Tuesday 17th June 2014
This morning we continued the input on St Mark’s Gospel. In the afternoon I skyped with relatives and colleagues in Australia. Then in the late afternoon I did a second presentation to the group on Islam.
The lecturer who had been arranged to speak on this topic was only able to present one session and then had other commitments. I felt the topic was too important to miss. It would be wrong to come to Jerusalem and leave without gaining some basic knowledge of Islam. It is an important part of the history of Jerusalem, of the present population, and along with Judaism and Christianity regards this as a holy city. Also, it is part of the complexity of the conflicts that continue here and so has to be part of the solution. Accordingly, I offered to share some of my knowledge of Islam built through my years in Pakistan, my formal studies in Rome in the mid-eighties and my teaching the subject and my other involvements in Christian-Muslim and interfaith relations in Sydney during the past decade.
I did a one-hour presentation last week which was very well received. I didn’t complete all the material that I had prepared – it is too much to try and present a world religions and 1400 years in one hour! – so I was asked to take a second session this week to complete that material and also to answer any questions. Again, it was well received. I was glad to be able to share the basics of Islam with the group so that they will have a better appreciation of Islam, of our commonalities and differences, of the challenges and opportunities it presents, and how we can grow towards better mutual understanding and cooperation, here in Jerusalem, and around the world.
After the evening meal, to have a break, a couple of us went for a walk to see the Festival of Light in Jerusalem. This is a one week festival with dozens of installations of lights in various places around the Old City. There are four ‘paths’, each illuminated with a string of different coloured lights, red, green, white and blue. At various sites there are displays of lights. Some are fixed installations, others are projections of lights onto the trees, walls and gates of the city. Some of sound and light shows are quite spectacular. The movie images projected onto the walls create stunning visual effects: as if the walls come alive, are being built brick by brick, or come tumbling down, or are burning, or rippling. Sometimes the projected images are designs or artwork from one or other of the iconic buildings of the city. They can be quite stunning.
We returned home around 10.30pm, so it was a long day! I am tired and off to bed.
Shalom, Peace, Salaam.