Daniel Wani and Meriam Ibrahimn at their marriage in 2011
Last updated at 1:41PM, May 30 2014
Last updated at 1:41PM, May 30 2014
The Pope may change the date of Easter so that Catholics and Orthodox Christians can celebrate Christ’s resurrection on the same day.
The head of the 1.2 billion-strong Catholic church raised the vexed topic in his historic meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians.
On his flight back to Rome, Francis said that the two had discussed whether “something can by done” about the date for Easter. “It is a bit ridiculous: ‘Tell me, when does your Christ rise from the dead?’ ‘Mine will next week.’ ‘Well, mine was resurrected last week’,” Francis observed.
Easter is the holiest festival in Christianity. The fact that it falls on different dates in the Catholic and Orthodox churches is a hugely symbolic obstacle to Christian unity. The Council of Nicaea, called by the Christian emperor Constantine in AD325 in what is now northwestern Turkey, established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox. At the time, the Roman world used the imperfect Julian calendar introduced by Julius Caesar in 46BC. By the 16th century, the Julian calendar was ten days out of sync with the equinox.
The problem began in 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII instituted a new calendar for the Catholic church, which was adopted by Britain and its American colonies in 1752.
The Eastern Orthodox churches, however, continued to follow the Julian calendar, which is now 13 days out of sync. As a result, Orthodox and Catholic Easter can fall on the same day, as they did this year — or as much as five weeks apart, as last year. Agreeing a single date would be a boon for Christians in the Middle East, where Catholics and Orthodox often live side by side. The Pope noted that even in Rome many Orthodox worshippers used Catholic churches.
In 1997, a meeting of the World Council of Churches at Aleppo, in Syria, discussed a proposal to use the Nicaean formula with the date based on astronomical observation of the moon. Paul Meyendorff, professor of liturgical theology at the St Vladimir’s Orthodox seminary in New York, said that the advantage of the Aleppo proposal was that it was based on neither calendar. “In most years, the Gregorian calendar is correct, although there are a few years where it is a week off,” he said.
With the Russian and other Slavic Orthodox churches still firmly opposed to changing the date of their Easter, he said, the chances of agreement at this stage were “nil”.
Her death was confirmed in a statement issued by Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she had served as a professor of American Studies since 1982.
Angelou was scheduled to attend the 2014 MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon in Houston, Texas, on May 30 but canceled last week citing “health reasons.”
Angelou also canceled an event last month in Fayetteville, Arkansas, because she was recovering from an “unexpected ailment” that sent her to the hospital.
She did not disclose the nature of her illness.
Angelou posted her final tweet on May 23.
“Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.”
Tall and regal, with a deep, majestic voice, Angelou defied all probability and category, becoming one of the first black women to enjoy mainstream success as an author and thriving in virtually every artistic medium. The young single mother who performed at strip clubs to earn a living later wrote and recited the most popular presidential inaugural poem in history. The childhood victim of rape wrote a million-selling memoir, befriended Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and performed on stages around the world.
An actress, singer and dancer in the 1950s and 1960s, she broke through as an author in 1970 with “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which became standard (and occasionally censored) reading, and was the first of a multipart autobiography that continued through the decades. In 1993, she was a sensation reading her cautiously hopeful “On the Pulse of the Morning” at former President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration. Her confident performance openly delighted Clinton and made the poem a best-seller, if not a critical favorite. For former President George W. Bush, she read another poem, “Amazing Peace,” at the 2005 Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the White House.
She remained close enough to the Clintons that in 2008 she supported Hillary Rodham Clinton’s candidacy over the ultimately successful run of the country’s first black president, Barack Obama. But a few days before Obama’s inauguration, she was clearly overjoyed. She told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette she would be watching it on television “somewhere between crying and praying and being grateful and laughing when I see faces I know.”
She was a mentor to Oprah Winfrey, whom she befriended when Winfrey was still a local television reporter, and often appeared on her friend’s talk show program. She mastered several languages and published not just poetry, but advice books, cookbooks and children’s stories. She wrote music, plays and screenplays, received an Emmy nomination for her acting in “Roots,” and never lost her passion for dance, the art she considered closest to poetry.
“The line of the dancer: If you watch (Mikhail) Baryshnikov and you see that line, that’s what the poet tries for. The poet tries for the line, the balance,” she told The Associated Press in 2008, shortly before her birthday.
Her very name as an adult was a reinvention. Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis and raised in Stamps, Ark., and San Francisco, moving back and forth between her parents and her grandmother. She was smart and fresh to the point of danger, packed off by her family to California after sassing a white store clerk in Arkansas. Other times, she didn’t speak at all: At age 7, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend and didn’t speak for years. She learned by reading, and listening.
“I loved the poetry that was sung in the black church: ‘Go down Moses, way down in Egypt’s land,’” she told the AP. “It just seemed to me the most wonderful way of talking. And ‘Deep River.’ Ooh! Even now it can catch me. And then I started reading, really reading, at about 7 1/2, because a woman in my town took me to the library, a black school library. … And I read every book, even if I didn’t understand it.”
At age 9, she was writing poetry. By 17, she was a single mother. In her early 20s, she danced at a strip joint, ran a brothel, was married (to Enistasious Tosh Angelos, her first of three husbands) and then divorced. By her mid-20s, she was performing at the Purple Onion in San Francisco, where she shared billing with another future star, Phyllis Diller. She spent a few days with Billie Holiday, who was kind enough to sing a lullaby to Angelou’s son Guy, surly enough to heckle her off the stage and astute enough to tell her: “You’re going to be famous. But it won’t be for singing.”
After renaming herself Maya Angelou for the stage (“Maya” was a childhood nickname), she toured in “Porgy and Bess” and Jean Genet’s “The Blacks” and danced with Alvin Ailey. She worked as a coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Council, and lived for years in Egypt and Ghana, where she met Malcolm X and remained close to him until his assassination, in 1965. Three years later, she was helping King organize the Poor People’s March in Memphis, Tenn., where the civil rights leader was slain on Angelou’s 40th birthday.
“Every year, on that day, Coretta and I would send each other flowers,” Angelou said of King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, who died in 2006.
Angelou was little known outside the theatrical community until “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which might not have happened if James Baldwin hadn’t persuaded Angelou, still grieving over King’s death, to attend a party at Jules Feiffer’s house. Feiffer was so taken by Angelou that he mentioned her to Random House editor Bob Loomis, who persuaded her to write a book.
Angelou’s musical style was clear in a passage about boxing great Joe Louis’s defeat against German fighter Max Schmeling:
“My race groaned. It was our people falling. It was another lynching, yet another Black man hanging on a tree. One more woman ambushed and raped. A Black boy whipped and maimed. It was hounds on the trail of a man running through slimy swamps. … If Joe lost we were back in slavery and beyond help.”
Angelou’s memoir was occasionally attacked, for seemingly opposite reasons. In a 1999 essay in Harper’s, author Francine Prose criticized “Caged Bird” as “manipulative” melodrama. Meanwhile, Angelou’s passages about her rape and teen pregnancy have made it a perennial on the American Library Association’s list of works that draw complaints from parents and educators.
“‘I thought that it was a mild book. There’s no profanity,” Angelou told the AP. “It speaks about surviving, and it really doesn’t make ogres of many people. I was shocked to find there were people who really wanted it banned, and I still believe people who are against the book have never read the book.”
Angelou appeared on several TV programs, notably the groundbreaking 1977 miniseries “Roots.” She was nominated for a Tony Award in 1973 for her appearance in the play “Look Away.” She directed the film “Down in the Delta,” about a drug-wrecked woman who returns to the home of her ancestors in the Mississippi Delta. She won three Grammys for her spoken-word albums and in 2013 received an honorary National Book Award for her contributions to the literary community.
Back in the 1960s, Malcolm X had written to Angelou and praised her for her ability to communicate so directly, with her “feet firmly rooted on the ground. In 2002, Angelou used this gift in an unexpected way when she launched a line of greeting cards with industry giant Hallmark. Angelou admitted she was cool to the idea at first. Then she went to Loomis, her editor at Random House.
“I said, ‘I’m thinking about doing something with Hallmark,’” she recalled. “And he said, ‘You’re the people’s poet. You don’t want to trivialize yourself.’ So I said ‘OK’ and I hung up. And then I thought about it. And I thought, if I’m the people’s poet, then I ought to be in the people’s hands — and I hope in their hearts. So I thought, ‘Hmm, I’ll do it.’”
In North Carolina, she lived in an 18-room house and taught American Studies at Wake Forest University. She was also a member of the Board of Trustees for Bennett College, a private school for black women in Greensboro, N.C. Angelou hosted a weekly satellite radio show for XM’s “Oprah & Friends” channel. She also owned and renovated a townhouse in Harlem, the inside decorated in spectacular primary colors.
Active on the lecture circuit, she gave commencement speeches and addressed academic and corporate events across the country. Angelou received dozens of honorary degrees, and several elementary schools were named for her. As she approached her 80th birthday, she decided to study at the Missouri-based Unity Church, which advocates healing through prayer.
“I was in Miami and my son (Guy Johnson, her only child) was having his 10th operation on his spine. I felt really done in by the work I was doing, people who had expected things of me,” said Angelou, who then recalled a Unity church service she attended in Miami.
“The preacher came out — a young black man, mostly a white church — and he came out and said, ‘I have only one question to ask, and that is, “Why have you decided to limit God?’” And I thought, ‘That’s exactly what I’ve been doing.’ So then he asked me to speak, and I got up and said, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.’ And I said it about 50 times, until the audience began saying it with me, ‘Thank you, THANK YOU!’”
(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report
Muslim groups say the practice is bringing ‘Islam into disrepute’ Richard Pohle/The Times
Muslim groups describe the fight against female genital mutilation (FGM) as “our jihad”, and say it is a practice that is “bringing Islam into disrepute”.
Thousands of leaflets will be distributed next month to mosques, community centres and schools, urging Muslims to end an “oppressive and inhumane” custom that has no root in religion.
It is the first time that the Islamic Sharia Council, the Muslim College and the Muslim Council of Britain have come together to condemn FGM, which may affect up to 20,000 British girls.
“FGM is not an Islamic requirement. There is no reference in the Koran that states girl must be circumcised,” the leaflet says. “FGM is bringing the religion of Islam into disrepute.”
The message follows a statement released by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Britain, calling for an end to “the oppressive cultural practice that has no place in the civilised world”.
Farooq Aftab, from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association UK, said that the reaction had been positive, particularly with groups of young men.
“FGM is an oppressive and inhumane cultural practice, there is no place for it in the civilised world,” said Mr Aftab. “It’s got nothing to do with religion and is not condoned by Islam. We want to remove that misconception.
“This is the challenge we face. It is our jihad. All the moderate voices, the correct voices of Islam, have to come out. We need to take a stand. We need to tell people to correct their understanding of what Islam is. This is what jihad is, the struggle to fight against these atrocities. We are fighting to correct the perception of Islam.”
He added: “We are educating the youth. Young men find it extremely concerning and worrying that people are doing this. A lot of them are very angry and upset that it’s been done in the name of Islam.”
Mr Aftab said that social media has been extremely useful for spreading the message that FGM is an “un-Islamic atrocity”.
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has been distributing leaflets, headed “FGM — not in the name of Islam” to men, women and young people who attend their mosques. The group is also running question-and-answer sessions at community centres and conducting a survey of the Ahmadiyya community, who live in 204 countries worldwide, to gauge their perceptions and understanding of FGM.
The community was founded in India by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in 1889 and has millions of members who believe in the five pillars of Islam and that Ahmad was the Messiah personified. Ahmadiyya Muslims reject any “jihad of the sword” and instead promote a “jihad of the pen”, they say.
Mr Aftab said: “It is very important that the men are involved, because you can’t isolate them to deal with this. Our women are fully included in our activities and they have an opinion and a voice. That’s the difference between us and other Muslims.”
Pope Francis will not avail himself of bullet-proof vehicles during his three day trip to the Middle East and insisted on using normal cars to allow him to be as close as possible to the people, the Vatican said on Thursday.
“The pope wants an open pope- mobile and a normal car. The local security official took the desire of the pope into consideration,” said chief spokesman Father Federico Lombardi.
“I don’t think there was too much discussion about that,” he said, hinting that local security officials had suggested the use of bulletproof vehicles but were over-ruled.
Francis’ predecessors were driven in bulletproof limousines on their trips, whether just around Rome or abroad. Heads of state visiting the Middle East tend to use bulletproof cars.
Francis instead uses a blue Ford Focus in Rome – and at his own request, during his trip to Brazil last July was driven around Rio de Janeiro in a small silver Fiat.
Lombardi also said the Vatican was not overly concerned by threats to Christians scrawled by suspected Jewish extremists on church property in the Holy Land.
The decision is however expected to further complicate security arrangements for the pontiff’s trip, causing the closure of more roads and requiring a greater distance to be kept from the pope’s motorcade.
Police Chief Yohanan Danino on Sunday met with the Vatican’s ambassador to Israel, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, to discuss security preparations. More than 8,000 officers will be involved in security details, with a wide range of operational units involved.
Separately, a group of Christians in Jerusalem wrote to Lazzarotto, saying that Israeli security forces were trying to deny them their “legitimate right” to greet their spiritual leader.
Agenzia Fides, a Christian missionary information service said that Jerusalem Catholics recently sent a letter to Lazzarotto, the apostolic delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine, in advance of the pope’s pilgrimage to the capital.
According to Fides, the initiative to write to Lazzarotto was launched by members of the Latin parish of St. Savior in the Old City of Jerusalem. The letter claims that Israeli security will hinder meeting the pope in Jerusalem, and “attempts by the Israeli occupation to impose a curfew on the streets, including the Christian Quarter, during the visit is yet another attempt by the occupying power to deny our existence.”
The letter writers refer to themselves as the “indigenous Jerusalem population and descendants of the first Christians.”
“It is unacceptable for the Pope to pass along the narrow streets of the Christian quarter, yet find [it] devoid of any signs of life and the faithful,” the letter reads.
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