30 April 2008

London hotel to hold convention for bogus witchdoctors?

The following news clipping about the arrest of some bogus witchdoctors has just attracted a most extraordinary comment:
clipped from www.iol.co.za
Four bogus witchdoctors were arrested in Witbank for allegedly defrauding a man of R48 500, Mpumalanga police said on Thursday.

Spokesperson Captain Leonard Hlathi said the four illegal immigrants were arrested on Wednesday.

"It all started when the complainant picked up a pamphlet from a distributor in town. Amongst other things, it informed the readers about doctors who could assist to cleanse bad luck."

According to Hlathi the man went to borrow R38 000 from the bank and borrowed R20 000 from his employer and gave the doctors R48 500.

He said the man went back to the doctors who instructed him to put the money in a trunk which was full of R100 notes.

The trunk was found empty and they were charged with fraud, corruption and being in the country illegally. Three were from Uganda and the other was from Kenya.

They will appear in the Witbank magistrate's court on Friday. -

blog it

And here's the comment:
Hilton Hotel London Metro Pole.
225 Edgware Road, London, United Kingdom W2 1JU
Tel: 0044 - 703-187-1809.Fax: +44-20-7724 8866.

From Mrs Elaine Mary Hayes, Manager Hilton Hotel Metro pole London.
This Invitation mail is from Hilton Hotel London, Pls Hilton Hotel Needs Men And Women, Who Can Work And Live here In Hilton Hotel London. Hotel Will Pay For Your Ticket And The Visa Fee In Your Country,If You Are Interested kindly Contact Assistant Manager, Sir, Sherard Frank Coles, Via This E-mail Address Bellow;. hiltonhotelslondon022@yahoo.co.uk For More Information.
Cheers, Mrs Mary .E. Hayes General Manager Hilton London Metro pole.
Hours of Operation: 7:00 am - 7:00 pm CST, Monday - Sunday.

At first I thought it must be a bogus hotel (what hotel closes at 7:00 pm?), but it appears that it really exists, or at least it has a web page.

The response seems to be the ulimate non sequitur. Why should a report of bogus witchdoctors in Mpumalanga lead to a call for staff at a London Hotel -- unless, perhaps, the hotel is going to be hosting a convention for bogus witchdoctors? After all, the hotel does boast facilities for 40 conferences simultaneously, so a conference for bogus witchdoctors is not beyond the realms of possibility. And, according to the original report, there is a lot of money to be made by being a bogus witchdoctor, so hnaving a bogus witchdoctors' convention at such a hotel is not quite beyond the realms of possibility, with a lot of imagination.

But the mind still boggles.

29 April 2008

Participation in blogging, and church

Bishop Alan’s Blog: How do people use Church (or not)?:
The categories are made up around what you do online. Spectators read blogs, Critics Comment on blogs, Creators originate blogs. Joiners use Facebook et al. You get the idea. An individual can be on several rungs at the same time. Proportions on each rung are vastly different in different cultures. In the US, 25% are creators — in Europe only 10%. 53% of Europeans are inactives, 41% of Americans, only 37% of South Koreans.

OK Team. This method has absolutely no tested validity at all in the field of religious participation, but let's sketch on the back of an envelope. If patterns of church involvement were similar, and for all I know they are, In the UK roughly 70% = 35m people say they are Christians. Most actives would be, er 10% = 3,5m weekly participants. Anglicans would be just under 1m bums on pews a week. Inactives would be 53% = 26,5m. They are.

What do you think the proportions are in your neck of the woods?

The Poor Mouth: The plagiarising Polish priest prison palaver.

The Poor Mouth: The plagiarising Polish priest prison palaver.:
Poland's 28,000 Roman Catholic priests have been told by church authorities that they may be fined if they are discovered to have plagiarised their sermons from the internet, and could even face up to three years in prison. The church has published a self-help book on writing sermons to lure parish priests away from stealing the words of their fellow clergy.

Meanwhile, back home, our bishop sends out weekly printed sermons every week for the clergy to read. He doesn't write them all himself -- he asks other clergy to take a hand in writing them, but it's a very different attitude to the Polish one.

28 April 2008

Xenophilia versus xenophobia

There have been many media reports of incidents of xenophobia recently, where the homes of illegal aliens and refugees have been burnt down (sometimes with the people inside) that this comment on Roger Saner's blog Beyond the Boerewors Curtain: Zimbabwe for the weekend comes as a refreshing change:
A few of us have started the 100% tip challenge. It works like this: when we eat at a restaurant we ask the waiter where they're from. If they're from Zimbabwe we tip them 100%. It's amazing how many Zimbabweans are working in Gauteng, serving as a lifeline to their family's back home.
Of course once the word spreads in the catering industry you'll probably find that every single waiter in every single restaurant is an expatriate Zimbabwean! But it's the thought that counts.

Last night at the Vespers of Love at St Nicholas of Japan Orthodox Church in Brixton, Johannesburg, we read the Gospel in several different languages, as is the custom. At the end of the service Azar Jammine, one of the parish leaders, remarked that when we started the parish 21 years ago, we wanted it to be a truly multi-ethnic Orthodox Church, and that vision was being realised right now: the priest, from Kenya, read the gospel in Swahili. A Congolese student read it in Latin. An student Angolan read it in Portuguese. A Greek read it in Turkish.

And somehow some of the words we sang seemed to stand out more than usual:

This is the day of resurrection.
Let us be illumined by the feast. Let us embrace each other.
Let us call "Brothers" even those that hate us, and forgive all by the resurrection, and so let us cry:

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling down death by death
And upon those in the tombs bestowing life.

We sing it every year. But this year it seemed more real. Let us call "Brothers" even those that hate us. Let us replace xenophobia by xenophilia.

Archbishop leads day of fasting for Zim

The Times - Archbishop leads day of fasting for Zim:
The Archbishop of York led prayers and a day of fasting Sunday in support of Zimbabweans who he said were 'living under the tyranny' of President Robert Mugabe.

John Sentamu, who cut up his clerical collar in a symbolic protest against Mugabe in December, urged people to light candles as a demonstration of support for those living in Zimbabwe, a majority Christian country.

'As a Christian community, we must all stand together with our brothers and sisters living under the tyranny of Mugabe and pray that they will find deliverance,' he said.

Zimbabwe is awaiting the outcome of a presidential vote more than one month ago, after a partial recount of the ballots handed the opposition an historic victory in parliament over Mugabe’s ruling party.

A rather strange and confusing report. How can Zimbabwe be "awaiting the outcome" if, as we are told, the outcome is "a historic victory"? Now you see it, now you don't?

And then they are having recounts before the results of the first count were announced. The Zimbabwean elections have been bad enough without the media muddying the waters with confusing and contradictory reports about the unknown known outcome.

26 April 2008

Why Haiti starves: USA wiped out its farms

Forced to accept competition from subsidized American rice, Haitian farmers could not survive.

This, of course, is in part the problem of Zimbabwe, though far more damage was done to Zimbabwe's agriculture and economy by its own government.

Hat-tip to Monte Asbury.
the United States and the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, all of which we, the United States, dominate, have for the last twenty-five, thirty years have insisted that in order to get the loans, which Haiti and these other countries, agricultural countries, need,
Haiti had to change their economic system so that their country was open to competition from other countries on agriculture
thirty years ago, Haiti imported almost no rice, was an exporter of sugar and other things. Today, Haiti imports nearly all of its rice.
rice from the United States
at low or below cost—
and destroyed the ability of farmers in Haiti to be able to grow rice. And as a consequence, the country now depends totally on imported rice. Cost of import—cost of rice around the world has gone up over 100 percent since January.
the people of the United States have no idea that
our government has destroyed not just Haiti, but the agricultural bases of lots and lots of very poor countries
blog it

25 April 2008

Antioch Abouna: True Hope

People often assume that all Christians understand the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in much the same way. This is true if you only take Roman Catholic and Protestant views into account.

Antioch Abouna: True Hope: "what is this fundamental commonality between most non-Orthodox traditions and where does Orthodoxy differ? With Pascha (Easter) approaching in the Orthodox Church it is crucial that we acquaint ourselves with these issues because they touch upon the whole meaning of the gospel, its preaching and celebration."

23 April 2008

Biofuels and food prices

The Washington Post reports on its front page today: "More than 100 million people are being driven deeper into poverty by a 'silent tsunami' of sharply rising food prices, which have sparked riots around the world and threaten U.N.-backed feeding programs for 20 million children, the top U.N. food official said Tuesday."

MARIA LUISA MENDONGA, marialuisa1@uol.com.br,

Maria Luisa Mendonga is based in Sco Paulo, Brazil, and is director of the Social Network for Justice and Human Rights. She co-wrote an article titled "Agrofuels: Myths and Impacts." She said today:

"In many regions of [Brazil], the increase in ethanol production has caused the expulsion of small farmers from their lands, and has generated a dependency on the so-called 'sugarcane economy,' where only precarious jobs exist in the sugarcane fields. Large landowners' monopoly on land
blocks other economic sectors from developing, and generates unemployment, stimulates migration, and submits workers to degrading conditions.

"This model has caused negative impacts on peasant and indigenous communities, who have their territories threatened by the constant expansion of large plantations. The lack of policies in support of food production leads peasants to substitute their crops for agrofuels, and,
as a result, compromises our food sovereignty. In Brazil, small- and medium-sized farmers are responsible for 70 percent of the food production for the internal market.

"It is necessary to strengthen rural workers' organizations to promote sustainable peasant agriculture, prioritizing diversified food production for local consumption. It is crucial to advocate for policies that guarantee subsidies for food production through peasant agriculture. We cannot keep our tanks full while stomachs go empty."

RACHEL SMOLKER, rsmolker@globaljusticeecology.org,
Research biologist at the Global Justice Ecology Project, Smolker said today:

"The massive diversion of crops and land to producing biofuel crops instead of food is a major factor in the very dramatic food price increases. Governments and industries have foolishly pursued biofuels in spite of this and in spite of a cascade of scientific studies and statements from all levels of society which clearly demonstrate that biofuels are not only exacerbating hunger, but also rural displacement, climate change and deforestation. Last week the UK instated its Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation for the use of biofuels even as the European Environment Agency warned that the EU-wide mandate should be reconsidered. Even the World Bank recently stated that biofuels are contributing to rising food prices and hunger.

"Incentives and mandates for the use of biofuels are being promoted by agribusiness giants like Monsanto, ADM and Cargill along with big oil, biotechnology and automobile industries -- all of whom stand to profit enormously. The price is being paid right now by those who can no
longer afford food or access to land. Civil society is pushing back: this week the Round Table on Responsible Soy is meeting in Buenos Aires and will be met with intense opposition as people denounce the entire concept of 'sustainable industrial agriculture' of the sort that has
despoiled so much of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.

"The International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development report took a strong position opposing industrial agriculture and GE [genetically engineered] crops while a major new report from University of Kansas makes it clear that GE crops have not
delivered on the promise of increased yields. We need new models for food and energy production that do not leave people hungry and displaced, do not contaminate our crop biodiversity and pollute our water and soils, and do not leave food and energy production in the
hands of profit-seeking multinational corporations. People are beginning to wake up to this fact.

"Meanwhile, the food crisis is pushing biofuel proponents to argue that the next generation of technologies based on cellulose will avert problems with food competition and deliver greater climate benefits. In fact they could worsen the problems: There is limited space available
and we are losing land to desertification and deforestation at an alarming rate. A few weeks ago, [the journal] Science published a pair of articles showing that the greenhouse gas emissions that result from indirect land use changes far outweigh any gains from substituting fossil fuel use. Wood is considered to be one of the most promising feedstocks. But demand for wood is skyrocketing as countries attempting to meet Kyoto commitments are shifting to wood and other biomass for heat and electricity production, as well as chemicals and manufacturing processes.

"On top of that, the pulp and paper industry is undergoing a planned fivefold expansion and China has a very rapidly expanding wood products industry. The scale of demand for wood to satisfy all of these demands can only be met by further deforestation and by enormous industrial
monocultures of fast-growing trees. The biotechnology industries are racing to genetically engineer both trees and microorganisms for these uses. Next month at the Convention on Biological Diversity, civil society organizations will be asking for a moratorium on the commercialization of GE trees because of the potential risks of contaminating native forests."

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Institute for Public Accuracy
915 National Press Building, Washington, D.C. 20045
(202) 347-0020 * http://www.accuracy.org * ipa@accuracy.org

One very good reason for using Twitter

This sounds like a very good reason for using Twitter.

U.C. Berkeley student's Twitter messages alerted world to his arrest in Egypt - San Jose Mercury News:
When Egyptian police scooped up UC Berkeley graduate journalism student James Karl Buck, who was photographing a noisy demonstration, and dumped him in a jail cell last week, they didn't count on Twitter.

Buck, 29, a former Oakland Tribune multimedia intern, used the ubiquitous short messaging service to tap out a single word on his cellular phone: ARRESTED. The message went out to the cell phones and computers of a wide circle of friends in the United States and to the mostly leftist, anti-government bloggers in Egypt who are the subject of his graduate journalism project.

The next day, he walked out a free man with an Egyptian attorney hired by UC Berkeley at his side and the U.S. Embassy on the phone.
The problems I see with it, however, are:

  • 1. I've never managed to get Twitter to work on my cell phone.
  • 2. I've never managed to persuade any of my close family to use Twitter, so they might discover it 20 years after I'd starved to death in a dungeon somewhere, with my skeleton covered with dust and cobwebs.
  • 3. None of the people who've wanted to "follow me" on Twitter know me at all, and so probably would never see the message, and if they did would have a hard time remembering who I am or why they wanted to "follow" me in the first place.

Hat-tip to AdesBlog.

A victory for workers' solidarity with the Zimbabwean people

South African trade unions, churchmen and lawyers combined to turn away a ship carrying arms to Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe at present has no legitimate elected government, since the results of an election held three weeks ago have been suppressed by former president Robert Mugabe and his junta of generals.

South Africa: A victory for workers' solidarity with the Zimbabwean people | Links:
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) welcomes the statement by a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman that the China Ocean Shipping Company which owns the An Yue Jiang, has decided to recall the ship because Zimbabwe cannot take delivery of the 77 tonnes of weapons and ammunition onboard.

If true, this is an historic victory for the international trade union movement and civil society, and in particular for the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), whose members refused to unload or transport its deadly cargo.

Nicole Fritz, of the Southern African Litigation Centre, and Rubin Phillip, the Anglican Bishop of Natal, applied to the Durban High Court for an order to prevent the arms being landed or transported to Zimbabwe.

IOL: Chinese arms ship heading for Luanda:
Fritz said the Durban High Court granted the order for the ship's conveyance permit to be suspended and that there could be no movement of the containers in which the arms were packed and no movement of the ship.

But lawyers were told by the sheriff of the high court that when an attempt to serve the order on the ship was made it was found that it had put to sea.

There are reports that the ship may try to offload its cargo in Walvis Bay or an Angolan port, but Namibian unions have been reported as taking similar action to the South African ones.

22 April 2008

Kill the bastards!

After urging the police to shoot to kill, Deputy Minister of Safety and Security has now advised ordinary citizens to do the same if they are threatened by criminals pointing guns or other lethal weapons at them.

Deputy safety and security minister Susan Shabangu has said that ordinary citizens of South Africa who are threatened by criminals pointing guns or other lethal weapons at them do not have to fire a warning shot before shooting to kill.

Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act, which governs the use of lethal force when dealing with criminals, made it clear that police and ordinary citizens were entitled to shoot if their lives were threatened, she said in Cape Town.

Laughing off her choice of the word "bastards" to describe the criminals responsible for the violent crime wave sweeping the country, she said that part of her speech had not been scripted. But in her search for the right way to express herself, she had succeeded in getting across her message.

On why police routinely opened murder dockets against citizens who killed criminals who had threatened them with guns or other lethal weapons, Shabangu said there had to be an inquiry into the process.

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Another synchroblog - Emerging heresy

There's yet another synchroblog -- this time on "Emerging heresy". Here are the contributions:

For the rationale behind it see Emerging Africa -- emerging heresy.

And, though not part of the synchroblog, this post is about a related topic, which may be of interest too: open source research: A New Kind of Christian is a New Kind of Atheist: Truth and A/theistic Orthodoxy in the Emerging Church Milieu - part one

21 April 2008

The Mighty males of God conference -- under the radar

Yesterday I saw a Rapport headline about the gathering of 60000 South African males at a farm near Greytown, KZN. I looked in vain for any reference to it in the Sunday Independent. As far as the "English press" was concerned, it passed right under the radar. I would have known nothing at all about it if Dion Forster had not written about it in his blog.

Dion's random ramblings: A reflection on a great blessing. The Mighty men of God conference.
It was a great weekend at the Mighty men of God conference - I could have done with a few more 'home comforts', but then again, I am a city boy! Seriously though, being on crutches is not very comfortable in the middle of the mealies, and it got a little less comfortable when it started raining last night. But, heck, that's all part of the experience!

The conference was great. I didn't learn anything new, and I guess that the intent of the conference was not to teach new things, but rather to remind us to do things that we should be doing anyway!

Thanks to wireless networking Dion has kept us updated on what has been going on at this conference, though I wonder how he managed to charge his laptop computer while he was there -- or did he take a couple of spare batteries?

What I'm more curious about, however, is how such an event managed to pass almost completely under the radar, until Rapport put it on the front page as it was ending. There have been bigger Christian gatherings in South Africa -- the Zion Christian Church manages to get a million or more at its annual Easter gatherings. But that is a single denomination, and they presumably have internal communication networks, and anyway since those gatherings happen every year the members know what to expect.

But here was this event, apparently organised by one bloke, with little advance publicity, and 60000 people (apparently all male) turn up.

I first became aware of it when David MacGregor blogged about it here, and the next thing was Dion's reports from the conference itself.

What is so amazing about this (to me at any rate) is that an event like SACLA (South African Christian Leadership Assembly) in 1979, with a great deal of advance publicity, only managed to attract 5000 people. And the follow up, SACLA II, in 2003, only managed to attract 3000.

Actually, it's not only amazing; I find it rather disturbing.

Yes, it's nice that 60000 people turn up to a Christian event that hasn't been publicised much, or at least seems to have been publicised mainly by word of mouth. One feels a bit like Elijah when he was told that there were 7000 in the land who had not bowed the knee to Baal. The very hiddenness is rather encouraging.

But where were these 60000 males when SACLA II was on?

And if the other half had been there, there should have been 120000.

I've read Dion's reports, and it all seems a little bit, well, self-indulgent.

I may be wrong, but it seemed a bit too much like the Christian equivalent of motivational speakers and self-help books (my son, who works in a book shop, tells me that the bestseller at the moment is The secret).

At the risk of appearing to contradict what I wrote in the recent Synchroblog on Social Justice, where I stressed the importance of being rather than doing, there is still a disturbing sense that Christianity in post-apartheid South Africa has lost its way, which came out at SACLA II, and also, apparently, at this Mighty Males conference. As I wrote a few months ago in Notes from underground: Postcolonial Christianity in Africa:
Five years ago we had SACLA II, the Southern African Christian Leadership Assembly, but where did it get us? We were supposed to face up to the 'giants' that threatened our society, which included unemployment, poverty, crime and violence. But there seemed to be a reluctance to face up to the giants behind the giants -- America, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, structural adjustment programmes and the ideology of neoliberalism that they have been peddling to African governments. My recollection of SACLA II was that some American came round and gave out free copies of a rather kitschy book called The prayer of Jabez, which seemed to be a good example of what Karl Marx described as 'the opium of the people.'

SACLA I was tremendously important for South Africa. I believe it was one of the things that helped to turn South Africa around, away from apartheid. Like Gideon's 300, the 5000 "mighty men" (in that case, male and female) at SACLA went back to their home congregations with a new vision for a new South Africa, a vision which they shared with others. The full story of that has yet to be written. But after 1994 Christians seem to have sat back, and waited for others to realise the vision.

19 April 2008


I was tagged by The Western Confucian.

The rules are:
1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about himself.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

What was I doing 10 years ago:
Visiting Greece and Bulgaria to do research for my doctoral thesis on "Orthodox mission methods".

Five things on my To Do List today:
1. Write journal article on Orthodox ecclesiology in Africa
2. Write paper on witchcraft & sorcery for ASRSA conference
3. Go to bank to sort out problem with credit card
4. Get lubricant for locks
5. Get fish to eat on Palm Sunday

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
  • Take a trip driving from Vladivostok to St Petersburg
  • Build churches in Mamelodi and Tembisa where we now worship in classrooms
  • Build community centres next to the churches for ministry to widows & orphans, job skill training etc

Three of my bad habits:
1. Blogging.
2. Procrastinating
3. Disorganized desk.

Five places I’ve lived:
1. Durban, KZN
2. Windhoek, Namibia
3. Melmoth, KZN
4. Johannesburg
5. Tshwane, Gauteng

Five jobs I’ve had:
1. Bus conductor
2. Bus driver
3. Proof reader
4. Theology teacher
5. Editor of academic texts

Five books I’ve recently read:
1. Beckett, Simon. 2007. The chemistry of death.
2. Rimington, Stella. 2007. Secret asset.
3. Bruen, Ken. 2007. Priest.
4. Baroja, Julio Caro. 1964. The world of the witches.
5. Reichs, Kathy. 2005. Grave secrets.

The five I tagged:

17 April 2008

Chinese troops deployed in Zimbabwe?

SAFM news reported at midday that Chinese troops were deployed in several towns in Zimbabwe, and attributed the news to reports from NGOs.

Other news outlets haven't reported this as far as I can see, but if it's true, could it not be said that Mugabe was guilty of treason, deploying foreign troops against his own people?

MySpace is talking in tongues!

I tried to log in to MySpace today, and the log in screen was all in Spanish or Portuguese or some such language. So was every page I tried to go to.

I looked for something to click on to change the language, or at least find something that would help me find out how to change the default language, but of course all the help screens and FAQ files are in a foreign language that I don't understand.

Has anyone else had this experience?

Does anyone know how to choose the language in MySpace, and what the option is called in Spanish/Portuguese?

The pope, Bush, and the "Battle hymn"

From the Institute for Public Accuracy

After the Pope and President George W. Bush spoke at the White House this morning, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" was played and broadcast on major U.S. networks. The lyrics were written by Julia Ward Howe, who would later write the first Mother's Day Proclamation, a call for peace.

VALARIE ZIEGLER, author of Diva Julia: The Public Romance and Private Agony of Julia Ward Howe, said today:

"It's fascinating to add the papal visit to the list of 'Battle Hymn' performances. ... Howe was absolutely committed to the Civil War. Inspired by 'John Brown's Body,' she wrote 'Battle Hymn' -- an incredible theological document and also a stirring
call to arms -- so that people would devote themselves even to the last measure to get rid of slavery.

"But after the Civil War, she was repelled by wars between nations, like the Franco-Prussian War. Peace and women's rights became central to her. She began thinking about what might be possible for women to do on behalf of humanity. In 1870 she wrote the first Mother's Day Proclamation, an impassioned call for peace.
[See: http://www.codepink4peace.org/article.php?id=217]

"Howe held that women were inherently more loving and nurturing than men, particularly if they were transformed by motherhood. This notion was propelled by women's clubs across the U.S. at the time, which were dedicated to pacifism and women's suffrage.

"Throughout her life, Howe contended with her husband, Samuel Gridley Howe, who did not want her to have a public life. One line in 'The Battle Hymn' -- 'glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me' -- may be a reference to a novel about a hermaphrodite that Howe had written to examine the role of gender in limiting people."

Ziegler is professor of religious studies at DePauw University in Indiana.

15 April 2008

Kristallnacht in Lhasa: A Tale of Two Race Riots

The Western Confucian blogs about race riots in Lhasa, and compares them with similar race riots directed against Chinese and Korean shop-keepers in Los Angeles in 1992.

The Western Confucian: A Tale of Two Race Riots:
I see very little difference between the Lhasa Riots of 2008 and the Los Angeles Riots of 1992. Both arose out of real or perceived systemic injustice. Both targeted entrepreneurial peoples known as Han, Chinese (漢) on the one hand and Koreans (韓) on the other. Both left dozens dead. Both the Chinese and American authorities were perhaps not blameless in the attempts to restore order.

But the reactions to both race riots have been quite different. While there were some people who blamed the events of 1992 on American injustice and racism, there was nowhere near the rabid anti-Chinese sentiment one sees on display today. I don't recall any anti-American demonstrations being held in foreign cities or foreign governments censuring the United States.

Another parallel that springs to mind is Kristallnacht that took place in Germany in 1938. The main difference, however, is that Kristallnacht was government sponsored, while those mentioned by the Western Confuctian were not.

Parents left son accused of witchcraft to die

clipped from www.myjoyonline.com

The Takoradi Police have arrested a couple for negligently causing the death of their nine-year-old son.

The couple, Kwaku Badu, 35, a fisherman, and Elizabeth Coomson, also 35, were said to have kept their son indoors on the orders of a spiritualist who said the boy was possessed by witchcraft.
The spiritualist, Madam Theresa Arthur, popularly known as Maame Osofo of the 12 Apostles Church at Inchaban, was alleged to have declared that the boy was possessed by witchcraft and ordered that he should be kept in a room until he died.
She said they did not take the boy to the hospital because he had confessed to being a wizard and that he wanted to die because he did not have anyone to present to his cult members for a party.

Madam Coomson said they, therefore, kept him in the room until he died last Wednesday.
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No more child witches in Congo?

clipped from www.bbc.co.uk
The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo is expected to vote shortly for new legislation that will make it a criminal offence to accuse a child of being a witch.

Many of the hundreds of children who are sleeping rough on the streets of the capital city Kinshasa have been accused of being witches. But is it possible to legislate against such deeply held beliefs and can such a law be enforced in a country that has been so fractured by war?

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Whether the law can be enforced in such a fractured country is indeed a moot point, but so is the idea of these "deeply-held" beliefs.

These beliefs, to all accounts, appeared quite suddenly in recent history. Perhaps they could disappear just as suddenly. What we need to find is what it takes to make them disappear, and perhaps it could help to find what caused them to appear in the first place.

The DRC, like other African countries, has long had many people who believe that misfortunes are caused by witchcraft and sorcery. What appears to be new is the belief that these witches are young children, and that it is occurring on such a scale. Perhaps it is the very fractured nature of the society that is causing these beliefs to spread and be deeply held.

Hat-tip to What is witchcraft.

Synchroblog on Christianity and social justice

This month's synchroblog is on Christianity and social justice, and the links to the various articles on the topic are below:

13 April 2008

Neopentecostals and witch hunts

Attitudes to witch hunting seem to be changing in African independent churches.

The old Zionists generally had a more humane attitude to people suspected of witchcraft and sorcery (see my article on Christian responses to witchcraft and sorcery) but the Neopentecostals seem to be displaying similar behaviour to that seen during the Great Witch Hunt in early modern Europe.

Children are targets of Nigerian witch hunt | World news | The Observer
Pastor Joe Ita is the preacher at Liberty Gospel Church in nearby Eket. 'We base our faith on the Bible, we are led by the holy spirit and we have a programme of exposing false religion and sorcery.' Soft of voice and in his smart suit and tie, his church is being painted and he apologises for having to sit outside near his shiny new Audi to talk. There are nearly 60 branches of Liberty Gospel across the Niger Delta. It was started by a local woman, mother-of-two Helen Ukpabio, whose luxurious house and expensive white Humvee are much admired in the city of Calabar where she now lives. Many people in this area credit the popular evangelical DVDs she produces and stars in with helping to spread the child witch belief.

I've blogged about this before, but my initial impression is being confirmed by reports like these. Zionists are basically premodern. They worship wearing robes, and in their worship they beat cowhide drums. The Neopentecostals come with expensive sound systems, wearing suits and ties (the males, anyway). In Africa they seem to represent modernity, and so tend to reinforce (in my mind) the link between witch hunts and modernity.

A couple of days ago I was talking to Greg Cuthbertson, a South African historian, and Inus Daneel (a missiologist and AIC researcher) and they confirmed this impression from their own research and observations. I've been asked to take part in a couple of TV programmes recently, and in both of them concern was been expressed that people are leaving the traditional AICs and moving to the Neopentecostals. I'm not sure that that is correct, as I believe the Neopentecostals and Zionists (in South Africa) appeal to different constituencies, though as modernity takes root in Africa I believe the constituency of the Neopentecostals will grow, while that of the Zionists will shrink.

Greg Cuthbertson referred to a report from the Centre for Development and Enterprise, Under the radar: Pentecostalism in South Africa and its potential social and economic role, which referred to the role of the Pentecostal churches in promoting modernity.
This project has revealed a world of activity, energy, and entrepreneurship previously unknown to this otherwise well-informed South African think-tank. Flying under the radar screens of politicians, intellectuals, academics, and journalists are a large number of institutions and individuals that are actively concerned about and working on questions of values and personal behaviour. These concerns include family life, personal responsibility, unemployment, skills creation, and a range of other national concerns.

The last sentence could apply to many non-Pentecostal Christian groups as well. Greg Cuthbertson was somewhat sceptical about the report, saying that they tended to lump all kinds of things together under the general label of "Pentecostalism", and did not understand hoe Christian denominations worked. But I believe the general link between Neopentecostalism and modernity is there.


If you are interested, you can see my other blog posts on this and related topics here and here.

12 April 2008

Beware artists, authors, photographers -- Americans want to steal your work

It seems that American lawmakers are planning a new copyright scam, which will allow people who steal your work to sue you for using it without their permission.
clipped from mag.awn.com
I find nothing funny about the new Orphan Works legislation that is before Congress.
An Orphaned Work is any creative work of art where the artist or copyright owner has released their copyright, whether on purpose, by passage of time, or by lack of proper registration. In the same way that an orphaned child loses the protection of his or her parents, your creative work can become an orphan for others to use without your permission.
Currently, you don't have to register your artwork to own the copyright. You own a copyright as soon as you create something. International law also supports this. Right now, registration allows you to sue for damages, in addition to fair value.

The only people who benefit from this are those who want to make use of our creative works without paying for them and large companies who will run the new private copyright registries.

These registries are companies that you would be forced to pay in order to register every single image, photo, sketch or creative work

blog it

And if you live outside America, any American will be able to register your work and claim it as their own -- remember the scammers who tried to copyright rooibos tea?

I hope this is just an April fool's joke that's past its sell-by date, as it's not from an official source, but the rooibos tea incident shows that it's just the kind of thing the Americans would do.

11 April 2008

Israel loves Mugabe

The Western Confucian: When Justin Raimondo Met Robert Mugabe
The editor of Antiwar.com begins his latest piece with the recounting of a 'singularly unpleasant experience' he had in Kuala Lumpur two years ago — Israel Loves Mugabe.

When I applied for my work visa to Malaysia, I had to submit a notarized photocopy of every page of my passport to ensure that I had never visited Israel, but despite 'Israel's unstinting support for Mugabe' the African despot gets the ear of Mahathir bin Mohamad!

The shady world of international politics is difficult to understand, but no doubt it falls under the heading of "quiet diplomacy", or "constructive engagement", as Ronnie Reagan used to call it.

10 April 2008

Best Orthodox Christian Blogs

If you scroll down on the sidebar of this blog you'll find a list of "Top theology blogs". It's interesting, but there are very few Orthodox blogs listed there, and I thought I'd create a list of Orthodox Christian blogs, and added some of my favourite ones.


The feature on Amazon has been discontinued, so there's not much point in wasting your time in it. This post is retained for historical interest only.

But if you are looking for something similar, have a look here.


The list is not exhaustive, and doesn't even have all the Orthodox blogs I read. But it's a start, and anyone who would like to add more is welcome to do so, and to comment on them. If you add a blog, please don't forget to add the URL so that others can find it.

Update - NB

To add a blog, enter the NAME of the blog or web journal you want to add, and click on "ADD".

When it has been added, click on the "Add link" and add the URL of the blog or web journal. DON'T put the URL in the name field, because clicking on it won't take you to the blog, but only to the description of it on the Unspun site. Items on the list that are not blogs or web journals, or have no links to the URL, will be removed.

See the comments below for more information, or if you want to ask questions about this.

You can find the list of Best Orthodox Christian blogs here.

Cops nail conman - Daily Dispatch

Dispatch Now 24/7 - Eastern Cape news as it happens � Blog Archive � Cops nail conman:
Police have arrested a handyman who allegedly conned a Dorchester Heights woman out of more than R5 000 by promising her that he refurbish her floor, but then disappearing with her money.

The man was arrested in the Quigney on Tuesday afternoon after he was lured into a trap set up by the woman and the police.

And the Daily Dispatch goes on to say:
Have you had any run-ins with a conman under similar circumstances? Do you have work that’s half-left because somebody disappeared with your hard-earned cash? Blog now and tell us your tails [sic].

So here's my "tail".

In November 2001 my wife responded to an ad in the Pretoria News in which someone was advertising to do building work. We wanted some additional rooms built on to our house. The man who placed the ad was one Lukas Neethling. He submitted plans to the municipality, got them approved, laid the foundations, and then disappeared with the money without completing the work.

The conman in question was Lukas Neethling, ID: 590713 5146 08 3.

He drove a metallic blue Audi 500 SE, registration MNS 570 GP with "Ich liebe Sudwest" sticker on the boot lid. His cell phone number was 082-410-5440.

A Pretoria lawyer promised to try to locate him, but never managed to do so.

09 April 2008

Moral regeneration, degeneration, confusion

There is much talk of the need for moral regneration. There is much talk of the need for values.

But it also seems that while many people agree that there is a need for values, they can't agree on what those values are, and are determined to force other people to conform to their values rather than find what values they share in common, and agree to work together to promote those, and agree to disagree about the ones they don't share.

There have been some examples in the news lately, and various people have blogged about them as well, including me.

Let's start with the need for values.

Christian values only thing holding Britain together, says Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor:
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster and head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, on Monday said that “Judeo-Christian values” were the only thing holding British society together, the Guardian reports...

"People are looking for a common good in this country. A very large number of people are saying, 'What is it that binds British people together?'" Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said. “There is no other heritage than the Judaeo-Christian heritage in this country." Replacing that heritage with a “totally secular view of life,” the cardinal said, would lead the nation down “a very dangerous path.”

Let's leave aside for the moment the fact that many Jews find the "Judeo-Christian" epithet pretty offensive, regarding it as an attempt by Christians to co-opt them willy-nilly as part of a Christian agenda. Let's look at the British "Judaeo-Christian heritage". I can't remember when it was that Jews got the vote in Britain, but I think it was some time after the Catholics.

So let's leave aside the Jews for the moment, since they were excluded from contributing to the heritage for so long. Let's look at the Christian part of that heritage. The Anglicans in England and Wales had votes before the Jews and Catholics did, but today they are tearing themselves apart because they can't agree on sexual morality. As I noted in a post on my other blog, African Anglicans and homosexuality, the Anglican Communion seems to be having its very own clash of civilizations between Western and African civilizations.

In that post the point was that African Anglicans who lived in close proximity to Muslims, as they do in Nigeria and Uganda, recall the very beginnings of their church, which began with the martyrdom of Christian pages at the court of the King of Buganda, who "had adopted Arab customs of pederasty, and he expected the young men of his court to submit to his demands. But a growing number of Christian courtiers and pages refused to participate, despite his threats, and an enraged king launched a persecution that resulted in hundreds of martyrdoms".

Think for a moment of those "Arab customs of pederasty", and now switch to something I blogged about just a few days ago in this blog: Notes from underground: Muslim parents ask UK schools to shelve pro-homosexual storybooks for 5-year-olds.

It seems that the Anglicans are not the only ones who find it hard to agree on sexual morality.

And who was it who represented Britain's "Judaeo-Christian heritage" -- the school authorities who prescribed the story books, or the Muslim parents who objected to them?

Now the accuracy of the story has been questioned, but assuming that it is true in outline, what is doing on here?

Ostensibly the reason for prescribing such stories is to prevent bullying in schools.

Now I haven't read the stories, and the descriptions in the news media may not be accurate, but the parental objections seem to be not that the stories are aimed at preventing bullying, but that they are teaching their five-year-old children sexual ethics that the parents disagree with, and don't say much about bullying. I wonder if those stories would have dissuaded the King of Buganda from bullying his pages?

It seems rather disingenuous.

Think about it another way. I bet that quite a number of Muslim kids in Britain are bullied by non-Muslim kids who tease them and say that their big brothers are making bombs in the attic. So how should this bullying be dealt with? Write story books for little kids showing that it's cool to make bombs?

One could go on multiplying examples to show that one of the main difficulties in the way of promoting moral regeneration and education in values is that people simply cannot agree which system of values to promote, and this leads to unedifying power struggles, with Anglicans in America suing one another over ownership of church buildings as a result of their failure to agree and determination to impose their set of values on everyone else.

In the mean time, things continue to get worse, as we see in an incident that took place closer to home, right here in Gauteng.

clipped from www.thetimes.co.za

While police are still in the dark about the identity of the driver who shot and killed a 12-year-old smash-and-grabber, it appears many South Africans have little sympathy for the young boy.

Comments on The Times website seemed to weigh in favour of the unknown gunman who killed the boy in Boksburg on Friday, with some even suggesting the killing of the youngster rid the country of a future criminal.

The boy was shot after he apparently smashed the window of a white Citi Golf on Rondebult Road in Boksburg, East of Johannesburg, and stole a cellphone. A witness claimed the boy ran away, but was chased by the driver who shot him in the chest and then fled the scene in his car.

blog it

Yes, there does seem to be a need for education in values in our society.

It seems that nobody taught this boy "Thou shalt not steal."

And nobody taught the driver of the car, "Thou shalt not kill."

Or perhaps someone taught them that, but they didn't learn it. As they say in edu-jargon, the learning outcomes were not achieved.

And the reported response of people to the incident shows that that failure is widespread throughout our society.

Blogrolling -- an improvement?

I've used Blogrolling almost since I started this blog to keep a list of blogs I want to read again.

The trouble is that sometimes one visits a blog and finds that on each visit it hasn't been updated. That wastes bandwidth, and with bandwidth caps it's best not to do that.

Then I noticed it had a thing that shows which blogs had new posts. I don't know if it's an improvement, or if it has been there all along and I just hadn't noticed it before, but I've found it very useful. Now I don't need to waste time and bandwidth looking at blogs that haven't been updated.

The only problem is that it doesn't seem to work too well with Typepad blogs. A couple of my blogging friends use Typepad, and when they update their blogs, it doesn't seem to show up in Blogrolling. Oh well, I must remember to look at them even if they don't have a "New" next to them.

But I've generally found it useful. I'm not wasting time and bandwidth looking at blogs that haven't been updated, and I'm not missing interesting posts on ones that have.

08 April 2008

Exraordinary Rendition

With shrinking space for burials, and cremations being environmentally unfriendly, there's a new proposal for getting rid of corpses by rendering.

In ordinary rendering a body is boiled until the various parts separate, but in a new process, which could be described as "extraordinary rendition", chemicals are added to speed up the process.

It's not clear whether it uses less energy than cremation.
Traditional methods of laying the dead to rest can no longer cope with the disposal of the 500,000 people who die in England and Wales each year.
Led by Harriet Harman, ministers have launched a concerted effort to find a solution. With options shrinking, the Government has turned its attention to the possibility of "boiling" bodies down to a handful of dust.
While it is hardly what is traditionally described as "a good send-off", "resomation" can at least claim to be kinder to the planet than some traditional ways of disposing of the dead. The process, developed in the United States, speeds up decomposition by immersing bodies in a solution of water and potassium hydroxide and heating to 150C (302F). More than 1,100 people in the US have already opted for resomation.

blog it

The proposed name for the process, "resomation", is a misnomer if ever there was one. Resomation means rebodying, and this process is more like debodying, for which the correct English word is "rendering".

Of course they could always try the Greek custom -- bury the bodies until they decompose, then dig up the bones and put them in an ossuary, and reuse the graves.

Hat-tip to Changing the World (and other excuses for not getting a proper job...): Three Bodies Boiled for the Price of Two

Obama and Hillary Spin a 'Big Lie' About Iraq

Obama and Hillary Spin a 'Big Lie' About Iraq | War on Iraq | AlterNet: "On the campaign trail, the two candidates often speak of bringing the troops home and ending the war, and Democratic primary voters, 80 percent of whom want U.S. troops out of Iraq within 12 months, reward them with boisterous applause.

It's a Big Lie, and everyone who follows the debates over U.S. policy towards Iraq knows it, but refuses to call the candidates on it. Both Clinton and Obama (PDF) have been very clear -- in the fine print -- about the fact that they will leave a significant number of 'residual forces' in Iraq, albeit with a more limited mission than the Bush administration has pursued. They would protect U.S. infrastructure and personnel -- Obama says 'the U.S. embassy' -- train Iraqi forces and retain a rapid-response force to conduct 'limited counter-terrorism' missions."

07 April 2008

Muslim parents ask UK schools to shelve pro-homosexual storybooks for 5-year-olds

Muslim parents ask UK schools to shelve pro-homosexual storybooks for 5-year-olds: "Two primary schools have withdrawn storybooks about same-sex relationships after objections from Muslim parents.

Up to 90 gathered at the schools to complain about the books which are aimed at pupils as young as five.

One story, titled King & King, is a fairytale about a prince who turns down three princesses before marrying one of their brothers."

The mind boggles.

Will the gay "community" now burn down the Bristol mosque?

I wonder how this will affect the "Buy Danish" community?

Remember, those are the ones who put little stripes in their blogs saying "Buy Danish" after a Denish newspaper published some anti-Islamic cartoons.

And what will the 5-year-old community do?

The bated-breath community is on tenterhooks.

The Economist Has No Clothes: Scientific American

The Economist Has No Clothes: Scientific American
The 19th-century creators of neoclassical economics—the theory that now serves as the basis for coordinating activities in the global market system—are credited with transforming their field into a scientific discipline. But what is not widely known is that these now legendary economists—William Stanley Jevons, L�on Walras, Maria Edgeworth and Vilfredo Pareto—developed their theories by adapting equations from 19th-century physics that eventually became obsolete. Unfortunately, it is clear that neoclassical economics has also become outdated. The theory is based on unscientific assumptions that are hindering the implementation of viable economic solutions for global warming and other menacing environmental problems.

OK, I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a fundi in either economics or physics. I suspect that the physics I learnt at school 50 years ago was based on the 19th century stuff, and quantum theory was strictly recreational reading that wouldn't help you to pass matric. So is there anybody who does know about this stuff who is able to confirm or refute this?

The sermons of cowards

The powerful nations of the West are fond of preaching sanctimonious sermons about freedom and democracy to tin-pot dictators like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, but are too chicken to speak the truth to power when it come to the evils in their own back yards.

Kishore Mahbubani: The sermons of cowards | Comment is free | The Guardian: "Ten years ago, if anyone had suggested the US would reintroduce torture, the answer would have been 'impossible!' Yet the impossible has happened. Amnesty International has described Guant�namo as 'the gulag of our times'. Despite their history of condemning human rights violations, no western nation has condemned the US government for Guant�namo. Miliband's speech rightly applauded several brave Burmese people for standing up to the military government. They spoke truth to power, and at great personal risk. Sadly, even though he faced no personal risks, Miliband could not muster the courage to speak truth to power regarding Guant�namo."


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