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Archive for the tag “Lent”

Halaal food sparks fury

“Halaal food sparks fury” read the headline in today’s City Press.

I read the first couple of paragraphs, and, bearing in mind today’s date, dismissed it as an April Fool’s joke in rather bad taste. It seemed to diss Christians, trying to make it look as though they were a bunch of idiots.

The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL) Commission has been flooded with letters from Christian consumers complaining that most food and beverages in their supermarkets are certified halaal, with some saying they don’t want to eat or drink anything “sacrificed to idols”.

Complaints received by the CRL against supermarkets and Muslim halaal-certification authorities show some Christians are furious about the prevalence of halaal-certified food in grocery stores and restaurants, claiming it violates their right to freedom of choice.

Is that for real? They’re joking, of course.

You can see an online version of the original article here.

But then it seemed that, if it was an April Fool’s joke, rather a lot of people seemed to have fallen for it and were taking it seriously.

I still haven’t made up my mind whether it is for real or not, but I thought I’d say something about it.

I am a Christian, and for more than 60 years I’ve been eating food that has been marked as OK for the dietary rules of other religions. As a schoolboy I liked Mozmarks Tasty Matzos, which was marked “Kosher for Passover”. I never heard anyone say or imply that it was bad for Christians to eat that.

And I loved Gold Dish Mutton Breyani, which was marked as Halaal.

No one ever said that Christians should not eat that either.

There was also Go0d Dish mutton curry with peas — those soon disappeared from the market, but they were replaced by mutton curry with kidney beans and mutton curry with vegetables. All were marked Halaal and I ate and e4njoyed them all. They are now almost unobtainable, and when you do manage to find them they have a “new and improved” recipe, which, like the WordPress editor, isn’t nearly as good as the old one.

When I lived and worked in the UK 50 years ago I used to eat a lot of breyani (or biriyani), as they spelt it there. It came from Pakistani restaurants and I’m pretty sure Pakistani cuisine is mostly halaal, because most Pakistanis are Muslim. I liked it a lot better than most English cooking, which consisted of things like “rice” (which turned out to be rice pudding, with custard) and macaroni & cheese with chips (British cooking has improved since the 1960s, perhaps as a result of all those TV chefs).

Illustration attached to City Press “Halaal” article.

One clue that suggests that the City Press article is an April Fools joke extracting the Michael is the bit about Halaal food being “sacrificed to idols”. Everybody knows, or ought to, that Muslims don’t do idols. So the City Press article is poking fun at Christians by making them out to be a bunch of ignoramuses. That is why I think that, if it is an April Fool’s joke, it is in pretty poor taste.

I will say, however, that I’m all for food being labelled to show that it meets the dietary requirements of religious and other groups. I’m happy to see food certified as “organic”, recalling that melamine and other inorganic substances were introduced into Chinese pet food a few years ago.

I’m happy to see some food labelled as “Kosher for Passover”, and am only sorry that I cant find food labelled “Nistisimou for Lent”.

I once attended an Aids symposium, where lunch was provided, and as it happened to be a fast day I was picking out tomatoes from the salads and leaving the cheese behind. Some helpful soul pointed out the “Halaal” table, and when I said that wouldn’t make it, they pointed to the kosher table. I said that wouldn’t make it either, but if it had prawns they would do.  They then offered me a cheese sandwich. No. But a nistisimou table would have been nice. The people who organised the symposium thoughtfully made special provision for the dietary needs of Muslims and Jews, but not for Orthodox Christians.






Anatomy of exile

This month’s synchroblog, in the week in which Lent begins, is on Experiences in the wilderness. March Synchroblog – Experiences In The Wilderness – 3/9/2011 | synchroblog:

During the season of Lent we are reminded that all of us experience wilderness times in our lives – times of searching, of mourning, of anticipating, of waiting, of watching, of unknowing, of struggling, of preparation. Join us during the season of Lent for this month’s synchroblog as we reflect and share insights and thoughts about “Experiences In The Wilderness”.

As I look back on my life I can recall several experiences that could be said to be experiences of the wilderness, some literal, some figurative.

I won’t go into all the details of all these now; for the sake of those who might be interested, I’ve linked a couple of them to other posts that give some more details.

The first, flight into exile in the UK, was not a real wilderness experience, though it felt like it at the time. I had finished my BA degree at the University of Natal, and was working as a bus driver in Johannesburg to try to raise money for postgraduate study in the UK. I needed to be in the UK at the end of September, but in January a man from the Security Police phoned me and wanted to see me. I thought he was either going to give me a banning order, or confiscate my passport, so I scarpered the same night, driving to Bulawayo and catching a plane to London from there. When I got back two-and-a-half years later they came and confiscated my passport. It wasn’t really exile, but it felt like it because of the sudden and unexpected parting from friends and family and arriving in a strange country with no money and no job. I felt, in a very mild way, what refugees must feel like.

The last, churchlessness, was when we left the Anglican Church in 1985, and asked to join the Orthodox Church, which entailed writing a letter to the bishop. The bishop referred the letter to the Pope, who said he must refer it to the Holy Synod, but then died before the Holy Synod could consider it. The Anglican Church sent a lawyer after me, who unfairly and unjustly accused me of stealing church property, and was extremely nasty about it. So we were left in a kind of ecclesiastical wilderness, and at times both Val and I entertained thoughts of going up to the railway line that runs over the road from us and throwing ourselves under a passing train. Neither of us told the other about these thoughts until long afterwards; it was definitely a spiritual wilderness experience.

After being deported from Namibia I read a book called The anatomy of exile: a semantic and historical study, and though I can now remember very little of what it said, it made me reflect on the experience of exile, and to realise that what I missed most was not so much places, as people.

But in Lent, and especially in the first week of Lent, we are reminded that all our earthly experiences of exile are actually pointers to a larger exile, and the hymns of the church focus on the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise.

In Western theology there is the idea of dwelling in the Land of Unlikeness, where we have lost the likeness of God in which we were created.

In the Orthodox Church we have the picture of of Adam weeping at the gates of Paradise and lamenting:

The Word of God the Father,
begotten before the ages,
in the latter times willed to be incarnate of the Virgin
and endured crucifixion unto death.
He has saved mortal man//
by His Resurrection.

v. (6) If You, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You.

Tone 6 (from the Lenten Triodion)

The Lord took a handful of dust from the earth.
He breathed into it, and created me, a living man.
He made me lord and master of all things on earth;
truly I enjoyed the life of the Angels.
But Satan the deceiver tempted me in the guise of a serpent;
I ate the forbidden fruit and forfeited the glory of God.
Now I have been delivered to the earth through death.//
O my compassionate Lord, call me back to Eden!

v. (5) For Your name’s sake I have waited for You, O Lord, my soul has waited for Your word; my soul has hoped on the Lord.

When the Enemy tempted me,
I disobeyed Your command, O Lord.
I exchanged the glory of my mortal body for shame and nakedness.
Now I must wear garments of skins and fig-leaves;
I am condemned to eat the bread of bitter hardship in the sweat of my
The earth is cursed and brings forth thorns and husks for me.
O Lord, You took on flesh from the Virgin in the fullness of time;//
call me back and restore me to Eden!

v. (4) From the morning watch until night, from the morning watch, let Israel hope on the Lord!

O Paradise, garden of delight and beauty,
dwelling-place made perfect by God,
unending gladness and eternal joy,
the hope of the Prophets and the home of the saints,
by the music of your rustling leaves beseech the Creator of all
to open the gates which my sins have closed,
that I may partake of the Tree of Life and Grace,//
which was given to me in the beginning!

v. (3) For with the Lord there is mercy and with Him is plenteous redemption, and He will deliver Israel from all his iniquities.
This post is part of a Synchroblog, in which several bloggers post articles on the same general theme. This month’s theme is “Experiences in the Wilderness”, and here are some other blog posts on the theme.

Happy Mothers’ Day!

Happy Mothers’ Day to all mothers.

In England, since at least the 17th Century, the Fourth Sunday of Lent was known as “Mothering Sunday”. It was a day when mothers were honoured.

Servants who worked and normally resided in the homes of the wealthy were given the day off and encouraged to return to their homes and spend time with their mothers. A tradition arose involving the baking of special type of fruit cake, known as Simnel Cake, which would be shared both at home and at various gatherings. (The Fourth Sunday of Lent, complete with the very same cake, was also observed in some places as “Laetare (Rejoice/Refresh) Sunday”.

It is said that the origin was because in the old Anglican prayer book the Epistle reading set for the Fourth Sunday of Lent was from Galatians 4, and contained the verse “But Jerusalem which is above is free; which is the mother of us all”.

Another explanation is given that in the Middle Ages the Virgin Mary was honoured on this day, and that it was later extended to all mothers.

But whatever the origin, happy Mothers’ Day to all mothers everywhere.

Niehaus: journos twist the knife — and the facts

When journos get the knife in, they really twist it (and the facts), and stab again and again.

Consider this report about the former ANC spokesman

News – South Africa: Niehaus has no degree: report:

Former ANC spokesperson Carl Niehaus does not have a doctor’s degree in theology as claimed, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.

According to Beeld newspaper, Niehaus did not get a doctor’s degree in theology from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, as he had claimed. This was during his stint as South Africa’s ambassador in Den Haag.

Note that the body of the story says that he didn’t have a doctors degree from Utrecht, but the headline suggests that that he has no degree at all, which seems to be a deliberate attempt to mislead.

Now perhaps that is because there’s a general election coming up, and the media believe that all’s fair in love, war and politics. If your political opponent is down, kick, kick and kick again. If he’s done one thing wrong, make it look as though he’s done everything wrong, and nothing right.

Max du Preez, a well-known journalist, goes even further, and is more specific: “He lied about having a degree and a doctorate… he apparently only has a matric certificate behind his name” (Pretoria News, 19 Feb 2009).

Now when Carl Niehaus was released from prison he visited the Missiology Department at Unisa (on 26 March 1991) and all the department staff gathered in David Bosch’s office to meet him. He was a student in the department, and was one of the very few to have been allowed to study for a Masters degree in prison. Willem Saayman, his supervisor, described the hoops he had to jump through to deal with all the red tape in order to visit him in prison to discuss his studies. I don’t know if Carl Niehaus was ever awarded the Masters degree, summa cum laude or not, but he would certainly not have been allowed to register for such a degree at all if he had “no degree” as the media are now claiming.

On the Emerging Africa blog there is a discussion on whether the important questions today are about authority, identity, morality or something else. And I would say that at this point in our history, with a general election coming up, and all sorts of stories circulating about corruption among politicians, that morality probably tops the list. I’m as disturbed as some journalists that people in the ANC seem not only to support people who have been involved in corruption, but also to approve of their behaviour (the demonstrations in support of Tony Yengeni are a case in point). Going to jail for fighting for truth and justice is one thing, going to jail for fraud and corruption is another.

But morality is also an issue for journalists. Carl Niehaus may have lied about some of his past achievements, but some journalists have also apparently lied about Carl Niehaus.

Greed, which used to be regarded as one of the seven deadly sins, is now regarded as a virtue by many of our political leaders, and that makes morality a hot issue.

And for those of us who are neither politicians nor the journalists who write about them, St Paul’s advice applies, “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Cor 10:12). In ten days Great Lent begins, and we pray the prayer of St Ephraim:

O Lord and Master of my life! Take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to Thy servant.

Yea, O Lord and King! Grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages.

Peace is kosher and halaal — but is it nistisimou?

The Times – Peace is kosher and halaal:

“Muslim and Jewish students got together yesterday to cook up a storm at the University of Johannesburg.

The Centre for Islamic Studies and the SA Union of Jewish Students joined forces to promote peace by cooking a meal together.

Caylee Talpert, chairman of the Jewish organisation, said: “This event is meant to mend bridges and to make us all realise that we are all the same. This will ensure that we develop friendships based on knowing each other.”

The cafeteria kitchen at the university was filled with eager students in aprons and chef’s hats.

While I’m pretty certain some Lenten fare (nistisimou) is decidedly not kosher, like shellfish, the vegan style of Lenten fasting food is probably both kosher and halaal as well.

And while some food products are marked Kosher, and some are marked Halaal, I’ve never seen any marked as Nistisimou. I’ve been to conferences and meetings where Kosher and Halaal food has been offered and served, but never Lenten fare.

Even in Greese, I’ve found it difficult to find fasting food. The exception, ironically enough, was MacDonalds, which offered a “McLent” special (MacSarakosti): a veggie burger or six spring rolls. One hopes that the chips weren’t flavoured with beef (a Hindu sued them in the USA over that), and that the potatoes weren’t genetically modified with genes derived from rat fat.

Seven deadly sins?

This is the 500th post in this blog, and deals with the magnificent seven — deadly sins, that is.

The media have made much of a so-called “new list of seven deadly sins” supposedly issued by the Vatican.

Bishop Alan’s Blog: Return of the Magnificent Seven:

Thanks to the Wonderful Jessica Hagy, (h/t Maggi Dawn), everything you always wanted to know about those deadly sins that have been in the news recently.

The diagram also demonstrates the distinction between “sins” as things inside which drive us to do wrong things and the symptoms, which surely aren’t, any of them, “sins”.

Most of the media reports of these “new seven deadly sins” have been rather facetious and flippant. One has to go halfway down the page of some of the reports to discover that

No official list of new sins has been issued by the Vatican, though the Bloomberg wire service reduced Girotti’s interview to a catalogue of ‘Seven Social Sins’: birth control, stem cell research, drug abuse, polluting, helping widen the gap between rich and poor, excessive wealth and creating poverty.

In fact, these are all issues the church has struggled with for years while trying to apply ancient teachings to modern ethical dilemmas.

( | Religion | Thou shalt not pollute or clone).

There’s a web site devoted to the premiss that “The press… just doesn’t get religion”, and they have published an analysis of some of the reporting on The Seven Sensationalist Sins. As in the case of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s remarks on Sharia, the standard of reporting has been abysmal, and it’s interesting that the chief culprits appear to be The Times and the BBC, which have in the past been held up as models of good reporting. How have the mighty fallen!

After reading some of these reports, I think that the problem is not that the press “doesn’t … get religion”. I think rather that the media, the Western media in particular, are actually out to get religion.

This story gets a little bit too close to home. Western values promote a culture of entitlement — “You deserve it!” say so many ads. After all you worked hard for it, or perhaps you didn’t, but you deserve it anyway. Who cares if your luxury creates poverty for others? Creating poverty is cool, as long as it makes you rich, therefore those who, like the church, say it isn’t cool must be mocked and ridiculed.

But now it is Great Lent, and it’s not really time to dwell on the sins of the media. If we didn’t ourselves believe so many of their lies, they wouldn’t be able to peddle them so easily.

The so-called Seven Deadly Sins are actually not so much sins, nor, as Bishop Alan suggested, are they symptoms. Rather they are passions, and the sins are the behaviours that spring from them, including contributing to pollution and poverty. Even if the media regard it as ridiculous that we should examine our behaviour and see how much of it is driven by the passions, we should do so anyway.

Orthodox Christians pray the prayer of St Ephraim a lot during Lent:

O Lord and Master of my life
take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to Thy servant.

Yea, O Lord and King! Grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, untio ages of ages. Amen.

"As we forgive those…"

Sunday 18th February 2007
* The Expulsion of Adam from the Paradise of Bliss
* Sunday of Forgiveness

Today is Forgiveness Sunday, also known as Cheesefare Sunday, the last day before the Great Fast of Lent. In the Orthodox Church Lent begans at Vespers, around sunset. During the service, the colours are changed from gold to purple, the music changes to a minor key, and the first act, to begin the fast, is when the members of the congregation prostrate themselves before one another, and ask forgiveness of each other, and as they rise, say, “I forgive you”. So the first day of Lent is known as Clean Monday.

The Scrivener: “As we forgive those…” has posted a very suitable article for the day, and one that is worth reading in preparation for Vespers.

And so I ask any readers of this blog whom I may have offended, knowingly or in ignorance, please forgive me.

It is also the Sunday of Cheesefare — the last day we eat cheese, butter and other dairy products, and eggs before Pascha, fifty days hence. We said goodbye to meat last week. You can have little idea of what Easter eggs mean if you have not abstained from eating them during the fast.

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