representative democracy with the Iraqi Sunnis taking their rightful place is the real antidote to these stupid prejudices. This is the hope of all patriotic Iraqis of all sects and the final happy outcome that we are all praying and working for."

How could anyone think it has been a mistake to liberate 26 million people? And who else could have done it? Freedom has always been a costly commodity. We, ourselves, have enjoyed peaceful lives thanks to the sacrifices made in World War II.

I would like to think that there is a strong core of patriotic Americans who aren’t ashamed of their love of country. Every time the media talk about the “American People”in this negative way, I want to say – that’s not the group of people I know.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Thyroid/Lung Cancer: Treatment with Radio Active Iodine I 131

by Shirley W. Madany

Talking with a nurse at the Cancer Center of Ingalls Hospital, Harvey, IL, where I was having a follow-up visit with the radiation oncologist Dr. Sharkar Sanwalani, we got around to what I thought were possible symptoms earlier in this year (2005). One always looks back to see if there weren’t some signs. She suggested that I write an article for a magazine or our blog site, as it is a subject which interests everyone. I know, myself, that ever since being diagnosed with cancer I have had an avid interest in the entire subject.

After having a CAT Scan because of some irregularities noticed on an X ray, I received a phone call from my doctor the following day. I should see a pulmonologist right away. I got an appointment and we were shown the results. There were visible nodules on both lungs. I should have the more intensive PET Scan right away and a lung biopsy at the hospital the following day. Another sober phone call, again on a Friday. There was no doubt about it. I should find an oncologist and go on from there. It was definitely cancer.

Dr. Mark Kozloff was recommended as oncologist. And that first phone call to make an appointment with him, gave an inkling of a very different kind of doctor. The receptionist said, “Hold on, he’ll want to speak to you”. That was a surprise. His words were a surprise also: “As you have to wait a week to see me, please call if you have any emotional problems during the week.” At our first meeting he explained that he always takes phone call from his patients immediately, so one accepts the inevitable interruption during an appointment, because that is how he operates.

Next I phoned our Pastor to tell him the sober news. I will always remember his words: “Shirley, you know that God is not surprised.” How true. Think about it. From the minute I heard I had cancer I had experienced a remarkable gift of peace. Like most new cancer patients I also had that acute sense of the shortness of life and a wish to tidy up loose ends. I saw my life taking a turn down an unknown and unexpected road, but not for one minute did I think that I had strayed from following Jesus This was all part of God’s will and God’s plan for my life..

Thus began a remarkable summer punctuated with appointments and tests. Sometimes things seemed to be moving too slowly but our doctor son urged patience, because when cancer appears in two locations it is absolutely imperative to locate the “starter”. Once that was finalized the cancer would henceforth go by that name. The lung biopsy gave definite results. The next thing then was an ultra-sound and biopsy of the thyroid.
After carefully studying the two sets of cancer tissues Dr. Mark Kozloff announced “If you have to have cancer, then I have good news for you. You don’t have lung cancer but rather thyroid cancer and that makes you eligible for targeted therapy, Radio Active Iodine!”

Before describing my adventures in the nuclear field of medicine let me go back to those supposed symptoms.

For months I had been extremely bothered by excess phlegm which made me almost lose my voice each evening and caused all kinds of coughing and clearing of the throat in order to answer the phone let alone carry on a conversation. About March a friend noticed that I was “wheezing”. I could feel it and hear it myself. So, I begged my primary care doctor to think of a solution to what I called a “condition”. He recommended that we try allergies first and I did get some relief from the product Zyrtec. However, he wanted me to see a specialist and it was then that I totally failed my first experience with a spirometer. I simply couldn’t exhale properly. The allergist said he was going to recommend that I see a pulmonologist because I obviously had an obstruction in my lungs. He ordered an X ray and the rest of the story followed when the X ray showed irregularities and a CAT Scan was prescribed.

Searching the Internet, I found that coughing and wheezing could be signals of cancer. And I regretted that the annual X ray had gone out of style. It was just fortunate that I had recently had a chest X ray prior to cataract surgery. Thus it was possible to compare and see that something was not right in the lungs.

It seemed another blip in the road when I didn’t qualify for a full-body Thyroid Scan. Dr. Kozloff suggested that we go the route of surgery immediately. By August 25th I was having thyroid surgery and recovering very quickly. A mass was found attached to one nodule and removed and most of the thyroid removed as well, with the comment from the doctor that he wondered how I had been swallowing all this time. The trachea had been displaced considerably.

Finally by September 19th I was given that full-body thyroid scan. It proved positively that the diagnosis of thyroid throughout the two areas was correct. I was ready to have the exceedingly remarkable “one time does all” full dose Radio Active Iodine I 131.

Since that treatment a physician friend wrote the following: I'm sure that most of your friends in the congregation have heard of the more common cancer treatments that were like mine (surgery followed by six months of chemotherapy) and not so much about the ones that are like yours (surgery followed by a single shot of I131). Maybe it would help them to know that in the case of a functioning thyroid, the situation is virtually unique among body organs in that the thyroid concentrates iodine in its cells; no other organ in the body does that, so we can "target" active thyroid cancer nicely, even the distant metastases, by giving it a "poisoned" form of iodine. In essence, you poison the "food" (the iodine) that only the thyroid has to have, then the thyroid cells take it up, and die. It's the same sort of principle that some people use for rats, slugs, termites, ants and mice--they put poison out disguised as food, and when the little creatures eat it, they die. In your case, your thyroid gland was still using iodine to make thyroid hormone, so all your doctor had to do was use the radioactive form of iodine to deliver a "bomb" to each thyroid cell, and boom! They all died. Fried. Gone! Since no other cells in the body use iodine like that, they weren't harmed. Since you can't live without thyroid hormone, you are probably on Synthroid or some other kind of thyroid replacement.

A graphic description!

The administration of the dose was unique. It was done by swallowing three capsules which were transported in highly insulated carrying cases and which could not be touched by anyone’s hand. They were lifted carefully with long tweezers into a paper cup, one at a time and an audience of three watched me do the successful swallowing of this highly dangerous material. The private room had been prepared against radiation and I would remain there until a high tech instrument showed a reading that declared me safe to be out in the public! The only way to wash the radiation out of my body was to drink large quantities of water. This became one’s main occupation during the almost 4 days I spent in that little “cell”. Certain precautions had to be taken by each nurse who entered my room and food trays were stored until I checked out. Finally, at noon on day four I was pronounced safe to go home, with certain precautions and instructions. . I had absolutely no ill effects and only that special instrument could tell that I was filled with radiation. (No. You don’t glow in the dark!)

I had brought several of Jan Karon’s “Mitford Series” to read again and a radio to provide good music. So it was a time for contemplation and meditation and rest. A time to thank God for the marvels of modern science and for real hope of a cure.

Later X rays and scans will tell us just how effective this treatment has been.

November 2005

Monday, November 07, 2005

A Steady Voice in an Unsteady World

A Christian minister of Middle Eastern origin offers an excellent introduction to the core teachings of Islam as well as a refresher course in Christianity.
by Harry Antonides

“What does the future hold for relations between Christianity and Islam? That is uncertain, but one thing is clear: both religions have a message and a mandate. Christianity has a mandate to go into all the world and to preach the Gospel—a Gospel of salvation and reconciliation in Jesus Christ. Islam has a mandate to practice jihad and to bring the non-Muslim world under the rule of Allah and the injunctions of the Qur'an.”
George W. Braswell, Jr.

There is obviously no unity within the West about the nature of the threat we face …
How do we know what the religion of Islam, professed by more than a billion people, really stands for? On the one hand, Muslim leaders in the western democracies assure us that Islam is a religion of peace, and they quote from the Qur'an to back up this claim. They are assisted in this effort by such sanitized documentaries shown on American television as Islam: Empire of Faith and Legacy of the Prophet Muhammad.

Even President Bush insists that Islam is a religion of peace. But does he really know this? Or is he being diplomatic not to arouse the wrath of American Muslims?

Is 9/11 a precursor?

On the other hand, September 11, 2001, confronted us with a very different face of this religion. After all, the perpetrators of that spectacular crime left no doubt that they were motivated by their belief that they were obeying Allah and earning a special place in heaven for their "martyrdom." They were following the order given in the name of Allah by Osama bin Laden in 1998 when he called on all Muslims to kill Americans and Jews wherever they could.

What evil forces lurk behind Al Qaeda, Hizballah, Hamas, and similar terrorist organizations now causing great stress and wide-spread fear of coming disasters? How can we live together in one world with our differences? What will it take to avert the dreadful events of which 9/11 may be an ominous precursor? Are we inevitably drifting into a "clash of civilizations" that will smash whatever good modern culture has produced?

These are the kind of existential questions that crowd in on us when we reflect on the current world stage. There is obviously no unity within the West about the nature of the threat we face or about the way we should defend ourselves. Many are baffled by the depth of conviction of the radical followers of Islam (Islamists) who hold to the idea of Jihad, that is, holy warfare.

Who better to enlighten us than someone who was born into the Arab world, speaks the language, and knows its history? Bassam Madany is well suited to be our guide in finding our way through the thorny questions we face.

He is a Christian minister who spent most of his working life preaching the good news of the Gospel to the Arab world. Born in the province of Antioch, Syria, he received his early education in British and French schools. In 1950 he immigrated to the United States where he studied for the ministry. He served as the Back to God Hour Arabic broadcast minister from 1958 till his retirement in 1994. He also taught a number of courses in Middle East history. He and his wife Shirley now live in retirement near Chicago, where they operate a busy Internet information centre focused on the Middle East and the religion of Islam.

The Bible and Islam

The Rev. Madany has written extensively about his 36-year ministry to the Muslim world. This position gave him the opportunity to interact with tens of thousands of listeners who responded to his radio broadcasts. “… A formal adherence to the Bible as the Word of God, does not equip a person to be a missionary to Muslims." I want to draw attention to two of his publications.

The Bible and Islam: Sharing God's Word with a Muslim was first published in 1979. Its most recent printing with a new concluding chapter was published in 2003. It is an excellent introduction to the core teachings of Islam as well as a refresher course in Christianity. Here, in the author's own words, is the thrust of this study:

"It is equally my conviction that a formal adherence to the Bible as the Word of God, does not equip a person to be a missionary to Muslims. We need to grasp the purpose of the Word. In this book you will find a special emphasis on the redemptive character of the Gospel. Biblical revelation finds its focus in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Islam makes it doubly necessary to emphasize and re-emphasize that the Messiah did not come merely to teach and to heal, but to redeem His people from their sins.

"…Muslims are taught that man is not really sinful in the biblical sense of the word, and thus needs no redemption. It is extremely important therefore that we keep on emphasizing this biblical teaching that the Messiah came from God specifically to deal with the awful imperialism of sin."

The first chapter sets out the heart of Christian ministry as it is summarized in St. Paul's epistle to the Romans. Madany insists that St. Paul's teaching about human sinfulness, salvation by grace through Christ's death and resurrection, and the call to repentance and faith is what also must be presented to the Muslims.

Gospel versus Qur'an

At the same time he stresses the need for understanding what has made Islam such a prominent force in the world today. He explains what are the tenets of the Islamic faith that provide Muslims with a strong built-in aversion to the Christian Gospel.

For example, though the Qur'an pays considerable attention to Jesus, it considers Him to be inferior to Muhammad because the latter received the final, uncorrupted, eternally existent revelation from Allah, which supersedes all previous revelations. Muslims do not believe that Jesus suffered and died on the cross.

Further, Muslims consider the belief that Jesus is the Son of God blasphemous. They think that this would mean that God is not one, but is divided, and that would make Him less than complete and perfect—and therefore less than divine.

The Qur'anic insistence that every aspect of life must come under the direct rule of Islamic law is at the heart of the conflict between Islam and the Christian idea of freedom.

Another core teaching of Islam that is fundamentally at odds with biblical religion is the belief that salvation is not a gift of God's grace, but can be obtained by obeying all the commands for right living. That includes a strict regimen of prayer, alms giving, fasting, pilgrimage to Mecca, and sacrificing one's life for the advancement of Islam. Redemption is possible by obtaining the right knowledge and living according to all the commands of the Qur'an and the Hadith (the collected sayings of Muhammad).

The Qur'anic insistence that every aspect of life must come under the direct rule of Islamic law is at the heart of the conflict between Islam and the Christian idea of freedom. Madany writes:

"Islam is more than religion, and has always maintained an exclusivist political worldview. It has no room for non-Muslim entities (i.e. states) to freely exist within the context of the Household of Islam."

Where such laws (sharia) are put into effect there is no freedom of religion, nor freedom of any other kind. In fact, where sharia law rules, it is a crime punishable by death to convert to another religion. Invariably, such regimes strictly prescribe the place of women to one of servitude.

Madany shows that during its 1400 years of existence internal divisions have rocked Islam, leading to the existence of divergent streams of thought. The author provides fascinating details of the conflict between these factions, often fought with deadly ferocity. He describes this as a fierce battle between moderates, who are willing to co-exist and interact with the world outside Islam, and "Utopian Muslims whose vision is to re-create a world Islamic order…."

A panoramic perspective
A second publication prepared by Bassam and Shirley Madany is a collection of articles (some in the form of book reviews) available on CD. These 33 articles explore all the significant issues related to the meeting of the Muslim and Western world. Here are some of the topics dealt with in this collection: American Muslims; Islam is more than a religion; Islam and war; Jesus in the Qur'an; Muslims and Christians in dialogue; the attraction of Islam; the world after September 11, 2001; the complex nature of Middle Eastern relations.

These two publications provide a panoramic view of one of the most pressing issues of our time. The authors have managed to pull together a great many strands of a very complex reality. You will get acquainted with outstanding Muslim teachers who pleaded for moderation and goodwill toward the non-Muslim world—and sometimes paid for it with their lives. You will learn of some of the most dedicated and able Christian missionaries to the Muslim world. All of this is interspersed with the personal experiences of the two authors.

In short, these two publications will serve to give the readers an excellent overview of what for many has become an incomprehensible jumble of religious conflict and political turmoil. What makes these publications especially valuable is that they are written with a deep commitment to biblical truth and a profound love for the Arab people. At the same time these authors have no illusions about the dangers inherent in radical Islam. This is how Bassam Madany puts it:

"I write…as a Christian of Middle Eastern roots. I do hope, perhaps, I should say, I wish that the Islamic world would somehow experience a radical change in the direction of democracy and true freedom for its teeming millions. If not, the forecast remains for a very turbulent future. But as a Christian who takes the Bible seriously, I live in the light of the Christian hope as expounded by Saint Paul."

Bassam and Shirley Madany have developed their Middle East Resources ministry: They can be reached by e-mail at An Introduction to Islam, is available on CD for U.S. $2.50.

Harry Antonides, based in Toronto, immigrated to Canada in 1948 and served as a staff member of the Christian Labor Association of Canada for 35 years. He can be reached Originally published in Christian Courier, August 2, 2004.
Used with permission of the author.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Antonides review of Unholy Alliance by David Horowitz

Ties That Bind
By Harry Antonides
Christian Courier October 18, 2005

Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left by David Horowitz, Regnery Publishing, Inc. 2004. 296 pp.

"The nature of political doublespeak never changes and its agenda is always the same: Obliteration of historical memory in the service of power…. Only a restored memory can demolish totalitarian myths and make men free. " (David Horowitz, in Big Lies, Center for the Study of Popular Culture, 2005)

At first sight, a merger of the secular political left and the Islamist radical believers is an anomaly. But this book carefully dissects the secret of their partnership: their shared hatred of America. This explains why they have made common cause in their venomous opposition to the American-led war against Islamic terrorists.

The author stresses that this book is not about war critics as such, “but about the leaders of the organized anti-war movement and the practical support they are willing to give to America’s enemies and their agendas.” And what a gripping and deeply disturbing story this is.

Horowitz describes how the Left receives its inspiration from the Marxist ideology that has inspired millions in their search for a perfect world. One of its guiding principles is the belief that the existing world, especially the West, is rotten to the core and must be totally overthrown. As Marx put it: “Everything that exists deserves to perish.”

This totalizing and revolutionary principle at one time made American Communists look to the Soviet Union as the land of promise. That promise collapsed, but the same motive continues to inspire the post-Communist radicals including the anti-war Left. Horowitz convincingly demonstrates that this ideology is still firmly ensconced on American campuses.

Betrayal by the Intellectuals

This explains why patriotism is one of the prime targets of the radical protesters. A number of prominent university professors led the way mapping out a radical stance against their own country. Professor Eric Foner of Columbia University quoted Paul Robeson, an “icon” of the Communist Left and a winner of the Stalin Peace Price, who had claimed: “The patriot is the person who is never satisfied with his county.”

Foner, like Horowitz, grew up in a family of Communists but he never left the fold. His history of the United States, The Story of American Freedom, has been described as “his attempt to rehabilitate American Communism.” The same can be said about the influential book by another “fellow traveler,” the historian Howard Zinn, A People’s History, which, according to Horowitz, “reflects a left-wing culture that despises America in its very roots.” It is this type of source material that has given generations of American students not merely a warped but a bitterly antagonistic view of their own country. Here is Horowitz take on this reality:

As a result of the Left’s colonization of the academic social sciences, this anti-American culture is now part of the educational curriculum of America’s emerging elites, and as much an element of the cultural mainstream as any other historical tradition. Indeed, it is a dominant element. In 2004, the Organization of American Historians devoted an evening at its annual convention to honor Zinn and his work.

The shocking events of 9/11and their aftermath was the “defining moment” that set off a massive movement of opposition to the policies of the Bush administration. Again, the tenured university professors led the way.

Right after the beginning of the war in Iraq, a group of professors at Columbia University held a “teach-in” where they denounced the American-led military action. Professor of anthropology Nicholas De Genova called for “a million Mogadishus,” a reference to the 1993 humiliation of American soldiers in Somalia. He said that U.S. patriotism is a form of imperial warfare and white supremacy and that the “only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. military.”

Behind such shocking and hate-filled comments at a time when their own country is at war lies the conviction that America is not just afflicted by faults and shortcomings, but that it is an unjust society to the core. (In other words, a form of “total depravity” that calls for total “redemption.”)

Therefore, all its wars are also unjust, no matter what the alleged purpose may be. This premise leads many in the protest movement (especially in Europe) to the outrageous conclusion that President Bush is no better than Saddam Hussein.

One of the most notorious spokesmen for this view is Noam Chomsky, a prestigious professor of linguistics at the MIT. He is best known for his numerous books, articles and speeches as a relentless critic of the United States. He did not spend any time empathizing with the victims of 9/11, but the day after he proclaimed that the attacks amounted to a turning point in the war against imperialism, since “for the first time, the guns have been directed the other way. “

Despite his vitriolic language Chomsky has a large following not only in the U.S. but all over the world, spreading his hatred of America to overflow crowds and in his voluminous writings where he brazenly re-writes history.

At the beginning of the war in the Middle East, Chomsky addressed large Islamic crowds in India and Pakistan where he called the United States “the greatest terrorist state” that was planning to commit genocide in neighbouring countries. This attempt to turn his Muslim audiences against his own country in that volatile part of the world must have been his personal effort to “turn the guns around. “ In normal times such explosive falsehoods would be called treason.

Birds of a Feather

Horowitz provides a deft overview of the transition American radicalism underwent in order to survive the post-Stalinist disillusionment. He details the various phases of that transition from the old to the neo-Communism, which he describes as the time of the “forerunners,” including the “Utopians,” and the “nihilist Left,” to arrive at the current “Anti-American Cult” stage. At this point the Left has found common cause with the radical Islamists who believe that America is the “Great Satan,” responsible for the survival of the equally-detested nation of Israel.

Islamist radicalism originally was hostile to Communism, but that changed in the 1950s. The writings of Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) have been influential in the shaping of the extremist Islamic movement and such leaders as Ayatollah Khomeini and Osama bin Laden, as well as the Islamic terrorist organizations Hizbollah, Hamas, and al Qaeda.

Qutb wrote that sharia amounts “to a universal declaration of the freedom of man from servitude to other men and from servitude to his own desires.” Horowitz points out that despite the libertine inclinations in some factions of the political Left, “Western radicals’ efforts to purify their tainted souls of ‘racism, sexism, and homophobia’ reflect parallel inclinations.”

Both movements, the secular Left and the Islamic radicals, are totalitarian in their ambition to control all of life and both are exacting in their demand for loyalty. Their radicalism makes them believe that the ends ultimately justify any means, including murder. As Horowitz writes: ”Like the salvationist agendas of jihad, the Left’s apocalyptic goal of ‘social justice’ is the equivalent of an earthly redemption.”

Marx said that people turn to religion (like opium users) to dull the pain and suffering caused by injustice and exploitation – under capitalism. He predicted that eliminating oppression and creating a society of justice will do away with the need for religion. The secularist half of this strange partnership is banking on Marx’s prediction; in the meantime they turn a blind eye to the religious zealotry of their newfound partners.

No Enemies on the Left

The final sections of this book detail how this combination of secular and religious fanaticism is played out in sabotaging the American government’s determination to respond forcefully to 9/11. This campaign is conducted by treachery and by cleverly exploiting the very freedoms in America that its enemies are determined to destroy.

The FBI and the CIA were hindered in their fight against crime and terrorism by the so-called “wall” that separated the two agencies. The Patriot Act intended to overcome that deficiency, and it has been an essential tool in exposing and convicting a number of key members of terrorist and terrorist-related organizations.

Horowitz names organizations and individuals who have consistently fought against the efforts of the Justice Department to bring to justice people who support and actively work for Islamic terrorist organizations. No matter how clear their guilt, the National Lawyers Guild, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Bar Association, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the American Muslim Council, and others in that fold are ready to defend them. They invariably do so by claiming victim status for the accused and denouncing the government as a destroyer of human rights.

Lynne Stewart is a prominent member of the Left establishment. A lawyer activist, she has made a name for herself as a staunch defender of the “victims” of the American government, which she denounced as a “poisonous government that spreads its venom to the body politic in all corners of the globe.” In the same breath she said that Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedung, Lenin, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara are modern heroes.

She acted as counsel for the blind sheik Omar Abdel Rahman who was convicted as the mastermind of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. Stewart was found guilty of providing material support for the sheik’s terrorist activities. No matter, she continues to receive a hero’s welcome on university campuses and other events sponsored by the despisers of America.

When asked whether she would defend the right of citizens to protest against a revolutionary government that had “liberated” its people from the oppression of capitalism, she said: “I don’t have any problem with Mao or Stalin or the Vietnamese leaders or certainly Fidel locking up people they see as dangerous. Because so often, dissidence has been used by the greater powers to undermine a people’s revolution.”

The shame of it is that a person proclaiming such nonsense is a revered member of the American Left. This is historical revisionism at its most evil. The good news is that people with the determination to tell the truth are still with us.

David Horowitz’s Unholy Alliance is a remarkable and insightful book. It helps us to see through the veil of falsehood and secrecy that protects those who want to do us harm. It is an indispensable source of information to counter the twisted imaginations of the secular and the Islamist participants in this conspiracy.

[David Horowitz's Unholy Alliance can be purchased from the FPM Bookstore for $18.00.]

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Denials of the Armenian Genocide

Denials of the Armenian Genocide
By Rev. Bassam M. Madany

On Thursday morning, October 27, 2005, I picked up my copy of the Wall Street Journal and noticed on its front page this eye-catching headline: Turk-Armenian Fight Over WWI History Goes to a U.S. Court. Massachusetts Law Sparks a Free-Speech Debate about Teaching ‘Genocide.’

The article brought back childhood memories that go back to the 1930s. My father moved the family from Seleucia, near Antioch, to Alexandretta in 1934, to assume his new position as pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian church in that city. Unlike Seleucia, known by its Arabic name as Souedia, Alexandretta was a cosmopolitan city with various ethnic groups and missionary organizations. The R. P. Mission from Northern Ireland operated a mission school there, and this is where I began my education. There were also two Roman Catholic mission schools: one run by the French order known as Brothers of Christian Schools, and the other by an Italian order whose name now escapes me.

Being built near the Gulf of Alexandretta in northwest Syria, the city by that name had attracted Europeans from many lands. Its port was busy, as it was linked by railroad to the famous Berlin-Baghdad line.

One of the features of Alexandretta was that anyone growing up there would hear several languages being spoken. Of course the major language was Arabic, but Turkish and Armenian were also spoken, due to the presence of a sizeable refugee population that had escaped the massacres of WWI. This fact would be the occasion for my father to speak of his war experiences, including that terrible event that befell the Armenians living within the Ottoman Turkish Empire.

When WWI broke out between the Allies and Germany, Turkey joined the war against the Allies. Many young men living within the Ottoman lands were drafted into the Turkish army, including my father. Most of his fellow Syrians were sent to the front near Egypt as Turkey was trying to wrest that land from the British presence. Thousands perished in the Sinai; and even those who came back were in such weakened condition, like Uncle John Nicholas Madany, who died soon after reaching home. My father upon his conscription passed a language test in Turkish and was posted to serve at an army HQ in Mersine, Cilicia (Asia Minor.) Mersine was not far from the Biblical Tarsus, the birthplace of Saint Paul. Dad used to regale us with many stories about the Turkish and German officers he had to deal with. Such anecdotes were amusing; but there were some very disturbing accounts that he shared with us. Those had to do with the plight of the Armenians who lived in and around the province of Cilicia. Most of them were deported to the eastern part of the Empire, and reports were reaching Mersine that the vast majority of those Armenians perished.

It was after the end of WWI that the full story of the fate of the Armenians became known to the world. Thousands upon thousands of them driven from their homes were massacred, their churches destroyed, and those who managed to escape death, became refugees and scattered into many parts of the Middle East after the war.

Alexandretta, being not far from the Turkish mainland took in many Armenian refugees. Even a decade or more after the war, several of these people lived in what was known as the “camps.” The city was almost below sea level, and surrounded by several marshlands. They became the breeding grounds of swarms of malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Early in June, schools closed and most of the people would move to the near-by villages that dotted the mountains around the city. My father, the Irish Missionaries, and the majority of the congregation would move to an Armenian-populated village for the three summer months. We rented rooms from the local people, and heard from them more eye-witness accounts of what they called, “Sefer Berlik,” (Turkish for Wanderings in the Wilderness.) Actually, these words were a strange euphemism for the Genocide of the Armenians.

Back to Alexandretta in September, and the school year brought me in daily contacts with my fellow Armenian students. We had to study in three languages at school: the primary ones were Arabic and English, and French was required as well. What often intrigued me was the fact that when Armenians students conversed with one another, they spoke in Turkish or in Armenian. This became the occasion for my learning a few Turkish words, even though I must add that both my father and mother quite often would speak Turkish. They would also quote certain Turkish proverbs.

So why do I write an article about the Armenian Genocide ninety years later? Specifically, because that horrible episode has never, ever been acknowledged for what it was by Turkey. You must have noticed the title of the WSJ article in my first paragraph, and realized that the subject is not a dead issue. I will quote a few lines from the article and then add some comments:

“Nearly a century ago, perhaps a million or more Christian Armenians were slaughtered by Muslim Turks. It ranks among history’s major instances of genocide.

Or is “genocide” the wrong word?

For generations, Turks and Armenians have argued the point. Armenians say it was genocide, pure and simple. Some Turks respond that the deaths were a tragic byproduct of World War I and that both Turks and Armenians died.

Now, a Turkish group wants to settle the issue, American style: in court.

Yesterday in U.S. District Court in Boston, two public high-school teachers, one student and the Assembly of Turkish-American Associations filed suit challenging a Massachusetts statute that uses the word “genocide” to describe the Armenian deaths. The law sets guidelines for teaching about human rights in the state. The lawsuit argues that the state violates the plaintiffs’ free-speech rights by excluding from the curriculum a view of events more favorable to the Turks.”

For nine decades, Turkey has played down the real story of “sefer berlik” claiming that for military reasons, large numbers of Armenians living near the Russian border in Eastern Turkey had to be removed from their homes. So it was “inevitable” that some, or may be even many, perished during the harsh winter of 1915! So goes the Turkish account.

However, this is not an honest and objective account of what happened during WWI to the large Armenian population that had lived in that part of the world for centuries. The heartland of the Ottoman Turkish Empire was the home of Turks, Armenians, Assyrians, Syrians, and Greeks. The non-Muslim population enjoyed a degree of freedom and autonomy. However, during the nineteenth century, as the Ottoman Empire began to lose its grip over several areas in the Balkans, a nationalistic movement came into being known as the Young Turks. It spread especially among the Ottoman officer corps. This led to the abridgement of the freedoms that Christian ethnic groups had enjoyed. WWI gave the Young Turks within the Ottoman Government the chance to eliminate a sizable ethnic group such as the Armenians. The mass deportations that began in 1915, escalated into a veritable Genocide. Around one million Armenians perished due to hunger, disease, attacks and murderous acts by brigands, and soldiers of the Ottoman Army.

Now what pains me most is not only the persistence of the Turkish Governments over the years in their denial of the Genocide, but to note that this denial has been exported to the USA. And here at the end of October in the year of our Lord 2005, we read about the attempt of Turkish American Associations in Massachusetts to involve a U.S. federal court in this denial! This is shocking indeed.

Another troubling issue that this WSJ report reveals is that Turks who have immigrated to the United States, and I presume, have become naturalized American citizens, have carried with them a baggage that should have been left behind in the old country. In America, it is not part of our culture to hide terrible aspects of the past. We do not shy from confessing our national sins.

At this point, I would like to refer to the example of Germany and its involvement, during the Nazi era, in the persecution and eventual elimination of six million Jewish people. This crime against humanity is indescribable and utterly horrific. After the war, not only many Nazi officials were properly judged at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, but West Germany assumed responsibility for the Holocaust of the Jews, and paid millions of German Marks to Israel and to individual Jews who had suffered from the Nazi persecution. (By the way, East Germany, under Soviet control, did not participate in any restitution plan.)

I don’t imply at all that money can ever atone for the sins of the Holocaust. The Nazi crimes will always be remembered as a manifestation of human depravity. But one aspect of the reparations that Germany paid to the victims of the Holocaust is very important: it exhibits a confession of the guilt and of the reality and authenticity of the Holocaust event. This is extremely important, not only for the Germans, but for the entire world.
Thus, it is shocking that Turkey persists after almost one century in denying the Genocide of the Armenians, and even more shocking to learn that Turkish immigrants who have established their home in America, have joined in this denial. What a pity! I certainly hope that the U.S. District Court in Boston will throw out the case, as an attempt to further falsify history, thus denying students in Massachusetts an opportunity to learn about a horrible event that took place during WWI in far away Turkey.

Monday, October 17, 2005

My Son's Teacher was a Terrorist

My Son’s Teacher was an Irhabi (Terrorist)

By Jacob Thomas

On Sunday, 2 October 2005, two days before the beginning of the Islamic month of Ramadan, the online Arabic daily, Al-Sharq al-Awsat, published an article with a very eye-catching title. In the original, the title consisted of three words. Translated into English, it required six words: “My Son’s Teacher was an Irhabi,” i.e. a terrorist.
The writer is a Saudi lady who was terribly shocked and disturbed by discovering that one of the men involved in a terrorist attack on a government building in the capital had actually been her son’s teacher. She was outraged, and wrote a brief article. I would like to share it with the readers, and follow with some comments.

“Once, I wrote an article with the above title for the daily newspaper “Al-Riyad.” Having gone through a horrible experience, these words should be regarded as my clarion call for all to hear. My blood almost froze on my face as I read the terrorist’s name, and saw his photo.”

“Let me explain. In the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Ministry of the Interior building, several newspapers published photos of those who had participated in the operation. My son, having glanced at the newspaper, pointed to the face of one of the terrorists and said in an agitated manner: Mother, this man was my teacher!”

“Two months prior to the attack, this same teacher stood just a short distance from my son’s desk and talked to him. Actually, only one inch separated him from my son’s mind and heart. Like all young students at the school, my son used to praise and love all his teachers. His little mind tended to receive and accept spontaneously his teachers’ instruction. Unfortunately, not all teachers at the school were careful, or observed a proper attitude vis-à-vis their young and sensitive students. Some spouted out their ideological views. Their vision and outlook on life had been formed by the myths they imbibed, as they sat and watched for hours one television channel: “Al-Jazeera.” After all, we all know that this television station broadcasts just one point of view, and quite often it is in the service of Irhab.”

“I must add that I have become weary of going several times to the school principal to remind him of the duty of teachers to keep their personal opinions to themselves. They were not supposed to share them with their young students, most of them being only ten years old! Some teachers may admire Usama bin Laden for having forsaken the world and gone to live in caves. But they should voice such thoughts among their friends as they meet them at their favorite cafes. There should be no room for any such propaganda at the school. Also, it is not the job of school teachers to issue fatwas that forbid their students from viewing certain television channels.”

“Yesterday, my son shared with me an incident that took place at his school. A teacher inquired from a student about his brother who had recently graduated from secondary school. The boy proudly informed him that his brother was very fortunate as he had received a government scholarship to study in America. The teacher responded angrily: “America, may Allah guide him to any place but America!”

“I happen to know exactly where the teacher would have wanted this student to go for his university education; however, this is not the purpose for writing the column. My point is: how are we to confront this Irhabi (terrorist) mentality, when we notice that all our efforts to spread a spirit of tolerance and an acceptance of the ‘Akhar’ (the Other) is being thwarted in the classrooms?”

“Recently I learned that a book advocating a positive and tolerant attitude toward the ‘Other’ was pulled out of circulation. It was scheduled to be distributed among our teachers and educators! However, some voiced certain reservations about the contents of the book. So the project was dropped. I wonder what those reservations were! What was wrong with a book that advocated tolerance, and the need for a proper approach in our dialogue with the ‘Akhar?’ Or are we supposed rather to tolerate extremists and radicals? Why do we seem to be oblivious of the existence of ideological ticking bombs in our society? Should we not be shocked to learn that some of our teachers were on the wanted lists, and had actually participated in terrorist attacks? I am sure that most of us were aware that several of the men who planned their suicidal attacks, were not among the unemployed. Some were teachers in our schools; others have even served as imams in our mosques, or worked in our security agencies. In other words, these Irhabis were right there, all around us, in the very heart of our society, and busy influencing the minds of our youth.”

Thus far the words of this distraught mother. I have commented before that any translation from Arabic into a Western language loses some of the full meaning of the original text. Actually, the mother’s words were brimming with an intensity of feelings, and with powerful allusions to a very disturbing phenomenon, not only in Saudi Arabia, but all over the Islamic world. She was pointing to a shocking disconnect with reality that pervades the world of Islam today. Globalism is here to stay; our world has become more interdependent than ever. While many Muslims are aware of this fact, yet they persist to ignore it, and continue to hate and vilify the “Akhar.”

Only one week after reading this article, I woke up to the news of a massive earthquake that hit Pakistan and some of the surrounding areas. Reports indicate that Pakistan has endured its worst natural catastrophe since its birth in 1947. President Pervez Musharraf appealed for international aid. By noon, President Bush promised to help the stricken country. I mention this to underline the obvious fact that tolerance and the acceptance of the ‘Other’ as a fellow-human being is absolutely necessary in our world today. But radical Islamists never cease to hurl their insults at the Infidels; but how do they explain the fact that when calamities strike Islamic lands, suddenly these same “Infidels” rush to help. The despised “Others” never reciprocate with insults or indifference. On the contrary, the common bonds of humanity transcend all inherited prejudices and insults; and so we watch people from all over the world, rush with help for the stricken Pakistanis.

Let me go back and make a few specific comments on the lady’s article.

The first thing that struck me about her words is the fact that in Saudi Arabia, as well as in most Arab countries where schools are government-run, the authorities seem to be incapable of enforcing the rule of law. When this mother went time and again to the principal with the plea that teachers should not be indoctrinating their young students, she got nowhere. Was the principal oblivious of the fact that a certain teacher at his school was spreading radical views with impunity? Why did he not take steps to warn him to cease and desist from his illicit activities?

Another revelation from the article was her charge that the notorious Al-Jazeera television station was being used as a vehicle for the spread of Islamic radicalism. I understand from some reports that this station is available via satellite, for Arab viewers in the United States

Furthermore, the incident of the teacher who became indignant upon hearing that a student was going to America for his studies was an alarming phenomenon. This radical teacher, who was blinded by his searing hatred of America, ignored the American role in the emergence of present-day Saudi Arabia. Was he really unaware that it was American petroleum engineers who discovered oil in the peninsula during the 1930s? Did he know what ARAMCO, stood for? This acronym, used both in Arabic and in English stands for the Arabian American Company. It was American ingenuity and resourcefulness that became a vehicle for the sudden riches that descended upon Saudi Arabia after WWII. This teacher must have never heard of the celebrations that took place in Lebanon, when the TAPLINE (Trans Arabian Pipeline) project was completed. This great engineering feat that brought crude oil from Eastern Arabia to the Lebanese coast on the Mediterranean just south of Sidon was planned by American engineers.

Another disturbing fact that was revealed in the lady’s article was the sudden withdrawal of a book that advocated tolerance in relations with non-Muslims? I have already written about the National Dialogue Initiative Project in Saudi Arabia that calls for a fresh outlook regarding non-Muslims. This “Initiative” was meant to involve various sections of Saudi society in helping them to re-define those regarded traditionally as Infidels. A new, down-to-earth word was being suggested: Al-Akhar, the Other. If that was the intention of some leaders in Saudi Arabia, what was then the reason to withdraw a book that championed this enlightened outlook?

The article referred to the existence of radical Imams occupying leadership in certain Saudi mosques. Are not all mosques under the supervision of the Ministry of Religious Affairs? It is true that the majorities of mosques are under the control of the government. But some rich Saudis seeking to “earn” extra credit with Allah by doing good deeds build local masjids (mosques) and invite non-supervised Imams. Such independent mosques attract Du’aat, propagandists for radical Islam. These “houses of worship” become the breeding ground for recruiting Irhabis. We should never forget that the infamous Muhammad Atta, the leader of the 19 highjackers who attacked us on 9/11/2001 became a “born-again” Islamist while attending “Al-Qods Mosque” in Hamburg, Germany. It was there that he imbibed the ideology that gave birth to his dream of reaching Paradise instantly by killing untold numbers of Infidels.

Finally, the article of this brave mother was both helpful and at the same time, extremely disturbing. The fact that it was first published in Al- Riyad newspaper, and then was made available on the web site of Al-Sharq al-Awsat, is heartening. Thousands of people in Saudia Arabia, and elsewhere read the article. It means that at least some Saudi women are not afraid to reveal their disgust with the behavior of the Islamists, and condemn them publicly.

On the other hand, the article revealed that things are out of control, and that Irhabis are able to attack, kill, and destroy in the very heart of the Islamic world. We rejoiced that a national initiative that aims at using a non-pejorative word to describe the non-Muslim is being suggested and discussed. But no sooner we read about this positive step being taken among Saudis, than we heard about a backward step. A book that was destined for use among teachers advocating a new vision of the non-Muslim had to be withdrawn. Someone in a position of power and authority caved in to the pressure from some ultras, and decided that the book should not be distributed.

The title of the article keeps ringing in my ears: “Mudarris ibni Irahabi.” My son’s teacher is (or was) a Terrorist! What a shocking, terrible, and horrific revelation!


Friday, October 07, 2005

Contextualization Interview

Contextualization Interview
Rev. Bassam M. Madany

The contextualization movement among evangelicals spread in the1970s and caused a good deal of controversy among missionaries. The following interview with Rev. Bassam Madany took place in the mid-eighties. It is reproduced here to clarify issues, which are intimately connected with Christian missions throughout the world. It must be added that this movement continues to spread among some Christians on account of the claim that contextualizers make for the so-called assured results of their missiological methods. However, in the light of the historic Christian Faith, this movement represents a radical discontinuity with the Apostolic Tradition, as well as with the basic principles of the Protestant Reformation.

Q. It seems that you are uncomfortable with the word “contextualization”?

A. Yes, ever since the mid-l970s, when this word became widely used in missionary circles, it has carried a specific “ideological” baggage. I consider it a loaded word because it has not come to us from a consciously Biblical milieu but was imported from the WCC (World Council of Churches) and bears the stamp of its horizontalism.

Q. But is this a sufficient reason for discarding the entire concept?

A. Of course not. I am not against every form of contextualization. I am simply uneasy about any type that is ideologically oriented. For example, some of its proponents have made a wrong analysis of the work of missions during the last 200 years. They contend that missions among Muslims have failed. This assertion has been made, when most people in the Muslim world have yet to hear the Word of God. Can we expect conversion without the hearing of the message? We must take the parables of our Lord about the proclamation of the Word seriously. We have to integrate the teachings of Paul in Romans l0 and l Cor. 1and 2 into our theology of missions. Then, we would see clearly the priority of proclamation. Even though I reject any ideologically inspired contextualization, I am a firm believer in a Biblical type that allows one to relevantly and irenically [peacefully] present the Christian message to the followers of Islam.

I must also add for the sake of historical accuracy and intellectual honesty that “cross-cultural communication,” which is another buzzword of the contemporary mission

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Contextualization Old and New

Have you been disturbed by the latest trends in missionary methods and are you looking for some helpful resources?

We recommend that you read:

"A Statement of Missionary Concern"

"Neo-Evangelicalism and It's Impact on Missions. Historical Overview by Frederick W. Evans

"Re-Thinking Missions Today: Neo-Evangelical Missions and Christian Missions to Islam by
Bassam M. Madany

To be continued...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Attention Western Leftist Ideologues

Western Propagandists versus Mideastern Truthfulness
J’Accuse (I Accuse) Part IV
By Jacob Thomas

Readers of this website ( know of my daily readings in the Arab Press to learn about their portrayal of the West, and especially of America. I am naturally attracted to those articles that evidence a sense of objectivity that transcends the usual anti-Western bias that afflicts most of the Arab media. So, here again, and to my great delight, I noticed in the 21 September issue of Al-Sharq al-Awsat, an article with this intriguing title, “Are Three Hundred Terrorists a Small Number?” by Abdel-Rahman Al-Rashed.

After reading the article, I began to think: how I wish that those Western leftist ideologues would read this article! It may cure them of the virus that has contaminated their thoughts vis-à-vis their countries and societies. They would discover the errors of Edward Said’s book, “Orientalism” that blames the West for the ills of the Muslim lands.
Too bad, that many of them are either unwilling or unable to consult the writings of those honest and objective Mideastern writers who have taken a clear stand against jihadism.

Unfortunately, one day after “Are Three Hundred Terrorists a Small Number?” appeared, I noticed an article in by Joshua Prober, with this title, Ways of Propagandizing. It referred to the use in some colleges of a composition textbook, “Ways of Reading,” that had appeared in 1987, and which was actually nothing but a propaganda tool. Mr. Proper wrote:
“As Thomas Kerr, an assistant professor of writing at Ithaca College” put it, this textbook was not “only of reading but also of proselytizing and subverting the mind-numbing, consumer/capitalist/fascist/sexist/rascist/classist ideologies that surround us in the form of American mythologies and mass culture.”
“One of the ways that the two editors of “Ways of Reading” … of the University of Pittsburgh achieve this is by promoting Edward Said’s ideology, attacking his critics, and presenting a warped version of Middle East history.”
Enough of such trash that comes out of the writings of Western Propagandists parading as educators! Let me now share with you this honest op-ed article about the real criminals that feed the minds of the jihadists. They are just as responsible for the crimes committed by their disciples. The writer began by asking, “Are Three Hundred Terrorists a Small Number?” He then gave this answer:
“The problem with statistics is that they don’t always tell the truth. Take for example the number of Saudi terrorists active within Iraq. Some have opined that a mere 300 Saudi combatants in Iraq is relatively small when compared with certain previous estimates. It had been claimed earlier that there were around 16,000 Arab and Iraqi fighters in Mesopotamia ready to fight the “Kuffar,” (Infidels.) A mathematical comparison may seem to be a simple matter. However, in political calculations even 100 fighters is a big army capable of destroying an entire society. We must remember that those who have ben recruited by Al-Qaida have only one desire, that is, death! They are engaged in guerilla warfare and not in a conventional war. They find shelter in civilian areas among women and children, and hide their weapons in mosques; their clothes do not differentiate them from other innocent civilians.”

I don’t recall reading such words in many of the dispatches that appear in the mainline newspapers or hearing similar reports on the major TV networks, or PBS, or NPR stations! So much of what goes on under the banner of reporting is nothing but propaganda emanating from anti-Western, leftist worldview. Let’s go back to the Arab columnist:

“Actually, three hundred (Saudi) fighters are rather a large number, not to mention those recruits who failed to make it into Iraq, or many others who were killed in their confrontations with the multinational and Iraqi forces. In order to deal properly with the numbers of the mujahideen, the question should be rephrased: how were so many young men recruited from Saudia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Sudan, as well as from the other Arab countries? They are very busy killing people and destroying the infrastructure of Iraq. This is the real question that must be asked.”

“After all, those who have recruited these young men and transported them to Iraq will also be able to launch them against their own societies. Thus, what must be feared are not only the mujahideen who remain as a real problem both today and tomorrow, but equally those ideologues who have trained them, both mentally and militarily. In our confrontation with Irhab (terrorism), we tend to pursue only the terrorists themselves and bring them to justice; since they are the ones who took up arms and committed capital crimes. However, the masterminds of Irhab, who stand behind the acts of terrorists, are left to live in peace. It is rather strange that in the current definition of this phenomenon, only those who are the perpetrators of terrorism are considered guilty and deserving of punishment.”

Mr. Al-Rashed proceeds to the heart of the problem, and excoriates the Du’aat, i.e. the Preachers or Propagandists of Irhab:

“It is very important to take note that many of the Du’aat of terrorism regard anyone with a different ideology as a Kafir or Infidel. Such preachers use religious terminology in their recruitment of young people, thus inflaming them with the glory of Jihad “in the Path of Allah.” Thus, these young jihadists embark on bombing mosques, schools, civilian, and military institutions. Why should we deal only with those who commit atrocities and not equally with those who had called for such acts? How are we to approach the jihadists who have been convinced by their teachers, that those Others [reference here is to the U.S. and British forces in Iraq] are invaders and Kuffar (plural of Kafir) and must therefore be fought? How can we convince them not to engage in their attacks, when they believe that in performing them, they gain entrance to Paradise? Can we blame them without first dealing with those who had indoctrinated them to commit their crimes?”
“To deal with this phenomenon in a proper manner, we must realize that the mujahid is not a lonely soldier, but behind him and backing him stands a group of ideologues, promoters, financiers, and lawyers. They are the ones who must be held responsible for the actions of the mujahideen. An indication of the seriousness of Irhab that is afflicting Iraq, is that its leadership has succeeded in recruiting young men from various Arab countries after subjecting them to a brainwashing on a massive scale. This is continuing to this very day. Should these leaders of Irhab succeed in using Iraq as a base for assembling their recruits, they would use the Jihadis as a weapon against their own societies under the banner of fighting the Kuffar, just as they had done that in Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Chechnya, for the last twenty years.”

By the way, the intensity of these words is rather attenuated by their translation into English. It is as if I had reduced their “voltage” from 220 to 110 volts! Read back in their original Arabic, they are powerful denunciations of a plague that it is totally of local origin. This is a fact that is being ignored by Western Propagandists who have swallowed the Saidian theory of the supposedly warped and distorted views of Islam and the Middle East that had been propounded by our Orientalists. I cannot help here, having spelled the name of the father of this anti-Orientalist school in the usual way, to differ radically from its transliteration, since it does not even approximate the way his name is pronounced in Arabic. Properly done, the name should be spelled, “Sa’eed” and not “Said.”

To go back to the article in Al-Sharq al-Awsat, I would like to add a further note. This website daily gives its readers the opportunity to respond. Of the six responses to this article, not one disagreed with the main thesis of the writer. Most of them sounded enthusiastic in their evaluation of the timeliness of the piece. “The article was more than excellent, greetings to my brother who manifests his awareness of the troubles within his nation,” wrote an Arab resident of Canada. Another resident of the US wrote to express his thanks, and predicted that the radicals will lose in the end. The very day that the article appeared, a reader in Saudi Arabia sent a lengthy letter of admiration, pointing at the same time to the Arab media that are failing to deal with this vexing problem.
Another correspondent, this time from Egypt, wrote to show his disappointment that the Arab nations seem to be lagging in their efforts to deal with the tragedy that is unfolding in Iraq.

While I see some rays of hope coming sometimes from within the Arab media, I mourn the fact that the true nature of the malaise that plagues the entire Muslim world is, quite often, not being actually explained by our mainline media, nor objectively taught in many of our colleges and universities. What a pity!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Greatest Missionary Hymn

“The Greatest Hymn”

By Rev. Bassam M. Madany

It was during my three years at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh (1950-1953,) that I discovered Samuel M. Zwemer’s book, “The Cross Above the Crescent.” The subtitle was of special relevance to me as I was preparing for a
lifetime missionary career to Arabic-speaking Muslims: “The Validity, Necessity and Urgency of Missions to Muslims.”

Soon after I had finished reading the book, I wrote a letter to Dr. Zwemer, and sent it
c/o Zondervan Publishing House in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Before too long, I received a very warm letter from him. At the time, he was in his eighties, and was living at the home of his daughter in Alexandria, Virginia. I still remember a paragraph in his letter where he made some pointed references to the great hymns of the Church, especially those composed during the 19th Century, “The Great Century of Missions.” In April 1952, Dr. Zwemer went to his eternal reward, a few days before he was to reach 85!

Lately, I have been looking over several of Zwemer’s works in my library. I began to reread, “Thinking Missions with Christ,” published in 1934. Chapter 7 has this title “The Greatest Hymn.” The reference is to Reginald Heber’s “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains.” I would like to share with you some gems from this chapter, and add a few comments.

“Reginald Heber (1783-1826) became immortal through his missionary hymns, written before and after he went out as the second Anglican Bishop of Calcutta. Among his fifty-seven hymns, five are well known in the churches today: ‘Hosanna to the Living God’;
‘Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning’; ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’; ‘The Son of God
Goes Forth to War’; and ‘From Greenland’s Icy Mountains.’ Dr. Eugene Stock characterized the last of those mentioned as the greatest of all missionary hymns. It has been very widely used and has been translated into the leading languages of Europe and into many other languages on the mission fields. Is the hymn, as some say, ‘too old-fashioned and conventional for present-day use’? One meets with strong prejudice against certain of its expressions, but closer study will reveal new elements of power and beauty.” P. 73

Dr. Zwemer goes on to mention the many gifts and qualities of Reginald Heber:

“In 1815 he delivered the Bampton lectures, was made canon of St. Asaph in 1817 and soon after that was appointed Bishop of Calcutta, as successor to the first Bishop, Dr. Middleton. Bishop Heber is described as a brilliant scholar, a true poet, a devoted parish clergyman, a fascinating personality. … Four years before his consecration as Bishop, he wrote his great missionary hymn under circumstances that are most interesting.

“Mr. Heber, then rector of Hodnet, was visiting Dean Shirley, dean of St. Asaph and vicar of Wrexham, his father-in-law, just before Whit-Sunday, 1819. A royal letter had been issued, calling for missionary offerings in aid of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, on that particular day. Mr. Heber had gone to hear the dean preach and to take his share of the Sunday evening lectures just established in that church. On the Saturday previous, he was asked to prepare some verses to be sung at the close of the morning service. Sitting at the window of the old vicarage, in a short time he produced this hymn --- except the lines, ‘Waft, waft ye winds, His story,’ which he wrote later. … This was the first of modern missionary hymns that speaks imperatively to the conscience and at the same time with persuasion and tenderness. It came as a trumpet call to duty.”

“A lady residing in Savannah, Georgia, had in some way become possessed of a copy of the words, sent to this country from England. She was arrested by the beauty of the poetry and its possibilities as a hymn. … She had been told of a young clerk in a bank, Lowell Mason by name, just a few doors away, down the street. It was said that he had the gift for making beautiful songs. She sent her son to this genius in music, and in a half-hour’s time he returned with this composition. Like the hymn it voices, it was done at a stroke, but has lasted through the years.” Pp. 74-76

It seems that during the 1930s, some criticisms were leveled at Reginald Heber’s missionary hymn. Perhaps its language was too harsh, or it belittled people of other lands. Dr. Zwemer came to the defence of the hymn and answered its critics by writing:

“No one disputes that its language is chaste, its structure logical (once we grant the premises) and that it conforms in its imagery and rhythm to the laws of good hymnody. The fact is that this hymn offers a concise summary of the modern missionary enterprise as conceived by the men who laid its foundations. The first stanza proclaims the universality of the task; the second its necessity; the third its urgency; the fourth its certainty of accomplishment. One could hardly crowd an argument for the basis, the aim, the motive and the goal of missions into smaller compass than we have in these four verses of eight lines each.”

“Chains of error still bind men and women and little children in Africa and India. …
It was not the intention of Bishop Heber to assert that the inhabitants of Ceylon were sinners, vile above other men, but to point out, by one example of conditions in his day, the need for a Saviour from sin in all its terrible forms in all the world and the tragedy of spiritual blindness in the worship of the creature rather than the Creator --- whether on the Gold-coast of Chicago or of West Africa, man bows down to wood and stone.”
Pp.77, 78

Zwemer adds to his own defense of “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains” the words of a British Missionary that had spent twenty one years in India. In a letter dated February 22, 1934, sent to The British Weekly, the retired missionary referred to the new Methodist Hymn Book that had omitted Heber’s missionary hymn. He wrote:

‘Perhaps objection was taken to the final lines: “The heathen in his blindness bows down to wood and stone.” No one suggests that he bows down to wood and stone because he is enlightened; for in another hymn we sing, “And soon may the heathen … cast their idols all away.” If it be said that he does not bow down to wood and stone, but to the gods for whom they stand, that will not help; that only makes things worse.”’ P. 80

Dr. Zwemer ended his chapter on “The Greatest Hymn” with these stirring words:

“Can we whose souls are lighted with wisdom from on high” continue to discuss the spiritual values of higher Hinduism and deny to the masses of India the lamp of life? If we no longer feel the urgency of our message it is because we have lost the overwhelming sense of its necessity. He who knows what salvation is for himself must share the good news.
Salvation! O Salvation!
The joyful sound proclaim
Till earth’s remotest nation
Has learned Messiah’s name.

“There is no substitute for the missionary passion. To revive the spirit of evangelism, to restore the note of immediacy, to convince the world that we have a message sufficient for all men, everywhere and always, we must go back to the Gospel as proclaimed by the apostles: ‘Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and rose again.’

Waft, waft, ye winds, His story,
And you, ye waters roll,
Till like a sea of glory
It spreads from pole to pole.

“This missionary hymn does not need revision. It needs reiteration and revival. Africa and India, and we ourselves still need the old Gospel.” P. 81

Seventy one years have passed since Samuel Zwemer, called by his biographer, J. Christy Wilson, “Apostle to Islam,” wrote this stirring commentary on Reginald Heber’s hymn. As I look over the contents of new and revised editions of several traditional Protestant hymn books, I discover the hymn is no longer there! I find this a sad and painful phenomenon. Should our children and grandchildren be deprived of the theology, appeal, and challenge of this great missionary hymn by its disappearance, at the very time when all other major world religions are reviving and spreading?

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