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Charlie Hebdo: One year on

Photograph: Charlie Hebdo

The cover page of Charlie Hebdo anniversary edition is guaranteed to make international headlines and trigger a renewed – possibly reheated – debate on social media.

First things first: Charlie Hebdo’s goal number 1 is achieved with this cover. After all, don’t they claim to be daringly controversial?

Well, it is a ‘controversial’ cover, after all.

The problem with constant ‘controversialism’ is though; it usually doesn’t offer much of a calm analysis or adequate context on the subject matter. The style of the message and the tone of language take over the content itself. If it was just a laughing matter one could indeed laugh and move on but given the events around the world, the situation in the Middle-East, the terrorist attacks in France, the refugee crisis and racism in Europe, any political message deserve a little more respect.

Furthermore, there are enough controversies in the world and quite often the attention span gets shorter and shorter in the constant bombardment of messages. The images may stay in our memories but the context quite often gets all too blurred over time.

“What was it again?”

“Where, when, how and why did ISIS or al-Qaida emerge again?”

“How many children had died, why?”

“Bush, Blair, who were they?”

“Remind me again, did God create the humans, or was it the other way?”

These days, to understand the world, what we need is a lot more context and content.

Don’t we?

The title of the Charlie Hebdo cover page cartoon is “One year on: the assassin is still out there”. The Guardian says “French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo will mark a year since an attack on its offices with a cover featuring a bearded man representing God with a Kalashnikov slung over his shoulder”

Interestingly, I think the man in the picture looks more like Santa Claus than the imaginary pictures of God.  But then, Santa doesn’t wear ‘Jesus sandals’. Maybe it is God himself after all. I am just worried, children will have a fear of Santa or worse they will start asking for weapons…

Controversies aren’t always original and new ideas. They also use clichés. A Kalashnikov slung over God’s shoulder? Is that original?

Of course, how silly I am! It is the artistic cliché of secretly picturing a Muslim terrorist. Bearded Muslims and Kalashnikov, the kind of imagery we remember from Afghanistan and elsewhere. Is a must for any cliché, what else!

But wait a minute, in Islam there are no pictures of God. He could look like anything, who knows? Till we die - according to Islam - we won’t face our creator.  

So, is this a picture of Christian God? But, isn’t there one God and one God only?

Interestingly, the picture has a triangle with an eye in the middle. Is it the ever watchful ‘Eye of Providence’?

What is the meaning of the ‘Eye of Providence’ in this cartoon?

“Many religions have used the image of an eye in their symbolism. One of the earliest known examples (from Egyptian mythology) is the ‘Eye of Horus’. However, the association of an eye with the concept of ‘Divine Providence’ did not emerge until well into the Christian era, in Renaissance European iconography, where it was an explicit image of the Christian Trinity. Seventeenth-century depictions of the ‘Eye of Providence’ sometimes show it surrounded by clouds or sunbursts.” – says Wikipedia…

Is it the all-seeing eye on the pedestal decorations of Alexander Column? Or maybe the all-seeing eye on the top of the Declaration of Human Rights (1789) during French Revolution? More capitalistically, could it be the ‘Eye of Providence’ on the US $1 bill?

Could it be the Jewish one or the Masonic version of it?

Maybe all and none of them at the same time…

Again, like pictures of God, such a symbol doesn’t exist in Muslim belief. So, does it mean the whole ‘non-Muslim’ world is watching while a Kalashnikov carrying God is on the run?

I don’t know, I am not an artistic expert. Just asking the questions…

The discussions and the idea of the ‘Christian Trinity’, or the ‘Holy Trinity’, as the central ‘mystery’ of most Christian faiths originate from the ancients lands where these days millions of refuges come from.

The doctrine of ‘Christian Trinity’ did not take its definitive shape until late in the fourth century but the first recorded use of this word in Christian theology was by Theophilus, Patriarch of Antioch, in about 170 AD.

Antioch is not just a biblical name in a mysterious biblical stories but a land that is called Syria (and Turkey) today… A land that has seen it all…

The evolution of modern day Christian theology goes back to – well you guessed it – 2000 years ago. Two millennia of internal/external conflicts; collaborations, debates, deals, artistic creations as well as destruction of artistic creations; mythical stories, imaginary miracles and real wars and constant change… And throughout all of these, and for over 2000 years now, constant immigration, from (Syrian) Damascus to Rome, from (Palestinian) Jerusalem to the rest of the world.

All of the above for earthly reasons, made by humans of this world, but wrapped in Godly stories of holy myths dedicated to afterlife.

And the journey of these myths and the real people is not over yet.

It took the leaders of the Christian church several attempts and very controversial topics to deal with while developing the spiritual foundations of the faith in an ever changing world. The Roman Catholic Church had to organise 21 Ecumenical Councils over 1700 years, in various locations from Middle-East to Europe, in order to define, re-define and re-adjust the theories of the religion… All were attended by powerful men, men representing earthly power struggle full of internal and external conflicts…

The ‘Eye of Providence’ in the Charlie Hebdo cartoon is really interesting. It tells a million - let’s say - stories.

The ‘Christian Trinity’ was arguably one of the most controversial issues in the ancient history of the religion. It was a making or braking point for the constantly struggling forces among various powers in the church; struggles for earthly domination expressed in ‘mysterious’ ways. The question of trinity went deep to the hearth of the religious myths. So much so, the top-down order among ordinary men and women had to be restored.

Ancient Church of Alexandria and Church of Antioch were in turmoil because of this question… The Nature of Christ, how he was related to God? How he came to exist? These were questions of immense consequences. Or so they said.

There were blood and tears in search of the answers to these questions. 325 years after the death of Jesus, the Roman Constantine I, a man of this world had to sort it all out, before losing the control of his subjects… Men in high powers gathered at the Council of Nicaea – modern day Turkey. It was tense; it had to be settled for once and for all. The Arian controversy in the Greek-speaking East had to be dealt with… And so they did, the men, many of them in possession of great earthly powers and Godly authority, decided in the end: Jesus was "God from God, Light from Light, and true God from true God". Mystery of Father and Son was clarified in mystic ways before heretics were banished from the land…

But then the material world was changing. The mysteries of Christ didn’t end there. Next was the question of ‘spirit’, another great mystery that troubled the all powerful men. 360 years after Jesus’ death, came the answer in Constantinople - modern day Istanbul, after many name changes throughout the history.

"Father, Son, Holy Spirit", the "Holy Trinity" was the answer to all mysteries. “If in doubt of anything this was to be the answer”, said the powerful men.

Did all of these happen as we are told by the historians?

Who knows? It’s a great mystery is one way of answering this. But whatever happened, like the great frescoes of great churches of the Middle-East, all happened in the hands of men.

‘Eye of Providence’ finds its watchful place in Charlie Hebdo cover. Father, Son, the Holy Spirit, the ever more all-seeing eye watches God on the run with a Kalashnikov on his shoulder.

“Remind me again. Did God create the humans or was it the other way?”

What does Charlie Hebdo, think? Given the cover, I assume it is the first; God created humans and is directing their actions. Like the ancient Greeks, all good and bad were to attributed to a specific god or goddess?

Best of them was God Hades. He was also called the God of Wealth or “the rich one” because he possessed the precious metals of the earth.

Interesting, God being dependent on earthly metals… Why is that? Is he selling them?

You see, these are all controversial questions. But we need context, with time, matter and human societies as our ingredients in the debate…  Otherwise all is a mystery of history and a sound bite of today, only to be explained by further mystery.

And it is that context, yet again, what is missing in Charlie Hebdo’s cover page.

A Santa lookalike God - or is it the Son, or the Father or Allah? - A weapon on his shoulder and the Holy Spirit looking down…

Indeed a controversial picture… Surely saying “God created the humans”, like God bombed Iraq, Afghanistan, and indeed it is God causing the climate change.

Did he invade Algeria at some stage, or was it a different God.

Surely he didn’t start the two world wars, did he?

Was it Christian God or Muslim God or Jewish God? Maybe all at the same time…

I don’t know. It’s all a controversial mystery… Sure, so long there is controversy, who needs history and context… Or maybe we do?

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