A first…or will it be the last?


(the oldest surviving Icon or image of Christ, the Pantocrator / St Catherine’s Monastery, The Sinai Peninsula)

For the first time in 2000 years a Holy Mass for Easter will not have been held in Mosul.

“So what” you shrug…
“Who cares about Mosul?” you ask…
“Isn’t that in Iraq?” you quip…
“Isn’t Iraq Muslim?” you assume…
“Why would there be Easter in a Muslim land?” you espouse…

Well…yes, because for 2000 years there has been a celebration mass for Easter,
as well as Christmas and every other time a mass is to be said,
in what is now considered a Muslim land.

For Christianity has been practiced, as an organized religion, just following the
Resurrection of Christ, in this region of the world for the past 2000 years.

Christianity has been a long protected religious minority under the rulings and regimes
of various sultans, and in more recent times, dictators such as
the likes of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi.

But how can that ever be…as we are left alarmed asking ourselves.

Because various Muslim leaders throughout the ages have in fact protected the
Christian Church within this Muslim land.

Not all of them mind you, but many have….as they have been tolerant.

In 1219, during the 5th Crusade, St Francis traveled from Italy to Egypt
as a Christian ambassador of sorts.
This was a time in which the Holy Roman Empire was fighting Muslims, Jews and heretics
in order to keep Jerusalem free and open to traveling pilgrims wishing
to visit the Holy Land.

But control of the region became a long, deadly and bloody conflict.

There was much stubbornness on both sides as each faction refused to budge in their
dominance of the region.
Countless lives were being lost and this grieved the heart of Francis.

Francis wished to share his faith with these unbelievers and if need be, he was willing
to die a martyr while proclaiming the Gospel to the unsaved.

Francis was opposed to the killings and bloodshed on both sides and had sought the
current pope, Pope Innocent III’s permission to travel to Egypt to meet with then Sultan,
Malik-al-Kamil,
nephew to the Great Kurd leader, Saladin.

Unarmed, history tell us that, Francis was arrested and beaten by the Sultan’s army.
He was eventually taken to the Sultan,
who was intrigued by this man who came wearing a tattered tunic
while carrying no weapons nor a quest for battle, but rather a love and desire
to share the word of God….
that being that Christ died to save sinners and his teaching was that the first shall be last,
the last shall be first and we are to love our enemies.

Francis won over the Sultan’s respect and favor….
And eventually following Francis’s safe return to Italy,
a peace was brokered between the Sultan’s armies and the European forces.
With Jerusalem once again being open to Christian pilgrims with a promise of
safe passage by the Sultan.

Sadly however…history reminds us that peace is a tenuous affair
wherever man is involved…

We know that there were a total of 9 crusades with the final fall of the final Christian
stronghold in Syria in 1291.
The land has been in Muslim control ever since.
And throughout the centuries that control has been both with and without toleration
for the minority people and faiths of Christianity, Judaism
and other minority sects..

But with the recent toppling of dictators such as Hussein and Gaddafi,
the vaccum which was created with their oustings has been filled by something
much more sinister and vile.

ISIS
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

ISIS is not tolerant.
Not tolerant of even varying sects of Muslims who do not adhere to the Sunni ISIS strict
following of Shia laws.

ISIS is not a single man who one may perhaps find reason with or
in turn topple and remove.
Rather ISIS is a fanatical organization which will not rest until “the infidel” is vanquished.
And they do not care who or what stands in their way…nor how their ends are met.
No one is exempt from their terror..not children, women, the old or in firmed.
They give new meaning to the words barbarism and sadism.

Eliza Griswold, a journalist who recently returned from an extensive study of the region
and of this anomaly of the systematic eradication of Christians and others sects in places
such as Iraq and Syria, was interviewed by FOX News.

Mrs Griswold offers a very sobering account of what she sees as the death throws of the
Christian faith in a part of the world in which Christianity has
existed since its very inception.

She lays out the argument for the need to eliminate ISIS and its spawned fanatical groups
or either humankind will have to live with the stalk reality that entire ethnic groups,
such as the Yazidis, and certain religious peoples and their existence will be gone forever
from a land which is as old as time itself. And not only gone from a region of this planet,
but gone from earthly existence.

And so my question to all of us…
will the knowledge of this eradication be something we can live with…
down in the depths of our human knowledge and understanding…
and within the soul of our consciousness.
Or…
will we allow ISIS and all of its tentacles to spread as far as they wish,
eliminating huge swarths of humankind…
that is until we see them on our very doorsteps?

Please read the article, but more importantly watch the 5 minute video clip of the
Griswold interview.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/04/14/christian-persecution-how-many-are-being-killed-where-are-being-killed.html

A man and his paints

“Happy are the painters, for they shall not be lonely”
Sir Winston Churchill

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(photograph of Winston Churchill at his easel taken from the Daily Telegraph Sunday insert 1965 / Julie Cook / 2015)

What is it that defines a man?
What is it that defines greatness?
What sets some men apart from others?
Does eccentricity and genius run merrily along hand in hand?

January 30, 1965, exactly fifty years ago, there was a funeral held to mark the passing of a life from this world to the next. I was a mere 6 years old. There was not the streaming online constant and instant 24 / 7 news coverage in 1965, beaming and streaming live action of the funeral around the globe, but that is not to say that the world did not briefly stop that somber January day, so very long ago, in order to take notice of the silent passing of greatness from one dimension to the next.

It is a rare event in the United Kingdom to afford anyone other than a crowned monarch or consort a state funeral. Rarer still is the assembling of much of the world’s leaders, statesmen, monarchs and dignitaries for the funeral of a mere prime minister. Yet after having lain in state for three days in Westminster Hall, affording the general public a chance to offer a personal farewell, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was honored by both prince and pauper at one of the most memorable state funerals, other than that of Queen Victoria and King George, which the 20th century had ever seen. Within Sir Christopher Wren’s 1675 architectural marvel, St Paul’s Cathedral in London, the world bid a splendid farewell to one of the most renowned figures of the 20th century.

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(even the often cold and arrogant honored this giant of a man as witnessed by a final salute offered by General Charles De Gaulle )

However, behind the fa├žade of soldier, commander-in-chief, statesman, historian, author, MP, Prime Minister, husband and father, resided a man whose peace and solace was found quietly behind a canvas.

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These photographs are pulled from several of the English periodicals dating from 1949-65 which are a part of my beloved Churchill collection. It is because of Churchill’s stalwart leadership during World War II which most of the world thinks it knows this enigma of a man—however the true identity of a man is not always found in the obvious places nor within plain sight. This most brilliant and equally eccentric man, who helped to shape much of the modern world as we know it today, was much more than statesman or commander. . .he was more than husband and father, or Victorian dreamer— Winston Churchill was a prolific painter who sought and found inner peace during the turbulence of personal, professional and world tragedies, through the simple art of painting.

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(images of paintings on loan to the Millennial Gate Museum in Atlanta, Georgia offering a tribute of the man and his pairings)

Yet below, in this most famous image of “the Big Three” taken from the conference at Yalta, in the waning months of the war,there is much more taking place than just an orchestrated famous photo op of the three men to whom responsibility fell to mould and remodel a new world. . . There is actually much more going on in this image—there is a hidden and secret dance of diplomacy and duplicity being secretly choreographed by a cold and calculating man who was a master deception–this image is the pure essence of power plays, betrayal, death, and hidden terror all silently playing out before the cameras of a painfully yet hopeful naive world.

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The slight smile on Winston’s face is misleading. Stalin never hid his disdain for the Prime Minister. He also believed he held the President as a puppet in his hands, being able to manipulate a frail shadow of a man as Roosevelt was tired, sick and not much longer for the world. Roosevelt died of a massive stroke only two months following the conference.

Roosevelt came to the conference looking wistfully towards a new world order. At this point he didn’t care what sacrifices had to be made in order to establish his elusive global Nirvana. Winston was more weary, cautious to the resetting of a dangerous chess board with equally deadly results as compared to the game which was in the process of just being played out. Winston felt beaten and betrayed. He had been mislead, left out, manipulated, lied to and betrayed by a dear friend as well as mocked and ridiculed by a wolf, or in this case an angry grizzly bear, in sheep’s clothing. He too was tired as the weight of the world rested upon his aging hunched shoulders.

And it was to his art that Winston would retreat, again and again and again. . .as most often it is to the gift of creativity that a man finds himself turning to, being drawn to, in order to set his world back to balance. In the mere act of painting or to the repetitive laying of brick in order to repair an ancient wall to a family home, Winston found comfort. He was able make sense of often senseless situations. . .in the freedom of putting paint to canvas he could find the easing of mind and solace of spirit both elusive and often battered and bruised from the realities of an often cruel world.

Outlets, diversions, distractions, escape—whatever form of creativity a man seeks, it is all a part of his birth right, a divinely inspired gift of talent and wonderment, bestowed upon him by the one true Master of Divine Creativity. It is what is good in a man. It is what is positive. Just as man works toward waging death and destruction, he works equally towards that which is aesthetically pleasing, beautiful, redeeming and edifying.

Man’s ability to create, to make “art”—is a source of peace and calm. It is a counterbalance in a world bent on death and destruction. It is the tiny piece of hope instilled in man by his Creator which helps to serve the betterment of all of mankind–a gift within an individual which has the ability to ripple outward throughout the ages, resonating to generations yet to be. . . that hope, beauty, good, wonder and joy are indeed alive and well and still very possible as the world continues to allow the dark clouds of death to gather overhead.

It was to this very “gift” that Winston sought his peace, his time of release and his place of balance in a world spiraling out of control. May we all be mindful that such a gift is still very much a part of each of us and has the tremendous ability to heal and comfort in our own equally dizzying time of madness. . .

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