Latest posts on Christian Aid

Why 'Christian Hate?'? An introduction to the blog

Places Christians shouldn't go A quick tour of Christian Hate?'s case against Christian Aid

Christians and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Read all my posts on this topic

Friday, August 31, 2007

Berlin synagogue reopened

After three years of restoration Germany's largest synagogue reopened today. The ceremony was attended by 94-year-old Rabbi Leo Trepp, who preached at the synagogue in the 1930s. Here is the BBC's report, and here some photos of the century-old building.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dancing in Trafalgar Square

'The editor of an Arabic daily newspaper published in London said in an interview on Lebanese television that he would dance in Trafalgar Square if Iranian missiles hit Israel.

'An Iranian missile is displayed during a military parade.Photo: AP , AP
Talking about Iran's nuclear capability on ANB Lebanese television on June 27, Abd Al-Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, said, "If the Iranian missiles strike Israel, by Allah, I will go to Trafalgar Square and dance with delight."


'Bari Atwan founded the pan-Arab daily in London in 1989, and today the paper has a circulation of around 50,000. He is also a regular commentator on Sky News and BBC News 24.'

(from the Jerusalem Post via Honest Reporting, where you can see the interview; my emphasis)

Welcome to Londonistan.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Teach us how to pray

On a completely different tack from usual (and to show that I don't spend all my time being grumpy...), here's a blogger plugging a truly wonderful book about prayer. Do yourself a good turn today, get onto Amazon and order it!

You might also enjoy the theological worldview quiz to which the same blogger links here. Much to my astonishment it labelled me an 'Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan' - a nice thing to say about a middle-of-the-road Anglo-Catholic! Bearing in mind that this came a close second to 'Roman Catholic' even for practising left-footer Mr McEvoy, my suspicion is that the quiz may be ever so slightly rigged.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Amnesty and abortion

Continuing the theme of the last post. I posted on Amnesty International a while ago. Now it seems they've definitely decided to put up a 'No Catholics' sign in their window.

Note well where the zealotry is coming from here. The Bishop of East Anglia has been an AI member since 1976. He has plainly never demanded that the organization explicitly adopt a right-to-life stance, only that it should stay neutral and not exclude Catholics by forcing a right-to-abortion policy on them. And until recently it has had the good sense to reciprocate and meet Catholics half way.

Note the shrill and manipulative tones in which the career NGOcrat from AI insinuates that opponents of the new line - never mind if they are members of 31 years' standing - lack compassion for rape victims in Darfur. The hardest case is rolled out to emotionally blackmail opponents into endorsing what, as everyone knows from experience, is for all practical purposes (since, by definition, being denied an abortion places a woman's health 'in danger') an unrestricted 'woman's right to choose'.

Note that AI's response to the Vatican does not even acknowledge the existence of a belief that foetuses have the right to life.

And note that the 'we can't be expected to accommodate every religious group's dogmatic quirks' defence is not available to AI. As the Times points out, 'Amnesty was quick to criticise Danish publishers depicting Muhammad, despite being a defender of free speech'.

So this is an organization which will defend your right not to be offended by a cartoon, whilst it excludes those who defend the most fundamental right of all. It's time for a parting of the ways. Don't join it. Don't give it money. Do - somebody - set up an organization to do what it used to do so well - what its Catholic founder had in mind back in 1961.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Abortion, foeticide and liberal ethics

In India growing numbers of female foetuses are being aborted in order to save their parents the exorbitant cost of a dowry. The economics are brutally simple: 500 rupees for an abortion, 50,000 for a dowry. In the worst-affected areas there are only 8 girls for every 10 boys.

Nick Bryant feels he can safely describe the situation as tragic without compromising the BBC's impartiality. He also supplements the neutral term 'abortion' with the distinctly judgmental 'foeticide'.

But the news for unborn Indian girls is not as bad as it might be. It looks as if they may have a significantly better chance of evading abortion than their British sisters. Says Bryant, 'Over the past 20 years, it has been estimated that some 10 million female foetuses have been aborted' - an average of 500,000 a year. In England and Wales, with a population about one twentieth that of India and a much lower birth rate, the annual total stands at nearly 100,000 and rising.

So a tragedy for Britain's female foeticide victims, too? Well, no, that doesn't seem to be quite the way the Beeb sees it. For a start, 'foeticide' is right out. And if you want to find an instance of a BBC correspondent describing Britain's abortion rate as tragic you will need more patience or luck than I had. The report on the 2006 figures for England and Wales refrains rigorously from editorial comment, instead canvassing a range of expert opinions. Whilst the Royal College of Obstetricians was moved to describe the 3.9% rise as 'disappointing', Anne Furedi of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service said "Women will always need the option of abortion if their usual birth control has let them down." No tragedy, then, just one of those things, an inevitable by-product of the way we do sex - and heaven forbid that we should think of changing that!

So when do 100,000 aborted female foetuses fail to attain the status of tragedy? Evidently, when there are 100,000 aborted male foetuses to even up the score. All you need is inclusiveness. So remember: you don't need to believe in God to have a morality.

Monday, August 13, 2007

No big deal

When does the trade journal of the equality industry think that racist bigotry isn't something to go overboard about?

No surprises: Denis MacEoin, a scholar in the field of Islamic Studies, wrote a piece for the Grauniad's Comment is Free on anti-Semitism in the Middle East. It was rejected on the grounds that it was exaggerated - to which Dr MacEoin responds concisely but comprehensively with a list of the Middle Eastern newspapers which carry anti-Semitic material.

Stephen Pollard points to a truly sickening example of the kind of material which does pass the CiF censor (see also the assessment here). What kind of mindset believes it has been consistent in these two decisions?

(via this and this - note the illustration)

Engagement with an open mind

[note: this is a re-posting of an earlier post, slightly amended for personal reasons]

Engage has a piece by a Catholic who spent several years as a Palestine Solidarity Campaign activist, but was led by a discussion with Jon Pike and David Hirsh of Engage to the realization that the boycott campaign represented a demonization of Israel with racist overtones. Consequently she has resigned from the PSC. Read her story.

What I find striking about her account is the sense of a finely woven net of anti-Zionist propaganda which, once you fall into it, will ensure that you simply never hear a reasoned exposition of the other side of the story. This is precisely the impression I got when having a fairly heated debate with the EAPPI volunteer at my church on Sunday. Things which I had assumed he was deliberately downplaying turn out to be, apparently, completely off his radar. He seemed, for instance, genuinely surprised at the suggestion that the post-1948 exodus of Jews from Arab countries was comparable in scale to that of Palestinians from Israel. He thought that Jews had been living in perfect harmony in Iraq until Mossad started planting bombs to scare them away. Baghdad pogrom, 1941, 180 dead minimum? He'd never heard of it. Though you can bet your bottom shekel that he's heard of Deir Yassin.

As the writer says:-

'Throughout my exploration of the Palestinian situation, I learnt very little about the Palestinian mandate for Palestine, the demands of their resistance, the philosophy behind it, their attitudes to the reciprocal rights of Jews. Considering how much time I had spent submerged in their side of the story, I was surprisingly ignorant of their claims, attitudes and choices of resistance. What I was well versed in was their suffering and who was to blame.'

I think there's probably still quite a lot that the writer and I wouldn't see eye to eye about. Nevertheless she has clearly seen the same warning lights flashing that I first saw around the time she was getting involved in the PSC. It's not easy to change someone's mind about an issue where passions run so high, or to let your mind be changed. Respect to all involved in this model of engagement.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Mandatory information

Some things you may not have known about me: I'm the 104-year-old female CEO of a tourism and hospitality business employing over 10,000 people in Antartica. Well, I am as far as the Washington Post is concerned. I don't know, I should just be grateful that they let me read their paper for free, but those boxes with bossy asterisks next to them bring out the anarchist in me. Wouldn't the 'you don't have to, but we'd really, really appreciate it' approach be preferable for all concerned?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Jessie James, 15, Christian martyr

"Jessie was cornered, pointed out and intimidated at every opportunity. He was coerced and compelled to join the gang.

"He refused to choose but they said 'If you don't take sides there is going to be nuf blood around here'. Three weeks later Jessie was a dead man.

"Time and time again up until his death, Jessie humiliated the gangsters to their face by saying no to the gang.

"This infuriated the gang and because they could not stand Jessie, Jessie's rejection, they killed him."

Ms Reid said she had no fears for Jessie's safety before his death because he was a humble, likeable boy who had no enemies.

She added: "Jessie was brought up in the church, he knows right from wrong, he had a choice, he took that choice and now he's dead."


OK, I'm jumping the gun by assuming we've got an accurate picture of the circumstances. I'd just like to think, though, that if the authors of The Dawkins Delusion, Against All Graylings and Hitchens Is Not Great have read about this they are feeling at least a fraction as humbled as I am.

'The noble army of Martyrs praise thee'

The workers, united, shall never be defeated

For better or worse, trade unions don't get me excited like they did in the days when they were the bearers of my hopes of revolution. When they do impinge on my consciousness nowadays it tends to be in a non-positive light - e.g. as forums for the Socialist Workers Party to posture with their anti-Israel boycott campaign.

This, however, is an exception - about which, accordingly, I expect we will be hearing rather little from the SWP. Of building blocks like this is real peace constructed - may there be many more.

Oh, and by the way, I would have applauded the agreement even in my Trotskyist phase. For all its failings, Militant was always big on workers' unity and emphatic in its rejection of terrorism.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Prophetic words

'The worst form of slavery is that which is called Caesarism, or the choice of some bold or brilliant man as despot because he is suitable. For that means that men choose a representative, not because he represents them, but because he does not. Men trust an ordinary man like George III or William IV. because they are themselves ordinary men and understand him. Men trust an ordinary man because they trust themselves. But men trust a great man because they do not trust themselves. And hence the worship of great men always appears in times of weakness and cowardice; we never hear of great men until the time when all other men are small.'

The century of the totalitarian Caesars foreshadowed when it was still in its infancy. I came across this in G K Chesterton's book Heretics, first published in 1905. Not that the crowned 'ordinary men' who still ruled most of Europe exactly covered themselves with glory in 1914, but Chesterton was all too correct in his intuition that this was not as bad as it gets.

Secular liberal ethics for beginners

'From what I've been able to read (the evidence to the committee is on their website), the scientific community of individual scientists and outstanding institutions is virtually unanimous that as the science moves forward, the legislation should keep up. This means that things which 10 years ago had a high "ugh" factor among the public are being pressed forward by the scientific community.

'Cloning, hybrid embryos, "saviour siblings" - created to help save the life of an existing child - all these have a chance to take their place in the panoply of treatments that are changing the nature of our lives and health. We are in the middle of a burst of scientific achievements which have human welfare as their purpose. Each of us, as we age and deteriorate will have reason to be grateful that such advances give us options that make life more bearable. Those with ethical objections do not have to take them.'

- Joan Bakewell in the Independent, my emphasis.

It's all just so thrillingly modern. The clever people doing this stuff think it's perfectly OK, and are very much in favour of being allowed to do what they want to do. And what kind of people are they? Well, they make up a 'scientific community' (twice in one paragraph, indeed) and communities are always a Good Thing. Self-evidently, then, these are warm and caring human beings whose judgment on matters of human welfare is beyond question. Moreover, some of us are not in quite such good nick as we used to be (even if renowned as the Thinking Man's Crumpet) and have high hopes of benefiting personally from new sources of spare parts. So kindly keep your ethical objections to yourself.

And in another ten years' time the scientific community will be pressing forward... what? And in twenty, thirty years? Who knows, but we may already be certain that they will have nothing but our best interests at heart. So let's just hope that the legislation can keep up.