Journey of faith shared with Abraham’s Tent dialogue committee Common values urge faithful and faithless for a world of Peace and Justice

By: Noel Farman
Abraham’s Tent is a dialogue committee established before several years in Calgary. Its name was “Islam-Christian dialogue committee” when I joined it in 2010, delegated by the R.C. Diocese of Calgary. Later on Jewish representation was included within the members. Then it was time to change its name. I was among those who suggested identifying the committee with the name of Abraham. Beside many related topics of discussion, there is a part in a meeting, to every member, for sharing once, his journey of faith with the other members of the committee, in a way to introduce himself and emphasize how he became the believer he actually is. My turn was for long time forgotten; the presider was thinking I have already done that, until the time I dared to disclose that, then I have done that at the end of last April 2012.
A story still in process
My journey of faith is not a story from the past; it is an ongoing continual event of processes and experiences throughout my life. It is not just to describe what lead me to do what I am doing in my religion and my church. It is to describe the reflection that has guided me through my journey of faith to God. It is how much I appreciate and am interested by the faith of others.
I would like to share with you my journey of faith, taking advantage, of what we already shared in our meetings, under Abraham’s Tent. It is a way of aiming to be understood within the principles that made my life; and also a way in which I had tried along my life, to understand believers and human beings around me, including those known to the public life and the media as non-believers or faithless.
My Mesopotamian ancestor’s old beliefs
I am from Mesopotamia; my ancestors believed in the super powers of the nature. Within their traditions they still, keep unconsciously, what I found out to be a certain type of syncretism inherited from their old traditions, for more than 4000 years; these traditions were mixed with certain traces of mythology, although we are Christians from about 2000 years. Thus, an old member of my grand family asked me, once, for an explanation to the way they still seem to deal with the apparition of the new moon, by praying before the moon: “oh you moon, praise to your miracles and intercession prayers”. This is to mark how old and deep the traditions are anchored in the memory of our generations, the Aramaic speaking Christian communities.
The first initiative of God
I believe in the importance of the human discovery of faith and worship in terms that it originally came from God. God is the first one, by his way of being reflected as the Supreme Creator, through thousands years, of the creations development and of the evolution of human life. This could be the difference of views between my faith and the culture of a faithless person. But at the same time, we could share together common values. As my journey of faith continues to grow, I deepen my knowledge and my understanding of traditions and histories of other faiths.
Therefor the principal element that is quite evident to me is the first initiative of God to “speak” about Himself by His creation: specifically the human being, as a masterpiece of his creation… with the way that this human being opened himself throughout history to what he believes is the inspiration of God to him; this human being shares and transmits, to generations, his belief orally or by different customs; every religious community of faith is preciously considering what is written in their holy books and transmitting their believes through their traditions. In all this, I have a special care and pay an objective attention to the contemporary, historical and archeological discoveries, always keeping myself open to the different achievements.
Memory of the flood in the cradle of civilisation
As a believer I call it a providential effect that I happen to be born in Mesopotamia where the cradle of civilisation began. I found out that within the inspiring atmosphere of this civilisation as well as the pharaoh’s civilisation, several parts of the Bible where written or majorly impacted.
My Mesopotamian culture has almost a direct link to what I could call a parabolic story of Noah’s flood. As I am saying this, it happens to be the village where I was born called IsNoakh, a paraphrase of where Noah’s Ark landed, among other villages in the North of Mesopotamia: ZerNoakh, Dernoakh, Epproakh, Dashtetoakh, considering themselves the new generations of Noah as a new father of the human kind. I was open to the archaeological discovery showing evidence that a previous version about a flood, being almost identical to the story Noah’s Flood, was textually written approximately 2000 years before the biblical text of Noah was written. That was originally from a writer of Gilgamesh epopee or epic (According to this epopee, Gilgamesh the Sumerian king has been told by his grandfather Utnapishtim about a compromise with his beloved good friend Aaya, one of the gods’ group who decided the perdition of the human kind because of their perversity; therefor he constructed the arch with which they were saved from a 7 days flood; then he sent 3 times 3 kinds of birds… as a test for safety. This evidence could explain or suggest that the biblical version of Noah story was not necessarily about a historical personality called Noah, but that it was the biblical writer who spiritualized event according his inspiration of believing in a unique God.
Mystifying the tree of knowledge legend

There are references showing that the biblical narration of the creation is inspired by the Mesopotamian mythology of the Tree of knowledge. This biblical text is mystified with a reference to one God creator of world and the first human being under a parabolic and symbolic name of Adam. From the etymological Tree of Knowledge we could see that it is not necessarily about a historical personality called Adam, rather than it is about a spiritual reading and monotheistic conception of the creation.
As I believe in the teachings of the Bible, according to my Christian doctrine, I keep myself at the same time open to sciences and discoveries that could enlighten the human life and mystery of life. Based on my culture and what I know from its history and homeland, I consider that what has been written about Adam, Noah and Jonah and some other biblical texts; thus, it would not be a surprise in my journey of faith that science and history could conclude to me and to others that certain biblical texts are about parabolic or symbolic personalities and events.

Amazing faith of the biblical eminent personality: Abraham

Inspired by my ancient culture and the Mesopotamian heritage, I understood a specific vision towards Abraham’s message. This biblical personality Abraham would have been inspired by the existence of one unique God still keeping, in his attitude, the mentality of the Mesopotamians. Within the presence of the Hebrew people in Babylon after deportation, the biblical writer about Abraham would have been influenced by this culture along with the Mesopotamian mentality of the patriarch of believers. It is presumed by the way he was impacted by the traditions of the holocausts and sacrifices in his own heritage. The great believer Abraham understood at the bottom of his heart, how much he would like to worship God, preferring this God to any other beloved person to, him like his son; thus the ultimate way for him to worship this unique Almighty God was to prove that to His Greatness by offering his unique son. This was a spiritual reading of stories about sacrifices given to the divinities by our ancient Mesopotamians.
However the biblical difference, toward the etymological tradition, is that the unique God would not accept that a man of intensive faith would sacrifice his only son to this God who inspired him so deeply to the point that Abraham understood that God was asking him to do so.
Indeed, we have in the Mesopotamian mythology a legend close to this story: Dalaleh Bridge. The builder of this bridge sacrificed his beloved daughter Dalaleh to the divinities, in gratitude to them for having finally helped him to succeed in the construction of the bridge after several failures. This bridge is located in the city of my birth place, Zakho, name related in Aramaic to Victory)

Common heritage with the first sons of Abraham

I feel I am attached to Hebrew people who wrote an important part of my Christian Bible. I consider them and myself a part of a same family within the human journey of faith. As a Christian I am linked to them as we share important parts of the same biblical texts, through what we call New Testament related to their Bible as the Old Testament; respecting for them the fact that no other additions have been made to their Bible, since 2000 years…
As a Christian believer, the very Bible whom I share with the Jewish religion of the Hebrew people, was, nevertheless, in our New Testament, lived and explained, from another side, and in a specific way by my Lord Jesus Christ. He assures us through his Gospel of Good News that we are called to be children of God with him as he announced Himself as a son of God. I am invited to be unified with God in a wonderfully mystic way close to the Muslim martyr Al-Hallaj who also related this concept of unity with God. The relationship with God is a relationship of love. The mystic Muslim woman Rabiaa al Adawiyah, has also wonderfully described this in her own mystic way.
Apostolic Christians links
In my journey of faith I considered the links of Christianity to the Apostles of Jesus Christ: The two doctrines, Orthodoxy and Catholicism have originally composed our Christianity. They are both rooted by the apostle’s message. Beside these two churches as the two orthodox and catholic doctrinal branches of Christianity, I considered certain historical developments: Catholicism in a dramatically difficult situation witnessed the formation of the Christians of Reform, the Protestants. This reform is linked to a different ways of discussing Christian and faith issues, deliberately, almost independent and personal way in certain denominations, without paying special attention to the tradition or hierarchy; all this has led to an unlimited number of Christian denominations around the world: from 22 thousands in the years 1990 increasing to approximately 33 thousands denominations and non-denominational Christian communities in now a days. This was about what happen with the catholic church side in the west.
Historical Eastern and Western shadows
As from the Orthodox Church side, a time of decline caused that from, Christian orthodoxy had emerged certain sects, like Ebionites and Nazarenes’ beliefs and other different sects. In this atmosphere, appeared Islam, sharing many common elements from the holy books of both the Christians and Jewish religions. Within my journey of faith, I consider the ways in which Islam is connected to both religions Jewish and Christian through different angles and varied orientations; concluding that, after all, the three of them, are forming a family of believers, brothers and sisters rooted to common origins. Therefore all of the above mentioned communities of faith that I considered through my journey of faith: Jewish, Christian religions and Islam are linked to each other through their histories of faith. Their holy books are sharing many common elements. In the attached graphic I’m showing how are linked together by their affinities their histories forming a whole family of believers in God.
Psalms, Lord’s prayer, and biblical stories
We could mark above these communities, different crescents of common elements between them:
The first crescent is covering all the five groups on the level of Bible and biblical stories.
A second crescent could be traced under the first one, marking the psalms as common prayers between the biblical communities, formed by Christians and Jews.
A third crescent could share, among other elements, the prayer of “Our Father”, between all Christians.
The Christian and Jewish communities would form with Islam the fact of being all of the considered as the sons of Abraham believing in what I earnestly hope to be the same unique divinity that they confirm being called God.
At the human level, I consider another great family of believers, the non-Abrahamic communities as the monotheist believers in one God; beside the monotheist believers, we are living, as well, with non-believers either atheists or agnostics. We live with them, work with them, have mixed marriages with them, we share with them humanitarian values aiming to a just and a peaceful society by a common economic and human work.
Help wanted from faithless…
However here is an astonishing difference: The Non-Believers do not hate each other because of their differences in culture and beliefs. They could be working together with the others, for a higher common value that carries the same message of peace, beginning from a simple clerk to a potential leader of the United Nations. Often times when speaking to me, they arise the same question: how comes that many of those who believe in the same God, hate each other and fight each other in the name of the same common God?

Nevertheless, in spite of this sad exclamation, I admire a specific privilege that have a believer and which is missing to non-believer or a faithless people: I think they are missing this wonderful spark of the intimate inspiration and relationship with God. My brothers the Jewish people, Christians and Muslims within their different denominations have God in the bottom of their hearts. This is the beloved treasure of faith and values that I aim to share with other brothers and sisters from different beliefs; considering ourselves as a whole family, loving each other and focusing in our common beliefs and values rather than the elements of division. My spiritual Journey continues to flourish and grow as my path continues to cross with new people and experiences.
All this could not exclude our need as people of varied faiths, to the faithless people as well as the secular people, in order for helping us towards our mutual reconciliation, settling the conflicts between us, and helping all men and women of good will to install peace and stability on the world