Thursday, 30 April 2009

We give to You - downloadable

Patrick, a colleague of mine has helped to launch a new song - 'we give to you'  in aid of a CMS Project in Philippines - Jigsaw Ministries 

The Story Behind the Song: 
A little over a year ago a group of us decided to combine our love of music and our passion for mission and create a worship song. Stephen Sim from Singapore wrote the melody and the rest of us recorded our parts individually, just on our computers at home; then we mailed or emailed the tracks to each other and mixed them. We’re really happy with the result and we hope you will be, too.

For a small donation (£1 recommended) you can download the mp3 and score of “We Give to You.” All proceeds will go to Jigsaw Kids Ministries in the Philippines, which aims to share the love of Jesus with Manila’s thousands of homeless children.
Please send this link to your friends:
The more downloads (and donations) we get, the longer we can keep this worthwhile project going.


Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The Old German Shepherd and the Leopard

 The Old German Shepherd  
 and the Leopard 

A wealthy old gentleman decides to go on a hunting safari in Africa, taking his faithful, elderly German Shepherd along for the trip.

One day the old German Shepherd starts chasing rabbits and before long, discovers that he's lost. Wandering about, he notices a leopard heading rapidly in his direction with the intention of having lunch.

The old German Shepherd thinks, 'Oh, oh! I'm in a mess now!' Noticing some bones on the ground close by, he immediately settles down to chew on the bones with his back to the approaching cat. Just as the leopard is about to leap, the old German Shepherd exclaims loudly, 'Boy, that was one delicious leopard! I wonder, if there are any more around here?'

Hearing this, the young leopard halts his attack in mid-strike, a look of terror comes over him and he slinks away into the trees. 'Whew!' says the leopard, 'That was close! That old German Shepherd nearly had me!

Meanwhile, a monkey who had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree, figures he can put this knowledge to good use and trade it for protection from the leopard. So, off he goes, but the old German Shepherd sees him heading after the leopard with great speed, and figures that something must be up.

The monkey soon catches up with the leopard, spills the beans and strikes a deal for himself with the leopard.

The young leopard is furious at being made a fool of and says, 'Here, monkey, hop on my back and see what's going to happen to that conniving canine!

Now, the old German Shepherd sees the leopard coming with the monkey on his back and thinks, 'What am I going to do now?', but instead of running, the dog sits down with his back to his attackers, pretending he hasn't seen them yet, and just when they get close enough to hear, the old German Shepherd says...

'Where's that monkey? I sent him off an hour ago to bring me another leopard!

Moral of this story...

Don't mess with the old dogs... age and skill will always overcome youth and treachery! Brilliance only comes with age and experience

Monday, 27 April 2009

A mission giant - Dr Pat Nickson OBE

Rev Dr Patricia Nickson, long time CMS mission partner, died peacefully yesterday (, Sunday 26 April). She had suffered from abdominal cancer for nearly two years. Her health took a downward turn last Wednesday and she was transferred from hospital to a local hospice the following day. On Saturday, in a simple ceremony, she received a final anointing, heard a reading from Bishop Tom Wright’s book Surprised by Hope (which she greatly treasured) and her vicar prayed the Nunc Dimittis. Later various friends called to say their farewells. She is survived by a brother and a sister.

Pat Nickson, 62, was one of the mission giants of her generation. She worked in Northern Australia, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Congo and became a world authority in her field, working closely with the WHO, the World Council of Churches and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (where she had a faculty position). She was a leading trainer of indigenous healthcare workers, became a leading authority utilizing the healing properties of local herbs and how ‘well-ness’ is understood in different cultures (which involved rich dialogue with local healers). She was awarded the OBE for her work. Quite recently she was ordained to the Anglican ministry.

Pat’s funeral will be held at St Mary’s Upton at 11.00am on 5 May. CMS will be represented. The vicar the Rev Graeme Skinner is preparing a book of condolences. Anyone may contribute, email Also, if anyone has stories of Pat and how she influenced their lives, Graeme Skinner would be glad to receive it via email.

May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

John Martin, CMS Head of Communications 

There are more details on the CMS website  including links to other webarchive materials on her ministry including a nice article on Dr Pat going clubbin

I personally remember Dr Pat Nickson's keen interest in Afghanistan where she had served as a community health practitioner. She was always keen to be updated on developments. She was a person with a very wide grasp of global affairs haveing lived and served in DR Congo,   Bangladesh,  Afghanistan - some of the world's real troublespots. A great lady with a  great spirit. 

Monday, 20 April 2009

I Dreamed a Dream

I was one of the 25 million people who have watched Scottish  Susan Boyle, 47, Unemployed on YouTube as she sang on Britain’s Got talent. A heartwarming story of an 'ugly duckling turning into a beautiful Swan'. A transforming voice proceeding, from what can only be described as ordinariness.   She sang 'I dreamed a dream' from Les Miserables.  

I dreamed a dream in time gone by,
When hope was high and life, worth living.
I dreamed that love would never die,
I dreamed that God would be forgiving.

I even mentioned it in my sermon on Sunday morning, as an illustration of a sort of resurrection.  How hope inspires.  How seeing is believing. 

It reminded me and probably most of the other people watching (!)  of , Paul Potts, the carphone warehouse salesman from Wales who wanted to sing opera.  He has been Susan Boyles inspiration. I remember watching that video so many times -   Paul Potts sings Nessun Dorma high quality video/sound widescreen 16:   He reached some 60 million YouTube viewings, but it took him  a little longer. Now the whole process seems to speed up and fame can be so instant.  

I just hope that such showbiz 'life' does not kill the dream.  

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living,
So different now from what it seemed...
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed...

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Walking in the Air

We have just had a week in the Lakes based at Corner Cottage,  High Street Keswick (near the Pencil factory and museum) walking with Wainwrght, accompanied by my old guides mostly purchased in 1977. And ordinance survey maps of the same era. 

Day 1 Easter Sunday
One group went to the Sunrise Service and then for a walk around Derwent Water Lake starting at Grange.  

I went to the communion Service at Crosthwaite Parsih Church then joined the group ascending Skiddaw starting at Ravenstone Hotel Baseenthwaite.  Walking along Ling How - Ullock Pike - Longside edge - Carl Side - Allerdale Ramble to the top of Skiddaw and a scramble down Birkbeth Gill across Bassenwhaite Common eventally back to the hotel.

Views of Melvyn Bragg’s favourite church St Bega's  overlooking Bassenthwaite Lake

Wainwight's impression of Skiddaw: 
Silence Solitude and seclusion characterise the unfrequented valley of Birkbeckdale, which runs deep under the steepest slope of Skiddaw and reveals an aspect of the mountain not often seen.
Ask any Barkbeth sheep what the northwaest ridge of Skiddaw is like and it will reply without hesitation ‘c’est magnifique’ (if it is French, which is unlikely) – which just shows how tastes differ for most walkers less easily satisfied will consider it disappointing. ..

I felt it quite a challenge on the first day - a slog bt then iw as very much out of condition and got bad cramp going on the final stretch up to Skiddaw itself. And the Scree-walking down got to different muscles.

Day 2 Bank Holiday Monday Keswick
My sister Liz and Stew came over on their motorbike from Richmond came over and we went for a short walk Friar’s Cragg with the Ruskin’s Monument and along Strandshag bay. 

This was an opportunity for Jess to recover from her strenuous walk of the previous day. There were quite a number of tourists, including Pakistani families (first time I have seen in Lakes) 
Stew made Joanna’s day by offering her a ride on the back of the motorbike.

Day 3 Tuesday 
as walk as group from Elterwater to Skelwith Bridge and the slate shop now a trendy tourist spot. Mike (who I used to share a flat with)  joined us for the day. 

This was a low level walk,  with views of Loughrigg and the Langdales and Lingmore fell all of which we have done in the past. This was a  'Low Bob' walk (Bob Allen: On Lowere Lakeland Fells)  It finished for me with a great couple of pints of Conniston Ale at the end of the walk in Elterwater village itself.  
Dropped into Grasmere and looked around the gallery bookshops and St Olswold’s church where Wordsworth’s grave is and a fascinating money spinney steps in the Daffodil garden for about £150 each - very lucrative,  The famous Ginger bread shop was the school house, where Wordsworth aslo taught. 

Day 4 Wednesday Helm Cragg from Grasmere ' 

The virtues of Helm crag have not been lauded enough. It gives an exhilarating little climb, a brief essay in real mountaineering, and , in a region where all is beautiful, it makes a notable contribution to the natural charms and attractions of  Grasmere.’

And I must say I really enjoy the 'The Lion and Lamb' and its almost universally known. It's a great little mountain. As for descent, Jess and I chose to take Wainwright's advice and come down by the same route as the ascent from Grasmere:
‘for then the Vale of Grasmere will be directly in view ahead and this fair scene is at its best when the shadows of evening are lengthening, with the Langdales silhouetted in rugged outline against the sunset, Tarry log over the exquisite picture of serenity and peace and memorise it for the long winter of exile!’

Day 5 Thursday High Rigg

This isolated wedge is High Rigg (locally known as Naddle Fell) It is rough and craggy although modest elevation only. Northwards the ridge falls to a pass where there is a Church so sited to serve both valleys equally (and an object of pilgrimage for many visitors to Keswick)...   The full traverse of the ridge, starting up the wooded slope from Smaithwaite Bridge snf continuing over High Rigg and Low Rigg …. Is a splendid little expedition admirably suited to old and rickety fellwalkers long past their best. The journey should be made form south to north so that the fine views of Blencathra is in front.

We three 'old and rickety walkers' came back along St John in the Vale.  Past the  Carlisle Diocesan Youth centre and Church , finishing with the tea shop near John's (a friend) Viking Burial Mound. and later made a pleasant detour to  Castlerigg Standing circle. It was  very blowy on top of the Crag and we felt somewhat exposed. But great for blowing out the cobwebs.


Day 5 Friday Patterdale From Patterdale and Hartsop to Haysewater and Angle Tarn

'A very enjoyable walk, with a series of varied and beautiful views; and the tracking of the indistinct path, which has many unexpected turns and twists, is interesting throughout’

However the ascent from Hayeswater AW describes –
‘ but they will not enjoy the climb which is steep, dull, and overburdened with scree

I couldn't agree more! A.W. describes High Street as having been: 
‘known and trodden, down through the ages, by a miscellany of travellers on an odd variety of missions: by marching soldiers, marauding brigands, carousing shepherds, officials of the Governments, and now by modern hikers. Its summit has been in turn a highway and a sports arena and a racecourse, as wella s it is today, a grazing ground for sheep.

He says its not worth going if you lack imagination. In the end we did not go up High Street,not becaus eof lack of imagination,   but because of time.  We did however enjoy the highlight of the whole week, sitting by Angle Tarn watching the pattern of the wind on the waters. A reminder that the spirit blows where he wills……

Friday, 10 April 2009

Stations of the Cross: Good Friday meditation

As part of sacred:space we had a 3 hour mediatation on the stations of the cross using images by Linda Roberts (c) 2007.  Here are a few of them - on that long Journey from Gethsemane to Golgotha. Theseare besed on the Scriptural  Stations of the Cross which John Paul  II used on Good Friday 1991. There is a book available on Amazon - although I have not used it. But we did use the Scriptural references.   

Second Station:  
Jesus, betrayed by Judas is arrested 
Mark 14: 43-46

Fourth Station: 
Jesus is denied by Peter
Matthew 26: 69-75 

Seventh Station: 
Jesus bears the cross
John 19:6, 15-17 

Ninth Station
Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem   
Luke 23:27-31

Tenth Station:
Jesus is Crucified
Luke 23:33-34

Eleventh Station
Jesus promises His Kingdom to the good thief
Luke 23:39-43

Twelfth Station:
Jesus speaks to his mother and the disciple
John 19:25-27

I also noted an excellent series of images on the BBC website of Good Friday around the world 

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Conflict Transformation in Nepal

See full size image

I received an update  from Stephen from India, doing reconcilliation work in remote parts of Nepal.  There is a fuller article on his work on the CMS website 

Over the past months we have been working with our selected partner – Rural
Community Development Centre ( RCDC) , a small NGO which is based in a remote part of the district in far west Nepal where I work , which has been greatly affected by the decade long armed conflict between Army and Maoist insurgents . We are now done with organisation assessment and are moving on to capacity building in community peace building and trauma counselling to address the urgent needs in the area. This is going to require frequent visits over the next few months to the villages which are their work area and which lie two days walk away from the nearest vehicle accessible road. In late May , of everything goes as planned , we hope to develop a three year program concentrating on Conflict Transformation capacity building and income generating projects for people affected by conflict . Do continue to pray for strength and wisdom for this.

Pray also for the developing situation in Nepal. Though post civil war there has been uneasy peace in the country, things are changing now. Ethnic tensions are rising and there are increasing cases of related violence, demonstrations and blockade of roads. The communist lead coalition government seems unable to control the situation and there are now rival fractions within the Maoist party. Both the Nepal army and the Maoist people's army have started recruitment again. The country also faces an acute shortage of electricity and essential commodities which is raising animosity among the people.

I thank the Lord for all this blessings. It would have been difficult to pull through the past year without the support and fellowship of the UMN team here. Their friendship, care and concern made adjusting up here a lot easier. The people in the community have been equally great. Their initial curiosity has died down; I no longer get startled by faces peering in through the only window into my room. Now, they barge in without knocking or notice to chat or just to say hello. Privacy is just a memory. There are times when it all gets a bit irritating but then there are times, like recently when I had a bad case of food poisoning when I am humbled and moved by their genuine love and concern. I think a sense of humour; flexibility; lack of preconceived notions ;and the openness to go with the flow make all the difference in adjusting and eventually serving effectively or being miserable, giving up and going home – thoughts I admit I harboured during my first two months here.

I really liked his description of rural life - 'faces peering in windows'. 'Privacy is a memory' To fit in another culture means bridges need to be crossed. and some can feel quite precarious.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

'By Law women must preen for men' Times Online


By law - women must preen for men

In male-dominated Afghanistan, women are treated like chattel. What's changed since the Taleban?

FREEDOM OF RELIGION ? Afghan Constitution

I was asked to write some advice about the Afghan Constitution - I love the Cox & Forkum Cartoon  It seems to sum up so much

The initial three articles of the Constitution of Afghanistan mandate:• Afghanistan shall be an Islamic Republic, independent, unitary, and indivisible state.
• The sacred religion of Islam shall be the religion of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Followers of other faiths shall be free within the bounds of law in the exercise and performance of their religious rights.
• No law shall contravene the tenets and provisions of the holy religion of Islam in Afghanistan.

The legal system is based on Shariah Law and religious minorities are granted right to perform their religious duties within the bounds of that Shariah Law. The constitution declares Afghanistan an "Islamic Republic". It also contains a section enforcing one particular school of Islamic law on disputes that cannot be resolved under existing laws. The constitution names "the sacred religion of Islam" as the official religion of the republic. Whilst "followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of law," it goes on to say that "no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam”

This has been interpreted to mean peoples of other faiths (who were born into that faith: Sikhs, Hindus, even Jews) and quite possibly be ‘restricted’ to expatriates. It may not be interpreted as applying to ‘converts.’

A ‘convert’, from Islam to the Christian faith, in ordinary Afghan Muslim eyes, is an ‘apostate’ who deserves ‘death’. He is unlikely to find much protection under a changing and still embryonic law, (any convert has already been ‘sentenced to death’ by virtue of his baptism) and this new constitution has not yet been tested. And it is likely that a relative could easily take the law into his own hands. This would be his duty under tribal law (Puktoonwali), which is, in their eyes, a deeper law than any constitution. As an Afghan Pushtu proverb says: ‘Revenge is a dish best served cold.’

(1) Abdul Rehman: a convert to Christianity 

In March 2006 Abdul Rehman faced the death sentence for converting to Christianity and in the face of international pressure he was declared insane and is now in asylumPerhaps most troubling is Article 130, which states that if neither the constitution nor existing laws can be used in a particular case, courts should apply Hanafi jurisprudence, one of the four schools within Sunni Islam. The constitution is quiet on issues such as blasphemy or religious conversion, and as Zalmai discovered, Afghan courts often interpret Islamic law in the strictest sense when left to navigate the void.
In 2006, Abdul Rahman was also left to the mercy of harsh Islamic law.

Born a Muslim, Rahman converted to Christianity in 1990. When authorities found him with a Bible, they arrested and charged him with apostasy. According to the prosecutor in the case, Rahman was "a microbe [who] should be cut off and removed from the rest of Muslim society and should be killed." As he faced the death penalty, an international outcry brought about his release. Even so, his life remained in danger, and Rahman won asylum in Italy.

(2) Two Muslim clerics facing execution for translating the Koran into Dari
On February 15, Zalmai and his cleric friend were due to hear their fate in an appeals court. Though they barely escaped the death penalty, the three-judge panel upheld a lower court sentence of 20 years in prison for each man. When reading out the sentence, the chief judge reiterated that under Islamic Shariah law, "He who commits such an act is an infidel and should be killed."    23-2-09 Afghanistan's Constitution Creates Death Penalties for Religious Freedom Priya Abraham February 23rd 2009.

(3) Expatiate Church in Kabul

‘Although there are no overt churches, expatriate Christians are reportedly able to meet for private worship services in Kabul and one or two other major urban centers. However, some religious advocacy organizations are reporting instances of societal intolerance of and violence against persons who have converted to Christianity.
There is a catholic mass held in the Italian Embassy in Kabul as these Christmas eve pictures show


In conclusion I offer a few comments. Afghanistan is generally deteriorating security-wise, with increased Talibanisation, escalating conflict and uncertainty. Until the election, due to take place on 20th August, things will remain very unpredictable. The U.S. Religious Freedom Commission has also placed Afghanistan on a 'Watch List’

Friday, 3 April 2009

Shariat Law in the Swat valley

A video is circualting in Pakistan like wildfire about an ugly incident in the beautiful SWAT valley. Aamir in Pakistan who sent me a link writes:
This what Swat valley has been turned into after 'holy justice' got introduced to the once peaceful tourist resort in the heart of Pashtun land. Public bashing, humiliation, illegal detention, and deaths are a daily routine.

There is more coverage on BBC News   and Video link.  And you can also see the video on YouTube   (Please note it is disturbing)

Stephen in Dehli also sent an email about the response in India: 
India's Muslims denounce Taliban whipping of girl as un-Islamic

Sat, Apr 4 02:23 PM   New Delhi, April 4 (IANS)
After video clips of a 17-year-old girl being flogged in public by Taliban fighters in Pakistan's Swat valley were shown on TV, India's Islamic scholars denounced it as 'un-Islamic' and 'satanic' and condemned it as 'gross violation' of Quranic codes.

Renowned Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan spoke out strongly against the incident and added that if anything, the act was absolutely 'un-Islamic - even satanic'.

'This kind of treatment is neither Islamic nor human. In fact, not only is it un-Islamic and inhuman, but also satanic,' Khan, who has authored over 200 books on Islam, told IANS.

'The first thing that should be done is to educate people, develop ethical values, sensitivity towards women and treat them equally. Society can be reformed through education - punishment (of the perpetrators) can never be the starting point for any kind of reform or change,' he added.

Similarly, Mushirul Hasan, vice chancellor of the Jamia Millia Islamia university, condemned the incident saying that it was a wrong portrayal of Islam, which preaches exactly opposite of what the Taliban were seen doing to the hapless young girl.

'I am horrified. This (incident) is a gross violation of Islamic and Quranic injunctions which teaches humanity, love, peace and magnanimity,' Hasan told IANS.

The dangers of imposing Sharia laws in Pakistan's restive Swat Valley were brought into sharp focus Friday with the airing of a two-minute video showing a 17-year-old screaming, burqa-clad girl being whipped by Taliban fighters for coming 'out of her house with another man who was not her husband'.

The grainy video, shot on a mobile phone, showed the girl face down on the ground. Two men held her arms and feet while a third, a black-turbaned man with a flowing beard, whipped her repeatedly.

Salima Khan, a student doing her PhD in Delhi University, said that she literally boiled in anger after seeing the video clip on YouTube, the popular video sharing website and then again on TV.

'I can't believe how anybody can humiliate and beat up an innocent young girl in the name of religion. And what was her fault - that she was seen with a man who was not her husband! Who in their right state of mind would ever dare to do such a dastardly act?

'Such acts just show how Islam has been grossly misinterpreted by a handful of people who are using it as a tool to serve their own cause,' Salima said angrily.

On YouTube, the video received thousands of hits overnight and a barrage of comments.

One of the comments read: 'These people (Taliban) should be given a taste of their own medicine. They should be whipped in public for maligning the name of Islam and inflicting torture on poor, helpless women'.

Another comment from an Indian woman read: 'Thank God I was born in India and not there (Swat valley). There they treat women like animals - no, even worse. To live a life like that seems like sheer hell.'

What is obvious is that this video is getting wide circuation around the world and is caausing quite a response among Muslims in the sub-continent. It is whipping up interest to say the least.