Decolonising Jesus Christ

The figure of Jesus Christ goes way beyond the image of him which hegemonic European Christianity imposed on the world.

5ad05132e3834125be15b3de80432865_18Christians around the world are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Some do so on December 25 and others on January 7, depending on what church or liturgical calendar they follow. 

Given the overwhelming hegemony of Western Christianity in Europe, the Americas, Australia and throughout the colonised world where European Christianity has been the vehicle of colonisation, the fact of celebrating the birthday of Jesus early in January has become something of an afterthought.

But why? The difference is not just liturgical, canonical or doctrinal. It is also cultural, historical and the prelude of decolonising Christ and Christianity.

Eurocentric hegemony over Christian practices and perceptions of its central figure, Jesus Christ, have systematically sidelined various other rites and conceptualisations of his figure. Shifting the point of emphasis from one branch of Christianity to another – or any other religion – points to the multiplicity of ways in which a religious figure such as Jesus has been celebrated.

As millions of Eastern Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, it is an opportune time to revisit how he has been imagined throughout time and across the world. 

Revolutionary Jesus

For those familiar with Jaroslav Pelikan’s magnificent book Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture (1999), this is not unusual for a different cultural milieu giving birth to a different figure of Christ.

In his study, we encounter a floating figure of Jesus which moves from a Jewish Rabbi in the first century after his birth, to “the Light of Gentiles”, and “the King of Kings” during the Roman Empire in the second and third centuries, “the Cosmic Christ” in the aftermath of encounter with Platonism, “the Son of Man” in St Augustine’s work in the fifth century, and “the Prince of Peace” during the Reformation in 16th-century Western Europe.  

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA 

At Christmas, Christians and Muslims take time to talk about loving Jesus, and each other

GettyImages_460629094.6(RNS) — In the immediate aftermath of the 2016 presidential elections, when we felt the country needed a message of unity and hope, the Rev. Andy Stoker, of First Methodist Church in Dallas, and I released a video on Facebook about our friendship called “An Imam, A Pastor, and A Dream,” in hopes that it would inspire others.

It spread rapidly online, with millions of views within the first few days. Those who commented saw in that five-minute clip the type of connection they wished to see in their own communities.

Little did we know just how far it would reach. Shortly after its release, I got a phone call informing me that ISIS had made a video about our video. In theirs, they referred to me as “the Apostate Omar Suleiman” and called for their followers to assassinate me [dfw.cbslocal.com].

I was unnerved by the news, but I knew I had to tell Andy what had happened before he found out through some other source. When I called, he not only didn’t shy away, he began the conversation that led to our next effort together. We decided in the wake of ISIS’ threat that we weren’t going to let any fools stop us from being brothers. Not here, and not thousands of miles away.

That spring of 2017, we began offering a month-long class about Jesus in Islam and Christianity. For four weeks, our Christian and Muslim communities came together to discuss Jesus in our respective faiths. The pews at First United Methodist were full, according to the Reverend Andy Stoker.

The tranquility and bonds formed over that month had captivated us all. At the end of our last session there wasn’t a dry eye in the church.

Rev. Andy and I had started with the birth of Christ, then went on to his life, ending with our differences on the meaning of the crucifixion, then finally came to Jesus’ second coming. In the first two weeks, we found little difference in how our two faiths viewed Jesus in birth and life.

Jesus is no ordinary figure to Muslims. He is one of the highest prophets and messengers of God, born of a virgin, chosen as the one to restore justice to this earth in its final days, and distinguished in the hereafter with a special place in paradise. He is mentioned in the Quran 25 times, with an entire chapter named after his honored mother, Mary.

Muhammad said about his relationship to him, “Both in this world and in the Hereafter, I am the nearest of all the people to Jesus, the son of Mary. The prophets are paternal brothers; their mothers are different, but their religion is one.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE

Muslims love Jesus. So why does everyone think we hate Christmas?

34b8035e7caa68a058fe5fc77d4a0a7dWhile most British Muslims might be indifferent to the celebrations underway this season, perhaps we can play a small part in reviving the generosity, kindness and true Christmas spirit associated with the holiday

 

It’s Christmas time and so it hasn’t taken long for a national newspaper to run a feature implying British Muslims are poorly integrated for “refusing to celebrate a Christian holiday”. The irony of this pernicious Islamophobia, feebly hiding behind the banner of defending the Judeo-Christian values of our country, is that it is bereft of any meaningful understanding of Islam.

You see, the thing is, Muslims love Jesus.

In fact, the Prophet Muhammad said: “The dearest person to me in friendship and in love, in this world and the next is Jesus, the son of Mary.”

It may come as a surprise to many to learn that Jesus is mentioned in the Quran over 100 times, while the Prophet Muhammad, by contrast, is mentioned just five times. Described as the best woman ever to have set foot on earth, there is a whole chapter in the Quran named “Mary” and she is the only woman mentioned by name in the holy book.

It’s not just that Muslims love Jesus – we believe him to be one of the greatest messengers of god. We believe in his miraculous birth. We believe that god gifted him with the ability to bring the dead back to life, heal the leper and bring sight back to the blind and, like Christians, we believe in his second coming back to this world.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE INDEPENDENT (UK)

How to survive Christmas as a Muslim

L5N5LEVFKQPB7GE4L55NNWOEAII grew up trying to avoid the American Christmas celebrations all around me.

Celebrating Christmas wasn’t allowed in my house. My family is Muslim, the kind that thought saying “Merry Christmas” meant accepting Jesus Christ as your lord and savior. So when we got together as a family during those precious days off from school and work, finding things to do that didn’t involve that fat burglar with the beard was the mission.

My parents had both immigrated from Egypt in the 1970s, where, I should note, Christmas is very much a thing, except Egyptians celebrate it on Jan. 7, as Eastern Orthodox Christians do, with the big trees and everything. But in raising their American kids, they were deathly afraid that they would fail to pass down their own Muslim traditions. They went all out. They enrolled us in an Islamic school where we had days off for the Islamic holidays, too. They enrolled me in Islamic karate classes. And when Christmas time rolled around, they taught me to make the most of my days off by doing absolutely anything except celebrate the reason for them.

It turned into a kind of game. When we watched TV, we’d strategically change channels to avoid Christmas commercials. When we strung lights in the house, back when Ramadan and Eid were around Christmastime, we avoided the green and red combo. When Christmas carolers would show up to our front door … just kidding, there were never carolers in my tough Newark, N.J., neighborhood. But had there been, we’d have shut off the lights and pretended no one was home.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE DALLAS NEWS

 

Christmastime means good spirits for everyone. Even a secular Muslim like me.

Here in Belgium, people do not traditionally set up their Christmas trees until after the chocolaty feast of Saint Nicholas, or as he’s known in Dutch, Sinterklaas, who mutated to become the American “Santa Claus” in the melting pot of New York (formerly New Amsterdam). Not being one to stand on ceremony, my wife, who is Belgian, suggested we put out the Christmas decorations early this year to help ease the blues of our first full winter back in Europe after several years in the Middle East.
When the saintly gift-bearer (whose existence my 10-year-old son is beginning to doubt) arrived in early December, as he does in Belgium, for what might be his final visit to our house, he must have been confused to find it all done up with a Christmas tree already. On deeper reflection, I am aware of the glaring contradiction between parents telling their kids never to accept anything from strangers and then pretending it’s okay for a mysterious old man to enter their homes in the dead of night to leave treats behind.

In our multicultural, irreligious household, where we encourage our son to celebrate his dual European-Arab heritage, Christmas is the favorite festival. With how secularized it has become in the West, it is more fun than the Islamic feasts we also mark.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

Damascus, the Christmas of Christian and Muslim children: a gift, beyond the wounds of war

siria_-_christmas_hysteriaokDamascus (AsiaNews) – A Christmas of lights and shadows, caught between the desire to leave behind the violence of the past and the still open wounds of a conflict that – he hope of everyone, Christians and Muslims – seems to be coming to a conclusion. The contradictions of capital illuminated in celebration and neighborhoods without electricity. The joy of children (Muslims), who bear the wounds of war on their skin, for an unexpected toy source of hope for a future of peace and unity. Christmas in Damascus shared with AsiaNews by Sandra Awad, married mother of two children and communication manager for Caritas Syria.

The days of Christmas were passing by this year, and I was experiencing a state of hysteria and a terrible contradiction of emotions that never seemed to have an end.

I took the kids for a drive in my car to see the  Christmas decorations, and I found myself looking at the shining lights on the streets and the balconies… I choked up… I can’t help remembering my husband’s sad’s voice while telling me about the lack of electricity at his lab in Sahnaya, since this area and others in the countryside of Damascus are barely receiving electricity during a few hours in the day.

I said to myself: “What’s wrong with you, girl?! Enjoy the magic of Christmas! And let your kids enjoy the lights. Be grateful for everything!”

A few minutes after, I passed by a tree which I heard that it coasted around a million Syrian pounds, or two, or three… I’m not quite sure… and I found myself choking again.

There are children who are going to destroyed schools, people who are living in houses with no doors or windows, no water or electricity because they cannot pay 15000 SP to rent an unfinished room in Jaramana, so I found myself choking. Suddenly I heard my son gasping with joy as soon as we reached the big Christmas tree, so I silenced my thoughts and said to myself: “What’s wrong with you, girl? Stop thinking about tragedies! Concentrate on joy; your own joy and your children’s.”

A few minutes later, a carnival that was organized by the church scouts passed next to us, those kids and young people walking on the roads in spite of the extreme cold, wearing special uniforms, carrying flags and singing Christmas carols on the streets. I asked myself: “Does anyone of those kids understand that this is Jesus Christ’s birthday, and it is not a carnival?”

FULL ARTICLE FROM ASIA NEWS (ITALY)

Muslims love Jesus. So why does everyone think we hate Christmas?

MuslimConfusionAboutLoveOfJesus-640x640While most British Muslims might be indifferent to the celebrations underway this season, perhaps we can play a small part in reviving the generosity, kindness and true Christmas spirit associated with the holiday.

It’s Christmas time and so it hasn’t taken long for a national newspaper to run a feature implying British Muslims are poorly integrated for “refusing to celebrate a Christian holiday”. The irony of this pernicious Islamophobia, feebly hiding behind the banner of defending the Judeo-Christian values of our country, is that it is bereft of any meaningful understanding of Islam.

You see, the thing is, Muslims love Jesus.

In fact, the Prophet Muhammad said: “The dearest person to me in friendship and in love, in this world and the next is Jesus, the son of Mary.”

It may come as a surprise to many to learn that Jesus is mentioned in the Quran over 100 times, while the Prophet Muhammad, by contrast, is mentioned just five times. Described as the best woman ever to have set foot on earth, there is a whole chapter in the Quran named “Mary” and she is the only woman mentioned by name in the holy book.

It’s not just that Muslims love Jesus – we believe him to be one of the greatest messengers of god. We believe in his miraculous birth. We believe that god gifted him with the ability to bring the dead back to life, heal the leper and bring sight back to the blind and, like Christians, we believe in his second coming back to this world.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE INDEPENDENT (UK)