Thursday, 12 October 2017

Victoria's Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill - Religions protest

Pressure is mounting on state MPs as they prepare to debate controversial voluntary euthanasia laws next week.

The pro and anti campaigns are ramping up their efforts, with voting on the bill to begin as early as next Thursday.

More than 120 doctors from around the state intervened on Wednesday, writing to all 127 parliamentarians, urging the politicians to "reduce the suffering" of terminally ill Victorians by voting in support of the euthanasia laws.

The doctors' intervention came as a coalition of religious leaders launched a united campaign on Wednesday, pushing for a no-vote.

Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs and Christians gathered on the steps of Victorian Parliament to deliver a statement opposing the laws to Deputy Premier James Merlino.

The material for this post has been taken from Ballarat's daily newspaper, The Courier.

For more information on what is being considered/proposed by the Victorian Govt,
please read

Editor's Note:
With Voluntary Assisted Dying, people are being offered an option.
There are particular safeguards on the manner of carrying out the option.
Those with conscientious objections have their objections respected.
The role of palliative care is neither overlooked nor is it excluded. 

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Conservatism and Conversion within a Gun Culture

The Editor has been visiting this blog, Resistance & Renewal, for quite a long time. It is no surprise that so soon after the mass shooting in Las Vegas there is a timely reference to the event.  In addition, the massacre has an Australian connection.  John Kuhrt, the Editor of R& R, is on the ball -- theologically and politically.

The overtly religious America we so often see depicted and reflected politically in contradiction to the Christian scriptures, often seems to those outside the USA to be hypocritical in a confronting and conflicting way.

The Editor found the portrayal of this event republished below to be horrifying:

Two years ago I wrote a post about my friend who went to a church service in Mississippi and heard the Pastor stand up and talk about a competition they were running to see who could invite the most new people along to the church in one month.

And what was the prize for the winner? An AR-15 assault rifle – plus a 100 rounds of ammo for good measure. My friend could not believe it as he watched the Pastor hold the gun up and enthusiastically announce ‘This is a killing machine’:

There was a good ending to the story because my friend’s concerns led to a genuine dialogue which resulted in the church graciously withdrawing the prize. Instead, my friend, who is a carpenter, offered to donate a coffee table he had made which was awarded instead of the gun.  He was inspired by the passages in Isaiah about ‘beating swords into ploughshares’ (2:4) and rather than just condemning the church wanted to help find a more creative and redemptive way forward.
The terrible events of Las Vegas this week will see predictable re-runs of the arguments between proponents and opponents of gun control. We will also see plenty of hashtags and trite appeals to #prayforlasvegas. I believe God is wearied by these prayers, especially from people who are so opposed to taking any steps which will produce real change.
Many people are saying that after Sandy Hook, where 20 children were killed by a gunman, that there is no longer any hope for meaningful gun reform. Perhaps they are right.

A mass movement for change?
But could we dream about what would happen if gun-owning Christians, led and inspired by church leaders, decided to make the first step and decided to lay down their guns as part of a mass movement and hand them in?  It could be a ‘Gun Jubilee’ inspired by the cancellation of debts instructed in Deuteronomy 15.
It may sound naive but I think history tells us the only hope for radical change lies in some form of coordinated, faith-inspired, mass movement.  Faith may be easily misdirected or corrupted but it is also the only force which can provide the sufficient bandwidth of public vision and spiritual energy to create change. At its best, authentic Christianity is personal, practical, public and political.
On December 1st 1955, Rosa Parks refused to move from her seat on the bus and sparked a critical phase in the civil rights movement.  Who will be prepared to make a costly stand on this issue?

The Light of Unity: a presentation of the Ballarat Baha'i Community to celebrate the Bicentenary of the Birth of Bahaú'llah

Celebrating the birth of Bahaúllah

This song celebrates the 200 years since the birth of Baha'u'llah. 
The sunrises and sunsets in this video represent that passage of time. 
Khadijih was the name of His mother as Mary was the mother of Jesus! 
Hope you like it and now available in itunes!

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Offering a lamb dinner to the Hindu God, Ganesha? No, non, nyet. It's offensive.

Why it's offensive to offer a lamb dinner to the Hindu god Ganesha

File 20170919 22604 14gbpbq

The Hindu god Ganesha.
Anant Nath Sharma, CC BY-NC-ND

Jeffery D. Long, Elizabethtown College

A recent ad from the meat industry in Australia, seeking to promote lamb as a food that people from a wide range of religious backgrounds can consume, has given offence to many Hindus in Australia and internationally.

In Australia, the ad prompted a complaint by the High Commission of India. In the United States, Hindu organizations issued a statement protesting the airing of such an ad.

While the ad was initially released in Australia, it quickly made its way onto YouTube, where it had recorded over a million views at the time of writing.

The ad features a host of deities from various religions sitting down to a meal of lamb. These diners include Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, Kuan Yin (the Buddhist goddess of compassion) and Confucius, as well as Greek Gods Dionysus, Aphrodite, Thor, Isis and the founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard. Prophet Muhammad is left out as his depiction is considered highly offensive to Muslims.

However, on this guest list is a highly revered and beloved Hindu deity, Ganesha, readily recognizable by his elephant head. As a scholar of Indic traditions, I can see why Hindus are upset.

Animal sacrifice and Hinduism

Vegetarianism is an important part of Hindu religious worship. To be sure, not all Hindus practice vegetarianism. According to a 2006 survey, only 31 percent of India’s population, home to the vast majority of the world’s Hindus, are vegetarian.

It is also true that there are some Hindu deities who are offered meat. Most famously, goats are regularly offered to the Hindu goddess Kali. Meat offerings are also not uncommon in Nepal, a majority Hindu nation.

But the vast majority of food offerings to Hindu deities today are vegetarian in nature. This author has witnessed, for example, offerings of gourds, cucumbers and bananas being made to the goddess Kali at worship services in both the U.S. and India, despite the fact that this goddess is considered to be fierce and is widely associated with animal sacrifice.

These food offerings have religious significance. After being reverently presented to the deities, they are distributed to worshipers as “prasad.” Prasad represents the blessing of the deities in return for the worship and devotion they have received.

Vegetarianism through the centuries

Hindu vegetarianism developed gradually. In ancient times there were Hindus who ate meat, including beef, and meat was part of many religious rituals.

Later texts condemn the violence in meat offerings. “Bhagavata Purana,” an ancient Hindu text from the Vaishnava tradition, for example, condemns violence against animals to feed oneself. In this tradition, the popular deity Krishna is also worshipped as the protector of cows.

“Manu Smriti,” considered to be the authoritative book on Hindu codes dating from roughly 300 to 100 B.C., also condemns meat-eating, saying,

“Whoever does violence to harmless creatures out of a wish for his own happiness does not increase his happiness anywhere, neither when he is alive nor when he is dead.”

Indeed, by the eighth century, religious rituals had become largely vegetarian. It was at this time that an influential scholar and reformer, Shankara, promoted the replacement of meat offerings to Hindu deities with vegetarian substitutes. Meat, due to its association with death, came to be seen as ritually impure.

Today, roughly 55 percent of Brahmins in India are vegetarian.

Who is Ganesha?

Coming back to the ad, what does it mean for Hindus when Ganesha is depicted in an ad serving lamb?

For many Hindus, Ganesha is a beloved deity who is considered to be the “remover of obstacles.” As such, he is invoked at the start of any venture (including worship offered to other deities). Most recognizable for his elephant head, he is the son of Shiva, the supreme being for the Hindus and his consort, Parvati.

A plate of ladoos, the favorite sweet of Ganesha.
v i p e z, CC BY-NC-ND

While at least one ancient text, the “Manava Gṛhyaśāstra,” suggests that at one time, Ganesha may have been offered meat, in contemporary practice this has been replaced with vegetarian food, the most popular of which is the “ladoo” – a delightful Indian ball-shaped sweet made from chickpea flour, usually yellow or orange in color. It is common for Ganesha to be depicted holding a plate of ladoos.

The chief rationale for vegetarianism is the principle of “ahimsa,” or doing no deliberate harm to any living being. This value is promoted not only in Hindu traditions, but among the Jains (a community that is almost exclusively vegetarian) and Buddhists in India.

While vegetarianism may not be universal among Hindus – nor have they always practised it – the ideal it represents is held in high regard. This makes an image of Ganesha sitting down to eat lamb jarring, to say the least, for many Hindus.

Jeffery D. Long, Professor of Religion and Asian Studies, Elizabethtown College

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

A happy outcome for Sidhak Singh Arora and his family

On 25 July, 2017 this blog carried a post regarding a Sikh child being refused enrolment in a Christian school because the traditional headcap the child wore did not conform with the school's dress code.

Readers of Beside The Creek will be pleased to know that the matter has now been resolved in favour of the child and his family.

A Christian school unlawfully discriminated against a five-year-old boy when it banned him from wearing a traditional Sikh patka, a child's version of a turban, a tribunal has ruled.
In a win for Melbourne father Sagardeep Singh Arora and his son Sidhak, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal ruled that Melton Christian School breached the Equal Opportunity Act.

The decision, which was handed down on Tuesday, could have implications for the way schools set their uniform policies.
It also paves the way for Sidhak to attend the school of his choice.

Mr Arora had hoped that his son would start prep at school this year, but the enrolment hit a roadblock when principal David Gleeson said Sidhak would have to comply with the school's uniform policy. 

Monday, 18 September 2017

Hildegard of Bingen - Doctor of the Universal Church

Hildegard of Bingen has been a favourite of The Editor's for a  very long time.
The Editor is indebted to The Reverend Dr Malcolm Guite for this contribution from his blog.

Hildegard of Bingen: A Sonnet

by malcolmguite
Tending the tree of Life by Hildegard of Bingen
Tending the tree of Life by Hildegard of Bingen
The 17th of September is the feast day of Abbess Hildegard of Bingen, a remarkable and prophetic woman, who described herself as 'a feather on the breath of God', and whose many works in theology, music, visual art, poetry and drama are still inspiring people today. Indeed she is coming more and more into her own, as one of her key ideas 'Viriditas', or the greening and life-renewing work of the Holy Spirit, seems especially apposite for our time. See this page on her by a contemporary Benedictine. Appropriately for Hildegard's day, I will be taking part in a service at Ely Cathedral this evening at 6:30pm called Dark Reflections: Poetry Environment and Lament
Do come along if you can.
The photo below is by Margot Krebs Neale
I wrote this sonnet at Launde Abbey in Leicestershire where I shall be giving an Advent retreat next year. It is published in my new volume of poetry The Singing BowlCanterbury Press,  available on Amazon in both the US and the UK
As always you can hear the sonnet by clicking on the play button or the title.
Hildegard of Bingen
A feather on the breath of God at play,
You saw the play of God in all creation.
You drew eternal light into each day,
And every living breath was inspiration.
You made a play with every virtue playing,
Made music for each sister-soul to sing,
Listened for what each herb and stone was saying,
And heard the Word of God in everything.

Mother from mother earth and Magistra, 
Your song revealed God's hidden gift to us;
The verdant fire, his holy harbinger
The greening glory of viriditas.
'Cherish this earth that keeps us all alive'
Either we hear you, or we don't survive.

Photo by Margot Krebs Neale
Photo by Margot Krebs Neale

Friday, 15 September 2017

Sikhs to the aid of the Muslim Rohingyas fleeing the Buddhists of Burma

Please note:
The Sikhs themselves know what it is to feel for one's life.
They were forced to flee India after partition in 1947.

Sikh volunteers say they have begun handing out food and water to Rohingya refugees fleeing violence in Burma.
The Khalsa Aid charity said volunteers from its India arm were "working in tough conditions on the border areas" in Bangladesh to provide aid.
The group, which is registered within the UK, had reportedly reached the village of Teknaf in the Cox's Bazar area, which has become a crossing point for tens of thousands of Rohingya.
Dozens of Rohingya villages now lie empty after their residents fled violence in Rakhine state, according to Burma's government. One hundred and seventy-six of 471 villages were abandoned, spokesman Zaw Htay said.
Amarpreet Singh, managing director of Khalsa Aid India, told The Indian Express: "We had come prepared for providing relief to some 50,000 people, but there are more than three lakh [300,000] refugees here. They are living without water, food, clothes and shelter. They are sitting wherever they can find a corner."
Refugee camps had become overcrowded, he added.
Rohingya Muslims face widespread persecution in Buddhist-majority Burma, where the recent violence has driven hundreds of thousands to seek refuge overseas.
Zaw Htay did not use the name Rohingya. Members of the ethnic group are commonly referred to as "Bengalis" by many in Burma who insist they migrated illegally from Bangladesh.

He also said Burma would not allow all people who fled to return. He said: "We have to verify them. We can only accept them after they are verified."
The government blames the Rohingya for the violence, but journalists who visited the region found evidence that raises doubts about its claims that Rohingya set fire to their own homes. 
Many of the Rohingya who flooded into refugee camps in Bangladesh told of Burmese soldiers shooting indiscriminately, burning their homes and warning them to leave or die. Others said they were attacked by Buddhist mobs.