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

Thursday, 31 January 2013

The 'Blame' Game over AIDS

The weareUs organisation which is a Christian charity has produced a marvellous booklet called 'Pray With Us'. The theme for this week is Luke 4:14-21 and the entry has been written by Canon Gideon B Byamugisha, an Anglican priest in Uganda who is HIV positive. Canon Gideon writes about how people who were HIV positive were hectored at a World AIDS Day in Uganda. in 2012. There were no words of comfort for the sufferers but ridicule and the blame game which accused them of adultery and promiscuity.

Canon Gideon writes: 'In Luke 4, Jesus chose to quote from Isaiah at a time when religion, morality and scripture had been hijacked by the status quo to preserve the rights of the privileged, while denying the vulnerable rightful access to resources, knowledge and services that would help protect them against life-threatening realities in Israel.'

The 'Blame' game is becoming ever more pervasive. The poor are blamed for their poverty, the disabled are blamed for their disability and the sick are blamed for being sick. The blame game is all about shifting responsibilities. When the question is posed as to what 'Jesus would have done?' in this modern age of social injustice Luke 4 reminds me that nothing in our circumstances maybe new but our attitudes can be renewed and refreshed through wearing the lens of Christianity. 

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Sex 365 Days In A Row

A couple who live in Colorado, USA, had sex for 365 days in a year. Yes, you read that right. A full year of full on coupling everyday. They did it because they believe that 'sex is the glue that keeps you together'. They have three children - yes, three children - but persevered through all the stresses and strains of normal living which usually just makes couples want to go to bed to SLEEP.

Charla and Brad Muller (pictured above) went on to write a book about the experience titled: '365 Nights: a Memoir of Intimacy'. Before any of you jump to conclusions about the sort of books that I read I must tell you that I have never read this book nor had I heard about it until an interview was published in The Guardian newspaper.

If you are wondering what the Christian angle is in this story well, Charla was inspired during a bible group session when reading Galatians 5:22 -23: 'But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control'. When I read that particular piece of scripture I normally think of jolly old fashioned greeting cards that used to carry beautiful poems written by Helen Steiner Rice. Sex? Nah!

The 'project' (their word) was Charla's gift to her husband on his 40th birthday on the premise that 'if intimacy everyday may not be a long-term sustainable model, neither is no intimacy at all'. They had reached a point in their lives where they, apparently, realised that intimate spontaneity was never going to be a factor so they opted for forced intimacy instead.

I think this couple are plain bonkers based on the simple premise that one can have too much of a good thing before the law of diminishing returns sets in. Also, intimacy comes from talking and sharing one's experiences and very few couples seem to realise that emotional intimacy is an important 'glue' too. Sex can even be the lazy option for intimacy.  Talking and listening demands far more of one's spirit especially if it demands compromise from one partner. 

Saturday, 12 January 2013

RIP Big Issue Sellers

If any sense is to come out of the murder of the two Big Issue sellers in Birmingham I hope it will be that the  veil of invisibility placed on them by a societal disregard for those who work or live on the streets will be removed completely. None of us who rushes past them while going about our daily lives has any inkling of their personal predicament or reasons for ending up on the street. This makes it all the more imperative that we shelve our prejudices and view the homeless as another subset of society, as opposed to being outside of society.

 Life on the street must be a life of hardship, especially during the cold weather, and I can only imagine that it is a constant struggle for them to keep life going while fighting both the natural elements and people's attitudes. On Boxing Day I stopped to speak to a Big Issue seller. He told me that people were extremely dismissive of his presence and his work. The latter is a point often forgotten. Equally important is the fact that any homeless person on the street, whether working or not, still has a basic right to personal security.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

What Would You Have Done?

On my way to picking my daughter up from school today I was approached by a woman who asked me for money. Beggars are a common occurrence in London but what was different about this woman was the fact that she was under-dressed for the cold weather, she was skinny and had a gaunt look about her. She told me that her 5 week old baby hadn't had any food for 72 hours, she was starving herself and could not afford to turn on the heating.

She even went as far as to tell me that she couldn't breastfeed successfully and was on the point of whipping out her breast to show me that she was leaking milk. I stopped her at that point and gave her money. I couldn't bear the thought of a starving baby.  The fact that she felt she had to prove her predicament to me made me feel that I had to, in turn, prove my humanity to her by telling her not to do it. I have no regrets about giving her the money even if, by any chance, she was telling fibs. It was obvious that she was in a desperate situation of some sort.

Her story is entirely plausible. Many are going hungry in this country and more so will after the welfare vote yesterday which will bring into legislation a 1% cap on the rise of benefits. A few weeks ago my local foodbank put out a call for baby food and I responded.

With all this in mind I erred on the side of caution and gave her money but something still rankles within me. Why is it falling to individuals to plug gaps in the poverty gap caused by bank bail-outs, welfare cuts and public spending cuts? As a Christian mother I would still do the same if approached by someone else but it angers me that a mass vilification of the poor and desperate is taking place against a reality of wide spread suffering.

Friday, 4 January 2013

No Sex Please, We Are The CoE

Remember the farcical play of the 1980s  titled 'No Sex Please, We're British' which was also made into a film starring Ronnie Corbett? The play featured a young couple who go to desperate attempt to hide a stash of sex toys and related material which has been wrongly sent to them and the scraps that they get into in the process.

With the CoE's announcement that gay clergy can be ordained as Bishops one wonders how the requirement of celibacy can possibly ever be policed? I don't mean to be flippant in drawing comparisons with the play I mention above but my point is that this whole sex issue in the CoE is becoming farcical. 

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Hunger, Foodbanks and a Tory Councillor

Councillor Chris Steward, who thinks food banks are unnecessary

Another day and yet another 'bashing the poor' comment makes the news. While this sort of  rhetoric is commonplace now what distinguishes one comment from another is the degree of  superiority being displayed by the maker (of the comment) and his/her ability to demonstrate a remarkable lack of sympathy for anyone who cannot make ends meet.

The latest person to display a vile sense of superiority is a Tory councillor called Chris Steward who said that: "The fact that some give to food banks, merely enables people who can't budget (an issue where schools should do much more and I have said the council should) or don't want to, to have more money to spend on alcohol, cigarettes etc" 

So, by his account, poverty in Britain is an illusory concept and Foodbanks exist merely to supplement people's incomes rather than to act as a substitute for a lack of income. In fact, Christ Steward goes on to say: "We have lots of poor people, but living standards have surged over the years. There is certainly no need for foodbanks; no-one in the UK is starving and I think that foodbanks insult the 1 billion in the world that go to bed hungry everyday and ignore the fact that a child dies of hunger every 3 seconds." 

Living standards have surged? Has yours surged? Wouldn't common sense tell you that living standards cannot have surged while the country is gripped in a double dip recession? Drawing comparison with the sort of poverty that exists in continents like Asia and Africa is an invitation to join a race to the bottom. Starvation and hungry dying children are not benchmarks for true poverty. These scenarios go beyond a measurement of poverty and are extreme outcomes of an unjust distribution of resources. Would Chris Steward prefer that  such situations become commonplace in Britain before foodbanks are established? Foodbanks are an intervention to ensure that the need for food is met before it reaches crisis levels of starvation and death.

As a Christian, I am proud of the fact that many churches are either involved with foodbanks in their areas or are hosting foodbanks of their own. It is the spirit of God in action.

"There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread" - Gandhi