21 June, 2009

To protect or not to protect

You may remember that there has been some conversation in the USA lately about the use of torture on terrorists, and its moral implications. I guess conversation is the wrong term to use. There was some heated debate at all levels that wrestled with the legitimate concern of how best to protect and defend the state from its enemies.

During this time, a report from the Government Accountability Office was released with multiple examples of abuse and torture by staff within government facilities. It was a report however, on incidents that occurred within public schools. The following information comes from an article ‘Torture in America's Schools’ by James Taranto who highlights the findings of the GAO report. He states that the 10 cases investigated involved children ranging in age from 4 to 14, and eight of the cases occurred at government schools. “The cases involved children with disabilities who were restrained and secluded, often in cases where they were not physically aggressive."

“At a public school in West Virginia, a 4-year-old girl with cerebral palsy and autism "was 'uncooperative,' so teachers restrained her in a chair with multiple leather straps that resembled a 'miniature electric chair.' " The girl was later diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder. "At least one of the three teachers responsible" is still at the school.

At a Texas public school, a 230-pound "special education teacher" placed a 129-pound boy of 14 "into a prone restraint and lay on top of him because he would not stay seated." The student died. The case was ruled a homicide but no charges were filed. The teacher "currently teaches in Virginia and is licensed to instruct children with disabilities."

Other cases include a 7 year old purportedly dying after being held face down for hours by school staff, 5 year olds allegedly being tied to chairs with bungee cords and duct tape by their teacher and suffering broken arms and bloody noses, and a 13 year old reportedly hanging himself in a seclusion room after prolonged confinement.”

These cases are both shocking and disgusting. However what I find worse is the reality that the report generated little to no outrage across any sectors of the country at a time when people were so vocal on the issue of torture toward terrorists. How do we comprehend this? The only thing that I can come up with is that people are selfish. Disability effects a relative small percentage of the population, and the rights of those affected are generally disregarded (except for the token mandated stuff we must adhere to like parking spaces and public toilets.) It appears we have not changed much from Biblical times. Hideous injustices occurring to those who are blemished physically? Sounds familiar. And the energy generated on the issue of torture to terrorists is totally understandable, because in some crazy way we have been made to believe that it effects us all very deeply, and closely. After all, terrorists are everywhere, aren’t they? And so we the public take a righteous stand, either for or against the rights of terrorists to be protected from torture.

My point, apart from simply being angry and wanting you to join me in this anger, is that when we look at a situation that is clearly unjust, we must look at the situation from the perspective of the victim, and not from our own personal point of view. Too often we act or remain still based on how the situation affects us. We say “well, I do feel sorry for the Afghans, but we surely can’t let all of them in the country?” We say, “well I do feel sorry for the Sudanese woman being raped, but if we send our troops there, who will protect our interests in the Middle East?” We say, “well I do feel bad for the indigenous who are dying of renal failure because there is limited dialysis in remote parts of the Territory, but we must continue to build better hospitals in the major cities, because that's where I live! (Ok, not many of you say that last one!)

My plea is that we begin to approach vulnerable people, simply because they require our help, and not because we have any vested interest one way or the other. Justice by triage…how would the world look then?


Article from http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB124412724085285291.html

20 June, 2009

The epidemic

"A man from a remote Aboriginal community in Western Australia has died after testing positive to swine flu. South Australia's Chief Medical Officer Paddy Phillips says the 26-year old died in the Royal Adelaide Hospital on Friday afternoon. Swine flu has infected nearly 40,000 people around the world in 89 countries and territories, causing 168 deaths since late March, latest World Health Organisation data shows."

However, it is acknowledged that the majority of swine flu fatalities occur when the victims have additional health concerns already present, making the flu more difficult for the individual to battle.

The Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon assured Australians, "we do need to remind the community that for the vast majority of people who contract this flu over the coming months, it will be very mild."

So, essentially, swine flu takes down the weakest in our communities. Is it surprising then that our one and only swine flu fatality was a 26 year-old indigenous man? But, I guess that means we shouldn't worry, because for the vast majority of 'us', the flu will be very mild. I guess I am supposed to be thankful I am in the 'vast majority'?

I am not suggesting that the indigenous community are the only ones struggling in our country, and there is every chance there will be a non-indigenous death to report on next week. However, for me, it is just another disappointing reminder of the disparity between the majority of non-indigenous and indigenous Australians.

So, what are you going to do about it this week?


17 June, 2009

TIP 2009 report

So today is the day that the TIP 2009 report comes out in the USA. This reports gives an overview of the Traffiking situation worldwide, what is happening and what countries have in place.

It is a big document but maybe an interesting read. It gives Australia a reasonably good report, although there is still more to do when there are still people being traffiked in both labour and sex industries.

Click on the title of this article for the link to the website.

13 June, 2009

"Aboriginal 'cooked' in back of police van"

"The family of a Western Australian Aboriginal elder who died from heatstroke after being transported in a prison van is considering a civil lawsuit. In January last year, Mr Ward was transported hundreds of kilometres across the Goldfields in 40 degree-plus heat in a van that had faulty air conditioning. Mr Ward spent four hours in the searing heat and suffered third-degree burns where his body touched the hot metal floor. WA Coroner Alastair Hope found Mr Ward was effectively cooked to death during the trip."

Can you believe this article? I mean, I understand what it is saying, but can you believe it? Can you believe that a man was first, cooked to death, and second, that the biggest punishment offered was a suspension of the guards driving the car?!

Some times I think Australia is starting to make a little progress in our acceptance and treatment of indigenous people. And then I read an article like this and I am confronted with the reality, that for many racist Australians, the indigenous people of this land are treated worse than animals.

We must take our advocacy role seriously. And we need to not only speak out on injustice, but actively reverse injustice. Who among us is going to start making a difference? Who is going to actively correct racism in Australia? Who is going to empower the indigenous community to demand more than compensation, but to demand justice?

I hope it will be you.


12 June, 2009

Freedom Fridays - ACT

Some good news. In case you have not heard - Mars(chocolate) have made a commitment by 2020 that all of their chocolate will be certified fair trade. This is very exciting! The CEO of Stop the traffik says that this shows the tide is turning. The founder of Stop the traffick says that it is up to us, the consumers, to hold
them to their agreeement.


Last fortnight, we looked at CHANGE and we prayed about sex trafficking in particular. We want to continue to focus our prayers on sex trafficking today. During our time of fasting and prayer, we are going to do some further research and reading to enable us to pray more intelligently about human trafficking. Having more information helps our prayers to be specific. Our information comes from http://www.stopthetraffik.org/getinvolved/act/

We will be looking at the ACT/s pack: Action and awareness pack. By reading and praying over what we study today, we are going to be more set up to act.

Follow the link above and then click on “Trafficking in the sex industry”. If you have not been to the website before I recommend having a look around. If you have trouble downloading the pack, you can e-mail info@stopthetraffik.org and they’ll send you a copy by e-mail.


- Join the cries of millions, cry out to God for mercy, cry out for deliverance for trafficked victims
- Thank God for stop the traffik
- Thank God that Mars has made a commitment
- Specifically for the victims of sex trafficking
- Ask God if he requires more of you
- That the cost of trafficking people would outway the personal benefits -the money, power, gratification etc.
- The end of human trafficking, of slavery

Father, we pray these things in your name, knowing that your grace is enough, that lives can be transformed and that hearts can be healed.


Freedom Fridays has been running for a few years. This is the first Freedom Friday to be blogged on Just Salvos. Emails are sent out fortnightly for those who have signed up to this campaign. If you want to join the campaign email mailto:freedomfridays@gn3t.com?subject=Signup

11 June, 2009

Gordon Ramsey, Culture and Human Trafficking

News that Gordon Ramsay has had a roasting from his mother after an outburst of unforgivable rudeness to an Australian television presenter has garnered the usual headlines for the chef. After inexplicably making offensive remarks to Tracy Grimshaw, Australia's equivalent of Fern Britton, about her facial mole and questioning her sexuality, he later mocked her at a cooking demonstration by holding up a picture of a naked woman with the features of a pig, telling the audience that she urgently needed Botox.

It was crude, unkind and unfunny and offered proof that there is, after all, such a thing as bad publicity. There was an air of desperate attention-seeking about Ramsay the man, which can only be a reflection of the current beleaguered position of Ramsay the brand. here's the full article.

I'm amazed again by popular culture that Ramsey's insults (especially considering his character) are the makings of headline stories across the globe. Perhaps Australia is saying it's time that men were called to account for their behaviour towards women... mean and harsh judgement of outward appearances, lewd comments and suggestions, sexual references that were belittling... wow - sounds to me like the front of a magazine cover! I mean, we have been saturated in a popular culture of belittling and creating sexual objects out of women for years now. It's over fourteen years ago that Australian's decided that selling women's bodies (the majority of which are poor, uneducated and minorities) was a great idea. The sex industry loves the belittling and berating of women - so why does Gordon Ramsey get in trouble for doing what everyone else does all the time? Interesting question.

Melinda Tankard Reist, of Women's Forum Australia, told Australian newspaper the Herald Sun that Ramsay was "no longer welcome here"."Ramsay's sexist and demeaning actions are offensive to every Australian woman," she said.
"Why should he get paid for depicting a woman as an animal and publicly deriding her looks? He shouldn't make money through the verbal abuse of women." (check out her website for some revolutionary thinking around women)

For those of you who are tired of women being treated as sex objects and slaves - you may want to join the freedom friday revolution (prayer and fasting for people caught in the clutches of sex slavery)... right now the high court case involving five women from Thailand found as human sex slaves in Melbourne is being finished up and by next week we hope to hear a good verdict. Don't forget the defense council for the traffickers compared their lot to the AFL draft... so, I think they need more than a public denouncing. They need to understand that Australia is no longer permitting their women to be sold as slaves. If Gordon Ramsey can start to understand the shift in public opinion - perhaps it's time we called upon all Australian men to treat women differently?

07 June, 2009

Some headlines through the week

"A herd of hungry elephants has forced all 5,000 families from a village in northern Mozambique to abandon their homes, state media reported on Friday."

I saw this headline as I was scanning over stories today. It was in the odd bits section which made me think its purpose was not to be pulled out and made into a justice story. But think about the scenario above. Think about the dynamics. An entire village has to pick up and move on, because elephants have taken over and it is too dangerous to live there. Where will they go? How many were killed before they decided to leave? How often does this sort of thing happen? Will they all stick together, or will the entire village split up? Will the families have a livelihood now? What will they do for food? Will they receive any compensation from the government for relocation?
It is just another reminder to me, that while my life and privileges are completely different from those of these villages, their needs and their emotions are the same. It was another reminder to me, that we continue to see Africa (and the majority of the developing world) as the exception to every rule. Somehow death, disease and destruction are less impacting there than they are here. How do I know we think this way?
Take the example of swine flu. Yes, it is bad, but the precautions taken in this country, and the immediate action of government, health services, schools and the general population demonstrate the power of our country to overt death, disease and destruction. Meanwhile AIDS continues to take out an entire continent, and our lack of action suggests that we are...? Some could argue that our precautions will protect other vulnerable nations from the spread of swine flu, and that is true. But I think we would all agree that the average Joe is more concerned about the spread of the virus to them here in Australia than it's journey overseas. Worth some thought.
Another example from the week's news that demonstrates that death, disease and destruction are less impacting within a developing world context than here would be the Air France Flight 447 Airbus crash that took place this week. When I heard the news, I felt so sad for the families of those lost. But then in my mind, I heard the voice of 'Stop the Traffick' founder Steve Chalk who illustrates some horrific facts on human trafficking. He states that 1 person is trafficked across borders every minute; equivalent to filling 5 Jumbo jets every day & a trade that earns twice as much worldwide revenue as Coca Cola. People are trafficked for sexual exploitation, sweat shops, domestic service, child brides, circuses, sacrifice, forced begging, and I am certain a range of other despicable things that a human should not have to endure. So while I am sad about the one jumbo jet falling into the sea, and the loss of lives that followed, I want us also to be sad, and seeking justice for the five jumbo jets of people trafficked every day. I want us to be putting as much money and effort into rescuing the 'live' victims, as those already dead.

Have a powerful week,

02 June, 2009

Strickland's guest blog spot on Sojourners

Those of you interested in more thoughts around The Salvation Army's recent apology to Scarlet Alliance in Australia might be interested in this guest blog spot by Danielle Strickland at sojourner's.