Peace with the Earth

Photo: NASA

When God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful in Genesis, the land was still virgin and undefiled. Adherents of the three major monotheistic faiths have since taken this commandment literally, populating the earth and multiplying descendants, as with other peoples on this blue planet.

Today, the earth is on the verge of destruction. To be more precise, it’s fast becoming a place that may no longer be habitable to many of us and other creatures because of environmental pollution and global warming. The planet will stay, but those who claim to know it and give meanings may be no longer.

Talks of wars, conflicts, terrorism occupy the minds of many, and graphic Biblical images of Daniel and Revelation capture the minds of the Christian faithful. Perhaps, however, we have overlooked the most prominent and imminent danger of our age – Human greed and carelessness leading to the wanton destruction of the environment.

As citizens of the planet earth, let us be mindful of what and how we use and consume, let us till the land and manage it well, doing it ourselves and encourage those around us to do likewise, so that we can be at Peace with the earth.

Adapted from the transcript of my Reflections on Peace on RTHK Radio 4 in 2016. The above photo shows the then growing rift in Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica.

Trent 1475

Before the Holocaust there was the Merchant of Venice, before the Merchant of Venice there was the Spanish Inquisition, before the Spanish Inquisition there was the Simon of Trent, and before the Simon of Trent there was the Black Death, before the Black Death there were the Crusaders…

The book Trent 1475 documents the proceedings of a blood libel case in Trento, Italy in the year 1475. A Christian boy was found dead and his Jewish neighbours were framed for it. This child, Simon, was once considered a martyr being killed in a ritual murder. His case contributed to anti-Semitism in the European history, which reached its apex in the Holocaust – six million Jews were murdered in that horrific genocide. Eventually, in 1965, Pope Paul VI removed Simon from the Roman Martyrology.

Perhaps it’s only fitting and reassuring that the Chinese edition is published by the Centre for Catholic Studies.

History doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We do not exist in a vacuum. To understand the present we have to consult the past. And history is not just ink printed on dead trees, it is about real living human beings and all that surround them. Nor it just one subject in the school curriculum, for it may lend itself to the betterment of us as individuals and as a species, if we are to pay attention. Paraphrasing George Santayana, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

The question is, have we started learning?

Occupy Central and… What’s Next…?

Yesterday night, the Occupy Central community organized a music festival to greet the eviction order handed to them by the High Court. Lots of youngsters vented their emotions via loud music.

Youngsters enjoy in the music festival.

At 10-month, it may be one of the longest continuously running Occupy movements in the world. Many others had been put to stop, gone into hibernation from time to time, or become protests that are being held at regular intervals instead.

The community members had vowed to stay, and the landlord had made clear that they’d not evict them from the public passageway, at least until a latter time.

Regardless, the movement seems to be running out of steam.

People pass by the campsite.

An act of civil disobedience, in my opinions, needs to be interfering with the public order, in other words, causes troubles for non-participants, in particular those in power, to get its message across. [*] Granted, they’re still occupying a section under the HSBC building, but I’m not sure if people are still paying much attention to them, except for the eviction order and the eventual act of eviction itself.

Besides, it’s been 10-month since the movement started, another question arises, if it’s indeed coming to an end—was it successful in getting its message across the public? Or, what was the message?

Photo exhibition at the campsite.

With the Lehman victims getting back part or most of their savings, have the Hong Kong people forgotten what started the global Occupy movement? Are we satisfied with the changes? Have we had adequate reflection and discussions on the laissez-faire style, both as individuals and as a society? Are we to continue on the neoliberalism pathway?

The question remains, what’s next for the 99%…?

Note: Although, technically, they might not have interfered with the public order until the arrival of the deadline of the eviction order, since it’s a public space after all, but it’s nonetheless seen as one.

Also available in Chinese on inmediahk.net.

My Rohingya

Amnesty International Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Coalition for a Free Burma co-organized a film screening of a documentary named My Rohingya at Kowloon Union Church yesterday evening.

The documentary was produced by a female reporter (Thananuch Sanguansak) from Thailand and focuses on the Rohingya people, practically a “stateless” people living primarily in Burma/Myanmar, and also in nearby countries like Thailand and Bangladesh.

The hour-long video is also available on YouTube, but the version shown last night was provided by the local UNHCR office and came with Chinese subtitles.

What drew me to the event was the repeated mentioning of the recent atrocities being done unto the Rohingya people, which are largely ignored by the mainstream media, by a few friends.

According to a quick search on Ming Pao, it’s been reported exactly once (twice if a very short quote is to be counted), on 12-Jun, in the past 3 months. In contrast, a search on “Syria” yielded 73 results, “Iran”, 80 results, even (Aung San) “Suu Kyi” produced 25 results.

Also, I’d like to take it as a measurement, in general, of the Hong Kong people’s concern for human rights issue and international matters. There were more than 50 people, about half of them were internationals and a few of them were Burmese. According to the hostess, the attendance was larger than usual for an event like this, that’s, not a protest.

The film painted a grim picture for the Rohingya people—they’re not recognized as citizens by any of the governments, and few, if any, NGO are able to help them.

Perhaps one can imagine what follows, as a minority group in a country not renowned for its human rights history.

With the recent election and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, one would expect the situations in Burma/Myanmar improve. But it’s definitely marred by this ongoing sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims. According to official figures, 78 people have died and 70,000 displaced, while Human Rights Watch considered them to be grossly underestimated.

There was a discussion/Q&A following the film, of which several Burmese participated. One of them expressed that she didn’t even know the Rohingya before seeing this documentary, but those who spoke could attest that minority groups were systematically discriminated and denied citizenship by the state.

While having citizenship does not automatically guarantee one’s rights will be fully respected (just ask the Palestinians living in Israel proper), residing in a country where one’s born but without citizenship (or even refugee status) is probably something that stretches the imagination of many people.

The topic of the border issue arose from the raise of nation-states in the past century was also touched upon. It may sound strange to some, but the borders in many parts of the world are not as clear cut as denoted on the map.

A candlelight vigil will also be held in Tsim Sha Tsui tonight, in part to commemorate the 8888 uprising.

Tibet

A photo of a Tibetan Child. A candlelight vigil was held in Tsim Sha Tsui on 10-Mar to commemorate the 53rd anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising.

When I was in Amman, Jordan, a Japanese student once asked me, “What do you think about the situation in Tibet?”

I was totally dumbfounded.

In the past week, there were two public memorial services for Tibet in Hong Kong. So I grabbed the opportunity to educate myself…

An interfaith memorial service for Tibet was held in a church in Shek Kip Mei on 14-Mar. Protestants, Catholics, Buddhists, Taoists, religious Jews and others came together to pray for religious freedom in Tibet.

Apparently, it’s a place where blatant oppression has become a norm—forced replacement of Tibetan textbooks with Chinese ones; prohibition of the display of Dalai Lama’s portrait inside one’s home; political beatings and/or imprisonments; violent suppression of popular uprisings…

Which reminds me of this graffiti in Gaza…

A “Free Tibet” graffiti in Gaza.

Insha’Allah, I’ll have the chance to learn more about it.