The Jewish Network for Palestine recently invited me to give a short presentation on ‘Convivencia’ or coexistence at their 2021 annual meeting.
Convivencia simply means ‘coexistence’. It is an academic hypothesis, first proposed by the Spanish philologist Américo Castro, regarding the coexistence of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities during the period of Spanish history from the Muslim Umayyad conquest of Hispania in the early eighth century until the expulsion of the Jews in 1492.
By extension the term can describe the contemporary religious and cultural interaction and exchange fostered by such proximity as a way to challenge the various forms of ethno-supremacism and exclusive religious nationalisms emerging in different parts of the world.
A vigil for Gaza was held in Reading town centre on Saturday 5th June organised by Reading Muslim Council with contributions from the Jewish Network for Palestine, Cordoba Foundation, Green Party, Slough PSC and Jewish Voices for Labour. Organisers estimate that around 250 people participated in the vigil while many people out shopping stopped to listen to the presentations. At the end of the vigil balloons were released in memory of each child killed in Gaza. I gave a short presentation (below) and also offered prayers for the bereaved and injured.
Bishop Azad Marshall of the Diocese of Raiwind has been unanimously elected Moderator of the Church of Pakistan (The Anglican Church of Pakistan became the United Church when it merged with three other denominations in 1970). This position has a three year term. He succeeds Bishop Humphrey Peters. Bishop Azad is also a valued member of the Peacemaker International Board of Reference.
In December 2016, Bishop Azad was honoured by the government of Pakistan for his work on human rights. He was one of 40 recipients of awards last weekend to mark International Human Rights Day. Bishop Azad received the Presidential Award for Human Rights from the President of Pakistan, Muhammad Mamnoon Hussain, during an award ceremony at the President’s House.
Bishop Azad is the President of National Council of Churches in Pakistan. “He has no doubt a long and continuous record of contributing to educational development and human rights in Pakistan,” a statement from the Diocese of Raiwind said. “We congratulate him and pray for his continuous ministry in Pakistan and beyond.”
The diocese thanked the Pakistan government “for recognising and nominating distinguished citizens committed to upholding the poor and the marginalized [and] for upholding their human rights.”
Like other Western colonial-settler experiments, for over 70 years, Zionists have been systematically erasing the culture and history of indigenous Palestinians to justify their forced removal and the theft of their land. Ilan Pappe, in his book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, calls this ‘memorocide’ and in The Palestine Nakba, Nur Masalha elaborates,
“The founding myths of Israel have dictated the conceptual removal of Palestinians before, during and after their physical removal in 1948… The de-Arabisation of Palestine, the erasure of Palestinian history and the elimination of the Palestinian’s collective memory by the Israeli state are no less violent than the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in 1948 and the destruction of historic Palestine.”
This is why books such as Ancestral Journeys and Western Missions are so vital in recording the memories and eyewitness accounts of Arabs and Palestinians who experienced the arrival of Western colonialists to the Middle East, were co-opted into their wars, witnessed the rise of Zionism and then became refugees in the Palestinian Nakba. Anita Damiani-Shanley’s book will most certainly help perpetuate their heritage and rightful historic claim to Palestine.
Ancestral Journeys is however much more than the story of two families, one Arab and the other Scottish joined in marriage. It traces the influence of missionaries, archaeologists, traders and colonialists competing with each other for a share of the Near East as the Ottoman Empire met its demise. Richly illuminated with family photos, the three main chapters trace the ancestral journeys of Damiani-Shanley’s extended family from Scotland and Lebanon to Iraq and then to Palestine. A fourth chapter traces the role of the Anglican Church in Palestine.
Revd Dr Andrew Ashdown answers questions about his new book ‘Christian-Muslim relations in Syria: Historic and Contemporary Religious Dynamics in Changing Contexts’, published by Routledge.
Offering an authoritative study of the plural religious landscape in modern Syria and of the diverse Christian and Muslim communities that have cohabited the country for centuries, this volume considers a wide range of cultural, religious and political issues that have impacted the interreligious dynamic, putting them in their local and wider context.
“Offering an authoritative study of the plural religious landscape in modern Syria and of the diverse Christian and Muslim communities that have cohabited the country for centuries, this volume considers a wide range of cultural, religious and political issues that have impacted the interreligious dynamic, putting them in their local and wider context. Combining fieldwork undertaken within government-held areas during the Syrian conflict with critical historical and Christian theological reflection, this research makes a significant contribution to understanding Syria’s diverse religious landscape and the multi-layered expressions of Christian-Muslim relations. It discusses the concept of sectarianism and how communal dynamics are crucial to understanding Syrian society.