Monday, 31 August 2009

Greenbelt 2 A Single Grain

Greenbelt 2009 MB 32946Greenbelt 2009 MB 32949Greenbelt 2009 JW 8003Greenbelt 2009 MB 32960Greenbelt 2009 JW 8136

The theme for the service on Sunday (maybe 10000 people – who’s counting?) was ‘Songs signs and stories from the Land long called Holy’ (this Year thank God it didn’t rain and we didn’t have to sing ‘here comes the sun’ like last year!)

This year we did not have communion (swine flu) and even shared a sign of peace in a WHO approved way by gently elbowing each other – ‘the elbow bump of peace’ they called it!

In the service we heard various voices: Sami Awad a Palestinian Christian, Reem Kelani a Palestinian Muslim, Jeff Halper an Israeli Jew all sharing their own story in the long now.

Using an Olive seed, we were encouraged to plant as a symbol of hope:

We thank you for the Olive seed with its promise of hope in the Long Now

For the olive Branch with its promise of peace and friendship

For Olive Oil to sustain us and anoint us as peacemakers

Take an Olive Seed

I went to listen to Padraig O Tauma (a Catholic thrologian and IKON poet) on the theology of the human an exploration of themes in John’s gospel

In the CMS tent Andrew Jones aka the tallskinnykiwi was sharing about his missional journey in a converted truck with his family around Europe - competing with Beer and Hymns form the Jesus Arms in the background He told lots of stories about people they met on the road (maybe subject of another blog later) He introduced a number of Poles form SLOT a Polish festival equivalent to Greenbelt

I liked the emphasis on mission as a family: ‘we have enough teachers in the church we need more parents – mothers and fathers, loving on people’ and the recognition that mission is shifting to the Global South that is touching Europe – bringing African new conservatism and lively colourful Brazilians . reaching the poor and disenfranchised.

Globalised, Politicised, Spiritualised… Radicalised? Welcome to Muslim 2.0

Abdul Rehman Malik a Canadian born Pakistani Peace activist from the Radical Middle Way a Muslim Youth movement He spoke eloquently and humorously on ‘Muslim 2.0 - Globalised politicised spiritualised …..Radicalised’

Describing the Ummah not as a threat but as ‘a globalised spiritual community’ and a call to a radical spirituality ‘gong back to roots, the essence of things, setting things aright, where compassion, generosity, justice flow from God’s mercy’

Maybe I went to too many talks and not enough music just some great singers in the performance café during lunch, one lively RAP group Jehaziel on main stage plus some acoustic singers in the late night ‘Just Peace vigil’

JahazielPerformance Cafe

Sunday, 30 August 2009

GREENBELT 1 'Standing in the Long Now'

Greenbelt Festival 2009Greenbelt Festival 2009Greenbelt Festival 2009Blue Nun wine bar in preparationGreenbelt 2009 ED 9381

'Standing in the Long Now' is the theme for this year. Maybe a description of the queues into some of the side shows Rob Bell from Mars Hill, The Big Top, Bp Gene Robinson, Main Stage. Too much choice.

Greenbelt is an open edgy space, a music and arts festival which is multi-faceted, kaleidoscopic, which is why I like it so much. Music, talks, discussions, comedy, drama, film, market place of stalls, food and drink, festival goers armed with camping chairs, families pushing baby-buggies, white-haired pensioners, green ecowarriors,, boppers, Goths…anything goes. A couple of years back a youth group from Hull joined us in the CMS camp and 2 rather heavy young lads spent the weekend dressed as pink fairies ! As I said anything goes……

As always CMS, a Greenbelt Partner, has a Tent presence, this year a bit smaller because of the credit crunch, but a very visible presence nonetheless. . They say small is beautiful but at a festival as varied as Greenbelt visibility and brand is everything. But we did put on 'Love and Joy Gospel Choir' who sang for 1000 in the Big Top. And 'World to Rights' are performing on Sunday

DfiD are hosting a Race against Global Poverty, Christian Aid tent has a unique, brilliant way of displaying statistics using rice – Rice Count - an enormous mountain representing people killed in the Congo and my favourite a sheet with a single grain labelled Condolesa Rice ! You can follow them on Twitter.

So far this year I’ve enjoyed a talk by Pete Rollins of IKON (author of ‘the orthodox heretic and other impossible tales’ Church Times and third way are offeirng a free copy with a year's subscription) speaking on ‘the birth of Christianity and the death of meaning’ - exploring Bonheoffer's 'religionless Christianity'

'church is a place where we hand in our own identity - a suspended space - where we participate in the kenosis of God - entering the Divine dereliction, identifying with Christ on the cross'

The Nut café and Performance Tent – sitting eating Chena Banana Masala and listening to live performance - Rhian Grundy. Never heard before which is one of the great things – new ideas people and connections.

Rhian Grundy

The Proost Lounge in the Hub hosted 3 artist. (You can pick up freebies on their website Proost) Harronell singing Archangel, Dubb with live beat box singing Rhythm and Poetry (RAP) – ‘I discovered Lego’ and Dubh (Ikon’s Jonny McEwen with Mac music ‘fractured broken and beautiful’

As an arts festival there is also Artwork – I enjoyed Dave Nevard – artist, activist and charity worker - You can see his work on Flickr

Dave Nevard

I finished off Sat night at ‘Transcendence: an ancient future mass’ led by York Minister with choir, robes, incense and Visions multimedia was beautifully inspirational. We cleaned our hands with gel -‘ who can ascend the hill of the Lord? He who has gelled hands and a pure heart!'

So as I was feeling particularly holy it was off for Pint of Redemption in the Jesus Arms’ ( They do a great beer and hymns) What you might call ‘thirsting after righteousness’

Ah Greenbelt ……

Thursday, 27 August 2009

'women who know their place' in Afghanistan

I received this as an email and thought it was worth passing on  

Barbara Walters, of 20/20, did a story on gender roles in Kabul, Afghanistan, several years before the Afghan conflict. She noted that women customarily walked five paces behind their husbands.
She recently returned to Kabul and observed that women still walk behind their husbands.
Despite the overthrow of the oppressive Taliban regime, the women now seem to, and are happy to, maintain the old custom.
Ms. Walters approached one of the Afghani women and asked, 'Why do you now seem happy with an old custom that you once tried so desperately to change?'
The woman looked Ms. Walters straight in the eyes, and without hesitation said, 'Land Mines'.
Moral of the story:
No matter what language you speak or where you go, BEHIND EVERY MAN THERE'S A SMART WOMAN!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Afghan Elections - voting Day 20th August

an Afghan election poster showing the incumbant President Moh. Karzai

An Afghan  friend of mine living in Kabul wrote a couple of emails at the beginning of August
"We are here in dustful, Kabul with plenty of war news. No peace talks, just confusion (anomia), every second hour at least, you hear about an incidence, murder, killing, what not and what not. Sometimes they say about peace, next time they say war. For talks very difficult conditions from both sides. One says, foreign troops should withdraw and then we will sit to talks, another says the they should split with them first and then we can talk, so much confusion. Once upon a time, a son told his mother, "I am going to take you to the market and sell you". The mother cried and said, " But I am your mother, why do you sell me?" Then, son said, "Ok, don't worry, I will put a price on you, which nobody will be able to afford buying you." This is the situation. The price of peace is so expensive, which even the superpowers can not afford to buy it"
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'At present, the names of 38 candidates are still in the list. Nine of them are rather active, that is they hold and participate in meetings, interviews and roundtables, travel to provinces and explain their programs and strategies. The activities of the remaining candidates are not so visible and are less active. There are claims that a number of the candidates have received foreign aid and spend money in abundance

For the protection of Ballot Boxes, some people estimates up to 300,000 police and security forces would be required to maintain security. The government says that currently around 160 districts have no reliable security and 10 districts are completely out of control. In Kabul too, people do not seem very much interested.

Some politicians say that the people as well as the International community should play a role in this election. After the Bonn Conference, the Bush administration has perpetrated so many mistakes. The special envoy of Obama is also working on the wrong foundation and it is hoped that he will soon understand that if the people want election or not. They should have done a survey before to find out about the people's interest. People say election is the interest of foreigners but the people need security and economic prosperity and that they spend $260 million on this election is mere waste of money. So the interests and demands of people contradict with those of the foreigners. On the one hand, the Taliban has also forewarned that they will cut the fingers of those who cast vote in the box as election is against Islam. 

While on the other the international community wants something to be done and transparent election are not possible even in the USA. But lack of security can not justify that Taliban are so strong, lack of attention of security forces is also a challenge….'

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I suppose at the end of the day its all about SECURITY ... The people of Afghanistan need a stable peace. Maybe this is the opportuniy to find one.  But it swill take years to build   Tomorrow we'll see which way the camels sits ..... 


the people of Taiwan on the move - Typhoon Morakot

We hear from Catherine who works in Taiwan (I visited last year) about the devastating effect of the recent Typhoon Morakot: 

As the disaster unfolds, it is clear that many lives have been lost, homes and buildings buried, crops and livelihoods destroyed.  Communications have been severely disrupted and many mountain villages even now remain inaccessible.   People are very angry over the government’s slow response and the excuses made by government officials trying to justify their incompetence and arrogance.  However, rather than resorting to protests and vandalism to vent their anger, rather the people of Taiwan are instead standing up and volunteering to go to the affected areas themselves and help.  By car, by train, by bus and bicycle, the people of Taiwan are on the move.  All are heading south to volunteer in the relief effort, wellington boots on their feet and shovels in their hands.  Homes and schools inundated by thick layers of mud are now being cleared by students on their summer holidays, by older people newly retired, by church congregations, by groups of neighbours who have come together to help others


All disasters have a certain amount of chaos in the relief effort and this one is no exception.  Where to go, how to help, what to take, where to stay, who to consult?  The best place is one particular website set up ‘because we are fed up with the government, and if we wait for them to act, we’ll be waiting for ever.’ It makes fascinating reading.  Offers from people in the north to dig, to translate, to cook, to entertain children, to help in any way ~ are matched by organizations in the south looking for volunteers, by local people who offer a bed for the night, by recommendations and suggestions. The attraction of going south to volunteer is greatly added to by the free High-Speed Rail tickets available to all volunteer organizations. It cuts hours off the journey and oh, it is so much more comfortable!


Now, the Bishop of Taiwan, the Rt. Rev. David J. H. Lai is encouraging all the churches in the diocese to send teams of volunteers to help.  Unexpectedly I found that this past weekend I was suddenly going to be free.  I felt moved to offer my services and after a whole day of chaos and wondering whether I would be able to go at all, it suddenly all came together at the last minute and I went off down to south central Taiwan on the High-Speed Rail taking a student with me.  We ended up in Chia-Yi, staying at St. Peter’s Church, joining a group of students from St John’s University and a few other hangers on.  A great group to be with! 


There followed a weekend in the Chia-Yi County Tax Building.  Yes the very same place where everyone goes to pay their taxes, and no I am not joking, we really did spend virtually the whole weekend there.  And as it was a Saturday the air-conditioning was off, so it was sweltering hot.  There in the midst of all those Tax offices is the Chia-Yi County Red Cross, and what a marvelous organization it turned out to be.  By the end of the weekend we had moved almost 4,000 boxes of all shapes and sizes sent by the general public (free postage) as donations to the relief effort.  The Post Office vans spent all day driving back and forth delivering boxes to us, and we spent all weekend moving them up to the third floor, recording the sender’s details, checking the contents and sorting them all out.  Boxes of clothes, baby items, cans of food, milk powder, rice, instant noodles, candles, water bottles, toothpaste, you name it, it was there.  We worked in pairs, one recording, the other slashing open the box and sorting the contents. Have knife will cut, that was my role!



On Sunday, yesterday, 2 of us went with the Red Cross up into the mountains to deliver some of the goods.  Chia-Yi County stretches from the coast, where the Tax Building, County Hall etc are located, right up into the central mountain range as far up as the top of Taiwan’s highest mountain, Yu-Shan. We drove for well over 2 hours.  Helicopters were constantly flying overhead carrying supplies.  As we went up, so the road worsened, in many places only cleared enough for single file traffic. We took mainly plastic containers for petrol, instant noodles, cans of food, and candles.  When we reached Da-Pu Village, up beyond Tzeng-Wen Reservoir, we could go no further.  Up and beyond, the road was impassable except by jeep, and even then everything would have to be carried by hand for more several hours up to the mountain villages.

Beyond Da-Pu the people are from the Tsou tribe of indigenous people.  Many of the people severely affected by this typhoon are indigenous people, and most are Christians.  Many have shared their testimonies in front of news cameras on TV in the last few days, and can testify to God’s amazing grace in the face of Taiwan’s worst typhoon in 50 years.  They mostly belong to Presbyterian and Roman Catholic Churches, and there must have been severe damage to many church buildings and communities.  Restoration and repair will take months and even years. 



Friday, 14 August 2009

'Yom-e-Azadi' - Pakistan's Independence Day

Azadi - independence - is not a destination, it is a journey. It is not something that we ‘achieved’ on August 14, 1947. It is something that we must earn, and preserve, every day.

On this particular Yom e Azadi, there can be no better reminder of just what the continuing journey that is Azadi really mean than the daily struggles of internally displaced Pakistanis (IDPs). Those who remain homeless in their own homeland.

from Pakistaniat ('All things Pakistani') article  'Azadi: Its a journey not a destination'


Its also an opportunity to think about Gojra and the recent killings there 

Christians were killed in Gojra on 1st August as a result of riots following a wedding in Koriyan (30 July)  where confetti was thrown over the newly married couple.   Local muslims allege that the confetti was made from a shredded Koran.  

The following day a mob (of c 800) went on the rampage  torching houses.   Initially it was reported that 7 had died and at least 20 were injured   (see Barnabas Fund report

Last week at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church Gojra  the funeral was held for the 7 catholic victims (all from the one 'Hamid' family). An addition 3 members of the Church of Pakistan were also killed 


A Christian couple sit in front of their home in Gojra, destroyed in the anti-Christian violence


Mohammad Ali Jinnah, 'Quaid-e-Azam',  the Father of the Nation, famously said :

'Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy. It has taught equality of man, justice and fairplay to everybody. We are the inheritors of these glorious traditions and are fully alive to our responsibilities and obligations as framers of the future constitution of Pakistan. In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims --Hindus, Christians, and Parsis --but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.'   
Broadcast talk to the people of the United States of America on Pakistan recorded February, 1948.


Happy Independence Day to ALL the citizen's of Pakistan - of whatever of faith - Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Sikhs, Parsees   and from whichever 'tribe' of Pakistan  -  Punjabi, Pushtoon, Sindhi, Balouch, Mohajar.