Syria may be a hotbed of discontent these days, but an hour’s drive to the northwest of Damascus, a surprising peace has reigned for centuries.
To get to the shrine of St. Takla at Malula, you walk through a steep gorge just an arms’ width in places, whose walls tower above, grudgingly admitting a sliver of daylight. Legend says God parted these rocks to help a young Christian woman of beauty and virtue escape from a pagan rapist. The cave where Takla sheltered almost 2,000 years ago nestles in the cliffs above a Greek Orthodox convent where Orthodox nuns in black habits and veils scurry silently between St.… Seguir leyendo »
Religion usually makes news in France when the state invokes its stern policy of “laïcité.”
This is the country, as we read again and again, with laws that ban crucifixes and Islamic headscarves in state schools and outlaw the full-face Muslim veil in public streets.
Yet here I am sitting in the front row at a Catholic lycée surrounded by Muslims, Christians and non-believers, as the bishop of Versailles blesses the pupils and the building and reads to the new pupils from the gospel of Matthew: “You are the light of the world. …”
The 350-odd boys and girls at the Lycée Jean-Paul II, many from immigrant families, heartily applaud the bishop.… Seguir leyendo »
The white blast of the noon sun offers no mercy to the pilgrims as they shuffle along the marble path leading to the “green tomb,” so known because of the cylindrical dome that shelters it.
The visitors stop at the fountain outside to wash away the dust and sweat before entering. Inside, the cool air grants respite at last, and a line of framed poems leads to the source of a gentle hum.
It is the faithful whispering their prayers alongside the large, velvet-covered tomb of Jalal-al-Din Rumi, the 13th-century Sufi poet and mystic popularly known as “Mevlana,” “Our Master.”
Nothing could seem further from the furor over a proposed Islamic study center in Lower Manhattan than these scenes of devotion for a man who transformed the Persian-speaking areas of the Islamic world with poetry about love, humility, tolerance and the individual embrace of God.… Seguir leyendo »