Makkah hajj


The Muslim pilgrimage in September literally took a deadly turn when two groups going two separate and opposite directions collided in Mina where pilgrims go to “stone the devil.”

The hajj pilgrimage is an annual security nightmare for Araby’s House of Saud. At least Jerusalem has three ancient traditions—Semitic wisdom in the Temple Wailing Wall for the Jews, Islam’s Dome of the Rock, and the garden of Gethsemani for Cristos’ disciples. Orthodoxies may demure but the three have learned to co-exist. Makkah is exclusively Islam but it is a leveler of all the sects through the years.

My family’s lineage points to Wesley. When I chanced on the “strangely warmed heart” site at Aldersgate in London, it was no treat. It was like going into a Midwest structure, or worse, like sauntering into Riverside Dr. by the Hudson in Manhattan to the National Council of Churches, or God forbid, the United Methodist Church. Whoopee!

It was in my old university town of Dallas that 14-year-old Muslim Ahmed Mohamed was handcuffed and escorted out by Dallas’ finest for bringing in a clock he put together at home to show to his science teacher. His teacher told him to keep it in his bag. The clock’s alarm went off in another class that alerted the teacher who march Ahmed to the principal’s office, igniting everyone’s imagination including that of a police officer who thought the contraption was a hoax bomb and that became the basis for the arrest.

We have here a blatant case of the worst kind of profiling.

I self-defrocked in 2003 from the United Methodist Church, exploring metaphors on profound humanness other than the theistic language of Aquinas that was couched in the Egyptian cosmology of a three-tiered universe. The science on which contemporary theology hinges remains Ptolemaic, and while we know the theological scenario to be existentially pointing to human experience, its archaic language is more a stumbling block than an assistance to understanding.

Besides, the medieval language of “my Lord and King, Savior and Redeemer” does not fit the lowly Galilean carpenter Jacob Ibn Nazareth, whose daring march into Jerusalem and eventual crucifixion sparked our current era but obscured the man so badly that the task of demythologizing his personhood from the thick ecclesiastical garbs of power and status is monumental.

We read of the journey of Pope Francis in the United States, wishing that his message of common humanity in the consciousness of Earthrise was equaled by a reduction of the trappings in attire and style of his papal office. The pope remains a head office creature, and though our visit to the Basilica and the Sistine Chapel late ’70s pointed to a place of elegant sanctity, it failed to promote the reality that profound humanity is no longer dependent on thunder and lightning from Mt. Olympus, nor of the Roman tomé of Encyclicals.

The thousand of hajj pilgrims in Mecca last month, and the solitary journey of 14-year-old Ahmed whose surprising ordeal earned him a trip to the White House, begs the issue of the relevance of organized religion in our time. The old not-one-of-our-kind bigotry we bestow against different others like Ahmed poses the human challenge.

Organized religion seethes underneath among adherents of the proselytizing kind. I attended SMU with Maryknoll Fathers in Dallas, Texas, and hung out with Jesuits and Oblates, so I warm up easy to the Catholic Church. Msgr. Tom Camacho at the helm of our CK Cathedral was a dear. 

But a lovely parishioner in a secular committee with me expounded on truth as seen by her version of Agnus Dei, declaring any differing opinion as not just mistaken but wrong. The Spanish movement was conservative but not close-minded. I appreciated the lady’s passion but she was no different from evangelical kin who view things as narrowly as she did.

The bigotry of the not-one-of-us-kind is not as evident among Catholics as it is amongst Protestants whose certitude emanates from belief propositions and the surety that other opinions are wrong.

I am told we have two mosques on island. Shi’a or Sunni, adherents are multiethnic, of equal footing at the hajj.

The Rock-of-Peter tradition comes in many colors and flavors, most of it stuck in the imagery of Aquinas’ architectonic superdome of the medieval ages, or the Lutheran reformation, neither of which is understood nor relevant to the time.

There’s a Zen Buddhist temple by Sugar King Park, a shrine-like structure by Banzai Cliff, so Buddha is around but discreetly. How appropriate.

A limited vision of religion does not understand why Carolinian youngsters bow before their elders to be blessed. It is a rite and ritual observed like the hajj that has marks of the profound human face.

In this age of humans (Anthropocene), 20 Islamic groups issued a declaration on global climate change; anshallah of “the great No-Thing” and the world is blessed. ISIS is a coined word to demonize the not-one-of-us creatures. That’s dumb, IMHO!

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at

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