Thursday, September 21, 2006

Thinking Long-Term

I went to a talk today in Stahr where a representative from the International Justice Mission (IJM) spoke of the importance of good people doing something in order to combat evil. She even quoted Edmund Burke when he said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing." Although I have a very high degree of respect and admiration for IJM, I feel that they are not using their time, efforts, and resources as effectively as they can. IJM focuses too much on curing human rights abuses on a case-by-case basis. I think they could be a lot more effective if they used a more preventative strategy. For example, when a patient comes in with an ulcer, a doctor can prescribe medication to treat the ulcer, or she can take the more effective, preventative approach of understanding that the ulcer is a result of the patient's inability to handle a stressful situation. Advice on dealing with stressful situations, in this case, is more effective in the long-term than prescribing a drug. I feel that IJM should realize that ulcers will continue to occur as long as there is that stressful situation. Rather than trying to punish perpetrator on a case-to-case basis, they should work with province and national governments to promote education and economic development. If these conditions improve, human rights abuses will inevitably decrease.

Religion not the root of all evil?

In class we often discuss religion as a cause/excuse/explanation for many evils. Today's global scenarios make it easy to forget the role of religion in many acts of good. Today a lecture was delivered called "Why Good People Do Nothing". I went noting the obvious relation to our class. My first reaction was that of being put off by the Christian undertones (although the sponsorship by the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship could have tipped me off) until I put the whole thing in a different perspective. The speaker represented the International Justice Mission, which currently seeks out and fights global human justice issues such as slavery, illegal detention and corrupt police activity, sexual assault, and sex trafficking. The presentation described case studies and facts that nobody could deny as awful reminders of the human rights abuses over world. I have a propensity to be turned off by faith-based organizations, they make me uncomfortable and although I did feel that slightly during the presentation, I have a new understanding and appreciation for organizations such as this that truly root out evil and apply plausible multi-dimensional solutions. Though the global problems brought up were not new to me, it got me thinking more about the many people for whom religion is a strong factor in encouraging goodness, which sadly I had forgotten about.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Coup in Thailand threatens Human Rights

Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin who led a bloodless coup in Thailand has promised to restore democracy to the people. However, the fact that the 1997 constitution has been revoked implies that this "democratization" could take a while. It is interesting to note how human rights activists in Thailand have reacted to this coup. Although Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had a very poor record for protecting the fundamental human rights of his people, most activists still condemn this coup. "Thaksin's rule had seriously eroded respect for human rights in Thailand, but suspending basic rights under the constitution is not the answer," said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

The accusations against Thaksin during his five year rule are varied. He had launched a 'war on drugs' in 2003 that resulted in dozens of extrajudicial executions of alleged drug dealers, none of which have been properly investigated. Security forces responded to an insurgency in the country's mostly Muslim southern provinces by committing widespread human
rights violations, including arbitrary arrests of many people.

Despite these facts it seems like many in Thailand oppose this coup. Undoubtedly, they don't support Thaksin. However, it seems that many believe a coup is not the ideal way to solve this problem. "An eye for an eye" may not be everyone's cup of tea...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Hungarian Leader Defies Calls to Resign

Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany of Hungary, admitted to lying during his election campaign, which resulted in the public's request for him to resign from office. After lying to his people and denying their request the prime minister was quoted as saying “The job of the institutions of the republic is now to strengthen people’s faith that calm can be restored,” and concluded by stating “I am staying and I am doing my job.” I see this as an example of an individual who lost sight of the purpose of his position because of his hunger for power and control. Furthermore he justifies his decision to lie to the public by claiming that he is the only good decision for his country.
Gyurcsany was elected into office in 2004 as the socialist successor to the Communist party. I believe that this could serve as an example of a good person turned 'evil' by the position and power that he held. I don't think that he set out to do his country wrong in 2004 but it seems that in 2006 he has become a part of what he once fought against.

U.S PRACTICE OF RENDITIONS "ought to be reviewed"

That was the comment that counsel for the Canadian government said in reference to the U.S. government's extraordinary rendition of Muslim Canadian Maher Arar. Arar was labelled an "Islamic extremist individual" and detained by the US authorities when he changed planes in New York on September 26, 2002. He was held for questioning for 12 days, then flow by jet to Jordan and driven to Syria. There, he was beaten, foreced to confess to having trained in Afghanistan -- where he has never been -- and then kept in a COFFIN-SIZE DUNGEON FOR 10 MONTHS before he was released. The man was innocent and never had any ties with Al-Qaeda.
So, my question to you is whether the Canadian, U.S. and Syrian governments were justified in the extraordinary rendition of this Canadian citizen. Given his innocence, probably not -- but where does that leave us regarding the continuance of extraordinary rendition in general?
Should the US be allowed to extraordinarly render its citizens or other nationals, and contine the operation of the "CIA prisons" throughout the world?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Our Guest Speaker

I found this on LVC website

Schulz was 10 years old when Hitler came to power in the early 1930s, and by 1936, all German young people were required to join the Hitler Jugend, the name for all the youth organizations of the Third Reich. The various groups had nine million members by 1939.

Influenced by the Nazi propaganda machine, Schulz volunteered at age18 for service in the German army. After being wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, Schulz lay paralyzed for two months, and when he recovered, he was sent back to the front. When his unit ran out of food and ammunition, Schulz and his comrades followed their officer under a tattered white banner to surrender to U.S. soldiers. The Americans treated him well, and Schulz determined to live in America one day.

After 18 months as a prisoner of war, he was released. His homeland, East Prussia, no longer existed; it had become part of the Soviet Union. Schulz’s parents had been given 48 hours to leave, and they joined many other refugees from the East into a diminished Germany. In the 1950s Schulz finally got his chance to come to America. He, his wife, and his 8-year-old daughter came to Pennsylvania. None of them knew a word of English, but they learned quickly, and after getting a degree from Millersville University, Schulz became a German teacher in various high schools in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

What's Wrong with this Picture?

In a recent Washington Post article, "Global Protests Call for UN Intervention in Darfur", I was struck by a picture posted by Reuter's photographer, Luke Macgregor. A guardsman wearing full traditional uniform is walking by peaceful protestors with a sub-machine gun. The last time I saw a guardsman in London (albeit, it was a while ago) he was not carrying a sub-machine gun but what at least appeared to be a ceremonial rifle.
These times are certainly achanging!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Muslims angry despite Papal apology

Late last week, Pope Benedict XVI criticized Muslims in a speech. He later issued an apology stating that he was merely quoting an ancient Medieval text and had not intended the words to cause harm. In our time of terrorism and religious unrest int he Middle East, the Pope could not have been more careless. Even though these may not explicitly be his views, the inclusion of such inflamatory words was a poor choice. Now that the cat is out of the bag, the Pope is having trouble calming angry Muslims. Churches have been ambushed and an Italian nun was shot in Italy. What was in Pope Benedict's head when he wrote his speech? Where is his common sense? These statements have only caused more religious hatred and violence rather than opening dialogue and tolerance.