Tag Archives: Christian

My Way to Silence

via Daily Prompt: Silent

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Since the late 1980s I have been a meditator. I have enjoyed several forms, but mainly across Christian and Buddhist ways of meditating. In the end I have stayed within my own tradition and using a Christian form – the method explored by John Main. Labyrinth is another form, and walking meditation I find helpful, and not least bush walking or hiking. But whatever the method, the goal is silence, not an external silence, of course, but a deep inner silence, a peacefulness, a sense of internal unity. It is the closest to a tangible sense of integration. For me there are real experiences of calm that last long after a session, and encounters with emotion, necessary unburdening as the unconscious is loosened and long buried things can be faced. Strangely, I have a strong sense of unity with others within the corporate silence, so that even in a room full of meditators there is connection.

I find I can meditate almost anywhere, but the bush is my special place for meditation, I find that it is already offering a form of silence unencumbered. The photo shows one of my former haunts, Billyacatting Rock near Nungarin. I was based not far from there for a few years, and on my long drives through that district I would take a break and walk and climb the rocks, arriving at a quiet spot, perhaps to sit by a rock pool or gnamma hole and meditating for a time. The wind and the birds were a welcome backdrop. Best thing I ever did, the silence was healing and energising, and was a lasting inner silence.

Paul,

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Halal Mythology

I’m writing this because I’m sick to death of the misinformation about Halal (also spelt Halaal) certification in Australia. There are people who are militating against Halal certification using incorrect information and some are intentionally using misinformation. Some of those sources are the ugly fascist and neo-nazi groups (see: Neo-nazis, white-supremacists, islamophobic groups active in Australia via the Internet.) who have no scruples in creating fear about race or culture.

Halal simply means what is permisible by Islamic law.

Slaughter of animals for meat is one use of Halal certification. The slaughter itself is done the same as Jewish Kosher slaughter, if you want a brief description of how it is done go here  https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/may/08/what-does-halal-method-animal-slaughter-involve. The cost is in certifying that the slaughter is done properly, including that it must not cause undue harm to the animal.

Other forms of Halal certification are checking to make sure that forbidden food substances, like pork or alcohol, are not present in packaged foods or beverages.

The claims are that Islam uses Halal certification to make vast sums of money, which in turn is syphoned off to foreign interests, and at worst to terrorism. Or that within Australia, there are vast sums of money syphoned off into mosques and schools.

The main complaint is that Halal is a tax on none Muslims and therefore unfair.

Halal, like other religious certifications, and including health certifications, would cost money to certify as someone would need to be employed to do that. But the certification process doesn’t rake in vast sums of money. In 2015 the ABC Fact Check interviewed The Byron Bay Cookie Company who said that their Halal certification fee was around $1,500 per annum (www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/2015-04-14/fact-check-does-halal-certification-fund-terrorism/6383238) or 0.003%. The Fleurie Milk Company (who sufferd from a social media campaign against their intention to provide yoghurt to Emirates airlines) had a fee of $1,000 or 2% of the contract.

Nestle responded by saying that their fee was negligible. and further commented that they did not pass this minor cost on to the customer.

In 2015 the certifications done by the Global Halal Centre Pty Ltd said that abattoirs were audited four times a year and cost between $2 – 3,000 per audit, and Halal certification per carton of meat was 25 cents. While Graincorp said that their costs were “pretty minor.”

I think Nestle nailed it when they said that what needed to be taken into account was the context. The companies are making it clear that the cost is not an impediment nor does it hinder them in any way. The companies are saying that the fee is so minor it is not a risk to profit (which is a major indicator of how trivial it is). What the companies are also saying is that the Halal certification cost is outweighed by the income from being able to guarantee Halal to a growing and lucrative market. In 2012 the global Halal certified food industry was worth between $US600 billion and $US2.1 trillion. As a value that is a market worth sharing in, and clearly outweighs the minor cost of certification. in that sense, Halal is a positive way forward for companies wanting to enter that particular market.

Context will also give an account of other forms of religious certification. This is primarily Kosher certification for the Jewish community. In 2014 there were negotiations to include Hindu certification in the US market, and there is in Australia a Christian Certification Authority trying to make headway in the market. The Sikh community have some restrictions, they are required to forego halal food, so for the Sikh community halal labels are helpful by default.

In regard to the fee received by Muslim certification agencies, according to the ABC Factcheck (referenced above), none of the money could be traced to terrorism or to unscrupulous agencies. Besides which, all money transfer is closely monitored by Federal Govt. agencies through the regulatory processes in place. All Banks have to have a series of checks in place to validate your identity and the channels you are using. Of course, this doesn’t prevent money laundering for those intent on achieving it. It would be difficult to monitor all foreign channels that provide a publicly legitimate front for laundering. That is the role of Internationally cooperative agency to achieve through investigation.

It is also important to note that within Australia, peak bodies like the Islamic Council of Victoria, Halal Australia, Muslims Australia (AFIC) are openly opposed to terrorism and any form of association with prohibited agencies and groups.

As for money going to Mosques and schools, ABC Factcheck reported that some does, but this is legitimate (as it is for Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Sikhs). In 2014 the AFIC contributed $150, 000 to schools, youth programs, lectures and more. The ICCV funds schools and youth programs. The Supreme Islamic Council for Halal Meat Australia (SICHMA) supoprts Islamic centres, mosques, youth education and mentoring programs. Those monies are, like all monies gained by public and charitible entities, regulated and audited.

It should be noted that Islamic schools and colleges are governed by the same regulations as are Christian and other faith schools, which means they are regulated and audited, and they are required to comply with Australian standards. Otherwise, no operating licence would be granted, or continued.

The evidence doesn’t support conspiracy, money laundering, terrorist funding, or any ilegal activity. From a commercial perspective, Halal is profitable and far outweighs any certification costs. From a religious point of view it is similar to Kosher slaughter, it helps other religious groups identify Halal, and it is a positive for those practice Islam. From a community point of view there is so much legislation around finance, money transfer, banking, the licencing of schools, and employment, that our confidence is well founded that there is nothing untoward.

My own conclusion is that opposition comes from two sources. One is a large percentage of the Australian population who just don’t know what Halal is all about. The other is an unconnected variety of vocal opposition politically, religiously, and culturally anti-Islamic. These include neo-nazis, white supremicists, extreme right-wing political groups, anti-imigration lobbyists, and anti-refugee groups, and extremist or fundamentalist Christian groups among many voices (an unholy alliance!). This latter group are adept at manipulating the first group. Fear is a trade in stock for anti-Islamic groups. And this in a country that birthed the protectionist “White Australia Policy” which I believe is, unfortunately,  still active in our hearts and minds. We need to deal with this latent policy, and its antecedents by letting go the past and living into a different future.

The panic being created about Halal is really a wake up call to us all that now is the time to build bridges towards a connected yet diverse and creative community, rather than aiming for mediocrity and division.

I want to live in a place where difference is celebrated not punished, and where we can live into an Australia that rises to acknowledgement and acceptance, embracing and compassionate, and not just for Muslims either, for all.

Next time someone you know criticises Halal, let them know the truth.

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Seeking Assylum: A Christo-Judaic View (or part one)

From a Christo-Judaic view the notion of refuge has been vital for justice and for the health of community. Internally, the people of ancient Israel were instructed (God through Moses) to designate six cities of refuge for those who had slain another person (Pentateuch – Numbers 35). If the slayer/murderer could make it to the city of designated refuge they were reprieved from the death penalty so long as they remained within the refuge city’s walls. it was latterly taught in rabbinical schools that any town run by the Levites was to be considered a town of refuge but only the designated towns could not refuse or revoke a refugee. So, although this was particular to Israel, it stands as a principal of compassion and for all people because Israel was originally to be the model for other peoples on how to live in the light and love of God.

And there is the imperative from Leviticus 19.33 – 34, that the people of Israel were to treat any alien in the land as if they were their own family. The end of verse 34 is particularly significant because it reminds the people of Israel that they too were once aliens in the land of Egypt. As with ironic and prophetic poignancy the Holy Family were also to find refuge in Egypt! (doubly ironic given the state of affairs of the modern Middle East!).

The missionary Don Richardson working in West Papua or Irian Jaya discovered that in that culture there was provision for cities of refuge.

In Islam the refugee is also cared for irrespective of religion or culture. The Prophet Muhammad found refuge among the people of Madinah, and there are many historical anecdotes and historical records of acts of refuge for Muslims by others and by Muslims for people of all persuasions. Shari’ah Law (Pathway) also encourages the safety of aliens and refugees, and teaches that anyone seeking refuge in a Mosque or sacred place is to be given protection and hospitality. But it also goes further and and encourages people to designate their homes and civic buildings as places for refuge. in the Qur’an, Sura 9.6 (see also sura 8.72 ff., and 9.100, 117, among many) asks for pagans to be given refuge, and yes, in the hope they will also eventually find hope in Allah, but the refuge (Aman) must be given!

Whether you are religious or not isn’t the point, it is that in culture past, people found within themselves to look beyond self and even to make laws to protect people, especially those seeking refuge. and if you are prone to a cynicism (original meaning – to question) then it is not about how religion has clearly failed to honour its own teachings. The ideal still stands, can we reach it?

I reflect on that and find hope, hope for a world where we are less concerned for tribe and self and more concerned for building a community where care and compassion can be the foundation for a less negative world. Where the globe itself is a city of refuge.

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Love or Fear?

There are a number of posters and quote book style comments available on the net that go like this: “if you feel compelled to defend your faith it can’t really be that strong.”

At one level an apologetic in theology or philosophy is necessary in juggling between truth claims for clarity of discussion, but at another level there is a blind even fundamentalist and closed defence that negatively compares and contrasts. Eventually this ends in denying the very faith we claim.

Yesterday Ed Husic became the first Australian Commonwealth MP to be sworn in using the Qu’ran. There has been, predictably (and sadly), some negative response. Of course the mainstream media used inflammatory and sensational headlines to push interest in the story (news creating news), the most common and obvious abuse was to claim there had been a public backlash. Another and more serious failing is the media references to Husic receiving ‘racist’ comments and backlash. You simply cannot respond to a religious issue with racism. To oppose a religious stance is not to be racist. Racism, by clear definition is discrimination based on ethnic grounds, and especially where a religion is global and not located in tribe or family group, there is no grounds to connect religion as a racial issue.

Further comment came that to allow the use of the Qu’ran was un-Australian! Firstly, we were founded in a time when colonial nations still adhered strongly to a Christian ethos, but in recent decades we have not constituted being a ‘Christian nation.’ Secondly, you only have to check the ABS stats, and the U. N. data to know that we cannot define Australia as Christian. So if we aren’t a Christian nation, what are we whining about? Who is needing to defend the use of the Bible and why?

Furthermore, if Husic is Muslim wouldn’t it be far more real, far more authentic to swear (if one must do any such thing in the first place) on the Qu’ran in which he trusts and believes, rather than the Bible, which would be false and inauthentic? Or at worst, we might be tempted to turn and say, well he swore on the Bible, but he didn’t mean it because he is a Muslim!

But all this shows up something else. If we can agree to put aside every notion of religious fundamentalism (because all faiths suffer from it) and both the perceived and real threat posed to all, we can begin to see that angry and negative responses to Husic stem from a lack of understanding, a paucity of knowledge about Islam and especially the Qu’ran. And lack of knowledge can arrive at misinformation, or worse, fear.

A more mindful approach would be to dialogue, to seek understanding, to build working relationships with all peoples. It might be time to visit the possibility of strengthening the curriculum re culture and values through comparative religion so that ignorance and fear might be transformed for the positive good. We do live in a multi-cultural society (irrespective of the arguments to the contrary, which are more to do with policy debates than grass roots reality) and we must address living together as such.

St. Francis showed the way when he attempted to negotiate peace between the Crusaders and the opposing Muslim army in 1219. And this builds on what Jesus also showed in living the call to love one another. In other faith traditions there are similar calls to love, harmony, hospitality, and non-harming. Even better is the outstanding example of the Muslim rule in Iberia from 711 in the north to 1480 in Granada and the south where the three Abrahamic faiths coexisted well together (would make a great model for today). It can be done.

Is our faith (whichever faith that be) strong enough not to need negative, fearful defence (thereby constituting an ironic denial of what or who we believe)?

The question is whether to enthrone fear in our hearts or love?!

Paul

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