31 August, 2010

Violence against women

The UN estimates that one in 3 women experiences physical or sexual violence.

One particularly gruesome practice is the act of female genital mutilation

Here is some info...

FACTS
·Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
·The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.
·Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later, potential childbirth complications and newborn deaths.
·An estimated 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM.
·It is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15 years.
·In Africa an estimated 92 million girls from 10 years of age and above have undergone

International Response
Since 1997, great efforts have been made to counteract FGM, through research, work within communities, and changes in public policy. Progress at both international and local levels includes:
·wider international involvement to stop FGM;
·the development of international monitoring bodies and resolutions that condemn the practice;
·revised legal frameworks and growing political support to end FGM; and
·in some countries, decreasing practice of FGM, and an increasing number of women and men in practising communities who declare their support to end it.
Research shows that, if practising communities themselves decide to abandon FGM, the practice can be eliminated very rapidly.

For a full report on what’s being done, see http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2008/9789241596442_eng.pdf

Here is a youtube clip on the issue, but I warn you, it is confronting and hard to watch.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQSgIoSTgVU

24 August, 2010

Balancing the church and the state

During this election campaign, we have had some concern that the Salvos are getting too far into the political arena, and that they should remove themselves from the affairs of the state.

This statement concerns me. I understand the purpose of separation being one of protection of the people of the state; so that my values that flow from my beliefs are not unfairly placed on those who profess no such faith. I both understand and support this notion. However, if I am called to remove myself from the advocacy of those oppressed by the unjust structures inherent in capitalist democracies simply because I have both a faith, and an allegiance to a denomination, then I will have to disagree.

Some of our greatest political activists were Christians, and were active because of their faith. William Booth, Martin Luther King Jr, William Wilberforce, President Lincoln!! To be Christian does not make you silent on issues of government. The Salvation Army must speak for those who are not heard, and they must speak to the people in power. That includes business leaders, community leaders, and yes, politicians. The Salvation Army is apolitical, and will criticise any political party or position that does not represent the needs of the most disadvantaged. We will always be, unashamedly, involved in advocacy for those most in need, and that will always involve us in the political arena and at times in fierce political debate.

And let us remember, that to be political does not mean one needs to always be critical. Very often, those engaged in politics will come to The Salvation Army and seek the wisdom of our practical experience, or ask us how a policy could be shaped. We work together, regardless of the party, to better the justice outcomes for the most disadvantaged. However, when we find that a Party is taking us down a path we believe to be detrimental, we will speak out against the policy (not the party, or the person). Politics is all around us. To turn our back on it would be to turn our back on our people. The Salvation Army will continue to work apolitically until fair outcomes are a reality for all.

Here is a Papal encyclical on this topic that I found helpful, and hope you will too:

“Founded to build the kingdom of heaven on earth rather than to acquire temporal power, the Church openly avows that the two powers—Church and State—are distinct from one another; that each is supreme in its own sphere of competency. But since the Church does dwell among men, she has the duty "of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel." Sharing the noblest aspirations of men and suffering when she sees these aspirations not satisfied, she wishes to help them attain their full realization. So she offers man her distinctive contribution: a global perspective on man and human realities.” ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PAUL VI ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF PEOPLES, MARCH 26, 1967

Gen

22 August, 2010

Confused?

Australia had its election yesterday, and no one won! It says a lot about the state of Australia, and we will be talking about that and what's to come on Just Salvos Live on Monday, 6.30pm EST.

But for now, here is a summary of some of the key elements of yesterday printed at the ABC website:
Key points of the 2010 election:

•Australia set for first hung parliament since 1940
•Greens hold balance of power in Senate with nine seats
•Liberal Ken Wyatt elected first Indigenous member of Lower House in WA seat of Hasluck
•Adam Bandt first Greens member elected to the Lower House at a general election
•LNP's Wyatt Roy, 20, becomes youngest person ever elected to Parliament in seat of Longman
•Veteran Liberal MP Wilson Tuckey loses O'Connor to Nationals candidate after holding it since 1980
•Labor's 2007 star recruit Maxine McKew loses seat of Bennelong

In the end, Labor finished with 70 seats and the coalition 72, but you need 76 to take a majority so it will be up to the five Independent seats to decide who they will join to make a minority government. Early suggestions are a Liberal minority government by one seat.

One thing is for sure, the country is not overly impressed or inspired with either of the two parties. There was a 16% informal vote (turning up but not voting correctly) which is huge (and very disappointing) and a massive swing for the Greens in the senate who now hold the balance of power and picked up their first seat in the House. It is all very intersting.

So join us for more on Monday at http://www.salvationarmy.org.au/sstv/justsalvos.htm

18 August, 2010

A lament and a prayer for Pakistan...

Have you abandoned your creation to destruction, and your children to despair?
Have you left us with nothing but our own selves to guard against the evil that surrounds and invades us?
Why Lord can you not come quickly to the aid of our brothers and sisters in Pakistan?
Will you continue to let the enemy have his way?
When will your justice flow like the floods covering the homes of millions of innocent victims?
When will your grace pour like the rains that cause such devastation?
When will you show us your powerul and merciful hand?
For you, oh Lord, are the mighy one...mighty to save.
You Lord are the creator God who parts seas and governs kings.
You Lord are the army leader who gathers soldiers and crushes the enemy.
Lead us now to help one another through the trials that seem to hurt some, but not others.
Be our Lord and come to our rescue.
Show us Your ways and lead us in the ways grace, justice, mercy and love.
Come to our rescue.
Be our salvation.

16 August, 2010

Compulsory democracy...an oxymoron???

Mark Latham is up to his usual silliness in the week leading up to the election. He is encouraging people to vote 'informally'.

He says 'They say voting is compulsory in Australia but it's not compulsory to fill out the ballot paper, you can put it straight into the ballot box totally blank. That's what I'll be doing on Saturday and I urge you to do the same.'

In an article (link below) from the Sydney Morning Herald, Jacqueline Maley comments on the immaturity of his stance. "No matter how disillusioned we become with the political process, the soullessness of election campaigns, the mindless slogans and the baby-kissing, the moment we decide to vote informally is the moment we weaken our democracy." She rightly goes on to point out the lengths individuals will go through in oppressive regimes to get to the ballet box, some risking death and persecution in both the demanding of free and fair elections, and in the voting process itself. "Elderly villagers queueing to vote in the first free East Timorese election in 2001. The great civil rights marches of the American south. The felling of the Berlin wall. (As an addendum, it was after the sabotage by militia groups of that 2001 East Timorese election that the Australian government sent in troops: the ultimate expression of how strongly we value the right to vote.)"

Elections are one of the foundations of the democratic process, and a component that we must not take for granted. As helpless as I feel right now over the treatment of asylum seekers, of our indigenous mothers and fathers, of our very earth, at least I know I can go to the local primary school and make my voice heard on Saturday. Is there a party I can vote for the resembles exactly what I think should happen? No. But the very act of voting reminds me that the power to vote, to advocate, to rebuke, to choose is the accountability politicians need to ensure the foundational principles of our country, as enshrined in our constitution, are maintained. The minute we fail to see the power of the free voice in Australia, we begin to allow power to clot where is should be free flowing. Encouraging people to devalue their vote encourages people to devalue their freedom. Latham's comments aren't too problematic as I am pretty sure that nobody listens to him, but still, one has to wonder how he entered politics (and with relative success) with this perspective.

I am however often challenged by those outside Australia who assert that the democratic value of free elections is somewhat devalued when made compulsory. Its a good debating point, but with such a small population, Australia needs a compulsory vote to legitimise the process. Maybe when we start letting more 'boat people' in we will be able to stay home on election day :-)

Bottom line...vote. And vote according to the parties values, and not the flashy media issue of the month. Never underestimate the gift of freedom you have, and exercise that gift for the benefit of those in need, and not just for yourself.

The link for the full article is at http://www.smh.com.au/federal-election/lathams-blank-vote-blather-from-mouth-of-truculent-teen-20100816-125ns.html?autostart=1

gen

13 August, 2010

"He's as mad as a cut snake!"

Great article in the Age today. Have your comment on the just salvos facebook site!
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Bob Hawke says there is no way to "stop the boats" as Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has claimed he will do to the asylum-seeking craft regularly arriving on islands off Australia’s north-west coast.

The former Labor prime minister repeated his attack on Mr Abbott describing him as "mad as a cut snake" and said Australia needed people like those arriving by boat to claim asylum because they had initiative and courage.

Mr Hawke offered a range of thoughts across many issues to a Financial Services Council conference in Melbourne today.

Mr Hawke admitted he had early concerns about Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s re-election prospects but believed the Labor campaign was looking up for her now.

He also said there was no way to "stop the boats" as Mr Abbott had promised.

"We’re all bloody boat people," Mr Hawke said.

"That’s how we found the place."

Mr Hawke said he understood the frustration of many voters at "queue jumpers", but said "we have to look at the other side of the coin".

He said the Coalition’s approach to the boat people question was "nonsense".

"We cannot turn the boats back," Mr Hawke said.

"These people have got initiative, guts and courage and Australia needs people like that."

He pushed Indonesia as the location for an asylum seeker processing centre, saying it would be "fair enough, as long as the conditions there are humane".

Mr Hawke also spoke about his South Australian-based work with a centre focused on improving relations between the Islamic community and others, saying the real challenge for Australia in his eyes was not to "demonise Muslim people".

On the wider question of the August 21 poll, Mr Hawke was happy to admit the five-week campaign had not started well for Labor, after a series of damaging leaks and the issue of former leader Kevin Rudd’s rolling.

"Julia hasn’t been able to shine in the first half of the campaign," he said, but he genuinely felt that Labor would win.

http://www.theage.com.au/federal-election/the-leaders/abbott-mad-as-a-cut-snake-says-boatperson-hawke-20100813-122fr.html

10 August, 2010

Federal Election Resources

Please find two resources available for your use in preparation for the upcoming election.

The Federal Election Statements 2010 will help you further understand the eight priority areas and the corresponding recommendations The Salvation Army believe are necessary for our political leaders to acknowledge. This document can be accessed here:


The Federal Election Prayer Guide focusses on the major issues affecting the nation, and can be accessed here:


Whilst The Salvation Army shows no preference to particular political parties, it is important to be aware of the political state of the nation, and advocate where possible for the most marginalised and vulnerable of our community.

We trust these documents will help you to prepare for the national election on August 21st. Please feel free to print both documents and distribute as required.

Let us unite in prayer seeking wisdom for the leaders of our country and discernment for all voters.

09 August, 2010

Conclusion to the $2 challenge

Sorry all, I have been without net and time.

I want to conclude my thoughts on the $2 a day challenge.

On the second last day, I decided to increase the difficulty. I left home without my wallet. It is one thing to pretend to be poor, knowing that if anything went slightly wrong that day, you would have a credit card to fix it. But to give yourself no option of cash was an exciting addition to the challenge. I remember blogging on a similar lesson when my husband and I were stranded in America and in dire need of medical attention. We were faced with the likelihood of a ten thousand dollar or more procedure, and were judging whether to risk it (despite the fact that infection had set in) or pay the money. I remember being thankful for my 'rainy day' savings, while at the same time wondering what on earth those without a spare ten thousand dollars would do.

My friend made it through the challenge successfully, however on one day, when hit hard with a migraine, she was able to relieve the pain with medication. While this wasn't against the rules, it did bring home the great security of medical care, even in the simplest form of pain relief. We are able to live through some of the most complex diseases and horrific accidents in the western world. We are able to prolong life beyond all reasonable expectations. While in the developing world, lives are still lost to what should be benign dieseases such as malaria and diahorrea.

On the final day, I spent money. Not on food, but on an item of clothing I needed (seriously!) And so, I am thinking about doing the challenge once more, but without a credit card altogether.

I encourage you to take up the challenge...for a week, or a day. For me, the challenge enabled great clarity on some basic welfare and community development principles, and also gave me some solidarity with the poor, even if only in the most limited sense. If you do, please write your experiences on the blog, or on the Justsalvos Facebook page so we can learn from your journey.

And, check out http://www.salvationarmy.org.au/sstv/ for the latest edition of Just Salvos Live (that wasn't that live today!)

Good times,
Gen

05 August, 2010

40 US billionaires pledge half wealth to charity

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett think fellow US billionaires should donate most of their vast fortunes to charity, and they revealed Wednesday that 40 are set to do just that.

"Forty of the wealthiest families and individuals in the United States have committed to returning the majority of their wealth to charitable causes," said a statement released by www.givingpledge.org.

The idea is to squeeze morally-, not legally-binding pledges from the super wealthy.

"You don't have to wait to die to give it away," said Bloomberg, a media entrepreneur and major philanthropist whose worth is estimated by Forbes at 18 billion dollars. "It never made a lot of sense to me why you'd want to change the world for better and not be around to see it...You can't spend it if you have over a certain amount," he explained.

Read more from this article at: http://au.news.yahoo.com/a/-/world/7710834/40-us-billionaires-pledge-half-wealth-to-charity/

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I know we can be skeptical, and I am sure there are a lot of questions we could ask about where the money will go, and what oppression they caused in the making of their fortune...but ultimately, getting money from the super rich is a good thing.

Good on ya rich dudes!

Gen

04 August, 2010

Nothing over $2!

Day three:
Well, I have made it three full days without cheating, despite being offered the most fragrant and free kebabs at the launch of the Greens campaign in Melbourne tonight. It was a struggle today, as my tardiness caused me to run out of the house without first eating breakfast, and without my lunch! That tupperware container full of delicious plain rice sat in my fridge all day while I worked thirty long minutes away. That brings us to our next lesson: be very organised.

When you are living life on a small budget, you can’t leave home without your supplies. I can’t tell you how many times I have forgotten my lunch without any fear of going hungry. With about 20 cafes in the street, there has never been any reason to worry. Today, I learnt to wait for food.

It was interesting to think of the transferable skills those living with little have to the world of employment. While working at Employment Plus, I had a lot of clients that were deemed nearly unemployable by employers as they had no ‘skills’. I realise more than ever today, that to live on a small budget, one learns orgainsation, money management, time-management, patience and thriftiness. Sounds like an employable person to me!

03 August, 2010

Another day of $2 a day...

Day two. I have made it through the day despite walking through a food court and living with the constant smell of glazed danish. (I live above possibly the greatest bakery in Melbourne)

The lesson of today? When you have little, you take great care. Of course I didn’t learn that lesson until after I lost my precious chillies! I had two tiny chillies in a small bag, and they must have been thrown out. It was surprisingly disappointing even though their worth was just 10cents.

I can understand how the developed world produce far more than its share of waste. Our possessions and our food are dispensable. It seems even people are dispensable.

Perhaps if we learnt to value what we had more, we would be ok with having less. Perhaps we would look after our things a little better. Perhaps we would even be able to afford to pay a reasonable price for our goods? Wouldn’t that be crazy?

02 August, 2010

Day two of $2

If you read yesterdays post you can catch up with what's going on, but basically, I am taking the $2/day challenge. The first obstacle of the day came at breakfast. Never a good start. But I realised, I really dislike oats. It was the cheapest breakfast option and I am certain I will adjust my taste buds by the end of the week, but for today, I went without and waited till my ricey goodness lunch.

So the old saying 'beggars can't be choosers' is taking on a whole new meaning for me. Sure, when you are hungry enough, you are grateful for anything. But there is less joy in the receiving.

Perhaps we can think about that when we are making up our food parcels to give away. We can't change what we have to give, but we might need to adjust our attitude a little. I can understand why some people don't jump for joy when they are given their parcel of beans and canned soup. Sure, it's better than nothing, but still nothing to get excited about. So perhaps we need to expect less gratitude? And maybe we need to be more humble in our giving and acknowledge our failure to deliver greater things. Perhaps a sharing of their despair may mean more than an attempt to bring joy with bland food.

But maybe I'm just hungry and talking gibberish :-)
More tomorrow,
gen

01 August, 2010

Diary of two dollars a day…

A friend and I have decided to take on the ‘Live for under $2 a day’ challenge. So for the next five days, we have $10 each. It actually sounded do-able until I went to Safeway for my week’s worth of food. As I strolled through the aisles, I realised lesson one: you can eat for a week on $10…but it’s going to be bland. The rules stipulate that if you want to spice up your food with salt and chillies, you need to buy them with your $10. That makes the whole thing a little trickier. And, forget spices, I was really worried about quantity. I realise now that $10 does not get you far, even when sticking by lesson two: always buy homebrand. Once you have a carb, a dairy and a vegetable, there is really not a lot of room for much else. There in lies lesson three: team up and double your supplies. It was at that point that I realised the importance of a community approach to poverty. I couldn’t buy everything, and needed to share the costs with my friend. I worked out, that by halving our quantities, we could double our variety. Even still, I am looking ahead to a bland week of eating, and have cut out anything remotely resembling a luxury. And by luxury I mean meat and fruit, not chocolate. In my shopping experience, I also understood why welfare quarantines can never work. For me to stretch my budget as far as possible, I cannot shop at Coles or Safeway exclusively. While some of their items are cheap, I really needed a market and a $2 store to get the most out of my buck. The quarantine requires you shop at selected stores, and that limits your savings a great deal.

So, what did I manage to buy?

Milk $1.54
Sweet chilli sauce $2.15 (an expensive item, but necessary to spice up the plain rice
1Kg Rice $1.99
Margarine $1.09 (needed it as I anticipated reduced energy with the reduce fat intake)
Oats .99c
Frozen mixed vegies $2.19 (could have got fresh, but couldn’t guarantee the price)
Total $9.95

There were some things missing that I really needed. I think sugar is necessary for the oats (and without any treats in the basket, possibly just as a snack on its own!), and I would have loved salt for the rice. So I split my oats and my margarine with my friend and she bought sugar and salt to split with me. With my extra five cents and the sharing costs, I had enough left over to get a packet of pasta too! Very excited about that.

I realise that this $2 a day is exclusively for me. I could probably stretch it out to my husband, but little Wesley requires formula and that would totally break the bank. Keep in mind as well, that the $2 a day is being spent exclusively on food, and doesn’t take into account heating, electricity, water etc. This is an incredible awakening.

I will blog each day to let you know how I am going, and encourage you to join in at anytime! Go to the site at http://livebelowtheline.com/

Peace out!
Gen