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

Friday, 14 February 2014

Would You Take Your Child to Watch An Animal Being Killed?

My title only tells half the story. The full story involves a zoo, a gun followed by a skinning session of the animal shot and then a feeding frenzy whereby the animal's remains are fed to the lions. Would you let your child watch all this? I certainly would NOT but that is what happened this week when a doe-eyed giraffe called Marius was shot dead at a Copenhagen Zoo by people who work in the zoo. The event was publicised beforehand as some sort of learning experience for children and families turned up to watch this revolting cruel spectacle.
I make a value judgment by referring to the incident as being a 'revolting cruel spectacle' because there is no other sensible explanation for killing a healthy 18-month old giraffe within the safe confines of a zoo. I would have thought that a zoo would be a place of care and compassion where the animals residing there would be looked after in all ways -fed, watered, monitored and given medical aid when needed. Killing does not fall into any of these categories.

Judging from the explanation given by the zoo I would be considered idealistic and naive in my thinking.  According to the zoo Marius's genes were too similar, i.e too common, to those of other giraffes in a breeding programme run by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA). Apparently, breeding closely related animals increases the chances that two harmful copies of an animal gene will pair up somewhere along the way.

The mission of EAZA is: “EAZA’s mission is to facilitate co-operation within the European zoo and aquarium community with the aim of furthering its professional quality in keeping animals and presenting them for the education of the public, and of contributing to scientific research and to the conservation of global biodiversity. It will achieve these aims through stimulation, facilitation and co-ordination of the community’s efforts in education, conservation and scientific research, through the enhancement of co-operation with all relevant organisations and through influencing relevant legislation within the EU.” (EAZA Strategy 2009-2012)

Well, blow me down but I cannot see any veiled or blatant reference to 'killing' in that mission. However, the death of Marius has been supported by EAZA so it is not immediately blatant how this can be so. An EAZA spokesman told the BBC news that Marius would not have added anything further to the breeding programme that does not already exist.

When you go to the zoo do you worry about the gene pool of the animals you see? Do you worry about what their offspring would look like? I don't think many people would. People go to the zoo to admire animals and to watch them in safety. This whole breeding programme, to me, smacks of Science gone loopy, to use a really colloquial term of expression over a very frustrating incident. I have a child and I don't think that she would need to watch the live killing and a subsequent animal feeding frenzy to ace it in Biology.

Putting my rebel hat on I suspect that the whole incident was a profit inducing one - draw the crowds in and raise profit. Another giraffe also called Marius is in danger of being killed for the exact same reason. The President of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, who has been accused of human right abuses has offered to buy this second Marius to save it. There's always a twist to surreal stories and I do hope that Ramzan Kadyrov succeeds and spreads his compassion for animals to humans.

Monday, 10 February 2014

What is the 'scourge' of modern Britain?

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who is a real gem when it comes to standing up for the rights of the poor and sidelined has declared that low pay is a 'scourge on our society'. As I write this the very controversial programme titled 'Benefits Street' is being screened on Channel 4 and there is a torrent of insults coming through on Twitter about those who do not work and claim benefits. Some are so incensed that their 'taxes are paying for these people'. Sometimes it seems as if being 'in work' has become the new definer of high moral values. Work is the new religion. Ironic then that most people on benefits are, actually in work. However, working for low pay just does not pay the bills given the rise in living so this is where the state steps in with the benefit system. Dr Sentamu is right to speak out because the working poor are a conveniently forgotten fact in the quest for lower public spending. I hope that Dr Sentamu's views get an airing at General Synod this week.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

General Synod Recognises Violence Against Women As a Serious Issue

AFFAIRS COUNCIL (GS 1933) 6 Presentation under SO 97.
  r Philip Fletcher (ex officio) (Chair of the Mission and Public Affairs Council)
to move:
7 ‘That this Synod, believing that all people are made in the image of God and
that all forms of violence based on gender represent a defilement of that
(a) affirm work already undertaken in dioceses, deaneries, parishes and
Church of England schools in raising awareness and caring for
survivors of gender-based violence in all our diverse communities;
(b) support measures to bring perpetrators to account and provide support
for changed lifestyles;
(c) encourage boys and men to stand against gender-based violence; and
(d) commend Anglican Consultative Council Resolution 15:7 on preventing
and eliminating gender-based violence to dioceses, deaneries and
parishes and urge them to seek practical approaches to its

General Synod will meet this week (10 to 13 Feb) in London and an item on the agenda for discussion on the first day is the report on violence against women. As a Christian Feminist it heartens me that this issue is being given prominence after all the accusations (quite understandably too) about the CoE not furthering the gender agenda.

The extract set out above seems to detail a determination on the part of the CoE to root out the violence and to deal with it by offering support to the victims and to, further, educate people on the seriousness of the situation. There is no mention of calling in the relevant authorities but I assume that the Church takes it as a given that violence against women is a criminal activity given this statement: 'The pastoral strand concerns the care of both survivors and perpetrators. For the latter this includes supporting measures to bring 
them to account and to work for a changed lifestyle'. 

The theological reasons for exploring gender violence are stated as being: ‘Christians are called by God to discern and to respond to, God’s mission of love to the world, the missio Dei. That activity of God, reconciling the world to God’s own self, generates in Jesus Christ, and through the Spirit, the vision of a world in which human beings live in harmony and love towards one another, respecting each other and supporting one another. Human behaviour which exploits or injures others creates a drag on the reconciliation of the world to God’s own self (2.Corinthians 5.19).’ 

The emphasis in bold is mine is because I believe that the sentence is the theological bridge between why anyone should do anything to help solve the problem of gender violence and why the church is taking action. Recognising that there is a greater societal cost and placing this within the context of religion is an important way forward in framing violence against women as something that harms everyone. This strand of thought is taken further in para 10 of the report: 'We are part of a culture which dehumanises and devalues many people. Gender-based violence does not happen in a vacuum but is part of an exploitative culture in which poverty, inequality, oppression, anxiety and fear all play their part.'

Integral to further exploring the reasons for violence is an appreciation, as one example, of how the austerity cuts has led to an increase in violence against women. When I was growing up in the Global South (decades ago) it was widely accepted and recognised (though no authority did anything about it) that domestic violence was far more prevalent among the very poor and would happen when the man of the house, who worked in a physically demanding job as a hard laborer all day, would indulge in home made alcohol in the evening and then take his frustrations out on his wife and daughters through beatings. Fast forward to modern times and it is being reported that there is a causal connection between the austerity cuts and a rise in domestic violence. No doubt the Right will jump in here and blame the individuals for their own actions. While everyone is responsible for their behaviour we do not live in unconnected world which is why I support Para 10 and the understanding it displays of a wider approach taken.

Prayers please for General Synod. 

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Al-Qaeda and Christians

The leader of Al-Qaeda is against the fighting of Christians in Egypt. Apparently, Ayman Al-Zawahri wants his band of followers to focus on resisting Egyptian. He has said: "We have to be busy confronting the Americanized coup of el-Sissi and establish an Islamic government instead". To put this into context, the Coptic community backed the coup which overthrew Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader, and, subsequently, were violently attacked for this by the Muslims. Is this a rare show of diplomacy or is it a cunning strategic move to outfoot the West? Whatever the reason I pray that the Christians in Egypt will be able to find some peace among the ruins of Egypt.