Post: Readers Respond

I really enjoy the different articles, however, the North Park College connections are vague but I do appreciate all your friends and camaraderie. I get the mag and spend the next one to two hours reading it. I enjoyed the Hemingway article and will go out and get the books again. “Up on the Mountain” plays to the adage “Behind every good man is a great woman!” Richard (Swede) Sundberg, Saint Paul, Minnesota.

A great issue—as always! I was in Sweden before Christmas. Several readers there spoke so positively for Pietisten. Barbara Hawkinson, Chicago, Illinois.

I enjoy this publication very much. Elvira Johnson, Golden Valley, Minnesota.

Dear Pietisten: I read everything—from cover to cover the day it arrives. Some articles a little “over my head” but that’s ok — never was afraid of a little stretch! Thanks for all you do. Doris Barton, Cobalt, Connecticut.

Dear editors of Pietisten: Down in our secondary home here in southern France our daily reading is Le Monde, Le Figaro, La Liberation and sometimes the New York Herald Tribune, sold in the bookstore of our little town. And now and then is delivered to us in our letter box in a narrow medieval street here, or in Lidingo, Sweden, our “first home”, Pietisten. Pietisten does not move around very much in the large world of ours, where e.g. your President now is preferring a large scale war on Iraq instead of prompting disarmament by means of UNO inspectors, as he says in order to introduce democracy in that overexplosive region of the world. How does he dare? Pietisten is moving in more limited waters, but waters of great interest for me and my wife, Margit. The very format reminds us of the original Pietisten and its enormous role in the great revival in the 19th century. The continued respect for the contribution of Paul Peter Waldenstršm by referring to his Biblical writings, the hymn commentaries by Glen V. Wiberg, the personal columns of Elder Lindahl, the “Making of a Reader” by David Hawkinson, the interest you show for the inter religious dialogue: many other interesting things could be added. Not least the tributes to so many personal friends, who have passed away, dear ones since I first got to know the Covenant during my very first visit to the US in 1952.

Sometimes I wish I could use one of the boats in your wonderful advertisements to cross the Atlantic in a private World Cup Pietisten Race to thank you for years of refreshing reading. Good luck for years to come. Olle Engstršm, SommiŽres, France; Lidingo, Sweden.

[Eduardo and Lisa Machado and their two young sons, Elliot (3) and Ian (almost 1), recently moved to Angola, Eddie’s homeland. Eddie is working on the electronic infrastructure and Lisa is starting a Cyber CafŽ. Here is a letter from Lisa. — Ed.]

Life here is pretty slow. People ask me how I like Luanda and am I happy to be in Angola. It is great being a whole family again. We’ve been here two months now and I can sometimes see the beauty of the city past all the poverty. Luanda was built to handle about 300,000 people and now there are over 3,000,000. So there are people EVERYWHERE! (And as much garbage as people.)

In our apartment complex (which is very nice compared to most places) there are storage closets that are accessed from the outside of the building. They have metal doors that are not even full height—no windows, of course, because it is just a storage closet. And there are people living in some of them! Then there are the thousands of people who are always walking on the roadside. Elliot is constantly asking me: “Where people are going?” “Why they have to walk there?” “Why they don’t have a car like we do?” “Why are they going barefoot because they might step in something and get hurt?” “Why do kids get to go outside with just their underwear?” “Why are cars driving on the sidewalk?” (The dirt on the side of the road where people walk.) “What is in this building?”—a broken down shack that is someone’s home. “Can we go in there?” “Do we know those people?” “Why not?” “Can I play with those kids?” (playing in the garbage heap). “What are those people trying to sell you, Mom?” And on and on and on….

I haven’t taken any photos yet. It feels too weird since I live here and am not really just a tourist. I feel enough like an outsider and I really don’t want to add to those feelings. But next week, when I go down to buy fish, I’m going to bring my camera. This week I walked down to the shore past people selling all kinds of food and household things, past broken down and beached boats and small ships, to a group of ladies sitting on the beach with piles of freshly caught fish in front of them. Their male counterparts (husbands, sons, etc.) bring the fish in to them whenever they catch a few. The women scale and gut the fish while you wait and kids try and sell you plastic bags to carry them home in. So I bought 10 fish for grilling (Mmmm!)—big enough that you typically eat one or maybe two at a meal (per person). The 10 fish cost 250 Kz—about $3.50.

Things take forever here and I’m waiting for someone to get the computers out of customs for me. So today I am at a cafŽ while the driver is getting the car serviced. An oil change will take a good three hours! This is Elliot’s second week at daycare. He seems to be doing okay even though no one there speaks English. He should learn Portuguese very quickly! Dona Olga is home cleaning my apartment, and watching Ian. Next week Dona Louiza will start watching Ian and help with the cooking. I’ll need two people when we open the Cyber cafŽ. Besides, Dona Louiza has eight kids and her husband passed away. So she is mother and father to them and needs a job. I am always thinking about how lucky I am—and there by the grace of God go I…. Lisa Leither Machado, Luanda, Angola, Africa.

In stressing the plurality of Islam [“Islams: A User’s Guide,” Summer, 2002], I hoped to convey the many colored coat this religion wears. If the reaction of Chuck Anderson [Readers Re-spond, Winter 2002-2003] is indicative of Pietisten’s public, I failed.

Mr. Anderson asserts a lack of religious freedom in Islamic countries. If by religious freedom he means the free, public exercise of religion, I suggest he visit Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, lraq, Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco where Christians and Jews freely and publicly practice religion in clearly designated places of worship. Saudia Arabia formally forbids public religious symbols other than for Islam, but privately, in homes and embassies, Christians and Jews worship without fear.

True, religious freedom and political rights are not the same, as Syrian Jews, for example, know all too well. But, in none of the countries listed are Christians or Jews persecuted for their religion.

In response to Anderson’s remarks about the crusades, I offer these observations. Many modern historians have observed that a major impetus for the response to Urban II’s and subsequent calls for a crusade was massive European poverty and unemployment. The opportunity to loot while enjoying religious support appealed to many. To warm up for the First Crusade, crusaders killed 1,000 Jews in the city of Mainz because they were killers of Christ. The crusaders may have been imbued with faith as well, but so was Tomas de Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor of Spain.

Memories of a Syrian Arab Gentleman, written in the early 12th century, give the Arab view of the European invasion from the perspective of a wealthy, literate Christian. He regarded his saviours as illiterate thugs, unwashed and unwanted. He was genuinely outraged that these crusaders had come to “rescue” him and his kind from the “heathen.” He deplored the magnitude of indiscriminate slaughter of Arabs—both Christian and Moslem. In Acre alone, in one day, some 2700 were killed.

Violence in the name of religion is by no means exclusive to Islam. It has frequently been practiced by both Jews and Christians. The Hebrew scriptures have an ample supply of descriptions of violence with religious justification for it. The language of the Koran regarding Christians and Jews is indeed harsh, but it also refers to both Christians and Jews as “People of the Book” who are to be treated with consideration. This explains why, in most cases, conquered Christians and Jews were merely subjected to a head tax and otherwise left alone to go about their business. It also explains the survival of Christian communities in the Middle East for more that fourteen hundred years. Syrian Christians constitute about 15% of the population of the country.

When Jews were massively and brutally driven from the Iberian Peninsula in the 16th century, they did not head to Paris, London or Rome, but, rather, to Istanbul where they were warmly received by the Ottoman Empire and remain to this day continuing to speak Ladino, their language in Spain, which is an admixture of Medieval Hebrew, Latin, and Spanish.

It is also worth noting that one of the four minarets of the great Omayyad Mosque in Damascus (Pope John Paul II made a moving speech in support of Christian/Muslim friendship and dialogue there in May, 2001) is the Minaret of Issa—the Islamic name for Christ. Moslems do not consider Christ to be God, but he is considered to be one of the prophets of Islam and is revered as such. Islamic tradition says that the Last Judgment cannot begin until the Prophet Issa comes to sit on the top of “his” minaret. Robert Thompson, New York, New York.