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Monday, January 12, 2009

Here's to God laughing

“To Err is Human; To Forgive Divine”
By Susan Fox
Love your enemies -- who would believe that such a basic tenet of Christianity would convert the son of a founding member of Hamas, the ruling party of Palestine recognized for its brutal suicide bombs and other attacks against Israel.
Mosab Hassan Yousef, age 30, came to the United States two years ago, but only recently made the decision to go public with his conversion to Christianity. His famous Muslim family back in the Middle East is really suffering because of what he has done, but he came to my attention at Christmas because all my Catholic friends are talking about him.
“Hamas, they are using civilians’ lives, they are using children, they are using the suffering of people every day to achieve their goals. And this is what I hate,” Mr. Yousef said in an interview last summer. After a chance encounter with a British missionary nine years ago, Mr. Yousef began secretly reading the Bible, stuck by the central tenet “love your enemies.”
Now as a Christian living in San Diego, Calif., Mr. Yousef hopes to found an international organization to educate young people about Islam and preach a message of “forgiveness,” the only way – he says -- the endless cycle of violence between Israelis and Palestinians can be broken.
A relationship with Jesus Christ changed Mr. Yousef’s heart and gave him the courage to publicly declare his belief that faith in Jesus is our only hope for an end to the violence that plagues the Middle East.
It is a great theme for the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus, which was celebrated by the Church this past Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009. Pope Benedict XVI explained that this feast points to the “everydayness” of a personal relationship with the Lord. For Baptism – by desire or by formal sacrament – marks the beginning of this transforming relationship.
“Through the immersion in the waters of the Jordan, Jesus united Himself to us,” the pope said. Baptism is like the "bridge that [God] has built between him and us, the road by which he is accessible to us [...] the gateway to hope and, at the same time, the sign that indicates the road we must take in an active and joyous way to meet him and feel loved by him."
Mr Yousef is on the same track: "I have met politicians. I have met presidents and prime ministers. I have met all the leaders of that (Middle East) region," Mr. Yousef said. "None of them have a magical solution for this issue. They are leading people but they don't know where they are going.”
"Jesus is not going to give them a political solution, but He has changed me and He can change those people to a better people. He can teach them how to forgive, how to love," he said. "Everybody on both sides is hurt -- not only Israelis, not only Palestinians. Now, as it is, there is no hope for them but Jesus. It's that simple."
Now we see the power of the Word of God. For in reading Holy Scripture, Mr.Yousef has been digging deep into the mind of God. And the conclusions he has drawn show that he has been imbibing deeply in the Rivers of Living Water.
I am amazed to see the Holy Spirit speaking so loudly all over the world. His voice is showing up in the lives of ordinary people in every nation, religion and culture. When things look really grim in the government and economy, we have to remember that all God has to do is laugh and the evil plans of men will be brought to naught.
Mr Yousef and his Muslim family is suffering persecution for his public revelation of his Christian conversion. His father – now in an Israeli prison -- has so far refused to disown him as that would give jihadists permission to kill his son. It’s interesting that his plight has been indirectly championed by Pope Benedict, who in negotiating a meeting with leaders of Islam is demanding that the topic be religious freedom. The Imams want to discuss "love of God and love of neighbor," but the pope is holding out for religious freedom. I asked my husband, why that was because it seemed to me that the topic, "love of God and love of neighbor," would lead to a discussion of religious freedom. But my husband said that the Muslim faith does not really understand those concepts, and they definitely would not conclude that love of neighbor means religious freedom. In fact, the opposite. We are lucky to have such a smart pope. Here’s to God laughing.

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