Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Confuse, Confound, Devastate and Dissipate ISIS

When I was a kid, I did not like reading the Old Testament, all those old-timey people, and it all seemed very confusing to me. As I grew older, I find I like the Old Testament part of our readings very much, the people come alive in all their faults and bad decisions, and God’s mercy shines through as we continue to rebel against him and follow too much our own devices and desires of our hearts.

I love Genesis 11, where mankind, in all our pride, decides to build a tower, and it must have been pretty good because it got God’s attention and he didn’t like it. He didn’t like it so much that he created confusion among all the languages spoken, but I bet it was also confusion and dissension among the decision makers, too, to scatter the mighty population.

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As the wandering descendants of Abraham began to settle, they often went up against armies and peoples much larger than they were, and God always told them not to worry, he would confuse the armies. He put fear in their hearts, in the confusion, mighty armies collapsed and scattered.

And why am I bringing this up, you might wonder?

This ISIS Army, it seems to me, is already cobbled together. I hear people people talking, people who know, they say ISIS is smart, fights smart. I believe they have some smart leaders, but I am willing to bet that they have some fatal flaws, also. They have overstretched. They are trying to enforce their will by violence and killing off the opposition, which might encourage the appearance of cooperation, but in reality breeds legions of those who will turn on them in a heartbeat.

Yes, we mistakenly dropped weapons which they were able to access. Mistakes happen in war zones all the time, with modern communication we just hear about it a lot sooner, not like 40 years from now when it is declassified and someone writes a book about it. Frankly, it’s not that big a deal.

What I believe is a big deal is their lack of cohesion. Lacking any strategic direct line to important decision makers, I am praying, and what I am praying is this, words from Psalms:

Confuse, O Lord, confound their speech

Disintegrate ISIS from the inside.

Create, Great and Merciful Father, miscommunications, misunderstandings, competing agendas and internal strife among the ISIS force.

All Mighty, All Powerful God, create a massive collapse, let their foot-soldiers drift away, drift home to their mothers and fathers and their families, and leave the Iraqi villages and the Syrian villages in peace.

Dry up the wealth of the Gulf, funneled through corrupt money changers in Kuwait, let it be mishandled, go missing, be stolen, be diverted and find its way to true charitable organizations providing a means of survival to those thousands of refugees who have been displaced.

Oh God! Collapse this abomination, the Islamic State of the Levant and Syria, collapse it utterly from within, strip it of all its power, devastate it like a virulent plague from within!

Oh God, bring good out of this downfall. Teach the remnants who return to their homes to live together in peace, to form peaceful and stable communities and then nations whose lives honor you!

All this is possible for the God who can do all things. Confound their speech, Lord, confuse them utterly, devastate and collapse them utterly from within. You are the one true God, there is no other God.

We are not without resources. We have the mighty fist of prayer.

November 2, 2014 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Charity, Civility, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Doha, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Spiritual, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Devastating Power of Slander

Again, from the Lectionary readings for today, the devastation of gossip and slander, particularly appropriate during this season of vitriolic campaign ads, each more disgusting than the next:

Sirach 28:14-26

14 Slander* has shaken many,
and scattered them from nation to nation;
it has destroyed strong cities,
and overturned the houses of the great.
15 Slander* has driven virtuous women from their homes,
and deprived them of the fruit of their toil.
16 Those who pay heed to slander* will not find rest,
nor will they settle down in peace.
17 The blow of a whip raises a welt,
but a blow of the tongue crushes the bones.
18 Many have fallen by the edge of the sword,
but not as many as have fallen because of the tongue.
19 Happy is one who is protected from it,
who has not been exposed to its anger,
who has not borne its yoke,
and has not been bound with its fetters.
20 For its yoke is a yoke of iron,
and its fetters are fetters of bronze;
21 its death is an evil death,
and Hades is preferable to it.
22 It has no power over the godly;
they will not be burned in its flame.
23 Those who forsake the Lord will fall into its power;
it will burn among them and will not be put out.
It will be sent out against them like a lion;
like a leopard it will mangle them.
24a As you fence in your property with thorns,
25b so make a door and a bolt for your mouth.
24b As you lock up your silver and gold,
25a so make balances and scales for your words.
26 Take care not to err with your tongue,*
and fall victim to one lying in wait.

October 29, 2014 Posted by | Character, Charity, Civility, Communication, Community, Interconnected, Quality of Life Issues, Values, Words | 2 Comments

Bringing Great Good from the Evil of 9/11

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A reading from today’s Forward Day by Day helps us to cope with the resonating horrors of that monstrous day. We are living in a world where we are more and more inextricably interconnected. Where I am living, I often hear people talk about how “Moslems are killing Christians all over the world!” and my heart breaks, thinking of the wonderful friends I have lived among is so many Moslem countries, their kindness, their hospitality, our long pleasant conversations. I learned so much.

I am glad we believe in a God who knows our hearts. I am thankful for grace, and forgiveness. When we talk about killing, we also need to take account for all the civilians we have killed, trying to bring about peace, trying to eradicate Al Qaeda, Al Shebaab, those who would harm us.

God asks us to love one another. He doesn’t say “Christians, you love just the Christians.” He shows us how to love the Samaritans, the lame, the blind, the mentally ill, the “other”. He tells us, clearly, to love our enemies. The Gospel that speaks the loudest is the gospel of our lives lived to honor him.

THURSDAY, September 11

Acts 15:8-9 [Peter said], “And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them…and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us.”

Thirteen years ago, this day became one of those days that divide time into what life was like before, and after; one of those days when you will remember, always, where you were, what you were doing—this time when you heard the news that airplanes had crashed into the World Trade Center and thousands of people had died.
Job asks, “Does not calamity befall the unrighteous?” (31:3), but we learned, vividly, on September 11, 2001, that the righteous and the innocent suffer too.

Psalm 59:6 exhorts God to “show no mercy to those who are faithless and evil.” The terrorists who flew the planes on 9/11 forced us to confront the power of evil and challenged us to find a way to respond with forgiveness. Perhaps we can learn something about that in Peter’s response to the heated discussions about Jews and Gentiles, about who could be saved, and how: “God, who knows the human heart…has made no distinction between them and us” (Acts 15:8-9).

Then, as now, there were good people and evildoers on all sides, religions, and races. Now, as then, judgment and salvation comes only through the mercy and grace of God.

September 11, 2014 Posted by | Charity, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cross Cultural, Events, ExPat Life, Faith, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Pensacola, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Spiritual | | Leave a comment

“Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor . . . “

Who are we?

I’m listening to a heartbreaking discussion on National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm show about the masses of children heading toward the southern border of the United States.

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Anti-immigration is nothing new, not in the United States, not in newer countries. It is shocking to me, however, that people who came from somewhere else are so strongly opposed to allowing these desperate children in. If they are running for our border – and they are – they are desperate. They are desperate to escape violent death, and death by starvation, death of the spirit eeking out a living day to day.

“They come here for a hand-out!” is the most common complaint.

Read your American history. Very few immigrants – your ancestors, American citizens – arrived with money. Most relied on friends, family, the immigrant community, social services – whatever they needed to survive until they could get on their feet.

And get on their feet they did. Immigrants to America come here to work hard, believing that working hard will give them a chance at a better life. Your ancestors and mine – they came and worked hard, scraping together the money to build a business and/or to send their kids to schools. If you’ve ever attended a citizenship ceremony, you will love the jubilation. They don’t want a handout. They want a chance at building a decent life.

So now it’s “I’ve got mine, go back where YOU belong?”

When I grew up, not even in the United States proper, but in a U.S. territory, we sang a wonderful song, from a poem by Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus, which is on a plaque on the Statue of Liberty:

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Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I’ve never forgotten those words we all sang as children. The immigrant flows into America are our life-blood. You can keep your stale traditions and meaningless pomp, she cries, send me those willing to work hard and yearning for freedom.

How can we refuse CHILDREN seeking asylum? Each child we feed, house and educate will have a chance to become contributing citizens. The face of our nation is changing, has already changed greatly and will continue to change, and what we choose today will have a critical effect on what our society will look like tomorrow.

Do we still yearn for liberty for all? Do we want a highly stratified society where some are born to high paying jobs and others relegated to trades (I’ve seen how this works in another country; it’s stultifying.) Restricting access to all that we enjoy will create a wholly different society, a zero-sum-game society, where your loss is my gain, instead of an everyone wins society, where my success lifts you, too. Our country thrives on the creation of wealth; ideas are generated, resources and labor pools are created, they are not finite, they transition. Immigrants fuel the kind of innovation and population flow that keeps the lifeblood of our country flowing.

My family has been in the US a long time. We qualify as daughters-of-just-about-everything. We were immigrants; we were not native-born. The entire United States, other than the First People, are immigrants. We are immigrants, all of us. It makes us strong.

July 28, 2014 Posted by | Character, Charity, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Spiritual, Values | | 4 Comments

Pope Meets With Sudanese Woman Condemned for Apostasy

I am not Catholic, but what I love about this humble Pope shines through in these photos – the Pope, the revered leader of the Christian world, is standing, while the family sits in his presence. His loving actions speak loudly. You can see all the photos on AOL News by clicking here.

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ROME (AP) – Pope Francis met privately Thursday with a Sudanese woman who refused to recant her Christian faith in the face of a death sentence, blessing the woman as she cradled her infant born just weeks ago in prison.

The Vatican characterized the visit with Meriam Ibrahim, 27, her husband and their two small children as “very affectionate.”

The 30-minute encounter took place just hours after the family landed at Rome’s Ciampino airport, accompanied by an Italian diplomat who helped negotiate her release, and welcomed by Italy’s premier, who hailed it as a “day of celebration.”

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the pope “thanked her for her faith and courage, and she thanked him for his prayer and solidarity” during the half-hour meeting Thursday. Francis frequently calls attention to the suffering of those persecuted for their religious beliefs.

Lombardi said the presence of “their wonderful small children” added to the affectionate tone of the meeting. Ibrahim was presented with a rosary, a gift from the pope.

Ibrahim held her sleeping infant as she stepped off the plane from Sudan, which had blocked her from leaving the country even after the country’s highest court overturned her death sentence in June. An Italian diplomat carried her 18-month-old son and they were followed by her husband, Daniel Wani, who is a citizen of the United States and South Sudan.

Ibrahim and her family are expected to spend a few days in Rome before heading to the United States.

Ibrahim, whose father was Muslim but whose mother was an Orthodox Christian from Ethiopia, was sentenced to death over charges of apostasy. She married her husband, a Christian, in a church ceremony in 2011. As in many Muslim nations, Muslim women in Sudan are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims, though Muslim men can marry outside their faith.

The sentence was condemned by the United States, the United Nations and Amnesty International, among others, and both the United States and Italy – a strong death penalty opponent with long ties to the Horn of Africa region – worked to win her release.

Sudan’s high court threw out her death sentence in June, but she was then blocked from leaving the country by authorities who questioned the validity of her travel documents.

Lapo Pistelli, an Italian diplomat who accompanied the family from Sudan, said Italy was able to leverage its ties within the region. “We had the patience to speak to everyone in a friendly way. This paid off in the end,” he said.

July 24, 2014 Posted by | Character, Charity, Civility, Community, Faith, Family Issues, Interconnected, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Sudan, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

Celebrating Sainte Mary Magdalene

From today’s Forward Day by Day:

TUESDAY, July 22 Saint Mary Magdalene

John 20:18. Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.”

The information about Mary Magdalene tantalizes the imagination. A Jesus groupie in an age when decent women did not leave home to follow itinerant men. One from whom seven demons, by Luke’s count, were exorcised. A woman of such low status that she was free to stand unchallenged at the crucifixion site. It is no wonder that, like other women who do not fit into boxes of conventional understanding, she is defined in terms of sex. By declaring her a prostitute, imagination satisfies the Bible’s thin facts and the human desire for predictability. She has become a sex symbol in every sense of the word.

In seeing her this way, we miss the single piece of information that connects Mary to us all: gratitude. She followed Jesus because he cast out the seven demons. Jesus gave her new life and hope, a fact she never forgot and carried as her banner through thick and thin. If one or more of the demons in her had a sexual manifestation, it does not matter to the bottom line. Mary Magdalene is witness to the power of gratitude, a power available to our lives as well as hers.

PRAY for the Church of Jerusalem and The Middle East and the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa

Today the Church remembers Saint Mary Magdalene.

July 22, 2014 Posted by | Charity, Faith | , | Leave a comment

Where is Rwanda and How Do They Celebrate a Genocide Anniversary?

Today the church prays for the diocese of Byumba, in Rwanda. There is Rwanda, below, right in the heart of Africa, nestled between the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi.

 

 

Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 8.09.26 AMRwanda was in the news this last week for something very special. Most of our western news stations gave it zero coverage, but you could catch a glimpse online. This, from the Christian Science Monitor: on an amazing event just twenty years after one of the worst genocides in my memory. To me, it is wonderful and inspiring that they forgive one another and love one another to live in peace with one another. It gives me hope for our world.

The Monitor’s View

What to celebrate in Rwanda’s genocide anniversary

The 20th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide should focus as much on how the African nation worked toward reconciliation through forgiveness as on the mass slaughter itself.

 

This month, Rwanda marks the 20th anniversary of an event that its name is most associated with – the 1994 mass slaughter of the Tutsi minority and many in the majority Hutu. Over 100 days starting April 7, more than 800,000 people were killed, many by neighbors incited to ethnic hatred by a political elite. It is a genocide often cited since then to justify military intervention in similar ongoing atrocities.

This type of reparative justice in an intimate setting could prove useful in countries that will need post-conflict healing, such as Syria, Colombia, andMyanmar (Burma). It might also help prevent a cycle of revenge and retribution in those countries, as it has in Rwanda.

Most of Rwanda’s main perpetrators in the genocide have been tried in regular courts, either in Rwanda, Europe,, or the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, set up by the United Nations. But for hundreds of thousands of others who were charged with killing, the Rwandan criminal-justice system was too weak and its jails too full. Legal trials would have taken decades. The country had to fall back on a form of community-based traditional justice known asgacaca.

Other post-conflict countries in transition, notably South Africa, have relied on a similar process with their truth-and-reconciliation commissions. But the bodies have usually been more formal and national in scope. Rwanda’s gacaca are far more personal, designed to achieve the end result of allowing people who knew each other to resume living in the same community. They also bring together an entire village to witness a confession, attest to its sincerity, encourage forgiveness by the victim, and agree on some reparation, such as helping till a victim’s fields for a time.

It hasn’t worked in every case. Many Tutsis who killed Hutus have not been tried. Many victims could not bear the trauma of hearing how their loved ones had died. And many Hutus disappeared or were able to hide from the truth.

The government under President Paul Kagame, despite its drift toward authoritarian rule, has encouraged the process by outlawing formal use of ethnic identities. “The divisionism of before is gone. All of us now have equal access to opportunities,” a young Rwandan told The Christian Science Monitor.

The gacaca rely on the guilty to listen to the stories of their victims with empathy, admit their acts with repentance, and rethink their self-identity within the community. For the victims who forgive, the process can lift feelings of rage and bitterness. Much of the justice lies in the restoration of relationships as much as in material reparations.

Rwanda is not yet a “post-ethnic” African nation. But the possibility of a future political class inciting Hutus and Tutsis to take up violence now seems slim. More Rwandans have a higher sense of identity.

As the world helps Rwanda mark the 1994 genocide, it should also spread the lessons of this post-genocide reconciliation. Dispute resolution is a common technique in every society, whether in families or courts. But when almost every village in an entire nation goes through it, the lesson is worth repeating elsewhere.

 

April 11, 2014 Posted by | Africa, Charity, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Cultural, Events, Faith, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Values | , | Leave a comment

This ‘Commercial’ Will Make Your Day

April 10, 2014 Posted by | Character, Charity, Civility, Faith, Financial Issues, Leadership, Relationships, Spiritual | , , | Leave a comment

Swapnil Chaturvedi: Private Excretion

There really are everyday heros, if you have the eyes to see. This man is bringing dignity to the poor, who have no place to pee and poop privately. He left a fine job in the United States to start a campaign to provide private toilets for the countless poor in India who live without any toilets at all, and are forced to perform their daily functions in public.

Swapnil Chaturvedi’s life had all the trappings of the American dream — a college degree, prestigious engineer job, wife and daughter.

But when he returned home to India in 2007 after four years of living comfortably in the U.S., he was horrified by the country’s lack of basic sanitation, and decided to leave his cushy life behind to help, Mental Floss reported.

Fifty-three percent of Indian households defecate in the open, because they don’t have access to working toilets — a practice that leads to malnutrition, stunted growth, poor cognition, disease and other hampering conditions, according to the World Bank.

Even when there are toilets available, many locals decline to use them because they’re not vented properly. Women and girls often choose to defecate outside because the communal restrooms aren’t secure — leaving users vulnerable to getting harassed and attacked by onlookers.

“Men often gather around toilets and if we ignore them they try to touch and feel us,” Afsana, a young resident of Bawana, told CNN-IBN.

Women like Afsana are the reason that Chaturvedi has committed to his work.

“If somebody asked me why I started this business, there is only one reason: for women’s dignity,” Chaturvedi said in an interview about his company.

In 2011, he launched Samagra Sanitation –- a program based in Pune that works with existing communal restrooms and incentivizes locals to change their hygiene habits.

The company improves ventilation, accessibility and cleanliness in communal bathrooms. It also turns locations into community centers that offer rewards program for users, among other perks, to inspire people to take advantage of the facility, according to the company’s website.

Samagra, which is a Gates Foundation grantee, dubbed its program the “LooRewards Model.” It has already gotten involved in three slums in Pune, providing services to more than 3,300 people daily.

But Chaturvedi says he’s just getting started. He wants to see his program expand to help more than 50,000 people daily, which is why he launched an IndieGoGo campaign in the hopes of raising $50,000 to achieve his goal.

“We can live without Facebook, we can live without smartphones,” he said. “But we cannot live without relieving ourselves.”

To contribute to the IndieGoGo Campaign, click here

April 2, 2014 Posted by | Character, Charity, Civility, Cultural, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Health Issues, India, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Social Issues | 2 Comments

“Why Do Americans Do This?”

AdventureMan and I were with a group of delegates from Iraq yesterday, taking them on a visit to a variety of Pensacola sites. They are here visiting through the GCCDC, on the IVLP program, studying elections and campaign strategies in the USA.

One stop we make with many delegates is the First Methodist program Serving the Hungry. Two days a week, led by Jerry Vititow and supported by many happy, willing volunteers, they serve a hot lunch to the hungry, varying in numbers but never less than fifty or so.

The delegates learn about the program, then don aprons and serve up the trays. It is often one of the highlights of the trip.

One delegate raises his hand to ask a question.

“We see this everywhere,” he starts, “Americans who are working for nothing and smiling. Why do they do this?” He was genuinely perplexed.

Jerry explained that it wells up from many sources, a yearning to give back some of the blessings we have received, an eagerness to serve those who have less, maybe just an eagerness to serve. “It’s part of what we believe in,” he sums it up.

The delegates had a wonderful time.

March 7, 2014 Posted by | Character, Charity, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Pensacola | 2 Comments