The shepherd should smell of the sheep

MB is stretched out on his couch in Qatar watching the Pope’s visit to Washington. It happens to be the night before the first day of the Islamic Eid holiday as MB types his words. MB is thinking that this region could learn much from this man. 

MB wrote a post on the occasion of the election of Pope Francis. MB commented at the time on the smile of PF. PF has a great warm smile that lights up his space and those around him. Magical almost. It’s interesting watching all the Americans getting excited as they line the streets and waving frantically as PF passes by. They have all got great big beaming smiles. It’s almost as if the Americans are like the Phillipinos who turned out in millions on the recent occasion of the same PF’s visit, such is the religious fervour and obvious joy on display. Now who would have thought such a thing possible? Americans behaving like Phillipinos! The positive vibes and general happiness are literally jumping off the TV screen. That PF smile must have something to do with it, MB is thinking. For sure it must.

Since MB’s arrival in the Middle East he has become much more aware of religion. He has met men of religion in a number of countries in the Arab speaking world. Some genuinely decent good people with good smiles, like an impressive senior Imam he met in Sudan. He also met dour and stern religious men of Saudi Arabia, who consider smiling haram (forbidden).

But overall, MB has come to a conclusion that the Islamic/Middle East region is not a very religious place at all. Amongst the majority religious community at least. Much less so than the Western world MB thinks, in the true sense of the meaning of religion. A famous Egyptian Islamic scholar once said:

I went to the West and saw Islam, but no Muslims; I got back to the East and saw Muslims, but not Islam

And there is more than a grain of truth in that statement MB is thinking.

Like most people in the West MB would not consider himself very religious. But he likes the smile of PF. And he likes much of what PF says and does. Moderation. Humility. Forgiveness. Tolerance. Respect for differences amongst peoples. Respect for the planet itself. All ideas that need far more emphasis in the ME region especially. ‘Priests should be shepherds living with the smell of the sheep’, is a PF quote that MB particularly likes. Would that local clerics would pick up the smell of their sheep preaching such values.


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