Praxis Advocates
Praxis Advocates





Praxis Advocates
World Eastern Peoples Update

June, 2009

World Eastern Peoples Update is the page that may be helpful in finding out what's going on in the thinking among Eastern peoples today.

Who are Eastern peoples? Muslims are part of that subset. So are the Jews, and in fact, most of Asia. To find out if you are an Eastern person, don't look on a map, but to look at lifestyle issues, beliefs, values, community issues and even hospitality and story-telling.

Most of the Bible, it may be said, is an Eastern book, wherein it addresses the tremendously Eastern Samaritan woman. Timothy was a bicultural Grecian Jew, however, a Westerner and an Easterner. Like Paul, who had Roman roots and an Eastern, Jewish background, many of us will become bi-cultural and able to walk into the shoes and even into the world view of the East. I learned this among Kabyle Algerians in France and in Algeria.

Driving from Algiers on the "route nationale" to Kabylia, one is amazed by the absence of Islamic facial and head coverings. Muslim women in Algiers are usually veiled from head to foot with an additional beautiful white dentelle facial covering. A hundred kilometers to the east presents a change of scenery and culture. Olive groves, orange trees, and farms replace the towering apartment buildings in Algiers. Kabyle women wear bright, rainbow colored dresses. Women are not veiled, for the most part. Men dress very "western," usually wearing casual clothes. (Clothes, of course, do not make an Algerian western.)

Beneath the warm welcome and seemingly non-Islamic outward appearance lies a land that is full of spiritual forces, occult and complex cultural-religious practices. I observed car tires on pedestals that were mounted onto rooftops in order to ward off demon or jinn attacks. An interview with Mr. B tells of the use of donkey heads on a pike to ward off envy, theft or vandalism. One story that Mr. B told is that when a man builds a beautiful villa, he needs to protect the villa from people plotting to curse the villa and the owner together. The owner placed a donkey head on a spike in front of the villa. A real donkey head. Anyone who would curse, steal from or try to manipulate the owner or curse the villa would provoke the curse of filth as from the donkey head upon the entire village. (Filth is related in Kabyle culture not to mocking denigration, but to impurity and defilement, a very Eastern and Islamic reality.)

Car tires on rooftops and donkey heads on pikes before villas are not superstitions or talismans tacked onto the Kabyle Algerian lives. They are the hue and color of the Kabyle culture. Equally so, Islam has not just perched itself upon the Kabyle culture. It is out of sight but not out of mind. The integration is so tight between culture, religion and beliefs that magic men, the Marabouts, and donkeys on pikes represent not the life of the few, but the way of the culture at large.

Note the example of Jesus with the woman of Sychar (Samaria) in John 4. The Samaritan woman with many husbands or partners was defiled in the eyes of the Jews and probably in the eyes of Jesus' disciples and fellow Samaritans as well. Jesus was able to reach beyond the woman's defilement and drink water from the woman's (culturally unclean) cup, and therefore build a human and divine bridge to her life and to her village. Jesus showed that He was greater than the cultural and theological stigma and defilement of the Samaritan woman. In the West, we think of bacteria on a cup; in the East, though bacteria is not ignored, there is a vast world of defilement from what one eats, how one dresses, and even on what side one lies down to sleep. Question: If the way an Easterner dresses with a hijab or veil becomes an issue of conscience and culture with defilement issues, how would an Eastern Jesus-follower dress if they truly move from darkness to light in Jesus?