Thursday, November 30, 2006
Human Trafficking Forum Report
It was a great night, there were over 30 people in attendance.
Major David Brunt lead the forum and we also had the privilege of hearing from Captain Lynda Van Gaalen-Prentice who is the operations manager of Mary Anderson Lodge Family violence service. Lynda has had experience working with women who have been trafficked for the purpose of sexual slavery and so her perspective was a welcome addition to the evening.
Here are some points taken from the evening:
The Salvation Army is active in Australia lobbying against the trade and working with the victims, even if we don't hear about it.
Part of the reason for this is that Agencies that are funded by the government to work with the victims are unable to advertise that they do this work as part of the funding agreement.
600,000 to 800,000 people a year are trafficked around the world.
It is the third largest illegal industry behind Arms and drugs.
Last night 1,000 women and children spent the night in Australia that had been trafficked to this country. This is a conservative government estimate.
"what rape is for others is normal for us" - victim of human trafficking speaking to a US Senate Committee
The solution is not as simple as 'send them back home' because of issues of honour/shame and cultural issues.
Traffickers also have very strong networks in local communities and their can be danger for victims families if they escape.
In Australia if a trafficked woman refuses to testify against her captor then she will be deported.
There is a major problem with the 'Stockholm syndrome' where the victim is so dependant on the captor that they become attached to them.
The Salvation Army cannot take a stand on this issue until it clarifies to its own members what is unacceptable behaviour for Salvationists.
Major Brunt commented that he has been into brothels on legitimate Army business but was unsure as to what the other Salvos were doing there.
Poverty is only one cause amongst many. But it is a major cause.
Traffickers are usually close to the victim. Fathers, Uncles and Mothers.
Many victims initially travel with consent believing they have a job waiting in the country they are going to, only to be forced into prostitution to repay their 'debt'.
Trafficked victims are also found in other exploitative sectors such as sweatshops.
Men and boys are also trafficked.
Trafficked women are forced to view hard core pornographic material and then forced to perform those acts. This is either videoed or photographed and then used to blackmail the woman to remain in servitude.
Check out this weeks Warcry article on OPAL. There is anecdotal evidence that this scheme is actively preventing people from being sold into human trafficking.
"When a man purchase a sex act he is contributing to the global sex trade"
We need to start naming 'clients' as 'monsters' to remove a positive view of the trade.
If corps are interested in having someone come and speak on the issue of Human Trafficking then contact Major David Brunt.
What can we do:
Tell people about the problem. This helps turn the tide of public opinion. We need to make the trade and use of sexual slavery unacceptable.
Write to newspapers.
Look at the personals section in your local paper. Most of these ads are for illegal brothels. Ring the paper and complain about the adverts.
Write to the Salvation Army leadership encouraging them in the work the territory is doing to combat this evil trade.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Terrorism and Iraq
"Ive been thinking about these wars etc lately and thinking what the appropriate response should or should have been...James and I then had a little bit more of a chat about this on Monday night, but it got me to thinking and so I wanted to note down a few thoughts.
I agree we all need to get along. At the same time we need to realise theres people who just dont want peace... How do we move forward?
Tough questions but they need to be addressed!
Id love to see what you think about this way forward?"
Firstly, in the book "The War on Terrorism and the Terror of God" I came across a quote from a prominent terrorism expert who said that "all definitions of terrorism are subjective." It is good to hear an 'expert' make that statement.
Secondly I just want to highlight a few facts about the war in Iraq:
1) None of the countries in the Coalition of the Willing officially declared war on Iraq or the regime of Saddam Hussein.
2) No weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq
3) It has been proven that there were no links between Al-Queda and Saddam's regime.
4) Lots of soldiers from the Coalition countries are dying.
5) Over 100 Iraqis are dying a day, or 30,000 a year, as a result of violence.
6) According to a recent survey 7 out of 10 Iraqis want American troops to leave their country.
7) Conditions in Iraq, in the vast majority of tangible measures, are worse now than they were under Saddam. (Just listen to any journalist who actually talks to Iraqi people)
8) Large corporations (mostly American) have made lots of money from reconstruction contracts in Iraq.
9) A dictator and a government representing the interests of a powerful minority were removed from power
10) Iraq is now embroiled in, or best case on the brink of, a civil war.
11) Removing Saddam from power has not stopped terrorist acts from occurring.
So James asked how do we move forward when we need to get along but there are people who just don't want peace?
On September 11 2001 a terrible terrorist attack was carried out on America. Very few people would deny the horror of what happened.
The question remains however, who are the people who just don't want peace?
America responded to the terrorist attack by using their own tactics to instil terror, however they called it 'shock and awe'.
America then went and attacked Iraq, using the cloak of hitting back at 'terrorism' and searching for WMDs.
Now I get to hang out with children a fair bit.
If one of the children hit another child, they would be told off because that isn't a nice thing to do.
If the second child hit the first back, "they hit me first" wouldn't be a justifiable excuse.
Violence begets violence. Terrorism begets terrorism.
As James said some people don't want peace, but fighting back is then giving them what they want.
Forgetting the chorus of dissent that sprung up against plans to invade Iraq, let us just look back with the 20/20 vision that comes from hindsight.
How many of the above 11 facts are positives, either for the people of Iraq or for the coalition of the willing?
No weapons of mass destruction were found.
Big American corporations have made lots of money.
A dictator and his minority government have been removed.
Perhaps the way forward is not to repay violence with violence.
Jesus spoke of turning the other cheek. This was not a passive stance, but rather an attempt to shame the aggressor by remaining defenceless.
Can the teachings of Jesus apply to global politics as much as they apply to personal moral ethics, or isn't he powerful enough?
Thursday, November 23, 2006
"He sure is" was my reply.
The concert was great, the only blemish was that everyone had told me everything that was going to happen so I knew what to expect.
A couple of things that Bono said:
1) "Lets pray for the places in the world that are troubled by war and terrorism. Let our prayer be this, that we do not become a monster to defeat a monster"
Powerful stuff. I have just started reading a book called "The war on terrorism and the Terror of God" It was written before the attacks of Sept. 11 2001.
The prologue and first chapter are very powerful. If we define terrorism as an action intended to instil fear and achieve a political aim, then what does it say about the 'Shock and Awe' tactics of the 'coalition of the willing'?2) Bono at one stage wore a Bandana that said "Coexist" The C was formed from the Islamic crescent, the X was formed from the star of David and the T was formed from the Cross. He asked 'why can't the children of Abraham stop fighting and get along?'
Apart from the fact that I thought he was going to launch into 'Father Abraham had many sons', I thought it was a powerful question that should resonate with us. The three Abrahamic religions all believe to their corps in the values of respect, love, understanding and grace. Yet some of the greatest conflicts of today come between proponents of these three religions. A large part of the conflict comes from ignorance of 'the other' and the other part comes from the fact that the proponents of these religions eschew the religion for their own, non-religious, ends.
I heard someone ask yesterday, "why did Bono get to chat to Peter Costello? I can't just ring up and get an hour with him. He's only a rock star."
It is a good point, why can't we all access our 'democratic' leaders? But rather than being a negative that Bono met with Costello, I think to myself here is a Christian who is using his position in society (rock star) to influence society. Rather than being an arrogant rock star who thinks he can change the world, Bono is a humble activist.
He was approached to be the face of the 'drop the debt' Jubilee campaign. Rather than just using his celebrity to front the campaign he actually went away and researched the causes of global poverty. He asked questions of those who understood the problem and in turn asked the hard questions of those who should have understood the problem. He asked the tough questions of the politicians he met. Politicians who were expecting an easy meeting with a rock star instead got tough questions from a campaigner for a more just world.
As an old youth leader of mine used to say,
"I think there's something in there for all of us"
Sorry to all my faithful readers.
There have been a combination of reasons.
Firstly I have been quite busy. Working at the council as well as the salvos has made me a busy boy.
For anyone who lives locally and gets the Leader newspaper check out the two page spread on the Youth Services BBQs happening in the outer areas of Nillumbik council. That is why I have been so busy. I have been organising those barbeques which has been a great challenge.
The idea has been to get out to the rural areas of the shire and connect with young people as they get off their school buses.
We give them a sausage and one of our cool orange NYP wristbands and then chat to them. We let them know about Youth Services and what we do as well as trying to get ideas from them about what they would like to see in their local area.
It has been a great opportunity to get out and meet some new young people that I normally don't get to chat to.
Secondly someone has been trying to use my blog to stir up some trouble.
You lose some interest when someone is trying to sour something you put a bit of effort into.
But I am over worrying about it, at least I am getting a loyal reader.
Now all I have to do is increase the rate at which my loyal readers click on my ads (hint, hint).
Thirdly there has been so much stuff going on in the world lately that I can't pick one thing to blog about and still keep it concise.
I know I have a tendency to ramble, which is fine if I was writing for myself. But because I would like people to read my blog, then I have to get to the point.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Human Trafficking and the Salvation Army's response
A forum is being held on the issue of Human Trafficking
Here are the details:
7 - 9pm Wednesday 29 November
The Bridge Centre
12a Chapel Street, St Kilda
Guest Speaker: Major David Brunt
Zonal Representative to the Salvation Army’s International
Task Force on Human Trafficking
Presented by the Social Justice Wing and the Bridge Programme - MCD
Please RSVP to Celine: (03) 9521 2770
Click here to download the flyer for the event.
If you would like to come and need a lift let me know and we can organise something.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
It was a great evening and a fitting end to four years of theological college.
Now I can't wait until I get to wear the robe and receive my degree.
As I reflected back on the 4 years I have spent at Whitley college I tried to think of what I could say to sum up the experience of studying here. I wanted to acknowledge and thank all those who have assisted me in my learning and development over that time, lecturers, tutors, staff and other students.
I tried to find a way to make it witty or funny, tried to weave it into a comparison with my favourite sport or how my learning related to the G20 and make poverty history forums, but nothing seemed to work.
Each time I came back to the question, ‘what can I say?’ And then it hit me.
The question. That most powerful of tools in theological study.
I remember in my first year theological class choosing to respond to a newspaper opinion piece that asked the question ‘was Jesus gay?’ A question that has the power to strike fear into the hearts of many a Christian. That question, perhaps more than any other taught me the importance of looking at the other side of the argument.
My own major area of study, biblical studies throws up its own interesting questions. ‘What was the context?’ ‘What is the author trying to say?’ ‘What does it mean?’ ‘What analysis am i supposed to be using in this exegesis?’ These questions have helped me to marvel at the beauty of the word of God.
I have learnt that a failure to question is a failure to engage. A failure to engage is a failure to learn and to grow. It would have been relatively easy to sit back and absorb information. It would be relatively easy for me to graduate with a Bachelor of Theology able to recite creeds and explain doctrines.
But that would have been to miss the point. The task of theological study is to engage with the questions. The task of Christian discipleship is to engage with the questions and perhaps the greatest question. That great question that Jesus asked Peter, that the Gospel writers asked the disciples of the early church and that we too must grapple with today. “Who do you say that I am?”
Of course in theological study there are other questions.
Arriving at college on the morning of the exam and asking “Why did I choose to study Greek?”
Arriving in the library the week that last essay is due and asking “Why did I leave it so late?”
Studying at Whitley has taught me the power of the question and the importance of hearing other people’s questions. The questions from my African, Latin American, Asian, European and Australian friends. Questions that come from world views and life situations that I had never dreamed of. Questions I never would have contemplated, but for someone else asking them.
“Who do you say that I am?” For me, to answer that question is to open the door on so many more questions. These questions are the ones that my time at Whitley has allowed me to explore with so many other people. Thank you to the wiser heads, those who ask the hard questions and encourage us to engage with them. Thank you to those who have journeyed alongside me in the walk that is theological studies. Thank you to those who work in the library and in the office, without you our college would not function.
Thank you to my wife, for her support and encouragement along the way.
So thank you once again for helping me to discover that the question is the most powerful theological tool of all.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Are you a nervous wreck waiting for the light of morning so you can rip open the presents waiting for you?
Do you go to bed early so that you can sleep and get to the morning quicker?
Do you keep getting up, looking to see if the presents are under the tree yet?
I have been doing some thinking about expectations the last couple of days.
It is a good time for me to think about it, because I have 3 different events that I have expectations of.
Firstly, last week I handed in my final assignment for my Bachelor of Theology.
Secondly, I am waiting patiently (or not so...) for a new computer game to arrive in the mail.
Thirdly, I am expectant of Melissa and my' move to Footscray at the end of the year.
After a busy night on Tuesday, I handed in my assignment on Wednesday.
I suppose that I wasn't expecting huge fireworks and congratulations, but the event passed with very little significance.
Melissa and I went out for tea on Wednesday evening, but it was with a bunch of other people for a work dinner.
I didn't have high expectations, but I was still left feeling flat after the event had passed.
I suppose my Valedictory dinner (where I get to make a speech) and the Graduation Ceremony will be the 'official' completion moments of my degree.
For anyone who doesn't know, I love Football Manager. Well the 2007 version was due to be released in Australia last Thursday.
Melissa agreed that I could get it once I had handed in my last assignment, as an end of degree treat.
So last thursday I went to the local computer games shops trying to find a copy.
There were none, all the shops said it was due in a couple of weeks.
So I looked on the Internet and an Australian distributor said they could get it to me by this Thursday.
But I decided to look at the U.K. based games companies and found that I could get it delivered earlier and cheaper than if I bought it in Australia.
So I ordered it last thursday and counted off the days till it was to arrive.
It hasn't arrived yet, but it might come today or tomorrow, if it meets their delivery schedule.
I am very expectant, I can't wait.
I know that the game will live up to my expectations, not only because I have played the 2006 version, but also because I have been playing the demo.
The days are ticking away and the weeks are flying by. The closer we get the more we are starting to organise the nuts and bolts of our move.
The more we organise the higher the excitement.
They say that change is as good as a holiday, well this change will be a 6 month backpacking tour of the world.
Expectations are funny things. We all have them. We have them of events, we have them of people.
How realistic are they? Was it realistic for me to expect the office lady at college to do a little dance as I handed in my final assignment. Was she to cry and say how much she would miss seeing me around the place?
Perhaps it is realistic for me to think that my computer game, ordered on Thursday in England, could arrive at my front door on Monday morning thanks to the miracle of modern air travel. It may have been a realistic expectation, but it didn't come to fruitition.
I work with lots of different people. A lot of them know that I belong to the church and so I get to have some interesting conversations.
It is amazing what people expect from God. Some people expect God to be like Santa. Handing out gifts that we get to unwrap and play with.
Some people expect God to jump up and down and do a little dance every time they do something good.
Some people expect God to work to their timetable, looking at their watch and tapping their foot because he hasn't delivered on time.
We don't think too much of a child who can't wait for Christmas morning.
But when an adult makes the same fuss on Christmas eve we worry.
What about your expectations of God?
Should we be worried?