Monday, 11 May 2009


My friend, Zoe, sent me this interesting donkey link: . As she said, it's not obvious what it means, but it's interesting.

I've just finished Andrew White's latest book, called 'The Vicar of Baghdad. Fighting for Peace in the Middle East' (Monarch, £8.99). It is a fascinating and tantalising book. Fascinating because of its insights into the situations in Gaza and Iraq. Andrew was in Iraq before the war and so is more trusted than most Westerners. Tantalising because of what he can't say. He works in highly sensitive negotiations concerning release of hostages, for example.

His comments about the way we talk about religion (pages 138-9) are, I think, very important. He points out that we use the word, 'extremist', to label someone who takes their religion seriously; the complimentary opposite we call 'moderate'. Actually people who take their faith seriously don't want to be 'moderate' about it. If it's worth believing in, it's worth being passionate about, but that doesn't mean being violent or violating others. So Andrew prefers to talk about 'serious Muslims', and 'serious Christians'. That's a better affirmative term than moderate, which in effect means sharing Western liberal (secular) values.

On a personal level, reading the book gave me pause for thought. Andrew has Multiple Sclerosis which affects him rather like MND affects me, but he is totally committed to his work in Iraq. You get the impression that he will work there until he drops, or until an angel instructs him to stop. And I felt that I had comparatively quickly retired from a far easier job, and wondered whether I'd just given in weakly. Coincidentally interviews for my successor are being held at the end of this week, and so I'm hoping my doubts evaporate when he's appointed.

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