What I'm Reading
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Friday, December 31. 2004
Another day passes, and the death toll now exceeds 150,000 people. The biggest story for today is probably the aid bidding game that the nations seem to be playing. About $1.3 billion dollars have been pledged so far. A lot of nations have increased their aid after being prodded by various organizations.
China is now pledging $60 million dollars. Britian is like.... very well China, we will pledge *GASP* ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS muahahah. The United States responds by increasing their aid ten-fold, which now stands at $350 million dollars. The US is also sending a fleet of 12 ships to the affected region to help, the battle group includes the USS Abraham Lincoln which is an aircraft carrier, top that China . A list of nations and their donations can be found here.
On a side note, I visited the USS John C. Stennis when they were here in Victoria in 1999, and the ship is similar to the USS Abraham Lincoln (the ship being sent to South-East Asia now). The aircraft carrier has two nuclear reactors onboard which can power 100,000 homes. Apparently the ship can supply power to a city by merely plugging into its electric grid ... definitely a good thing for a disaster zone. In addition, the ship can distill 400,000 gallons of water using sea water. That's enough water for about 2,000 homes. Utterly amazing.
Anyways, it was humbling to see that many nations diverted some money from their New Year's celebration plans and sent it as aid to the affected nations. There's also reports that in some cases, citizens of countries are donating more money than their own governments. The British public for instance is raising aid at the rate of 15,000 British pounds per minute.
Elsewhere in the news, I came across an odd article where people are accusing the US of trying to circumvent the UN's authority by taking over relief efforts. I for one am sick of people accusing the US of arrogant unilateralism, they're just trying to help their allies in the region, give them a break! In my opinion, the US has a strategic reason for helping South-East Asia. In particular, Thailand and Indonesia have both helped the Americans in the War Against Terror. The US can also show that they're not the bad guys to the greater Muslim world since they're aiding Indonesia - the world’s most populace Muslim nation. Part of Blair's anti-terrorism doctrine speculates that terrorism is related to poverty. The more desperate a people become, the more extreme they can become. So, having a poor nation becoming even more poor is in no one's interest. After all, South-East Asia is already a breeding ground for terrorists as it is.
I conclude tonight's entry with satellite images of the tsunami. The following pictures are of Aceh, Indonesia which was the closest island to the epicenter of the earthquake. These pictures are courtesy of digitalglobe.com. More pictures can be found here. Absolutely mind blowing pictures.
Thursday, December 30. 2004
Today I was going to blog about a few other things, but I've gotten quite a few responses from readers wanting more information about the Asian Tsunami that hit last weekend. It felt inappropriate to write about joy when so many are mourning. So, by demand, here is another article about one of the largest humanitarian disasters of our modern time. For those who missed the first article about South-East Asia's disaster, here's a link.
As of this morning, the tsunami's death toll is at 119,000 and more than 500,000 people have been injured, and a total of 5,000,000 people are now homeless because of this disaster. One of the problems with statistics is that sometimes they appear as just numbers, and we don't grasp the reality of the disaster. I admit it was hard for me to comprehend this because it seemed to be so far away from us, and reading numbers is just merely another statistic. It took a little time before my head knowledge sank to my heart, and that's when it hits you how terrible this is.
I think sometimes, these events don't appear relevent because it happens so far away. How does this affect us in the rich West? If this were to happen to North America, we would be mobilizing our military to help, and we would be donating a lot of money. Consider the terrorist attacks on America during 9/11. Charities in America raised a staggering $1.5 billion dollars, and sympathies poured in from all over the world. A few days later, our nation along with many others observed a moment of silence with our American friends. Now consider the North American response to the tsunami, America is sending an initial $35 million USD. Canada initially pledged $4 million CDN (it's now at $40 million CDN), and our Prime Minister, Paul Martin, is vacationing in Morocco for crying out loud. He didn't want to cut his vacation short, so he recalled two of his cabinet ministers from their vacations, so that they could deal with the disaster. I am embarassed that our main representative to the world would rather vacation than to come back to Ottawa to coordinate disaster relief.
It really hits home when you relate it to this: what if it were to happen here? In Greater Victoria, the municipality of Saanich has about 110,000 people living in it. The tsunami's current death toll (119,000), so that is about equivalent to every single person in Saanich dying. Vancouver Island has about 700,000 people living in it, so if you combine the number dead with the number injured by the tsunami, that's equivalent to almost everyone on Vancouver Island dying or being injured. Now if you take the population of British Columbia (about 4,000,000) and Manitoba (about 1,000,000), then that's like having everyone in British Columbia and Manitoba suddenly becoming homeless, as the tsunami has created 5,000,000 homeless people. That is staggering.
Another thing really hit me this morning was when I read the newspaper. It said that 31 hours after the disaster, the waves that were generated by the earthquake in Tsunami hit the shores of Vancouver Island on Monday, the wave was 10 centimetres tall. The very wavefront that devastated South-East Asia was now arriving peacefully to my part of the world, carrying the tears and sorrow of Asia.
I started feeling convicted about this disaster, in that I write about this, but what have I done to help? To put it bluntly, my talk is cheap. What good is knowing about the disaster when you're not going to do anything about it? Perhaps the United Nations is right in calling The West stingy when it came to aid.
So, this is the point of this article, it is time to make a difference. We cannot change the world overnight, but we can start by taking concrete steps. A few have been asking me, how can we help the nations that have been hit by the tsunami. I did some research into Canadian agencies that are coordinating relief efforts. The agencies are requesting for money donations as they can purchase goods in areas close to the disaster zone, such that aid will arrive faster. Shipping relief supplies from Canada is relatively slower. So here are two esteemed Canadian organizations that are helping with the disaster. When I was watching the news, they said the local Victoria Red Cross had raised over $450,000, and the Salvation Army is mobilizing $1,000,000 for relief victims.
I read about a very pragmatic down-to-earth donation strategy that a lot of companies are adopting. They're asking their staff to donate one day's worth of pay for disaster relief for Asia. I thought that was a great idea, as it is doable response. It's not a lot of money, but it's a good start, and we're doing our share.
It's time to convert our sympathies into action. It's time for The West to mobilize its great economic and military power to bring relief to the victims. Let history record that The West rose up to help the victims of this great humanitarian disaster. Let us declare that the United Nations is wrong, we are not stingy, but a generous people. Take that Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan!
I'll close with this article describing the tsunami as a true disaster for all of humanity.
Buddhists hang white pennants outside their homes when relatives die, and these were hanging at about half the houses that escaped the direct onrush of Sunday's walls of water. The Christians flew black flags, the Muslims green. Hardly any family on the coast was unaffected.
Tuesday, December 28. 2004
As you may or may not have heard, southern Asia was hit by the fifth-largest quake in a century. The 8.9 magnitude quake triggered a tsunami which has claimed over 60,000 lives. I was watching some video clips of the tsunami on the news, and I wondered how it could have done so much damage. I did a little research, and apparently this tsunami travelled at about 850 km/h, and it was a 10 metre tall wave. To put that into perspective, that's about the speed of an airliner! Tragic.
When I read that Thailand and Sri Lanka (amongst many nations) got hit by the tsunami, the first thing that entered my mind was, how would this affect their wars? These nations have active wars going on, and a tsunami just doesn't make things any easier. The worst case scenario is for a group to try to make strategic gains during the chaos and disorder from the natural disaster.
Sri Lanka has been fighting a civil war for a very long time. It is the government forces versus the Tamil Tigers. The Tamil Tigers are fighting for an independent state, and they live primarily in the north-east of Sri Lanka, and they pretty much run the north-east. I thought to myself, this is a bad situation for the Tamil Tigers because they're listed as a terrorist organization, so how on earth are they going to get international disaster relief aid. After reading this article, it appears that the Tamils have not been receiving aid from the central government. It will be very petty of the central government if they refuse to aid their bitter enemies, after all, this is a national tragedy. This is a time to put aside the age old conflict, and help a fellow human being.
Sri Lanka being a war zone has also introduced some extra problems for the island. A large number of mines were deployed around the island for strategic purposes. This article says that when the tsunami came, "mines were floated by the floods and washed out of known mine fields, so now we don't know where they are, and the warning signs on mined areas have been swept away or destroyed." There have been several accidents/deaths related to these mines floating around.
Onto Thailand, the government there have been fighting a Muslim insurgency. I checked in the news today, and the fighting still rages on even as the nation is in a state of emergency. The Muslim insurgents are fighting for a seperate state in Thailand, and they have been bombing various civilian, (para)military, and goverment targets. A brief overview of what has been happening there over the last few months can be found here.
In either case, getting relief to warzones is just that much more difficult. You have groups trying to take advantage of this security void that has developed from the chaos. It should be instinctive for humans to call a timeout for their wars, and employ ceasefires while relief and aid arrives. Heck, here's an idea, maybe instead of fighting each other, maybe provide security for civilians and aid workers so chaos doesn't erupt, and the needy can get help.
Anyways, pray for the situation in southern Asia. Humanity weeps...
Monday, December 27. 2004
Hmmm.... today's title doesn't really make sense, but it sounds cool, so I'll go with it. So today we had another mini grad reunion at Red Robins to welcome Dave back home to Victoria. There was actually a really good showing tonight. The people that attended included Jon, Brian, Adam, Natalie, Marley, Tim, Bill, Dave, Ang, Eton, Kim, Tyler, Michaela (spelling? sorry if it's wrong), Beth, and Nicole. Sorry if I missed anyone, this is not an intentional omission, I just don't have photographic memory....yet. So we all got to mingle and catch up over burgers, fries, and pasta. I had my favourite as usual, chicken parmigiano penne. The delicious leftovers are waiting in the fridge.... mmmm.
As mentioned before, this night was planned around Dave coming back to town. His training at depot seems to be paying off. He's got some entertaining painful arm holds and submission moves. Nothing gets a party going quite like senselessly disabling innocent bystanders. His racial profiling skills have also improved. I got him to do me, and he was pretty dead on except for my car.... I don't drive a Honda . I'm Asian but not THAT Asian apparently.
Anyways, it was a really fun night. I discovered tonight that actually quite a few people still read this blog, so that's good ... it appears I'm not boring people to death with my nonsensical rambling and propaganda. Thanks Timmy for organizing tonight, it was fun. Cheers.
Friday, December 24. 2004
Today marks the first day of my Christmas holidays where I don't have to worry about school or work. All the Christmas shopping is complete, and the week of feasting has already begun as of yesterday. So, today was kind of an anomaly because I could actually sit back and read a physical newspaper. I came across an article from the Victoria News entitled, "Church Reclaiming Christmas", which changed my cynicism surrounding people trying to neuter Christmas. (My Christmas rant can be found here entitled, "Have a Polictically Incorrect Christmas." Trackback)
Here's an excerpt from the article:
More people are heading back to the pews, but church leaders say Santa is winning the Christmas war... young people in particular have a sense of frustration with the shallowness of our culture where the main drive is profit. They are looking to religion for answers.
[Rev.Brian Shields at Oak Bay United] believes times are changing, and points to a recent University of Lethbridge study by sociologist Reginald Bibby. It shows people are again "looking at the church" to give meaning to their lives. Although church attendance has been dropping steadily since the 1950s, Bibby says weekly attendance has been slowly creeping to its highest levels in two decades, especially among teens. The number of teens attending services has bounced back from a low of 18 percent in 1992 to 22 percent in 2000, and is continuing to accerlerate, says Bibby. About 30 percent of adults go to church in Canada compared 59 percent of Americans who give religion a high priority. Bibby, a former part-time Baptist pastor who has surveyed more than 20,000 Canadians since 1975, claims the turnaround is "not an accident." He writes that one in two Canadian adults and one in three teenagers between ages 15 and 19 claim to have experienced Christ's presence.
From talking to some of my co-workers this week, I do get a sense that they are feeling a bit frustrated about how shallow Christmas has become. To them, it's all about finding this mythical perfect gift for their friends, and dealing with fussy friends wanting to return presents. There has got to be more than this.
It's interesting that the article highlights that it's the young people that are fueling the growth of the church these days. At first, I thought this was counterintuitive because in our society these days, we have a large percentage of young people that are considered the unchurched. These are the people that have grown up without Sunday School, or any background in Christianity. However, I do see that when an unchurched individual finds Christ, they become genuine 24/7 followers of Christ, not these artificial Sunday-only Christians. I think those of us who are the "churched" have a tendency of taking salvation for granted, and have lost that first-love type passion sometimes. In either case, I am seeing an emergence of genuine Christians in my age-group.
After singing some Christmas carols this season, I have a new favourite: What Child Is This? I learned this song as a young child, and sang it every year, but I didn't really grasp the importance of the lyrics probably because I was too young to understand, or the song just became an involuntary reaction to Christmas. I had gotten so used to the song because I was part of the "churched", that the song had lost its meaning.
The lyrics go
This, this is Christ the King. That is very profound in that this marked the beginning of the salvation plan for humanity. This, this is Christ the King who will forever change this history of the world, and continues to be relevent after 2,000 years.
Earlier this year when I went to the Merge Conference, one of the speakers said something that really stuck with me. He said, it's time for this generation to live out Christianity, and not wear it as a social status symbol. That really resonated with me. I was having a casual conversation with a lady at work, and I was saying I was going to church for Christmas eve. She cynically said, I don't subscribe to the Christian-religion because everyone that call themselves Christians act good for one day of the week, and are as bad as us for the other six days of the week. I wasn't really expecting a response like that, but I think it's time to change this perception of the church.
Another reason why I think that there is resurgence of interest in Christianity from the young people is that the church is finally adapting the presentation of Christianity with today's tools. I remember hearing a sermon at my old church that explained why rock and roll was evil. I thought that was ludicrous, but it does illustrate how far we've come. There is a rich subset of mainstream music that is Christian music, and the quality of the music is on par with their secular counterparts. One of my co-workers this week asked if there was such thing as Christian rap, and I explained that yes... yes there was, there's also Christian rock, Christian metal, Christian techno, etc, etc. I told him there are many Christian bands that are in the mainstream that is very accessible, such as U2, Evanescence, and P.O.D. to name a few. He was pretty dumbfounded that these mainstream bands were Christ-centred bands. But it does illustrate that the church is catching up with the times, and have been able to effectively use today's tools to reach the next generation.
In either case, I'm excited to see what is instore for the church as a whole in the coming year. Can this be the revival generation?
Monday, December 20. 2004
The end of the year quickly approaches, a magical time when we feast, share time with the family, and trek through the political correctness minefield that has become part of the holiday tradition. Yes friends, this is my end of the year rant about how ridiculous political correctness has become.
I first observed this politically correct nonsense at my institution where I work and study. Feel good concepts like tolerance, equal oppurtunity, diversity, inclusiveness is the religion there. A greeting of Merry Christmas is replied with a, "saying Merry Christmas isn't the right thing to say because not everyone celebrates Christmas, and they could be offended. You should say happy holidays." The first time when I heard this I though, ha ha, funny funny, you had me going ... unfortunately it was no joke. I remember telling my boss about this, and she told me about this story where a person in the office didn't celebrate Christmas and was pretty militant about it. Therefore, everyone kept the holiday celebrations super low key for fear of offending this person. This seems to be contrary to the doctrine of tolerance, diversity, etc... because it seems like this person is imposing his/her beliefs on the rest of us. Tolerance is a two way relationship, we should tolerate other people's beliefs and cultures just as much as they tolerate ours. Why do you try to suppress my freedom of expression and celebration? I'm all for tolerance and what not, but why do you try to change the Christmas which is a time-honoured holiday that is celebrated in Canada?
As time has passed, the support for a politically correct holiday seems to be growing. Every now and then at my parent's store, a customer will come in and complain that a sign reads Merry Christmas, and give the whole speech about how some people are offended by Christmas. I'm thinking, who are these people that are offended?! Are these hyper-sensitive people or something? Or is this a phantom menace that does not actually exist?! Why are they so militant about neutering Christmas? If someone came up to me and wished me a happy Kwanzaa, or a happy Winter Solstice, fine ... I don't celebrate it but I'm not going to cry about being offended.
I was googling for examples of the attacks against the Christmas tradition, and came across an article here that summarized a handful of incidents:
In Denver, CO, Mayor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, decided to ban the words "Merry Christmas" from the city and county building in downtown Denver. The Mayor announced that "Merry Christmas," due to its offensive nature, will be replaced with "Happy Holidays." Only after his office was flooded with complaints did he second-guess his decision.
In the same city, the non-profit group that runs the annual "Parade of Lights" Christmas parade has banned a local Christian church from participating in the event. The Christian themed float, with its Merry Christmas message and Christmas carols, cannot participate because of its "religious theme" -- even though they're allowing a "Two Sprit Society's" float, which honors homosexual American Indians as "holy people". Included in the parade's ban are signs that read "Merry Christmas" and the singing or playing of Christmas hymns.
I'm curious to know why only Christian holidays are subject to condemnation from the religion of Political Correctness. I could rant some more, but this guy's blog does a good job of ranting for me, it is entitled, "Offended by Christmas? GOOD!" (Trackback to that blog)
In either case, I think this is going to get more ridiculous as time goes on. However, I will continue wishing people a Merry Christmas as my non-violent form of resistence and protest. I WISH YOU ALL A MERRY CHRISTMAS! THAT'S RIGHT, A MERRY CHRISTMAS! ALL OF YOU!
The line in the sand has been drawn...
Thursday, December 16. 2004
My youth pastor had decided to partner with UVIC's University Christian Ministries (UCM) representative to hand out some anti-stress kits at UVIC for tonight. A lot of people from my church had donated food and supplies towards assembling 200 anti-stress kits. The kits were paper bags that had some homemade cookies, a juice box, and some fruit.
So tonight I went up to UVIC with some people from my youth group and some people from the UCM to hand out these bags to weary souls that were madly studying for exams. My group hit the Engineering Lab Wing (ELW), the David Strong Building, Clerihue, and Cornett. I saw Zane in the ELW lobby, and Angus a little later (good luck on your guy's exam too eh). We did room to room searches for study cell groups that were cramming for exams. One of the rooms I breached was a room full of people writing an exam ... that was fun. Oops.
Anyways, for the most part, it was a moral booster to people. An army marches on its stomach after all. Most people were kind of shocked, then dumbfounded when we approached them bearing free food. We ran into a guy that revealed he was from Colwood Pentecostal Church, when he found out who we were.
One guy asked which group did we represent, and we said the UCM and North Douglas Pentecostal Church. He says, "Oh, I know someone that works at North Douglas, do you know (insert name here)? She works in management." My youth pastor, Geoff says no. He asks Geoff, "what position do you work for?" Geoff replies, "I'm the youth pastor." Shortly after he leaves. He must have mistaken North Douglas Pentecostal Church with North Douglas Distributors which is a food distribution company. I guess it makes sense though? Free food == free food from food distributor. He must be wondering why a food distributor would have a youth pastor on its payroll.
There were a few people who didn't want free stuff, because they felt other people would benefit more. There was one girl who said no, and when she discovered which group we represented she goes, "Bah, you Christian types." I'm thinking, fine.... sorry for wasting your time! Sheesh. The only thing we said was, would you like some free Christmas treats. Free food, how can you be offended by that? There was no preaching, no Christian literature, just a random act of kindness.
Anyways, it was pretty fun doing that, we passed out 200 bags. Time well spent.
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"The shortest answer is doing."
--George Herbert (1593-1633), English Poet, Orator, Priest
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