Thursday, 30 October 2008

British Government statement on Orissa violence

The Prime Minister's office just put this up on the Number 10 website in response to a petition (which I signed) for "the Prime Minister to issue a statement of concern regarding the violence against Christians in Orissa, India":
The Government condemns the violent attacks on innocent individuals in Orissa state, India that have led to deaths, injuries and wide-scale displacements. Our sincere sympathies go out to those affected by this violence.

We therefore welcome the Indian Prime Minister’s unequivocal statement condemning these attacks on 13 October, calling for urgent measures to tackle religious violence, the deployment of additional police in Orissa to restore law and order, and the offer of compensation to victims.

We have raised our concerns directly with the Indian Government, in Delhi and in London. Lord Malloch-Brown, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister for Asia, also officially conveyed our concern at the current situation to the Indian High Commissioner on 1 October. Our High Commission in Delhi, with European and other partners, will continue to monitor the situation in Orissa and in neighbouring states.
Keep praying, guys.

Related post: A report from Orissa

Monday, 27 October 2008

A report from Orissa

The following report came to me in a forwarded e-mail, signed by "Chip & Sandy Wanner, Team Facilitators to YWAM frontlines".
We have never seen anything like this. We knew that Orissa was the most resistant and hostile State in India as far as the Gospel is concerned. And we brushed off the continuous threats and harassment we faced as we went about His work. But none of our staff imagined that they would see this kind of carnage.... And it seems to be totally under the radar of the Western Media ....

Let me explain.... A militant Hindu priest and 4 of his attendants, who were zealously going around the villages of Orissa and 'reconverting' people back to Hinduism, were gunned down by unknown assailants in Central Orissa [...]

Immediately the Christians were blamed.. The cry rose up...'Kill the Christians!' And the horror began.... In the past 4 days, we have first hand witness to hundreds of churches being blown up or burned and many, many dozens of Christian tribals have been slaughtered. For no other reason than they bear the name of Christ.

Night and day I have been in touch with our Good News India Directors spread across 14 Dream Centers in Orissa... they are right in the middle of all this chaos. In Tihidi, just after the police came to offer protection, a group of 70 blood-thirsty militants came to kill our staff and destroy the home. They were not allowed to get in, but they did a lot of damage to our Dream Center by throwing rocks and bricks and smashing our gate, etc.

They have promised to come back and 'finish the job.' Our kids and staff are locked inside and have stayed that way with doors and windows shut for the past 3 days. It has been a time of desperately calling on the Lord in prayer.

More police have come to offer protection. In Kalahandi, the police and some local sympathizers got to our dream center and gave our staff and kids about 3 minutes notice to vacate. No one had time to even grab a change of clothes or any personal belonging. As they fled, the blood thirsty mob came to kill everyone in the building. We would have had a mass funeral there, but for His grace. In Phulbani, the mob came looking for Christian homes and missions. The local Hindu people, our neighbors turned them away by saying that there were no Christians in this area. So they left.. We had favor. The same thing happened in Balasore.

All our dream centers are under lock down with the kids and staff huddled inside and police outside. The fanatics are circling outside waiting for a chance to kill. Others were not so fortunate. In a nearby Catholic orphanage, the mob allowed the kids to leave and locked up a Priest and a computer teacher in house and burned them to death. Many believers have been killed and hacked into pieces and left on the road.... even women and children. At another orphanage run by another organization, when this began, the Director and his wife jumped on their motorbike and simply fled, leaving all the children and staff behind. Every one of our GNI directors that I have spoken to said: 'We stay with our kids.... we live together or die together, but we will never abandon what God has called us to do.' More than 5000 Christian families have had their homes burned or destroyed. They have fled into the jungles and are living in great fear waiting for the authorities to bring about peace. But so far, no peace is foreseen. [...]

The Federal government is trying to restore order and perhaps things will calm down. We ask for your prayers. Only the Hand of God can calm this storm. None of us know the meaning of persecution. But now our kids and staff know what that means. So many of our kids coming from Hindu backgrounds are confused and totally bewildered at what is happening around them. So many of their guardians have fled into the jungles and are unable to come and get them during these trying times.

Through all this, I am more determined than ever to continue with our goal: the transformation of a community by transforming its children. Orissa will be saved... that is our heart's cry. If we can take these thousands of throw-away children and help them to become disciples of Jesus, they will transform an entire region. It is a long term goal, but it is strategic thinking in terms of the Great Commission.

What can you do? First, please uphold all this in fervent prayer. Second, pass this e-mail on to as many friends as you can. We must get the word out and increase our prayer base for this is spiritual warfare at its most basic meaning. We are literally fighting the devil in order to live for His Kingdom. The next 10 days are crucial. We pray for peace and calm to pervade across Orissa.
I understand this message has probably been around the blogosphere a few times by now but I still thought it should be shared.

Link: YWAM website

Friday, 17 October 2008

Religious instruction and child abuse: a novel take on the accusation

I recently read Dissent Over Descent by Warwick University sociologist and philosopher of science Steve Fuller. At some point I may review this book, although that would probably be quite a long task. Anyway, for the meantime I'd like to draw attention to what Fuller says, in an endnote, about "such academically certified luminaries as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett calling famliy-and-church-based (as opposed to academically licensed) religious instruction 'child abuse'." (my emphasis):
The concept of the 'meme', a (pseudo?) Darwinian attempt to explain the spread of ideas, has been most developed in this context—that is, one that treats the spread of religious ideas as a disease to be prevented, if not cured. See Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell [...] and Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion [...]. Here a clever psychoanalyst might suspect the sublimation of Neo-Darwinism's eugenicist impulses at play in a world that prohibits their direct expression: rather than sterilise religious people, Neo-Darwinists would instead sterilise their minds.
At the very least, this shows just how democratic a game Bulverism is. Against the accusation that he believes in God purely because of "memes" and/or upbringing, the theist could legitimately respond that the memetician only believes in memes because of a desire to psychologically castrate. See the second half of this post for more about "Neo-Darwinism's eugenicist impulses".

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

J. Ivy: Never Let Me Down

I just found out J. Ivy is a poet and so it's possible to hear his amazing contribution to Kanye West's College Dropout album without having to skip past the uninspiring first verse from Jay-Z. Enjoy.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Kaletsky on government intervention in free market economies

Once a financial panic starts, government intervention is always required. Financial markets do not deal in physical commodities but in paper contracts that represent promises of future payments. Once faith in those promises is broken, only governments, with the right to print money and levy taxes, can offer truly credible financial guarantees.
- Anatole Kaletsky writing in The Times today

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Horse or scorpion? What they're saying about Mandelson's return to the cabinet

'Proud' Mandelson back in cabinet (BBC) - this is the place to go for the background story, if you're not up on contemporary British politics.
  • Peter Mandelson himself has insisted that any antipathy between himself and Gordon Brown is in the past, saying that "from here on in we're joined at the hip".
  • Many have reacted with incredulity to those remarks. On today's Politics Show on BBC 1, for instance, David Cameron said, "that's the problem with Peter Mandelson: he says things which are difficult to believe".
  • In the same interview with Jon Sopel, Cameron also admitted that within the Conservative Party, "one Mandelson" is defined as "the time it takes between meeting Peter Mandelson and hearing him say something rude about Gordon Brown".
  • That seems to tally with a report in today's Sunday Times that "Peter Mandelson 'dripped pure poison' about Gordon Brown into the ear of a senior Conservative just weeks before his extraordinary cabinet comeback".
  • Nor is it only Conservatives making those remarks: Peter Kilfoyle called it "a thoroughly retrograde step",
  • John McDonnell described the move as "an extraordinary step backwards into the worst elements of the Blair era, to reinstate possibly the most divisive figure in Labour's recent history",
  • an unnamed MP acknowledged that "Gordon says he is bringing Peter back because of his great experience of business," but asked "what about his experience of stitching people up and dividing the party?"
  • and Michael Meacher, another socialist member of the parliamentary Labour Party and a former minister, described the Prime Minister's decision as "the most bizarre political appointment since Caligula made his horse consul".
  • Referring also to the sacking of Metropolitan Police commisioner Sir Ian Blair, Rod Liddle shares with us his "Quantity Theory of Awful People; one goes, another comes to fill his place [...] No matter what happens there will never, ever, be fewer of them in public life [...] Blair bows out, here's Mandelson back, grinning from ear to ear, unable to believe his luck, pledging his utmost support to a man we suspect he stil can't abide and whom he will undermine".
  • Matthew Parris wonders whether Mandelson's return to government is actually "The return of the scorpion", asking "Do you need to be reminded of the fable of the scorpion and the frog - the story of a stinging insect desirous of crossing a river, and hitching a ride on the back of a frog? “But you're a scorpion,” says the frog, “you sting”.
    “Normally, yes,” replies the scorpion with both apparent and perhaps real sincerity, “but why would I do that when it would sink us both, drowning me too?”
    Compelled by this logic the frog obliges. Halfway over the water, the scorpion stings. The frog's last words are: “In the name of God, why?” The scorpion's last words are: “Because it is in my nature.”"

And me? On Friday I changed my Facebook status to "Matthew is now definitely not voting Labour. Mandelson!?!"