Kuwait’s homegrown priest celebrates Bible and bedouin culture

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Father Emmanuel Benjamin Jacob Gharib, Chairman of the National Evangelical Church of Kuwait and Pastor of the Kuwaiti Presbyterian Church, poses for a photo in the aisle of the National Evangelical Church in Kuwait City on February 20, 2018. (AFP)
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Father Emmanuel Benjamin Jacob Gharib, Chairman of the National Evangelical Church of Kuwait and Pastor of the Kuwaiti Presbyterian Church, adjust his clerical robe at the National Evangelical Church in Kuwait City on February 20, 2018. (AFP)
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Father Emmanuel Benjamin Jacob Gharib, Chairman of the National Evangelical Church of Kuwait and Pastor of the Kuwaiti Presbyterian Church, reads from the Bible at the National Evangelical Church in Kuwait City on February 20, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 02 March 2018
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Kuwait’s homegrown priest celebrates Bible and bedouin culture

KUWAIT CITY: Dressed in a traditional white Gulf headdress and with two red crosses embroidered on his black clerical robe, Kuwait’s first homegrown priest cuts a unique figure in the predominantly Muslim emirate.
Father Emmanuel Benjamin Jacob Gharib, 68, celebrates both the Bible and Gulf Arab culture with his Christian congregation in Kuwait City.
In an interview with AFP ahead of the 20th anniversary of his ordination, he stressed the level of acceptance he has felt from fellow Kuwaitis.
“Everyone welcomes me wherever I go,” said Father Emmanuel.
Born in the Qibla district of Kuwait City, Gharib was raised in a devout Christian family and surrounded by mostly Muslim neighbors.
Like many Christian Kuwaitis, his roots lie elsewhere in the Middle East.
The priest’s father was born to an Assyrian family in southeast Turkey but forced to flee Ottoman massacres against the Armenian and Assyrian Christian minorities.
The Red Cross took his father to Iraq, where he would eventually wed Gharib’s mother — a fellow Assyrian — in the northern city of Mosul in 1945.
With the former Ottoman cities reeling from the upheaval of World War I, the couple decided to build their future in Kuwait.
They raised four girls and three boys — the eldest Emmanuel — in a religious environment, taking them to Sunday School each week.
They always felt close to their Muslim neighbors.

Priesthood

Emmanuel Gharib was not always destined for the priesthood.
He graduated from engineering school with a degree in geology in 1971 and soon found a job at the Kuwaiti oil ministry.
Ten years into his career, Emmanuel Gharib and his wife took part in a religious conference in Kuwait.
“That was the turning point,” he said. “That was where the Lord changed my life... where I was born again and began my journey with Jesus Christ.”
He quit his job and embarked in 1989 on a theology degree at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo.
He was ordained as a priest in 1999 and subsequently elected to head the National Evangelical Church of Kuwait, becoming the first and only Gulf Arab priest.
Father Emmanuel also serves as vice president of the Islamic-Christian Relations Council in Kuwait, which he co-founded in 2009.

Evangelical Church

Father Emmanuel’s own landmark next year will coincide with the 85th anniversary of the Evangelical Church in Kuwait.
But the presence of Christians in Kuwait dates back even further, to the arrival of American Evangelical missionaries and the founding of the American Mission Hospital in the early 1900s, he said.
Kuwaiti “society began to have a positive view of the missionaries during the Battle of Jahra because the Mission Hospital played a big role in treating the wounded,” Father Emmanuel said, referring to Kuwait’s 1920 battle against Saudi-backed Wahhabi militants.
Over the past century, Christians have immigrated from Turkey, Iraq and Palestine during periods of upheaval, gaining citizenship under a 1959 Nationality Law, although a later law banned non-Muslims from naturalization.
At the last count, according to Father Emmanuel, Kuwait has 264 native Christians from eight extended families, out of a total native population of 1.35 million.
The local Christian population is dwarfed by 900,000 expatriate workers of various Christian denominations and nationalities — from Lebanese to Filipinos.
Unlike Saudi Arabia which bans the construction of churches, Christians of different denominations are “free to practice” in several churches and Kuwait City municipality has provided land to bury their dead, he said.
Christian Kuwaitis say they feel a greater sense of identification with one of their own as priest.
“An Egyptian or Lebanese priest performs the same liturgy but a Kuwaiti priest can communicate the teachings of the Bible in the Kuwaiti dialect,” said Abu Nader, a 63-year-old parishioner.
For 54-year-old Eyad Noman: “Our relationship with him is very strong... He is one of us.”


Rake news: Social media ablaze on Trump’s forest remarks for Finland

Updated 19 November 2018
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Rake news: Social media ablaze on Trump’s forest remarks for Finland

  • US President Donald Trump claimed the forest-covered nation prevents wildfires by raking its forest floors
  • Raking-related terms were among the most popular Twitter hashtags and Google searches in the Nordic nation

HELSINKI: Social media in Finland was ablaze with bemused comments on Monday after US President Donald Trump claimed the forest-covered nation prevents wildfires by raking its forest floors.
Speaking to reporters during the weekend while in California to see the impact of devastating forest fires, the US president again blamed forest management, but said Finland had the answer.
Trump cited the Finnish president as telling him Finns “spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things (in the forest), and they don’t have any problem.”
However the Nordic country’s president, Sauli Niinisto, told the Ilta-Sanomat newspaper on Sunday that he had no recollection of raking being mentioned when the pair met in Paris a week ago.
“I told him that Finland is a country covered in forests, but we also have a good warning system and network,” the president said.
Finnish social media users were quick to pile in, describing Trump’s comments as “rake news” and posting pictures of themselves brandishing the garden implement.
By late Sunday, raking-related terms were among the most popular Twitter hashtags and Google searches in the Nordic nation which is 72 percent covered by forests, predominantly of pine, birch and fir.
Meanwhile Yrjo Niskanen, head of emergency preparedness at Finland’s national forest center, said the US president may have been referring to the practice of removing branches and loose material left in the forest after logging.
But he pointed out that this is not done with a rake — and the wood is collected for energy production.
“I’ve never thought before that it could be removed because of the fire risk, that’s not mentioned in any forestry manuals. It’s taken away purely for business reasons,” Niskanen told the Iltalehti newspaper.