Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Hamas, IJ kill 20 people. "Officials from Hamas and Islamic Jihad say the blast does not mean an end to the cease-fire announced by militant groups in late June." The concept of truth has no meaning to these kinds of people. They can't even agree on the meaning of words like "cease-fire"... it's easy to carry out this kind of attack, it only takes a few people. (Plus a very young population with no clear concept of morality.)

I wonder who's behind these attacks - see this mural in Tehran: "Israel must be destroyed" -- Imam Khomeini. There are pictures of two Arabs named "Monif Ashmar" that no-one has ever heard of. For the American readers imagine that New York city had murals about Bolivian terrorists you'd never heard of. Suppose the murals said: "Bolivia must be destroyed." -- Richard Nixon. What would you think?

Baghdad: IPS explains what can't be explained. It sounds like excuses to me.

Last night I went to visit the Zoroastrian centre near the Russian embassy. I find Zoroastrianism really interesting. In England, a bishop, Thomas Cranmer wrote most of "The Book of Common Prayer" for the Church of England in 1549, and in one place he wrote: "ALMIGHTIE GOD father of oure Lord Jesus Christ, maker of all thynges, iudge of all men, we acknowledge and bewaile our manyfold synnes and wyckednes, which we from tyme to tyme, most greuously haue committed, by thought, word and dede."

Now that last part is straight from Zoroastrianism's motto: good thoughts, good words, good deeds. (pendareh nik, goftareh nik, kerdareh nik). All of the major monotheistic religions have elements from Zoroastrianism. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity divide the world up into two halves, and in Islam it's divided into another two halves (men and women). If you want to convert from Islam to another religion, Islamic law says you must be killed. But in Zoroastrianism all people are equal and there are no apostasy laws. Once Mr Khamenei called Zoroastrians "apostates" despite Zoroastrianism predating Islam by more than 1000 years. And a Zoroastrian leader denounced him, and said: you don't have the religious authority in Islam to even make these kind of pronouncements. So I admire anyone who stands up for their rights like that, especially to such a person! In Iran many people, not just Zartoshtis, say: "We had a good religion before the Arabs invaded and imposed Islam." Remember the motto!

PS: You can go in reverse, believing in the division of people into two groups then instantly being changed.

Around the same time, I found myself in a Cambridge cafe having supper with some friends. We were on our way to a lecture by Harvey Cox, whose books I'd always found fascinating, though I'd filled their margins with vociferous criticisms. I suddenly thought, "Listen, is there really that much difference 'them' and 'us'?" I had always accepted the qualitative difference between the "saved" and the "unsaved." Until that moment, it was as if I and my fellow-seminarians had been sitting in a "no-damnation" section of an otherwise "unsaved" restaurant. Then, in a flash, we were all just people. My feeling about evangelism has never been quite the same.

What sort of humour is available in Tehran? If you are only reading Persian language newspapers, or just papers on the web, you are missing some of the most hilarious advertisements to appear in print anywhere! North Korea's national day is on the 9th September. In the leadup to it you will see ads like this (from 9th September last year). "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." -- Albert Einstein

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