Tuesday, 19 June 2018

A populous African country. An undeclared war. Climate change. Cattle mixed in with Muslim and Christian confrontation. Will Nigeria be torn apart?



Nairobi: In the fertile grasslands of central Nigeria, the roar of a motorcycle is enough to instill fear in the Christian cattle herders stalked by an increasingly bloody conflict. The rev of an engine is the first sign that gangs of kidnappers have emerged from the forest for their latest sortie in a battle over diminishing farmland that appears to be drawn along sectarian lines.
Across Africa's most populous country, an undeclared war, triggered in part by climate change and fought over cattle, has turned Muslims and Christians against each other in a confrontation so bitter it threatens to tear Nigeria apart.


Practising futures together : Practising justice together: Living new stories


REFUGEE WEEK STARTED YESTERDAY

I have received the following information this morning from Maureen Doonan ---
The booking site for "The Staging Post" film has been changed to
https:/www.trybooking.com/WIPZ

To check other Refugee Week information on this blog
please go to the Labels section on the sidebar.
There is quite a bit of information there so you may
need to scroll down.
If I receive any other updates, I will post them
should I receive them in time for the event.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

A ruling in a Wedding Cake Dispute

The material below has been posted from this site.
This article is lengthy and comes from the USA.
First Amendment protections of religious freedom were affirmed in a narrowly drafted decision today. 
The decision is a welcome move by the Court. But we should not confuse it with a landmark of any sort. 
The Court rejected the state of Colorado’s attempt to force Jack Phillips, owner operator of Masterpiece Bakeshops to bake a wedding cake with a congratulatory message on it for a same-sex wedding. This is good news for those of us who support separation of Church and State and individual religious freedom.
However, the Court took this action in a narrowly defined decision that was based on the egregious religious bigotry that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission demonstrated in the way it conducted its hearings on this matter. The Supreme Court decision limits itself to the narrow question of unequal protection under the law and whether or not religious belief is protected by the First Amendment from overt government hostility in this specific case. It stops far short of affirming the right of individual Americans to refuse services based on their religious beliefs. 
Both the Ruling and the Writ make clear that the Court will not tolerate direct attacks on a particular faith such as those the Commission members launched against Christianity. But the decision does not address the overall question of how individual religious freedom from government oppression will be balanced against civil rights’ claims of defined groups of people in future decisions.
In other words, the Court ruled that a government agency violates the First Amendment when it acts in accordance with what amounts to an attack against a particular religious faith. The Commissioners used language in the hearing involving the Masterpiece Bakeshop which, to any fair-minded person, was bigoted and an attack on Mr Phillip’s faith. 
Here is the pertinent section from the Writ, emphasis mine: 
… Phillips too was entitled to a neutral and respectful consideration of his claims in all the circumstances of the case. Pp. 9–12. 
(b) That consideration was compromised, however, by the Commission’s treatment of Phillips’ case, which showed elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating his objection. As the record shows, some of the commissioners at the Commission’s formal, public hearings endorsed the view that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere or commercial domain, disparaged Phillips’ faith as despicable and characterized it as merely rhetorical, and compared his invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust. No commissioners objected to the comments. Nor were they mentioned in the later state-court ruling or disavowed in the briefs filed here. The comments thus cast doubt on the fairness and impartiality of the Commission’s adjudication of Phillips’ case. 
The Court also noted in its Writ that the Commission’s handling of Mr Phillips’ case was an uneven application of the law, which raises the question of equal protection. Their reasoning was that the Commission had allowed bake shops to refuse to bake cakes with anti-gay messages on them, but that they did not give Mr Phillips the same consideration. Here is the pertinent section about that. Again, the emphasis is mine: 
… State law at the time also afforded storekeepers some latitude to decline to create specific messages they considered offensive. Indeed, while the instant enforcement proceedings were pending, the State Civil Rights Division concluded in at least three cases that a baker acted lawfully in declining to create cakes with decorations that demeaned gay persons or gay marriages. … Another indication of hostility is the different treatment of Phillips’ case and the cases of other bakers with objections to anti-gay messages who prevailed before the Commission. The Commission ruled against Phillips in part on the theory that any message on the requested wedding cake would be attributed to the customer, not to the baker. Yet the Division did not address this point in any of the cases involving requests for cakes depicting anti-gay marriage symbolism. The Division also considered that each bakery was willing to sell other products to the prospective customers, but the Commission found Phillips’ willingness to do the same irrelevant. The State Court of Appeals’ brief discussion of this disparity of treatment does not answer Phillips’ concern that the State’s practice was to disfavor the religious basis of his objection. Pp. 12–16. (c) For these reasons, the Commission’s treatment of Phillips’ case violated the State’s duty under the First Amendment not to base laws or regulations on hostility to a religion or religious viewpoint. The government, consistent with the Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise, cannot impose regulations that are hostile to the religious beliefs of affected citizens and cannot act in a manner that passes judgment upon or presupposes the illegitimacy of religious beliefs and practices. The bottom line of this ruling is that any laws regarding the provision of services and the civil rights of individual citizens must be written and enforced without prejudice. What that means is, basically, that what’s sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander. If a law requires bake shops to bake cakes for same-sex marriages, it must also require bake shops to bake cakes for anti-gay groups. More to the point, no law may be enforced in an unequal or unfair manner based on an individual American’s religious beliefs. The law, whatever it is, must be indifferent to the religious beliefs of American citizens. Its enforcement must be the same for everyone. I think that the major victory in this decision was the clear signal from the Court that First Amendment protections of religious practice free from government intrusion is a right that belongs to individual Americans. This flies in the face of recent claims by the Obama Administration that the First Amendment is limited to corporate faith practices inside church buildings. However, in this same ruling, Justice Kennedy goes off on a hypothetical riff about the nature of First Amendment rights in which he says that, while clergy clearly have the Constitutional right to refuse to perform gay-weddings, individual citizens may not have similar broad rights of refusal. That’s an important sticking point which leaves the question of whether and to what degree the First Amendment rights to religious freedom apply to individual American citizens, and how much of it is a corporate right held only by organized religious bodies.
The current logic that is being used to attack our religious freedom as individual American citizens is that First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom from government oppression applies only to organized churches operating within church facilities, and not to individual American citizens. That makes it somewhat chilling that Justice Kennedy references this line of reasoning so favorably in this ruling. It’s important to note that the Court limited this ruling to this specific case only. It stated a number of times that it might rule differently if the circumstances were different. Here, from the Ruling, is what they said. Emphasis mine:
However later cases raising these or similar concerns are resolved in the future, for these reasons the rulings of the Commission and of the state court that enforced the Commission’s order must be invalidated. The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market. The judgment of the Colorado Court of Appeals is reversed. It is so ordered. What this seems to mean is that the Court stands ready to rule differently when the government handles itself in a less prejudiced and sloppy manner. The Court seems to be hinting that what it wants to see is a neat, carefully-crafted set-piece case that will allow it to rule on hypothetical issues without having to mess with the misbehavior of local left-wing bigots. The language in this decision seems to signal that the Court, as it stands now, is eager to place gay people under 14th Amendment protections, along with African Americans. To read the Ruling, go here. 

Spiritual ecology : the sacred in everyday life


Spiritual Ecology: 10 Practices to Reawaken the Sacred in Everyday Life offers inspiring and practical guidance for reconnecting to the sacred in every day life and transforming our relationship with the Earth. Describing the power of simple, daily practices such as Walking, Gardening, Cooking with Love, and Prayer, this small book supports profound changes in how we think about and respond to the ecological crisis of our times.
Our groundbreaking book, Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth, (now in its second edition)—which included spiritual perspectives on climate change, species loss, deforestation, and other aspects of our present environmental crises from renowned spiritual teachers, scientists, and indigenous leaders—drew an overwhelmingly positive reaction from readers, many of whom are asking: "What can I do?"
Spiritual Ecology: 10 Practices to Reawaken the Sacred in Everyday Life answers that question with inspiring, personal anecdotes from the author—Sufi teacher Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee—and simple practices we all can do. Rooted in the mystical foundation of the world's great spiritual traditions, with a particular connection to Sufism, these timeless practices remind readers of our deep connections to life, each other, and the Earth, and invite a return of meaning to our desecrated world.
As Rumi says, "there are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground," and it is this sacred ground that is calling to us, that needs our living presence, our attentiveness. This small book offers simple ways to reconnect so that we can once again feel the music, the song of our living connection with the Earth.
g

TABLE of CONTENTS
Introduction
6. Cleaning
1. Walking
7. Simplicity
2. Breathing
8. Prayer
3. Gardening
9. Death
4. Seeds and Their Stories
10. Meaning and the Sacred
5. Cooking with Love
Notes & Acknowledgements

g
EXCERPTS
Ch 1—Walking:
This is a practice that has been with me since my teens—when I first started to meditate I also needed to walk. It was not taught or learned, but came as a need, a way to be, an antidote to much of the world around me—a world of people and problems, demands and desires. When one foot follows the other and the day has hardly begun, it seems these demands cannot touch me, as if I am immersed in something simpler, more essential. Placing each foot on the earth is a practice, but a practice that comes from my own roots, not a book or a teacher. Later I came to hear it called 'walking in a sacred manner,' and it is sacred, a return to what is sacred. But it also is deeper or more primal thanany purpose. Nature speaks to me and I listen. Nature calls and something deep within me responds, and I just need to give it space. I am part of a life far greater than any 'me.'(p. 2)
_____________________________________
Ch 2—Breathing:While we are alive, with each cycle of the breath the soul makes its journey into this world and then back to the Source. Spiritually we aspire to make this journey conscious. It is the lived prayer of the soul, an offering of our self to the mystery of life and its all-embracing relationship to the Divine. With each breath we consciously connect the two worlds, the world of the spirit and the physical world. We are present in the love affair that is the relationship between the Creator and the creation. (p. 10)
_____________________________________
Ch 3—Gardening:Recently I have loved to grow potatoes. I made two new beds for my potatoes, dug and composted, and planted my seed potatoes, and then waited. As I said, I am not a natural gardener, not naturally in tune with the rhythms of the Earth. This has been a gift that life has unexpectedly offered to me—this simple joy in waiting, watching the shoots begin to come from the soil, and then finally putting my fingers in the soil to dig up my potatoes, feeling the wonder of so many potatoes from a single seed. Of course these are not the perfect potatoes bought from the store. These are my own potatoes, cherished because I planted them, and their imperfections do not bother me. I love their taste, sweet and buttery. In my potatoes the Earth has given me more than abundance and nourishment; it has also brought this joy I had never expected—a simple primal joy that is a remembrance of life. (p. 21)
_____________________________________
Ch 4—Seeds and Their Stories:What I experience in my small garden is part of a story that has held us for millennia. It has given life meaning and sustenance. But today we are losing both our seeds and their stories. The biodiversity that was central to life for thousands of years is being lost. We are becoming a monoculture with a scarcity of seeds, a scarcity so severe that people have even created seed banks in the frozen North to protect our heritage of seed diversity. (p. 27-28)
_____________________________________
Ch 5—Cooking with Love:Through being attentive to the preparation of our food we bring an awareness into a basic substance and sustenance of life. Just as being aware of the breath is central to spiritual life, reconnecting us with life's essence, so is the simple art of cooking. What is more satisfying than a bowl of rice and vegetables that you have prepared and cooked with attention—what is a greater gift to a visitor and friend? (p. 38)
_____________________________________
Ch 6—Cleaning:There is a simple spiritual practice that is often overlooked—the art of cleaning. The image of the monk sweeping the courtyard has a deep significance, because without the practice of cleaning there can be no empty space, no space for a deep communion with the sacred. Outer and inner cleaning belong to the foundation of spiritual practice, and as the monk's broom touches the ground, it has a particular relationship to the Earth. We need to create a sacred space in order to live in relationship to the sacred within ourselves and within creation. (p. 47)
_____________________________________
Ch 7—Simplicity:How can we create a space of clarity, of attentiveness? How can we return to what is essential? How can we remember what really matters, what gives meaning and substance to our daily lives? How can we return to a simplicity of life that honors the simplicity of our essential nature, that gives space for the sacred? (p. 58)
_____________________________________
Ch 8—Prayer:Watching, listening, we develop the ear of the heart, the eye of the heart, the inner receptivity of the soul. And if we can listen to the Beloved within creation, to the miracle of the Earth in all Her forms, we will hear the Beloved speak to us as She spoke to our ancestors. We will find ourself in a world as whole as it is holy. (p. 69)
_____________________________________
Ch 9—Death:Nature does not need a facelift. She is eternally young because she is always dying. She is the hundred-year-old tree falling in a thunderstorm as well as the first shoots of spring. The Japanese understood this quality of the sacred, building their temples in wood and not stone so that they would have to be rebuilt again and again. (p. 78)
_____________________________________
Ch 10—Meaning and the Sacred:When our ancestors knew that everything they could see was sacred, this was not something taught but instinctively known. It was as natural as sunlight, as necessary as breathing, a fundamental recognition of the wonder, beauty, and divine nature of the world. From this sense of the sacred real meaning is born, the meaning that makes our hearts sing with the deepest purpose of being alive.
      Tragically, our present culture appears to have lost sight of this vital quality. Instead we live on the surface, separated from the real substance that has always given everyday life a depth of meaning. We are told to find meaning in our individual life, but all around us life itself tells us a different story—that we are part of the Earth, that we belong to the community of all of life in its myriad forms. Only through recognizing and living this sacred unity can we find and experience the real meaning that life is offering to us. And so we have to find ways to remember, to reconnect, to feel again what is all around us. (p. 88)

Monday, 11 June 2018

ARAN (Australian Refugee Action Network) Conference in Melbourne - 7 and 8 July 2018



Saturday 7 July – Sunday 8 July: 



The Australian Refugee Action Network is organising the second ARAN National conference, which will be held in Melbourne on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th July 2018 – we hope you are planning to join us there!  

The conference is moderately priced ($40 concession, $75 full) and is open to anyone interested in refugee activism and advocacy.  Conference dinner on Saturday night – Tamil Feast at rooftop venue in CBD.    Additional $35. 

Gather with other activists and advocates for refugee rights from across Australia to: Discuss the political context and campaign priorities; Share ideas and experience for mobilizing and effective campaigning; Explore strategies for networking across activist and advocacy groups to strengthen the campaign effort. 

Updates with the latest on the conference at


including some low cost accommodation options.

For more information email 

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Can oil and water mix? Mormons and the Liberal Party of Australia?



According to Australia's 2016 Census data, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) forms 0.3% of the population.  Mormons have been more or less invisible on the political landscape.  I have been politically active for most of my long life and I can't recall any members of any Australian parliament who were/are Mormons.

I can't even recall them being politically active i.e. active in political campaigns, door knocking, public statements, etc.

Until the last few years. 

In recent times, a program has come about called Safe Schools Coalition Australia and http://www.education.vic.gov.au/about/programs/Pages/safeschools.aspx.  This program has caused angst and outrage among people on the political right and out of the woodwork has come some people who are Mormons.  

These people have found a home and consolation within the right wing of the Liberal Party of Australian (Victorian Division).  To clarify the political spectrum in Australia, the Liberal Party in Australia is a party more like the Republicans in the USA and the Conservatives in Britain.   There would be some true Liberals in Australia's Liberal Party but there are also Conservatives and people on the Far Right of the political spectrum. So if Mormons joined an Australian political party it is highly unlikely that they would join the Australian Labor Party (which is the equivalent of the USA's Democrats). 

In the wake of the scare campaigns run by the Right and the Mormons in relation to the Safe Schools program, Mormons have been acquiring strategic influence in the Victorian Liberal Party - and, in some quarters, this is causing concern. 

Thursday, 7 June 2018

What is planned for Refugee Week in Ballarat

Just in from Ballarat Interfaith Network

Hello Everyone,
There are a couple of free events during Refugee Week.
Please note that our film for this month 
will have the writer/producer
joining us from S.A.
The launch of the container art has all been done by a refugee and 
Tom Ballard who has befriended him will be there to talk on his behalf.
Look forward to seeing you.
Maureen
(Secretary)



To find out more about Refugee Week in Australia go here

19 June 2018

Have been advised this morning that a booking site has been changed.
The booking site for "The Staging Post" film has been changed to 


Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Refugee Week - *I STAND WITH REFUGEES*

Refugee Week 16-24 JUNE 2018
Soup and Sandwich
Luncheon
#I Stand With Refugees

When history looks back will it be to see them standing alone
or will it see we were standing #WithRefugeesC:\Users\Maureen\Downloads\received_735379013320665.jpeg

Performances by:
The Namarilly Bagarook Dancers
The Australian Irish Dance Company Ballarat
The South Sudanese Cultural Group
Presentation:
“Caroline Chisholm – The Immigrants Friend”
Stalls and Competitions
Launch of 2018 major fundraiser -
prizes include a family holiday in Victor Harbor
12.30 pm Wednesday 20 JUNE 2018
Entry: $20 Nazareth House Hall, Mill Street Ballarat
All funds raised will assist local asylum seekers and their families.

C:\Users\Maureen\Downloads\Victor_Harbor_Logo_JPEG.jpgC:\Users\Maureen\Downloads\The Forge Pizzeria - Logo - Print - Copy_rotated.jpgC:\Users\Maureen\Downloads\BRASSN.jpg


HOUSE OF WELCOME BALLARAT: Inquiries mob: 0401 175 045 ph: 5332 2103 email: annekav123@yahoo.co.uk