Islam


I watched another heart-wrenching documentary on the genocide in Darfur. Titled “On Our Watch”, it was featured on PBS Frontline. It’s unbelievable that this atrocity is still occurring in 2008 and the leaders of our world community cannot muster the “will” to impress upon Sudan that it must stop this genocide. The documentary touched on some of the reasons why there is such a failure to act… the most vital being oil. It’s paradoxical that there are those who believe that Iraq was invaded because of it’s oil fields, while Sudan is left to continue it’s policy of genocide because of it’s oil fields.

There is lots of blame to go around for this failure to act, from the U.N; the U.S. (which has taken a hardline and imposed strict economic sanctions on Sudan, but could obviously do more… see here); the European Community, The Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Iran, The African Union, The Arab League and China… to name just a few of the major players. Let’s not forget about the Afrosphere, which could do much more to advocate for the people of Darfur. If half as much energy, focus and commitment was utilized by bloggers of African descent to organize, petition and demand action to stop the genocide in Darfur, as was generated to support the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama, there would be more pressure on our leaders, both community and political, to address this issue. If we don’t show we care by taking action, they certainly won’t! For some of us, it will be a historic achievement to have a black face in the White House… while for others, it’s a historic achievement to survive the day without being raped, tortured or killed… and being able to have one meal for the day. Let me give a “dap and a big up!” to Yobachi over at BlackPerspectives.net, who has been constant in his commitment on keeping Darfur an issue in the Afrosphere.

Below are links to the PBS Frontline documentary and other informative sites on Darfur. There are also links on these sites giving you the opportunity to get involved in stopping the genocide.

  1. On Our Watch
  2. sudanreeves.org
  3. Eyes on Darfur
  4. Save Darfur
  5. Save Darfur: Partner Campaigns

 

During my pilgrimage to West Africa in 1997, I visited a number of slave castles along the coast. There were 3 things which I found most troubling but were a constant in these castles. One was the smell in the cells were the slaves were kept. You could still smell the stench of despair after all these centuries. The second were the pits where rebellious and troublesome slaves were thrown in to starve to death. In some castles, the church or chapel was built right above these pits! The third and most disturbing was that in all these castles, the soldiers quarters were right above the women cells. There was usually a staircase leading down into the cell area where these white soldiers would descend to choose their Black female victims for the night. When I visited the slave castle in the region of Ghana where Jamaicans came from, a unrighteous rage welled up in me as I stood in the soldiers quarters and pondered if I had a female ancestor who’s mind, body and soul was violated in these quarters. This rage turned into an unfamiliar but deep sorrow as I considered that this would be one of many violations…. here in this castle, then on the ship as it crossed the middle passage and then on the plantation in Jamaica. I wept.

I dated a woman from Liberia. She was living there during the civil war, during the time before and after Charles Taylor was president. She related to me a couple of her experiences of being raped. The first time was at the start of the conflict. She was around 10 years old when one of the boy soldiers, from her village whom she had grown up with, raped her in front of her family…. in front of her father, mother, sisters and brothers. She remembers the scream of her father’s anguish as he was forced to watch at gunpoint the violation of his daughter. She also related a story of similar incident when another soldier, a grown man, had abducted her and taken her to his hut to rape her. The local commander at the time, had ordered that his men were not to rape the women. Someone told the commander that this soldier had abducted her and he came, released her before she was raped and killed this soldier in front of her. I sensed that there were other times that she was raped…. but she didn’t talk about them… and I didn’t ask. She did tell me of her sister who was abducted off the streets of Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. She was brought to a compound where Charles Taylor, who had an affinity for light-skinned women, would come and rape these women with his henchmen when he pleased. As she related these and other stories to me, that rage and deep sorrow which I had felt before, would come over me. At times when this woman whom I loved, trembled and cried as she slept, I could only imagine that she was reliving the violations of her mind, body and soul. I wept.    

Rape has constantly been used as a weapon to degrade and dehumanize Black women…. women of African descent. In a much broader sense, it is an attack…. a degradation and dehumanization against all of us…. and both White and Black men are guilty of these atrocities! I am not going to try to understand or psychoanalyze what would lead six white people (3 men and 3 women) to kidnap a 20 year-old Black woman…. rape, torture and force her to eat rat, dog and human feces for more than a week (The Case of Megan Williams). I cannot even fathom why four Black teenagers…. young men…. would rape, sodomize and then at gunpoint, force a Black woman to have sex with her son. They terrorized and then attempted to kill this woman and her son…. all the while recording the event on a cell phone camera (Dunbar Village Case).

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12 

It would be easy to dismiss these perpetrators by referring to them as “animals”, or as “inhuman”. But they aren’t animals…. they aren’t inhuman! First, I have never heard of any animal species treating one another in this way. Secondly, these are human beings who have consciously decided and took steps to treat another human being is this way. For them to so easily violate the mind, body and soul of these Black women….. is much more than a “sickness” that can be attributed to our society. It is spiritual wickedness. These atrocities are happening all over the world, right now, to our Black women…. to our mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, cousins, nieces and even grandmothers…. and it has to stop! As Black men, we should feel rage, deep sorrow, shame and weep that the mind, body and soul of the women of our community are being violated in these ways! We Black men, who are both the primary perpetrators and protectors of our community, have to take it upon ourselves to stop it and stop allowing it to happen!                           

So today, Thursday November 1st 2007, those within the Afrosphere are blogging for justice. We are blogging to protect Black women and their families from the horrors of rape. We are blogging to raise public awareness about the Megan Williams and Dunbar Village cases. We are making a call for action:

  1. Sign a petition in support of Megan Williams
  2. Donate to the Megan Williams Trust Fund
  3. March against hate and in support of Megan Williams in Charleston, West Virginia on November 3rd  
  4. Donate to the Dunbar Village Victim’s Assistance Fund 

To read other posts that blogged for justice on this topic, follow the link here.             

I have never been a strong supporter for the call for reparations. I find that I expend enough energy just trying to get what I am currently entitled to, while I am struggling to hold on to what little I already have. Therefore I have not been really interested in fighting to get an apology and/or monetary compensation from “white” people for the past and current atrocities, injustices and other consequences that stem from slavery.

However, I recently received an interesting email which got me thinking more about this issue. It was from Brother Pruitt, who is the Reparations Leader and Chairman for the Committee for African American Reparations (CAAR) and the Reparations Union Lobbying Association. On his website he states:

“African-Americans should form a Reparations Union creating a power base in the tradition of lobbying and special interest groups that will consist of rich, middle class and poor blacks in addition to community conscious whites, jews and others who would like to see blacks win reparations and attain equality. This would enable African-Americans to announce the need for a congressional hearing to address the ills in society that exist because of slavery, segregation, institutional racism and discrimination. African-Americans owe it to themselves and their ancestors to expose politics and people responsible for maintaining corruption perpetuating unethical activity.”

From what I understood from his email and website, reparations is just one component, but a significant part of the overall healing and empowering process we need to go through as a community. 

What are your views on the issue of reparations? Is it a worthy cause or just a waste of time and energy? Will monetary compensation address the injustices and atrocities of the past in any significant way…. or will it lead to what Biggie Smalls once warned: “Mo’ money, Mo’ problems”? Is reparations only an issue for those in the Diaspora or should those on the African continent demand reparations also from Europeans and Arabs for the theft of human and natural resources and the continuing effects of colonialism?

Please have the link to your post submitted by Sunday 04 November at Afrospear@hotmail.com, and the carnival date will be Monday 05 November.

I am sorry to be late with my submission on this exciting topic for our second carnival, but I haven’t yet mastered how to best divvy up my time as a new father. I am always tired…. I sleep, I take care of baby, I go to work, I take care of baby, I sleep and the cycle starts again…. I have “a minute” to spare so here goes…..  

The work of Marimba Ani in  “Yurugu: An African-Centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior,” has a lot of truth in it (it is definitely a must read) and I agree with Lubangakene when he asserts that it “makes it clear that the intention and proselytizing usage of European religion was for control and conquest of other peoples. “ Some of his questions also “struck a cord” within me and sparked a thinking process as I contemplated my responses to them…. namely:

  1. How does our God-consciousness, filtered through an alien religion, shackle us?
  2. Can our spiritual/religious beliefs flower within such a context? Can those beliefs and practices empower us?
  3. Is the white man’s religion a positive or negative force, ultimately, in the lives of African peoples in the diaspora?
  4. Is it possible to adopt/adapt the religions and religious practices of an oppressor who has used religion throughout history to conquer the minds and bodies of his targets/victims – to positive affect?

Percolating within me was a rational, intellectual and measured response anchored by my religious beliefs and literary knowledge. I had quotations from the Bible and references from James H. Cone’s “A Black Theology of Liberation” as well as, “God’s Politics” by Rev. Jim Wallis, chosen and ready to assert that religion is about a personal relationship with God and whatever choices we make…. whether good, bad or indifferent, especially in His name, we will have to answer to someday. I was ready to debate that Christianity is not a eurocentric-based religion as such, but that version of it was forced upon us, people of African descent, and it was up to us to free ourselves from spiritual (as well as mental) slavery and find our God… the One who meets all our needs as a people. That is the physiological, emotional, psychological, financial, societal, environmental, intellectual, safety and spiritual needs which may be unique to us and our condition. I was all set to argue that paradoxically, all these needs are not ethnically nor culturally based, since they are important to everyone, regardless of colour of skin, nationality, gender, orientation, language, or even religious beliefs…. however the way and how God meets our needs are not necessarily the same. Depending on any one or combination of the above factors, He may meet our particular need(s) on an individual, community or yes…. even a cultural level. I was ready to boast of how multi-cultural and multi-racial the church I attend is and that as a Black man…. as a Black family,  it certainly meets my/our needs and that it reflected the best of what heaven on earth can be. Yes I was all primed to “shock and awe” with my blah, blah, blah….

Then I went to do my weekly volunteer commitment. I am involved with an inner-city mission that I found out about through my church. It is a Christian based facility that specializes in assisting the homeless and those with psychological challenges and substance abuse issues (and the combination of all for some). We simply provide information on where to access city services, feed the hungry, provide shelter for a time, listen to life stories, offer advice and when it’s appropriate, tell them about the love of Jesus. On Sunday afternoons we hold a inner-city service for those who don’t belong to a specific church or denomination, or profess to follow any particular religion. The mission caters to different types of people, from a variety of cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds, but we all have one thing in common: regardless of our circumstances or status…. we are all striving to make it through the day.

So as I was working, I looked around at the people I was serving and I thought that as a Christian, as a person who believes and wants to serve God in my own “little” way…. this is what really matters! Standing there it was clear that cultural and historical context didn’t matter. Eurocentric or Afrocentric symbolism didn’t matter. Religion and religious practices didn’t matter. What really matters and gives me hope is that today, there are people all over the world who are inspired by their own religious beliefs to serve others (the Buddhist monks in Myanmar come to mind). What truly mattered was the “smile” and “thank you” I got from connecting with another human being and hopefully making a positive impact on their life. Even it that just means giving them a sandwich and a coffee or listening to the same joke or story for the umpteenth time. Regardless of my all religious pontificating and intellectual discourses, the few hours I spend each week, serving each individual, meeting their individual need at that particular time, for the glory of God, is what my religion means to me.                                 

  

 

Religious discourse can be very controversial. Although I am open to share and listen to the religious beliefs of others (or lack thereof), I have never been interested in debating the issue. How can one debate the issue of faith? I find it pointless. I have nothing to prove nor do I want to convert someone to my way of thinking (or belief). However, I do want to comment on the endorsement this week by Pope Benedict XVI of the doctrinal document “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrines on the Church“. In a nutshell, this treatise asserts the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, while other churches, like the Orthodox church are “wounded”, and that Protestant churches are not “true” churches. It also claims that Catholicism provides the only true path to salvation.

In this age of inter-denominational and inter-faith dialogue, which is working to bring about a better understanding and respect for others of different beliefs, I find this assertion and endorsement by the Pope as troubling. As the arenas of government, politics, economics, culture, etc., struggles towards greater harmony and peace, it appears that the religious community and their leaders, regardless of their faith, are moving towards greater fundamentalist polarization of beliefs. We don’t need to look only to history to see the danger in this type of thinking. We need only to look at the Middle-East today, Iraq in particular, to see the outcome of such rhetoric. Although I am a Pentecostal Christian and have beliefs, which could be classified as “christian fundamentalist beliefs”, I do not believe that only Pentecostals are going to heaven, nor do I believe that other denominations are “wounded” or are not “true” churches. As a Christian, I do believe that it is only through Christ that someone can receive salvation, but I don’t condemn to “hell” someone from another religion or those who have no belief in religion at all. Judgment, as far as I am concerned, I will leave to God.

There are 3 points I would like to share in regards to this topic.

1. The church I attend, although fundamental, it is non-judgmental. The Pastor believes, preaches and is involved in inter-denominational and inter-faith dialogues. This is one of the reasons why I go to this church.   

2. As far as I know, there has been no bombings of Catholic or Protestant churches; no burnings of effigies of the Pope by Protestants; no return to the Inquisition; no killing of Priests, Nuns, Pastors or Reverends; no violent demonstrations or protests; no separation into neighbourhoods based on religious beliefs, due to this proclamation. I would pray that those of the Muslim “Ummah” will be influenced by this example.

3. There has been no difference in the dynamics of the relationship with my family, friends or acquaintances of different denominations (or faiths for that matter), since the Popes endorsement of this edict. It is all a non-issue for us. Regardless of religious beliefs or non-belief, we are all still “cool”. Love and respect prevails.            

     

Do you see a difference? 

  

Do you see obedience and sacrifice….

 

Or do you see apprehension and danger?

WHY?

Following the news yesterday, I heard a story that President Bush had a meeting with the Pope in Rome and one of the topic of their discussions was the plight of Iraqi Christians. It was really the first time this issue captured my attention. The primary focus has been the civil conflict between the Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites, and there has been little to no media coverage, that I can remember, on what Iraqi Christians were experiencing. 

A little internet research provided me with some information that the situation for Iraqi Christians is not good in the least. They are victims of daily targeted attacks by Muslims in general and not just the militant Islamists. Some of this is because they are associated with the “Christian West”, who are seen as invaders and “crusaders” by the Muslim population of Iraq. Christians have been threatened, kidnapped, tortured and killed; churches have been vandalized and bombed; Christian women have been forced to wear the veil; priests murdered and nuns raped and killed. On Sunday June 3rd, a priest Father Ragheed and 3 of his deacons were executed after performing mass in Mosul, northern Iraq. The car in which they were driving was rigged with a bomb after they were murdered so that their bodies would remain in full view for a time, to send the message that Christianity was no longer being tolerated.

Here are a couple of sources of information:

http://www.aina.org/news/20070608105121.htm

http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&dos=108&size=A

Let’s keep them in our prayers, as well as all the innocent people of Iraq who are suffering due to this conflict.              

I just bought a new set of books and my reading list is getting crazy. My wife is starting to comment on when will I get time to read all these books I’ve been buying, especially with a baby on the way in August. I’ve been spending a lot of time blogging over at AfroSpear and have neglected my reading and posting on this site.

As you can see I have transformed the look and feel of this page. It’s almost like a cleansing. I am now committing some time and effort to get into my reading list and post here more often. Here is my planned reading list:

Religious

  1. The God Delusion.  Richard Dawkins
  2. Epicenter.  Joel C. Rosenberg
  3. The Jesus I Never Knew.  Philip Yancey

 Psychology

  1. Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion.  Robert Cialdini
  2. Social Intelligence.  Daniel Goldman

 Afrocentric

  1. The Bluest Eyes.  Toni Morrison
  2. A Long Way Home.  Ishmael Beah
  3. Slave.  Mende Nazer
  4. The Narrative of Sojourner Truth
  5. Infidel.  Ayaan Hirsi Ali
  6. An Ordinary Man.  Paul Rusesabagina
  7. The Assassination of the Black Male Image.  Earl O. Hutchinson
  8. The Slave Community.  John W. Blassingame.

What are you currently reading and what do you plan to read in the next while?

Asa.    

A few years ago I made a personal commitment to God that I would fast one day every week. I had engaged in prayer and fasting before that, mainly for spiritual wisdom and strength to confront specific situations I was going through in my life. All the Pentecostal churches I have attended, encourage it’s members to regularly engage in prayer and fasting as a way to address a number of issues, whether spiritual or temporal. So it is something I am comfortable with and I have an appreciation for the Muslim practice of fasting during the daytime, as they observe their holy month of Ramadan.  

I made this commitment for a number of reasons. The first was to establish a covenant with God. I would commit to denying myself of basic nourishment from sun up to 6pm once a week, and God in return would commit to increase my faith, spiritual wisdom and strength.

The second was to identify, even symbolically, with those who had no and/or limited access to food and water, to satisfy their own daily basic physical needs. I am aware though that this is just a “symbolic” identification, for the fact is that after 6pm, I not only have more than enough food and water to consume, but I also have a variety of choices of what I want to eat and drink. That being said, there is still much difficulty in denying oneself in the face of such abundance.

Therefore the third reason, which is directly tied to the second, is to develop self-control. We live in a culture/society, where we are not encouraged to deny ourselves anything. We live in the “Age of The Triumph of Greed and The Primacy of Selfish Fulfillment”. We are encouraged and even expected to fulfill all of our physiological, emotional and intellectual needs, wants, desires and luxuries…. and through advertising and marketing we are bombarded with the various pathways which leads to our material Shangri-la. Personally, I look forward to “that” first cup of coffee in the morning. I actually crave it! It has become more than a habit…. it’s a ritual…. an addiction. Making the conscious decision not to have that cup of java in the morning is painful…. it’s damn hard if you want to know the truth. I can’t explain it, but every week, when I deny myself coffee for that day, although it is relatively a small thing, it’s like I have conquered a psychological and physiological “shackle” on my being. Every week I prove that it has no hold on me and I am in control.

The final reason is a matter of health. Although there is some controversy within the medical community on the types or degrees of benefits from fasting, it is agreed that it does assist in detoxifying and cleansing the body. 

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you”.  Matthew 6: 16-18.

 

I am currently involved in a Bible study (Alpha Course) at my church on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). When we came to this topic of fasting, which the passage above is based on, I was a little taken aback that no-one, except myself, had ever fasted. I was even more amazed of the reasons (excuses) why they didn’t fast. The church has called for prayer and fasting a number of times since I’ve been regularly attending there since December 2006. I took it for granted that if not all, most Pentecostals fasted even periodically. I became aware of how much of a personal and spiritual commitment it was to fast, especially to do it weekly. To deny oneself of the very basic needs of life for “a part of a day” isn’t an easy endeavour to undertake, especially in a society of material abundance. However, I do not consider myself “special” or “more righteous or spiritual” than those Christians that don’t fast. I have come to appreciate God all the more for  providing me with the strength to do it…. for the truth is that every week I go through a tremendous struggle and look for excuses not to fast. 

So what is the joy of fasting? For me, it’s knowing that I have kept my commitment to God and have also overcome the power of my basic desires…. for that day…. and for that week.

Asa 

   

                    

Whatever in the world can be done, will be done. The question is whether it will be done by you, or to you.

Over the period that we were putting the pieces together to launch the AfroSpear think tank blog site, I came back to this quote a number of times. It was like a beacon for me. Will we forge and direct our own destiny? Will we speak our own stories? Will we share our own experiences? Will we offer the pearls of our own wisdom? Will we exchange our own ideas? Will we debate our own strategies? Will we formulate our solutions? ALL for the greater good of our own community. BECAUSE if we don’t, others will dictate all this for us! 

“Where there is no vision, the people perish;”  Proverbs 29:18

I am so enthused and hopeful. Primarily because the response and support for this vision from the AfroSphere has been encouraging and inspiring. It’s definitely a vision whose time has come. So let’s gather and commune with one another. Regardless of shade, political affiliation, religious beliefs, gender, orientation, nationality and ethnicity. Let the voices of those of African descent ring out true and free here.

You are therefore invited to join AfroSpear. I encourage you to read our “About” and “Mission Statement” sections to know who we are, what we are hoping to accomplish and our rules for engagement.

Let’s celebrate!

Asabagna

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