Saturday, 15 December 2007

The Christmas Message

FUEL prices at their highest level ever. An imminent credit crunch that threatens to plunge the world’s economies into a major slowdown.

The mortgage market in the United States in the worst possible shape, dragging down those in other parts of the world along with it. Unprecedented climate change that has already taken its toll with severe flooding in parts of the Indian subcontinent. And especially for England, the prospect of a summer without a team in the European Football Championships!

Surely, events and occurrences to dampen the spirits of even the most resilient of men?

2007 surely was a testing year. And on all fronts at that. The economy, global security, and for the first time in decades – a natural phenomenon that seems to be spiraling out of our control.

We had always assumed that with globalization would come increased tolerance, understanding and integration among the world’s communities.

With all of us surfing the net, visiting the same websites, and playing identical video games, the thought was that we would all eventually “get” one another.

And yet, in some ways there has never been the opportunity for more misunderstanding, at any other time than today.

While most of the simmering anti-Western tension in the Islamic world is politically motivated, a part of it is not. There is certainly a strong undercurrent of resentment against what they see as the decay and moral decadence of Western civilization. All this just adds to their already strong conviction that when they attack targets in the West, they are not only redressing political imbalances imposed by their governments, but also “cleansing” the world of evil, vice and sin.

Back in the days when communities were isolated from one another, we were blissfully ignorant of others’ ways, and were therefore more tolerant of one another by default. For how else could we dislike something we had no idea about?

Today, however, the image of Paris Hilton coming out of a New York night club drunk, half-dressed and with a coterie of drooling men in tow could as easily be viewed in Los Angeles as in Islamabad. This kind of image, when superimposed on an ultra-conservative religious template, is enough to spark revulsion, hate and contempt for everything Western. And certainly, it is more than enough to convince those already armed with a political agenda that they are in the right, and the communities they set out to damage are in the wrong.

Time to reflect perhaps, if ever there was a better time to do so, on the message of that first-ever Christmas, when a child was born among the simple folk of Bethlehem, with a powerful message for all the world.

While we think our world today is a great deal more fractious and strife-torn, it wasn’t all that different in Christ’s time. The Romans were in town, and their way of governing would probably make today’s worst dictator look decidedly benevolent. In short, life was hard —much harder than the situation most of us are faced with today.

And yet it was in those very difficult of times that he chose to come among us, to give us hope.

Christ gave himself to mankind, by being born among them. This is the message of Christmas – the message of joyous giving, just as He joyously gave himself to the world, to save it from sin.

What better message for us to take, as we go forward in these rather difficult times? If we can give joyously of our understanding, our tolerance, our appreciation for one another, and our concern for the world we live in, then perhaps we could make a difference, just as He did on that first Christmas Day.

Published in the Sun Star Daily, Saturday, December 15, 2007

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