Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘history’

Fictional Realities

41jh2yi72qlThere is a friend of mine, who worked with me as a nurse at hospice a few years back. One day, after work, I met her husband. When I asked her the next day how they’d met, she told me she’d been married to his brother. Well, I thought, that’s interesting. Tell me more. What arose from her telling was a story that sounded like a movie. She isn’t the kind of person who jokes around, so I knew she was telling the truth, though it could have been the best of fiction. That’s when I decided to make it just that – a fictional story based on real life. Loving Annalise was the result.

After years of poverty, heartbreak, loss and betrayal, Tomas enters Annalise’s world and shatters the iron casing she’s erected around her heart. Tomas is kind, intelligent, romantic and handsome, but he’s also her husband’s brother! Once Tomas and Annalise meet, they are forever intertwined and repeatedly ripped apart by fate, self-doubt and blackmail. Her husband, Jens, is a brilliant, jealous and manipulative scoundrel who keeps her psychologically under lock and key, until her passion for Tomas sets her free.

Writing Loving Annalise is the second time I’ve written a novel based on historical realities. Buddha’s Wife was the first. Though most of the people in the story existed, and some of the places, times, and words are reported to have been accurate, the majority of the conversations, interactions, and story-line were imagined. Like Loving Annalise, Buddha’s Wife is based on history, and people that were living breathing beings.

Loving Annalise, and Buddha’s Wife, are the only time I have written stories in this fashion. Normally (whatever that is), I either write straight fiction, or non-fiction, about a specific person, place, or issue, and do not attempt to combine these disparate genres. That doesn’t mean that parts of my life, and personal experiences, do not influence or become part of my writing, but not intentionally (that I am aware of).

Books With Brainy Heroines

Good Minds Suggest—Deborah Harkness’s Favorite Books with Brainy Heroines
From Goodreads – July, 2014

16054217Who better to mold a brainy heroine of paranormal fantasy novels than a devoted academic herself? Professor Deborah Harkness teaches history at the University of Southern California, although you may know her better as the author of the wildly popular All Souls Trilogy, which includes A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, and the final installment out this month, The Book of Life. Harkness’s intellectual passion is the history of science—encompassing the history of magic and alchemy. At the heart of her madcap epic is a similarly erudite historian, Diana Bishop, a researcher (and witch, whose magical powers have been suppressed) who uncovers a powerful manuscript at Oxford’s Bodleian Library and falls in love with an aristocratic 1,500-year-old vampire (who is, appropriately, also a bookworm with a penchant for genetics). Harkness shares five books featuring women who can out-reason or out-research any adversary.

Read all of Professor Harkness’s recommendations and more at GOODREADS.

Arctic Death March

Gabriel-

Instead of seeing warning signs, big oil and the government are seeing dollar signs in the melting Arctic.

There’s still time to stop the drilling, but we need 1,635 supporters from California to raise $100,000 by our December 31 deadline to make it happen.

Can you chip in to help save polar bear cubs from starvation?

A polar bear cub struggles to keep up with its mom. She’s searching for sea ice to hunt for food, but the swim is too far. The cub doesn’t make it. It was a common story this year in the Arctic.

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Soon there might be nowhere left to swim. This year Arctic sea ice reached its lowest level in recorded history and if current trends continue there could be no summer sea ice at all in the next decade.

But instead of seeing warning signs in the melting ice, big oil and the government are seeing dollar signs. Shell has been given permits to drill in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas of the Arctic. If we burn the oil under the Arctic, it will spell the end for the polar bear.

Please make a year-end gift right now and help us raise $100,000 by midnight December 31 to save polar bear cubs from a melting Arctic. We need just 1,635 donors from California to make this happen.

We have to stop the drilling before it’s too late.

Shell’s plans have already been put on hold until next year thanks to Mother Nature, the company’s own incompetence and the success of our global campaign. Now is our opportunity to make sure they don’t get the chance to go back.

In the last week alone we’ve flooded the White House with over 50,000 messages asking President Obama to suspend Shell’s drilling permits and call a ‘timeout’ on Arctic drilling. Now we need your financial support to ramp up our campaign around the world calling for the creation of a global sanctuary in the high Arctic.

We’re running a worldwide campaign to create a sanctuary in the uninhabited area around the North Pole off limits to industrialization. And this spring we’ll be leading an expedition to the North Pole and planting a ‘Flag for the Future’ there. The flag will send a message of peace, hope and global community and will be designed by the world’s youth as part of an international competition. A stark contrast to the flags planted by nation states fighting over the exploitation of resources.

We’ll also be taking a time capsule to the North Pole containing the names of the over two million people who added their name to our Arctic Scroll. Once there, we will lower it four kilometers beneath the ice and plant it on the seabed as a symbol for all humanity.

None of this is possible without your support. Please make a year-end gift today to help save polar bears cubs once and for all, protect the environment and ensure that we reach our goal of $100,000 by December 31.

Greenpeace is completely independent. We don’t take a dime from corporations or governments. That means we can do whatever is needed to protect the environment. It also means we completely rely on donors like you making a gift today to support all of our campaigns.

Thanks for all you do,

Philip Radford
Greenpeace USA Executive Director

Museums Connecting Us All

Dear Gabriel,

Museums aren’t just rainy day activities. They shed light on accomplishments and cultures. They give us all a chance to encounter “celebrity” items while giving them contextual significance. In many cases, museums are the best available tools to truly connect the past to our present.

One exciting new museum will give us a chance to learn about American narratives too often shunted aside. Learn more about how you can help make African American history come alive for our country and for future generations.

Unfortunately, museums like this one are few and far between in America, despite the diverse available content. As far as I’m concerned, that’s all the more reason for us to show how much we celebrate treasures that illustrate African American history and culture!

As Americans, we all share the responsibility of preserving African American history and culture as best we can. Show your support for the celebration and preservation of African American history and culture today.

Thanks for taking action,

Claire K.
Care2 and ThePetitionSite Team

Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus

Guest blog for Washington Post
by Vineet Chander, Valarie Kaur and Najeeba Syed-Miller
12 August 1012

In Conversation: Sikhism, Islam, and Hinduism

One week after the Sikh shootings in Oak Creek, Americans have learned more about the Sikh community, many for the first time. A brief introduction to Sikhism has caused people to wonder about the relationship between Sikhism, Hinduism and Islam.

Each religion is a distinct tradition with unique sets of beliefs, practices and values, and at the same time, all three have coexisted for many hundreds of years in the South Asian region of the world. India is home to one of the world’s largest Muslim populations and the birthplace of Hinduism and Sikhism. Of course, it has often been a complex, difficult and troubling history. But we have also seen moments of solidarity between these communities. We recall the slogan some of our grandparents used to sing in India: Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isaee! Hum Saray Hai Bhai Bhai! “Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian. We are all brothers (and sisters).”

In the U.S., Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs share similar challenges in our pursuit to live, work, and worship in caring and safe communities. Hindu and Muslim Americans across the nation have reached out to Sikh neighbors to express their grief and support. In that spirit, we three authors – a Hindu American chaplain, a Muslim American peacemaker, and a Sikh American advocate – engaged in a conversation about the similarities and differences between our faith traditions.

How We See God

Vineet: Hinduism is the oldest of the three faith traditions, made up of diverse practices and beliefs that all approach the divine differently. In fact, Hinduism itself is so diverse that it is difficult and even misleading to categorize it using Western frameworks like “monotheistic” or “polytheistic.” Still, most Hindus say that, ultimately, they believe in one Supreme Being who is both transcendent and imminent. Some Hindus emphasize God’s oneness with the universe, seeing the divine in everything and everything in the Divine. Others emphasize God’s distinct personality and form, seeing Him as our divine parent and us as His eternal servants. Hinduism also recognizes the presence of devatas (often translated as “demigods”), celestial beings who manage the affairs of the cosmos. Hindus see devatas similar to angels or partial manifestations or energies of the One Supreme. Hindu teachers often speak of God as a great flame from which small sparks (all beings) emanate. In this sense, Hinduism holds that the divine is inconceivably one with His creation and yet always infinitely more vast and powerful. Hinduism suggests that Divinity can thus be manifest in the natural world, and that an important part of spiritual wisdom is learning to recognize it.

Najeeba: As a Muslim, I believe in the divine presence of God. Often you might here this referred to as Allah, which simply translated into English means “The God.” Islam is founded on the belief in tawhid, or the oneness of God, a monotheistic divine entity with no particular form and not in the image of a person. The Koran describes God as the light of the heavens and of the earth. God is also described with 99 attributes including the one we as Muslims call upon before any act, “the Most Merciful.” Muslims follow a tradition of prophet Muhammad that states, “God is beautiful and loves beauty.” God is viewed as deeply connected to the spiritual consciousness of humans and accessible through prayer. Even the plants and trees of this Earth are considered as part of the forms that adore God according to the Koran. Oneness of humankind emanates from the belief in one God, and the diversity of humankind under the umbrella of a common humanity. The basis for relations with other humans is mercy. Prophet Muhammad said “God does now show mercy to those who do not show mercy to others.” The holy book of the Muslims is the Koran and the sayings of the prophet Muhammad are the hadith, which are important sources for religious understanding. Muslims share with Christians and Jews many common prophets, from Adam to Jesus who is viewed as an important prophet but not the son of God. Muslims also highly value education; prophet Muhammad instructed Muslim women and men to pursue knowledge from “the cradle to the grave.” Thus, individual Muslims are also encouraged to learn for themselves and insure that they are always intellectually and spiritually improving themselves throughout the course of their lives.

Valarie: Sikhism is the youngest of the three religions. The Sikh religion was born in 15th century Punjab (now northern India and Pakistan), a rich meeting place for Hinduism and Islam that oversaw the rise of devotional (bhakti) traditions on either side of the Hindu-Muslim divide: Sufi Islam called for inward love for Allah, and Hindu Bhakti traditions advocated personal devotion. The founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak, established a new devotional tradition based on direct loving devotion to one divine, Ik Onkar, and a commitment to social justice. As a Sikh, I see God as infinite, formless, creative, without fear and enmity, timeless, and self-existent. The unity of all that we know – human and divine – forms the basis of all of our relationships. “God’s in the self and the self is in God,” says Guru Nanak. “The fire is put out through knowing the One is within and without.” God is called by hundreds of names in the devotional poems of our scripture: Vaheguru, Hari, Allah. Through constant remembrance of the Divine, we silence the ego, realize mystical union beyond language and thought, and experience the interconnectedness between self and all. The experience is mukti, liberation: the feeling of freedom and ecstatic bliss when “the breath sparks and the sky thunders.” It produces an unending flow of compassion for all beings, fulfilled through seva or divinely-inspired service.

How We Pray

Vineet: Hindus engage in spiritual practice (called sadhana) in a variety of ways. They engage in ritual worship, formally in temples or informally in their homes. Such worship may involve reciting prayers or chanting sacred mantras, observing periodic fasting, or offering gifts in charity to the less fortunate. In addition, Hindus may practice their faith through study of sacred texts, through regular meditation and introspection, and even (or, we might say, especially) through performing their day-to-day duties in a selfless and generous spirit, in a way that uplifts themselves and others. While Hindus may occasionally emphasize some of these practices over others, most Hindus see them all as interconnected pieces of a singular, cohesive engagement with their faith. One of the most often misunderstood Hindu practices, at least in the West, is the use of visual representations or icons of the divine. Many Hindus (though not all) believe in connecting with God through forms, called murtis, considering them to be manifestations of the supreme in tangible forms that we can relate to and render service to. This allows Hindus to focus their meditation, have a more personal exchange with God, and to express their devotion to Him through rituals.

Najeeba: Ritual prayer is prescribed five times a day and in addition, zakat, or alms giving to the poor are key practices at the core of a Muslim community. Muslims may worship communally at the masjid, and congregational prayer accompanied by a sermon are regular features in the life of a Muslim community held on the designated Jum’ah of Friday of every week Muslims perform rituals of fasting during the month of Ramadan which is our current 30 day spiritual exercise in self-regulation and avoiding of food, anger and arguments during the day light hours Muslims also avoid consumption of alcohol or other intoxicating substances with the understanding that clarity of the mind is important to utilize the gift of aql or reason to make good decisions in life. Muslims are always concerned about their internal state as it relates to honesty, good works and kindness to others. “Every act is but its intention,” is a teaching of Prophet Muhammad and so reflecting on why one is doing even good acts becomes important so that one’s ego is not inflated. Contemplative practices such as dhikr (ritual chanting), dua (supplication) and other spiritual practices are utilized to bring one’s higher self into consciousness and work to reduce the ego. Family is the organizing unit of a Muslim community and honoring mothers, fathers and the elderly is considered a righteous act.

Valarie: Sikhs pray together in houses of worship and learning called gurdwaras [doorways to the divine] where we recite and sing devotional songs or shabads from our scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib. Through music and poetry, we meditate on the name of God in order to taste the bliss of divine union. In our devotion to the divine, Sikhs wear five articles of faith, including kesh (uncut hair), meant for women and men equally. Men traditionally wrapped their long hair in turbans. Some women wear turbans too, but most simply cover their heads with headscarves when praying. Our faith teaches equality between women and men and people of all classes and backgrounds. Our tenth leader requested us to drop our surnames (a marker of social status), and instead, embrace a shared surname: all women adopted the last name “Kaur” and men took the last name “Singh.” “Sikh” literally means ‘to learn,’ calling us to learn our whole lives.

How We Serve

Najeeba: Muslims are constantly admonished to perform sadaqa or charity for people within our community and for those who are not Muslim as well, especially for neighbors. The teaching regarding neighbors is not only for Muslims, it extends to the greater community whoever they may be and the circumference of neighbors is considered nearly one’s whole city by some scholars. According to the Koran, Muslims must give charity to many categories of individuals including: the poor, the needy, orphans, widows, those traveling and without homes. Charity is in many forms, it can be in actual money or comfort. Prophet Muhammad instructed Muslims that “The doors of goodness are many… removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one’s arms–all of these are charity prescribed for you.” He also said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.” Inherent in this structure of offering charity is to also ensure that those who are in the situation of potentially being abused must also be given justice in terms of their rights. Many second generation Muslims in the United States have become engaged in civil rights work, environmental justice and social work projects because of the emphasis on caring for those who have little access to resources or power to change their circumstances for the better.

Vineet: Hinduism has traditionally championed extending charity and justice to others as an inseparable part of living a life of dharma. Classical texts, such as the Upanishads and the Gita, describe that one the fundamental virtues to aspire towards is the awareness of the interconnectedness of all beings. Thus, these texts teach, the wise share in the joys of others and work to alleviate their suffering. More recently, the saints of the Bhakti movement—a movement of spiritual and social reformers renewing Hinduism’s devotional tradition, spanning from the 12th century to the modern day—have echoed these sentiments, and have even taken them further. “The truly devout Hindu,” one teacher declared, “is known best by this quality: he cannot tolerate the suffering of another.”

Valarie: Sikhs often recite the line from scripture: “Truth is higher than everything else; but higher still is truthful living.” We express our devotion through living an honest life of service to all. Sikhism has three pillars in our practice: Naam Japna, remembrance of the divine; Kirat Karna, earning an honest living, and Vand Chakna, sharing all resources with society. Every gurdwara serves langar, a free communal meal open to all people, and this practice encourages a commitment to divinely-inspired service or seva. A new generation of Sikh Americans is engaging in seva through various forms of service: making films, running social action campaigns, becoming lawyers, public servants, scholars, and more. In the wake of the tragic shooting in Oak Creek, Sikh Americans organized vigils, worked with law enforcement, and in a time of grief, found the courage to call for an end to hate and violence – not just against our community but all people.

What Inspires Us

Vineet: I draw my inspiration from the Bhagavad Gita (a sacred Hindu text which means “the Song of God”). The Gita is a dialogue between Arjuna, a great prince, and Lord Krishna, who is revealed to be the Supreme in human-like form. Throughout the text, Krishna teaches about dharma, one’s right way of living. He suggests that one should perform activities in a spirit of service and detachment, and especially emphasizes love and devotion as the essence of all religious practice. In the Gita, Lord Krishna displays his awe-inspiring majesty as the creator of all that is. And yet, he asks us to choose to be his instruments in this world. I am struck by this beautiful and seemingly paradoxical reality– that we can be so humbled and small before the Divine, and yet so radically empowered to reflect his love. In my own life and work, I aspire to be an instrument of this love, compassion, and justice in all that I do.

Najeeba: I am a peacemaker, a Muslim and an American. Deeply embedded in my beliefs is the saying of prophet Muhammad that Muslims were commanded to “make peace,” with others and that we are to be a mercy for others. In every facet of my life I seek to make peace between people and to save human lives, my faith guides me in the Koranic injunction that to save one human is as if one saved all of humanity.

Thus, whenever violence occurs, I find ways to make peace between people and to contribute to my country, my neighborhood and my family. Fidelity to my nation is also a key belief for Muslims, when one takes an oath, adhering to it is a central tenet of Islamic teaching and for me the basis of my commitment to my country.

With Vineet and Valarie I share a love of South Asian cultural heritage and the many common values we share as Americans to work together to build stronger ties between all communities with peace at its heart.
Valarie: The Sikh ideal is the warrior-saint: one who walks the earth devoted to God and committed to fight injustice in all forms. In the 17th century, a Sikh woman Mai Bhago became the first female warrior-saint and led Sikhs who had abandoned battle back into battle herself: she became the warrior-saint she was waiting for. Inspired by Mai Bhago, my modern-day sword and shield is film and law: using storytelling and advocacy, I am grateful to be able to fight and serve my community alongside my fellow Sikhs and Americans.

Valarie Kaur, a filmmaker, legal advocate, and interfaith organizer, is founding director of Groundswell, a multifaith initiative. Her documentary “Divided We Fall” is the first feature film on hate crimes against Sikh Americans after 9/11. Follow her on Twitter at @valariekaur.

Vineet Chander is coordinator for Hindu Life at Princeton University, a Religious Life Leader at the Lawrenceville School, and adjunct professor at Farleigh Dickinson University. Follow him on Twitter at@vineetchander.

Najeeba Syeed-Miller is a professor at Claremont School of Theologyand director/founder of the Center for Global Peacebuilding. She is two-time recipient of the Jon Anson Ford Award from the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission and a leading figure in the establishment of Claremont Lincoln University, a jointly owned university with Muslim, Hindu, Jain, Jewish and Christian partners. You can fol. Follow her on Twitter at @najeebasyeed

For additional photos and links, go to Washington Post.

From Poverty to Entrepreneur

Dear Gabriel

There’s an amazing group of women you’re not supposed to know about. Rising from outcasts to community leaders, hundreds of thousands of empowered women are changing the course of business history – of world history. These entrepreneurs are breaking the chains of poverty and oppression. Today, FINCA invites you to join them in shaping a new future.

Many commercial banks refuse to give these women access to credit or any other financial services, but FINCA knows they are as capable of running successful businesses as men. We also know that women are more likely to repay their loans on time. By providing this credit, FINCA is fueling a revolutionary approach to ending poverty.

Our faith in women productively managing their loans and businesses is leading to thousands of newly EMPOWERED women.

Time and time again, our clients tell us that our faith in them has led to economic independence and a sense of dignity and pride never experienced before. This new self-esteem transforms women’s power relationships, resulting in greater respect from their husbands and children, and enabling them to become leaders in their communities.

One measure of the sense of empowerment our clients feel can be found in the heightened sense of self-determination they have reported to us in the surveys we have conducted with them:

94% of FINCA Malawi clients interviewed felt able or mostly able to make important decisions on their own that could change the course of their lives.

90% of FINCA clients in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan felt able or mostly able to make important decisions on their own.

By supporting FINCA today you can empower women to shape futures free from poverty for themselves and their children. Please give generously. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Vice President,
New Business Development
FINCA.org

Changing Lives In Rwanda

News from the Rwandan Orphans Project

Great Leaps Forward

It was April 2010 when the ROP Center moved from a dark and dingy warehouse to the beautiful site we occupy now. That move was a giant step forward for the organization, one that we’re still very proud of today. In the last two years a lot of ideas, work and money have been put into what was once just an abandoned school on the outskirts of Kigali, reshaping it into the wonderful orphanage and school it is today.

But this month that reminds us of our past has also brought with it some great news about the future of the ROP. Engineers Without Borders, a large international organization, has chosen to partner with the ROP to build a new school and education center on the land we acquired late last year. This comes as great news because it will be the first facility constructed on what will be the future home of the entire ROP Center, and it will feature classrooms and learning facilities custom built to address the needs and challenges of teaching and learning in Rwanda. Everyone from the children to the teachers to the administration is very excited to see the project get started in June when the first team of EWB engineers is scheduled to visit the site and begin planning the design and construction.

This is just another remarkable milestone in the short history of the ROP. In just a few short years we have gone from an overcrowded warehouse with a leaky roof and no electricity to our current home that, while great, we are having to rent for a large fee each month. Now we are on the verge of building on our very own land, and we couldn’t be more excited about the future of the ROP.

The new ROP school will be just one facility of many we hope will someday occupy our sprawling land in the Kibaya valley. Of course we also hope to build new living spaces and other necessary needs for the orphans and vulnerable children who live with us. But we also want to expand the ROP to be more than an orphanage and school. One day we would like it to be an all encompassing community center where local impoverished families can seek help educating and caring for their own children through our academic and vocational training programs, where they can seek the advice and assistance of our social workers, and benefit from other programs.

While the ROP is still a small grassroots organization, our dreams and ambitions are large. We feel that, with the ongoing support and enthusiasm of our donors (people like you) we can reach them and even surpass them. So stay tuned. More good news to come!

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