Christian holidays blurred by focus on one religion

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Christian holidays blurred by focus on one religion

The trend of the Arab World becoming focused more and more on the Islamic religion is overshadowing a powerful Christian history of Middle East tradition and eroding religious diversity. It’s also resulting in many Muslims who just don’t know anything about the richness of the Christian religion. You can’t be a true Arab if you only know about one majority religion and have ignored the richness of the minority religion

By Ray Hanania

Today is August 15 which is an important holiday among Christians. It marks the day when the Virgin Mary passed from her human existence to Heaven, called the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

Christians, especially those from the Middle East and Mediterranean, celebrate this day with a feast. It is a major Christian Arab holiday, or an Eid. The Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of the Assumption Eid with a 14 day period of fasting prior to the actual feast on the 15th.

The problem is that most Muslims don’t even know that any more. There was a time when Muslims and Christians not only understood each other but “knew” each other and recognized each other’s traditions.

That’s not the case today as many Arabs who are Muslim have begun their own singular journey identifying more as “Muslims” then as “Arabs.”

Roasted Lamb from Al-Bawadi restaurant in Bridgeview.

Roasted Lamb from Al-Bawadi restaurant in Bridgeview.

Many Christian Arabs have done the same, turned inward to their identity as Christians rather than as “Arabs” who are both Christian and Muslim.

Of course, Christians are suffering more in this metastasization, or movement away from unity into two separate unrelated identities.

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Don’t get me wrong. Separation, segregation, or movement away from each other is a problem for both Christians and Muslims. It is a serious problem for the empowerment of Arabs as a nationalistic movement.

But Christian Arabs will suffer more for obvious reasons. There are fewer Christian Arabs than Muslim Arabs, although the Arab Muslims have become a minority int heir own religion as the religion of Islam continues to spread beyond the cultural boundaries of the Arab people. Arab Muslims make up now only 22 percent of all the Muslims on the planet. That’s still an enormously larger presence than the vanishing existence of the Christian Arab.

Arab Christians have always been a minority cast out by their non-Arab Christian brethren. It’s shameful that non-Arab Christians have forgotten the powerful religious connection that Christian Arabs play in connecting them to the Holy Land, or the origins of their religious existence.

Events like the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, what years ago was celebrated across the Arab World with much participation, support and acknowledgment from the Muslim Arab World, is today almost forgotten or worse, ignored.

Forgotten means you don’t remember. Ignored means you know but have made a conscious decision to abandon something that should be important.

Muslim Arabs need to re-evaluate where they are going in this world. It doesn’t mean they should abandon their religious beliefs. But it does mean that as they find strength in their religious beliefs, they need to reassert their important ties to the non-Islamic traditions of their closest brethren, Christian Arabs.

In truth, Muslim Arabs will be nothing if they lose sight of Christian Arabs, who are slowly vanishing and being expunged from this Earth.

The Feast of the Assumption is an important Christian Eid celebration and Muslims should re-familiarize themselves with it. The feast is celebrated with a gathering around religious fealty and in the sharing with family and friends of food, usually roasted lamb.

Peter Paul Rubens painting of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Baroque, 1626. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Peter Paul Rubens painting of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Baroque, 1626. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Roasted lamb is the bond that brings the Arabs together.

While most Arab Muslims may not know or remember the importance of this Christian Eid, the Feast of the Assumption is important for them to recall, re-learn and use as a basis to re-establish relations with their closest cousins, Christian Arabs.

It’s not enough to believe in Mary as the mother of Jesus, a Christian Prophet, or to revere both in the Islamic teachings. Muslim Arabs need to recognize that the break between our two communities is destructive to both.

There used to be a very strong connection between Christian Arabs and Muslim Arabs. That connection has weakened and it is getting weaker as both sides drift away, focused on themselves rather than on the more important foundation of Arabism.

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