Beauty and the Beast: Western Stereotypes about Easterners, and a Movie Recommendation

Consider reading the following blog as an act of solidarity with Pope Francis’ call for Prayer/Fasting for Peace:


Yesterday, I had the privilege of hosting SQPN’s “Catholic Weekend” podcast/web show featuring special guests, Ehab and Fawaz Yasi (AKA Elijah and Elisha Catholic Rap), who are twin brothers born in Baghdad. (Watch or listen to CW 188 here.) They explained what it means to be Chaldean, to be Chaldean (and Syriac) Catholics, as well as their journey from Iraq to the U.S. during the Gulf War.

Bringing the stories of Eastern Catholics to light has honestly become one of my favorite things in the world. While in college, I closely followed the plight of the Iraqi Christians and even wrote an assignment (mock documentary treatment) based on those news stories. After having begun my career in evangelization, the Lord swept me off on a two-weeklong ‘honeymoon’ with him in his homeland, the Holy Land. There, I fell in love with Palestinian hospitality (they practically adopt you).

Here I am recording a testimony from a Palestinian student at Bethlehem University. See a clip of my video here.
Here I am recording a testimony from a Palestinian student at Bethlehem University about global/Western stereotypes. See a clip of my video here.

My heart was forever branded by the deep wounds in Our Lord’s homeland, tracing back to European and American meddling in land distribution. To this day, I shed tears over the “Security Fence” / “Apartheid Wall” / “Separation Barrier” built with American tax money by the Israeli government around Palestinian villages and on confiscated Palestinian land. I’ve heard the stories of lovely Jewish, Muslim and Christian men, women, and youth who dialogue and pray for peace.

Listen: There are deep wounds on both sides, and people on both sides who have overstepped moral and ethical boundaries. (I’m with the U.S. Bishops  and the Vatican in supporting a two-state solution.) However, because I’ve spoken to many an American or Western pilgrim to the Holy Land, I know that our ignorance regarding this conflict — especially regarding Palestinians — is beyond sad. It is just plain ugly. My eyes were completely opened by going to the Holy Land with leaders and guides who understand Catholic teaching on the subject; they exposed me to the beauty of all peoples living there; a beauty which exposed my ugly ignorance and stereotypes.

5BrokenCamerasMovie Recommendation: Yesterday I watched 5 Broken Cameras (2012), the first-ever Palestinian documentary to be nominated for an Academy Award.  Director Emad Burnat was treated like a criminal when he arrived in the U.S. for the Oscars. “Immigration & Customs officers couldn’t understand how a Palestinian could be an Oscar nominee,” tweeted Michael Moore, who’d befriended Emad.

5 Broken Cameras exposes the situation on-the-ground, for the villagers of Bil’in, struggling to maintain nonviolent means for resisting the injustices they faced over five years. During that time, Palestinian boys and men were shot and killed, taken from their homes (little boys included), jailed, and injured. If you aren’t familiar with the suffering faced in this part of the world, I encourage you to watch it. (Available on Netflix and Hulu Plus; also $3.99 on YouTube.)

You may be wondering, “Why should I care? How is this my concern? What could I do?” Pope Francis said, at Saturday’s prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square:

We too are asked this question, it would be good for us to ask ourselves as well: Am I really my brother’s keeper? Yes, you are your brother’s keeper! To be human means to care for one another! […] we bring about the rebirth of Cain in every act of violence and in every war. All of us! And even today we continue this history of conflict between brothers, even today we raise our hands against our brother. Even today, we let ourselves be guided by idols, by selfishness, by our own interests, and this attitude persists. We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves.”

Interview with the Filmmakers:

Official Trailer:


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