Wednesday 16 May 2012

Palestinia​n Prisoners Galvanize the World's Attention Through Nonviolent Action!

This historic action and at least its short-term result might very well be later viewed as a key turning point in the long hard struggle to end the apartheid occupation policies of the state of Israel. Palestinians as a whole now realize the tremendous power they have ignited and harnessed to make a real difference. By uniting together in this collective non-violent action they have finally galvanized the attention of the rest of the world. This action put tremendous pressure on Israel after its leaders realized the implications for a world-wide solidarity hunger strike on May 17 was looming.

A big part of the problem all along resides in the United States which has been pumping incredible amounts of monetary subsidy into Israel for many decades, thus providing essential endorsement -- and, in essence, chiefly aiding and abetting these abhorrent and immoral policies.

Just one example: Did you know that Israel routinely detains and imprisons - and in many cases tortures - hundreds of young Palestinian children each year? Does that shock you? It's been going on for many years. Go here for some well-founded documentation. 

It is high time for churches everywhere to get serious about involvement in the international non-violent BDS movement. As today's news release about the Palestinian prisoners' victory says, "Emphasizing imprisonment as a critical component of Israel’s system of occupation, colonialism and apartheid practiced against the Palestinian people, Palestinian civil society and human rights organizations have called for intensifying the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign to target corporations profiting directly from the Israeli prison system. In particular, we call for action to be taken to hold to account G4S, the world’s largest international security corporation, which helps to maintain and profit from Israel’s prison system, for its complicity with Israeli violations of international law."

Churches and their members' inspired involvement in both the American Civil Rights movement and the South African Anti-Apartheid movement made huge differences, though direct involvement in that was considered controversial. And the situation in Israel is far worse, according to South African leaders who have visited Palestine/Israel.

So, what are some practical steps you can take?

First, I suggest absorbing this critique/commentary and others like it.  Take the time to check out some of the important background content available at the (red) links within that article, to get a handle on the facts, and reflect on how you are feeling and what you are thinking.

Next, get a proposal in front of your congregation's board to at least discuss it. It shouldn't be hard once the facts are clear.  Or find out if it could be put on the agenda of your next annual conference. It only takes a little bit of initiative to overcome the inertia of doing nothing. The courage required is nothing compared to what the Palestinians in West Bank have to muster up every day simply to exist.

Alternatively, go take a first-hand look for yourself: sign up for a delegation with Christian Peacemaker Teams or with EAPPI (the ecumenical version which got started using CPT's delegations as a model.)

As the prophet Micah declared, "What does the Lord require of you, but to love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with your God."

Clair Hochstetler, Canberra, Australia
Member of AustralAsia Working Group of Christian Peacemaker Teams -and-
Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand

P.S.  At the least, consider sharing a copy of this - or a link to this blog post - with your own network of colleagues and friends.

Saturday 21 April 2012

O Happy Day!

Here are my two grandsons with their daddy.  Benton seems to be in a pensive mood - probably not sure what to make of his new baby brother Sawyer being cuddled by Justin on the day of his birth.  My daughter Megan gave birth to Sawyer on April 19 at 4:30 pm in Chicago but it was already the morning of April 20 here in Australia and I was doing a bit of grieving about my brother Donald - it being the 15th anniversary of his death - when I got the happy news about Sawyer having joined our family!  Another grace-full example of the big ongoing CIRCLE OF LIFE.  Wish I could hold the little guy right now but it will have to wait a while...

Click on the photo at the top of the right hand column of this blog 
to see the photo stream my daughter Megan has been posting at her Twitter account.

Sunday 1 April 2012

Excited to be attending the Australian National Folk Festival in Canberra Easter Holiday (Thurs eve through Mon)

No fooling!  I've finally blocked out the time to serve on the volunteer staff full-time at the Australian National Folk Festival here in Canberra at the Epic (fairgrounds) during the holiday next week.  I got matched to work 20 hours with the Kids Festival (see detail below) from Friday through Easter Monday - four hours each day, which allows me to still participate in things happening on Good Friday at both Canberra Baptist Church and also at the Canberra Hospital before the noon hour.

Saturday morning I'm scheduled at Silver Wattle Retreat Centre, a 40-minute drive away to the edge of Lake George, doing a clowning session with the children and an experiential learning workshop for all the participants on the theme of the "Nonviolence of Jesus."  This involves mostly Quaker families/children attending their annual Easter Weekend Family Retreat at Silver Wattle.

Well, a busy but fulfilling weekend is definitely coming up!  I'll be able to take in any performances and activities that I desire at the NFF each day and evening for free - with a pass (arm band) I'll have worth about $300. 

And...there is a LOT more than folk music going on there.  In recent years it has been appealing to all ages; the youth and young adult crowd is rapidly expanding. The full program of this five-day festival - now in its 45th year - includes descriptions of over 200 acts and 1500 performers at 20 stages - lots of stuff happening simultaneously!  Here is a rundown of this year's "Highlights" from Thursday evening through Monday.

A taste of folk - National Folk Festival 2011 from Annette Cohen on Vimeo.
(Click on to view this in a larger format.)

* Here is what I'll be helping kids create during the Kid's Festival (2-hr) Workshops: 

Lanterns - The lanterns will be of simple construction but if kids want to expand on these ideas, then great!!! The lanterns when complete will be kept for the parade. 

Puppets - Kids can make some simple parade puppets that will be used in the festival parade.   Younger kids could make finger and glove puppets and hopefully perform with them at the end of the workshop.

Hats - A range of patterns for hats will be offered from simple bonnets to more elaborate parade hats. 

Tin Whistle - Kids can come along and have a go at learning the Tin Whistle and get a bit of an introduction from a couple of talented musicians.

...or helping to provide safe supervision during their "Free Play!"  The following activities will be set up and kids can come and go as they please exploring and trying the activities on offer.

Box City: For kids of all ages.  A giant city of skyscrapers and towers will be created with cardboard boxes and paint.  The city will be large enough that kids can run around it and sit in the buildings that they have just created.

Jewellery: For kids aged from 5 – 12 yrs.  Kids can make their own necklaces and brooches from plaster moulds that can then be painted and decorated.  Kids will paint and make their own beads from old magazines.

Bandanas: For kids aged 5 – 12 yrs.  Kids can create cool bandanas by using printmaking and drawing techniques.

Weaving: For kids 5 – 12 yrs. By using simple cardboard looms kids can create beautiful mats or scarves.

Play Doh: Kids can create some fun sculptures with the old favourite.

Painting and Drawing: Materials will be available for those who feel the urge and can’t resist a bit of finger painting.

Sand sculptures: Can be created and destroyed and redone using the wonderful materials of sand and water.

I guess you can tell that I'm getting kind of excited!  Carole Anne doesn't seem to be, but that's not my problem - nor does it seem to be hers, either.  She has plenty of other things on her mind.  Oh, well - I plan on reclaiming some of my childhood - at least some of the memories, soaking up the energy, and getting my free spirit all reinvigorated!

I'm also hoping to meet up with some friends I know are coming, and perhaps make some new friends, as well.   I'll find out tomorrow during our staff orientation session if they'll let me pitch my tent at the grounds with the hundreds of others - so I can keep that spot as my "home base" throughout, in the midst of all the coming and going.

As they say in Oz: "Yep, it'll be a rippa!" (ripper)

-Clair de L'uni

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Blessing the Bombs - Father George Zabelka's Confession

Last evening a group of us here in Canberra who regularly gather to discuss books and articles that provoke moral and theological reflection, were engaged in a very lively discussion of "The Song of Nagasaki" and the issues it raises for our contemporary situation.  At one point we were reflecting on the difficult and challenging role of military chaplains (one among our group has served part-time in such a capacity.)

I recalled reading about the significant change of heart and mind undertaken by the chaplain with the US Air Force - Father George Zabelka - who had earlier given his "holy" blessing over the American pilots and crew members who flew on the Enola Gay (on the Hiroshima mission) and the Boxcar (Nagasaki) just before they dropped the atomic bombs over those Japanese cities in August 1945, obliterating thousands of innocent inhabitants in an instant, and consigning the survivors to die of radiation poisoning.

Over the next twenty years, Fr. Zabelka gradually came to believe that he had been terribly wrong, that he had denied the very foundations of his faith by lending moral and religious support to the bombing.  He died in 1992, but was most remembered for a speech he gave on the 40th anniversary of the bombings at a Pax Christi conference in August 1985 at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana -- not far from where I grew up. (A tape of his speech is archived there.) 

Father George Zabelka's own powerful soul-searching words below need to be taken very deeply to the heart, because even today it is a great temptation for pastors and chaplains to bless the bombs and the bombers for "our side."  (Economic security plays a big role in all of this since all chaplains in the various Australian Defence Forces get their paycheck from the government.  So it takes great courage to exert a dissenting voice while in service, though I learned last evening that at least in the Navy the chaplain automatically takes on the same rank as to whomever he/she is talking with.)  -Clair

Saturday 17 March 2012

They say my theology is 'bent - but don't ignore this uni-fying strategy for maintaining a healthy "balance!"

Three years ago, soon after travelling the yellow brick road all the way to Oz - and spite of friends like Ann (who touts those wonderful Spiderflex seats for the traditional push bike) I converted to this pre-owned 'bent (recumbent) version of human-powered vehicle for travelling around. (Yes, with two "ll"s.  That is how they spell it here in the land of Oz.  And, by the way, in normal conversation here they don't ask how it's going - they ask "How are you travelling?)  Quite well now - thank you!

Yes, I experienced a true conversion to the Greenspeed GT and have never looked back. (Though I do use mirrors!)  My tadpole trike - with two wheels in front that steer with one wheel in back - means no more hunched and aching shoulders! There are numerous other advantages to pedaling in alternate realities. Allow me to expound.

For example, whether I take my "flying furniture" right into the midst of an open-air concert - or pause to smell the roses - the result is the same: I'm already sitting there in my exotic lawn chair with built-in foot/leg rests and bottle of drink, instantly enjoying the show without having to unpack a thing! (In fact, I did so just last Sunday evening, resting in the...Lord, it was a fabulous two-hour Canberra Symphony Orchestra concert right there in the middle of Commonwealth Park!)

There are several other advantages, including a significant increase in the efficient use of High-Spirited power - leg power, that is...  To be honest, being in 'bent mode means going a bit slower up hills - but you don't get near as tired. And I'll level with you, it's like greased lightning going downhill fast, because there is much less wind resistance (even without a cowling!)   Did you know that 'bents were banned from conventional bike races, because they started winning all the big races before the ban?!

And you never tip - no need to put your foot down in disgust.  Except this tip might help:  Since 'bent trikes are swinging low like a sweet chariot, it's a good idea to run up a flag as a survival tactic.  Get something orange or florescent green or some other "pillar of fire" right up there - blazing in the eyes of vehicle drivers to ensure they grant you sufficient bearth in the bike lane!

And oh, it's great for relationships!  I've felt quite welcome as a member of a comfortable congregation of 'bent lovers here in Canberra, the ACT branch of OzHPV - Australian Human Powered Vehicles. I don't get to all of them, but there are monthly spins around the lake for social and physical support, and general revival of the spirit, and other spontaneous "special" experiences that tend to warm the heart.

That's a sample from among the many in the photo collection of our "mob" as we refer to it (though traditionally, in Australia, that's the official nomenclature for a group of kangaroos!)  But it's the context for my "sitz im leben."  Indeed, it can be a very spiritual experience -- feeling all grounded and relaxed while in full control, watching nature glide past while physically in a unique position to fully experience that laid-back Aussie approach.  No (back or shoulder) strain, just a lot of gain:  enjoying a very "balanced" conversation with each other, and a great sense of connection and group identity.  No time to worry about or even notice those typical isolating stares that tend to come when travelling alone - yes, there is real strength in numbers!

I've disengaged from the journeys of all those dualistic traditional wheelers who push themselves around in all their "conventional" wisdom, enduring their neck and back strains.  Instead these days I enjoy a wildly syncretistic experience, alternating between my (Trinitarian) laid back three-wheeler and my upright (Unitarian) version - see the photo on the right.  I literally hop on it when I choose to exercise (my options) in a well-balanced and unifying mode - though it is indeed a bit more challenging.

There is one drawback, however, in regards to the later. One must be prepared for some fall-out.  And some traditionalists deem uni-cycle riders to be members of a very weird sect with an oft-misinterpreted agenda. To specifically illustrate the level of "persecution" one must be prepared to tolerate if choosing this version of faith in the unimodal method, I'll share this link to a most enlightening excerpt from a recent Colbert Report titled "The Enemy Within!"  (a sarcastic sampling from the most hellish array of prejudicial and sarcastic invective a uni-cyclist might ever expect to endure!)

So now you know the truth that has set me free!  It also helps explain why on the 29th of February 2008 Carole Anne and I "leaped" ("lept?") out of America to cross the Big Pond and landed in Australia.  Yes, though I once was a lost sole (uni-cyclist) floundering on the flatlands around Goshen Indiana, now I truly see the light!  This laid-back mob in Oz has extended lotsa inclusive grace toward Dualists and Trinitarian-wheelers alike -- and even a Uni-fied bloke like me.  Come and see; come and see:

-Chaplain Clair de L'uni

Wednesday 14 March 2012

So let me get this straight...

William Rivers Pitt of recently wrote:
"So let me get this straight.

Rick Santorum, who we are somehow supposed to believe is a serious candidate for the highest office in America, thinks people should not go to college because education is somehow a code word for socialist indoctrination. Mitt Romney, another walking joke, was for birth control before he was against it before he was for it before he was against it before he was for it.

Rush Limbaugh, the godhead of hate radio and the leader of the modern Republican Party, wants private citizens who use birth control to film themselves having sex for his personal edification.

Meanwhile, the latest polls tell us that fully half of the Republicans in Alabama and Mississippi believe President Obama is a secret Muslim … oh, and they're not quite sold on the legality of mixed-race marriage, either.

And that's just for openers, here in the brave new world that is 21st-century America. Call it stupid, call it silly, dismiss it with a disgusted wave of your hand if you wish, but this stuff is being blasted out there in an endless barrage, and after awhile, it sticks. Cretins like Rush Limbaugh not only spew anti-Muslim hatred on domestic airwaves - Limbaugh is a featured program on Armed Forces Radio, reaching the ears and minds of American soldiers fighting a grinding, ceaseless and pointless war in Afghanistan."

Is anyone still wondering why I'm quite happy to still be living in Australia during this election cycle? My friends here shake their heads in amazement (this crap gets regurgitated on the Australian TV news every night) and wonder aloud how my family and friends in America can endure two years of this awful "comedy" show.  I tell them laughter therapy is good for the soul!  -Clair

Monday 13 February 2012

24 Funniest Ways To Die

This hilarious material from a site sponsored by an Australian life insurance consortium is simply too wide to fit into this space properly -- so just go here after considering that there are some "adult themes" involved!  -Clair

Friday 27 January 2012

What the Frack?

President Obama's State of the Union address framed and endorsed hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of shale deposits as a clean energy strategy (it also endorsed opening up "more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources"):

[...] Nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy. Over the last three years, we've opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I'm directing my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. Right now, American oil production is the highest that it's been in eight years. That's right - eight years. Not only that - last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past sixteen years.

But with only 2 percent of the world's oil reserves, oil isn't enough. This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy- a strategy that's cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.

We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly one hundred years, and my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy. Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade. And I'm requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.

The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don't have to choose between our environment and our economy. And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of 30 years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock - reminding us that Government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground. [...]

Obama's comment that "my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy" SOUNDS good, but every day articles emerge about the documented emissions produced by this technology, and the threats it poses to aquifers, communities, health, ecosystems. ProPublica has been doing an excellent series on the threats posed by fracking for some time.

The following of Obama's comments also SOUND good: "And I'm requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk."  I'm pretty sure, however, that most if not all fracking for shale gas is currently done on privately owned land, and so these sentences may be a precursor to opening up public lands to such fracking.  And disclosure of chemicals isn't the same thing as protection from chemicals. It's also true that the effects of many of the chemicals have been very minimally studied, and some may be proprietary.

In addition to all the other threats to health, water, and ecosystems that fracking for shale gas poses, a recent report documents that fracking also allows large quantities of methane to escape into the atmosphere. Such "methane has 105 times the warming potential of CO2 over a 20-year time frame, after which it rapidly loses its warming potential. If large amounts of methane are released through fracking - as seems likely with hundreds of thousands of new wells forecast in the next two decades - Howarth [Robert Howarth of Cornell University] says global temperatures could rocket upward from 0.8C currently to 1.8C in 15 to 35 years, running the risk of triggering a tipping point that could lead to catastrophic climate change."

(From an email sent by Joe Miller, instructor at St. Mary's in South Bend Indiana, and a member of the Michiana Peace and Justice Coalition)

Thursday 19 January 2012

We're on an Adventure! Figuring out "Plan D" by the 28th of January

This message is for our local Canberra network of friends in particular:  It's time for us to get creative in developing a solution to a particularly vexing and urgent need of ours. So here goes - exploring whether a bit of creative "social networking" will help us.  (I've posted the following on Facebook.) 
The couple for whom we had plans to house/pet sit all of February have informed us that one of them has discovered serious health problems, needs to wait for an MRI and possibly undergo surgery -  and therefore they are needing to cancel their whole trip!

We have no time to negotiate an alternative house-sitting assignment with anyone else as most everyone plans these things months ahead. We are otherwise booked through September already. We've also developed contingency Plans A, B and C (friends' granny flats) previously for such situations, but unbelievably all three are currently engaged - at least for February.

So, our current housing need begins Saturday 28 January - this coming weekend - and ends Easter Monday, 9th April. We have been actively looking for a situation where someone in Canberra is or will be away and planned to keep their home vacant but are willing to let us housesit or "rent" their home (or maybe their motor home?) for the months of February and/or March, or parts thereof. 

If you think of someone who represents "Plan D" for us, please give them the url to this page or at least our contact information below. I suppose we can always rent a motel/hotel room for a while, but that sure is the expensive way to go - and I've already loaned out our tent to a friend. (Ha!)

Carole Anne and Clair Hochstetler

Email:  -or-

Click here to see our personal house-sitting info site - with a lot more background on who we are, what we offer, and more specific contact details...

"I Shall Not Hate" - Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish

Here is an interview at the Sydney (Australia) Writers' Festival in May 2011.  It features one of the most extraordinary human stories you're likely to encounter. Izzeldin Abuelaish is a Palestinian doctor and infertility expert who was born and raised in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. He trained in Egypt, London, Israel, Italy, Belgium and the US, and spent most of his working life working in Israel. His three daughters were killed in January 2009 during the Israeli incursion into Gaza. Dr Abuelaish continues to preach a message of peace and understanding. ‘I Shall Not Hate’ is his first book. 

So, if you don't have the hour right now to listen and reflect on this powerful story, bookmark this and come back.  It will be one of the best-spent hours of your life, guaranteed!


Friday 13 January 2012

Iran has NOT even attempted to build a nuclear weapon -- but does the average person know that based on current news headlines ?!

Today I sent the following as a letter to the editor of the main newspaper here in Canberra, asking that if they choose not to print it (due to it's length) that they seriously consider writing their own editorial to help bring the public's attention around on this issue.   I hope my friends who share these convictions will follow suit in their own contexts, as I fear that we have entered very dangerous territory.  May cool heads prevail!   
Cheers, -Clair

Letter to the Editor - The Canberra Times - 13 January 2012

The top US military official seemed to confirm in a New York Times article Monday that war plans against Iran are indeed moving forward.   [1]   

“When asked on [CBS’s] Face the Nation about the how difficult it would be to take out Iran’s nuclear ability in a military strike, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: ‘Well, I would rather not discuss the degree of difficulty...  But I will say that my responsibility is to encourage the right degree of planning, to understand the risks associated with any kind of military option, in some cases to position assets, to provide those options in a timely fashion. And all those activities are going on.’”

Have the editors at the NYT become so inured to such an admission they don’t think it worth any higher prominence than to be buried in a final paragraph?!

However, near the end of the same story the NYT quotes US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta who makes a striking admission which should be worth a headline: Iran does NOT have a nuclear weapon.  Panetta says: “Are they [Iran] trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No.”

American intelligence agencies in at least two US National Intelligence Estimates in 2007 and 2010 – have determined that Iran has not even attempted to develop a nuclear weapon, yet look at the title given to that article within the NYT.  Sadly, the tone of much of our mainstream corporate-controlled media simply reflects the ongoing bellicose attitude of the US Administration in response to similar attitudes exhibited by Iranian leadership and has the general public believing otherwise.  Have we learned nothing from similar mistakes in the run-up to the Iraq War? (Major media organisations later admitted "we should have been more responsible!")

Facts are important: As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has the legal right to develop nuclear capability for civilian purposes. This is what Iran has consistently said it is doing and what countless UN inspections of facilities over many years, including the new plant at Qom, have verified.  The enrichment of uranium constitutes “nuclear capability” and is an essential part of harnessing nuclear energy for civilian energy generation and for making medical isotopes.  That Iran has managed to achieve this in spite of years of sanctions imposed by the US its Western allies is remarkable. 

Instead, because of overarching geopolitical interests, the United States and its allies are portraying Iran’s legitimate nuclear capability as a diabolical threat.  Yes - Iran's leadership is difficult to deal with, but whatever happened to the art of strategic diplomacy to defuse conflicts?  Instead we now have escalating tensions, assassinations of scientists, and sabre-rattling standoffs in the Gulf of Hormuz.  I almost feel ashamed to say it, but the country which still claims me as a citizen is virtually confirming diplomatic and moral bankruptcy if it proceeds with these war plans, which could realistically push us all into a World War III scenario on the basis of a spurious claim that even its own top brass do not believe!  

Australians who see the truth for what it is - speak up now before the leaders of your great country allow it to get dragged once again into another needless and costly international conflict.  The minority voice of dissent is far more valued here at this point, so exercise it.  This is not about disturbing the peace -- it's about disturbing the war!

Clair Hochstetler,
Canberra, AUS