Tuesday, 15 July 2014

An Eye For An Eye

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.  So said India's spiritual leader, Mahatma Gandhi.  I can't help but remember this quote as I watch events unfold in the Middle East.  I speak particularly of the on going escalation of conflict between Israel and the people of Palestine.

In June this year, 3 Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and cruelly murdered by as yet unknown criminals.  Israel blamed Hamas for the horrific act, and warned of retribution.  Shortly afterwards, a Palestinian teenager was dead.  Tensions escalated in Palestine, rioting ensued.  Israel threatened Hamas, while Hamas threatened Israel.  Cue the firing of rockets from Hamas, air and naval attacks from Israel, and multiple Palestinian deaths.  My heart bleeds for the parents of the three murdered teenagers.  I weep for the parents of the murdered Palestinian teenager.  I cry for the families of the 180 people who have reportedly been killed as a result of Israel's attacks in Palestine.  There are no winners in this.  Killing one more, or hundreds of people will not bring back those poor boys.  Rather, the continued bombardment of a people who consider themselves to be under oppression, is more likely to breed further resistance, hate and revenge down the line. On the other hand, the continued firing of tickets towards Israel will only serve to increase that country's reserve to defeat the "terrorists".

An eye for an eye will keep the middle east in a perpetual state of war, unless one side succeeds in completely destroying the other.  Palestine is not capable of destroying Israel, and Israel is not likely to pursue full-fledged genocide against Palestine.  Therefore, the current course of action is destined to fail and to be self-defeating for both sides.

The only hope for peace in the region is the same path that brought about the end of apartheid in South Africa; forgiveness, truth and reconciliation.  The chances of this happening seem very slim indeed, but until this prospect is entertained by both sides, we are likely to keep seeing this cycle of violence played out over and over again. 

I wish it were different.  I wish we would "turn the other cheek" instead of seeking "an eye for an eye".  I wish for peace in a broken world.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Why I Pray For The Pope

I am a Christian and make no secret of this.  I believe, whole heartedly, in the birth, death, resurrection and future return of Jesus Christ.  I attended a Roman Catholic primary school and was brought up in Protestant churches.  I have lost count of the number of churches I've regularly attended, but I'll take a stab at naming the denominations: Catholic, Presbyterian, Evangelical, Methodist, Non-denominational (independent), Anglican and Baptist. I currently attend a Pentecostal church, but I do not accept the label for myself.  The only labels I generally accept are "Christian"  and "believer (in Christ)".  I advocate to all who will listen, that we have to look for, celebrate and preserve the things that bind us Christians together, and not those which pull us apart.  After all, Jesus himself prayed that we all should be one, as he and the Father are one.

Why do I pray for the Pope?  Not because I consider him to be my leader, or the successor to St. Peter, or the head of the church.  Not because I believe in the exultation of Mary, prayer to saints and angels, or any of the usual doctrinal issues that separate a "Catholic" from a "Protestant".   I pray for the Pope because he is a leader and is my brother in Christ.  He professes to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the hope of salvation for himself and for the world, and this fact alone makes him my brother.  The Pope wields enormous influence over large swathes of the world's population.  He was named in 2014 by Twiplomacy as the most influencial person on Twitter, measured not just by the number of people following him (over 14 million) but by the number of times his tweets are retweeted (17,000 times per tweet).  His words carry far and are heard by millions, and his opinions and decisions have the potential to affect the lives of so many, that it would simply be irresponsible not to pray for him.

The Apostle Paul wrote that we ought to pray for our leaders, and this injunction clearly extends to praying for both political and spiritual leaders; praying for them to speak and act with wisdom and to rule justly.  I encourage all who share my faith to take some time each day to do just that.  Pray for your local Councillor, your Mayor, your Governor, your Parliament,  your President, your Prime Minister, your King, your Queen.  Pray for your Pastor, your Priest, your Bishop, your Archbishop.  Spend less time criticising without action, and more time praying.  By all means speak up against injustice, folly and oppression but don't forget to petition the one who sits as King above all Kings.

When all is said and done, please do not neglect to pray for the Pope.  Heaven knows he needs it.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Brazil - The Legend is Dead

The football loving world looked on in shock and awe on Tuesday as Brazil was humiliated by Germany in the former's worst world cup defeat since 1920.  The score: 7 goal to 1, in favour of Germany.  I watched the drama unfold from the comfort of my living room, periodically pinching myself to check that I hadn't slept off before kick off.  For hours after the game had ended, I was still asking myself the question, "did that just happen?"  I thanked God that I was not Brazilian that night.

It's easy to understand hurt and humiliation such a proud footballing nation felt, and feels, at the utter decimation of its team at such a high profile stage, when they had harboured such hopes of glory.  In my view, their hope was misguided in the first place.  Brazil had managed to get to the semis without ever having played particularly well.  They really ought to have been beaten in the quarter finals by Columbia, but crowd-power pulled them through. With the benefit of hindsight, it would probably have been better for Brazil had they lost gallantly at that earlier stage.  As it is, we will probably never be able to see Brazil the same way again. The myth has been shattered, the legend tainted, and the once-proud footballing nation has been reduced to a by-word by the ruthless German machine.

Would the result have been different had the Brazilian star Neymar not been injured and unable to play?  We will never know.  What we do know is that one man does not, and should never make a team.  Was the absence of defender and captain Thiago Silva to blame?  Well, he ought not to have conceded an unnecessary yellow card against Columbia and then he would have been in the fray, marshalling his men against the German onslaught.  Whichever way you look at it, there was no excuse for and no way to predict a 7 - 1 thrashing in that game.

As I write, I watch the third place match is drawing to a close, 3 - 0 to Holland and 4 added minutes left to play, and I shake my  head.  This isn't Brazil.  Perhaps we must wait for another generation of players to excite and amaze us with "samba football".  For now, all eyes turn towards tomorrow's final.  Will the Germans be brilliant once more and kill Argentina's dream of a first world cup win since 1986?

By this time tomorrow, we'll know.