An Asian Christian woman living in London blogging about the everyday issues of religion

Sunday, 25 December 2011

WHAT IF? 3 Wise Women


A thought for Christmas evening. Do you know what may possibly have happened if it had been 3 wise women instead of 3 wise men? The 3 wise women would most probably have asked for directions, in the first place, then they would have arrived on time and helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, brought practical presents and there would be peace on earth.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmas is for Everyone

Every year I rant and rage about how Christmas is being hijacked by consumerism, rampant buying and shopping, without a thought about the true meaning of the day. It saddens me that people don't stop to think about the birth of Christ. However, I have arrived at a new realisation. There are other faith believers who celebrate Christmas as a mark of national unity and the spirit of Jesus was about unity.

I have two Muslim friends who are celebrating Christmas by having roast chicken (they could not get Halal Turkey). They tell me about their Muslim friends who are doing the same. Apart from wanting to join in the merriment of the day they are also paying homage to the birth of Jesus, they say.

To me, this is a cause for celebration in a week when the British Social Attitudes Survey reports that 51% of people in Britain do not subscribe to a faith. Christmas is an indicator of a values based society even if not as a religious event. By this I mean that people get together with friends and family to reaffirm what is important in life. Charitable giving is at its' most visible during Christmas. While I still cannot stand the thought of Christmas being about presents I take heart that the Christian message resonates both with non faith people and with other faith people.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Directions for the Religious Conduct of a Family

The following is an extract from a book written in 1698 by Sir George Wheeler who was educated at Oxford University and became an author. The rules of conduct set out below come from his book titled:
'The Protestant Monastery: Or, Christian Oeconomicks. Containing Directions for the Religious Conduct of a Family'.

Men should have power over their wives
Good wives should be patient, loving, sweet, kind and obedient
Men should look after their wives
Men should never hit their wives
Men should take advice from their wives
Men are stronger and wiser than women
Men should respect their wives
Wives should obey their husbands

Have contemporary marriages moved away from this model for a happy marriage? Your immediate instinct would be to say 'yes', I suspect, but do consider the rise in domestic violence, the recent spate of family killings by men and the favourable way policy makers view marriage with a sub-text of keeping traditional roles going.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Sadness of Sundays

The death of the very talented Gary Speed has triggered this blog post. His passing was particularly melancholic because it happened on a Sunday. I must say that I do not know whethere there was a causal effect in the day of the week and Gary Speed killing himself but I can imagine that for many Sunday must be a hard day to get through.

Joyce Grenfell wrote the following line in a poem, 'Nor when I am gone, speak in a Sunday voice'.
This, for me, sums up the sadness of a Sunday which is devoid of the structure of a working week with workmates or routines to follow or the relaxed bustle of a Saturday. After six days of rubbing along with others a cloak of loneliness and silence can fall on many on a Sunday.

Have you noticed the amount of people sitting alone in chain coffee shops on a Sunday or the ones who linger after church because they do not want to go home? There is a lot of expectation of Sundays - families have to be happy, it's a day of catch up with friends and family and slogans such as 'Sunday is a Funday' don't help either.

Prayers for Gary Speed and his family.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Another Day, Another Show of 'Out of Touch' Clergy

This time it is the Rev Dr Peter Mullen, rector of St.Michael, Cornhill, and St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate, City of London. He is also Chaplain to six livery companies in the City of London. Dr Mullen has written a piece for the Telegraph in which he praises the banks. You can read the article in full, link provided below.
http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/petermullen/100118931/banks-are-generous-but-try-telling-that-to-the-idiots-outside-st-pauls-and-the-clergy-who-support-them/

Many of the comments left disparage Dr Mullen for his sentiment which, sadly, does not reflect the reality of ordinary folk who deal with banks. Also, banks aren't there to right the wrongs of society. That is the role of Government. Dr Mullen seems to imply that the public ought to be grateful for charitable giving and overlook other actions that may also emanate from donors.

Just because banks give to charity does not mean that they cannot do wrong. Charitable giving is a great conscience saver.

I am sure Dr Mullen is far more educated than I could ever be but I am going to be bold and accuse him of muddled thought and confusing the good relations that he undoubtedly shares with the livery companies against his duty to the greater good who are, often, the unwashed. I flinched at his words 'ignorant and self-righteous narcissists'. Anybody who still thinks that the debate about inequality belongs to those who believe in conspiracy theories and aliens landing in people's gardens is, frankly, out of touch and...ignorant.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

We All Have A Stake In the Stephen Lawrence Trial

Previously I blogged about the Meredith Kercher trial and how it was unseemly the way the media were covering it. It was a murder trial that became a public spectacle. Now we have the Stephen Lawrence trial which has just started which many, many people will be following but there is a difference between the two.
We all have a stake in the process of the trial and in the outcome of the verdict on the death of Stephen Lawrence.
When Stephen Lawrence was first killed it exposed the institutional racism in the country and in the layers of governance. Racism affects everyone. Racism does not ring-fence colours from safety. White people as much as black people are victims of racism. Racism is a crime and Stephen Lawrence was a victim.
Racism is part of society's eco-system of prejudice and hatred. What affects one part of society affects the whole and this is why we all have a stake in the process of justice taking place.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Greed Is Not Good Says Sentamu


Remember that awful line from Wall Street when Gordon Gekko said, 'Greed is Good'? Actually, the line may as well have said, 'Greed is God', because the massive accumulation of wealth became the benchmark for so called progressive societies. There was a time in the early 2000s when owning a flat screen TV was the social mobility signifier for many households. Does it not seem all lame now?
John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, wants greed to be made as socially unacceptable as racism and anti-gay feelings. Dr Sentamu says that a cultural shift is needed in a country where 'wealth has for so long been seen as a mark of status'. The impressive part of what Dr Sentamu says is his advice on how the system of reward needs to be altered. The Archbishop has certainly thought this one through. He says that those who have rewarded themselves the most handsomely should not be given a Queen's Honour.
Therein lies the recognition that greed is ingrained in our culture and the incentives for greed are plenty. Greed is to be distinguished from proportionate reward. For all the jokes and cynicism hurled at the 'Occupy' movement for being unwashed, time wasters etc I think the movement has done far more to raise the profile of inequality than any individual or organisation. I have become a fan of Occupy St.Paul's myself.
I am not an anti-capitalist. I have not lived in any country where capitalism has not been practised as a politico economic system so I don't know any different but that matters not a jot. The self-serving capitalism we have seen is wreaking havoc. Some will say that capitalism is self-serving. I am sure there's some truth in it but markets do not have a free will of their own. Manipulation is part of the free market and the inequality gap is now punishing the bottom half of the human graph.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

An example of Wickedness in the Name of Xmas

 The comment below was posted on a newspaper website today in response to an article on Occupy St.Paul's. The snobbery, prejudice and elitism expressed is, frankly, nauseating.

The party is over, Your point is kind-of made.
But you do not have anything to replace the system you protest about.
You can't even TWEET without it.
Just go away.
Leave Christmas to the faithful - and give thanks to their tolerance.
Think about that - hard.
In some other religious domains you would have been tortured, and then hanged or be-headed by now.

I just hope this person is not a Christian though the reference to 'faithful' suggests that he/she is. I would hate to be sharing my Christian space with this moron.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

'Mafia' and 'Gaystapo'

There is something quite disturbing when references to historical events or organisations are made to compare modern day controversial incidents with. To put things in context, the word 'Gaystapo' was used in an article published by the Church of England newspaper. The writer, Alan Craig, compared gay rights campaigners to Nazis. The comparison with the 'Mafia' mob was made today by Tom Watson MP during a select committee hearing which was questioning James Murdoch on the phone hacking scandal.

If nothing else, the use of labels of yesteryear on today's tin cans of public thought and political debate is just plain lazy, at the very least, and factually wrong, at the most. The use of certain words does frame and influence contemporary thought. People in the public sphere need to think responsibly before casting labels into the mass of society.  There is free speech and then there's irresponsible speech.

It is easy to guess the gist of what the labels of 'Gaystapo' and 'Mafia' were meant to refer to: organised stealth like growing influences. Well, why not say this then instead of pointedly citing history by naming organisations associated with killings and torture? Far more importantly, why is a Christian mainstream newspaper lending support to such inflamatory language?

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

'How do you know what Jesus would have done?'


On BBC Question Time last week Peter Hitchens posed the question to the poet Benjamin Zephaniah, 'How do you know what Jesus would have done?' This was said in the context of the St.Paul's resignations where opinion was divided and those who thought the church's actions were wrong based it on the premise that it went against how Jesus would have acted.

Frankly, the circumstances surrounding the question are irrelevant because the question itself raises an important fundamental issue of faith teaching. As Christians, surely, we ought to know how Jesus would have acted or, at the very least, had an informed opinion on the matter given that we have this book called 'The Bible' which documents what Jesus said and did. (Yes, I do know that some things in the bible are open to interpretation and especially of St.Paul's view.)

The question is not about the Science of predicting an outcome based on variables but on a set of teachings which provide a clear framework for Christian lifestyle decisions. Our Christian faith and daily pray is not unconnected to what went on before but is linked to achieving an outcome that accords with what Jesus desired. Even in this ever changing world of madness characterised by shaky economics, unpredictable political outcomes and feared natural disasters I still think that the actions of Jesus can safely be a predictable bedrock.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Illegal immigrants are human beings

At the weekend I was outside a nightclub in a Midland town on a hen party. A Chinese woman was selling novelty items to the clubgoers. A man went up to her and shouted in her face. He said: 'Get an f... visa and get a job'. I shouted at him to leave her alone. He laughed in embarrassment at having been challenged and walked off.

What gives people the moral right to challenge those who are vulnerable or who seem lesser than them? Nothing. The whole Daily Mail ethos is based on judging people because of their race and perceived circumstances. That Chinese woman was seen as a leech on society and, therefore, fair game for verbal abuse. To me the obnoxious man was the leech on society because he looked like he was drunk already, was going into a nightclub where he would, presumably, get more drunk and be a burden on the resources of the police or the NHS (A&E)where loads of drunk youngsters end up on a Friday and Saturday night.

This is why I applaud our church for looking after immigrants and for treating them as human beings.

Friday, 4 November 2011

The Black Swan of the Week -St. Paul's


A book called 'The Black Swan' written by a former Wall Street trader, Nassim Taleb, is doing the rounds among the politically minded because of its' hypothesis that history consists of random high-impact events rather than day to day detail. Taleb refers to 9/11 and Harry Potter and cites these as Black Swan events, a rarity which people will remember. White Swans are a depiction of normal everyday events that do not stick in one's minds.
There is much more in the book in terms of further analysis but this is the core message.

Applying the Black Swan theory was what happened at St.Paul's a Black Swan event? After endless talk about the decline of Christianity and sparse pews, we saw public anger and fury at what they saw as the church's indifference to injustice. Startlingly, so much was made of Jesus throwing money changers out of the tent. Horror was expressed at St.Paul's decision to ask the demonstrators to leave because it was seen as being contrary to Christianity. There was, suddenly, hope for Christianity.

It is rather difficult to unpack the whole saga of the chaos of St. Paul's because it involved the initial welcome from Canon Fraser, then the Church's u-turn, resignations and then another u-turn. Public opinion shaped these events to a large extent but do remember that the resignations seemed to bolster people's faith. When St.Paul's finally relented about the eviction proceedings it was as if an equilibrium of rightness had been restored.

I honestly think that the Black Swan moment was people's belief in the role of the church and not the split in the church.

Monday, 31 October 2011

If only this sermon had been given at St. Paul's


The Reverend David Pape in Southwark gave this sermon yesterday. It is the best piece of writing on the debacle unfolding at St. Paul's because it touches on the simplicity of the Christian message, the moral mandate of the Church and, most important of all, the central purpose of a Church.

This is the sermon:

'Today, I am focusing on the St.Paul's situation because I am very worried that this building, dedicated to God's glory and symbolic of the faith of the people in this country appears to be compromising not only its' own symbolism but the very future of the Christian faith in this country.

It appears that the senior decision makers at St. Paul's are trying to serve two master. It worked to allow protesters the right to peacefully enamp in its precinct, in order that they might speak out against the excesses of a material and capitalist system that seems unmoved by the plight of the poor and the needy. But, having done so, the Cathedral's earthly overlords in the City of London and the financial business world appear to have since put pressure on St.Paul's to silence their critics and end the protest.

Any excuse will do! Health & Safety rules and regulations seemed to have been invoked (what 'rules' and by 'whom'?) Yet, just as quickly as the front doors of St. Paul's were closed they opened again on Friday lunchtime without any indication of what changes had been made to comply with those rules. To me, at least, it seemed that St.Paul's had shut their doors on God and I am not sure that God is now ready or keen to go back in.

The Church's patron, Paul, was a tentmaker and would have probably smiled on those who stood up for the poor and needy, particularly those in the precinct of the Cathedral. Paul was also a Roman citizen who used his citizenship and relationship with the Roman overlords to proclaim his ministry. Paul, however, was prepared to die at the hands of Rome in order to stand up for his faith in God.

And unlike many of today's protests which are sometimes hijacked by political and anarchic activists this protest has not yet declined into violence. The media also seems a little confused. Whilst some newspapers questioned the sincerity and commitment of the tent-dwellers others have allied themselves to the protesters, anxious of the opportunity to swing a boot at the established CoE.

Now is the time for truly concerned clergy to preach the gospel of Christ in their actions as well as their words because we all have much to be concerned about.

Whilst we moan and groan at the way our banks and financial institutions are being run we still continue to support them with our savings and our business. We place more faith in them than we do in God. We supports governments of various political shades who, all to often, bow to the whims of big business rather than represent the people whom they are elected to serve.

We too need to be mindful of how we invest our resources in others and in ourselves. We too need to invest in God and to 'give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's.

St.Paul's had to deal and work with the powers that be but did so without compromising his faith in God. He realised that those who expect and receive remuneration in exhange for compromise will ultimately pay the price of that cooperation. However, he also realised that his indebtedness to God far overshadowed his indebtedness to any earthly power and gave his life for it. Perhaps some of his words from Philippians (Chapter 4) might help us to hold onto God.

'...Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.'

We know St.Paul worked to this end but what about the Cathedral built for the glory of God which bears his name?
Amen.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

St.Paul's is Wrong


The Guardian today carries an editorial which talks about St, Paul's being famous for, until the present demonstrations, the Royal wedding. Unfortunately, there wasn't a Christian message in that piece of history because all attention, let's be honest, was on the glitz and glam of Diana and associated royalty status. However, could there have been a Christian message in the 'Occupy' movement who have camped outside St. Paul's? I firmly believe that the answer could have been a 'yes', but not anymore.

When I heard the words of the Bishop of London on the news this morning all hope fled. The Bishop said: "Nevertheless, the time has come for the protesters to leave, before the camp's presence threatens to eclipse entirely the issues that it was set up to address."The Dean and the Chapter, who are responsible for St Paul's, have already made it clear that the protest should come to an end and I fully support that view."

There is something quite heavy handed in this message. Perhaps not in the words but certainly in the tone. Does it smack of belonging to the establishment? Is it extremely patriatchal and patronising in telling a group of people that they have had their day and insinuating that it is now time to join the real world? Whatever the reason it represents a lost golden opportunity to engage with a populist movement which is a message bearer for the woes of the world.

I was in Toronto last week and visited 'Occupy Toronto'. Individual groups may seem like splinters of misfits and Swampyesque types but what I saw in Toronto was a quest for justice and a global cohesion in their objective. It is extremely foolish and feeble minded to think that the group outside St. Paul's are a bunch of stand alone mischief makers.

The church has given up a golden opportunity to engage in a way which would have been perceived as bringing our thinking into, right bang, contemporary mode. Even The Guardian takes this view: '…the role of the church is to talk with them and to find out how their sense of injustice at the present slump can be refined and educated and brought out into the wider conversation…;
What role for the church then? Secularists will have a field day. The church looks like it is standing with the establishment by repudiating the needs of the protesters. The humanitarian reason for religious intervention rings hollow. St, Paul's has to stand for more than just architectural magnificence.

Monday, 10 October 2011

RE Is Marvellous

Premier Radio is leading a campaign to persuade Michael Gove to include Religious Education (RE) in the syllabus of the English Baccalaureate and a paper petition launched has collected 145,000 signatures so far. The significance of this is that any petitions with over 100,000 signatures ought to qualify for a debate in the House, time permitting.

I hope this happens because RE must be one of the most underestimated subjects in the British school curriculum. Listening to the arguments against it makes one think that there is a danger of a revival of Puritanism if RE were to be included.  

What is modern education policy if it does not include personal capacity building tools? Religious Education provides pupils with the means to evaluate various religions through the examination of the core belief of each. By conducting such an examination children build up an incremental picture of the religion being studied which also includes an evidence base. The personal capacity building comes from deciding whether or not religion is something worth following.

RE is a modern way of studying religion and is in no way comparable to yesteryear when religion was rammed down people's throats. On the contrary RE transforms the image of religious education and ought to be allowed to challenge the negative perceptions that being religious is an outdated way of living.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Three Apples That Changed History



'The Three Apples that Changed History' was a very popular tweet on Twitter following the death of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple computers. The first apple was the one that Eve ate, the second is the one that fell on Newton's head and the third is, of course,about Steve Jobs. All thee scenarios transformed the way we live, work, entertain ourselves and charted new territories for the disciplines of Science and faith.

Now spot the difference between the three. What do you think the answer is?

It is Eve's apple experience because it is the only one out of the three that is perceived as a negative experience and which has cast a long shadow over one half of the human race. Eve is a benchmark for fallen women; the type of female that men ought to stay away from because all her charms are evil tempations in disguise. I attended a talk at St. Paul's Cathedral last week and learnt that there are only 4 references to Eve in the bible. Her fame is in disproportion to her place in history but this statement does not take into account the male dominance debate within the church which keeps Eve's memory alive with talk of the rib and helper and all that.

What irony it is then that Eve is mentioned upon the occasion of the death of someone considered to be the father of modern technology who has been credited with giving the Western world an edge in the competitive digital global world. Yet, thousands years later and nobody refers to Eve as the 'mother of feminism' who is credited with giving Western women (or any women anywhere) the right to act in an autonomous, one that is not classed as 'obedient' or 'disobedient'. Such is the span of Eve's perceived onslaught on the societal notion of the 'ideal' of feminity which is about being demure and placid.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Is a murder case entertainment?


RIP MEREDITH KERCHER

The live broadcast of the trial and verdict of the Meredith Kercher trial has provided, let's be honest, entertainment for many who have no vested interest in the whole sad saga. Of course we care that a young woman was murdered. Yes, we care that justice is done because it is inherent in human nature to want a right to redress a wrong.
However, thousands of cases of injustice are heard in our law courts every year and we don't sit in the public gallery silently cheering justice on all the time while the lawyers argue and the judges deliberate do we? There is a line that exists between being a voyeur and a strong member of society. The name of that line which exists as a boundary is called 'public interest'.
What public interest was there for the public to be told over and over again the sexual details of the life and subsequent murder of a young woman? None. Where was the public interest element in having the verdict broadcast live today? None.
Please remember the true victim in all of this - Meredith Kercher. Pray for her and her family for whom justice still hasn't been done.


Saturday, 24 September 2011

Rowan Atkinson reprimands Vicars

Our Vicars have come under fire from the British actor, Rowan Atkinson. The actor who is better known as Mr Bean and who himself has played the parts of Vicars in movies such as Four Weddings and a Funeral in the guise of humour is not joking in his scathing attack.

'So many Church of England clerics are people of extraordinary smugness and arrogance and conceitedness', he says.

As in every walk of life there is good and there is bad and Vicars are not exempt from this rule of life. I am glad to say that most of the vicars I have met are caring and concerned for their flock. The ones who suffer from the traits that Rowan Atkinson mentions tend to be those who are ambitious and see the local parish as as a stone to step on while looking upwards (not at God either).

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Slavery still lives on

Some days ago I was helping my daughter with her Latin homework. She had to answer questions about a typical family who lived in Pompeii and who owned slaves. The practice of slavery was rife in the Roman Empire from about 200 BC to 4 AD. Slaves were put to work in heavy labour intensive industries like mining to living in nice home where they served their rich masters. It all was such an age ago I thought...till today.

Slavery is alive in the world and, more shockingly, in Britain. A group of about 100 men have been held in a slavery racket run by Irish travellers. These men were homeless, alcoholics, illegal immigrants or British residents who had slipped through the net. They were forced to work for very little or no money, were given accommodation that didn't have running water or loos and used leaves in place of loo paper. How wicked is this all? They were forced to work with hand tools only and had to dig up tarmacs or toil on building sites. Violence and initimidation by the Irish travellers ruled the days of these poor men who felt powerless to do anything. All this in modern day?

Slavery in the history of Christianity is one of those episodes of tension which showed how the Christian teaching can be used to support both sides of a contentious argument. We see the example of slavery being used as an analogy in the ordination of women as Bishops. The Methodists were far more straight forward about it and regarded slavery as an abomination. The view of the Church of England seemed to have been finalised on slavery when it apologised for the 'sinfulness of our predecessors'. Slavery has no part to play in the modern world and goes against the grain of Christianity and natural justice which reflects the Christian sentiment.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Christians under siege in Nigeria

"We multiply the more we are mown down by you; the blood of Christians is seed"- Tertullian, Apologeticum AD 197


A family of 8 were killed on Sunday in Plateau State, Nigeria, bringing the number who have been killed in the last week to 40. Christians are living in real fear and dare not even attend church on Sundays. Please pray for this situation.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Abortion and God

A legislative amendment concerning the counselling provided to women who are thinking of having an abortion is to be voted on soon in Parliament. The MP who has tabled this amendment is Nadine Dorries, a controversial figure for many reasons. I am not going to go into the politics of abortion but I do object to Ms Dorries saying that, 'God has no place in a counselling room with a woman in a crisis pregnancy'.

God is there where there is life and death. I particularly worry about those situations where women are seeking to use abortion as a means of contraception or for gender selection reasons or where the women have been raped and are pregnant as a result. In fact, the list of situations that could arise are so long and diverse that I really pray God will be present each time to be the voice of the foetus that cannot speak for itself.    

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Who will care for the neglected and unwanted children?

Life's strifes sometime presents itself in freeze frame like fashion. One cannot possibly experience all of the pain that exists in the world but, occasionally, one is presented with a real life picture that gives an insight into these troubles that exist but which may not be your own. This happened to me.

Years go I went to a pantomime. A number of rows were filled with foster carers from Lewisham (in London)and the children they were looking after. There was a little black girl among them who was celebrating her first birthday. This was announced during the interval and her white carer held her up and the audience sang to her. The little girl, a baby still, had a pretty dress on and was smiling. I wondered what her future would be like and how, innocently, she had no idea of the system she had entered. I still think of her.

Today, Martin Narey who is the government's advisor on adoption speaks of the massive bureaucracy that is preventing children from being adopted. Mr Narey specifically mentions the barriers faced by people who are willing to adopt children of a different race from themselves but who are denied this. A child's interests must be paramount and what does it matter if the adoptive parents are a different colour? Some will argue that skin colour runs deep and throws up a cultural divide. To this I say that a child's interests must come first, even before cultural sensitivites.

The bible has some wonderful instances of adoption. Moses was adopted by the daughter of a Pharaoh. In Ephesians 1:5 there is a reference to people being adopted as God's sons through Jesus. Esther was adopted after her parents died and went on to become a queen who was used by God.

Please pray that Michael Narey's report will break down barriers to adoption and result in a system where initially unwanted or orphaned children go on to become wanted.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

'Jesus was a Marxist'


Marxism isn't a political ideology that I had thought much about. It seemed an outdated theory but one which had caused much suffering wherever it was practised in the past. Marxism is associated with is secret large state governments, biased justice, torture and killings of those who disagreed with the practice of a Marxist government, people being sent off to labour camps for long periods for minor offences and inflated food prices which resulted in hunger and suffering. Never for one moment would I associate Jesus with such events.

However, the unlikeliest of things happen in one's own backyard. My neighbour is a Marxist sympathiser and made that comment in my headline about Jesus. I have spent all day pondering on her statement. By remarkable coincidence, Robert who blogs at theradicalmethodist has written about how we bring our own experiences to bear on things we encounter or material we read. I call it the theory of 'Hermeneutics' which loosely means that we bring our own interpretation to what we read or the events we encounter. My neighbour's analysis, as it turns out, was based Matthew 21:12 to 13, when Jesus overturned the benches of those selling doves and the tables of money changers accusing them of turning a temple into a 'den of robbers'.

She read this as Jesus rejecting capitalism and, by process of elimination, advocating Marxism. This is as simple as saying that if someone in Britain hates fish and chips then they are being treasonorous. I dislike fish and chips but I love Britian.

My further research into Marxism has uncovered another practice of 'Christian Communism'. Apparently, the these group of people believe that the Apostles created a communist society after Jesus died to carry on preaching the Communism that Jesus did.

Karl Marx himself said: 'The first requisite for the happiness of the people is the abolition of religion'. As Christians we are told to seek God's will and follow the faith. So how can Marxism then be associated with Christianity? It can't, is the simple answer. Another of Marx's famous quote on religions is: 'It is the opium of the people'. Also, Marx was against private ownership. I am no theologian but I have never heard a sermon about the sins of owning property. The bible, instead, talks about being industrious and hard working.

There is a real danger of the power of individualism making people feel well qualified enough to start importing their own theories and experiences to bear on sacred scripture. The power of individualism is to be applauded for enabling each of us to seek and reach our potential but I don't think it gives us the right to pontificate and become armchair experts. 

Friday, 19 August 2011

Yipee! I am a Huffpost Blogger

I am still walking around in a daze. I received my invitation yesterday via email. I have been reading the site for two years now and am constantly in awe of the amount of news it carries, the varying viewpoints and the multitude of writers who manage to convey intelligent analysis.Soon I will be a part of this. I now have to provide my details and wait for the technical process to be completed (my log in details and access) before I start posting material.

My blogging life started a year ago in August 2010 when I was standing for election to General Synod. Nobody read my blog for 3 to 4 months and I lost the election. I gave up. After a month I checked my email and there was one from Mad Priest @ Rev Jonathan Hagger welcoming me to the Christian blogsphere. I was stunned and am always grateful to MP for this. That got me blogging again. Soon after this Father David Cloake sent me words of encouragement. My blogroll on the right of this page consists of people who feel like friends.

I feel a deep sense of gratitude to God and those who have supported me. Thank you.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Archbishop on rebuilding communities post riots

The Archbishop of Canterbury gave an insightful speech at the House of Lords debate on 11 August on the riots. He used words like 'troubled society', 'nothing to romanticise', '...rebuilding in some of our communities...' and '...what kind of society we are interested in for what kind of society...'

Our society is troubled and has been for years. The rioters are children of this broken society. Indeed, there is nothing to romanticise in what they did because it isn't as if they were fighting a revolution (Arab Spring) for a larger stake in our democratic system. On the contrary it looked as if the rioters didn't want any slice of society or community life except for the consumerism that they could take without paying for it.

So, the rebuilding starts. Damaged shops are being put together. Streets littered with broken glass have been swept clean. But what of the rebuilding of human capital? In a capitalism system it can often be forgotten that the producers of profit and goods and services are humans, not just greedy consumers. We look at building faster internet systems, higher speed trains and modern buildings but the people who inhabit and use these services are deemed faceless. Everything is done for an anonymous collective of society.

The Archbishop said: '...this is a moment we must seize; a moment when there is sufficient anger at the breakdown of civic solidarity...' Sometimes a window of opportunity opens up and disappears as quickly as it arose. We now have a clean sheet of paper in which to rewrite the terms of a modern society. Let's hope and pray that it is not hijacked by vested interests and that children are given a big share of the attention of those who do have the power to make changes.

I particularly am thinking of Birmingham where three young men were murdered. I was in Birmingham at the weekend and witnessed a city trying to heal itself. Beside the hoardings on shops that hadn't been removed people were going about their daily lives. The constant police presence was assuring. The spirit of reconciliation shown by the father of one of the dead men was the silver lining.

There is hope.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Did you defend your church during the riots?

Did you see the Sikhs featured on TV guarding their temple in Neasden against possible looters during the riots this week? The sight of large numbers of men standing in a protective manner with an attitude that quite obviously demonstrated their willingness to defend their house of worship against any invasion quite moved me to consider whether I would be willing to do the same for my church.

In all honesty, I think I would have if there had been a critical mass of Anglicans standing with me. I would not have been foolish enough to do it on my own. I bet many of you would have been willing to do the same too. Why didn't we then? This is an academic question for me because our area was spared the carnage but that is beside the point.

St Mark's in Battersea Rise was looted and the Rector, Rev Paul Perkin, and his son could only watch as looters took everything from the church. The looters piled goods in the garden and waited for cars to turn up into which they loaded what they had stolen. Apparently there were 1,000 looters. I don't think us Anglicans of small congregation churches would have stood a chance.

A situation laid bare. Not only have people lost interest in religion but they have no respect for it either. I may not have an interest in the Jedi Knights order but I would not dream of rampaging through their temple or whatever they call their house of worship. There is a difference. A lack of respect is the nadir of losing interest in religion. It doesn't get any worse.

This is not the Church's fault. Some people just aren't interested and worship materialism instead. I have blamed the church in the past for being too introspective and for focussing too much on gender bias and sexual orientation. I still think these attitudes keep the moderate believer away. However, the immorality of looters of churches isn't the fault of the CoE.  

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Telegraph questions the silence from CoE on riots

The Editor of the Telegraph Blog, Damian Thompson, has asked why the Archbishop of Canterbury has not spoken out about the riots. Mr Thompson does also pose the same question to the Archbishop of Westminster but a statement has since been released by Archbishop Vincent Nichol. 

The church cannot win. When the Archbishop does speak out, as he did in the New Statesman, about the state of the economy he was told that the church had no right to intervene. The press created a division between political thought and religious belief and accused the Archbishop of having crossed a line.

I have no doubt that the Archbishop is concerned about the riots and his silence does not mean otherwise. However, to be fair to him, I don't think the rioters are looking for moral leadership. The rioters are too busy claiming feral leadership to worry about whether the church is speaking out or not.


Thursday, 4 August 2011

Protestants are better with £££ than Catholics

A letter has been published by the Financial Times from someone in Italy called Bernardino Branca who alleges that all the Eurozone related financial strife is occuring within those countries with a majority of Catholics i.e Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy.

The countries with a 'virtuous' spreadsheet, apparently, are the majority Protestant countries like Germany, Netherlands and Finland. Further, Mr Branca says that even non-Eurozone countries like Denmark and Sweden, which have Protestant majorities, possess healthy financial spreadsheets.

If the CoE had considered itself to be Protestant we now called Anglicans may have been able to escape the credit crisis! Don't go spending too much now.


Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The personal face of Twitter

I was on Twitter at the weekend and went through the motions of retweeting those tweets that carried any iota of interest to me. A tweet with the headline of 'Justice for Jane' caught my attention because Jane is my first name. I retweeted it without further thought. Seconds later a reply tweet came back thanking me and requesting that I read the story behind the headlines. I did. 

It was then that the personal face of tweets and the human world of Twitter hit me. I had been involved with a campaign over the death of a young woman without realising it. Jane Clough was murdered on 25 July 2010 by her ex partner. Jane was a nurse at Blackpool Victoria Hospital. She had parked her car in the car park and was about to start a shift at the hospital. Jonathan Vass, a man who had repeatedly raped (9 times)and assaulted her (4 times), stabbed her and slit her throat. Vass showed no mercy nor did he have any consideration of the fact that the baby they had had together would be left motherless. Vass was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder.

However, Jane's family and friends do not think that justice has fully been served and have launched a campaign to right the wrongs done to her twice by the justice system.

Firstly, when the decision was taken by the Crown Prosecution Service to bring charges against Vass (Jane was still alive then) for the rapes and assaults, advice was given to the judge by both the prosecution lawyers and the police that there was a real likelihood that Vass would cause harm to Jane to try and stop her from testifying against him. The judge disregarded their concerns and granted Vass bail. The police and Crown Prosecution Service were right. He killed Jane some months later. 

Secondly, when the murder trial came to court a second judge decided not to pursue the rape and assault charges because 'it wasn't in the public interest' to do so. The judge referred to the rape charges as being 'insignificant'. Thus, Vass was tried for murder but not the crimes that he had committed previously though it was these crimes that had led to her murder. Jane was using the law to protect herself by reporting the crimes but, somehow, it had cost her her life.

The blogger Guido Fawkes is calling for the introduction of the death penalty (specifically for those who kill children and policemen/women) but, without wanting to debate capital punishment here, it does make one wonder how effectively our justice system is being utilised in the first place to protect victims and deter criminals.  

Justice for Jane Please sign the petition on the site.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

What are you blogging about?

There is an interesting post on http://victhevicar.blogspot.com/ about how some Christian bloggers tend to blog about the same issues because they use the news as their inspiration for blog posts. Vic does say more than this, I am paraphrasing in a lazy manner. Anyway, as I am guilty of using contemporary political issues as blog fodder I thought I would rise to the challenge and, instead, write about something that has entirely emanated from my personal experience.

I was at Heathrow Airport today seeing my mother off on a flight to Malaysia, where she lives. While there I had a conversation with an English woman who was checking in for the same flight. I assumed that she was off on holiday to Malaysia but it turned out that this English woman actually lived in Malaysia and was going 'home''. She had moved to an island off the mainland of Malaysia a few years ago from the UK to enjoy a life by the sea. I was born in Malaysia but consider the UK my home now. If I needed an example of Globalisation in practice and the movement of human beings as a result, there it was. It felt odd talking to someone who knew far more about Malaysia than I did of the country I had been born in.

I hope this story makes sense. If it doesn't do let me know and I will stick to political issues as a starting point for my blogging.  What are you blogging about?

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Pope accused of being the 'Antichrist'.

America has long been a source of fascinating conspiracy theories (Roswell, Elvis found on the moon, Michael Jackson seen at Wal-Mart) but this story about the Pope is trumps because it takes conspiracy theories into a place where conspiracy theories abound plenty enough -the Vatican. A tapestry of Roman  embroidery of evil and good in modern time has been woven by an American church which says that it follows closely the teachings of Martin Luther.

The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) thinks that the Pope is the Anti-Christ. This story has made the news because the Republican Presidential contender, Michele Bachmann, used to attend this church. A statement released by WELS states that:
'As Martin Luther grew in his appreciation of the gospel, he also grew in his recognition that the Papacy is the Antichrist...It was because Luther cherished the Gospel so dearly that his faith instinctively recoiled and protested in umistakable terms when the Pope put himself in the place of Christ and declared his work insufficient and in vain.'

This story has been carried by The Economist who take the view that 'anti', in this case, has not been taken to mean as being 'hostile to' but, rather, to mean 'instead of'. In other words, the Pope is being accused of seeing himself as Christ. Not for one second do I believe that either this Pope or previous ones have meant to do this. My research also shows that many Lutherans do not believe the 'Antichrist' theory either. Just as well, there are enough real devils in the world without us having to fight ones that don't carry forks.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Ireland vs Vatican

I first took note in 1992 of the sway of power that the Catholic church had over Ireland when the case of a Bishop with a love child was made public. Bishop Eamon Casey was the Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh and was highly revered. A friend who lived in Galway told me how people would speak to the Bishop as if they were in the company of God himself.

When the story broke, I was told that people were crying because their world of faith had been shattered. There was very little sympathy for the woman whom he had had a relationship with, Annie Murphy. Instead, she faced a barrage of criticism for speaking out against a Catholic Priest even though he had been a willing party to the relationship.

This fall from grace by a Catholic Bishop was, in my opinion, the start of the requestioning of the relationship between the Vatican and Ireland. Next came the child abuse tragedies that were covered up.

Now we have the Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, telling the Vatican that the relationship between his country and the Catholic church will never be the same again. Mr Kenny has accused the church of more child abuse cover ups which were done, he says, to preserve the primacy of the church. The Vatican has recalled its ambassador to Ireland. The Irish Government is considering closing its embassy in the Vatican.

We are witnessing another chapter in the Catholic Church where people feel the time has come to question the seemingly unquestionable authority it has had.

Monday, 25 July 2011

'Today's Protestant church is a joke'

The headline is a quote by the Norwegian mass murderer, Anders Behring Breivik. He describes himself as a 'Christian fundamentalist'. This man is no Christian. The word 'fundamentalist' as a self-describing addendum is nonsense. There is no sliding scale of Christianity which allows for violence and does not. Further, Anders uses multiculturalism as justification for killing innocent children and adults. The ethos of Christianity is about embracing all regardless of colour and country of origin. There is no fight to arms with Christianity against others. Our prayers are for the souls of the dead, the recovery of the injured and for families and friends of those involved.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Famine is a religious and political issue

The moving and devastating images of mothers in the Horn of Africa carrying and dragging their starving and dehydrated children into UN camps has moved me to tears. The Horn of Africa (the most eastern part of the African continent) has not had any rain for two years resulting in a severe food shortage. The extra burden of rising food prices has made eating out of the question for millions in the area.

Why in this modern day are we watching scenes of babies crying in pain and dying in front of TV camera lenses? Even worse, it has been reported that mothers are having to make choices as to which of their children they are going to save. As a result, babies who are far too weak are being left in the desert to die while the family carries on the trek to the UN camps to save their other children.

All they need is food, water and medical supplies. The solution is as simple as that yet it seems as if much of the globe has been covered with a sticker which states 'nil by mouth'. Famine and starvation in modern day is a political and religious issue. We can't keep blaming the weather anymore though there is plenty of evidence to suggest climate change is partly to contribute to food shortages.

If globalisation can result in multinational corporations setting up bases across the world; people migrating to seek their fortunes elsewhere; and the financial systems able to work around the clock to accommodate different time zones then why not a strategy to eradicate famine? It is partly because of corrupt political regimes that siphon money away from the poor and disenfranchised. It is also because of infighting between tribes in Africa who each think they are superior to the other and the Muslim extremists who are stopping people from leaving areas to flee to UN camps. Why has religion become a reason for people to die in this situation?

Christian Aid published a report in 2008 titled, 'Fighting Food Shortage. Hungry for Change' in which it refers to food crisis as the 'silent Tsunami' and states that the shortage is man made. Mothers of starving and dying children are caught up in a political nightmare. The solutions are clear. If you look at the websites of charities such as Save the Children and Christian Aid you will find reports published on what it will take to eradicate hunger. But solutions require a will for an outcome to take place.

It is only by the accident of birth that you or I aren't one of those poor women, men or children. Thus, we owe it to them to do what we can.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Friendship by Numbers

We live in a paradoxical world.where the onset of social networking has enabled us to open up our world of friendships. You can even keep a tally of how many friends you have if you are a Facebook user. Friendship by numbers. Yet, many still live isolated and lonely existences in society.
Technology is an innovation that is to be applauded for the way it has changed the way we work, play and rest. It can be used to find ways to ease loneliness. Facebook isn't the enemy but I use it in this post to show how one can have many friends but still be lonely.
In a report titled, 'The Lonely Society', released by the Mental Health Foundation, loneliness is defined as a 'situation experienced by the individual...where there is an unpleasant or inadmissible lack of certain relationships..' In other words, one can have many friends but still remain in a lonely state if those relationships do not sustain or provide you with elements of friendship. In Genesis 2:18, the reference to loneliness is defined as a situational existence, ' No man should be alone'.
Upon reading these definition I pondered on the question of which factions of churchgoers would be particularly at risk of suffering from loneliness. Obviously, all of us have at some time or another suffered from bouts of loneliness because it is inherent in human nature to feel rather alone in reaction to certain situations or event. However, are there any among us who could be suffering on a prolonged basis? Immigrants, perhaps, who have endured hardships in their countries and have fled to the UK for safekeeping; mothers with young children who stay at home; and the elderly?
In fact, in the conclusion and recommendations chapter of the report it states that the way communities are formed is a fluid concept in modern day. The concept of community isn't a stagnant one anymore where people live on in the place where they were born. People now move away to other cities and countries. Globalisation has encouraged people to seek better lives in other countries. Wars cause people to flee their homelands. The elderly don't know their neighbour anymore. Mothers don't always have access to other mothers with children. The challenge for us as Christians is to be sensitive to those in our churches who could particularly be suffering from loneliness.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Murky World of Playboy


I took this picture of a Playboy Bunny when I was demonstrating against the opening of the Playboy Club as part of the 'Eff Off Heff' campaign. 'Heff', of course, refers to Hugh Heffner, the man who owns Playboy.

In the absence of a collective society onslaught against the decline of social values and standards Playboy and other such like men’s clubs ride on the wave of the new social order of the ‘Booty Culture’. Into this chasm of moral turpitude has stepped the Playboy Club to dignify the selling of porn with glitz, glamour and high prices (cocktails are reputed to cost as much as £2,000 each).


The return of the Playboy Club to London heralds an era in which pornography has become as acceptable as having a cheese sandwich. Going into a supermarket to buy your lunch will also bring you into contact with unsavoury men’s magazines that carry pictures of near naked women on the front covers. No pretence is made to hide them. Gone are the days when these types of magazines were kept on the top shelf, away from eye level (especially children’s eye levels). Discretion and pornography do not make for bedfellows anymore.


Hugh Heffner once said, ‘Playboy was perceived as a chauvinist publication. Today the rabbit symbol has been embraced by women as a form of their sexual empowerment’. Firstly, I have never seen a two legged rabbit wearing a black leotard. Secondly, wearing the Playboy costume as a work outfit must be as empowering as wearing high heels at muddy Glastonbury.

The narrative of Heffner’s is dangerous because it masks the reality of what the outfit really represents – subservience and women as sexual playthings. Yet, it is such type of talk that has edged the degradation of women more and more into mainstream thought.

As a Christian woman I couldn’t separate my feminism from my Christian values when I was demonstrating outside the Playboy Club. There’s much infuriating Christian literature on how being a feminist is to betray Christian thought because women are secondary to men. This line of thought then goes on to the ordination of women and ordination of women bishops and states that women can be equal outside the church but not in it. Such discourse actually disempowers Christian women because if the structure of the place where we get our core moral fibre from lets us down then how can we go out and fight for respect?

Monday, 4 July 2011

Africa needs Christianity

The Church Newspaper has reported about a particularly sad incident that took place in Kaduna State, Nigeria, involving a Christian village which was razed and its wells poisoned by Muslim militants. About 183 homes, businesses and the village church were set fire to and pepper, clothes, mortars and firewood were dumped into the water wells.

Even more shockingly a minister in the Bauchi State was tortured and killed for refusing to renounce his Christian faith. The poor pastor was travelling in a van which was stopped by thugs who proceeded to beat him and set him on fire. The pastor had eight children. Over 200 churches have been destroyed and 800 people killed by Muslim militants since the President, Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian was elected into power.

The problems of African are traditionally seen as being centred around conflict, famine, drought and corruption. However, the persecution of Christians is claiming lives at such a rapid pace that the figures are starting to look like something akin to war casualties. During a debate in Europe recently on interfaith action it was reported that Christians killed every year for their faith number 105,000, and that number includes only those put to death simply because they are Christians.

Regrettably these things don't make the news because there are numerous factions or schisms of people being killed and persecuted globally. War and strife have become part of our modern day TV viewing and is a big part of world politics. People have become desensitised to some extent and the powers that be don't listen. However, It needs to because the fleeing of religious persecution could very well become another reason for immigration and this would be a sad indicator of the absence of an international religious will to practice religious tolerance. This, surely, is a basic human right.


Monday, 27 June 2011

Do having animals in circuses lead to human cruelty?

Last week British MPs passed a motion calling on the Government to ban the use of animals in circuses on the grounds that circuses featuring wild animals were barbaric and had no place in civilised society in the 21st Century. Mark Pritchard MP, who lay the motion for debate, said the practice was cruel and outdated - comparing it to outlawed practices such as dog-fighting and badger-baiting - and insisted that the UK should "lead not lag the world" in animal welfare. The motion was won on the same day that two people were jailed for killing a toddler whom they had systematically beat and a man was jailed for the murder of a schoolgirl.  All three made the headline news.

In Britian we are sometimes accused of treating animals better than we do other people. It occured to me that perhaps there was a link between the way animals and people are treated. John Locke, the British philosopher who is seen as a great Liberalist, wrote that children should be taught from an early age that torturing and killing any living thing was despicable. Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher, said that cruelty by humans against animals is an act that escalates into cruelty to other humans. In other words, mistreatment of animals was the tip of the iceberg and, if unchecked, would see humans become so desensitised to pain and harm so as to enable them to start doing the same to other human beings.

The Chinese premier is in the UK and so leads me into drawing another parallel. In Asia household animals are commonly mistreated by being caged or kept in cruel conditions and then sold either to be eaten or to have their body parts used for traditional medicinal purposes. Human rights in Asia is scant.

I can't see that by God giving human beings dominion over fish, fowl and cattle, as set out in Genesis,  bestowed on us the right to do as we please. A dollop of moral responsibility must be inherent which calls for us, as Christians, to care for these animals as God's creatures.
"All the animals in the forest are Mine and the cattle on thousands of hills. All the wild birds are Mine and all living things in the fields." Psalm 50:10, 11

I think the philosophers were correct in their assumptions and our humanity is a causal link which starts with a responsibility to be kind towards those creatures smaller than us to ones who tower above us.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The Frustration of Being in the CoE (sometimes)!

Sometimes I truly get frustrated by the things that our Church hierarchy does. A few weeks ago I blogged about how chuffed I was that our Archbishop had waded into politics. Those of you who read my blog post of last week will know that I am a Tamil. For a week I have waited for the Church to say something about the screening of the programme titled 'Sri Lanka Killing Fields' by Channel 4. Today I am so frustrated and could kick a stump of tree even knowing that it would hurt me.

It's being reported in the Church of England newspaper that a Bishop has questioned the legitimacy of the killing of Osama Bin Laden. This is what he says, ' “Putting someone on trial matters because the truth matters,”. This is certainly true and my gripe isn't with his logic but with the failure to grasp the difference between an academic argument and the reality of current suffering. Discussing Bin Laden's death is an academic analysis of legal principles. We have thousands of Tamils in this country and many of whom are Christians too. Doesn't the Church have anything to say about a matter that is being discussed by UN members today? Or about the situation in Syria?

Thursday, 16 June 2011

The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka by a Tamil Blogger

This is a hard blog post to write because it isn’t often that you see people you are ethnically related to being tortured and killed. This happened to me on Tuesday night (14 June) when I watched the ‘Sri Lanka Killing Fields’ on Channel 4. It was, to use a cliché, a groundbreaking masterpiece in producing evidence to show the suffering and evil injustice suffered by the Tamils in the last weeks of the civil war in Sri Lanka in 2009.

My grandparents left Sri Lanka about 80 years ago. I have never lived there myself and only visited once when I was a child but I followed the events of the civil war waged between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government and hoped for a peaceful outcome. There were many nights when I stayed up to watch the news because there were rumours of a settlement or a breakthrough which never happened in the end. I cared but I hadn’t suffered in any way like them. There are thousands of Tamils in the UK who managed to flee the persecutions there but we don’t hear their individual voices, only the collective voice which called and still calls on the world to intervene in their quest for justice.

Such is the power of the Channel 4 programme that it makes you feel as if you are caught up in it. I didn’t need the English translation because I understood what the Tamils were saying. The Tamil language is a very descriptive one and is especially eloquent when expressed during grief. The English translations, quite understandably, could not convey the magnitude of the distress of what the victims were saying. I can only capture the depth of their powerless by telling you that it was akin to watching an 18 rated horror slasher Hollywood movie but without the fictional element. In other words, this was for real.

Mobile and video footage show Tamils being shot, shelled and running and screaming. Babies and children lie dead and one mother cradles her dead child and asks the camera, ‘what did this baby do?’ Tamil women were raped by soldiers and killed. What is most difficult to watch is the comments made by these soldiers as they hurl dead woman after dead woman into a pick up truck. One comment has stayed with me for days, ‘This one has the best figure’, a soldier says as he chucks the dead woman he is referring to.

When the programme ended I had a strong sense that what had been shown was only a microcosm of something so much more un-imaginable that had gone on. I went onto the Channel 4 website and Twitter and wept at the messages coming in from the Tamils who were thanking Jon Snow of Channel 4 for providing the breakthrough that they were so powerless to do themselves. I thought of my Tamil grandparents who died a long time ago and had not been able to afford to visit Sri Lanka after they left but still hankered to see it. They never knew what they had left behind. They were the lucky ones and, subsequently, descendants like me. This is why I am using my ethnicity to raise awareness.

I ask for your prayers that truth and justice prevail. I know the Tamil Tigers were guilty of many atrocities too and the report I quote below does say things to this effect. I was greatly saddened at the possibility that a Tamil had assassinated Rajiv Gandhi. However, two wrongs don’t make a right.

Here is an extract from the 2011 UN ‘Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka’:
The Panel’s determination of credible allegations reveals a very different version of the final stages of the war than that maintained to this day by the Government of Sri Lanka. The Government says it pursued a “humanitarian rescue operation” with a policy of “zero civilian casualties”. In stark contrast, the Panel found credible allegations, which if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law was committed both by the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Indeed, the conduct of the war represented a grave assault on the entire regime of international law designed to protect individual dignity during both war and peace.

Just for today I will sign off using my Tamil name (which is also my middle name)
Jayanthi Chelliah
http://www.channel4.com/programmes/sri-lankas-killing-fields.







Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Twat Irresponsible Blogger

By that title I am referring to the hoax blog titled 'A Gay Girl in Damascus' and the person behind it, Thomas MacMaster. The blog was supposedly hosted by a Syrian woman called Amina Arraf who lived in danger of being taken away by the security forces because she was a gay activist. The blog attracted many followers primarily because of the heartfelt sentiment and struggle expressed which captured the attention of Western supporters of the Arab Spring. On 6 June Amina's cousin posted a grave  message telling the world that Amina had been taken by security forces. Her plight attracted worldwide attention. Bloggers were posting messages calling for governments to take action.

It was all a lie. Thomas MacMaster is an American student at Edinburgh University who has always wanted to write fiction, he says, so he thought up this story. He has apologised but admits that the media attention has given him an 'egotistical kick'. He is now hoping to turn the blog into a novel and is looking for a literary agent.

There are many, many REAL humans who are living in fear of being tortured and killed for either their sexual orientation or their political beliefs or both. Their authentic voice now is at danger of being ignored because of the actions of one irresponsible blogger. Bloggers have been instrumental in getting stories out when the foreign media have been banned from reporting on the Arab uprising. We need this flow of information to know when to raise alarms and when to collectively campaign for good causes. In the absence of stringent checks on veracity, because of reporting restrictions, the world needs to be able to rely on social networking and the lone voices of people caught up in strife. Such serious breaches of trust in the blogosphere as committed in this hoax blog must not be tolerated.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Go Rowan Go. Don't stop now!

The Christian message can still make headlines. The Archbishop's article published in The New Statesman questions the coalition's economic and political authority and the news channels have been reporting on it almost all day. In this era of supposed religious, especially Christian, decline we have today seen the Church of England take up the mantle of public prominence. 

In speaking out, the Archbishop is showing that the Church has a vital role to play in addressing basic human democratic rights. I am not going to dissect the Archbishop's view of the coalition. Plenty of that is being done. I am, instead, applauding the highlighting of the role that the Church still has in our multicultural and multi faith society. The Archbishop will have left a lasting impression that the church is very much on the front line. All that talk of of dwindling numbers in pews and churches being turned into supermarkets cannot diminish the Christian strength.

The question has been raised about why the Church is interfering in state affairs? I think the answer is because it is Christian to speak out and to fight for a fair and equitable society. The inter-relationship between the state and the Church is far more stalwart than people realise. The Christian faith provides a moral framework that has been adopted by the state. Some of the 10 Commandments have been worked into our legislative system. The Church supports the UN Millenium Development Goals. The Church has a say in education through our CoE schools. The Church has an influence on policy makers beyond measure and it is only right that the Archbishop speaks out. If one needed more evidence of this then consider the fact that Archbishop Desmond Tutu was told to keep out of politics because he wanted to see an end to apartheid.


  

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Do you have any evidence of your Christian faith?

In a Times newspaper article dated April 22 (Good Friday) a letter from the Archbishop, Rowan Williams, was featured in response to a letter from a little girl who wanted to know how God was invented. What is interesting is that the parents of this girl are atheists but wanted her to have a frank response to this question. The father sent the letter to Lambeth Palace. This is what the Archbishop said in his letter to the girl (aged 6):

"...I think God might reply a bit like this...Nobody invented me but lots of people discovered me and were quite surprised. They discovered me when they looked round at the world and thought it was really beautiful or really mysterious and wondered where it came from. They discovered me when they were very very quiet on their own and felt a sort of peace and love they hadn't expected. Then they invented ideas about me-some of them sensible and some of them not very sensible...'

The Archbishop's letter resonates with me tremendously. My brand of Christianity is very much based on my faith which is an intangible emotion. My faith works through prayer and seeing the spirit of God move through my life rather like kinetic energy which then transforms my faith into action. Being a Christian involves quiet assent somewhat which is why I find it quite sad that this is not enough in contemporary times where everything has to be evidence based.

I watch the debates on TV where Christian intellectuals and professor heavyweights have to produce evidence and debate the finer points of the gospel to convince the audience that our religion is real. You cannot proclaim your Christian faith anymore without knowing when the Dead Sea Scrolls were found (1947-1956) or whether St. Paul was accurate in his accounts.'Blinking heck' I say. Take a leap of faith. Go on, it works.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Rape and the Bible

The subject of rape is a highly emotive one for obvious reasons and currently dominates our global news because of the arrest of the former head of the IMF. Many people have said to me that they cannot believe in the Bible because of the amount of violence contained therein, rape included, that seems to have been approved by God. While I dispute the latter I still remain disturbed by the easy references to rape in the Old Testament.

Here are some passages:

''They found among the people living in Jabesh Gilead four hundred young women who had never slept with a man, and they took them to the camp at Shiloh in Canaan." Judges 21:10
The inference here is that these poor women were taken back to the camp and raped.

"Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves." Numbers 31:18

How do you explain to non-believers that some of the laws of the Old Testament are not followed anymore and the God we know of today does not condone rape or any form of violence against women? The social laws of the New Testament carry a spirit of compassion and empathy. When I put forward this argument I am accused of 'cherry picking' from the bible. Surely, the answer lies in the fact that Jesus was sent down to establish new social laws which render these acts wrong.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Religion+Aid

In a House of Lords debate on extreme povery in the developing countries The Bishop of Gloucester, Michael Perham, said that more foreign aid should be channelled through faith based organisation. He cited the reason for this as being because non-state providers are 'often the most closely involved in the wellbeing of the poorest people and are to be found where government cannot reach'. The Bishop also called for more recognition of the role and contribution of faith communities in development and formore partnerships to be developed with aid agencies.

It is refreshing to hear a faith based slant on the debate on foreign aid. Following the death of Osama Bin Laden the debate has centred around the role of foreign aid in a political context. The true meaning of 'foreign aid' seems to have been lost in translation. The original wisdom of foreign aid was to reduce poverty and lower global levels of inequality. Along the way foreign aid became tied to economic conditions of the recipient country and it was abundantly clear that countries with bad economic conditions tended to suffer from civil unrest. This threw into question the role of foreign aid especially if the recipient country concerned was at odds with the donor country.

Perhaps an enhanced role for faith organisations will enable them (eg Christian Aid) to act as a neutraliser to the politics vs foreign aid debate.  While millions around the world go hungry and die politicians and voters alike have become cynical and mistrustful of foreign aid but continue to use it as a political tool. Even this strategy hasn't really worked if we look at Pakistan. If we strip away the political skin of foreign aid then we will be left with the notion of sharing-giving aid will help the poor survive and live. Let that be the first objective. The second objective should be  about helping these poverty stricken people rebuild their lives with economic assistance. Faith based organisations have a crucial role to play in the quest to cure global poverty.


Friday, 6 May 2011

Victims of Al Qaeda attack in London 2005

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has made the front page today of The Times newspaper for calling into question the shooting of Osama Bin Laden who was, allegedly, unarmed at the time. Al Qaeda's reign of terror and the resulting death of victims is at risk of being overshadowed by the debate over the Archbishop's words.

This post is my attempt to remind people of the suffering of our British 7/7 victims. Coincidentally today is the day that it has been ruled that the killings were unlawful. Here is a link to the names, photos and obituaries of the 52 who died on 7 July 2005 in London.

 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/uk/05/london_blasts/victims/

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Go on, say 'YES'

No, this isn't a post about marriages. That was last week's news. For the benefit of those who live abroad and have been spared the countless times that we, in the UK, have had to listen to 'NO' and 'YES' tomorrow (5 May) the country will vote on whether to change the current voting system which is based on First Past The Post (FPTP). Tomorrow's referendum is about changing FPTP to the Alternative Voting (AV) system. The question being asked is this: At present, the UK uses the ‘first past the post’ system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the ‘alternative vote’ system be used instead?


Are you still with me? If you are you deserve a pat on the back and one of my curries. If you don't need an explanation of FPTP or AV please skip down to the last 4 paragraphs.

Anyway, FPTP refers to how a Parliament seat is won by a candidate. UK voters put an X beside the name of the person they support. The person with the most amount of votes cast in his/her favour wins the seat. There is no threshold or minimum level which must be acquired before a candidate is declared a winner. The majority rule applies here as in who has the most amount of votes cast in their names wins. Currently, candidates with as low as 30% of votes have been declared the winner because the other 70% of votes cast have been split between other candidates.

AV, on the other hand, works on the principle of distribution. On the ballot paper voters are asked to list in numerical order their order of preference of candidates. If there are 6 candidates called, for simplistic reasons, A, B, C, D ,E and F, voters must write down, for instance, 1 against A, 2 Against B and so on till number 6 is reached.

The number 1 votes for each candidates are put into a pile and counted. Anyone with over half of the number 1 votes cast wins. However, if no candidate has polled half or over half of the votes (3 or more in my example) then the candidate with the fewest number 1 votes is eliminated from the contest. As an example, if this candidate happens to be F then F's ballot papers are looked at again for the other choices made. If there's a number 2 vote for E then the vote is added to E's pile. This process goes on till a candidate receives more than half the votes.

I will be voting 'YES' but in no way do I think that Christians who vote 'NO' are going against the faith. It is only my view that the principles of Christianity accord well with the theory of distribution inherent in the AV process. Communion is distributed to the congregation just as Jesus did with his disciples. Our faith and belief is meant to be shared, which is another word for 'distribute', with others. Our very existence is meant to be distributive through the giving of ourselves or through our acts. In fact, the Archbishop has said that, 'We shall live lives of selfless generosity, always asking how the gifts given us-material or imaginative or spiritual or whatever-can be shared in a way that brings other people more fully alive'.

The process of reallocating votes in AV is a distributive process of democracy. Everyone's vote will count even if it's a number 2 or 3. If a candidate wins outright on a number 1 vote then he/she still wins with the approval of the majority of voters. Christianity doesn't sit well with monopolies. We don't hog Jesus or the scriptures for our own. The FPTP is a monopoly system which is not based on the majority of the votes cast. AV is inclusive democracy.

www.christian.org.uk/alternativevote has prepared a briefing pack. It states that no voting system can claim a scriptural mandate. Ten bishops have backed the 'YES' vote calling it a 'fairer voting system'. The policital think tank, Theos, states that 'the fact that AV will increase the likelihood of hung Parliaments is a positive consequence, as a hung Parliament is a clearer expression of the public's mood today, shifting as it has from two broadly defined and oppositional alternatives to a more complex and plural party system'.

Plurality and diversity are key themes of our modern society. An anachronistic voting system will not allow us to elect politicians that reflect these themes. Although the main political parties do have differences on how to tackle economic issues they have shared beliefs on championing equality, eradicating poverty and introducing progressive measures for society. A more inclusive electoral system will allow for an infusion of political views that could very well change the face of British politics for the better. If change hadn't been made in 1928 women wouldn't have been granted the same voting rights as men. In 1948 the business vote was abolished thereby rendering all voters to be of equal standing. We now have a chance in 2011 to change things.