Thursday, September 22, 2005

Everything has a purpose

Fr. Jospeh Huneycutt has just moved to Houston, and talks about the welcome he has received here, here, here, and here.

I went to the local grocery store today, and it was so packed with panic shoppers that there were no shopping carts to be had. I had to empty a box of snickers to buy the things I had come to pick up. It took about 45 minutes to get through the check out line. While waiting in line one unhappy immigrant to Houston said "This makes me sick. I should have never moved here."

These hurricanes can be bothersome, but if it wasn't for the hurricanes, the summer heat, and the bugs, everyone would want to live here, and next thing you know Houston would be taken over by commie libs from the North who would turn it into another San Francisco. So even the yellow rose of Texas has a thorn, but the thorn is only meant to scare the fur-nurs.


Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Religion of Peace Strikes Again... an update on Taybeh

Dr. Maria Khoury

Rage Followed the Forbidden Affair in Taybeh

Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D.

Our Biblical Christian village has co-existed in peace with the surrounding Muslim villages for centuries. Not being able to comprehend the tragic events that took place in our little innocent village of Taybeh, I have been speechless for many days. I literally lost my voice yelling at the fanatics to go away from our doorsteps at the Taybeh Brewery as they were about to torch modern-state of the art equipment that produces the only micro brewed beer in the whole Middle East area named after our village. A violent mob of armed young men took the law in their own hands and come for a revenge attack on our whole extended family since a distant cousin was accused of having an affair with a woman from their village of Deir Ejreer. Over three hundred men aggressively raided the village between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. on Sept 3rd burning down houses, cars and looting. Taybeh residents evacuated their homes in fear of their lives thus no one was injured.

At the moment, Taybeh Beer, for me stands as a symbol for democracy in Palestine. It was Muslim fanatics that wanted to burn it and Muslim policemen that saved us. It is a challenge for the Palestinian Authority to protect the small Christian community and diverse populations in Palestine if there is to be a democratic two-state solution following the pro-longed years of occupation. By the way, the Israeli army jeep came in the village and the soldiers simply watched the houses burn down without doing anything in their power to stop the rage. Although we were on the phone with the army captain begging for immediate help to stop the violence.

We are overpowered by tribal laws which make it legal in the Islamic religion to kill women in the honor of the family. Thus, the Muslim woman, Hiyam was killed and buried by her brothers without a death certificate after discovered pregnant. The accused man, a Christian, paid the highest price by not only going to jail but knowing that sixteen homes were attacked belonging to his extended family leaving fourteen homes completely burned. Innocent families losing all of their personal belongings, furniture, clothes, family keepsakes that were passed down from generation to generation and beautiful family portraits that reflect the deep roots of this Christian village having a unique character and identity since the time Christ our Lord walked into this village before his crucifixion (John 11:54).

This barbaric and uncivilized behavior could not be stopped by the Israeli Occupying army or by the Palestinian Authority. As American citizens we made numerous phone calls to the American Consulate Emergency services pleading for help to put pressure on the Israelis to allow the Palestinian police to pass the checkpoints and arrive in Taybeh to stop the catastrophe. It took over three hours for the Palestinian police to arrive but with great appreciation to the American Consulate at least our brewery and our home were saved. This was totally unjustified violence that left over 72 people, the majority children, in despair and agony having nothing left except the shirt on their backs.

Furthermore, as a woman believing in human rights, what bothers me the most is that I live in a culture that wants to punish the man who slept with the woman instead of the men who killed the woman? And not only punish one man but in barbaric style punish every family member that is related to him; and we are talking about fifth cousins and sixth cousins; innocent people that have nothing to do and cannot control the sin of an individual. This aggression is something bizarre that has happened in our village and should be condemned by all people who believe in law and order.

I have never had such an experience in my twenty-five years in Palestine. It is my Muslim collogues who call me before my Christian friends to wish me “Merry Christmas.” It is a Muslim mother that picks up my son at midnight when he is stranded in the city. My son’s best friend is a Muslim and I love him like my own son Costa. I cannot make logical sense of what has happened in our village. And we are in such deep need of reconciliation among all groups of people who are just in pure shock.

Christ’s love and peace is more important than ever. Our witness to Christian values and our struggle to exist as a small community is now at the mercy of not only the Israeli Occupying power which is legally responsible for protecting unarmed civilians but also at the hands of the Palestinian Authority who must bring law and order and put an end to tribal laws which are detrimental in this new millennium. Family feuds should be taken to a courtroom not solved in the hands of hundreds of crazy fanatics that are capable of wiping out a whole village with such aggressive violence that leave you speechless.

My husband David Khoury, the new mayor of Taybeh has make an appeal to many religious leaders, both Muslim and Christian and to all authorities including humanitarian organizations to help us have a strong voice as a Christian community and send letters of condemnation to the Israeli and Palestinian Prime Ministers that justice, law and order should prevail. Protection against such aggressive unjustified violence should be guaranteed for all human beings in the Holy Land regardless of religion, race, and gender. The violent aggression against our village should be condemned to help Taybeh maintain its unique character and identity as one of the most ancient places in Palestine and the only 100% Christian village left. We want the Palestinian justice system to prevail and not the tribal traditions that seek blood for forbidden relationships.

Note: Maria Khoury is author of Witness in the Holy Land and the new children’s book, Christina’s True Heroes about seven women saints.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Religion of Peace Strikes Again... This time it's Taybeh

This village that was attacked is the same village that Dr. Maria Khoury has been trying to help. It is the last completely Christian town in the west bank.

Sep. 5, 2005 4:39 | Updated Sep. 5, 2005 6:55
Muslims ransack Christian village

Efforts were under way on Sunday to calm the situation in this Christian village east of Ramallah after an attack by hundreds of Muslim men from nearby villages left many houses and vehicles torched.

The incident began on Saturday night and lasted until early Sunday, when Palestinian Authority security forces interfered to disperse the attackers. Residents said several houses were looted and many families were forced to flee to Ramallah and other Christian villages, although no one was injured.

The attack on the village of 1,500 was triggered by the murder of a Muslim woman from the nearby village of Deir Jarir earlier this week. The 30-year-old woman, according to PA security sources, was apparently murdered by members of her family for having had a romance with a Christian man from Taiba.

"When her family discovered that she had been involved in a forbidden relationship with a Christian, they apparently forced her to drink poison," said one source. "Then they buried her without reporting her death to the relevant authorities."

When the PA security forces decided to launch an investigation into the woman's death, her family protested for fear that the relationship would be exposed. The family was further infuriated by the decision to exhume the body for autopsy.

The attack is one of the worst against Christians in the West Bank in many years. Residents said it took the PA security forces several hours to reach Taiba. Others complained that the IDF, which is in charge of overall security in the area, did not answer their desperate calls for immediate help.

"More than 500 Muslim men, chanting Allahu akbar [God is great], attacked us at night," said a Taiba resident. "They poured kerosene on many buildings and set them on fire. Many of the attackers broke into houses and stole furniture, jewelry and electrical appliances."

With the exception of large numbers of PA policemen, the streets of Taiba were completely deserted on Sunday as the residents remained indoors. Many torched cars littered the streets. At least 16 houses had been gutted by fire and the assailants also destroyed a statue of the Virgin Mary.

"It was like a war, they arrived in groups, and many of them were holding clubs," said another resident.

"Some people saw them carrying weapons. They first attacked houses belonging to the Khoury family [looking for the man who had the affair with the women, not realizing he had already fled the village.] Then they went to their relatives. They entered the houses and destroyed everything there. Then they tried to enter the local beer factory, but were repelled by PA security agents.

The fire engine arrived five hours later."
Col. Tayseer Mansour, commander of the PA police in the Ramallah area, said his men arrived late because of the need to coordinate their movements with the IDF. "The delay resulted in the torching of a number of houses and cars in the village," he said.

Taiba, the only West Bank village that is completely inhabited by Christians, is famous for its Taiba Beer factory, which was established by the Khoury family in 1994.

The residents are Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox or Greek Catholic. The village was originally called Ephraim, and is thought to be the city to which Jesus came with his disciples before his crucifixion: "Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim" (John 11:54).

According to some accounts, Salah a-Din, who led the war against the Crusaders, was responsible for the name change. He is said to have found the villagers there to be nice and kind – in Arabic, taybeen – and the name stuck, to become Taiba.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Katrina, Race, and Simple Answers

For several years, I was an assistant to the manager of a welfare office here in Houston, and one of my primary duties was to handle complaints that had gone beyond the unit level, and the person making the complaint wanted to speak to head honcho. I wasn’t the head honcho, but I was the closest that they usual got to him. One of the things I observed over time was how issues of race entered into these complaints.

Particularly, if the person making the complaint had been interviewed by a case worker of another race, they would often charge that racism had played a role in them not getting the benefits they wanted in the amount or in the time that they believed that they should have… but some times, they would make claims of racism even if the case worker was the same race. In those cases, they would claim there was a larger conspiracy to prevent their race from getting the right amount of benefits or timely service.

Black folks would tell me that if they were white, they would have been treated differently. White folks would tell me if they were black, they would have been treated differently. Hispanic folks would tell me that if they were white or black, they would have been treated differently. I have spoken with many people of other races who also work in government bureaucracies, who have have observed this same phenomenon

I had the advantage of knowing the bureaucracy, the policy, and the people involved, and I know that race had nothing to do with it. Regardless of the race of the people they dealt with, Case workers invariably just wanted to stay on top of their work, get cases finished, and not be cited with an error by a quality control auditor for having worked the case incorrectly. However, there were policies that often prevented people from getting what they wanted… and often those policies did not make sense even to us. There were also staff shortages and work load issues that resulted in people not having their cases completed timely. Race was not the issue, but what I came to conclude was that when things do not make sense, and people feel ill-treated, people look for simple explanations that explain why. And unfortunately race is one of the first things we notice about people that we do not know, and so it is also one of the first things to get blamed whenever we have a negative experience interacting with people of other races.

In less politically correct times, it use to be said that all Chinese people look alike. My wife tells me that Chinese people have said the same thing about white people. In fact, in Vietnam, I recall hearing about an American GI that was convicted of some crime on the basis of the testimony of some Vietnamese civilians. He was later proven to be innocent, but when asked why they identified him as the one who had committed the crime, they said "How can you tell one from another? They all look alike." Of course, if you aren’t use to seeing Asians, their distinctive features are all that you notice. However, if you spend a lot of time around Asians, and get to know them, soon you discover that they don’t all look alike.

Likewise, if a white man were to car jack another white man, the first thing the white man would be thinking was not that all white people were not to be trusted, but rather than some dirty scumbag had stole his car. However, if a black man car jacked him, he would be far more likely to reach conclusions about black people in general. The same is true in reverse.

Prejudice, to some extent, is a survival characteristic that is hard wired in our brains. If we eat pickled herring, and we get sick, we will likely be prejudiced against that kind of fish. That would be less likely to happen, if we had been eating pickled herring all of our life. We would be more likely able to distinguish between the bad experience with that particular pickled herring, and pickled herring in general. If we run across a skunk, and trying to pet it, we will likely be prejudiced against skunks for life. However, as rational human beings, we should be aware of this tendency towards hasty generalizations based on particular experiences, and resist that temptation when it comes to entire groups of people.

Certainly, we should expect that elected representatives would have more sense than to encourage such prejudice.

In Houston, all Houstonians are moved by the suffering they see. Everyone is asking what they can do to help. Millions of dollars were raised on a radio station in the space of a few hours, at the spur of the moment. Whites, Hispanics, Asians, Blacks, and all the various combinations thereof that make up Houston are trying to help all of those who are streaming into our city in need of help. People are opening up their homes to complete strangers.

In New Orleans, rescuers of all stripes are risking their lives to save people of different races. Just as with Americans on the battlefield, people are willing to die to save people that have neither race, nor creed in common with them.

What a shame it is then, to see certain Democrats trying to make political hay by taking the cheap political shots of accusing people of being racists. How completely anti-American this is.

Those who are suffering, are suffering not because they are black, pink, or green, but because of a natural disaster that turned out to be more devastating than was originally thought, and a large bureaucracy has had many inexplicable inefficiencies and simply mishandled many aspects of the disaster… which of course pundits, sitting safely on their butts can analyze and comment on, as if they would have handled it so much better had they been the ones actually trying to organize such a massive effort, in a chaotic situation, made worse by the “Big Easy” "laissez les bon temps rouler [Let the good times roll]" attitude that makes Louisiana both charming, and irritatingly French (and all that goes with being French).