Patrick McCollum in Jordan and other Pagan Community Notes

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  August 3, 2011 — 28 Comments

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note series, more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So lets get started!

Top Story: Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum has recently returned from the first International Conference on Transforming Conflict in Amman, Jordan. The event centered on dialogues with youth and adults from Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and other countries, for which McCollum served as a speaker and facilitator. “It is clear to me that the younger generation in particular, has a clearer vision of what it means to be a global citizen, and it is this shift, in my opinion, that gives us hope for a better future” said McCollum, praising the Arab and Israeli youth who attended the conference. During the conference McCollum also met and spoke with Sharif Zeid Bin Hussein, the cousin of King Hussein the II, and former Jordanian Prime Minster Taher Nashat al-Masri.

Patrick McCollum with Taher al-Masri

“His Excellency was very gracious in his invitation to me, and I thoroughly enjoyed our discussions. Over the course of the evening, we touched on US-Arab relations, the Palestinian–Israeli conflict, the part youth has played in the Arab Spring revolutions and beyond, and new ways to move forward toward peace.”

In addition to his work at the conference, McCollum also met with local Bedouins, and visited the famous sacred sites Petra, Mt. Nebo, and one of the possible sites of Jesus’s baptism by John. In summing up his trip and experiences, McCollum said that “it is clear to me that I will return once again to the Middle East, not only to Jordan, but also to visit Palestine and Israel. And I look forward to once again to be present in the company of the many new friends I’ve made in each of these countries. I firmly believe that drawing on the touchstone of our common humanity, rather than focusing on the age-old narrative of our geographical and cultural differences, is the key to world peace.” The Patrick McCollum Foundation blog is now posting his daily thoughts from the trip if you’d like to know more about his experiences in Jordan, and the work of the conference.

In Other News:

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!


Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Hey, what happened to the Columbia discussion over at Pagan+Politics?

    • The author must have deleted it for some reason, I’m looking into it now.

    • Google still has a cached version of the page: “a snapshot of the page as it appeared on Jul 31, 2011 21:29:42 GMT”:

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Ah, thank you. I take it, though, the discussion is dead.

        That blog was very lively for a while but gradually ossified. Recently it’s sprung back, but one post’s comment stream bogged down in the propriety of using Rosa Parks’ name to allegorize a female social pioneer in another field. Then the latest one was posted, and vanished in a few days.

        Sometimes I fear that this blog gets so densely and passionately political as to fix the Pagan politics jones of all but the heaviest junkies.

    • Confirmed, the author deleted it.

  • What exactly is it about this conference in Lebanon that makes it “news of note”, to Pagans or anyone else? That it occurred? That a Pagan was there (and not killed)?

    Personally, I would be thrilled to hear about any genuine, even if extremely modest, motion in the direction of greater religious freedom (or any at all) in the Muslim world. But this “Interfaith” conference in Lebanon does not appear to have addressed the issue of religious freedom except possibly in the most tortuously indirect way possible.

    • That a Pagan was included in an interfaith gathering in the Middle East is, I think, news. Certainly that Pagan’s experiences of being there must be worth a mention, don’t you think?

      • Did anyone at the conference actually know that Patrick McCollum is a Pagan?

        • Adon

          After reviewing the news about the event both in Arabic and English i can say that probably no one knows. There’s no mention anywhere of McCollum’s faith or religious title. I don’t think anyone knows.
          Anyway, western Pagans visit the Middle East quite often as individuals without any trouble at all.
          The trouble would begin only if McCollum requested to do a ritual in Petra’s ancient temples without being deported or worse… Now that would be news 😉

      • Worth a mention, but I think it also highlights the somewhat dubious nature of interfaith work. Very often it seems to be a sort of feel-good exercise in which folks who are already open minded preach open-mindedness to each other. It’s a nice way for delegates to such things to amass some prestige and good press, (and travel the world), but not much else.

        Don’t get me wrong, I think McCollum has done some great work, but how does this translate to results on the ground? Did he speak on behalf of any Jordanian pagans to secure their rights to practice and live freely? Did he even network with any of them to get a read of their concerns and problems? If not, the trip had little particular value to pagans anywhere, although I suppose we can be proud that one of us is getting involved in “big picture” peace and justice work.

        It’s just a little hard to feel invested in some of this lofty ambassadorial work when we’re still working on the basic rights stuff here at home. I’m sitting here in America and seeing a man who stands a real risk of being a one term president. Virtually all of his likely replacements are closely allied with people who say we should have no rights as pagans, not even on paper. Unless he managed to negotiate a new homeland for us in Jordan, his talents would be more welcome back here.

        • I think it is especially “dubious” to speak of “interfaith” work in a country like Jordan, where not only is apostasy a crime, but 86% of the population supports death by stoning for apostates (and as of last year, slightly over 1/3 of the population supports Al Qaeda).

          But in my opinion it’s not a question of whether our priorities should be at home or abroad. Regardless of the chest beating from the Sarah Palin crowd, we have infinitely more religious freedom than exists for anyone (including especially Muslims themselves) in any Muslim majority country. If McCollum’s trip to Jordan in any way contributed to greater freedom of religion in that country, even in the modest or even purely symbolic way, then it would be newsworthy indeed. But I see no evidence of that.

    • Adon

      Just a minor correction Apuleius, the conference was in Jordan not in Lebanon.

      • It was also a mistake for me to refer to it as an “interfaith” conference, since none of the speakers are identified as clergy or religious leaders. In the official “Presenter Biographicals“, no information about Patrick McCollum is given other than his email address.

        In fact, the only significant reference to different religious traditions at this conference was that one of two Plenary Sessions was titled “Reuniting the Children of Abraham“!

  • Wow, This blog covers somethign really amazing happening in the community, and I wonder how many will notice it. This was some of the best news I have heard in years, thanks for the positive uplift.

    Also I am so glad that the community is steadily developing our own media. I know that has been a tough aspect, and over the last 40 years this has been a difficult but important aspect. We have evolved from Mimeographed one-page news letters to magazines and now movies. We have always had our own media, now we need to find our own media in the mainstream.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      So after hitting up the community for $13k donations they’re suspending operations?! I certainly urge PNC-Minn to follow developments as they emerge.

      • We will! It’s caught everyone by surprise.

    • …you’re kidding. You’re KIDDING.

      Let me get this straight. The center was in dire need of money, after blaming the greater twin cities pagan community for NOT supporting them and then AFTER raising the 13k needed via donations or making folks feel guilty, they do an audit and shut down operations indefinitely?

      Good luck on getting trust back guys.

      PS Open Hearth Foundation I hope you’re taking notes.

      • Robert Mathiesen

        A sudden shutdown and outside audit of that sort often means that the board has suddenly come to suspect that some sort of financial mismanagement (or malmanagement, such as embezzlement) has been going on. We shall just have to wait and see . . .

        • It would certainly explain why there were always a day late and a dollar short…If it turns out people’s sympathy was being played to pay someone’s gambling debts, we better see more than an “internal audit.” At that point its time to get the state’s attorney general involved. I’m of the mind that we’re better off with a bare minimum of brick and mortar institutions because it invariably shifts the concerns to revenue and power and away from the gods and community.

          That said, when we do create them, it’s time for us to get on the stick as a people and do it right. The next time you’re tempted to give money to a “build it and they’ll come” outfit, save yourself the stamp. Take out that money in small bills and throw them in little clumps out the car window at 70 mph.

          Insist on transparency and professionalism by an organization before you give them a dime. There should be a well organized and understandable annual report. There should be regular outside auditors reports BEFORE problems like this to identify whether proper accounting practices are in place. No system is perfect, but sound practices go a long way toward making sure that large sums of money can’t “leak” without notice for months or years at a time. Learn something about the credentials and track records of the board members. If you’re creating an organization like this, make sure you pick some board members who have run successful businesses or government agencies and actually know how to exercise proper oversight.

          There may well have been no criminal wrongdoing at all in this, but you simply cannot have a train wreck like this without some sort of mismanagement. At a minimum, there was some profound disconnect between a strategic vision (or lack thereof) and securing the funding to carry it off sustainably.

          This sort of situation is a blow not only to those who supported this group, but to anyone in the future who may try to create another institution serving the pagan community.

    • And as I just posted over there, do all the people who donated get their money back?

    • Maybe “Paganistan” is turning out to be an appropriate moniker in ways not originally intended by those who originally coined the term? Lets hope not.

  • I’m glad to see the Sacred Paths center made their goal.

  • “I firmly believe that drawing on the touchstone of our common humanity, rather than focusing on the age-old narrative of our geographical and cultural differences, is the key to world peace.”

    I have always felt this way. When I was newly a parent, I began to to notice other parents of infants and toddlers, and how we were all alike in our concern for our littles. We saw the commonalities more than the differences between us, and I began to think it would be parents especially pushing for peace. One of the women who began working in 1976 for peace between the Republican and Loyalist factions in Northern Ireland was an aunt to three children caught in collateral damage after a shootout between the PIRA and British forces. She’d had enough. That’s when most of us get involved in movements for change.

    I think it better to lay foundations for peace before a disaster can occur–between religious factions or between nations. I applaud all the work the various Interfaith organizations do to find our commonalities, rather than harp on our differences.

  • Other than that the Parliament of World’s Religions is listed as a “partner,” I see nothing relevant to contemporary Paganism in this conference. Religious freedom (for non-Muslims as well as the “wrong” sort of Muslims) is certainly not on the agenda.

  • It’s a little depressing to me that we gave more to a movie project than to Japan relief.

    • Actually, I gave in several places to Japan relief, and still will when I see collection receptacles. I also asked those Japanese or Nisei who I know how their family was, and would have done something (but I don’t know what) had the news been bad.

      I may be biased, though: I was born at Tachikawa AFB, and my husband works for an American subsidiary of a Japanese firm. Part of me will always be tied to Japan, though I left at 18 mos.