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

Monday, 23 December 2013

How Clear Is Your Christian Conscience?

Every year I rant about the rampant consumerism that consumes Christmas and masks the real meaning of it. Walk into any shop and you wonder what cut price chocolate or over priced perfume has to do with the birth of Jesus. However, an article in Christian Today questions how clear our Christian conscience is at this time of the year.

It suggests ways of helping people who are suffering from tragedies and persecution around the world. At a simple level Christmas is about remembering others but there is a need to distinguish the 'haves' from the 'have nots'. I am not talking in the political sense of the 99% who are 'have nots' and the 1% who are 'haves'. Instead, so many people buy presents in excess of what their family and friends need. I cannot count the number of time I have received body lotion and soap and appreciative as I was I did not actually need these. To reverse this in my own way I have taken Christmas food to the local Foodbank. It is the easiest way to remember those who are lacking in these times because, unfortunately, given the proliferation of Foodbanks in the country there is bound to be one near you.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

At 5 Mins Past Midnight 29 Years Ago

At 12.05 am in the early hours of 3 December 1984 the largest industrial tragedy occurred in a town called Bhopal in India with devastating consequences that last till today. An American company called Union Carbide had set up a chemical/pesticide plant in Bhopal. As is so often the case with industrial accidents the company had lapsed on safety measures due to cost cutting measures. There were shortfalls in the way the storage pipes and tanks which carried and stored the chemicals were treated. As a result, there was a gas leak on that fatal night which spread rapidly killing about (figures are disputed) 20,000. Almost every single family in Bhopal lost a member who succumbed to the gas.

As also is so often the case large companies which cause these accidents walk away scot free because they are able to hide behind the intricacies of global trade which blurs the boundaries between corporate and state responsibility. Union Carbide which has seen been bought by Dow Chemical blame the Indian government for not doing enough to help the residents of Bhopal. Caught between the web of the corporate blame game lie the residents of Bhopal who continue to suffer from the harmful after-effects of the contamination which has now seeped into the ground and in their drinking water. There are generations of children being born who are suffering a multitude of health problems and who are being born with disabilities. 

Please pray for justice for Bhopal. The stories of those who managed to live through that horrible night resemble what I imagine hell on earth to be. 

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The 2nd Threat To World Stability in 2014

Twelve-year-old Maruf lives in a shanty in Nayanagar, close to a Dhaka suburb. He works at a nearby car workshop, fixing luxury car engines for about six dollars a month. He shares this meagre income with his family of four. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

Twelve-year-old Maruf lives in a shanty in Nayanagar, close to a Dhaka suburb. He works at a nearby car workshop, fixing luxury car engines for about six dollars a month. He shares this meagre income with his family of four. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

According to a new report by the World Economic Forum,  income inequality will become the 2nd major de-stabilizing threat to world stability. Apparently, 'elite capture' or a lack of social mobility is the root cause of this problem. The problem is exacerbated by poverty being entrenched in families so generations of the same family are unable to break free of the cycle. What is the solution? Will fiscal measures be enough? Are structural changes needed to governance structures and the capitalist system itself?

I say that it starts with us. If the wealthy people who bring their posh cars in to be fixed by this boy pictured and others like him then does it not occur to them that they could give him a few more dollars as a tip? Do none of them have a social conscience or is that too old fashioned a concept to ponder upon? How long before we have capitalist terrorists who are just so fed up of doing soul destroying and back breaking work that they take up arms? In many parts of Asia and Africa there are already capitalist criminals who are bag snatchers, burglars and car jackers and I do wonder how long it will take before these criminals become terrorists? I don't think I am being far fetched in my analysis.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Strange Facts About JFK and Lincoln

The following are strange comparisons between JF Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln:

1. Both were elected to the House of Representatives in '46.

2. Both were elected as President in '60.

3. Both had a son die during their presidency. 

4. Lincoln was shot by Booth at Ford's Theatre. Kennedy was shot by Oswald in a Lincoln automobile made by Ford. 

5. Lincoln's secretary warned him not to go to the theatre. Kennedy's secretary warned him not to go to Dallas. 

6. Lincoln was shot by someone from a warehouse who was arrested in a theatre. Kennedy was shot by someone from a warehouse who was arrested in a theatre. 

7. Both were succeeded by their vice-presidents who were called Johnson. 

8. Lincoln was killed in Monroe, Maryland. Kennedy was with Marilyn Monroe. 

Strange but true. Fate or coincidence? 

Saturday, 16 November 2013

What Is The Tamil Plight?

Being a Christian Tamil blogger I feel a moral imperative to write about the Tamil Sri Lankans whose plight is currently under the world's media spotlight because of the Commonwealth Heads of State meeting being held there. I don't come from Sri Lanka myself but my ancestors did. I have only visited Sri Lanka once and that was over 40 years ago but I have developed an ethnic kinship and concern since reading about the war and hearing at first hand personal stories of hardship from those who fled the country.

If there is one thing I understand about wars now it is that the headline grabbing news that we watch on TV and read about is made up of the single voices of all the victims. There is a wealth of evidence backed fact about the torture and persecution of Tamils in the country but the history of it all is not well known. This is hardly surprising given that when a war rages over decades - 25 years with Sri Lanka - interest is centred on the number of deaths, who is winning and world opinion of it. Also, since the end of the war in 2009 there have been mounting allegations of war crimes against the Sri Lankan government which overshadows the history of the war.

Sri Lanka is a country made up Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslim people. The powers of the country are concentrated in the hands of the Sinhala people. Sinhala is the official language. Tamils and the Muslims were marginalised by the majority masses and it led to resentment and, eventually, a fight back. The Sinhalese government passed a law in 1956 called the Sinhala Only Act 1956 which enshrined in law favourable status for the Sinhalese. While there was no talk of war at this stage it is important to note that ethnic inter-relations were simmering at this stage. By the 1970s a series of incidents only served to make a bad situation worse

The commonly documented reason for and history of the Sri lankan war starts in 1971 when the government introduced a policy of standardisation to increase the numbers of Sinhalese students going to university. The Tamil students fought back through demonstrations and the first armed act took place in 1971 when a hand bomb was thrown at a politician's car. It failed to kill him but sparked the armed struggle which eventually led to the setting up of the Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam (LTTE). The leader of the LTTE was Velupillai Prabhakharan (above) whose first political victim in 1975, ironically, was the politician who had escaped the car bomb.


The LTTE were fighting for a separate and independent state in the north and east of Sri Lanka for the Tamils. The LTTE leaders were determined to gain autonomy for the Tamil people whom they thought had suffered enough persecution through the normal layers of life in Sri Lanka i.e education, work, redistributive policies. The LTTE is known as being the most successful terrorist group in the world because it commanded foot soldiers, planes and boats (Sea Tigers photo above) and invented suicide bombing. The organisation killed two world leaders - Rajiv Gandhi (former PM of India) and Ranasinghe Premada (President of Sri Lanka). It was a ruthless organisation that was singled minded in its' pursuit killing civillians and politicians in its' wake. They also recruited child soldiers but ceased this practice after international condemnation.

It is hard to put a figure on how many were killed by both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE but it easily runs into tens of thousands. The war finally ended in 2009 when the Sri Lankan government managed to destroy much of the LTTE's manpower and firepower. However, questions have since been raised at UN level and among international countries about the conduct of the government in the final stages of the war and since then. Many LTTE members who surrendered went missing or were found dead with visible signs of torture on their bodies. Many Tamil women who were female Tamil Tigers were found dead afterwards with their clothes in disarray suggesting that they had been raped either before or after being killed.

This is why there has been so much criticism of the Commonwealth Secretariat for choosing to host this year's meeting in Sri Lanka. David Cameron was asked by the Tamil Disapora to abstain from attending but he chose to attend instead and seems to have been successful in drawing world attention to the plight of the Tamils. There is still no light at the end of the dark tunnel for the Tamils who continue to look for loved ones, who have had their land taken away from them and who have suffered torture themselves.

Please pray for truth and justice to prevail for the Tamils in Sri Lanka. 

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Were you rattled by the storm?

I was woken at 5.30am yesterday morning when a strong gust of wind blew against my balcony door. I watched and wondered how many seconds it would be before the glass was shattered and the door blown off. Neither happened but in those few seconds I was praying hard. I was rattled. If nothing else it was a lesson in empathy. Pictures of hurricane victims fill our TV screens on a regular basis. People who lose their property and lives seem a million miles away. I now have a modicum of insight into the fear and helplessness that must engulf people who actually have lost property and loved ones. A blown off balcony door is nothing in comparison.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Why We Should All Watch the McCann Appeal Tonight

One of my pet hates in life is voyeurism. Other people's lives are not cheap entertainment, in my view, despite the proliferation of reality TV show. But there is something different about tonight's TV appeal for information on missing Madeleine. The amount of publicity generated has captured the public's attention. This is what the McCann's must wish for. At first I wondered whether I ought to watch Crimewatch tonight - I was not anywhere near Portugal 6 years ago. However, every Sunday I pray for the return of Madeleine and for the end of child abuse. A missing and hurting child is the result of the world's evils. Therefore, It seems silly and naively moralistic to not watch the appeal. Someone or any one of us could recognise the e-fits that will be shown of possible suspects. Please say a prayer while watching the appeal.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Are Refugees Not Humans?

'When the alien lives with you in your land, do not ill-treat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God' -  Leviticus 19:33-34

Refugees and asylum seekers are often used as cheap political weapons by political parties to point score with each other over who can keep 'as many of them' out. Battle lines are drawn arbitrarily based on numbers, boundaries are reiterated like lines drawn in the sand about what is our land which also translates into what is not 'their' land and the ones who make it through the immigration system like limbo dancers struggling to squeeze under an ever-decreasing gap will be made to feel like villains, scoundrels and an enemy when they arrive.

Will anything change after the disaster this week at Lampedusa? Over 300 people from Eritrea and Somalia set off on a journey that they hoped would take them away from the wretched wars and political instability of their own countries to a land of hope. In a twist of cruel irony their 66 foot boat sank near the 'Spiaggia dei Conigli', a beach named by Tripadvisor as being one of the most beautiful in the world. Lampedusa is an Italian island located 70 miles off the Tunisian coast. As a result Lampedusa is a favoured arrival location for refugees fleeing African countries.

We in the west can only imagine the sort of atrocities that these people must be fleeing from to risk crossing open seas in undersized boats with little or no safety mechanism after having paid extortionate sums of money to traffickers and human smugglers.

Italy's interior minister, Angelino Alfano, called the disaster a "European tragedy" because Lampedusa is the first point of entry into the whole of Europe for fleeing migrants. He is only partly right. The 'European tragedy' is part of a bigger global tragedy because of the amount of humans who live in poverty. There is an imbalance in the distribution of wealth, opportunity and those who live under crushing disappointment will, naturally, seek to access the advantages that others have. It is human nature to want to flee or to actually flee misery if joy, imagined or otherwise, is available elsewhere. It is this human circumstance, I think, that puts a human face to the on-going battles that refugees face.