Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Egypt on my Mind

It seems I have a fever.  Egypt keeps calling me back, and I find my thoughts and a vague longing returning, day after day.  Things keep reminding me of Egypt.  Of course, the reason a part of me is also in Egypt could have to do with the fact that I keep reading about Egypt and listening to Egyptian music.  I've been listening lately to a Coptic praise CD I bought in the Hanging Church in Cairo.  I find it beautiful, even though I don't understand a word of it, so I pray in my own way to the music.  Sometimes I find that I can find my heart in music better when there are no lyrics, or when I don't understand them.  The group is called "Better Life Team".  Those three words are in English, but everything else on and in the CD is in Arabic.

The other day I was out for a long walk in the woods with Peter and our dog, Toffee.  In the evening, the bells tolled, reminding people that a church service was about to begin.  The bells sounded lovely, deep and resonant.  This peal resonates deep within my heart.  The sound of church bells is one of the things about Germany that have found their way deep into my heart.  But another sound also resonates, the call to prayer I heard five times a day in Egypt.  It resonates in a similar, but also different way, since the setting is different.

On our very first day in Egypt, on the second trip, I was inspired to jot down a poem about the call to prayer.  I wrote it as if I were an Egyptian returning to my land.  I felt that I could imagine the feeling, and my putting myself in the place of an Egyptian reminded me that we are all connected.  I know very little about Egypt, having only visited twice in my life, and having been a tourist each time.  I don't even speak more than ten words of Arabic.  And yet, something of this culture resonates within me.

There is the longing to unite it all, to make it all connect.  I want to tie loose ends, and I want to harmonize that which will not be harmonized.

I'm reading a fascinating book right now, Pilgrims of Christ on the Muslim Road, by Paul-Gordon Chandler, an Anglican priest who lives in Cairo.  In this book, Chandler discusses the life of Mazhar Mallouhi, a Syrian novelist, a Muslim who is also a follower of Jesus Christ.  He sees no contradiction.  This is the kind of thing I long to reconcile.  If Mallouhi can reconcile it, maybe it can be reconciled.  And the conflict between the Arabs and Jews in Israel can also be reconciled.

The book quotes a letter from Samir, also a Muslim, to his friend Mallouhi.  I'll quote the part about the mosque.

"...It is a bad approach to try to transmit Christ's message to a Muslim by undermining Islam...It is also a bad approach to make him feel that the mosque, which is a powerful spiritual and cultural space, is a negative and adversary place.  It is also a house of God where if he likes he can experience his new relation with Jesus."

A man who's also trying to reconcile it all.  Well, it can be done in the head and in the heart, and that's where everything begins.

Here's my poem.

Call to Prayer

So long it's been
so long away from your call
How did I ever live
to barely survive
without your call
I must have died.

Your call - deep as the unknown sea,
waves of fervent
reminders of your surge
pull, drawing to 
unseen power
lead down fathomless depths

Unknown, yet I do know
your voice, longing, like mine
I will answer
the voice beyond yours and yours
to join and never part again

Sorry, I hear your call
and know I must leave
return to chilly climes
and treble chimes
that call as well but
leave no trace upon my soul

5 February, 2012

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