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The Holy Spirit and Mother Mary

Abigail George

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There’s a Eucharistic art to it that we must we aware of when we discuss the roles of the Holy Spirit and Mother Mary. The natural environment. The supernatural. The neurological. The psychological. The monk in prayer and meditation. The celibate life. The immaculate conception. I often gather new insight into modern religious doctrine and teaching from the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Let us look at the Christian in awe of God. In awe of the biblical teachings of the supernatural. From an early age, we are taught hope, faith, love.

For the church, for the believer, the non-believer, the atheist believing in spirit is a calling. As the believer is called to service. In suffering the believer must serve. In sorrow we are tested. In sorrow, the believer must serve. Conflict and war will always result in pain, emptiness, futility. Physical wounds are healed, scars remain as a reminder just as stigmata. It is psychic wounds that remain. Words that hurt. Words that challenge us to the very fibre of our being. When you give of yourself to the supernatural God, the believer is uplifted and empowered.

That there is still hope, faith, love for the soul of the non-believer and the spiritual progress of the atheist. Humanity is at a point in time where we are disregarding empathy foolishly and without a second thought. We no longer regard our eternal brotherhood as sacred. And so, I come to humility. The grace of humility and the gracious mercy it offers us. What is the meaning behind the organic semblance and docile acceptance of the living embodiment of Christ. The holy sacraments. The sacred positivity that stems from the rituals of prayer.

Supplication in the church, the crowning of thorns, the thirst, the Kingdom come, angelic realm, obedience and forgiveness are all sacred gifts like the fruit of Mother Mary’s womb. This is life. The figuring out on which side we are on. The simple matter or the complex mandate. How do we choose worship? How does worship exist in all of the pre-existing structures of the church? Why do we believe in the first place? We spend our whole lives celebrating ceremony, searching, studying, observing, education ourselves in rigorous teachings of past scholars.

Scholars that have come before us. Prayer, is it just subtle? Is prayer and meditation on the fruits of the spirit mere moral subterfuge. We have this longing for understanding of the divine and the mysterious, the sacred and the blessing, the understanding of our cultural gifts, tradition and heritage. What is the meaning and the purpose behind the moral fibre of our humanity? Where does it come from if not from an omniscient and omnipresent God? Now let me come to the holiest of holies. God, the Christ. The Christian Saviour. The sacred divine meaning.

The sacred purpose. The sacred sanctification. The moral compass. Is the living Christ a conservative God? A transformative figure that renders every psychological construct in the being of man, every paradigm shift in modern society, the framework of psyche and intellect, the mental and emotional faculties, the physical body and attitude that commands all self-control. That gives rise to a self-concept, the ego, the identity of man and church, the branch of motherhood, sisterhood, obedience, prayer, meditation, spiritual progress and confidence.

The believer sees the effervescent and vital energy, synergy and synchronicity behind the beauty and the ugliness of poverty and death. And in poverty and death, in the cultural background of poverty, looking at it from a religious perspective of piety and grace, we find supernatural signs there. Hidden meanings and a rich symbolism there. In death, the self-concept, the physical body is diminished. The physical in death renders itself to the ether. To the unseen, the eternal (eternity) and the hereafter. In death time stands still. Suffering ceases.

Look at this statement. That humanity is complete in the eternity of poverty and death but is it not our knowledge for the hunger of how we continue to exist that has perplexed humanity for all time. Death and poverty pulls and pushes the believer in the direction of ultimately being perplexed about what spirituality and the spirit really is. The biblical landscape offers us proof and understanding beyond the physical scope. The biblical landscape offers us so much more insight. Is the church nothing but an empty ritual or is it sacred beyond measure? It is not dogma.

It is not dogma that defines who we are. It is our longing for the fruits of the spirit. It is coming to the realisation that there is more to the ideology of the sonship, the fatherhood and the Godhead. For millions of years, this landscape that we know of as creation is nothing more but proof of the living and unspoiled legacy of the Saviour. Of Christ. Of our Lord Jesus, son of David that was promised to the disciples (the followers), by the sanctification of the brethren. All who seek an audience. All who sought the King of kings. The alpha and omega. The son.

To have an audience with Him, the son of God. The creator of the universe. Priests in ancient time were the gateway keepers to Abba, the living and self-fulfilling prophecy of Jesus Christ, the son of David. What perfect meaning does the Eucharist give to our lives. It is not an arrogant or proud or weak God that we serve. We are taught through the sonship about the privilege of the church, the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ, the fact that he died on the cross of Calvary, that he was sent to earth to save us from our sins. Man, man worships with a sacred impulse.

It is a divine mystery. It means to honour, to obey. The ten commandments are a manifesto of sorts. In prayer, in silence, there is no moral ambiguity, no singularities of deceit, no acts of immorality or theological deception embedded in doctrine and religious treatise. No matter how much we would like to think of our holy Father as just being, He is also a mystery. A mystery of joy and sorrow, grace and mercy. In the past, the biblical teachings were taught about God in such a way that the believer was held hostage to an unforgiving God.

This is where purification takes place by partaking of the body of Christ. Humanity has laws and systems in place that govern us that continually test our faith. The living example of Jesus Christ lives through us. Our norms, values, belief systems that were taught to us through Mother Mary and the Holy Spirit protect us. God is forever omnipresent in these views and statements. We are given the Holy Spirit in the universal household of the church. Mother Mary is our mother. The sonship belongs to us. Holy communion, the body of Christ, the flesh and blood.

Mankind, humanity, the church is raised in the family. Mother Mary becomes the matriarch and the Godhead the patriarch in the family unit. Raised from birth to believe. From the cradle until death we live with the promise of eternal life. We are taught from an early age that the mother-figure is nurturing. The father-figure is caretaker and protector not only of his children but also of his family. It is the same for the living Christ and the resurrected figure of Jesus Christ. We are all descendants from a higher unseen power. A power of spirit. Of holy Saints.

That in and of itself is a powerful statement. Another, the descendants of the Lord Jesus Christ, son of David, the religious teachings, mandates, doctrines passed down from generation to generation, the fatherhood, the sonship, the holy spirit and Mother Mary when taken out of the church makes for an important and significant statement. It is the good news of the Redeemer. Of the Saviour. The eternal trinity. The fruit of the womb of Mother Mary when the immaculate conception took place was a blessing veiled in disguise. It teaches us to have a forgiving heart.

The psychological framework and truth of the spiritual Father, the Christ-like energy and progress is not something that is a complex ideology. The Christ-like effigy, the absolute energy of the Saviour is never arbitrary. We are making a serious mistake (but this is common) if we look at the Christ-like figure as a grave illusion. This Christ-like figure is capable of love, hope, faith and empathy. For without empathy there can be no religious doctrine. Our spiritual maturation comes with the understanding of benevolence and devotion and worship of Mary.

To realise what the gifts are of the holy spirit and Mother Mary is to look at the biblical perspective of the sonship and the Godhead. The gift of the truth belongs to the believer. We only have to contemplate, meditate upon, worship this figure, of Christ, our Lord and Saviour who leads His believers. It is the Godhead that reigns supreme.

Abigail George is a feminist, poet and short story writer. She is the recipient of two South African National Arts Council Writing Grants, one from the Centre for the Book and the Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council. She was born and raised in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, the Eastern Cape of South Africa, educated there and in Swaziland and Johannesburg. She has written a novella, books of poetry, and collections of short stories. She is busy with her brother putting the final additions to a biography on her father’s life. Her work has recently been anthologised in the Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Anthology IV. Her work was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She briefly studied film.

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Religion

Hajj In The Age Of Coronavirus

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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The Hajj pilgrimage is one of the pillars of Islam, required of those who are able and have the financial capacity.  Eid al Adha celebrations follow Hajj and this year Eid fell on July 31.  It is the second of the two major holidays for Muslims and is often called the festival of sacrifice.

Families purchase an animal usually a goat or sheep for the ritual.  The meat is shared with family and friends but mostly distributed to the poor.  There is a strong undercurrent of social welfare in Islam placing a burden on the haves to look after the needs of the have-nots.

This year the coronavirus has caused havoc with the Hajj economy.  It’s roots go deep.  Mecca was always a city of pilgrimage possessing as it did the idols of pre-Islamic gods.  Traders and merchants were wary of Islam which was notably severe on idolatry.  Needless to say, the Hajj soon placated their fears.

Now for the first time in its history, the coronavirus has done what wars could not:  it has restricted Hajj.  Saudi Arabia has closed its borders to Hajj pilgrims.  Even residents have had to fill application forms from which about 10,000 have been selected.  Compare the figure to the two million usual Hajj pilgrims and one gets an extent of the loss for organizers, accommodation and transportation providers (for the Hajj is a peripatetic ritual), etc.   The loss to Mecca and Medina is estimated at around $10 billion.  A sizable hit and when added with other ravages of the coronavirus yields a rough estimate of a 4 percent contraction in the Saudi economy.

Among the worst hit are the travel firms in the pilgrims’ own countries.  Many of these companies specialize in Hajj travel earning in a couple of months enough to sustain them and their workers for the year.  For them, the future looks bleak.  It’s tough also for the sheep and cattle farmers in surrounding countries as far away as Kenya.  They raise livestock to export for sacrifice at Eid al Adha but absent demand prices have crashed. 

If Eid prayers were a jam-packed, shoulder to shoulder event, no longer in the age of social distancing.  And somehow the ritual of stoning the devil (the three pillars at Mina) seems to lose its impact under a greatly diminished quantity of stones from thinned out throwers.

Well, such has been this year’s pilgrimage.  A socially distanced Hajj that included in addition to the stoning a socially distanced circuiting of the Kaaba in the Grand mosque — absent of course the energy and emotion crowds spontaneously generate.

Hajj and its Eid are over, sanitized and played safe by Saudi Arabia.  And cold, scientific rationality ruled.  Is there a lesson there somewhere?

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Forced Conversions in Pakistan

Palwasha Binte Inam

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Pakistan has failed to comply with its international obligations to protect non-Muslim girls from exploitation by powerful groups and criminal elements – forced conversions are a norm in the Islamic state. Even worse is the psychological impact on families of minorities who worry when their daughters venture out, and the culture of intolerance that is promoted when leaders like Mian Mithu celebrate another ‘forceful conversion’ and marriage as a victory for the Muslim faith in the local community. It sends an awful message to our most vulnerable people — that their girls are not safe.

Statistics in this regard are alarming. A 2014 report by the Movement for Solidarity and Peace (MSP) says about 1,000 women in Pakistan are forcibly converted to Islam every year. According to Amarnath Motumal, the vice-chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, every month, an estimated 20 or more Hindu girls are abducted and converted. However, exact figures are impossible to gather. In 2014 alone, 265 legal cases of forced conversion were reported mostly involving Hindu girls. According to the National Commission of Justice and Peace and the Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC), around 1000 Christian and Hindu minority women are converted to Islam and then forcibly married off to their abductors or rapists. This practice is being reported increasingly in the districts of Tharparkar, Umerkot, and Mirpur Khas in Sindh.

To some of us these maybe just stories and incidents, however its disturbing that our country has failed to protect minorities. It’s the tragedy of our society that the media is not free. It is in the strong shackles of the influential people in our country, and when such incidents occur, media only highlight it for a few days and then it all goes in vain. To us, these are just statistics, but in reality, these are the number of families who faced these bummers.

From the distressing story of Reena and Raveena to the heart-rending story of 18-year-old Radha Hindu community was never granted justice, they are never satisfied with the rulings of the court. Forced conversions of young girls is an emotive issue in the Hindu community of Sindh. Those accused claim that young love is being misrepresented by the community, the media and activists. But those who know the whole truth often do not speak.

These are not just “forceful conversions” by the ordinary people, but it’s proper propaganda by the influential people of that region. Mian Mithu, a former PPP member of the National Assembly, is infamous for his involvement in cases of alleged forced conversions. In 2015, when Imran Khan asked MianMithu to join (PTI), the PTI chairman faced so much backlash from the Hindu community that he had to distance himself from the pir.

The PPP had earlier denied MianMithu a ticket when he first came under the spotlight in 2012 because of accusations of forcefully converting a Hindu girl, Rinkle Kumari. He is the pir of the shrine Bharchundi Sharif. However, Mianmitthu turned down all the allegations and said, “In the past 200 years, not a single Hindu has been converted to Islam forcibly,” he claimed. “All those men, women, girls and boys, whether they belong to the Hindu community or any other community, come to us to change their religion out of their own choice. They are not forced to convert.”

But if we notice the head of the communities who are facing these condemnable threats reject Mian’s statements, and they are convinced that everything they are facing is due to these influential people. Makheja mukhiya of Hindu community stated, “Once a girl is raped; she is blackmailed into giving whatever statement they want to be recorded in the court.” Supposedly speaking from his own experience of handling dozens of such cases. He questioned why it is Hindu girls alone who are so eager to change their religion and elope. Why aren’t Hindu boys, who enjoy more social independence than the girls, doing the same?

Makheja, who himself comes from a wealthy upper-caste Hindu family, says that the most unfortunate thing is that their community is being pushed around and cornered although they have lived in Sindh for generations.

The statement of Ameet Kumar who is a social rights activist and mukhiya (chief) of the local Hindu community in Daharki, aches one’s heart: “When a mother gives birth to a daughter in our community, we feel fear.”

The government took the steps, but no pragmatic change has come.

On October 10, 2019, Huma Masih, a 14-year-old girl, was forcibly abducted from her home by Abdul Jabbar, a Muslim man who then compelled her to convert to Islam under duress before marrying her. Either these steps were not concrete, or it lacked implementation or the steps were against the mafia, and influential people and the government failed to make them accountable.

Finally, it may be concluded that social and economic disparities are stark. It is a particularly inegalitarian society, where a few individuals enjoy a privileged status and the impunity that goes with it. In contrast, others have to struggle for even their fundamental rights to be recognized. There is an extreme proselytizing zeal among the local clergy to bring non-Muslims into the fold of the dominant faith. To convert someone is perceived as a pious deed that will bring rewards in the hereafter, no matter the method employed to execute the conversion. Clerics like MianMitho from Ghotki and Ayub Jan Sarhandi from Samaro, to name a few, have become veritable symbols of conversion in Sindh.

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Relentless Debate on Forced Conversions

Ghulam Nabi Abbasi

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Forced conversion is the illegal conversion of a person from one religion to another religion in duress, force, threat and without free consent. The victims of the forced conversion, are mostly the low-caste Hindu girls, are abducted, then trapped in love and then got married with the Muslim men in the seminaries / Madrassas.

The relentless debate on the forced conversions has been in the limelight throughout the Country across the decades. The forced Conversion bill was placed in 2016 and sadly it was effectively blocked by the mobilization of the Islamist groups and parties. A group of Ulema, including the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) met with Dr. Abdul Qayyum Soomro, the chief minister’s special assistant on religious affairs, on December 5th 2016, and termed the bill against the basic principles of Islam. 7 Religious parties in Karachi launched a campaign against the bill in order to pressurize the Sindh government into repealing it. The JI argued that there could be no age limit on people converting to Islam. Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), opposed the idea of age limits on conversions. Religious Parties threatened to lay siege to the Sindh Assembly if the legislature did not repeal the bill. JI leader Advocate Asadullah Bhutto claimed that there had not been a single case of a forced conversion in Sindh. When the chief of JI, Sirajul Haq, called PPP co chairperson Asif Ali Zardari the PPP-led government quickly announced that it would make amendments to the law.

The case study of the two Hindu sisters Reena and ravina meghwar underage girls from Ghotki district of the Sindh were illegally converted and enticed by two Muslim men who were already married and had children. Those underage girls after their conversion into Islam, they are prevented to meet their families once they get married with the Muslim men. 

This case has depicted the illegal conversions discriminate the laws protecting their rights like Pakistan is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that the right to freedom of religion includes the right to change one’s religion and that no one shall be subject to coercion to change their religion. The Hindu Marriages Act was passed in 2017 to regulate their marriages but they could not avail benefit from that act and its implementation is zero. Many of the Hindu conversions violate Sections 3 and 4 of the Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act 2013, which sets 18 years as the minimum marriage age.

Every year 1000 girls are converted into Islam forcibly as per the report of South-Asia Partnership, Aurat Foundation and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. The hotspots for these conversions are Thar, Umarkot, Ghotki and Jacobabad where these so called conversions take place in large amount. People Convert due to their financial conditions It identified the landlords, extremists and weak local courts are working together to perpetuate this menace rather than defeating the discrimination against the minority groups.

Haris Khalique the writer and General Secretary of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan postulated the scenario these conversions transpire the economic deprivation and patriarchy. Most of these girls come from the scheduled caste and the men they marry are financially better off and that become power dynamic.

Ironically, Pakistan is signatory to the international covenant on Civil and Political Rights and has ratified the (CEDAW) convention on elimination of discrimination against women which clearly envisages that women can enter into marriage with their free consent, but the present scenario in Pakistan shows the ugly side of the picture.

On the whole, the Government has to lay an embargo on the proselytization by approving the bill and implement it widely across the country so that the individuals from the minority and scheduled castes feel secure at their places. Besides, the government has to end this limitless debate of forced conversions by ensuring the equal rights to the religious minorities according to Constitution of Pakistan 1973.

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