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By Valerie Elverton Dixon | Sojourners.net, May 30, 2009

William Faulkner once said: “The past is not dead.  In fact, it’s not even past.”  We often think about time and history as a straight line leading from the past, running through the present, heading into the future. With this conceptualization, the past is past and gone.  However, there is another way to think about time.  Tree time.  When we cut down a tree, the rings of the stump are concentric circles of time. The first year exists at the center and each succeeding year surrounds it.

So it is with the meeting of Christianity and Islam on the battle fields of Afghanistan and Iraq.  The historical center of the present conflict is the history of the Crusades.  Many in the Muslim world consider the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan as another Crusade.  The Crusades were wars between Christians and Muslims, Christians and Pagans, Christians and Christians over four centuries.  It was a tragic time when armies of the state fought to promote a religious cause.  Crusaders travelled far from home as warriors and pilgrims, warriors and penitents, warriors as walls to stall the spread of Islam.  They won and lost battles.  They destroyed and plundered and raped. They were sometimes brutally massacred when the Muslims won on a particular day.

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Nasir @13:20 CET

By Jim Lobe | Inter Press Service


WASHINGTON, Jan 20 (IPS) – Speaking before a record crowd estimated at between two and three million people at his inauguration here Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama promised a foreign policy of “humility and restraint” and “greater cooperation and understanding between nations”.

In his first address as president, Obama also said he will take “bold and swift” action to address the deepening economic crisis designed to roll back the excesses of the market and “lay a new foundation for growth,” and to ensure that, in dealing with terrorist threats, he will seek to protect the rule of law and human rights.

“As for our common defence, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals,” he asserted in an implicit rejection of the policies of his predecessor, George W. Bush, that received the strongest applause of a 15-minute address delivered shortly after he was sworn into office by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on the balcony of the U.S. Capitol.

“Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generation. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.”

Obama’s swearing-in, which took place at noon in bright sunshine but frigid temperatures, was preceded by 90 minutes of pomp, music and circumstance, as the nation’s governors, congressmen, senators, past presidents and vice presidents all filed in before Bush himself was announced – to scattered booing and then an embarrassing silence, followed by Obama, who drew waves of cheering.

But most impressive was the immense crowd that gathered for the occasion. It stretched from the base of the Capitol Building down the stately National Mall to the Lincoln Memorial some three kms away. The previous record for an inauguration was 1.5 million in 1965 when Lyndon Johnson was sworn in for his first full term.

The celebration was clouded shortly later Tuesday afternoon as news spread that Sen. Edward Kennedy, who was diagnosed with brain tumor last year, reportedly suffered a seizure during a lunch reception held for Obama in the Capitol by the Congressional leadership after the swearing-in.

Obama’s speech, delivered in the same confident oratorical style that has become his trademark since he first emerged into the national spotlight at his keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004, was both grim and determined, noting that Washington is not only “at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred,” but also that the U.S. economy is “badly weakened”.

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