One evening last weekend Meritha and I stopped in at Begim for a bite to eat. Begim is an Uzbek restaurant in Forest Lawn, a Calgary suburb loaded with ethnic eateries.
Begim is run by a Muslim family, the Madjanovs; Dad Kamil, Mom Mastura, brother Nodir and sister Nigura. The parents were dentists in Uzbekistan, and the family members all carry on working in the medical profession here in Canada. But, they also run the restaurant, working , like many entrepreneurs, a horrendous number of hours each week.
During the visit we enjoyed some of their beautifully presented food, and then had a chat with Mom, Mastura. To celebrate the season, the restaurant had garlands and lights artistically placed around the room, so I complemented her on their “Muslim Christmas decorations.”
She chuckled and said that they had always celebrated Christmas in some way, even back home in Uzbekistan. Then she held her hands close together, palms facing each other, and said: “We don’t see people this way; and spreading her arms wide she said: “we see them this way.”
“How Canadian,” I thought to myself, and, “what a perfect illustration of the Christmas story”. Jesus himself said that God loved the world so much that he sent Jesus, and that whoever simply believes in him, will not perish, but will live forever. Genuine Christian faith is one with arms spread wide.
Now, I’m well aware that Christian denominations, and many Christian individuals, have tragically misrepresented and abused the title “Christian”, for a variety of nefarious purposes. But that no more negates the true message of the Christian faith than does a dystopian North Korea which absurdly calls itself, “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”, negate the true meaning of democracy. And on balance, the innumerable individual and organized good works done by Christians over the centuries vastly outweigh the hypocrisies.
But back to Begim. (Photo by John Gilchrist) Over 6 or 8 visits, it’s become one of our favourite restaurants, run by a warm family, with excellent food and great prices. For tea, two different salads, and a wonderful rice and lamb dish topped with a perfectly roasted, whole bulb of garlic, we were presented with a bill for under $25.
And we took nearly half the food home for lunch the next day. Merry Christmas to us!
And Merry Christmas to each of you!