Monday, March 31, 2008

New Worship Recording from my Church

My oldest daughter (17 years old) sang the lead vocals on a newly released CD of worship songs and hymns put out by my church here in Dubai. Most of the songs were written and arranged by our worship director, Glen Jones.

Click the blue triangle next to the words "How Awesome" just below to hear it! Also, below that is the album art.

Let me know if you're interested in a copy of the CD. They are 40 AED or 12 USD.


Saudi Voicing Openness to Religious Dialogue

This is very interesting and if genuine, encouraging. Here is the the short report in the Gulf News here in Dubai.

Riyadh: A senior Saudi cleric said that inter-faith dialogue was among the best ways to defend Islam.

Shaikh Abdul Rahman Al Sudeiss, chief imam of the Grand Mosque in Makkah voiced support for a proposal made earlier in the week by Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz for inter-faith talks between Muslims, Christian and Jews.

The initiative "is one of the best ways to defend the Prophet" Mohammad (PBUH).

I hope they might consider including dialogue between Muslims, Christians, and Jews who are not scholars. I would hope that with as much training in the Koran as they get in Saudi that they would be equipped to have discussions with people of other faiths.

Maybe they'll let us help ;)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Easter Services in Dubai!

Jesus has risen! (I know I'm a little late here :) Here is some video from our joint church services out in Jebel Ali. The Chinese church and Arab church joined together with our English speaking church for a sunrise service. Unfortunately, due to the extra security, we were not able to have this on the beach. Maybe next year.




Church Compounds Get Extra Security Before Easter

The weekend before Easter we were on our way to church and when we got to the two access roads that led to church there was a big traffic jam. Traffic jams are normal in Dubai but not on the way into church on Friday morning. Both roads had been blocked by police cars and they were telling people that they couldn't drive in a park.

There was a great deal of confusion and many people turned around and went home thinking that the police were completely blocking the roads. Instead it turns out they were setting up additional security that lasted through the week and through the Easter weekend as well. Thousands attend church in our compound where there are approximately 8 church buildings used by probably 16 different churches.

That morning we parked out car and caught a city bus to the church compound. They provided the buses in the end and they also set up frisk points leading into the building. I heard that they had metal detectors at another church compound in Dubai as well.

Later in the week the news reports came out. The authorities claimed there had been no explicit threats of violence made. I have my doubts. But regardless, I'm grateful for the additional security despite the slight inconvenience. Much thanks to the Dubai Police Department!

Here are some pictures of the makeshift parking lots about 400 yards from the church compound on Easter weekend. The compound is on the other side of the pictured buildings.




Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dubai to Build Museum Honoring Prophet Mohammad

This was announced earlier this week as an initiative by Sheikh Mohammad, ruler of Dubai. It is hoped the museum will convey the "message of eternal love and peace" that was brought by the Prophet, so the official sources say.

Upon hearing of it I suspected this was, in part, Dubai's response to the ongoing Danish cartoons issue simmering throughout the Muslim world. And if it is, I think it's the better response than flag burning, threats of violence and economic boycotts.

Then today this article came in the GulfNews. Sure enough, there is a vague but not so subtle reference to the cartoons uproar.

"This is a well-timed and gratuitous gesture from Shaikh Mohammad who has surprised us ... it has come to heal us [Islam and Muslims] from the sufferings we have sustained due to blasphemous campaigns against Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in the West.

It's also interesting that the Sheikh Dr. Kubaisi notes that Sheikh Mohammad has "surprised " them. Kind of makes you think they didn't expect help from Sheikh Mohammad on these kinds of religious issues.


UPDATE: Someone in the comments asked about the picture of Mohammad on a journey in this post. Read more about it here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New BibleGateway Sidebar

If you want to look up a word or specific passage in the Bible you can just scroll down to the BibleGateway sidebar gadget I just installed below. Give it a try!

I also recently added a sidebar which lists books I'm currently reading.

Pre-Flight Islamic Prayer on Jazeera Airways

I went to Kuwait last weekend to see one of my children in a school sports tournament. One of the wonderful things that has developed in the region in the last 5 years or so are low cost regional airlines. Jazeera Airways, a Kuwaiti airline, is one such company. I got a roundtrip air ticket from Dubai for about 360 AED (100 USD).

The flights were great and one very interesting aspect of this particular airline is that before every takeoff there is an Islamic prayer for travel that is broadcast on the airplane television screens. You hear someone performing the prayer (it's a recording) and see the Arabic text scrolling onscreen. It takes about 1 minute or so total. The video below is of the last 30 seconds of the prayer with my phone camera focused on the screen. You can't see the scrolling words but you can hear the prayer pretty well.

I've not experienced this prayer on any of the other flights out of Dubai. I've wondered if it's on Jazeera since it's out of Kuwait and Kuwait tends to be more religiously conservative than the UAE.

I tried to google "Islamic Travel Prayer" and came up with a number of hits. This one seemed to make the most sense but I still don't know if it is the actual prayer that is being spoken on the video. If someone who knows Arabic could listen to the video and tell me if the prayer is the one I've got printed here I would appreciate it.

Allah is the Most Great. Allah is the Most Great. Allah is the Most Great. Glory is to Him Who has provided this for us though we could never have had it by our efforts. Surely, unto our Lord we are returning. O Allah, we ask You on this our journey for goodness and piety, and for works that are pleasing to You . O Allah , lighten this journey for us and make its distance easy for us . O Allah, You are our Companion on the road and the One in Whose care we leave our family . O Allah , I seek refuge in You from this journey's hardships, and from the wicked sights in store and from finding our family and property in misfortune upon returning.

Also, what do you think about the idea of a 'travel prayer'? Does it make sense? What about the others onboard who are not Muslims... Does this make sense for them?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

No Kissing at the Mall


Interesting policy implemented at the Mall of the Emirates last month. If you're feeling amorous with your shopping partner (or someone you meet there :) you should take note of the second prohibition listed... "No Kissing or Overt Displays of Affection". You might also get stuck at "Please Wear Respectful Clothing" too.

This raises a number of questions. Does this apply to all kissing? Like the "peck on the cheek" kind? Or just the 'extended lip-lock' kind? Who makes this decision? Is hand-holding an overt display of affection? Is an arm around the shoulder? Exactly where can a hand be put?

And what is respectful? Of course I assume they mean respectful to the host culture. But that is a tough thing to do when you (Dubai) are setting your goals on drawing hundreds of thousands of tourists to your country. Tourists by definition almost always see themselves as not a part of the culture they are visiting. It's as if they think of themselves as viewing everything from behind a glass window.

When I first moved here I used to not wear shorts except to the beach and to the park. But I've loosened up about that over the last 5 years. I wonder if I ever offend anyone when I go to the store.

As a Christian I'm eager to keep the commandments of the Bible as an act of gratitude to God for what he's done for me through Christ - the forgiveness of sins and the adoption into the his eternal family as a son of the King. The Bible would teach "let there not be a hint of immorality among you." (Ephesians 5:3) But the real challenge is that immorality has some culturally defined boundaries. Or at least the "hints" are culturally defined often.

So, even when I take my family of all women (4 daughters, 1 wife) to the mall they don't go in shorts or sleeveless shirts just out of respect for the host culture in which we live. But even then I wonder if people see my daughters, know we're from the west, and then just assume they are immoral. What can I do about that? Nothing I think. Other than to live it down among the people who really know us.

When we go though, we'll just have to make sure... no kissing!

What do you think?