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

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 Mark Pritchard MP, who lay the motion for debate, said the practice was cruel and outdated - comparing it to outlawed practices such as dog-fighting and badger-baiting - and insisted that the UK should "lead not lag the world" in animal welfare.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

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.