Monday, October 10, 2011

WCC demands repulsion of blasphemy law

The World Council of Churches (WCC) on Monday demanded the repulsion of blasphemy law, with the WCC general secretary asking the government to repeal Section 295C of the penal code.
Addressing a press conference, Rev Dr Olav Fykes Tveit said WCC expressed its serious concern on several occasions and urged the Pakistani government to repeal Section 295C of the Pakistan penal code, which carries a mandatory death penalty for anyone found guilty of blasphemy.
“On behalf of the member churches of WCC in different parts of the world, the WCC urged the government of Pakistan on several occasions to guarantee the rights of all-religious minorities in the country,” he said, adding that it was a matter of encouragement that there was a voice of dissent against acts of discrimination and violence against minorities coming from the Pakistani public. Ordinary citizens and key religious scholars of this country do speak of reform and maintaining their view that the Islam was a religion of peace that prohibited compulsion and persecution, Dr Olav said.

Encouraging the liberal forces in Pakistan, he said it was also encouraging that there had also been a positive civil response to engage various stakeholders in conversations about the blasphemy law and other discriminatory laws that are targeted against the minorities.

Demanding of the government of Pakistan to provide security to minorities rights, he said that for some years, the WCC had been receiving reports of discriminatory practices and persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan, including Christians, Ahamadis, and Hindus.

During the past several years, the WCC had been following the situation of the human rights violation of minority religious communities in the country, he said, adding that there had been many incidents of violence, killings and other forms of persecutions against Christians in the country and at a number of times, the WCC responded to such situations and wrote to authorities in Pakistan, Dr Olav said. He said the international community as well as civil society organisations in Pakistan had deplored such actions from time to time through various means.

“However, we are extremely disappointed that in spite of all such urges, the authorities in Pakistan could not prevent human rights violations and persecutions against religious minorities in the country,” he said.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Albany businesses, church burglarized

Someone threw a large rock through the front door of the Rainbow Music at 208 South Jackson about 2:00 AM. Police riding by saw the broken window and stopped a person walking away. Nothing taken, but the door will cost about $300 to repair.

Willie Tom Green was caught by Police, and charged with burglary.

Also burglarized about 4:00AM, the OK Beauty and Fashion Store in the 300 block of South Slappey Boulevard.

Someone broke a front window, broke a board wall and snatched the cash register, and some cash inside.

Also someone pushed a window air conditioner out of the window of one of the Sunday School rooms at the River Road Church of Christ on Martin Luther King Junior Drive about 3:00AM.

The alarm sounded, and the burglar never went inside. Church deacons are upset by the break in at their worship center.

The Bethany Temple Church of God in Christ on Odom Avenue was broken into early Sunday morning.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Anna: Corruption more serious threat than Pakistan

Terming corruption a threat “more serious than Pakistan”, social activist Anna Hazare demanded that the corporate sector, too, be brought under the purview of the forthcoming anti-corruption ombudsman, the lokal. The suggestion to include the corporate sector is new. It’s a reaction to the government side’s move in the second draft to include non-government organisations (NGOs) in the purview of the lokpal.

“By bringing in voluntary organisations under the lokpal, the government is trying to target movements. Such organisations have done much more than the government has,” Hazare said. Rejecting the draft legislation as a betrayal, Hazare said he would restart his fast from August 16, and it would be non-negotiable this time. “The second freedom struggle is beginning.” 

He said, “There will be no talks, no negotiations. The government must accept our proposals in entirety. Otherwise, I will fast unto death. I am willing to die for the country.” Campaigner Arvind Kejriwal said the government draft did not suggest an autonomous and transparent lokpal.

“The government is trying to control appointments, removal and functioning of the lokpal … We demanded financial autonomy for the lokpal, but it will depend on the government for everything. How will it be autonomous or independent?”

Former IPS officer Kiran Bedi, another campaigner, said some “intelligent and informed civil society activists” also must be made part of the lokpal selection process.

Hazare refuted the allegation that the lokpal, as proposed by his team, would amount to creating a parallel and police state, since one of the Hazare team’s demands was sweeping powers for lokpal officials to listen in to any phone conversation that they want to and search and seize documents.

“There is an election commission, there is a judiciary and there is a comptroller and auditor general. Does any one of them make for a parallel state?” he asked.

On the charge that the proposal to allow the lokpal to discipline government officials would make them unaccountable to the government, Hazare said, “That is what we want.

The alliance between politicians and officials is the root cause of corruption. We want a lokpal that would break that nexus.”

On the accountability of the lokapl as envisaged by the activists, Kejriwal said, “It is accountable to the ordinary citizen. Anyone can file a complaint against the lokpal.”

Hazare said he had withdrawn his fast in April after the government promised to accept all the demands. “But they betrayed me. Therefore, now there will be no negotiations. We will mobilise people across the country and force the government to concede to our demands,” he said.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bringing Peace to Pakistan and India

David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, told university students in Islamabad, Pakistan, that the “time is now ripe” for India and Pakistan to make real peace.

Cameron has not been to Pakistan since becoming Prime Minister, although he did visit India last year — and caused a ruckus by suggesting that Pakistan is exporting terrorism. The conflict between India and Pakistan is ancient. When Britain, through a variety of political mechanisms, ruled what is now India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Burma, the old differences that had kept these “nations” at each others’ throats were dropped as they united in hostility to the British Raj.

These differences transcend simply the conflict between the Hindu majority in the Raj and the Muslim minority. Within that amorphous population called “Hindu” are various isolated groups. The caste system, for example, kept in separate compartments whole slices of society living in the same provinces, with little possibility of finding common ground. The worst category of all is that of the casteless ones, the Dalits of India or “untouchables,” who still exist in numbers roughly equal to the whole population if England. Their plight even today is pitiable — much worse than that of blacks under Jim Crow in the old South — and the Indian government denies to former Dalits who convert to Christianity the same rights granted to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, or Dalits. Despite the nominal nonviolence of Hinduism, Christians in India are the subject of persistent persecution — in many cases, state-supported. On March 29, 2011, for example, 14 Christians, including two clergymen, were arrested in the Mayurbhanj district of Orissa for coverting Indians to Christianity without a license.

Pakistan is even more hostile to Christianity, and murder and mayhem are very common occurrences against Christians there. The entire Islamic world officially persecutes Christians and tolerates mob violence against them.

The hatred and genocide within the nations that were part of the British Raj were also horrific. When the British left in 1949 and granted India independence, millions of Muslims and millions of Hindus were murdered, raped, or maimed — each side guilty of massacres of the other. The hatred of these two groups dates back more than one thousand years, when Muslims conquered India and treated the natives as if they were atheists (so lacking the protection given to “People of a Book”). Over time, Hindus were raised to the level of dhimmi, or subject peoples such as Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians, but their plight was still grim. One reason for the suttee — the Hindu practice of the widow of a Hindu burning herself to death on her husband’s funeral pyre — was because of the prevalence of Muslim rape of Hindu women. Timur the Lame (or Timerlane) built entire pyramids of human skulls when he conquered cities in the subcontinent, and the rule of the Muslims was savage.

Since 1949, the subcontinent and contiguous parts of the Raj have been violent, bloody places indeed. Old Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, endured one of the longest and most brutal civil wars in history between the Buddhist Sinhalese and the Hindu Tamils — both notionally nonviolent groups. The first suicide bombers were not Muslims, but rather members of the notorious Tamil Tigers, who strapped bombs on themselves to commit maximum mayhem.

The Sikhs have assassinated Indian Prime Ministers twice — both times to retaliate for the encroachments of Hindu India into those northern parts of the country that Sikhs consider their homeland. Pakistan itself has been riven with violence. Originally, the Muslims of the Raj were given a nation of two parts — West Pakistan and East Pakistan. The West Pakistanis, though smaller in number, effectively controlled the government and treated their countrymen to the east as stepchildren. As a consequence, the East Pakistanis began a civil war in 1971, with the goal of establishing their own nation, Bangladesh. The West Pakistan army attempted to suppress this revolt, and it is estimated that millions of Bengali women were raped during this civil war.

Really, both India and Pakistan are empires of subject peoples. India has many different languages — including 20 languages, each of which is spoken by more than one million people. The Indian subcontinent — before Britain, France, Portugal, and Holland decided that they must compete for empire there — was not a nation at all (any more than Europe was a nation in 1648), despite the fact that its peoples shared many cultural, religious, and linguistic characteristics. It was home to many different religions: Parsees (or Zoroastrians), who escaped Muslim rule in their native Persia; Sikhs; Buddhists; Jains; Jews; Christians from the Church of the East; and the polyglot varieties of Hinduism, including castes or the wretched casteless “untouchables” — but these groups seldom interacted. Parsees, for example, remained mostly in a small part of Bombay, and Sikhs stayed in northern India.

The British introduced several reforms: For instance, the suttee was abolished by law; child marriage was banned; untouchables, Muslims, and those of other religions were granted equal rights; and thugee (the practice of ritual murder of strangers to placate the Hindu goddess Kali) was punished as murder. Such reforms, however, did not mean that the British Empire resolved all the problems of the subcontinent. What the British did bring to the subcontinent — though they did not recognize it at the time — was something very different: Christian civilization. For instance, the equality of all men (and women) before God was a Christian concept unthinkable to a Brahmin or even a Muslim among dhimmi. The oppression of women was a common characteristic of Islam, Hinduism, and even Buddhism (Gautama Siddhartha considered women so far down the level of creatures in the order of reincarnation that at first he did not even condone Hindu nuns).

The subcontinent was ancient, advanced, populous, and filled with intelligent people. What it lacked was the hope of Christianity, which comes best not by soldier, diplomat, or even a British Prime Minister. The love and tolerance of Christianity come through professing Christians bringing the Gospel to those who do not have it. Consider a frail little woman who grew up in a backward nation and came to India with little more than her faith. Mother Teresa arose, alone, out of a gigantic nation that encompassed one-quarter of humanity and that was filled with every faith and metaphysical system imaginable, and — in a land that considered women inferior and resented Europeans — drew with Christian love huge numbers of Indians so that when she died she was given a state funeral.

Politicians such as Prime Minister Cameron cannot bring peace to that Gordian knot of mistrust and misery. The problems of India and Pakistan are not political, but spiritual. The battle to bring peace to the world is being fought every day all over the world by Christian missionaries bringing medical clinics, schools, orphanages, and hope. It is in this great battle — not in diplomacy or foreign aid or peacekeeping forces — that peace will come. It is through acceptance of God’s love — and nothing else.

Monday, March 28, 2011

New Queen Bio Tells Complete Story

Last week saw the U.S. release of a new Queen bio, titled Is This The Real Life? (yep, the opening line from "Bohemian Rhapsody"), via Da Capo Press. Penned by author Mark Blake, the book tells the complete story of the British band that perfected and popularized "arena rock" during the 1970's and 1980's.

The 410 page book is priced at $25.00, and includes such tales about a chance encounter between the Sex Pistols' Sid Vicious and Freddie, the writing of such Queen classics as "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," the preparation of the group's show-stopping performance at Live Aid, and Freddie's final reclusive years, before dying from an AIDS related illness in 1991.

Is This The Real Life? also contains a 16-page black and white photo section, which includes such rarely seen shots as the band members during their school days, Freddie preparing for a performance with the Royal Ballet Company in 1979, and a shot of arguably the most over-the-top/gaudy costume ever (from the set of the best-forgotten video for "It's A Hard Life").

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Woman injured by rock-wielding teen may face charges

A Mid-South woman who was injured after a teen attacked her with a rock says Memphis police may file charges against her.

Charlotte Gathings suffered serious injury after a fight involving her daughter. But now, she may face trouble of a different kind.

"The investigator said that they were thinking about filing charges against me for simple assault and starting a riot," she said.

Gathings claims she was only trying to break up a fight the day she picked her daughter up from Raleigh Egypt High. That's where another teen was trying to fight her daughter. Gathings broke up the altercation with help from her son.

"He said, 'That's not what the camera says,' but I say otherwise because I don't have enough dignity in my heart to put my hands on somebody else's child."

An hour later, Gathings says a carload of teens showed up at her Raleigh home. One of them hit her in the head with a rock.

Gathings says investigators are now giving her an ultimatum.

"They want both of us to drop charges against each other in order for me not to be charged, and I'm not fixing to do that," she said.

Memphis police would not comment on the case, citing an ongoing investigation. However, as of Tuesday afternoon, no additional charges had been filed in the case.

Meanwhile, doctors tell Gathings it may take her up to a year to fully recovery from her injuries. She is currently seeking legal advice.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

“Shahadat Jariha” on Alsumaria commemorates innocent victims

Assassinations, bombings and sabotage attacks have become a frequent occurrence in the Arab world. World reactions pour in over any despicable incident. Media rushes to cover the news, politicians take turns in denunciation, and security forces work on containing the repercussions on the ground. Victims however turn into figures as sympathy and sorrow soon fade away.

“Shahadat Jariha” on Alsumaria pays tribute to martyrs and recovers the humanitarian and social value of people lost in the trail of terrorist attacks that cast the life of thousands of innocent people. Victims are no longer figures in this program, they are a sad memory worth of pondering upon.

“Shahadat Jariha” is a seven episode length social program on Alsumaria that airs every Monday at 10:30 pm Baghdad time starting February 14.

In each episode, host Mohannad Al Khatib interviews families of victims. How are they going through life? How are they dealing with their painful tragedy? What do they have to say to perpetrators? Are they able to forgive? Can their loss be compensated?

A special reportage retracing the life of the victim is shown in every episode. Among the guests is a relative of the victim who shares with viewers touching stories about the deceased in remembrance of his missed presence among his beloveds. The program hosts another guest from the media field to discuss the effect and repercussions of the major incident on society and the country’s security and economy.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

40 jobs to be created by AA Ireland

AA IRELAND has announced its intention to create 40 new jobs at its headquarters in Dublin.

The insurer today announced that it was hiring 40 new staff immediately, with new positions being created in its insurance and AA rescue divisions.

Policy director Conor Faughnan said it was “great to be able to make a positive announcement about Irish business and Irish jobs”, and said the bulk of the new hires were being sought in the motor insurance, home and travel insurance branches.

Faughnan explained that AA Insurance had been “performing very strongly and we need extra staff in our call centre to deal with growing demand.”

AA Ireland currently has a customer base of 600,000 across its insurance and rescue businesses.

Applications for the positions – based in Dublin city centre – are now open, and application forms can be found on the AA’s website.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

First Aid Kit Bio

First Aid Kit, composed of Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg, started gaining popularity a few years ago by posting their soulful folk renditions of popular and underground songs on YouTube, now they’re all set to release their second studio album and tour again.

Swede Dreams

Sisters Johanna and Klara grew up in a suburb outside of Stockholm called Enskede, and were first inspired to make music by listening to pop music like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera but soon turned to more folksy-influenced music like Bob Dylan when they started learning guitar and creating their own melodies.

Internet Sensation

In 2007, at the ages of 14 and 17, they had started posting their nature-infused songs on YouTube along with covers they did of bigger bands, often playing and recording in nearby woods. Their cover of Indie rock band Fleet Foxes “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” brought them rapid recognition from critics and music-lovers around the world!
By summer 2007 these talented teens vocals had already graced Swedish airways with their home-recorded song “Tangerine” and been signed to Swedish electronic band The Knife’s record label Rabbid Records and recorded the EP “Drunken Trees.” In 2008 the Soderburg sisters toured Europe, the U.K. and the U.S.

Recording for Real

No more home-recordings for this sister duo! Even though they had to balance homework with recording sessions at the start of 2010 First Aid Kit released a full-length album,“The Big Black and Blue.”

But these girls aren’t ready to stop yet, if you love their haunting folk sound you’ll probably be excited to hear that they are set to release another two albums in 2011, “Dungen” is the first to come out with a self-titled album hot on its heels.

Fun Facts

  • First Aid Kit’s music is often compared to old school American songstresses like Joan Baez
  • The sisters enjoy snowball fights!
  • First Aid Kit are not just talented at music, they also design their own album art

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

EU calls for Kashmiri people’s involvement in resolving the Kashmir issue

European Commission is very closely following developments in Held Kashmir and supports the reconciliation process between India and Pakistan.This was stated by Jean-Christian Remond, Asia Head of European Commission External Relations Directorate General, in response to a letter from Mushtaq A. Jeelani, Executive Director, Toronto-based Peace and Justice Forum (PJF).The PJF’s letter drew EU President Jos Manuel Barroso’s attention to the situation in Kashmir.

Issuing response on behalf of President Barroso, Remond wrote:

“I am sure you [Mr. Jeelani] know that the European Commission and the Delegation of the European Union in New Delhi follow developments in Kashmir very closely.”

He further underlined: “The annual visits to Jammu and Kashmir by Delhi-based EU Ambassadors and embassy staff indeed bear witness to the commitment. During the last such visit in November 2009, the delegation had the opportunity to meet with representatives of political parties, separatist movements, the security forces, civil society, and the universities, in order to assess for itself the situation pertaining in Kashmir.”

“It has been a longstanding position of the EU to support the reconciliation process between India and Pakistan and to call for the Kashmiri people themselves to be as involved as possible in this process,” underscored Remond.

He further stated that he has taken note of Jeelani’s comment regarding a possible mediation by a third party. “But, in our view, such a course of action would require conditions which are not presently met,” Remond added.

“The European Commission remain hopeful that dialogue between all parties concerned including the people of Kashmir, India and Pakistan may begin again, thus assuring the long-term socio-economic and political stability of the region,” he concluded.