Boinkie's Blog

Universalis

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How does one forgive the unforgivable?

On Mary TV they have a video of a survivor of the Ruwandan holocaust.

as it communicates to our video archive.

wm Windows Media - High Bandwidth
http://godsdelight.org/archive/media/immaculee.wmv

qt QuickTime .mp4 - Download 345MB ( video iPod / iPhone )
http://godsdelight.org/archive/media/immaculee.mp4


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Friday, March 21, 2008

Iranian stuff

I like Iranians, probably because when I went through medical school and residency, we had lots of Iranians who had fled the shah or who couldn't get jobs there (because you needed "friends" or relatives to get decent medical jobs).

Last week's Glenn and Helen show, James Dunnigan mentioned about how the Iranian Mullahs were hated for their corruption by the students and middle class...and he quipped that the mullahs are even trying to stop the fire festival...and that a thousand years ago (?) the entire population up and converted from Zorastrianism to Islam because they rejected the corrupt government and the fact that Zorastrianism was deeply connected with the government back then. He then quipped maybe the same thing would happen: with the entire population up and deciding to be Christian.

So today, Gates of Vienna blog has a link to this article, discussing that they need to change the law to impose the death penalty on those who leave Islam.


The new legislation, which has caused concern in Iran and abroad, was proposed mainly because of fears of proselytising activities by Evangelical churches particularly through the use of satellite channels.

There has also been concern over fact that many young people in Iran have abandoned Islam because they're tired of the many restrictions imposed by the faith.

According to unofficial sources, in the past five years, one million Iranians, particularly young people and women, have abandoned Islam and joined Evangelical churches.

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And they also have a link about the Fire Festival that dates back to 500 bc and celebrates the start of Spring.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Holy week in the Philippines

The chanting of the Passion started. It is being sung in small church chapels set up in front of houses, but we went to our local chapel last night.

Lolo had offered some money for food for the singers, and to pay for last night's feast. We went there to eat (fish and chicken soup with rice) and then we prayed a bit and left.

Later in the evening, the procession of the statues went by. It was probably those from this parish since we spotted Helen among the procession.

The procession was people with candles and floats of statues of Holy week: The Last supper, Christ with the woman at the well, some of the stations of the cross, and statues of the women who were beneath the cross.

All the statues were dressed in brocade etc. and life size.

No crucifixions in our area: This does occur in Pampanga, in some of the poorer isolated villages, to the annoyance of the church who frowns on it, but doesn't want to stop what for some is a deep devotion. The health department mainly warns of the danger, and advises the nails be sterilized and that the flaggelants get tetanus shots.

Religions just can't stop folk customs: better to allow them and try to hope they get less radical.

For example, in Iran, they are celebrating the fire festival...that predates Islam...the mullahs try to stop it but can't...and it is being used as a protest against some of the more stupid rules of the theocracy there.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Judas: It's the kickbacks, stupid

Ah, the BBC is rewriting Christianity again, making Judas a good guy so we can "understand" him.

Frank Deasy...(said) “I've always had a problem with Judas in 'Passion' stories in that he suddenly and inexplicably betrays Jesus," he said."I was keen to develop a psychological reality to Judas's portrayal."

Nigel Stafford-Clark, who produced the BBC1 series, said he wanted to put the characters' actions in context"so you can see it from their point of view and realise that what they did felt legitimate".

Yup. So their context is very British: and the story is that of the British Empire, with honest rulers and honest religious leaders who tried to keep the peace by removing rabble rousers.

Excuse me, but this "explanation", like most of the explanations just doesn't convince me.


Now, I have worked in Africa, where priests who preached equality and social justice were targeted. So I see Jesus as a revolutionary preaching social justice, and getting whacked by the establishment for his big mouth.

But if Jesus was a freedom fighter, why did Pilate hesitate to condemn him? I mean, Pilate was infamous for executing people and riding roughshod over the feelings of the Jewish people, but he went out of his way to get Jesus off.


Well, after living here in the Philippines, where bribery occurs "over the table, under the table, and with the table", could I suggest another scenario?

It wasn't religion, and it wasn't politics: It was simple corruption. StrategyPage explains how things have always been done in the Middle East:

Over two thousand years ago, Greek, and then Roman, conquers of the Middle East complained of the corruption endemic in the region, and how it even turned upright Greek or Roman officials into crooks and slackers. Much written discussion of these travails has survived.

Like a lot of stories, the obvious stuff that everyone knows is not written down. Judas is called a "thief" in the Gospel, and honest religious and historical commentators assumed that he merely diverted a percentage of the donations for private use (or that the writers of the Gospel were trying to blacken his reputation and the claim was a lie).


But put the story in one of today's corrupt societies, everyone would instantly know that this meant Judas did a lot of stuff, like asking a kickback from poor people if they wanted to get help from the charity funds, or maybe asking for a small "gift" from those coming to hear Jesus. Listeners wouldn't put it past him to have taken money from the priests or Roman authorities to do some spying...and when the time came, he could easily be blackmailed into helping them arrest Jesus.

No wonder the poor guy killed himself: He was a small fish who got in over his head and got eaten by the sharks. Making a little money on the side to spy is one thing: helping your friend get whacked by the first century equivalent of Tony Soprano is another thing altogether.

The clue in all of this is that Jesus threw the crooked traders out of the outer Temple court a couple days before he was arrested.

Why was Jesus so angry? Usually Jesus' approach to low level extortioners was to convert them (e.g. Zacchaeus, Matthew).

Small cheating and upping the price was probably normal business practice, so why the fuss?

But did those selling in the Temple area pay a nice fee to those who ran the temple? And did the vendors pay a percentage of the profits back to the bigshots?

Could the missing link not be a simple overpricing by Temple merchants, but an entire system of corruption, where bribery and kickbacks by those supposedly representing the Lord?

This explains why Pilate hesitated to execute Jesus: he knew that the trial was about something else: and not just religion. Was Pilate also bribed? That's iffy....but unless he were incompetent, he'd know what was going on, and figure that corrupt religious leaders were easier to control than honest ones, even if it did mean executing a few innocent whistle blowers.

So to find the explanation for Judas, just follow the money.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Murder in Mosol

I’ve been a bit upset about reports of a Chaldean Catholic Bishop who was kidnapped and murdered in Mosul, whose body was found a few days ago. You see, years ago, while working in Africa as a doc, several of my friends were killed, and so attacks against the innocent have a way of bringing back memories.

The fact that Al Qaeda goes out of it’s way to kill people whose only crime is not belonging to their narrow Sunni sect (including Christians and Shiite Muslims, who they consider heretics) should be a big news story. But Christians have been especially hit hard, as Nina Shea points out:

Forty churches have been bombed, mostly in Baghdad and Mosul. …The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reports that 40 percent of Iraqi refugees are Christian — a staggering number, considering that Christians accounted for only some 4 percent, or 1.5 million, of Iraq’s total pre-invasion population.

The religion angle of the violence should be a big story, especially with Easter so near, yet the WaPost/Newsweek religion forum is discussing a politician who has trouble keeping his pants on.

Get Religion blog points out the paucity of news stories about the killing of the archbishop, and wonders why.

The story in various papers was framed as either just one more episode of violence, or as a “he was a nice guy” obituary type report.

But there is a third way of reporting his death, which is that of a human being who was a martyr.

The ancient word “martyr” has bad connotations, but originally it means “witness”. And the Bishop, who stayed in a dangerous area to shepherd his flock, despite the dangers, made his decision to be a witness long before his kidnapping. How do I know this?

The NYTimes reported:

Gunmen sprayed his car with bullets, killed two bodyguards and shoved the archbishop into the trunk of a car, the church officials said. In the darkness, he managed to pull out his cellphone and call the church, telling officials not to pay a ransom for his release, they said.

“He believed that this money would not be paid for good works and would be used for killing and more evil actions,” the officials said.

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Pastors, doctors, and aid workers often face danger. Been there, done that…and I decided to leave when the danger outweighed the help I could do.

But long before the actual incident, the decision has to be made on how one plans to face violence: Do I stay? Do I go? Do I carry a gun? Do I defend myself? Do I defend my family? If my kidnappping will result in ransom for my safety that will fund murderers to kill others, will I go passively and cooperate, or will I refuse to trade my life for the lives of others?

When kidnappers abducted a Filipino priest, Father Roda, he resisted, for the same reason that Archbishop Rahho did: Because he would not have people be killed with the money that would be used to ransom him.

Those actions are not those of cowards, but the result of prayer and decisions made face the hauntings of the night, when you wonder: will I be strong? What should I do? Is it worth it? Is there a God? Does anyone really care?

Yes it is in the watches of the night, not the violence at noon, where the true courage is found. For Christians, it is the identification of the Agony of the Garden, where Christ faced a similar choice, that gives one hope.

And for Christians facing danger, sickness, hardship, and sacrifice during this last week of Lent, when a billion Catholic Christians celebrate the death of Christ, is it fitting that we remember Bishop Rahho in our prayers, as a witness to hope and peace.

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