School finished for the Christmas holiday today. We call it the Christmas holiday at our school even though only about a dozen families will be undertaking any specific observance of the great Pagan-hijacked-by-Early-Christians festival. Eid is the big one around these parts and that was earlier in the term.
But much of our work is to prepare the children for life in Britain. For that goal to be realised, knowledge of how Western culture is deeply connected to the Christian cycle of feasts is necessary. And let’s face it- who doesn’t like a party?
Our school and its 94% Muslim population didn’t blink an eye when we erected a 8 foot Christmas tree in the main foyer. No one protested when we decided to organise a nativity play. (The central plot was certainly what one would expect: Mary, Gabriel, donkey etc. but I especially loved the secular clashing with the spiritual as the angels glided onto the stage in Santa hats).
Exactly 27 of the children even went as far as to give me a Christmas card. A half a dozen or so marked the occasion with a box of chocolates or a coffee mug. They know I will be keeping Christmas well. The crucifix that hangs on the wall of my glass box has not gone un-noticed it seems.
The gold cross that follows me everywhere, from school to school, was acquired at the Sacre Coeur- the great Parisian church where I proposed to my wife 20 years ago. My experience of Islam as a peaceful religion is reinforced as fathers in jubbas enter my office and seeing the Christian symbol smile and say in broken English, “Men of faith respect men of faith.”
This afternoon I stood at the school gates seeing the children off for their (and our) two week break. A father (articulate and an unofficial spokesmen for other men in his community) came over and handed me a card with a traditional, twee, snowy cottage on the front. Inside he had written:
“Thank you for all your obvious hard work and for confirming your promise of lifting the school out of special measures. We have thanked the staff who work directly with our children but often the Head gets forgotten!
A ship needs all its crew to operate but without a captain it is rudderless! After all your efforts since you arrived you deserve a happy holiday. And so we wish you and your family a happy, holy and peaceful Christmas and even better 2012.”
Men of faith, dear readers, respect men of faith.
Keep the Faith,