Saturday, December 31, 2011

Letting Go of Old Hurts (Nouwen)

How true ...millions upon millions of people are still fighting and carrying on hate that began hundreds of years ago ...Christ can break the cycle


Letting Go of Old Hurts

One of the hardest things in life is to let go of old hurts.  We often say, or at least think:  "What you did to me and my family, my ancestors, or my friends I cannot forget or forgive. ... One day you will have to pay for it."  Sometimes our memories are decades, even centuries, old and keep asking for revenge.

Holding people's faults against them often creates an impenetrable wall.  But listen to Paul:  "For anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation:  the old order is gone and a new being is there to see.  It is all God's work" (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).  Indeed, we cannot let go of old hurts, but God can.  Paul says:  "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not holding anyone's fault against them" (2 Corinthians 5:19).  It is God's work, but we are God's ministers, because the God who reconciled the world to God entrusted to us "the message of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:19).  This message calls us to let go of old hurts in the Name of God.  It is the message our world most needs to hear.

Friday, December 30, 2011

101 things I am thankful about in 2011 (part three)

62. Living in New Zealand. Specifically West Auckland. Beautiful, green, less density, free parking and quiet ... And near enough to the city centre if I ever want to go there. Ha! As if :-)

63. Prayer. The privilege to enter God's presence via prayer at anytime on anything!!

64. The Sunday School children. Well, generally anyway! LOL. Just kidding. Full of life, helpful, friendly ...

65. Reuben and his teams. The worship / music teams and the AV. Wonderful man with persevering and pastoral commitment. Not easy to get people involved and the effort shows especially when I reflect on the situation before he stepped in and the amount of energy and time he took to get us this far!

66. Reflexology and my wife's willingness to use it on me! Really works well. First used internet, then library books, then bought a book and DVD on trademe.

67. My $4 mini study table - tiny thing but us it everyday. Coffee or tea on it in the morning to watch TV, even at night, and to place my notebook etc. Great buy even if doesn't match anything

68. The cars - love my 1996 Ipsum - still running well. Just the right height for older folks so that it is easy to get in and out. Great for packing people in, and used often by others for the towbar feature. Some major repairs needed in a couple of months though - fingers crossed it won't be too expensive.

69. Thomas - my mechanic. Good friend to have and totally trustworthy and very reasonable charges. I leave all the maintenance to him knowing all our family cars is in good hands.  Great service too - I can drop off my car and he drops me home / office and later sends it back and I drop him home if he needs a ride.

70. My wife's 1992 Nissan - great bargain at $1650. Old and I hope it passes its WOF check next month . But it is a smooth drive and Thomas did a wonderful job of putting in speakers and a radio cheap!!

71. My Feijoa trees. Still as tiny and short as can be but the flowers are so beautiful and red and it looks like it will be another great season next year! So big and sweet.

72. Phone cards. Especially when I listen to stories of how expensive it used to be years ago for people to call overseas (especially Malaysia) - we all use it often to call family (and sometimes friends) in Malaysia


73.  The DVS system. Has certainly made the house smell fresher and has helped regulate the dampness a lot! Especially recently with my wife getting allergy related ailments, have to keep the window shut at night and the DVS system helps heaps or it would be extra stuffy

74. Extra insulation. Power consumption has clearly dropped and we have used the heaters much less as the house feels more comfortable and warmer. Good investment

75. Heat pump in the living room. Sure has helped heat up the house faster and it was nice using the air con a few times this year

76-80. Handymen friends. Wonderful things these able friends have done for me and my family - fixing this and that, making this and that etc. Thanks Sam and Cynthia, Greg and Su and Nilesh.

81. Henri Nouwen. Daily does of Henri Nouwen has been very helpful to me.

82. Mono plastic food wrap 600 m size! For anyone who has had to struggle with food wrap (cling wrap), this super size food wrap has made one of the regular things in life so much easier! Thanks Sam for helping me get this.

83. Lions club $1 book sale. It's on almost every month though I only go a few times a year. Always fun to browse through books (even if 90% of them are fiction novels that I am not interested in). Usually find a few gems.

84. Salt lamp. I think it does make a difference. Negative ions theory and I have had less problems with my allergies.

85. Sponge balls. Almost always in my pocket and always useful :-)

86. My dehumidifier. An extra boost during winter. And a great must use when hanging washed clothes indoors. Saves on dryer usage and helps clothes dry so much faster (and also so it doesn't smell funny)

87. Visitation. It's a well received ministry and it is a blessing to do.

88-90. HOUSE. Both having a house to call home and the TV show (can't wait for the new season). Has a different feel than CHUCK but I think these two shows are my top three current TV shows

91. THE BIG BANG THEORY - as in the TV show. My third "must watch show". I love the gang and how they interact - especially Sheldon and Koothrapalli.

92. Books. Book lovers will get this. Just a general thing. Nice to be surrounded by books and read them - even if they are sometimes commentaries :-)

93. My NT cutter and metal ruler. Will count them together but I use them so often and they are constant reminders of good old things and good old days. I bought them when I was an undergraduate in seminary - that was back in 1987 for a course under Low Chai Hok .... and these two things have lasted and lasted (though I have had to buy lots of new blades)

94. Rubber cement! Was amazed when I came to NZ and found that I could not buy it here. Found out this year that it is now being stocked at one speciality shop. But rubber cement is one of my super versatile must have things (Almost like duct tape?.) I use it very often

95. Plastic stackable boxes (when on sale). Another crazy thing but I seem to keep buying them to organize my books and magic stuff. Very useful and cheap. And every now and then I need to reorganize ...

96. Jokes and funny stories. I still collect them and they help keep me sane. I keep saying things like "this will make a good sermon illustration" but never really use them :-) But what would life be without humour?

97. Missionaries. Some are personal friends and others are people my church supports. But I do appreciate all of them for their commitment to missions. And especially those who take time to write and keep in touch (and happily agree to give our church a priority slot and come and share!). Hearing their stories helps keep me and my church connected to what is going on around the world and how important it is to get involved.

98. Preaching. I have grown to accept and feel more confident that I am called to preach. Had a dinner meeting last night and realize afresh (confirmation) that I need to take on more preaching as it is blessing people. Expanded my outside preaching to a second church this year (so now two outside my own church), and next year have agreed to take a slot at a Filipino church camp (but my condition was that it not be the final Sunday slot as I am busiest on Sunday)

99. Pastor's Notes. It has been hard doing this but it has been a good discipline as one of the objectives I made for doing it was to help prepare me to be as fresh as possible for the day I have to take on even more regular Sunday preaching. Hmmm.... and also to try to be more concise and less "cheong hei" as I have the "need" to keep qualifying my statements :-)

100. Opportunities. So many opportunities each year and this year has not been different. Opportunities to help make a difference in the lives of individuals, or small groups, the church, and even the community. No energy, time or ability to take most of them BUT I am glad they are always popping up as it forces me to pray, reflect and act ...

101. LIFE! Yes - just being alive. To be is to do, to do is to be, doo bee dooo be doo! (paraphrased from a T-shirt my mum gave me. It has to do with Plato, Socrates and Frank Sinatra :-)

101 done - though I think there is a lot more!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

101 things I am thankful about in 2011 (part two)

Okay here goes part two ...

31. Kelston Community Church

Detailing this will probably cover the rest of the 101 things .... so I won't. But I love this church and being her pastor. I am not saying it is easy (it is in no way a perfect church) but it is not too difficult as there is genuine support from the members of the church.

32-33. Elders. I have incredible church elders who though different in temperament and styles are a testament to Christian maturity and teamwork. I think the most important thing for me is not things like  "leadership skill" or "vision casting" but godliness and a pastoral heart. Our elders to me have this in abundance. It may seem rather cliche but I honestly do not know how I would manage without the three - Robert, Lye Chye and Max

34-38. Deacons. In a church where many are happy to serve but will not (for various reasons) take up official church leadership, agreeing to be a deacon is a big thing. And while I do not subscribe to the idea that deacons are "junior elders", it is a blessed thing to me that (IMHO) my church deacons have attributes of elders. Amazing bunch who work very hard and I do know how difficult it is for them to balance ministry and their other responsibilities. (Unlike popular misconceptions, working life in Auckland, NZ is not laid back - like other parts of the world, many people here also work long hours). I pray for them regularly as I know they do for me - Hock Fie, Elizabeth, Shereen, Jin. 

I hope that by end of 2012 more will join the team - hence my starting on a series from the Pastoral epistles. Going to be a tough series. Pray for me!

39. OK, so I "cheated" a little in my numbering :-). Here's a wonderful one - ministry allowance!  It is a wonderful thing to have a ministry allowance for my personal development.  Sure beats the days where I had to scrimp and save to buy books etc. While I did not use any this year to go for a pastor's retreat, I used all my allowance on books and other various resources. :-)

40. Cyber spiritual director - Alex Tang. Alex has been a good and generous friend and I am glad that last year I had the chance to actually meet him face to face in Auckland. I am still enjoying his last book he gave me (slow read) and by end of Jan 2012 I will post more about this book.

41-22. Cyber doctors. Wonderful that on FB I have access (well, at least just in a limited advisory way) so many people in the medical line. Hahaha. My former GP ("Dr. Siew") and dentist (Belinda") among them! Makes up a little that I can't visit them for my medical needs. But I must say it is a blessing that my NZ GP happens to be a former Malaysian and so it makes it very easy to talk with him.


Taken at their church office during a West Auckland pastors
fellowship meeting, which Derek organizes.
43. Mr. and Mrs. Jones. It has been good to get to know Derek and Judy Jones - pastors of the church across us that meets in a local High School. We are so different yet we share a growing bond. They are charismatics in a charismatic church and Samoans. But they have extended friendship and fellowship and I hope that in 2012 we can work more closely with each other.
I am the only Chinese / Asian in the group ... mostly Pacific Islanders but I feel right at home.


44. Food - old and new recipes. I am thankful I managed to create a few recipes that I and my boys (and others - depending on who!) find yum (Yum is a Kiwi phrase)
Learning to cook better has been for me a wonderful way to relax and create on the fly ...
My Hokkien mee is still popular. Added char kueh teow to the mix but I must say that this still needs work though my family has no complaints :-)
My lamb curry is still pretty good as is my version of beef rendang (ahem - all cooked without using ready made packet spices) and now I have added my version of fried chicken (which was a hit the last time I cooked it for a fellowship dinner).
My "Fah sang wu" has had mixed reviews as sometimes it comes out so well, and other times ... so so.
What has been fun however is my quick to cook soups - my pumpkin, kumara and potato soups has been a blessing, as is my two styles of tomato soup and my own lemon tom yam style soup
And ah ... my beef stew and seaweed salad (my mother's recipe and her Sabah seaweed)

OK, I won't "cheat" and count every recipe as one individual blessing, though I think that would be fair as honestly, it each evokes special memories.:-)

45. Thermo-mix. This present from my mum has been a blessing though of late I have not used it as much as I want to as I prefer cooking the old fashioned way (and it being summer, I can cook outside more often so the house doesn't smell!) But it was great for winter cooking and I know it will be in 2012

46. Kelston Community Trust. Becoming a trustee has been a  blessing as it has opened many doors to ministry opportunities and making friends. It has been very encouraging getting to know many of the trustees better especially some of the school heads. They are some of the most committed people I have ever had the privilege of getting to know. Makes me wonder how well Malaysian youth would fare if they had such teachers and headmasters!

47. My magic box / table. Expensive but it has been such a wonderful tool. My last two shows using it made my magic show so much easier to do and more "professional". Especially with the modifications done by Nilesh!

48. My house slippers. Even now (first month of summer) I use it. Somehow it helps prevent me suddenly sneezing which can actually set off a bout of hay fever. I get a new pair every year (very cheap)

The Littles saying their farewells before John
prayed for them. 
49-50. The Littles and John Cheah. Going to miss the Little family heaps now that they are moving to Taupo.  Blessings in so many ways - as individuals (the girls too) and as a family. But serving with them for almost 2 years has been very enriching especially this year when they stepped in and co-lead the youth group with John, freeing me from the concerns of youth ministry (of which I am way too out of date). Thank God for John who each year grows so much in his ministry and leadership. Knowing my temperament, I should be worrying about the state of the youth ministry (at such a crucial juncture too) with the Littles departure but there is this inner peace in God's grace and knowing John's leadership abilities and commitment to God and the youth. What a nice change to feel this way!:-)

51. Portable Induction cooker. What a joy to have this cooker so I can cook outside too. Heats us fast and it is so nice to have consistent decent heat when I cook. Saves me electricity too! I love having this cooker.

52. CHUCK! Crazy I know but this is the only TV show I actually record so I don't miss it and my wife and I can watch at leisure interuption. I think it has been the only TV show I actually follow (now that HOUSE is no longer airing). The show never fails to make me laugh - especially Chuck and Morgan's antics.

53. My radio / CD player. This one is very old and 11 Watt speakers (total). It has to be at least 20 years old as I remember having it when I lived in Kampar before Andrew was born. And it still works!! I use it practically every time I cook - whether to listen to the radio or a CD. It even has a cassette deck.

54. COAST Radio Station. Some find it strange that with Christian radio available I do not listen the the Christian channels. I love listening to Coast radio as it plays oldies! :-)

55. Podcasts / I-tunes U. Wish I had more time to listen to podcasts BUT every now and then when I have time and need a lift, some inspiration, perhaps a different or fresh perspective I got o my podcasts and listen to a sermon. I think my favourite for 2011 is still William Willimon. His style is so unlike mine and I would even say that I disagree with a lot his style of preaching (the way he words things etc and gasp even his exegesis?) BUT he makes me think (most of the time) and I like that.
I think podcasts has been a blessing to me as a solo pastor who still does not have a strong network of pastors I connect with on a deep level, hearing the thoughts of words from Christian leaders meets a real need.

56. Clean water. I kid you not. I love the fact that I can drink water from the tap! Of course I have a water filter, kindly installed FOC by a former elder, Albert. (Makes me thank God for him very often!) But when I read about the problems of fresh water around the world and water borne diseases, this is a huge blessing that I want to ensure I do not take for granted. Plus living in Malaysia where my mum has a commercial capacity water filter (used for swimming pools) to filter the water that comes from the pipes and a 2nd one to make sure the water is doubly fit for drinking .... Nuff said

57. My local library and comic books. I love the system here. I book what i want online and then I get an email when the books arrive (put on hold shelf for me) and then when I do my weekly post office run, I pick up the books. And the only books I borrow nowadays are comic books (ahem ... GRAPHIC NOVELS). Great way to relax.

58. My guitar. It is now pretty "banged up". Can no longer use a strap, the internal pick up has long been unusable. The bridge is cracked and will need changing one day soon. It is also a bit "warped"  But it is still giving me great times and sounds. Used it for caroling again this year and it brought back great memories of when I bought it and how I bought it. Interesting that mid 2011 I started playing it more often (I keep it in my office) - not just for home group meetings etc but for special items (never thought I would be doing this again) and for pleasure as well. Picking up playing a few songs and signing - oldies of course and it is relaxing.

59. New home group / church members.  It is exciting to meet and plan early this month for a new home group for 2012. Been praying about this most of 2011 and am so thankful the core is excited and ready. It will be exciting for me as the core will be our Pacific Islander families. And we have some dreams for Island style music .... and it is interesting that the name they chose is "Harmony". It is exciting to see the slow seed of integration of PI members with the church as a whole. Something most say will not work due to cultural differences but I believe otherwise.

60. Laidlaw College (formerly BCNZ). They have had two Auckland Church Leaders Days in 2011 and it is all FOC. Really appreciate the way they seek to bless church leaders and pastors. The day seminars have been eye openers and keeps me in touch with some of the wider issues facing the church in NZ. I am excited that the new principal has agreed to speak at our church next year. Each year I get some of their lecturers to come preach at our church and everyone of them have been a blessing

61. The Gans. In case they should read this, wont' say anything lest I embarrass them but what a family! Three generations of inspiring people whose service and friendship continues to bless me and the church

Ok, better stop now .... will continue another day. But hey, the list keeps flowing.

101 things I am thankful about in 2011 (part one)

The year is almost over and it is a good time to reflect. So will see if I can list 101 things I am thankful for 2011. Obviously can't do it in one post and I have no idea how long this will take BUT I think it is a good exercise :-)

No specific order of preference - will be fun to see what pops into my head! Will be a fun exercise too in "word association"
OK. Here goes

1. God
2. Father
3. Son
4. Holy Spirit 

Hahaha. Not trying to cause a heresy by naming four but this is actually how my mind works. Often in quiet or difficult moments I return to how thankful I am that I know God and that God is with me. No matter what people say "God is indeed great!"

But then there are times when I specifically think of God the Father, then often God the Son, and at other times, especially over the last couple of months, God the Holy Spirit. Not going to try to explain this theologically but those who are Christians will probably understand what I mean.

5. Merv

As I think of the Holy Spirit I also think of Merv Coates who gave us three messages recently on the ministry of Holy Spirit  in our lives. And his contribution to me and us as a church at KCC. A wonderful example of a man of God with a huge pastoral heart - especially for the poor and marginalized.

6. Uncle Max
7. Aunty Helen

So much to say about this couple. So I won't try.... except to say that I am grateful for two models of godliness and Christian maturity that have helped me keep my path straight.

Hmmm.... looks like this list contains lots of people, so one more and I will go off on a tangent and come back to more people. But it does remind me that people are the most important (and of course I will get back to my wife later!!! :-))

My sharing a little on Beryl before giving her the PTBK award
8. Aunty Beryl - as I have a picture of her to post - getting the local "Proud to be Kelston Awards".  What to day except she has been a wonderful sounding board and counsellor to me and the words of someone at the awards said it best "Thanks for nominating Beryl. She is is an incredible woman"

9. Strawberries - specifically my strawberry patch. Such a wonderful harvest practically every day. Have eaten them as is, with ice cream, as strawberry shakes, as mixed fruit smoothies, and given away bunches to some many people - neighbors, friends, church members, my wife's colleagues (especially them as they love strawberries). And the best part is, the original two plants are still spreading its roots and if I look after them well as I always do, harvest for 2012 may be even more abundant.
Took this a week ago. As you can see, a lot of fruit each day
and many are now getting bigger!
Something special about picking my own strawberries realizing it is a miracle of God that plants bear fruit and yet it also requires me to do my part. I planted, I watered etc but God gave growth!

10. My old DELL Inspiron notebook. It's really slow and HDD is but 60 GB but it still runs well. It's now 7 years old ... My son's much newer Toshiba died after 4 years (just when the extended warranty ran out - conspiracy! :-))

Everytime I use it I remember and quickly pray for Dr. Cheah Wing Yin who bought it for as a surprise graduation gift. Old blessing but a wonderful blessing that keeps on "giving" especially for the encouragement he has been to me - making that effort to let me know that my "personal sacrifices" despite the many hurdles to finish my 2nd masters was the right thing to do

11. My LG external DVD writer. It is now also 7 years old and setting up takes time - power source, usb port, get adapter etc and it is slow .... But it still serves me well. I use if fairly often to back up my DVDs etc as the DVD drive in my office PC is a ROM (can't even burn CDs), and the DELL notebook only burns CDs. Grateful for it!

12. Star Trek! Hahaha. This one is true. Watching ST: TNG when I am free is a very relaxing thing. Will one day get all the DVDs.... And I love the optimism of Gene Roddenberry (even if I disagree with some of the basic assumptions of his philosophy). And it is amazing that a couple of decades ago, he already predicted the use of ipads! :-) And many episodes give me lots of food for thought.

13. My biomag mattress protector. It has helped my sleep improve tremendously!!

14. My 2nd hand $6 blender. It is now 4 years since I bought it on trademe and I use it so often. Makes funny noises at times but has served me so well. The lemonade, the ice slushees, milkshakes, fruit cocktails, my version of "tagalog" and even blending my soyabeans

15. Trademe. Love it. Got so many things cheap via trademe. Can probably list off hand 20 things bought from trademe that are blessings but that would not be as challenging for this exercise.

16. My KMart $15 jacket. Had it for more than 2 years now and it is so comfy. During colder weather I think I have worn it almost everyday. And though it has been washed numerous time it still looks decent and it dries fast too :-)

17. Balloons and pump. The amount of joy I have derived and given from my balloons I doubt can be expressed. I use it very often and in so many ways on occasions that surprise even me. For example, yesterday I went to my local butcher's shop and gave balloons to the staff (with the owner's permission of course) to say thank for the marvelous service and to wish them Merry Christmas.

18. Mad Butcher, Glen Eden. I must say that in all my years of going shopping (in Malaysia and NZ) the staff in this shop are the friendliest and most efficient I have ever experienced. And this has ALWAYS been the case since I starred shopping them for a year now. Hence the reason why I made the balloons :-)
They really go out of their way to help their customers and their "how are you today" greeting is actually genuine.

19. Allan and Veron. Think of balloons? I think of these two! :-) Need to say again a big thanks to this couple for introducing me to balloons and magic and for being my supplier for very affordable balloons! Still blessing me even though I am now in NZ.

20. Twenty already! Wow. That was fast. Ok, let me bring up MAGIC .... First of all "Magic" in general. Actually helps keep me sane among other things. I think magic has helped develop the creative spark in me. Long way to go but it is nice to see clear progress. And of course it is an amazing means for making friends (though balloons beats "magic" hands down) and of course ministry.

21. This year I got to know a magician Keith Garrett (amateur like me and I think my age too but way better than me) who has been very helpful to me. Really appreciate the developing friendship and his advice. Nice to have someone to bounce off ideas and who gets back to me fast.

22. Francis Wee. The budding seven year old magician. Inspiring to see his dedication to magic and nice to have someone else to pass on what I know. He actually reads the books I gave him and works out the principles and practices (with patter too)!

23. Credit card. off tangent again but I am thankful for my credit card. I use it to buy stuff online, pay bills etc and it has been a time saver etc. (BTW, I only purchase things via credit card when I have funds so I do not pay interest). A credit card helps in so many ways that I never thought would a couple of years ago.

24. My wife. Not that I associate "credit card" with wife :-). My favourite Proverb says it bests ... Proverbs 18:22 (p/s KJV rendition sounds more elegant)

25. My boys. They can drive me crazy at times but they are God's gift to m. Psalm 127:3-5 says it well.

26. My mother. Clearly she is one of my best friends. How she blesses me is beyond description. She's a "no holds barred" person whom I still look to for advice and I whom I call up regularly to chat.

27. Itouch. Gift from my mother - 3 years ago and still going strong. Very useful indeed even if my eyesight makes it a tad harder to read nowadays.

28. My mobile phone. Also a gift from my mother - a couple of years ago - one of her old phones. This one has loads of features, most of which I don't use. The ones I do use though are so helpful to me - the calendar function which allows me to out in my appointments. I have become one of those people who feel lost if they do not have their mobiles with them.

29. Facebook. Never thought I would say this but I think it is a blessing though at other times I feel like just disconnecting and de-registering". I find it interesting that many people actually follow my updates (thought they do not comment - as some tell me outside FB). Kind of nice and yet scary (but then again why should it be since no one forced me to post updates). I know, FB has loads of pros and cons etc but I think the pros at the moment outweigh the cons. It is therapeutical and it does keep me in touch with friends (main feature I like)

30. Blogger. With so many people leaving blogging in favour of FB, I still like this free blogger site as it does a  better job of recording my thoughts and ramblings (for better or worse). I deactivated years ago a previous account (Multiply site) and destroyed years of blogging and sometimes I wonder if I should do the same as there is so much talk on privacy issues etc. But then I think blogging is a good risk as it helps me remember the fact that we are fallen creatures and vulnerability while risky is one of the key things that makes me human.

OK. 30 is a good place to stop for now.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Christmas reflection “Grown up Christmas List” (Pastor's notes)

Final pastor's notes for the year. Will resume in February 2012

To read, click HERE

Blessed Christmas to you all and hope some of my pastor's notes has been of some help and blessing to some of you.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Freedom to Refuse Love (Henri Nouwen)

So true ....


The Freedom to Refuse Love  (Henri Nouwen)

Often hell is portrayed as a place of punishment and heaven as a place of reward.  But this concept easily leads us to think about God as either a policeman, who tries to catch us when we make a mistake and send us to prison when our mistakes become too big, or a Santa Claus, who counts up all our good deeds and puts a reward in our stocking at the end of the year.

God, however, is neither a policeman nor a Santa Claus.  God does not send us to heaven or hell depending on how often we obey or disobey.  God is love and only love.  In God there is no hatred, desire for revenge, or pleasure in seeing us punished.  God wants to forgive, heal, restore, show us endless mercy, and see us come home.  But just as the father of the prodigal son let his son make his own decision God gives us the freedom to move away from God's love even at the risk of destroying ourselves.   Hell is not God's choice.  It is ours.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Searching for a peaceful Islam (Tawfik Hamid)

Taken from http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/searching_for_a_peaceful_islam


Dr Tawfik Hamid is an Egyptian medical doctor and Islamic scholar residing in the US. As a medical student he embraced the teaching of radical Islam and joined Jamaah Islamiyah, a terrorist group headed by Ayman Al-Zawaherri who went on to become second in command of al-Qaeda. Now he is campaigning for a reformation of Islam based upon peaceful interpretations of classical Islamic texts. MercatorNet sought his views about violence and Sharia law.

MercatorNet: The interim government of Libya has announced that "Any law that violates Sharia is null and void legally". Is it possible for a country which embraces Sharia law also to support human rights?

Tawfik Hamid: No. The reason is that Sharia law as taught in mainstream Islamic books and by the leading Islamic institutions still teaches anachronistic medieval practices such as beating women, killing male homosexuals, stoning adulterers, and killing Muslims if they convert to other faiths or reject a basic tenet of traditional Islam.
Sharia law has not adapted to the modern world. This explains the absolute silence of most, if not all, Islamic scholars when it comes to denouncing violent teachings. You can see the end of human rights in any place that practices Sharia law such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan under the Taliban, or Somalia.

Some countries like Egypt have a secular law built on Sharia principles. This could respect human rights but it is still not the Sharia law itself. At this stage of human history any system that applies Sharia Law itself cannot respect human rights.

MercatorNet: Some people in Britain and the US support a limited acceptance of Sharia law in their own countries. Is this a good idea?

Tawfik Hamid: In theory this sounds great. In practice there are serious problems.  Those who claim that Sharia law will be used only to settle family matters are na├»ve. Polygamy, wife-beating, inequality between men and women in inheritance, and marrying girls as young as nine are all acceptable under Sharia law.

If we allowed Sharia family law, we would countenance discrimination against Muslim women even though secular laws forbid discrimination. You cannot have two contradictory legal systems working in the same country. The complexities involved are mind-boggling. If a Muslim man beats his wife, should police stand by and watch, or arrest him? After all, he is doing nothing wrong under Sharia law.

If a Muslim man were to insist on applying Sharia law so that he gets double the inheritance of his sister, while the sister insists on following a secular law that promotes gender equality, which law will be enforced?

MercatorNetYou are basically living in exile in the United States because of your interpretation of Islam. What caused you to shake off the extremist views of Salafi Islam?

Tawfik Hamid: I was an eager follower of Salafi Islam when I was a medical student in Egypt. But I started to question the radical views 1980 when one of the leaders of Jamaah Islamiyah of Egypt called Ahmed Omar (he was a fellow medical student) asked me to join a group of members of JI to kidnap a police officer and bury him alive. I just could not tolerate this. It was the beginning of the awakening of my human conscience. This gradually led me to withdraw from the radical group until I reformed.

MercatorNetYou have argued that violence against women is an integral part of the conventional interpretation of Islam and a preparation for terrorism. Could you explain this?
Desensitising a human being to the use of violence creates a mindset that accepts using violence against others. For example, if you taught a child to torture cats then you cannot be surprised if he grows up to become violent towards humans. When you teach a Muslim man that it is OK to beat women according to the Qu’ran (Surah 4:34) and use violence against them, you help desensitizing this man to the use of violence towards others, and even to terrorism.

MercatorNetYou contend that almost all approved interpretations of Islamic core text and Islamic jurisprudence books promote violence to spread Islam, the murder of apostates, violence against women, polygamy, and stoning for adultery. But most Muslims would not do these things or even approve of them. Why is there a gap between theory and practice?

Tawfik Hamid: The gap between theory and practice has several explanations.

First of all, many Muslims are only cultural Muslims or ritual Muslims who do not really strongly promote the practice of these values and are satisfied by the cultural and ritual part of the religion. These people usually rely on the peaceful verses of the religion and typically say that the passages which exhort readers to violence have not been interpreted correctly.

Second, many Muslims have been raised in civilized societies and thus their consciences and sense of humanity cannot tolerate violence. However, they are deeply attached to Islam and unable to criticize it or reject its teachings. Because this group does not have a theologically based refutation of these violent principles they live in a process of psychological denial of the violent teachings.

Finally, there are Muslims who strongly believe in these violent principles but do not put them into effect either because they are unable to do so or because they are afraid of the negative consequences.

MercatorNetYou have called upon Islamic scholars to produce an authoritative interpretation of the Qu’ran which rejects violence. Is this possible? The Qu’ran contains many verses which seem to support violence.

Tawfik Hamid: Yes, It is possible to interpret the Qu’ran peacefully. At my website, Islam for Peace, I analyse many of the disputed texts. The most relevant of these is whether the Qu’ran instructs Muslims to kill all infidels. There are several Sura [verses] which are interpreted in this way: The infidels are your sworn enemies (Sura 4:101}; Prophet, make war on the infidels (Sura 66: 9);Never be a helper to the disbelievers (Sura 28:86).

Accepted literally and uncritically these verses support extremism. However, a pivotal matter of linguistic importance is often overlooked: the significance and usage of the definite article, "al" (ie, "the"), which precedes the various disparaging Arabic words (kafirunmushrikun) that describe non-believers in the Qu’ran and which are often translated as "non-believers," "infidels," "idolaters," or "polytheists."

The use of "al" limits the verse (and thus the commandment) to a specific time and place in history and to a specific group of people who were obstacles to the establishment of Islam in its nascent phase.

Had the intention of the Qu’ran been to universalise the application of these verses, it would have used the expression "man kafar," rather than "al-kafereen". "Man kafar," literally means any one who does not believe in God, while "al-kafereen", the infidels, denotes a specific group of people: those who fought the Prophet Mohamed in the early stages of Islam.

MercatorNetWho speaks for Islam? This seems to be the question at the heart of your concerns. Which school truly represents the Prophet’s teachings? The Sunni, the Shi’ite, the Sufi?

Tawfik Hamid: It is hard to answer this question as the Prophet is presented in completely different manners by these groups. For example, the Sunni teach that Mohamed married a nine-year-old girl when he was more than 50 years. The Shi’ite teach that she was 18, which seems to be the true version.  The Sufi do not focus on these historical stories. Instead they focus on stories about the Prophet that shows his love and mercy for others.

I would like to be pragmatic in this situation as I cannot tell for sure what happened in human history. So, I would say that the understanding of the Sufi school of thought about the Prophet is the most peaceful one and the one which should be followed.

Tawfik Hamid is a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC. He is the author of Inside Jihad: Understanding and Confronting Radical Islam
Want to read more articles by Tawfik Hamid Click on the links below

Friday, December 2, 2011

This is funny .... Umno veeps ready for sacrifice

I honestly thought this was funny in a sad way ...
Taken from Free Malaysia Today - which can be found here
Dec 1, 2011
KUALA LUMPUR: Umno’s three vice-presidents said today that they would withdraw from contesting in the coming general election if the party leadership believed they could not win.
One of them, Hishammuddin Hussein, said this was the kind of sacrifice Umno needed from its members as it prepares for an election that would test its ability to survive.
He cited the willingness of former Terengganu menteri besar Idris Jusoh to “sacrifice himself” and not contest.
Zahid Hamidi said he and the other vice-presidents received a text message from Idris informing them of his decision.
The other vice-president is Shafie Apdal.
In his address to the Umno general assembly this morning, Umno president Najib Tun Razak made clear that the meeting would be the last before the 13th general election. He indicated that the party was in need of a transformation that would include a shift in winning methodology and the deployment of only “winnable candidates”.
“Not a problem whatsoever, three of us,” Hishammuddin told reporters during the break following Najib’s speech.
“This is an indication by our party president. Those who cannot give victory to the party must conduct self-criticism. If we can no longer bring victory, then we have to back down.”
Party leaders believe internal splits were one of the factors behind Umno and Barisan Nasional’s dismal performance in the 2008 election.
Najib, an unelected party president, is in need of a strong mandate, ostensibly to allow him to carry out economic reforms he has promised as the country’s prime minister.



If they do not have the confidence to contest their traditional easy to win seats, why are they still hanging on to their VP posts?

Their willingness top sacrifice themselves sounds so noble - but it is clearly more being afraid to lose face by losing. This is spin politics at its funniest

So if / when the other candidates lose, will they be made the scapegoats. And if they win, will these non contesting VPs still keep their cushy party posts?

Some thoughts on Galatians 3:23-29: A new era of freedom and equality in Christ

For the 4th December 2011 bulletin

To read, click HERE