Posted by: jkirkby8712 | February 23, 2011

Wednesday, 23 February 2011 – moody Wednesday ‘midst international troubles.

I imagine the news coming across the Tasman all day was not good for encouraging bright moods – in fact as the hours wore on, and rescuers appeared no closer to getting into the heart of some of the damaged Christchurch buildings [because of safety reasons mainly], the likelihood of a fast rising death toll grew by the hour. They were talking about figures of up to 300 people missing still, probably most of those trapped underneath rubble, in addition to the 75 confirmed deaths by this evening. Already being described as New Zealand’s ‘darkest day’, today was officially declared a day of national disaster. Yesterday, I sent a text message across to my New Zealand friends in Dunedin which I think is about 100kms south of  Christchurch. Dawn responded later on with the following note:-  ‘We felt it [the earthquake] but no damage. We have a lot of friends in ChCh, they are ok but lots of damage to their homes. Unfortunately there is going to be a lot of fatalities this time, 65 so far. One of our friends here has a 14 year old granddaughter missing”

Certainly, the earthquake has taken the other current big international news off the front pages, namely the growing crisis over in Libya, where that crazy longterm leader, Muammar Gaddafi made a bizarre and defiant television appearance yesterday, causing for death to the protestors in his country, as air force pilots were ordered to bomb protestors, and diplomats around the world resigned after a bloody crackdown against the people by the military forces in Libya. I’m afraid the outcome in that Arab nation is going to be somewhat different to what happened in Egypt – even if Gaddafi is forced out, it would appear likely that some degree of civil war will erupt, and as usual, it will be the ordinary people of the nation who suffer the most.  Already chaos has erupted, as the capital of Tripoli has been turned into a virtual battleground, with government buildings in some places set alight. Following the successful ‘people’s uprising’ in Egypt, this kind of mood seems to be spreading around the Arab nations of the Middle East, and one has to wonder where it will end. As for Gaddafi, this is how ‘Australian’ Foreign newspaper editor, Greg Sheridan described him in today’s paper.

‘Mad dog of the Middle East. Libya’s Gaddafi is a vain eccentric who has held his country in a deadly grip……………..Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is the most flamboyantly weird dictator in the modern world, not as ruthlessly sadistic as North Korea’s Kim Jong-il, not quite as nattily paranoid as Burma’s Than Shwe, nor indeed as dedicated a mass murderer as was Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, but beyond measure the fruitiest nut case on top of any national government anywhere……..Yet the man is a buffoon, a preening, ludicrous, Evelyn Waugh caricature of an African dictator, not only a scourge but an embarrassment to all Libyans and the wider Arab culture’.   Strong words indeed. And while ‘his’ people have lived under ‘that kind’ of rule for over 40 years, it seems that finally, they have had enough. Sadly, that ‘impatience’ and desire for change, as in Egypt and other nearby countries, is likely to cost many of them their lives!  Is there no good news in this modern world?

A brief opportunity for a kind of reflection this morning. I was driving towards the city on the Tullamarine Freeway, and for the first time I have noticed this year, there were three hot air balloons in the sky above us – in fact one of them floated extremely low across the freeway, so that had I the time [which I didn’t] to study it [and ignore the traffic] I would have been able to distinguish quite clearly, the individuals up there in the basket. The sky was quite overcast, but the wind conditions were very slight, so the burner mechanism was probably working overtime.  While I imagine in reality, it would be an exhilarating feeling to be up there, as noted previously, not for your writer –  the height, in such a ‘flimsy’ looking contraption would be one drawback for me, and that fire of burning gas puts me off too. Accidents are rare like everything else, but my venture up there would in my view be tempting fate!!! I’m happy to admire those things from ground level!

Susie came down from Bendigo late this afternoon  –  to play volleyball. Two more matches to go in the season apparently, but I certainly hoped she would not make a habit of it.  And because it was a late game, she would be driving back up to Bendigo quite late tonight – that I was not happy about, but knew there was nothing I could say or do about it, my ‘concern’ would not be welcomed. Not that I saw much of her – she had dinner at Jimmy’s place, they returned here for 30 minutes or so, before going out to the volleyball match. She would be back down again on Friday for the weekend!

I was reading a list of programs currently being run by the Uniting Churches’ Justice and International Mission Unit, and it was talking about a lunchtime presentation this Friday by Sudipta Singh, the Director of Programmes for the Church of North India [CNI], which has a strong focus on working for justice for people who are marginalised and in poverty in India. My impressions of  the kind of life in India, that is forced on the millions who are not privileged enough to have any kind of decent standard of living or human rights, tends to be borne out by stories such as the one that follows. It also comes as a reminder that there are many good people in this world who will always be prepared to step out of the circle and help others. Sudipta will speak about the work of CNI, and specifically address the work they are doing to combat human trafficking and assist the victims of trafficking.  To quote from the Mission’s promo:        ‘As an example of that work, in 2008 a young Nepalese girl in a remote area near the India-Bhutan border was approached by a recruiter to work as a domestic maid in Assam in India. The job was presented as well paid and so she left her town in pursuit of a better future and income. Tragically her real destination was a brothel in Delhi. After more than a year of being subjected to forced prostitution, she escaped and returned to her town. The family rejected her and the church community were indifferent to her plight, by Rev Wangyal and his spouse argued that embracing the escaped girl was core to the Christian faith. They took her into their home and challenged the local community to accept her. The returned girl was eventually able to return to her family and been accepted within the community. Rev Wangyal has helped to establish several livestock and agricultural livelihood initiatives to reduce poverty, a key factor making local people vulnerable to trafficking’.

Meanwhile here in Australia, we don’t have the death penalty for any crimes, with the last person to be hung in Australia being Ronald Ryan – I remember that well, because I was amongst the protestors out side the then Pentridge Prison, the night before his execution, in the late 1960s [might relate that story on another occasion]. Mind you, despite my opposition to the death penalty, it is not difficult at times to be persuaded otherwise – when Martin Bryant murdered 35 people in a quiet Tasmanian tourist cafe [at Port Arthur] at the end of April 1996, I doubt I would have protested his execution! Instead, he sits rotting in  prison cell – hopefully for the rest of his life, and hopefully ’rotting’ also. But as the following little story coming out of Pakistan indicates, even an insult can earn the death penalty………………… ‘Christian woman, Asia Bibi, aged 45, has been condemned to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. In November a Punjabi court found the mother of five guilty of insulting the prophet Mohammad after complaints from her neighbours and sentenced her to be hanged. Ms Bibi claims the accusations of blasphemy were made after she was told to bring water to fellow workers in a field. They declined to drink, saying that as a Christian she had contaminated it. They pressured her to convert to Islam, which she refused to do. She denies having made any blasphemous comments. Her accusers have refused to specify the alleged blasphemy. She is the first woman to be sentenced to hang under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. She has already been in prison for 17 months.  Ms Asia Bibi has been sentenced to death on accusations of blasphemy by a court that did not even hear her testimony.’……………………………..

Tonight’s ICC World Cup match –  Match No. 6 is  Kenya v Pakistan (Group A) to be played at Hambantota (Sri Lanka), Wednesday 23 February. The eventual result there saw a big win to Pakistan by 205 runs  –  Pakistan 7-317 defeated Kenya 112



  1. yeah nice

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