FAITH NEWSWIRE – Christine Mallouhi is a remarkable woman. Well known to many for her work in bridging the gap between Muslim and Christian communities, she lived in the Middle East and Africa for over thirty years. In her third and latest book, Whispers of Presence, she gathers the wisdom of Celtic, Ignatian and Benedictine Christian saints as well as Sufi mystics, folded into a collection of daily reflections, prayers, poetry and wisdom sayings.
She combines insights from her challenging experiences of life in the Middle East and the West and the quiet strength of her mentors in a work that fosters deep awareness of the presence of God in ordinary daily events.
An introduction leads briefly through her spiritual journey over decades in ministry in Muslim communities when she lunched with President Arafat and was invited to meet the Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Sheikh Fadalallah; the spiritual leader of Hezoballah and Brother Andrew. She was also featured on Aljazeera’s series Friends of the Arabs.
She hosted celebrities in her home, including Suha Arafat, film actors Bernard Giraudeau and Lauren Hutton. She told me, “For a girl from a simple working class family who followed a call of God expecting to get lost in the Arab world, it was a journey that was wonderful, wearying and wild.”
When she lost both her siblings in tragic death and suicide, she experienced “loss of health, a fair amount of my sanity and my faith flame was an insipid blue.” Hers is a story of discovering the healing practice of silent and contemplative prayer.
“The practice of stopping in stillness that I am writing about was one I wish I had cultivated more deeply earlier in life,” Christine stated. “Thirty years in the Middle East had been dramatic and chaotic. These countries became known for the Arab Spring, when their peoples rose up against oppression. In these places, where locals were deep friends, our residence visas were suddenly rescinded and too often we beat hasty retreats to a new country to begin again.
“One or all of us experienced imprisonment, death sentences, betrayal, dislocation, demonic attack, deportation, war, evacuation and lost dreams. I suffered a few bouts of clinical depression. God often gave us miracles so badly needed, but I was worn out spiritually, emotionally and mentally with the intensity of living on the edge.”
She tells me that “God’s question to Adam and Eve, ‘Where are you?’ has a new urgency today. This book is the fruit of her journey over the past decade of returning to faith still with passion after burnout, and the search to answer the question, ‘How can I find God in this situation with all its darkness and live in peace, even if it never changes?’”
As one reviewer writes, “[This book] will take you to deep places in the journey of awareness and personal transformation.”
This is Christine’s second book released at a time of crisis. Her previous book Waging Peace on Islam was published after the devastating 9/11 attack in New York, but was written a year earlier. So, when she urged readers of the need to understand what drove the first attack, one reviewer observed that her words were prophetic.
In 2020, our world has suddenly been brought to a standstill, while millions are buffeted with waves of turmoil, shock and fear in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. “People are stopping to reflect on life and their inner selves and looking to God for comfort,” Christine said. “I hope sharing the fruits of my search for peace and stability in a time of turmoil is a prophetic word of comfort.”