30 July, 2009

Millions trump truth about dodgy schools

The Salvation Army 614 is responding to the overwhelming needs of international students with 'The Couch'... but we could do more...

read the whole article here:
Sushi Das
July 29, 2009

Few want the real story on international education to be told.
THERE’S a private training college for international students in Melbourne whose chief executive is reputed to be illiterate.
Having written stories for The Age in the past year on private colleges that allegedly run bogus courses, take cash for certificates, demand bribes to upgrade marks and employ unqualified teachers, I hardly raised an eyebrow when I heard about the college boss who couldn’t read or write English.
If I can confirm details of the shambolic practices this person is allegedly overseeing, I’ll be blowing the lid on that college too. But if my experience of researching dodgy colleges is anything to go by, I am confident I will be frustrated and stonewalled by all those who don’t want such stories to see the light of day.
I’m talking about the federal Department of Education, which refuses to let staff speak out; the Brumby Government, whose spin doctors offered me information in exchange for positive coverage; the state’s education regulator, who won’t answer questions unless they are in writing; the college operators who don’t answer my calls; the teachers who fear losing their jobs if they are identified; and the students who remain silent because they are either complicit in scams or terrified they will be deported for blowing the whistle.

21 July, 2009

I'll Fight in Bundaberg

I have spent the last weekend at an I’ll Fight conference in Bundaberg. While I am not generally a huge fan of conferences, there was a solid line up of topics and presenters and it turned out to be a great weekend of teaching, exploring, networking and sharing. A couple of things stood out to me.

One, a large percentage of the delegates were quite elderly (at least over 65years). Justice is often seen as a young persons trend, which allows them to jump and down and scream and shout without ever having to break an intellectual or financial sweat. When I saw this many aged within their sixties and seventies, I felt an assurance that perhaps the world at large would one day embrace the responsibility of global poverty, human rights abuses and unjust political, economic and social structures. The older generation are actually far more connected with social justice issues than I first thought. I guess it is not surprising given the era they grew up in. Sure, they saw the post war boom, but from my experience, they are also a little more conscious about money and possessions. It seems also, that this older generation are not attracted to hype, gimmicks or short term investments. They want to know what is wrong, and exactly what they need to do to fix it. Their response comes from a wealth of experience and a maturity that sometimes those in the younger generation have yet to acquire. The result of course, is steady and measured…not the sort of radical insanity we so look forward to. But in the end, we could be left with a stability the justice movement needs? So, I am thinking up ways to connect this new thought into action. Watch out Home Leagues!

The second thing I noticed was the consistency of the message from each of the speakers. Each person drummed in that any commitment to justice and indeed to people suffering an injustice needs to be long-term, and needs to be consistent. If we are going to transform generations of poverty and injustice, it is going to take generations of consistent work. The message was clear...justice is not about a weekend of information and hype, it is about adjusting your lifestyle so that the welfare of others, both near and far, become the priority of our everyday life. We must reconsider a change in how we spend our money, our resources, our time, our advocacy. Our whole life becomes a life for others...and this is the life of justice we are called to. Are you in?


17 July, 2009

British researchers create sperm in laboratory

Report from the ACL (Australian Christian Lobby)

"This is man at his maddest. I think that sometimes we have to stop meddling and accept infertility. Science must be totally ethical and totally safe – this is neither."

This was the clear response of Josephine Quintavalle, director of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, to recent news that human sperm has been created in a science laboratory for the first time.

Researchers at the Northeast England Stem Cell Institute, which includes Newcastle and Durham Universities and Newcastle Hospital, claim they made the ‘breakthrough’ using stem cells from an embryo. With some minor changes they claim the sperm could fertilise an egg to create a child, allowing infertile couples to parent their own genetic child.

The use of embryos in research is already controversial, but this ‘development’ is doubly disturbing – the scientists believe their technique could be used in future to create sperm from female stem cells, which would allow a woman to have a baby without a man.

The results of the experiment, which were published in the Stem Cells and Development journal, are being touted by the researchers as a development in infertility treatment. Although the scientists do not believe that their created sperm should be used to impregnate women, possible future misuse of their technique poses obvious ethical challenges.

Media reports about the creation of the world’s first laboratory sperm can be found here and here. The Stem Cell Institute have also produced a media release and published a video explaining the technique, which are available here.

Dr David van Gend, national director of Australians for Ethical Stem Cell Research, strongly condemned the exploitation of a dead embryo to create the sperm, writing on his “No Human Cloning – Do No Harm” blog that:

"If there is any medical value in learning to create sperm from stem cells – and there are some arguable uses – then this objective could have been met in an ethically uncontentious way: the sperm could equally well be created from non-embryonic stem cells.”

You can read more of Dr van Gend’s response to the news from Britain by clicking here.

14 July, 2009

Child of God

From Lisa Thompson:

Dear Friends: A few months ago I had the COLOSSAL blessing of being introduced to Steve Siler, founder of Music for the Soul a Christian nonprofit ministry of music. Our paths connected because of the film Somebody's Daughter, the very powerful documentary film about men's struggle with pornography. As those of you have been on this list for a while hopefully already know, I'm a huge fan of Somebody's Daughter.

It's a powerful tool full of the strength, truth, and light of the Holy Spirit against the darkness, isolation, and hopelessness of the sex industry. The film and music project Somebody's Daughter was spurred because of a friend's late night call to Steve. Steve's friend confessed to him about his ongoing battle with pornography. That night Steve and his friend decided, "We wanted to plant a flag; to say to the world that every woman is a child of God, deserving of dignity and respect and to be loved for who she is on the inside."
Ever since our introduction, Steve and I began corresponding and talking about issues related to sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. And, to my surprise, last fall he promised to write a song for our movement. Steve delivered on that promised earlier this year. When I read the email he sent me with the lyrics to a song he entitled Child of God I was moved to tears (lyrics provided below). Through those words I saw Steve standing on God's Holy Hill continuing to wave his flag high. In the battle against the ravages of the commercial sex industry and sex trafficking it is rare that people quickly comprehend the isolation, abandonment, and pain of those who are prostituted. I know it took me a long time before I understood all the nuances, and how the commercial sex industry can twist and distort reality so much that it can make itself almost look normal, harmless, and even liberating. But when held up to closer inspection all those distortions evaporate, and the hideous ugliness of what the sex industry is is exposed. I say all this to say that Steve understood all this, and he grasped it virtually over night. The fact that he understands pours out of every line, every stanza of this song.
Since Steve wrote the song, he has been VERY busy. Raising funds to cut a demo, coordinating numerous recording sessions, and perfecting the recording through all kinds of engineering that I can't begin to understand. Here is the good news: the final product is ready! And so, my friends, I am absolutely thrilled to announce the official release of Child of God to the public. To hear the song simply go to the Music for the Soul home page at http://www.musicforthesoul.org/ and look underneath the green tabs at the left hand side of the page, and click Child of God.
To contact Music for the Soul for your own copy and permission to use simply e-mail them using the contact page at the site or call the toll free number at 1-877-298-9081. You should know that Music for the Soul intends that Child of God be available to be used free of charge to minister to those rescued from sex trafficking or those coming out of the sex industry by organizations on the front lines. If organizations want to package the song for a premium to fundraise for their work or as part of live events Music for the Soul will negotiate below market license rates to make that possible. I am absolutely certain that many, many people will be blessed by Child of God. I know I have been. May it help soften the hearts of those hard against those in the sex trade, and may it be a message of love, comfort, and renewal to those who thought they were "just prostitutes." Abolition! Lisa

Child of God (Lyrics distributed with permission) by Steve Siler
copyright 2009 Music for the Soul
I paint on the face
I strap on the heels
I shut down my heart so it won’t have to feel
the hands that don’t know me all over my skin
and the eyes that don’t love me drinking me in

Under this make up I’m black and blue
The petals were crushed before I could bloom
I didn’t choose this No one ever would
And I’d break these chains if only I could

I’m a child of God
I hide in plain sight
I’m a child of God
Slave to the night
Powerless, broken, abandoned, abused
Do you see a child of God Or just a prostitute?

The world looks away and calls me a whore
and each day I die just a little bit more
A disposable person to keep at arms length
Human trash… Is that what you think?

I’m a child of God
I hide in plain sight
I’m a child of God
Slave to the night
Powerless, broken, abandoned, abused
Do you see a child of God Or just a prostitute?

What I’ve become is not who I am
We both were created by the very same hand
I’m a child of God
I hide in plain sight
I’m a child of God
This isn’t right
See my humanity
Look for the truth
I am a child of God
I am a child of God
Not a prostitute

10 July, 2009

charity or justice or both - read the article to find out more...

This is a major initiative and will mark a turning point in the hunger challenge. For more than 20 years there was not only a neglect of agriculture, but a reliance on shipping emergency food aid.

- Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia University economist, praising President Obama's efforts to enlist the G8 nations to contribute $15 billion to invest in agricultural development--rather than direct aid--for the world’s poorest farmers. (Source: The New York Times)

Prostitution - our response

A discussion piece on Prostitution

Prostitution in Australia, as with many other countries has become a societal norm, something that many of us do not agree with but have come to accept as being a part of common life, although we rarely think about it. For many of us, Prostitution is something that is only related to the city, the night and men and women who are seen as morally incorrect or apathetic. We associate Prostitution with drug users, street crime and the geographical area’s of our neighbourhood, which we tend to avoid.

There is much debate about Prostitution and specifically in Australia the debate about legal and illegal Prostitution, which have strong arguments for both direction. When we consider Prostitution, we rarely look at the implications it has on the person, we talk about it as a moral and social issue, it is often a part of political debates, public awareness campaigns and more recently for The Salvation Army, the Red Shield Appeal. Prostitution has much deeper lying social impacts, on the person and the world in which that person lives, but often we view Prostitution as a choice that the person who we call a “prostitute” has made.

Why would people choose to be in Prostitution? I do recognise that there are some, who do make an informed choice to be in the work of Prostitution, but there are many others who may have seemed to make a choice, but that choice has been made out of necessity, survival or an addiction they can no longer control. So then is Prostitution a choice or is it someone trying to survive who has become a paid victim of physical and sexual abuse?

One pro-prostitution study revealed that there were actually 3 types of prostitutes, those who entered the work before 16 yrs (kids), those who entered between 16-18yrs (girls) and those who entered 19yrs (women) and up. The statistical information revealed that the kids and girls largely experienced family break-down, physical and sexual violence and drug abuse. Where as the statistical picture of women portrayed that they were lead into prostitution through, “economic situation, or financial survival for themselves”. The research displayed that it was an informed choice that these women made, as “many cases, their children, coupled with a knowledge about the sex industry which removes the barriers of mythological notions [is] enough for them to perceive prostitution as a viable economic option.”

All of these situations don’t seem to be much of a choice when prostitution is the only option. Maybe it was the most economical, maybe it would allow more financial viability for a single parent house hold, but surely we can not stand by and allow this to take place.

There are many women in Prostitution who choose not to leave, this is for a variety of reasons, many of which are related to fear of the unknown and the inability to financially support themselves any other way, plus a variety of other social factors. Interestingly studies reveal that more than 50% of women would choose to leave Prostitution if they felt they had the ability to. So have we created a society that allows Prostitution through law, but does not adequately support women who want to leave prostitution, therefore leaving them ostracised from the majority of society?

What is the way forward? There will be political and legal debates that take place, much justice to be fought for, but for us as Christians our first calling is to love God and than love others as Christ loved us. We accept that women, no matter what choices they have made are in prostitution and we love them no matter what the circumstance. We don’t just acknowledge them, we build relationships with them, we share with them, pray with them and be ready for when they see a way out and help them to rebuild their lives in new circumstances.

08 July, 2009

Perth Brothels Overwhelmed with Business

Demand. Demand. Demand. One of the results of a legalized sex industry is the increase in demand... if you are a registered and legal brothel you can advertise and spread the word - you can bring in other women from other states to help satisfy men who want to buy sex... all of this sounds quite legit - except when you know about the real demographics of prostituted persons... most women involved in prostitution come from a marginalized, abusive and traumatic past... so to offer them an 'opportunity' to sell their bodies (at tremendous risk and personal damage) is merely to offer state-run exploitation.
Check out the article from Perth (click on this title to read the whole thing from the source):
PERTH brothels are increasing staff to contend with the arrival of two US warships carrying more than 5400 sailors.

Nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington and guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens docked off Fremantle on Thursday. Prevalent in groups of five or six on the streets of Perth on Friday, some sailors were asking locals: ``Where do you go to party?''.
Business groups estimate the sailors' arrival will boost the local economy to the tune of $5 million during the ships' five-day stay. The owner of Perth brothel Langtrees, Beverly Clarke, said she had put on five extra staff for the weekend, including two from the eastern states.
While there had already been a marginal increase in business, she expected numbers to increase markedly by Friday night.
``Two more (US) sailors just walked in,'' she said while being interviewed on Friday afternoon.
``At the moment I've even got girls from the eastern states here to assist us.''