Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Of Noels and Nobels

As Published in The Fiji Times, Wednesday 17th December, 2008

It's minus 5 degrees celsius outside as I sit in front of my laptop to type my weekly epistle. Even the locals in my corner of Oxfordshire are talking about the cold and wearing gloves. The coconut oil has turned into coco-butter and is in the process of becoming coco-lard. It is, as one of my in-laws once put it, rather "chillery."

It is interesting to experience Advent and the beginning of the festive season in the United Kingdom, or anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere where it snows. For the first time all the advertisements about snowy Christmases, mistletoe, holly and ivy and Santa Claus and reindeer are in the right context. I made a remark to one of my journalist friends the other day that it would be interesting to see the number of "santas" dressed up around Suva or any town. Sweating in their "santa-suits," their fake beards changing from white to brown with all the dust and vehicle exhaust on the streets where they stand.

Of course, in a globalised and increasingly consumer-oriented world, Christmas has become highly commercialised. I read that the first day of the Christmas "Holiday" shopping season in America, the day after their "Thanksgiving" holiday is called Black Friday because of the traffic jams caused in the rush to take advantage of the holiday reductions. This year at least one person was crushed to death, trampled by excited customers in a department store pouring in to get their deals for gifts.

A fortnight ago, the second Sunday in Advent, I preached my first sermon in the United Kingdom, following an invitation from the vicar and local priest in my village. The theme of my sermon and of the minister's sermon last Sunday focused on the meaning of advent in terms of the personal preparation and anticipation of the return of our Lord Jesus as we prepare to celebrate His birth.

After Sunday's service, I overheard some of the church members discussing the extra seats that would be needed for Christmas Day for those who only go to church at Easter and Christmas.

"Well, twice a year is better then none, I suppose," said one of the parishoners.

This got me thinking: In the midst of shopping, wrapping presents, attending Christmas parties, making the lovo and having a great time, how many of us take time to realise that the one whose birth we commemorate, who remains a symbol of peace, hope, forgiveness, reconciliation and life in God's favour for so many people, was born in the poorest conditions.

It was wonderful to read all the news of Human Rights Day last week. There were some great articles and commentaries in The Fiji Times by Bishop Apimeleki Qiliho, Father Kevin Barr and Edwina Kotoisuva which were quite profound and cause for reflection as we approached this important day.

However, last Wednesday, while most of the attention of the world was focused on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, many of us missed the news that it was also the 107th anniversary of the Nobel Prize.

It was on the 10th of December in 1901 that the first Nobel prizes were awarded in the fields of science, literature and peace.

The first six Nobel laureates were Rene Francois Armand "Sully" Prudhomme, a French poet who was awarded the Nobel Literature Prize; Emil Adolf von Behring of Germany, whose work on serum therapy was instrumental in the fight against diphtheria, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff, the Dutch scientist behind Physical Chemistry received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry; while Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen (one of my father's heroes) was honoured for his discovery of the X-Ray.

The first recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize (jointly) were Jean Henry Dunant, the Swiss founder of the International Society of the Red Cross and the originator of the Geneva Convention, and FrÚdÚric Passy of France who founded the SociÚtÚ franþaise pour l'arbitrage entre nations, the forunner of Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague and the League of Nations.

This year the Nobel peace prize was awarded to former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari for his important efforts, on several continents and over more than three decades, to resolve international conflicts. Mr Ahtisaari is the founder and current board chairman of the Crisis Management Initiative which, according to its website, combines analysis, action and advocacy to "strengthen the capacity of the international community in comprehensive crisis management and conflict resolution".

The 2008 Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded in thirds, or to be precise in a half and two halves of a half (or two quarters). Recipients were Yoichiro Nambu of Enrico Fermi Institute, University of Chicago (one half ) "for the discovery of the mechanism of spontaneous broken symmetry in subatomic physics" and the other half jointly to Makoto Kobayashi, High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK), and Toshihide Maskawa, Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics (YITP), Kyoto University, and Kyoto Sangyo University, "for the discovery of the origin of the broken symmetry which predicts the existence of at least three families of quarks in nature".

The Nobel Prize for Chemistry was also shared by three men, this time equally.

Osamu Shimomura, Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), and Boston University Medical School, USA, Martin Chalfie, Columbia University, and Roger Y. Tsien, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of California, were recognised for their ground-breaking work in "the discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein, GFP".

The medical discoveries of causes for cervical cancer and HIV were recognised this year as the Nobel Prize for Medicine was shared by Harald zur Hausen for his discovery of "human papilloma viruses causing cervical cancer" and the other half jointly by Franþoise BarrÚ-Sinoussi (this year's sole female recipient) and Luc Montagnier for their discovery of "human immunodeficiency virus".

The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2008 was awarded to the French writer Jean-Marie Gustave Le ClÚzio "author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization".

Paul Krugman of Princeton University,was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics "for his analysis of trade patterns and location of economic activity".

The men and women who have been nominated and awarded Nobel Prizes for the last 107 years have worked tirelessly for something they believe in, something that they are passionate about. Their contributions have shaped the world as we know it. Yet for every person awarded a Nobel Prize, there are thousands nominated and millions whose work goes, for the most, unrecognised.

They are every man and every woman who makes their own little contribution to peace, justice, science and the community. They are the ones who live out the legacy that the greats leave behind.

Mind you there are ways of being outstanding in your own sphere of life and work; of being outstanding in your field.

A man was driving down a country road, when he spotted a farmer standing in the middle of a huge field of grass. He pulled the car over to the side of the road and notices that the farmer was just standing there, doing nothing, looking at nothing.

The man got out of the car, walked all the way out to the farmer and asked him, "Ah excuse me mister, but what are you doing?"

The farmer replied, "I'm trying to win a Nobel Prize."

"How?" asked the man, puzzled.

"Well I heard they give the Nobel Prize to people who are out standing in their field."

May the rest of your week be blessed with love, light and peace!

* Reverend Bhagwan is currently on leave from the Methodist Davuilevu Theological College where he is a member of the Faculty. All opinions expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinion and policies of the Methodist Church in Fiji or any organisation that Mr Bhagwan is affiliated with.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Jamaica appeals for looted music

File photo of Bob Marley performing in Sweden
Original recordings by Bob Marley are thought to have been stolen

By Nick Davis
BBC News, Kingston, Jamaica

In January this year, staff from at Jamaica's Public Broadcasting Corporation made a shocking discovery.

One of the country's most important music collections, including original recordings by Bob Marley and Pete Tosh, had been ransacked.

Thousands of vinyl records and CDs had gone.

Nearly one year on not a single record has been recovered, but officials are hoping an appeal to music fans will help replace the collection built up over the years by the JBC.

Created in 1961 at the end of the colonial era, the JBC followed a model very similar to the BBC: a public service to inform, educate and entertain.

The radio station was there at the birth of Jamaica's music business when all kinds of music burst forth on the Caribbean island.

Its music library had everything from mento to ska, and from rocksteady to reggae.

Irreplaceable cuts?

In 1997, the government sold off parts of the JBC. Under the deal, the library of historic film and video footage, plus the reels of tape and records played on the radio station would be kept as part of the national archive.

The collection was stored in the old headquarters of the JBC in part of central Kingston called Half-Way Tree.

There it lay, seemingly locked away for safe keeping for more than a decade.

It's a national disgrace... somehow they had access to it and all that history is lost
Gladstone Wilson
Former JBC programme manager

Then workers from the JBC's replacement, the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica, or PBC-J, toured the building to check the archive for themselves.

"When we came in we saw piles and piles of sleeves that the 45's came in, literally a couple of thousand on the floor just laying on the ground," said Leighton Thomas, the head of the PBC-J.

It was estimated that some 80% of the collection had been taken, but the true scale of the loss was difficult to calculate as no accurate records were kept.

A team is now trying to work out what was taken and what is left.

Classic reggae cuts that are probably irreplaceable seem to be missing.

"Artists would go out and make just one vinyl record only for radio, a one-off cut," says Mr Thomas.

"Some of Bob Marley's original recordings would have been here, material that was never mass produced and sold. So that's what we're searching for, to see if we've still got the Bob Marley before he was Bob Marley."

'Culture of complicity'

Police are still investigating what happened.

It was discovered that the room may have been broken into from outside, but there was also evidence that he doors had been tampered with from the inside.

What is left of the archive has been moved to a new more secure location.

"It's a national disgrace, we've really thrown away or let people take what was not their own, but somehow they had access to it and all that history is lost," says Gladstone Wilson, the former programme manager at JBC.

File photo of Lee Scratch Perry performing in Australia
Lee Scratch Perry said he would not contribute to a restored archive

Despite the public call for people to come forward with information, so far there have been no leads.

"There's a culture of complicity," says Carolyn Cooper, a professor of literary and cultural studies at the University of the West Indies.

"People need social responsibility to say; alright, yes, I know who stole the stuff but because its so important I'm prepared to risk telling the police."

Hopes of rebuilding what was the most comprehensive music collection in Jamaica may rest on artists and collectors helping to create a new archive.

"We want donations to help preserve our national heritage our history, whether audio or video we're interested in taking a look," says Mr Thomas.

"Why let it sit gathering dust in a basement when it can be used here,"

Lee Scratch Perry was one dub reggae producer who had his early hits played on the JBC.

Speaking at his home in Kingston, he says he feels the record companies and Jamaican radio stations owe him money so he will not be contributing, and goes as far as saying he is happy the collection was taken.

"I'm glad they did that, you're glad why, what you give you get, who robbed me deserve to get what they've got," he says.

Since the idea was put forward almost a year ago for fans to donate records, the government says it has received a good response.

"They can get back the old recordings if they go to the producers," says King Jammy, the man credited with creating the first digital reggae recording.

"They probably wouldn't get the same cuts but I have all my stuff on digital. If they asked me to donate I'd have to help because they played a big part for me getting my stuff on the airwaves."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The straight and narrow

Published in The Fiji Times, Wednesday 26 November, 2008, p7

WARM greetings from the cold United Kingdom! We are approaching the end of what has been another eventful year for Fiji.

In just over a week, we will have been under a military dictatorship for two years. Many of us will reflect on whether or not things have actually improved since December 2006, when elections will be held, what real impact the People's Charter will have and what the cost has been for this enforced soul-searching our nation is currently experiencing.

There are those who have already made their minds up as who is right and who is wrong, while some are waiting to let history be the judge.

Some have chosen sides in this political crisis. Some are taking advantage of the situation to settle old scores or further their own interests, while others struggle to bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict that has enveloped our home.

A small number of people, often misunderstood by those who only see right or wrong, and black or white, are walking a path to work with all parties involved in the crisis. They look to foster goodwill, empower the oppressed, and shape and guide dialogue and action towards a peaceful resolution, recognising that everyone in Fiji has a stake in the political future of this nation.

They are men and women; young and old; Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Baha'i and non religious; academics and farmers; soldiers and civilians, elite and common folk.

They are just like all of us. But they do not merely seek peace or end to conflict at any cost. They are engaged in the positive transformation of our society - a difficult and often thankless task.

To those who work to transform our society into one that is just, peaceful and compassionate, thank you. To those of us who wish for the courage to join them, I offer two examples, perhaps a little extreme, of two such people who worked to transform their communities.

Reverend D Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a theologian, who left the security of the United States to return to Nazi Germany to work in the Confessional Church and during the Second World War opposed the Nazis and was arrested and executed in 1945, just weeks before Germany surrendered, for plotting against Adolf Hitler.

The publishing of his letters and papers smuggled out of prison have served as an example of the prophetic call for righteousness.

An essay titled 'After 10 years,' written a few months before his arrest in 1943, serves as to obeying the call to speak truth to power and act for the oppressed and poor even to the point of death:

"Who stands his ground? Only the man whose ultimate criterion is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all these things when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and exclusive allegiance to God.

"The responsible man seeks to make his whole life a response to the question and call to God.... It is infinitely easier to suffer in obedience to a human command than to accept suffering as free responsible men.

"It is infinitely easier to suffer with others than to suffer alone. It is infinitely easier to suffer as public heroes than to suffer apart and in ignominy. It is infinitely easier to suffer physical death than to endure spiritual suffering. Christ suffered as a free man alone, apart and in ignominy, in body and in spirit, and since that day, many Christians have suffered with him."

Bonhoeffer's story echoes the biblical tradition of prophecy.

Like the prophets of the Old Testament who risked all to censure corrupt kings and priests, Bonhoeffer recognised that God calls us not only to care for the poor, oppressed and vulnerable, but also to challenge any religious or secular power that perpetrates injustice. His life exemplifies the prophetic call to action:

"Loosen all bonds that bind unfairly, let the oppressed go free, break every yoke. Share your bread with the hungry, take the homeless into your home. Clothe the naked when you see him, do not turn from your fellow human beings."

Bonhoeffer's work came to fulfilment only after his death.

His insistence on the significance of a committed response to Christ's Sermon on the Mount, a call to social justice, inspired many great civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Junior and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

His concept of a "religionless Christianity" has challenged Christian theology to face uncertain landscape of post-modernism. It is an idea, which exposes the vitality and relevance of faith in a world, as Bonhoeffer put it, "come of age."

In 1980, in the midst of a US funded war that the UN Truth Commission called genocidal, Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador promised history that life, not death, would have the last word.

"I do not believe in death without resurrection," he is quoted as saying. "If they kill me, I will be resurrected in the Salvadorian people."

On March 23, 1980, he preached his last radio broadcast sermon directed at the National Guard, the police and the military, which has been described as his most thunderous prophetic denunciation of repressive acts committed by the security forces:

"No one is bound to obey an immoral law. It is time you recovered your conscience, and obeyed your conscience instead of orders to commit sin. The church is the defender of God's rights, God's law, human dignity, and the worth of persons. It cannot remain silent before such an abomination. We ask the government to consider seriously the fact that reforms are of no use when they are steeped in all this blood.

"In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression!

The church preaches your liberation just as we have studied it in the Holy Bible today. It is a liberation that has, above all else, respect for the dignity of the person, hope for humanity's common good, and the transcendence that looks before all to God and only from God derives its hope and its strength.

The next day, as he celebrated Mass, a sharpshooter murdered him. Several people who attended his funeral were also shot outside the cathedral. Romero had a prophetic view of the church's voice and speaking truth to power at the peak of the persecution.

Space does not allow more stories of the countless women, men and young people around the world who have sacrificed their lives in order that justice and peace may one day exist in their communities.

Many of their visions remain unfulfilled. I live in the hope that theirs and ours will one day be.

May your week be blessed with light, love, peace and the strength to walk and talk in truth.

Reverend James Bhagwan is currently on leave from the Methodist Davuilevu Theological College where he is a member of the faculty. All opinions expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinion and policies of the Methodist Church or any organisation Reverend Bhagwan is affiliated with.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Jesus Was Her Guru

If you don't know the inner strength of an Indian woman with a divine call, you haven't met Pandita Ramabai.

Keith J. White has an interesting article on this woman of God. Click on the the title of this blog or past the link below in your browser to read her story.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

007's latest battle against villainy highlights need of all for water

By Annegret Kapp


Geneva (ENI). James Bond is back and cinema's most famous spy in his latest movie is battling a villain trying to control strategic water resources in a developing country. Yet how realistic is the idea of a Mafia-style group gaining control over a nation's water supply?

"With water scarcity increasing and demand for water rising steadily in many countries around the world, control over water translates more and more into profit and power," says Maike Gorsboth, the coordinator of the Ecumenical Water Network, a Geneva-based international initiative of churches, Christian organizations and movements campaigning for people's access to water.

The British spy's latest adventure, "Quantum of Solace", is already showing in many of the world's cinemas and is set to arrive in U.S. movie theatres on 14 November, featuring Daniel Craig in his second appearance as James Bond.

In the film, Bond battles Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a member of the Quantum organisation posing as an environmentalist, who intends to stage a coup d'état in a South American country, to take control of its water supply.

"Already today we are witnessing struggles over the control of water supply and resources," notes Gorsboth. "Companies are buying water rights and land in order to secure their access to water resources. Often they do not care much about the rights of communities or environmental consequences and deplete and pollute this precious resource."

The idea of the movie is not as far fetched as one might wish, says Gorsboth. However, while corruption does play a major role in the water sector, what is happening is often not illegal, she points out.

"Legal provisions ensuring public control and regulating private ownership and use of water resources are in too many cases lacking or insufficient," Gorsboth explains.

According to the Ecumenical Water Network, public and community control of water supply has diminished drastically in recent decades. Increasingly water is treated as a commodity subject to market conditions. Many cases can be cited, the network says, where privatisation of water resources has deprived the poor from access to water.

In the Bond movie, Gorsboth says, "The villain almost succeeds because he is working in secret and because he uses other people's greed and corruption."

Still, while the spy tackles the problem gun in hand, and with a "licence to kill", churches are taking a different kind of action to raise awareness and help educate people about the dangers of privatising a vital source of life.

"They speak up for the poor and most vulnerable and thus help them to defend their right to water against more powerful interests," says Gorsboth.

"Without adequate access to water, human dignity is harmed and development impossible," she says. "And those who suffer most from missing and unequal access to clean water are the poorest. Now, this is not simply an inevitable result of physical water scarcity. This is about political, social, and economic factors determining who gets water and who does not. That makes it an ethical concern, a matter of justice."

:: Ecumenical Water Network

:: Annegret Kapp is a Web editor with the World Council of Churches. This is an edited version of an interview carried by the WCC.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Keep on Keeping on

There are times in our lives when we question ourselves: “What's the point of struggling any more?” During these moments we feel that even though we can see the shore and are swimming as hard as we can it feels like we are only treading water of being dragged out to sea with the current.

Some of us are either at the point or already passed it, where we have given up any resolution to the political crisis in the immediate future. Some of us receive our salaries and try not to burst into tears as we wonder how our families will survive the next fortnight. Some of us wonder how our businesses are going to survive the global economic recession that is causing established companies to close down and how to tell employees that there might not be a job for them next week.

Some of us, as we clean up a desecrated house of worship, burgled home or bruised, battered and violated body wonder whether our faith in God, in humankind and love conquering all is strong enough to survive the injustice we have faced.

Yes, there are times when it is easier to throw in the towel. To say, “I've done all I can do,” and give up, and move on to where everything seems less of a struggle.

But, for the most, we find something makes us carry on. Shouldering the burden of injustice, ignorance, arrogance, jealousy, or apathy. Rather than seeing the light as too far away in the dark tunnel of circumstance, we grab hold of that pinprick of light and use it propel ourselves forward, onwards and upwards – into the light.

The road is hard and even though we know deep in our hearts that like all tribulations, this too will pass and that there are others struggling as we struggle, we feel alone with the weight of the world on our shoulders.

I hope the following story, recently sent to me as an email from a friend of mine will help those of you who are struggling with labours of love, making sense of the world or just trying to survive, to keep on keeping on. The Creator of the Universe has a way of making things work out.

“The brand new pastor and his wife, newly assigned to their first ministry, to reopen a church in suburban Brooklyn , arrived in early October excited about their opportunities When they saw their church, it was very run down and needed much work. They set a goal to have everything done in time to have their first service on Christmas Eve.

They worked hard, repairing pews, plastering walls, painting, etc, and on December 18 were ahead of schedule and just about finished.

On December 19 a terrible tempest - a driving rainstorm hit the area and lasted for two days.

On the 21st, the pastor went over to the church.

His heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster about 20 feet by 8 feet to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit, beginning about head high.

The pastor cleaned up the mess on the floor, and not knowing what else to do but postpone the Christmas Eve service, headed home.

On the way he noticed that a local business was having a flea market type sale for charity so he stopped in. One of the items was a beautiful, handmade, ivory coloured, crocheted tablecloth with exquisite work, fine colours and a Cross embroidered right in the centre. It was just the right size to cover up the hole in the front wall. He bought it and headed back to the church.

By this time it had started to snow. An older woman running from the opposite direction was trying to catch the bus.. She missed it. The pastor invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus 45 minutes later.

She sat in a pew and paid no attention to the pastor while he got a ladder, hangers, etc., to put up the tablecloth as a wall tapestry.

The pastor could hardly believe how beautiful it looked and it covered up the entire problem area..

Then he noticed the woman walking down the centre aisle. Her face was like a sheet..

"Pastor," she asked, "where did you get that tablecloth?"

The pastor explained. The woman asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials, EBG were crocheted into it there. They were. These were the initials of the woman, and she had made this tablecloth 35 years before, in Austria.

The woman could hardly believe it as the pastor told how he had just gotten the Tablecloth. The woman explained that before the war she and her husband were well-to-do people in Austria .

When the Nazis came, she was forced to leave. Her husband was going to follow her the next week. He was captured, sent to prison and never saw her husband or her home again.

The pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth; but she made the pastor keep it for the church.

The pastor insisted on driving her home, that was the least he could do.. She lived on the other side of Staten Island and was only in Brooklyn for the day for a housecleaning job.

What a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve. The church was almost full. The music and the spirit were great.

At the end of the service, the pastor and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many said that they would return.

One older man, whom the pastor recognized from the neighbourhood continued to sit in one of the pews and stare, and the pastor wondered why he wasn't leaving.

The man asked him where he got the tablecloth on the front wall because it was identical to one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria before the war and how could there be two tablecloths so much alike.

He told the pastor how the Nazis came, how he forced his wife to flee for her safety and he was supposed to follow her, but he was arrested and put in a prison. He never saw his wife or his home again all the 35 years in between.

The pastor asked him if he would allow him to take him for a little ride.

They drove to Staten Island and to the same house where the pastor had taken the woman three days earlier.

He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman's apartment, knocked on the door and he saw the greatest Christmas reunion he could ever imagine.” (A true story submitted by Pastor Rob Reid)

May your week be blessed with light, love peace and hope!

Reverend James Bhagwan is an award-winning radio and television producer and writer. He is currently on leave from the Methodist Davuilevu Theological College where he is a member of the Faculty. All opinions expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinion and policies of the Methodist Church in Fiji or any organization that Rev. Bhagwan is affiliated with.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Source: World Council of Churches

As many Christians around the world prepare to celebrate Advent and Christmas in the security of their homes and communities, they are invited to pray for justice, peace and security for Palestine and Israel.

Once again this year, Christmas celebrations will take place in a difficult climate for people in the Holy Land. However, Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, is still first and foremost a city of peace. And even in these trying times, many individuals and groups living there refuse to give up hope. They continue to search for non-violent ways to voice their rights and work for a peaceful and just future for both Palestinians and Israelis.

Since December 2000, a new Christmas tradition has been taking shape: sending peace messages to people in Bethlehem. Once again, individuals, communities, churches and congregations, organisations and partners from across the world are invited to e-mail Advent and Christmas wishes and prayers for justice and peace to Bethlehem. This year, the project is being carried out in collaboration with the World Council of Churches and its Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF).

Wishes and prayers will be printed and handed out as personal messages, educational materials (e.g. at schools), and in the context of interfaith prayers (in places of worship) and in the newly established peace house of the Arab Educational Institute opposite the Israeli "separation wall" at Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. The wishes and prayers could also include ideas for non-violent actions. The action will be launched at the beginning of Advent.

Sending a wish or a prayer by e-mail is an important way of communicating with many people who long to hear a word of hope. People in Bethlehem greatly appreciate receiving wishes and prayers from people outside the region, both as personal and spiritual gestures of comfort and hope on the occasion of Christmas. These messages are one way of breaking through the isolation they live in.

Please e-mail your Christmas messages and prayers for peace before the 25th of December 2008 (Western Christmas) and/or the 4th of January 2009 (Eastern Christmas). While English is the preferred language, non-native English speakers may also send wishes and prayers in their mother tongue. Messages can be e-mailed to the Arab Educational Institute at the following address:

Read all messages at and

This initiative is locally supported by:

The Arab Educational Institute
Library on Wheels for Non-violence and Peace
The Centre for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation
The Justice and Peace Commission of Jerusalem
Wi’am Center

This initiative is internationally supported by:

The Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum of the World Council of Churches
Pax Christi International
The International Fellowship of Reconciliation
Church and Peace
The Presidency of the Conference of European Justice and Peace Commissions
Asian Center for the Progress of Peoples

Liturgical Advent resources available

"Imagine: Peace" is a collection of liturgical resources for the four Sundays of Advent. It is the first of a collection of worship materials from different regions of the world, prepared in the framework of the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation 2011.

Download the Advent resources and listen to the songs:

Additional information: Juan Michel,+41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363

The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, from the Methodist Church in Kenya. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.

Grand Canyon Photographer

Sent by my cousin Bernadette "Sednadette Tevoro" Hussain:

Take a deep breath and look at this one. He is I think a candidate for the Darwin Awards Grand Canyon Photographer

This is a case of a photographer photographing another photographer. The following pictures were taken by Hans van de Vorst from the Netherlands
at the Grand Canyon, Arizona. The descriptions are his own. The identity of the photographer in the photos is unknown.

I was simply stunned seeing this guy standing on this solitary rock in the Grand Canyon.

The canyon's depth is 900 meters here. The rock on the right is next to the canyon and safe.

Watching this guy on his thong sandals, with a camera and a tripod I asked myself 3 questions:

1. How did he climb that rock?

2. Why not take that sunset picture from that rock to the right, which is perfectly safe?

3. How will he get back?

After the sun set behind the canyon's horizon he packed his things (having only one hand available) and prepared himself for the jump.
This took about 2 minutes. At that point he had the full attention of the crowd.

This is the point of no return.
After that, he jumped on his thong sandals...
The canyon's depth is 900 meters (3,000 feet) here.

Now you can see that the adjacent rock is higher so he tried to land lower, which is quite steep and tried to use his one

hand to grab the rock.

We've come to the end of this story. Look carefully at the photographer.
He has a camera, a tripod and also a plastic bag, all on his shoulder or in his left hand. Only his right hand is available to

grab the rock and the weight of his stuff is a problem. He lands low on his flip flops, both his right hand and right foot slip away...

At that moment I take this shot. He pushes his body against the rock. He waits for a few seconds, throws his stuff on

the rock, climbs and walks away. Presumably to a bathroom to change his shorts.

Sheikh 'planned Jackson revival'

Source: BBC World Service
Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson stayed in Bahrain three years ago

The King of Bahrain's son planned to revive Michael Jackson's career with songs he had written himself, London's High Court has heard.

Sheikh Abdulla Bin Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa also gave the pop star financial support, his lawyer said.

The royal is suing Mr Jackson for £4.7m for reneging on a music contract which would have paid back the loans.

An application has been made for the star to give evidence from the US via a video link during the 12-day hearing.

Sheikh's invitation

The sheikh and Mr Jackson had a "close personal relationship" during his six-month stay in Bahrain three years ago, the royal's lawyer Bankim Thanki told the court.

The singer travelled to the country, with his children and personal staff, at the sheikh's invitation "to relax" shortly after being cleared of child abuse charges in the US.

Prior to his stay, Sheikh Abdulla set up Mr Jackson with a recording studio on his Neverland ranch and sent him his own musical compositions.

A recording of a finished song will be played in court, Mr Thanki said.

Sheikh Abdulla Bin Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa
Sheikh Abdulla helped Jackson settle his bills, the court heard

The court heard that under the agreement, an album, autobiography and stage play were to be produced.

In 2006, plans were announced for the star to release a new album on a label based in the Gulf state and owned by Sheikh Abdulla.

The sheikh claims that despite having paid the $2.2m (£1.5m) cost for Mr Jackson to record a song intended to benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the singer failed to attend the studio for the final recording and the song was never released.

He also says he paid for and built a recording studio in Bahrain for Mr Jackson and himself to make recordings together.


In addition, he paid all the singer's living, travel and other expenses until his departure from Bahrain in May 2006, and advanced funds to retain legal and financial advisers.

Mr Jackson has contested the claim, saying there was no valid agreement, adding the sheikh's case is based on "mistake, misrepresentation and undue influence".

He has also said no project was ever finalised and payments were "gifts".

The singer has admitted that he signed a document which he understood gave him a substantial shareholding in the 2 Seas recording company.

But he challenges the sheikh's description of him as "an experienced businessman" and says he never read the terms of the document and was never advised to take independent legal advice.

He also claims that the sheikh, a powerful and influential public figure, exercised "undue influence" over him when he was emotionally exhausted after his highly-publicised criminal trial.

The dispute comes just days after the singer had to give up his Neverland ranch due to financial problems.

The hearing will continue on Tuesday.

'Mythical' Beatles song confirmed

The Beatles
The Beatles recorded the track in January 1967 for a music festival

Source: BBC World Service

Sir Paul McCartney has confirmed a 14-minute long Beatles track many thought was a myth does exist - and says he wants the public to hear it.

He told BBC Radio 4's Front Row the track - called Carnival of Light - was not released because the other Beatles thought it was too "adventurous".

The improvised track was recorded in 1967 for an electronic music festival.

Sir Paul said Ringo Starr and John Lennon's and George Harrison's estates would have to agree to a release.

He said he had been asked to create the piece for an electronic music festival, and asked the other band members to be "indulgent" for 10 minutes at London's Abbey Road studios before giving them vague directions.

Sir Paul explained: "I said all I want you to do is just wander around all the stuff, bang it, shout, play it, it doesn't need to make any sense. Hit a drum then wander on to the piano, hit a few notes, just wander around.

"So that's what we did and then put a bit of an echo on it. It's very free."

The track was played just once, at the festival, and is said to include distorted guitar, organ sounds, gargling and band members shouting phrases such as "Barcelona!" and "Are you all right?"

Sir Paul said he was fond of the track, which was inspired by experimental composers John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen: "I like it because it's The Beatles free, going off piste."

He said he still had a master tape of the piece, adding: "The time has come for it to get its moment."

Sir Paul had wanted to include the track on the Beatles' Anthology compilations in the mid-1990s, but the rest of the band vetoed the idea.

He said: "I said it would be great to put this on because it would show we were working with really avant-garde stuff."

The full interview will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Front Row on Thursday 20 November at 1915 GMT.

Monday, November 17, 2008


As many of those "responsible for the current financial meltdown" meet "behind closed doors in Washington, D.C." to discuss the future of the global economy, the World Council of Churches (WCC) has challenged the legitimacy of the so-called "G20" group of nations and called for broader participation. The international financial architecture needs "a paradigm shift," says the WCC.

"Debates on a new financial architecture should include representatives of all developing countries and members from the civil society including religious communities," said the WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia in a statement on 14 November. The global crisis cannot be dealt with through "a meeting limited to a small portion of the world’s countries," he added.

The "G20" comprises leaders of 20 developed and emerging economies who will meet in Washington, D. C. over the weekend to discuss how to address the acute problems faced by the international financial system.

The global financial meltdown has debunked the myth that "deregulated financial markets are 'efficient'," stated Kobia. Its consequences are threatening the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals. Efforts towards development aid and the mitigation of climate change have been endangered as well.

As "the prevailing international financial system is one based on injustice […] nothing less than a paradigm shift is needed," Kobia said. The WCC general secretary proposed a series of recommendations for "a new international financial architecture," including a "global regulatory framework" and a "process of democratizing all global finance and trade institutions".

Full text of the WCC general secretary statement:

Additional information: Juan Michel,+41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363

The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, from the Methodist Church in Kenya. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Anything goes at Australia resort

Source: BBC News Website
Nudist beach
Tourism bosses expect bookings to drop by a third in 2009

An Australian holiday resort in north Queensland will hold a month-long, nude "anything goes" party in March aimed at combating the global credit crunch.

The White Cockatoo resort in Mossman, has been inundated with inquiries, reports the Courier Mail newspaper.

A local bishop said he was concerned about "the moral code of behaviour" of people going.

The event comes at a time when the tourist industry in Australia is suffering from the economic downturn.

Three years ago the controversial resort banned partner-swapping after police were called to evict six people when a party got out of control.


Tony Fox, the owner of the resort said he was lifting the self-imposed ban as "tough economic times call for stiff measures".

People in tropical north Queensland are extraordinarily creative
Val Schier, Mayor of Cairns

"It will be a hedonism resort, where anything goes for a month. It doesn't take rocket science to work out what it means," Mr Fox said.

The Bishop of Cairns James Foley asked: "You've got to wonder what sort of people go and why.

"Where is the moral code of behaviour and how do you stop jealousies and fights," Bishop Foley said.

However Cairns Mayor Val Schier said she was not opposed to the month of hedonism.

"As long as it is with consenting adults, then there is no problem," Ms Schier said.

"People in tropical north Queensland are extraordinarily creative."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bhagwan for President? "Yes I Can"

As the smoke clears from the US Presidential Elections, yet another hat has been thrown into the ring in the next presidential race.

With the slogan, “Yes I Can” Rev. James Bhagwan has declared himself a candidate for the 2023 nominations for President of Fiji.

Bhagwan is already campaigning for the elderly vote

Rev. Bhagwan who was a has-been television and radio presenter by the age of 25 said that by running in 2023, at age 50 he would most probably be the young
est President of Fiji.

When asked whether his ethnicity would be an issue, Rev. Bhagwan replied by say ing, he hoped his FEA bill being overdue would not be a stumbling block. On whether he had any foreign affairs experience he said that having a wife from Lautoka and watching the West Wing and Bollywood movies would be all he needed.

Bhagwan is claiming experience with foreign affairs

His suspected links with Fiji-based terrorists may be used by political rivals. Bhagwan once looked like a terrorist in a play, has been known to give Holy Communion to 1987 coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka and been a Qui Gong student of 2006 coup-leader and current interim Prime Minister Bainimarama's older brother Sevanaia.

Bhagwan in traditional terrorist uniform

Although Rev. Bhagwan has not picked a potential vice-presidential running mate speculation is rife that radio personality turned mayor of Ba, Mr. Binn is tipped for the position. Mr. Binn refused to comment for fear of being victimised by the military junta.

Homer Simpson of Navua is also another p
otential running mate, although Mr. Simpson as insisted he will only be a walking mate.

It is believed that Bhagwan and Binn could be a force for change in the length of morning and afternoon teas, the banning of banning kava before and after church services, free sports on television and other critical issues expected to be confronting the nation in 15 years time.

Source: Guerrilla Media Fake News

Charles: A modern prince

Prince Charles at the London Buddhist Vihara Monastery in west London
Prince Charles recognises the multi-cultural nature of modern Britain
While Prince Charles has been criticised for traditional views on issues like hunting, he can be remarkably modern.

He takes a keen interest in architecture, young people, the environment and health, believing people should have access to both complementary and orthodox medicine.

The 56-year-old supported organic farming as far back as 1984, long before it became a mass consumer issue and his vociferous belief in conservation has often been ahead of the times.

The prince's view that, when King, he might change his title of "Defender of the Faith" to "Defender of Faith", to reflect multi-cultural modern Britain, cheered many.

Future vision

The prince unveiled his vision for the future of the environment, farming and food during a BBC interview from his farm, Home Farm in Gloucestershire, in the autumn last year.

He said climate change should be seen as the "greatest challenge to face man" and was the issue that really worried him.

And in February 2006, he called on UK farmers to "restore the romance" in agriculture by producing high quality meat and selling it locally.

Prince William and his father, Prince Charles, in the exclusive alpine resort of Klosters, in Switzerland
Prince Charles: "I could simply go off skiing"

The Prince of Wales has called for a more holistic approach towards the nation's health. Last May he told a medics' conference that complementary and orthodox methods of tackling disease should be used in tandem.

At the start of 2006, he urged more people to walk and cycle and raised concerns Britain was following the US in the consumption of fast food and exercise.

"We are perhaps not far behind our American cousins in the 'supersizing' epidemic," he said.

Prince's Trust

The Prince of Wales title carries no established or formal role and he has had to create his own by active involvement in his organisations.

His work at the Prince's Trust, created in 1976, has allowed tens of thousands of disadvantaged youngsters to set up their own businesses.

But since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, he has also been busy trying to protect his own sons - particularly Prince Harry, who has been at the centre of several media stories.

In 2002 the prince was praised for sending Harry to a drugs rehabilitation clinic for a day after the then 17-year-old apparently admitted smoking cannabis and drinking.

More recently he has had to deal with the fallout of a scuffle outside a nightclub and the Nazi costume Harry chose to wear to a fancy dress party.

And Prince Charles is no stranger to controversy in his own right.

I hardly dare say anything
Prince Charles
His reputation, severely damaged during his estrangement and eventual divorce from Princess Diana, has been slowly but surely rebuilt.

But several stories, from his reference to the proposed National Gallery extension as a "monstrous carbuncle" back in 1984, to warnings about the risks of nanotechnology have invited criticism.

After the furore over a memo to a former PA, in which he said the UK's "learning culture" gave people hope beyond their capabilities, the prince said his comments had been "misrepresented".

He added: "I hardly dare say anything. I don't really want to teach any more grandmothers to suck eggs."

Marriage to Camilla

The seeming acceptance by the Royal Family of the prince's new wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, has also been hard won.

The royal couple and Mr and Mrs Bush
Prince Charles and Camilla dined with Mr and Mrs Bush

But since his marriage, Camilla has accompanied her royal husband on his official duties and his happiness has become clear to a nation that until a few years ago felt largely antipathy for the "other woman".

The couple were well received in the US on a high-profile tour of the country last autumn.

During the visit, they laid a wreath in Washington in tribute to Americans killed in World War II and they also honoured victims of the 11 September attacks at Ground Zero in Manhattan.

The prince donated $25,000 (£14,000) from an architecture prize he received in Washington to help rebuild towns hit by Hurricane Katrina.

While visiting New Orleans, Charles gave his impression. "Incredible resilience, despite awful loss. Where there's life, there's hope," he said.

Environment plea

During the US visit, the prince also made an impassioned plea to US business leaders to take action on the "environmental crisis" threatening the world.

And in a post-dinner toast at the White House, Charles told President George Bush that the world looks to the US for a lead on "the most crucial issues that face our planet".

Ahead of his US tour he told CBS television channel he hoped he would be appreciated "a little bit more" for his contributions to UK life, including the Prince's Trust, after his death.

Prince Charles once said of his future role that "the most important thing will be to have concern for people and give some form of leadership".

But he has also quipped that, if he so wished, he could "simply go off and spend the rest of my life skiing".


McCain interviewed on Leno Show

Senator John McCain chose the relaxed setting of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno for his first post-election TV interview. These clips are from NBC Universal Television: The Tonight Show.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Edvard Grieg's Morning mood for my son Francisco Xavier and all those who need a beautiful morning in their lives

New York pets hit by credit crunch

From BBC World Service:

The ongoing financial crisis is having unexpected consequences in New York.

Animal shelters are seeing an increase in the number of pets being given up by owners who can no longer afford them.

Correspondent Matt Wells visited the main shelter in Brooklyn.

The Gift of Remembrance

Published as "OFF THE WALL with Padre James Bhagwan" in The Fiji Times, Wednesday 12th, 2008, p7

It has been an eventful seven days since my last column. Change came to the United States of America with the election of Senator Barack Obama as President; Guy Fawkes day was celebrated in England; the Pacific Islanders played valiantly but lost to England at Twickenham, and the Fiji Bati have qualified to meet Australia in the semifinals of the Rugby League World Cup.

Yet the most significant days for me was Remembrance Sunday (9/11/08) and yesterday's (Tuesday 11/11/08) Remembrance Day.

On Sunday I attended a special service at my village church and then joined the millions across the United Kingdom in watching the Remembrance Sunday Ceremony at the Cenotaph in London's Whitehall where members of the Royal Family laid wreaths after observing two minutes' silence in honour of Britain's war dead. Our High Commissioner to the UK, Pio Bosco Tikoisuva represented Fiji as he and other representatives of Commonwealth countries, bar Zimbabwe, also laid wreaths.

Yesterday, the 11th day of the 11th month at 11am (GMT - 11pm Fiji time) a further two minutes of silence was observed at the Cenotaph to mark the 90th anniversary of Armistice Day that marked the end of the first world war.

At the St. Simon and St. Jude Church, an Anglican Church in the Diocese of Oxfordshire, which is the closest to where I am currently staying, the service was simple yet poignant. This small community gathered to remember the men of the village who had made the ultimate sacrifice for King and country over the course of two world wars. Their names were read out by an Royal Air Force officer who had just returned from Afghanistan. Wives, children, grandchildren and neighbours gathered in this act of communal remembering. Preaching form the text of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12), the Rev. Anne Hartley reflected on the sacrifices made for peace, righteousness and justice, as well as those whose lives are affected by conflict, grieving families, the persecuted and oppressed, the poor and hungry. She reminded us that the blessing given by Jesus ("Blessed are those...") is not just to be understood as some reward in heaven but as we pray for the Father's kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as in heaven, we must look to the promise of this blessing in the present and work towards it.

This act of remembering and of sacrifice has put a frame around all the events of the past week. As President-elect Obama made his victory speech he paid a fitting tribute to all those who had sacrificed not just for his campaign but embodied the spirit of change in the generations past to make a dream a reality. Not just for African-Americans and civil rights champions but for anyone that dreams of the opportunity to make a difference in their country and perhaps the world.

As people braved the rain to light fireworks and attempt to light bonfires to "remember, remember the 5th of November," many did remember Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 to blow up the British Parliament and assassinate King James the First. I recalled my mother's saying of "Any money for the Guy," and people parading the soon to be burned effigy of Guy Fawkes and chanting the same outside our Moti Street, Suva flat when I was a small boy and Fiji still carried on traditions which were inherited from our former colonisers. I remembered the common response, "No money for the Guy!" But recalling the history behind the celebration of Guy Fawkes Night, perhaps one of the earliest attempts at terrorism in England, is a sad history of religious persecution. Where dogma, doctrine and political expediency saw Christian oppress fellow Christian.

On Saturday as I experienced the best introduction to Twickenham as anyone can have, with a pre-match lunch in the Spirit of Rugby restaurant, seats to the game in the RFU Council Box and post match dinner with the two teams, management and members of the RFU Council, I remembered shared the thrill of watching international rugby test matches in the rain on the embankment of the National Stadium with thousands of equally soaked but cheering fellow Fijians. As I watched a team which had only four days of training and struggled over the last few months to be put together take on a Tier 1 team, I remembered the sense of community in the nation as we cheer the Fiji 7's team throughout the year and our amazing Flying Fijians at last year's world cup. I reflected on how much money had been spent on each team and came to the conclusion that in terms of value for money spent, our Pacific Islanders did us proud.

Sitting in church on Sunday and spending two minutes in respectful silence on 11/11 at 1100hrs I remembered the stories of our own men who risked or laid down their lives for the cause of freedom and of peace. As I listened to Rev. Hartley's sermon, I reflected on how sometimes we tend to only think of heroes and villains, even in the ongoing conflict of sorts in our own nation. We cheer and honour the heroes and we jeer and insult the villains. We often struggle to remember that our heroes may be someone else's villain and vice versa. We often forget that those we vilify are someone's son or daughter, someone's husband or wife, someone's father or mother, a brother, a sister or a friend. We often glorify conflict as a means to an end without remembering that there are so many on the sidelines whose lives are affected by the actions and decisions of few. Women and children who find themselves widowed or without a father, which can often mean without a provider of income and protection. Or those whose husbands and fathers, while returning home alive, are traumatised and not able of leading a normal life.

When we look at our lives, the life of our nation and the history of the world, what do we remember? How do we remember? Do we block out the uncomfortable, the inconvenient, the embarrassing? Do we remember the reasons why things happened or is it enough merely to remember that they happened?

When we remember the past, we claim it as our own. We acknowledge our greatest moments and our biggest failures. We remember the work that has been done and understand the work that is yet to be completed. We pay tribute to those who shone the light and made the path for us and we receive the torch to shine the way for those yet to come. When we remember as a people, we share our common history and strengthen the bonds of our community. We remember our elders so that future generations will know themselves fully.

Memory is a gift. It allows us not only to remember the pain and suffering but also the healing and the joy. It forces us to avoid the mistakes of the past. It helps us learn the lessons from the struggles of others. History (and "herstory" - for gender balance) provides us with the means for remembering the whole story, not just the parts that we like and remembering that we were not the first and we will not be the last to struggle for peace and for justice. It challenges us to see the other side.

Let us remember those who have paid for our dreams to become reality. Let us remember those before us that worked for the future. Let us remember those who gave up all they had so that we could receive a full measure of it. Let us remember that we too, will one day be remembered.

They shall grow not old,

As we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them,

Nor the years condemn,

At the going down of the sun

And in the morning

We will remember them.

Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

May your week be blessed with love, light, and peace!

Reverend James Bhagwan is an award-winning radio and television producer and writer. He is currently on leave from the Methodist Davuilevu Theological College where he is a member of the Faculty. All opinions expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinion and policies of the Methodist Church in Fiji or any organization that Rev. Bhagwan is affiliated with.