Sunday, July 31, 2005

Fluffy bunnies and suicide bombers...

"No serious person could ever negotiate on the demands of terrorists who have been using suicide bombers to kill people..."

We are not going to deal with this problem, with the roots as deep as they are, until we confront these people at every single level."

"I don't think the IRA would ever have set about trying to kill 3,000 people,"
-Tony Blair

It would appear that Mr Blair thinks that one of the terrorist groups that bombed the country I grew up in for 36 years were fluffy bunnies in comparison to the suicide bombers representing Al Quaeda.

Tell that to my mum's cousin who lost her husband then. Tell that to the families of the 1800 people they did kill. Tell that to the families whose young people could see no other future than the provos. Tell that to the couples who had to flee to England because of intimidation.

If the IRA were really the gentleman's terorist, you really might have told me so when had to walk home, lost in the pouring rain and accept the kindness of a random girl from the bus who invited me into her family's house for tea n cake while the madness raged outside preventing me from getting home from school. Would have been nice to know that when my primary school had to spend almost an entire morning lying on the floor in the gym because there had been a paramilitary related shooting outside the school gate. (My teacher still made us bring our work books with us tho - hmmph!)

Tell that to my secondary school teachers who had to put up with our ridiculous prankish behaviour - was it just my school where kids stole wires from the technology lab and shoved them into a lunch box in order to create a security scare? Tell that to me and my friends when we had to be evacuated out of our maths exam (well, maybe that was quite kind of them...)

I'm not arguing that Al Quaeda are a different kind of terrorism than the IRA, nor am I arguing that Al Quaeda have operated on a far larger scale and have been far more deadly.

But what I am arguing is this.

No. 1. The IRA murdered around 1800 people - they weren't nice friendly terrorists. Lets not glam them up or romanticise the republican struggle. People can get very romantic these days about Irish terrorism, but I grew up with it and assure you, it is anything but romantic.

No. 2. We negotiated with the IRA. That is how steps towards peace have been made. I suggest we can learn a few lessons from this. We must listen in humility and be willing to change. Our government, our politics, our foreign policies have all played a role in creating people who feel so angry and disenfranchised that they are willing to turn to terrorist violence. We can and we must be willing to sit down and listen. You can't stop a fire by throwing petrol on it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

This night will pass

This night will pass,
Believe it my friends,
Although the darkness thickens,
Although no way opens,
This night will pass.
You and I my friends
Have an appointed mission
To prepare for the dawn,
To live as though
The dark night was daylight,
As though we feared nothing,
Not suspecting one another ,
But loving, giving and caring,
Smiling freely at strangers,
Being the light,
As we wait.
This night will pass.

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall - think of it, always."
- Gandhi

PS. Cheers Lor for your comment on my previous post.

Quakerism and Me

Alice over at Public Quaker has been answering questions about her Quaker experience as preparation for yearly meeting, which I'm not going to.

But, I wonder if answering the questions for myself might help me to reflect on my own experiences as I've adventured into Quakerism.

1. What Quaker testimonies are most important for you?

Which list of testimonies am I supposed to draw from? Ok, probably equality - because all the others stem from that for me. As I seek to live in a way that affirms the humanity and value of each person, it has enabled me to develop a broader more open approach to others - accepting other faiths, embracing those around me whose cultures may be vastly different from my own, learning to value relationships for relationships sake and not because of the genders of the people involved, and probably most prominently in challenging the way I work as a mental health professional (well, soon to be anyway) wanting to affirm the dignity and value of all people's experiences.

I think it is this committment to equality that leads me on to the other testimonies - compassion, green issues (its not my planet to corrupt, it belongs to all so I better look after it for others), peace (if my neighbour is equal, what right do I have to take up arms against him, or her) etc.

2. What difference do they make in the way you live your life?

I think I've probably covered some of this above.

Recently I've been considering how equality should impact on

-the way I work (how do I ensure that I do not exploit my powerful position as a professional when working with people who are vulnerable - how can I work towards equality between staff and service users? How do I practice equality between myself and my research participants.)

-the way I shop (do the goods I buy exploit other human beings?)

-the way I relate to my wider community, building interfaith and cross racial relationships. Back home in NI I was involved in cross community activities that are probably taking on more meaning for me now than they did when I was actually involved.)

3. In what ways is this difficult?

The jump from ideals to practice is a big one is it not?

Trying to put equality into practice where I work can be difficult - I'm often aware that I am in a very powerful position as a researcher and that I work in a system that is driven by the medical and scientific establishments and isn't always very person focussed (whatever the gimmicks on our mission statements might say.) I'm also very much aware that as I progress in my career, it will be a challenge to live the ideals.

Of course, if I believe all are equal, what right do I have to buy goods that are the fruit of child or sweatshop labour - but have you tried fairtrade shopping - if I stuck to it rigidly I'd be quite naked.

Then there are the people who although I believe all are equal, I also find to be most irritating. That of God might be in everyone, but in some he or she is very well hidden!

I also think political involvement and awareness is really important, but its utterly exhausting to keep up to date with the complexities of politics both local and national and trying to think critically about it can sometimes be nigh on impossible to squeeze into my day.

4. How are you helped by being a Quaker, or involved with other Friends?

Kindred spirits are always inspiring. I think in finding Quakers, I've found people who understand my own quirkiness, who give space to discuss matters of importance in an open and supportive context. It is a humbling challenge to me to meet so many people who are deeply committed and actively involved in their communities, making a positive difference in the world.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Tension mounting...

This weekend I met up with an old friend in London for her birthday - conversation turned briefly to careers, and it looks like we're going to be applying to two of the same clinical psychology training courses in five weeks time. Its a wierd world. If we both get on the same course, it could be wonderful, like old times. If one gets on a course and the other gets rejected - well what a dampner for both of us really.

The clinical psychology training course application process is insane in itself - very busy, very slow and I'm told, very stressful. First there is a monstrosity of an application form where you can apply for up to four places...and then, if you're lucky, there are interviews, and then you might get an offer of a place, rejected or put on a waiting list because some people get more than one offer and everything jiggles around!!

I don't know whether to look forward to it - its a sign of life beyond my PhD, and finally I feel like I'm making steps towards the career I want. On the other hand, the stakes are high, the competition is stiff and I could be disappointed.

To make matters worse, I know some courses are particularly keen to attract PhD students, and some are less phased. I've decided to go for the courses that are less phased by PhDs, as they to tend to be a bit more humanistic and eclectic in their approach - my current supervisors might say they were fluffy. :S. But I have to ask myself what sort of psychologist do I want to be and decide to apply to those courses who will nurture critical thought, reflective thinking and perhaps a slightly more radical approach.

Expect more hyper blog entries of me fretting and panicking and worrying and second guessing and hoping and waiting....

Monday, July 25, 2005

Dark days

Last week, a suspected terrorist was shot dead by police in London. I had mixed feelings about it at the time. If he was carrying explosives, then surely it must be better for him to be shot by the police and thus loose only one life, than for him to blow up himself and many others. But then again, how does anyone know who is a terrorist and who is not.

Yesterday morning, I went to the newsagents to pick up a Sunday paper in preparation for a long awaited lazy Sunday morning. I hadn't even looked at the headlines until at the desk about to pay. Then I saw it - the man who was shot at close range by police was innocent, had never been suspected of any contact with terrorists - a young life, so brutally and quickly taken. His only crimes seem to be living in the same block of flats as the suspected bombers and wearing a padded jacket on a warm day.

In a discussion about this someone pointed out to me that the young man did not stop - but hang on a minute, how was he asked to stop, was he asked politely? I doubt it. He was chased by men in plain clothes (how was he to know they were police) pointing a gun - what would I have done? I suspect I might have ran too. The psychologist in me knows how easily mistakes can be made - how groups can act impulsively and cloud one another's judgement especially when split second decisions must be made, how deadly a mixture fear and the desire to save one's city and community can be and how in this current climate of fear, suspicion and hyper-vigilance, we can expect more terrible, terrible mistakes.

One of the things that bothers me most about all this are the reports that the man was shot 5 times in the head at close range. Why 5 times? What were the psychological states of the police concerned here? Fear? Heroism? Terror? Shock? Anger?

We have had another dark day, another innocent has been slaughtered, another young man has turned into a killer - I cannot imagine what damage this action will have done to the man who did the action and to all those responsible - the wider police community and government policy makers. It is a tragedy, we must lay aside excuses and face up to these tough questions and do everything we can to find another way.

Friday, July 22, 2005

The truth will set you free

In response to my last post I have decided to be open about who I am living with. Moving in with my partner has been the best thing I've done this year, and I'm really happy about it. There was never any conflict in our minds that this was the right thing for us to do and the right time for us to do it. Sharing my life with him in a new way is precious to both of us and an important part in my life now. To not mention it would be hiding it.

Friendships and relationships are only possible if we actually know who we are friends with, and that means being willing to share our lives openly with others. Several years ago, a good friend of mine came out as gay to me, fearing my reaction. She had tried to hide it from me, fearing that I would be disapproving and we were both aware that we were both acting suspicious and cagey as a result. Her coming out was liberating for both of us. The new found honesty brought a new depth, closeness and freshness to our friendship. This weekend I'm driving to London to meet her new girlfriend :).

Her honesty also gave me the opportunity to do some coming out myself in choosing to support her, flying in the face of my conservative church background. I remember going to church not long after her coming out and the pastor giving some nonsense about the perversion of homosexuality. I had a long debate with him afterwards and finally decided that it was the final straw and it was time for me to move on. And yes, it was a very happy moment :D!

If I hadn't reacted well, I suppose we would have lost our friendship, and it would have been my fault, not her's.

The friends I am writing to were leaders in the church I went to back home in NI. They have since moved to the south of Ireland to set up a church plant there and although we kept in touch with letters about once or twice a year, we haven't done recently. They are wonderful, caring and gentle people and have been very supportive friends to me in the past. I value their friendship, they are good people and I have a lot of respect for them.

I do not expect that they will send a 'congratulations on your new home' card, but I do feel that if we are going to be able to continue our friendship then I cannot try to hide something that is now such a wonderful and important part of my life. I won't pre-empt a negative response - I shall hope to be pleasantly surprised! I'll simply mention it as I report back on lots of pieces of news that have happened to me of late. It will leave the door open to our friendship continuing in the future. If I get unlucky and they react really badly (which I would be very surprised by I should say) then so be it - I have plenty of other friends!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

When writing a letter to old friends...

Does one mention developments (e.g. I have moved into a lovely flat, with my boyfriend, who I'm not married to) in one's life that said old friends might disapprove off?

Is hiding acting ashamed (which I am not), or is it tactful (why risk potentially offending someone)?


Dilemmas :S.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Good album

Here's to impulse buying at Tescos...I'm telling you it just leapt into my trolley and hid behind the cucumbers. Honest ;)

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Sometimes I really hate my PhD. Actually, its not my PhD that I hate - its all the red tape and beaurocracy that goes with it. The phone calls that go

ME: 'Hello, I'd like you to send me through confirmation that you have processed form 123'
RED TAPE OFFICE #1: 'We're sorry, we need to you to send in form 321 before we can do that. Oh and we'll email our you brand new 20 page form for you to complete as well.'
ME: 'Er thanks...I'll call the 321 people and get back to you.'

Ring ring

ME: 'Hello, I'd like you to send me through confirmation that you have processed form 321'
RED TAPE OFFICE #2: 'We're sorry, we need you to send in form 456 before we can do that. Also, we have another 15 page super complicated form for you to complete and get signed by the Queen herself before we can do anything.'
ME:'Ok then, I'll call the 456 people.'

ME:'Hello, I'd like you to send me through confirmation that you have processed form 456'
RED TAPE OFFICE #3 'We're sorry we need to hear from the 123 people that your study has been approved before we can send you form 456.'
ME: 'Really, because the 123 people asked to hear from the 321 people who said they can't send them anything until they've heard from you 456 people and if you don't send me your form then the 321 people will not tell the 123 people that they have processed their form...'
RED TAPE OFFICE #3: 'Did we mention that you also need to complete this 30 page form before we can...'
ME: 'Very nice but my email is now full of forms and it has crashed. Oh look, computer services are on the other line demanding to know why my mail box is being bombed by beaurocratic offices!!!'

It makes me feel like this:

Monday, July 18, 2005

You and Me

You were Catholic
I was Protestant
But I could have been Jewish
You could have been Muslim
Your family could have been Israeli
Or mine Palestinian
You could have been white
I could have been Asian.

We lived on the same street
We went to different schools
I wasn't allowed to go to your's
Not the right religion
Or something.
And you didn't want to travel
Twenty miles to come to mine.
We lived across the road
We crossed paths
When our schools
Had cross community days
And laughed at the irony.

We played, we laughed
Until the day
The bombs went off.

The phonecall came
Your mum or mine
I can't remember.

Get home as quick as you can
Both of you.

We ran.

We got lost,
Familiar roads cordoned off.

This might take a while.

A six mile walk, to make it two miles home
Through the countryside.
Maybe this isn't so bad after all,
We stopped for coke and tayto crisps.

Was it your group
Or my group
Blowing up our town.

Why does it matter?

You or me
Yours or mine.

The bombs didn't care.
Nor do I.


"Bear witness to the humanity of all people..." (Quaker Advices and Queries, British Yearly Meeting)

"Even a smile is charity." (Mohammad)

I remain disturbed at the outpouring of fear I am encountering amongst my fellow psychologists, and wondering how on earth we can maintain and build community relationships in a multicultural society when people are switching tube carriages and getting off buses when they see young Asian men.

Perhaps the best I can do for now is to do the very opposite and be ever so very un-British about it. We should remember that all those we pass on the street, be they off a different race or culture, be they drug addicts begging for a few pence to buy "tea", they are all human. Perhaps all that it takes is for each of us to recognise one another's humanity and dare to make eye contact and offer a gentle smile to all.

I'll try not to look like the picture when I'm doing it!

The piece of Quaker advice that I quoted at the top of the page is part of a fuller extract from A&Q which reads,

"Are you alert to practices here and throughout the world which discriminate against people on the basis of who or what they are or because of their beliefs? Bear witness to the humanity of all people, including those who break society's conventions or its laws. Try to discern new growing points in social and economic life. Seek to understand the causes of injustice, social unrest and fear. Are you working to bring about a just and compassionate society which allows everyone to develop their capacities and fosters the desire to serve?"

Perhaps it might be worth pointing to an article in 'The Psychologist' - then main general psychology publication from the British Psychological Society which suggests that terrorists are not lunatics, madmen or animals, but acting in a way that is understandable if one takes into account their social and political context. The implications of this for how we should respond to terrorism are too important and potentially too costly to ignore.

Click here for the article.

Friday, July 15, 2005


I am part of an online group for people who want to be clinical psychologists. Its a tough career path, and very competitive and in theory we support one another in applying for training posts, share information about specific areas in which we have had experience and that sort of thing. Inevitably, discussion strays on to other areas from time to time, and its certainly a welcome distraction from work sometimes.

Today, someone posted about feeling scared on the London underground and trying to avoid sitting close to Asian men on public transport in London - changing tube carriages, getting off buses etc. While this reaction is understandable and should not be responded to with anything other than empathy and understanding - it also needs, in my humble opinion, to be recognised as irrational, and challenged lest it sow the seeds of segregation and future animosity along racial and/or religious lines.

I was rather surprised by the number of psychology students (who I always assumed are generally open minded and accepting people) who actually defended their actions in the face of quite reasonable challenge from others - words like, 'I have a right to protect myself.'

Oh dear...

I wasn't going to blog about the London attacks today, feeling that it is time to move on to other areas of discussion, but this is really bothering me. I wonder if I have acquired any Muslim readers as a result of my attempt to broaden out my blog a little. If I have, I would be grateful for your insights and thoughts on this sort of behaviour.

Also - those of you who are in America, and particularly those of you who were in New York at the time of the September 2001 attacks, how did you find this sort of phenomenon there and how did you overcome it and move on? (Or did you?) We must be serious about loving our Muslim, Asian and Pakistani neighbours, and we must find ways to help one another understand our fears whilst also challenging our prejudice.


My blog has been dealing in rather heavy subject matters this week - so I thought I'd let you all know about a light hearted discovery I made today.

I now know what cilantro is!!!

I assumed it was some kind of mystical American ingredient that I couldn't get in the UK. But no - its boring old coriander - that makes my American-English (which isn't English at all if you ask me, so there) cookbook much easier to understand.

Reminds me of going to the shop (sorry, grocery store) in New York (Food Emporium on 2nd Ave near 32nd st to be precise) with a craving for spinach pie and trying to buy some ready made pastry. I must have spent 15 minutes talking to someone who kept asking all his colleagues, 'Do you know what pastry is?'. I got really frustrated and in the end decided to go home defeated - I was just at the door of the shop when I remembered and rushed back the the shop assistant shouting, 'PIE CRUST!!! I want to buy some ready made PIE CRUST!!!!' Woo hoo!

And a very nice spinach pie it was too.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Not a dicky bird

I've not heard anything from the Belfast telegraph about my comments on Steven King's article. However a similar letter was published on 12.07.05 here.

I know several other people wrote in after I did - thanks y'all. We can only hope that it will make a small difference. I was talking to a really good friend of mine who lives in London. She is a Muslim - her family want her to get out of London. A Muslim lady had her headscarf set alight not far from where she lives, and there were children shouting abuse outside the mosque her family attends, as people went to worship.

I will try to remember that next time I enter the Quaker meeting house and wonder what it would be like to be shouted at by children as I go in.

The involvement of children in this sort of activities really bothers me. A few years ago in the delightful "holiday" that is Northern Ireland's marching season, there had been a spate of car hijackings all over the country. Most people think of big strapping crowds of men hijacking cars, but a lot of the time, its not like that. Most of the people I saw causing trouble, stopping cars and intimidating people out of them couldn't have been fifteen years old - some were, I'm sure as young as 10 or 11. (Of course, we don't release this information to the national news - how embarrassing to realise that Ulster's teeny-boppers bring our country to a halt each summer!)

I turned out of our road and got half way to the end of the main road, whereupon I saw about 10 kids waiting for me with big sticks. I did a very fast U-turn and drove right back home again, deciding that whatever I was going out for wasn't all that important after all.

I think the greatest tragedy, isn't so much the burnt out cars - we have insurance (and in NI, we pay through the roof for car insurance because of it). Its not having to walk home because your car has been stolen. Its the fact that our children and young people are doing it. That is the greatest tragedy. What sort of community are we building?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Ulster Muslims

If bus bombs are the worst that a multi-billion dollar organisation like al-Qaeda - which has, never forget, the active support of thousands and thousands of Muslims, and the tacit support of millions more - can resort to it is telling.

Hmmm, so writes Steven King in the Belfast telegraph which my mum picked up in the airport on her way to visit.

I grew up in Northern Ireland and most of my family still live there. It is a rather strange part of the world, a country of contrasts in many ways. There are those who say that the Northern Irish are amongst the most friendly and fun loving people you will ever meet. But, we are, as a whole unfamiliar with other cultures and religions. I used to joke to my Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist friends that if they came to visit me and someone asked if they were Protestant or Catholic and they replied that they were Jewish/Muslim/Buddhist, they'd probably be asked if they were a Protestant or Catholic Jew/Muslim/Buddhist.

I exaggerate, but back home we have few ethnic minorities, and very few people from non-Christian religious backgrounds. I am not sure that the Northern Irish, on the whole, have the same resentment towards people of other faiths/racial background that has existed in other parts of the country where the immigrant population is higher - Bradford srings to mind.

On the other hand, Ulster school children do tend to learn very little about other faiths. When I went to university at 18, I probably couldn't have given even a vague run down of the differences between Islam, Buddhist or Hinduism. (Judaism might have been the exception, what with Jesus being Jewish, so I knew a little about that).

My extended family tend to identify my non-white friends, not by their names but by their skin colour. Our conversations go something like...

"Is that wee Chinese girl coming over again?"
"Actually, she's vietnamese"
"Aye, but you know, the one with those eyes"
"You do realise she has a name"
"Oh, I can never remember those funny names. What was the name of that wee black girl you hang around with. Isn't there an Indian one too, you know the lighter one.."

Charming - but I should point out that I doubt this is racism, just ignorance and my family are always perfectly polite and welcoming to visiting foreigners (as they like to call them) and will try to pronounce more unusual names. Honestly, from a country where Orlaith is pronounced Orla, Niamh is pronounced to rhyme with Eve and Siobhan is pronounced shi-vawn, you'd imagine they'd be used to hard to pronounce names.

My uncle, who is probably the least politically correct person I know (I would be embarrassed to repeat some of his choicest phrases), went to Zimbabwe last year and somehow managed to invite a young black man to come and live with him in a very loyalist and rather notorious council estate in Belfast (I haven't met him yet, but apparently he's been generally very well received which is good to hear).

I think this really sets up a context of ignorance where those few Muslims living in Northern Ireland may be particularly vulnerable to prejudice and Islamophobia. Indeed, the BBC news have reported this to be a problem.

Al Quaeda has no more support from Muslims than the IRA has from Roman Catholics, and people need to be aware of this. I was heartened that yesterday's paper contained a report about religious leaders, including Dr Zaki Badawi, the chairman of the Council of Mosques and Imams, uniting to condemn the attacks.

However, I remain uncomfortable with Steven King's comments about Al Quaeda having the tacit support of millions of Muslims. If you want to let him know, then please email:

I have sent the following email:

Dear Features Editor,

I was deeply concerned when I read some of your coverage of the London bombings on 9/7/05. In particular, Steven King's remarks concerning Al Quaeda having the active support of many thousands of Muslims and the tacit support of millions more.

To quote:

"If bus bombs are the worst that a multi-billion dollar organisation like al-Qaeda - which has, never forget, the active support of thousands and thousands of Muslims, and the tacit support of millions more - can resort to it is telling." (

This is simply not the case, Muslims and their leaders have united with politicans and religious leaders from all faiths to condemn the London bombings, as you subsequently reported on 11/07/05. (

It is worth remembering, that the small Muslim community living in Northern Ireland, and the mosque in Belfast were attacked following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001, and that Muslims living in Northern Ireland are particularly vulnerable to misunderstanding and prejudice (see for example Javaid Rehman's findings earlier this year, as reported in the BBC -

We in Northern Ireland, know only too well the impact that acts of violence can have on community relationships. There is no more Islamic support for Al Quaeda than their is support for the IRA from the Roman Catholic church, or support for the activities of Loyalist paramilitaries from the Protestant churches.

I would urge you, as one of the main sources of media in Northern Ireland to be careful about the comments you make concerning the Muslim community, and to take some responsibility upon yourselves for reporting on the Northern Irish Muslim community in order to inform and reassure the general public about the peaceful nature of Islam as practiced by our Muslim neighbours.

Yours faithfully,


Friday, July 08, 2005

Heads up

My partner often jokes that people who run the country read The Times, and those who think they should run the country read The Guardian. I fall into the latter category, and while we're talking about it, can I just say, that I think I could do a better job than some people...;)

Just wanted to give a little heads up to Robin Cook's coverage of the London bombings in the Guardian.

I am concerned that we don't get a mass outpouring of anger and a call to war with the terrorists. No-one will win if we play that game. As Robin Cook says, the war on terror cannot be won by military means, it must be fought in the backstreets with poverty, with the nonviolent methods of justice, compassion and generosity to our neighbours.

Please - no war this time, no retaliation, let us learn another way. Let us bring those who carried out these terrible attacks to justice, but let that be tempered with compassion and understanding, and deep sorrow for our own role in creating a world where anyone would be driven to carry out such atrocities.

One of the criticisms of the Make Poverty History campaign, and its focus on protest at the G8 summit in Scotland this week has been its focus on 8 world leaders, perhaps ignoring our individual responsibilities to live more ethically, to drive a little less, walk a little more, consume a little less, refuse to buy produce that allows anyone to make money from child labour, poverty and unsafe working conditions. We must all take action.

I cannot help but wonder, what is the grassroots action that needs to be done to fight the war on terror. Is it dialogue, friendship and understanding with our neighbours of multiple cultures, colours, faiths and creeds? Is it to take to the streets in protest to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Is it to stay informed? Is it to take care of refugees in our own communities? Is it to live peacefully with one another? Is it to give generously to reputable charities working to alleviate poverty and suffering at home and abroad?

I am finished work now for the weekend - a long one this time, with my mum coming to visit. After the events of yesterday, amongst other things that have been going on for me this week, I am feeling quite exhausted, so I'm really looking forward to this.

I shall leave you with a picture from the Isaiah war near the UN headquarters in New York City...

Hmm, it seems its really hard to read the inscription, but it reads

"They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."

Peace to all.

New Links

I have added some more links to my list of blogs I watch. I've frittled away this morning on the internet finding interesting Muslim blogs, and a lovely blog by a rabbi. Its my little act of peace and attempt to foster dialogue and understanding in the blogosphere.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Seeking peace

I started writing this yesterday, but somehow it seems more apt today.

May my words, Stem from this place
Of stillness, Quiet reflection.

May my heart be still enough to listen
That I might learn
To hear before
You take up war
For peace comes no other way.

May you find in me
No enemy awaiting to fight back
But a friend, With space to listen,
The courage to change,
To forgive our histories
One for another
And choose peace for the future

And may we speak to power together,
With truth integrity and boldness
Kissed by the quiet humility
That gives birth to justice.

And may we act
For peace together
Laying aside our weapons
And taking up love
That affords you and I both
The opportunity for humanity.

And as for you,
With your guns and bombs,
Your suicidal desperation
In the silence,
I want to learn
How to open myself to you,
This world to you,
To accept you back
To humanity.

For you belong with us,
and we with you.

My brother, My sister.


Please remember London today.

I've managed to get hold of two London friends and two London based family members. I just found out that my brother is in north London at the moment, and my cousin was on her way to Kings Cross when the explosion happened. Thankfully she's safely back home now too.

Still waiting news from another few people. Rob (of consider the lillies) is fine. We emailled - I'm sure he won't mind me saying so, and I'm sure American friends in the blogosphere, most likely waking up to this news will want to know.

In case other people, like me, are trying to call friends and family and can't get through. Don't worry, London mobile phone networks have been put on emergency mode and are not available to the public.

Whatever we can do to make and build peace, we must do it now. I suggest one simple way we can do this is to express our friendship and support to our Muslim friends and neighbours. Police are warning Muslims, particularly women who wear hijabs to be careful, fearing vigilante attacks (the British Muslim community certainly suffered in this way following the terrorist attacks in New York in 2001).

May our thoughts also be with those driven to acts of violence, as with the victims.

We are called to live 'in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars'. Do you faithfully maintain our testimony that war and the preparation for war are inconsistent with the spirit of Christ? Search out whatever in your own way of life may contain the seeds of war. Stand firm in our testimony, even when others commit or prepare to commit acts of violence, yet always remember that they too are children of God.

Quaker Advices and Queries (British Yearly Meeting)

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Works, words and Quakerism for yoof

Now this is going to get confusing. Rob, who is not psychiatrist Rob of Mind&Soul but Quaker Rob of Consider the Lillies put a post recently about young people & Quakerism.

I think I probably fall into the category that Rob describes as one of those young Friends drawn to Quakerism because of its social orientation. It is quite possible that this is a reaction on my part. Unlike several other Quakers I have talked to, I did experience "God" outside of Quakerism and the immediate sense of "God's presence", and even the sense that the Spirit can lead us from within. I was a full blown charismatic don'tchya know :)

Of course, as most of you know, I now doubt that those experiences were anything more than quirky activity in the left temporal lobes, combined with the dynamics of a hyped up environment where God-talk was, to be quite frank, cheap as candy.

GOD TALK WARNING: The artificial colourings used in this product may cause hyperactivity in sensitive people. God Talk may contain traces of nuts

So my own journey into Friends was one of wishing to live in integrity with a heady dose of pragmatism. I must be honest and say there are times when I do squirm a little amongst Quakers who are more fond of God-talk than I am, but I'm learning to get used to that.

Which really got me to wondering, why did I join the Quakers and not just sign up to Amnesty international or some other wonderful charity? (And I do think it is important for all of us to consider community, social and political involvement, this is certainly an important part of 'spirituality' or whatever you want to call it and Quakers have certainly put this on the forefront.)

There and again, I am not sure that for me religious experience informs my "testimony". (Testimony here in the Quaker sense of the word - our commitment to such things as equality, peace, compassion, social justice, green issues etc. etc.). Quite the opposite - I would say that my religious experience is enhanced and enlivened by my attempts (small as they sometimes are) to live the testimonies in my day to day life. In seeking to live peacefully, pursue justice and practice compassion, I experience a fullness and depth of life (that some might call living in the Spirit, but I'm going to be ever so British here and not use those kinds of words if you don't mind).

But maybe that is niave. If religion is to do with the response of my whole life and whole being, then perhaps my own whole experience of the world (call it religious if you like) undergirdles my own sense of the rightness of the Quaker testimonies - even if I don't use the kind of language George Fox might have used.

Are you sure you're a Quaker - where's your funny clothes?

It may well be that those young Friends, so quick to declare, 'Works Now!', are responding with enthusiasm to an experience of the spirit (or the light, or even God if you will) that they may not have articulated with words - and almost certainly not with the kind of words Quaker tradition offers us. We no longer live in the kind of Christian society that gave birth to Quakerism. Our language and experiences may be very different from our forefathers and foremothers. Perhaps the diverse liveries Penn spoke off are now making some Friends seem like strangers.

Are you sure you're a Quaker - you don't seem Jesusy enough

However, perhaps continuing in the Quaker tradition may be to forge our own language, articulate our own experiences and find that they lead us to the same concerns for social and political justice, for peace, for equality and for compassionate living. Afterall, the good book says, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction..." (James 1:27, ESV).

Are you sure you're a Quaker - you don't use the right language

I suspect that the testimonies are the best articulation of religious experience we can ever hope to have. Perhaps also, as we explore these things, we might find ourselves more in touch with the earliest Quaker reformers than years of studying the Biblical text and Quaker history can ever afford us. The experience of living the testimonies might lead us to a better understanding of the legacy left to us by the likes of Fox, Fell, Penn and Fry.

Two bottles of bleach, a tin of spray on bathroom cleaner, a bottle of cif oxy action gel, one electrical steamer and a slightly twisted ankle....

We have a clean house! It took four days of scrubbing, bleaching and steaming with our brand new turbo power steam cleaner - I even took a toothbrush to the cooker at one point and finally we are unpacked and the house is clean.

We moved in to a new flat on Friday, with the landlords' promise that the place would be spic and span. It was nothing of the sort. I opened a cupboard, and with the shocking realisation that I sound exactly like my mother, yelped, 'This place is stinking. That is so filthy, have you seen all the dirty, shameful filthy things in this cupboard!'

It didn't look dirty when we saw it, but when we started opening the cupboards and moving the furniture around, I almost considered calling channel 4 to see how quickly they could send Kim and Aggie round.

You would not believe the filth. I spent about 6 hours on the cooker alone. The oven - oh my goodness. I have cleaned some manky ovens in my time, but I've never seen Mr. Muscle foam turn brown on contact!!! I didn't break down until I found the big pile of rodent excrement underneath the landlords' family heirloom (a singer streddle sewing machine which they keep in our house for some utterly bizarre reason - WHY???).

Anyway, it is clean now after four solid days of housework. Thank goodness partner dude has a stronger stomach than I do with that crap (and I mean that literally). Although I should say - I did the toilet all by myself, but I will spare you all the details. It would appear that I am very lucky with partner dude. Other female friends have told me their male partners are not quite so willing to don the marigolds and get scrubbing.


However, I would like to assure any potential visitors that the place is now spotless, excrement free and very nice. I'd even challenge Kim and Aggie to do a better job! We even have a basil plant and a mint plant in the window. (This isn't the first basil plant I had - but I've managed to kill the others - any tips from more green fingered types for keeping herb plants alive would be much appreciated).

Can I just say a big thankyou to the makers of Cif. Between Cif bathroom mousse, cif oxy-action gel, and cif action gel with baking soda (that stuff is absolusely A M A Z I N G)...our house is just cif central at the moment. We've bought so much of the stuff over the past few days, I think they should be giving us shares in the company.