Thursday, July 28, 2011

Welcome the Divine Wedgie (Nudge Nudge, Grin Grin, Say No More!)

Out there in the religious and spiritual blogsphere you find a little gem that you want to add to your collection. I found The Divine Wedgie thanks to a column in Cathblog

Only after I had posted this item did I go back and check the title of the blog to realise it is really The Divine WEDGIE. That has to be up there with the "Top Titles".

Now you have to sit up and take notice of a name like Matthew John Paul Tan. Is he related to my favourite illustrator Shaun Tan? In April 2010 Matthew added a Doctorate to his name tags  which in my world is almost as cool as having a good Facebook profile!!

Apart from the well crafted text published by Cathblog, I was pretty impressed to find Matthew's blog reference to Rene Girard I wonder if he will respond to the barbed animosity of the comment posted by Anonymous? We share a common interest in the Ekklesia Project and I will be trawling around Jesus Radicals for familiar mentors in the faith journey.We probably share less interest in the The John Paul II Institute of Family and Marriage and Campion College. I wonder which of my links we will have in common?

I look forward to reading a bit more of Matthew, not that I expect to agree with him, but I enjoy the healthy perspectives from  this new generation of Catholic writers who seem more optimistic than some of the more progessive discussion forums and "communities".

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Prayer for Norway

Holy One,
We come to You in our shock and sadness. We grieve this sudden loss of lives in senseless acts of violence. 

Strong  Deliverer, we seek Your protection, strength and comfort in this time. May Your presence be made known to all who grieve. May Your strength be with all those who have survived, who will live with the memory of this moment forever etched in their minds. We pray especially for the people of Oslo, Norway, but our prayers include all those who have experienced the horror and violence from acts of terror in this world.

Prince of Peace, we surrender our desire for revenge to You. We remember Your call to pray for those who would persecute us, to pray for our enemies. We pray for the ones who have caused these acts of violence, who have brought fear and death into our world again. We ask that You protect us from all acts of violence, including our own anger and revenge, that we might not become like those who cause terror. Help us to mirror Your image in this world, to be peacemakers, to pursue the path of peaceful living as far as it depends upon us.

Almighty God, help us to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with You. Help us not to seek revenge and retribution but Your justice, Your restoration, Your way of life that is renewed and restored through Your death on the cross. Help us not to live in fear but to walk in hope. In the name of Christ, the one who lived, died and lives again so that we might have life abundantly, we pray. Amen. (Rev Mindi from Rev-o-lution .org)

Speech of Norway's PM at Oslo Cathedral 

Norway Churches Pray As Terror Death Toll Rises To 92

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Why is the Vatican Welcoming Malaysia?

In the light of recent reports about diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Malaysia, this letter is essential reading for those concerned about human rights abuses.

Your Holiness

Re: Recent Political and Social Developments in Malaysia: Towards a More Comprehensive Understanding of the Realities in Malaysia

We are a group of Catholics and some from other Christian denominations in Malaysia. Malaysia, a Muslim-dominant country has a population of 28 million people with 2.2 million registered as Christians, of whom an estimated 850,000 are Catholics.
We write to you with regards to our prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s official visit to the Vatican on July 19, 2011. We are anxious about recent developments concerning questions of democratic rights and religious freedom in Malaysia. In our letter we highlight these issues in order to help Your Holiness understand more critically and comprehensively the political and social realities in our country lest you are presented with a one-sided view of developments in Malaysia.

A watershed
The Malaysian media has reported that the visit of our prime minister to the Vatican is a ‘watershed’ that foreshadows the establishment of diplomatic relations between Malaysia and the Holy See.

We believe that the establishment of diplomatic ties between the Vatican and Malaysia is a good step forward; after all, Malaysia is one of only 17 countries in the world that does not yet have diplomatic ties with the Holy See. Our concern is that of the timing in establishing these ties, on which we elaborate below.

Christian-Muslim dialogue
Church sources in Malaysia inform us that the visit also has to do with the Holy Father’s desire to promote Christian-Muslim dialogue, an initiative that you wisely began to undertake beginning from 2005, shortly after you assumed the papacy. It might be that you find this sixth prime minister of Malaysia an attractive dialogue partner given that he goes around the globe promoting himself as the leader of a moderate Muslim country made up of various ethnic groups. As well, he has called for the formation of a ‘Global Movement of the Moderates’ and that it ought to take centre stage in the international arena.

We believe that there are lessons that one can draw from the Malaysian experience. For ordinary Malaysians of different races and faith are respectful of one another’s beliefs and customs, and have learnt to co-operate and live peacefully side-by-side. However, this is so in spite of the shameful conduct of some of our political leaders who have unabashedly manipulated ethno-religious sentiments all these years, and mobilized on ethno-religious grounds in order to stay in power.

Cakap tak serupa bikin
Indeed, the conduct of prime minister Najib and his Barisan Nasional (BN) government at home, at least recently, has been anything but moderate! In our Malaysian colloquialism, we might say of the prime minister that dia cakap tak serupa bikin, meaning that ‘he does not do what he preaches’, or that ‘he does not walk the talk’!

In this regard, we are very concerned about the timing of this official visit which follows immediately after recent repression of civil society groups which are fighting for clean and fair elections. We are also deeply concerned that some top leaders of this democratic initiative have been painted unjustly as ‘anti-Islam’ by the authorities without any basis whatsoever. Below we highlight a few recent events and episodes.

Najib’s heavy handed response to the Walk for Democracy
Just last week on July 9, 2011, there occurred the controversy-ridden ‘Walk for Democracy’ that was initiated by the coalition of 62 NGOs calling themselves Berish 2.0 (bersih meaning ‘clean’ in Malay, our national language). The coalition had wanted to hold a peaceful street walk in support of an 8-point program to institutionalize clean and fair elections. Numerous glaring incidences that have occurred in past elections as reported in the media, and recounted and confirmed in studies by major researchers, have indicated that Malaysia’s electoral system and the conduct of these elections have not been free and fair. Significantly, Malaysia has been ruled by a single party - the BN coalition dominated by Najib’s United Malays National Organization (UMNO) - since independence in 1957, more than 54 years ago!

It was on account of frustrations arising from these inadequacies in the electoral system that Bersih was formed. Among others, the respected Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism, of which the Catholic church of Malaysia is a part, affirmed Bersih’s right to conduct this peaceful walk for what it considered ‘just demands’.

In deference to the king, who intervened to head off a potential confrontation between Bersih supporters and its extremist detractors including from UMNO Youths, Bersih opted to hold a rally in the Stadium Merdeka. Yet Najib’s BN government declared that Bersih was ‘an illegal organization’ and its proposal to hold the gathering in the Stadium was rejected by the authorities. On the eve of the gathering, a court order was obtained to ban 91 leaders of Bersih and the Opposition (and also those from anti-Bersih groups) from entering those parts of Kuala Lumpur around Stadium Merdeka under threat of ‘arrest on sight’.

Earlier, Najib’s government had even banned the wearing of yellow Bersih T-shirts. The Bersih office was raided and six of their office workers were arrested. Bersih supporters who participated in ‘roadshows’ to publicise the upcoming event were also arrested. Six of them, also members of the Parti Sosialis Malaysia, were subsequently detained under the Emergency Ordinance (a Detention without Trial law) and are now held under solitary confinement. A leading lawyer has described these developments as signifying Malaysia’s descent into ‘a police state’.

In the event, the police came down hard on Bersih supporters who turned up for the gathering in Kuala Lumpur on July 9. The police set up road blocks and barb-wire fences manned by hundreds of policemen thus creating huge traffic jams throughout the city. To disperse the Bersih supporters, the police resorted to use of water cannons and fired tear gas into the crowd, as though the people were the enemy. A total of 1,667 people including 151 women and 16 children were arrested. What was singularly laudable was that there was no incidence of violence on the part of the tens of thousands of Bersih supporters who came from all ethnoreligious backgrounds.

Yet, prime minister Najib has claimed that the police had acted professionally, and condemned Bersih and the Opposition for tarnishing the image of the country. We urge you Holy Father and your Vatican officials to view the video clips that were taken of the goings-on. Significantly, the Bar Council of Malaysia has commented that the police had ‘used force excessively’.

Manipulating ethnoreligious sentiments
Tellingly, two days before the July 9 event, Najib had addressed a gathering of Malay silat (martial arts) exponents whence, reportedly, he suggested that the silat groups could be mobilized as a third line of defence against enemies from within and outside the country.
More than this, on July 2 in a gathering of about 20,000 people in the town of Kota Baru, Najib, in a live broadcast over Radio Malaysia, described Ambiga Sreenevasan, the chairperson of Bersih, as ‘a threat to Islam’ for the watching brief she held as the then president of the Bar Council in the Lina Joy case a few years earlier.

Freedom of religion
Lina Joy was a Muslim woman who converted to Catholicism before marrying a member of the faith. She filed against the Registration Department for registering her religion as ‘Islam’ in her MyKad (identity card) although she had converted out of the religion.
In spite of the dismissal of her case, it was popularly understood by many Malaysians, especially non-Muslims, that this was a violation of the freedom of religion guaranteed in the Federal Constitution. Najib’s labeling Ambiga as a threat toIslam is a deliberate distortion of her professional role as legal counsel in the Lina Joy case.

In the event, this Lina Joy case arises from a conflict between two legal jurisdictions – the civil law versus shariah - law that has emerged in Malaysia. In recent years, a number of cases involving the conversion of minors to Islam without the knowledge of the other spouse; the custody of children and/or the question of maintenance following the conversion to Islam of one spouse; the question of inheritance and even funeral arrangements following the death of a spouse who had purportedly converted to Islam without his family’s knowledge, have been highly controversial. In these cases, the non-Muslim litigants often found themselves helplessly trapped between or confined to only one of concurrent jurisdictions since they do not have locus standi in the shariah court.

Mention should also be made of the Court case between the Catholic church and the Malaysian government regarding the church’s use of the word Allah in the Catholic weekly The Herald. The government had ruled that the word Allah should be confined to use among Muslims only. At this point, a final decision has yet to be made by the Court.

Related to the above was the controversy over the importation and distribution of the Malay bibles which contained the word Allah. One shipment of these Bibles was held back by the Home Ministry authorities for several years and the matter was taken to Court. Although the Bibles were released in early 2011, unnecessary conditions have been imposed on their importation into peninsula Malaysia, to the dissatisfaction of Christians.

We highlight these episodes to you Holy Father because you have made the defense of the freedom of religion an important plank of your papacy.

Visiting the Vatican to stay in power?
Finally, there is concern among us that Najib is also reaching out to the Holy See at this juncture in order to secure popular support in the forthcoming general election due early 2013. In the previous 2008 election, the multiracial, multireligious Opposition coalition in Malaysia performed very well and succeeded in denying the BN government a two-thirds’ majority in parliament (which had previously allowed the BN government to freely amend the Federal Constitution at will). The Opposition coalition also won an unprecedented 5 out of the 13 state governments. In fact, the BN government lost the popular vote to the Opposition in peninsula Malaysia.

The reason why the BN was returned to power in the 2008 election was because it had secured virtually all the parliamentary seats in the states of Sabah and Sarawak located on the island of Borneo. In other words, the victory of the BN (as well as for the Opposition) in the upcoming election will depend on how well it performs in those two states.

In this regard, it is significant to note that Christians constituted 43% of the population in Sarawak in 2000, and 28% of the population in Sabah as recorded in the 2000 Census. We are suspicious that this official visit by Najib and his BN colleagues to the Holy See will be used by the BN leaders politically i.e. to secure votes for the BN from the Christians in Sabah and Sarawak. It is not inconceivable that photographs of Najib standing alongside the Holy Father will be widely distributed throughout the two states, particularly in the rural areas where the Christian indigenous people predominate, in the run-up to the next election.

It is with the concerns described above that we submit this letter to you Holy Father.
  • While we welcome the establishment of diplomatic relations between our country Malaysia and the Holy See, and we do believe that Malaysia’s experience in inter-religious living and cooperation has lessons to offer to other multireligious multiethnic societies, nonetheless, we are wary about the timing of this visit by prime minister Najib to the Vatican.
  • We are concerned that foreign governments and leaders who host him in his travels might be influenced by his pronouncements which extol the spirit of moderation, whereas in fact his government has used unnecessarily excessive force time and time again, the latest being its undemocratic treatment of civil society groups in Bersih’s Walk for Democracy episode.
  • We wish to highlight, too, how prime minister Najib and other BN leaders, in trying to stem the popular support for Bersih’s call for clean and fair elections, have manipulated ethnoreligious sentiments irresponsibly and attempted to demonise Bersih leaders as anti-Islam.
  • We also highlight how there have been curbs to freedom of religion in fact, although this fundamental human right is guaranteed in the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.
  • We are also suspicious that there is a hidden political agenda to win electoral support among the Christians of Sabah and Sarawak in this visit to the Vatican.
  • We pray therefore that the Holy See will consider these concerns seriously and be guided by the Holy Spirit in its dealings with the Malaysian government.
This letter has been endorsed by 330 Catholics and other Christians from throughout Malaysia.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ailan Kores Webcast

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church Thursday Island
Great music and new technology merged in a successful presentation of the Ailan Kores webcast from Thursday Island on the first Sunday of the Queensland Music Festival. In Brisbane, I joined a good crowd who comfortably filled the theatre at the Gallery of Modern Art. The technology had its moments, but the warmth and enthusiasm of the  people of the Torres Strait Islands  was evident in the intimacy we had from great camera shots.
The Torres Strait Islands have a rich and colourful history that is shaped by ancient culture and a contemporary history steeped in religious commitment. The London Missionary Society, the Catholic  and Anglican Churches trace their presence in the community back more than a century. There is evidence of smaller communities of the Seventh Day Adventists and, more recently, the Church of Later Day Saints.
This religious heritage has nurtured a singing tradition that continues to be practiced by a new generation of the Youth Choir who opened the performance under the direction of Alison Rogers. The kids were natural and the camera captured moments that only young people can provide as they take centre stage in their community.
The formal welcome to the concert was done in great North Queensland style with guests including the Governor,Penelope Wensly, and QMF Artistic Director Deborah Conway. My latent tribal Catholicism was evident when I went into auto cue and joined Bishop Saibo Mabo who began a prayer with the sign of the cross.
The concert presented popular pieces  including Cygnet Reu’s Green White and Blue, as well as  local hymns in the powerful presentation of Bach’s St John’s Passion. You can hear a sample track of one of the local hymns, Ngapaw Uzar here.
The extraordinary performance of  Damien Barbeler’s The Temptations of Christ has created a new benchmark in Australian religious music. Barbeler has not simply written a new hymn. He has, in fact, given us a new hermeneutic or interpretation of this classic story form the Christian Biblical texts. Gregory Moore presented an alluring and attractive face of Satan, far from the popular stereotype. The use of instrumental music to personify nature in this story was haunting and the voice of Jesus in the choral chants  of Ailan Kores gave a richness to the drama of this incident that is often lost in preaching.
Damien Barbeler also arranged a version of the hymn Jesus Shall Reign, which he discovered when he attended  theComing of the Light celebrations in Erub in 2010.
The final item on the program, Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, lifted the proverbial roof from Thursday Island to GOMA. In fact, I was pretty impressed that some members of the audience at GOMA stood  and sang with full voice for the whole piece.
A couple of encores stamped the concert as a popular event, and we were sent home with the echoes of a vespers hymn to bless our sleeping.
The concert was a marvelous collaboration, and no doubt involved much travel and work for the guests including theQueensland Youth Orchestra, conductor,  Peter Morris and the soloists, Cygnet Repu, Gregory Moore, Luke captain, Shelli Hulcombe, Brett Holland, and Kathleen Lamont. You can appreciate the effort involved in this project at  Ailan Kores Rehearsals on Far North Queensland and the QMF Diary.
The best comments on Ailan Kores come from the performers and this blog by Silvana captures the magic of the evening in word and images. Thanks Silvana for posting your reflection!
The program notes provided for those of us at GOMA were a useful reference, including translations of the adaptation of Bach’s St John’s Passion and historical notes for the other pieces.
One of the questions that has appeared on the webcast site asks whether the concert will be available as a recording for those who missed it. I suggest we all endorse the call for a recording and perhaps some YouTube clips to celebrate this wonderful musical celebration.
I suggest you keep your eyes on Torres Strait Islanders On-line Television for reports on this concert.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Readers Quiz: Who Said It?

No Google Searching on this one. You need to be able to name the speaker and the context. Use the comment box for your responses. If no correct answer is provided, I will post the details on Friday July 22

”...if eternity is our horizon as people starving for truth and thirsting for happiness, history is the setting of our daily commitment. Faith teaches us that man’s destiny is written in the heart and mind of God, who directs the course of history. It also teaches us that the Father puts in our hands the task of beginning to build here on earth the ‘kingdom of heaven’ which the Son came to announce and which will find its fulfillment at the end of time.

It is our duty then to live in history, side by side with our peers, sharing their worries and hopes, because the Christian is and must be fully a man of his time. He cannot escape into another dimension, ignoring the tragedies of his era, closing his eyes and heart to the anguish that pervades life. On the contrary, it is he who, although not ‘of’ this world, is immersed ‘in’ this world every day, ready to hasten to wherever there is a brother in need of help, a tear to be dried, a request for help to be answered. On this will we be judged!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Bishop calls for a day of prayer on July 8

Catholic Bishop Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing today declared July 8 as a day of prayer in the Melaka-Johor diocese that “a peace based on justice would prevail among Malaysians of all persuasions and beliefs.”
“Like many Malaysians, I view the day of the Bersih march on July 9 with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation,” said the prelate, who is concurrently president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Malaysia.

“I view the situation with trepidation because the forces of reaction may go overboard which may trigger a chain of consequences whose end cannot be visualised at this stage,” he explained, reports Terence Netto of Malaysiakini.

“Conversely, I see the forces of democratic expression prompted by an imperative whose constitutionality, justice and urgency cannot be denied.”

A tug of conflicting imperatives

Bishop Paul Tan said he is following events closely in the lead-up to July 9 when Bersih, an agglomeration of NGOs pushing for electoral reform, will hold a march for electoral reform in apparent defiance of the authorities' strictures against it.

“This is one of those times when you feel the tug of conflicting imperatives: in this instance, the imperative of public order and tranquility counter-posed by the imperative of justice to the electoral processes that help to guarantee that peace.

“As somebody whose persists in the faith that greater things are wrought by prayer that one can believe, this upcoming situation calls for recourse to precisely that: prayer.

“Accordingly, I call on the Catholic faithful in my diocese, indeed throughout the nation, to devote Friday, July 8, to a day of prayer and contemplation that a peace premised on justice will prevail in our country.”

Say the universal PEACE PRAYER together as One People One Nation:

God, make me an instrument of your peace.

where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy;

O, divine Master, grant that

I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console,

to be understood as to understand,

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

In addition, please share a similar peace prayer from different religions at the wall. Initiated by Malaysians, we hope that this space will help us grow together as fellow citizens and as people of faith - to build bridges instead of walls, to build a better world starting with ourselves.

We are all One.

When one is harmed, all are harmed. When one is helped, all are healed.

We are all One.

Ours is not a better way. Ours is merely another way.

Malaysian Catholic Christians

Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM)

Pahlawan Volunteers— Negara Kita, Tanggungjawab Kita - from conviction to action

Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia

We support the use of the name Allah by all Malaysians

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Australian elected to International Role in YCS

Congratulations to my Facebook Friend, Devett O'Brien who has been elected as the new Secretary-General of the International Young Christian Students (YCS). He will be stationed in Paris for four years and starts in October this year.Solidarity prayers and best wishes as another young Australian takes up justice advocacy within an International Forum

Devett has been a member of the Brisbane Catholic Justice and Peace Commission and is the State Director of LeftRight Think Tank

One of Devett’s key achievements was as the Project Co-ordinator for the SMARTcasual Association where he brought together young people with Unions, Businesses, Community Groups and Local and State Government to develop “Get SMART about Casual Work” a curriculum kit educating young people on their responsibilities and rights as casual workers. 

Friday, July 01, 2011

Just how important is NAIDOC for the Australian Catholic Church?

NAIDOC Week began today Sunday July 3 with the celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council produces resources  for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Sunday. These are quite accessible and could be used for anyone wanting to explore issues of faith and inculturation during and beyond this significant week..

This year the Australian Catholic  Bishops Conference published a statement promoting friendship as a way into solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.  Finding the statement on their web site is not helped by the way it is labelled and hidden among a series of documents under a Commission tab. In fact I have to wonder if the Bishops are really serious about this statement as they don't even mention it on their Facebook page for the 1.043  people who like them!!!!

A quick visit to the official calendars of the major sees in Australia does not indicate any great commitment to the sentiments of this new document. The only Archdiocesan calendars or events pages which mention Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday or NAIDOC  are Canberra, Hobart and Perth.

In Brisbane we gathered for  a NAIDOC Mass at the Cathedral however it  did not a rate mention on the official Calendar of the Archdiocese. Perhaps they have other priorities which they seem to share with Sydney and Melbourne which also do not list a  NAIDOC Mass as a significant event for their local churches. 

The words of Pope John Paul II to Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in 1986  continue to haunt the Australian Church

You are part of Australia and Australia is part of you. And the Church herself in Australia will not be fully the Church that Jesus wants her to be until you have made your contribution to her life and until that contribution has been joyfully received by others.

During this week you may like to take some time out for  a re-reading of the 2003 Social Justice Statement "A Generous Heart in the Love of Christ Challenging Racism in Australia Today" as well as the new statement from the Australian Catholic Bishops released for the 2011 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday.