Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘Nigeria’

32 Recipes for Joy

51jMFwLXU2LFinding Joy Around the World by Kari Joys MS.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Join the author, and people from around the world, as they describe what joy means to them, and how they came to find it. Kari Joys, “While happiness is often defined as the experience of well-being, satisfaction or pleasure in your life, joy includes those characteristics, but it also brings with it the qualities of spirituality, higher consciousness and true delight.”

Most all of those in Finding Joy Around the World have dealt with some kind of loss, trauma, or difficult situation in their lives (death, poverty, abuse, loss, etc.), and all of them share their story. Whatever they have lived through, or had happen, did not prevent them from still finding joy in their lives. In fact, many felt that their hardships are what helped them search for joy, and try to find some kind of meaning in life. Here is what some of the thirty-two people interviewed had to say:

Santosh Sagara (Nepal) – “Joy means mindfulness and peace within.”
Gede Prama (Indonesia) – Read and meditated to find joy.
Deb Scott (USA) – Experiences joy through prayer and volunteering.
Barasa Mayari (Kenya) – “Trust in God has been the anchor.”
Sylvester Anderson (USA) – “Never give up on yourself.”
Jayne Spenceley (England) – “Feeling expansive from the inside out.”
Hanneke van den Berg (Netherlands) – “Connections with myself and others.”
Sakatar Singh (India) – “Read good books and make friends.”
Ashleigh Burnet (Canada) – Believes meditation is instrumental.
Gimba A. (Nigeria) – Gets joy when he can “care for my children.”
Eugenie Areve (France) – “Love ourselves unconditionally.”
Bill Zhang (China) – “A state of feeling ‘good enough'”.
Marcia Conduru (Brazil) – “We are more than our ego.”

Ms. Joys noticed some common threads which ran through the responses from all those she contacted (or who contacted her). They are provided in a list of ten traits at the end. Some of the conclusions are that joy is experienced in the present moment; gratitude is a big component; it grows out of compassion for others; when noticing beauty of nature; and there is often a connection to the “divine”, or something greater than ourselves.

Many of the responses in this work remind me of my book Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call, which is a compilation of interviews I did with fifteen people who had someone die, and then decided to help others in some way as a result. Some are well known, and others not so. This was written before the internet, so I did all the interviews in person across the USA and Israel.

Finding Joy Around the World is an inspiring mix of tales and observations, from a variety of people around the globe. Ms. Joys asks all the right questions, and lets the kind people who responded answer in their own words. Each person’s story begins with a quote from a famous writer, or person, which corresponds perfectly. Thus, Joseph Campbell is quoted before one of the participants shares their understanding and experience of joy. “Find a place inside where there’s joy and the joy will burn out the pain.”

The Land Is Wasted

Dear Gabriel,

Emmanuel Kuru’s livelihood was destroyed.

In August 2008, the Shell Oil pipeline that ran through his property in the Niger Delta burst, smothering everything in its path with crude oil. His life as a fisherman and a farmer was wrecked.

“The land is wasted. Oil kills everything. We are stranded.”

Shell’s oil spill took away Emmanuel’s livelihood, his drinking water, the economic value of his land — his very way of life.

His neighbors, and tens of thousands of people living along the Niger Delta, have suffered the same devastating fate caused by oil spill after oil spill. While the Niger Delta has been awash in pollution, Shell has been swimming in profits — $30.9 billion globally in 2011.

Tell Shell — Own up. Pay up. Clean up. Make this message loud, clear and inescapable — add your name to Amnesty’s petition demanding justice for Emmanuel and the people harmed by Shell in the Niger Delta.

Ahead of Shell’s Annual General Meeting this May, Amnesty will deliver the signatures of hundreds of thousands of activists from around the world in an unsparing public message to CEO Peter Voser and Shell shareholders.

Oil spills are endemic in the Niger Delta, and Shell is the biggest culprit. Why does the oil giant refuse to come clean about its spills in Nigeria? Just yesterday, Amnesty International and the Nigerian NGO, the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development, released new analysis showing that at least 103,000 barrels of oil were spilled over 72 days in Emmanuel’s town of Bodo — more than 60 times the volume that Shell repeatedly has claimed leaked.

But thanks to activists like you, corporations like Shell can’t hide their human rights abuses anymore. Amnesty International is calling Shell out in a big way, urging the company to make a clear and public commitment to contribute $1 billion as an initial payment to an independent clean-up fund.

People like Emmanuel deserve justice: a full clean-up, real reparations and a beginning to an end to their nightmare.

It’s time to hold Shell accountable and ensure it cleans up its act in Nigeria. Add your name to Amnesty’s petition against Shell today.

In solidarity,

Tanuka Loha
Director, Demand Dignity Campaign
Amnesty International USA

Torture In Nigeria

Dear Gabriel,

After months of torture in Nigeria, labor activists Osmond Ugwu and Raphael Elobuike will go to trial Friday on murder charges that human rights groups call “an apparent bid by the police and prosecution to silence union activists.” And the two activists could face the death penalty if they lose.

But Damian Ugwu (no relation to Osmond) knows that the only “crime” the two men have committed is empowering workers in Nigeria to demand fair compensation and humane treatment.

Damian is convinced that international outcry can save Osmond and Raphael — not only from an unfair sentencing but from the possibility of assassination while imprisoned, too, which their friends fear. He started a petition on Change.org calling on government officials to drop all charges against Osmond and Raphael and release them immediately.

Click here to sign Damian’s petition calling for imprisoned labor activists Osmond Ogwu and Raphael Elobuike to be released immediately, and all charges against them dropped.

As an activist with the Social Justice Advocacy Initiative in Lagos, Damian has seen, again and again, how set-ups like this have succeeded in silencing human rights and labor activists. In fact, he says it’s not uncommon practice for the Attorney General, who’s tasked with bringing capital charges like murder, to show up at pre-trial hearings and trials for politically charged cases to intimidate judges.

But even with only a few hundred signatures on his petition so far, Damian says it is already making a difference: At the most recent pre-trial hearing for Osmond and Raphael, the Attorney General was conspicuously absent.

In the few days left before Osmond and Raphael’s trial, a surge in international outcry could tip the balance and save these two labor heroes from being wrongly sentenced, and possibly even put to death.

Click here to sign Damian’s petition calling on Nigerian authorities to release non-violent labor activists Osmond Ugwu and Raphael Elobuike immediately, and drop the false charges against them.

Thanks for being a change-maker,

– Weldon and the Change.org team

Muslim’s Condemn Bombings

Muslim Leaders Condemn Christmas Day Bombings
27 December 2011

From Kunle Akogun, Damilola Oyedele in Abuja, John Shiklam in Kaduna, Tunde Sanni in Ibadan, Mohammed Aminu in Sokoto and Hammed Shittu in Ilorin.

The umbrella Islamic body for Muslims in the North, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), yesterday condemned the bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State and another church in Jos, Plateau State, saying it is not in a religious war against Christians. Both incidents claimed the lives of over 40 persons.

But the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the 19 Northern states and FCT warned yesterday that the attacks may spark a religious war.

Secretary General of JNI, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, while reacting to the bombings in a telephone interview with THISDAY, said Islam, as a religion, respects human lives and would do everything to preserve it.

“Human lives must be preserved and protected by all including security agencies; it is rather unfortunate that Nigerians are losing their lives to bomb blasts,” Aliyu said.

The Islamic body also tasked security agencies to fish out the perpetrators and bring them to justice, stressing that it is only when the culprits are fished out and punitive measures taken against them that it would serve as deterrent to others planning to carry out such nefarious activities.

In his reaction, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, who joined other Muslims in voicing condemnation against Boko Haram, said taking of human lives in the name of religion was strange in Islam.

The sultan, at the formal opening of Islamic Vacation Course (IVC) organised by Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN), B-Zone, said dispute could only be resolved through dialogue and not by violence or bloodbath.

He said Islam abhorred violence and called for unity among Muslims to address the challenges facing them.
“Violence is not part of the tenets of Islam and would never be allowed to tarnish the image of the religion,” the sultan said.
Chastising Boko Haram, another Islamic group, Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC), said “cold blooded murder of innocent worshippers” was “horrifying and sickening”.

In a statement by its Director of Media and Communications, Disu Kamor, MPAC described the perpetrators of the dastardly act as “criminal and devilish hate cultists bent on imposing their evil ideology on us”.

“On this occasion and in similar incidents, Nigerian Muslims and Muslims everywhere stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Christian brothers and sisters and we are determined to continue to work together to remove the mischief of those seeking to destroy peaceful co-existence and harmony. We feel the sorrow and share the grief of all that were affected by this tragedy – this evil attack is a crime committed against mankind,” MPAC added.

Also, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) said it is “shocked and petrified by this development”.
MURIC in a statement by Dr. Ishaq Akintola disagreed with Boko Haram, which had said it carried out the attack to avenge the killing of Muslims during the last Sallah.

He said: “The attackers cannot claim that they were revenging the attack on Muslims in Jos during the last Eid el-Fitr on August 30, 2011 which left many Muslims dead because Christians celebrating Christmas earlier on December 25, 2010 were the first to be killed in bomb explosions.

“Nothing in the scriptures of Islam justifies this kind of attack. We therefore assert clearly, unequivocally and unambiguously that Boko Haram is not fighting for Nigerian Muslims.”

Similarly, the Chairman of the Sokoto State chapter of Izalat Bida’a Waikamtul Sunnah (JIBWIS), Sheikh Abubakar Usman Mabera, said the killing of innocent citizens, under any guise, is a case of murder and in contrast to Islamic teachings.

“Whoever takes the life of a fellow human being has committed evil irrespective of his religion – whether Christian or Muslim – and will pay for his sins. So, this is an act of terrorism which is against Islamic teachings,” he said.

Mabera, who frowned on the act, said: “Almighty Allah forbids the killing of a fellow human being. Whoever thinks that he is carrying out Jihad by destroying places of worship and killing innocent citizens is ignorant of Islam because the religion forbids that.”
The Muslim Congress frowned on the Madalla blast and said the continued killing of innocent Nigerians by the activities of Boko Haram is uncalled for and should be condemned by all Nigerians.

The Amir of the Congress, Mallam Abdulraheem Lukman, said in a statement that: “The endemic killings can best be described as inhuman, wicked, condemnable and totally unacceptable in civilised societies.

“The action is even more repulsive during the periods of celebrations and this is highly condemnable.”
CAN in the 19 Northern states and Abuja has warned that attacks on churches by Boko Haram are capable of igniting a religious war in the country.

But labour unions in the country have urged Christians not to retaliate the Christmas attacks on churches in Niger, Plateau and Yobe States which left scores of people dead.

The pan-Northern Nigeria group, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), also condemned the attacks yesterday, warning that they serve no good in the prevailing circumstances.

At a news conference in Kaduna yesterday, Secretary-General of Northern CAN, Elder Saidu Dogo, said the bombing of churches and killing of Christians was an invitation to religious war in Nigeria.
Dogo urged Islamic leaders to call the perpetrators of the dastardly act to order to avert confrontation, saying that no group should push the other to the wall to fan the ember of religious war.

He said if the authorities fail to track down those behind the killings of innocent Nigerians, “we shall henceforth in the midst of these provocations and wanton destruction of innocent lives and property be compelled to make our own efforts and arrangements to protect the lives of innocent Christians and peace-loving citizens of this country”.

While calling on Christians to be law abiding, he expressed the need for them to defend themselves whenever the need arises.
He called on the Muslim Umma and Ulamas in Nigeria “to live up to their responsibilities by calling to order, all Islamic sects in the country to have respect for human lives and stop these killings. For we fear that the situation may degenerate to a religious war and Nigeria may not be able to survive as one. Once again, enough is enough”.

“We appreciate the efforts of the Federal Government and its security agents in trying to curtail these attacks. However, we are piqued that the efforts of government are being undermined by the sponsors of the Islamic fundamentalists in the North.

“We are particularly disturbed that the perpetrators of these dastardly acts and their sponsors are well known to government and no serious or decisive actions have been taken to stem their nefarious activities.

“The Federal and state Governments of Niger, Plateau, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and such other areas that these wanton destruction of lives and property have been or are being perpetrated, should arrest and bring to book all the perpetrators and their sponsors.

“Government at all levels should provide 24 hours security services to all churches, Christian religious institutions and organisations in the county, especially in the North.

“We are also calling on the federal and state governments to urgently stem these massacres of Christians and the destruction of their churches and property in the North. The attacks so far have proved that some Islamic fundamentalists want to exterminate Christianity in the Northern states. We are assuring all Christians that the church will not allow that to happen,” Dogo said.

The ACF, on its part, condemned the frequent explosions, saying the Christmas attacks were capable of diverting attention to religious crises that would serve no one good.

The forum, in a statement emailed to THISDAY by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Anthony Sani, urged Boko Haram to embrace dialogue in pursuit of the resolution of whatever grievances it had with the authorities, stressing that the bombings and killing of innocent Nigerians and destruction of property were misguided.

“The spate of bomb blasts on Christmas day, which were directed at places of worship across some parts of the North, is a serious source of concern to Arewa Consultative Forum, to Northern Leaders and to the good people of the North, indeed, to patriotic Nigerians.

“Source of concern not because past bombings were less serious but because those on the Christmas day are capable of diverting attention to religious crises that would serve no one, including the perpetrators, any good now and for a long time to come.
“Consequently, ACF calls on the perpetrators of violence to stop forthwith and avail themselves to due process of addressing perceived grievances that are in place.

“ACF also wishes to say killing of innocent Nigerians is not correct and offends God and many people’s sense of justice. This is because a good number of those who go to places of worship are not lettered in either Western or Islamic education.
“More so that Western education is not necessarily the cause of the collapse of national ideals, moral values and cause of indiscipline in the polity, since there are examples of Muslim countries and Christian countries with western education that are morally sound. Turkey belongs to the former and Nordic country of Norway belongs to the later.

“Nigerians of all faiths must therefore come together and confront corruption in all ramifications by inspiring cultural renaissance for collective good. Corruption in Nigeria is not an exclusive preserve of Western education but a national malaise that should be confronted by all, and not government alone. Enough of the bombings and killing of innocent Nigerians,” the ACF said.
The Trade Union Congress (TUC) warned that there are certain disgruntled elements in the polity who want to divide Nigeria along sectarian lines.

President General of the TUC, Comrade Peter Esele, in a telephone conversation with THISDAY in Abuja yesterday, appealed to Nigerians, especially Christians, to be calm and avoid being incited to reprisal.
He added that it was necessary for Nigerians to stay united at these critical moments and not to allow any plot that is aimed at dividing the country along religious or ethnic lines to succeed.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) called on the Federal Government to make the fight against crime and terrorism its priority rather than diverting the attention of Nigerians with its debate on the need to remove fuel subsidy.

It added that it is necessary that the root causes of insecurity – poverty and unemployment – be addressed as budgeting huge sums of money for security would not solve the problem.

In a statement yesterday, the Acting General Secretary of the NLC, Comrade Owei Lakemfa, condemned the attacks in strongest terms, describing the perpetrators as “terrorists whose minds are as blurred as their vision”.

He called on Nigerians not to be deterred by the terrorists or give up on building a peaceful and united country where the will of the people would prevail.

Own Up Shell

Shell Oil considers the oil spils it caused in Nigeria a “tragedy.” Then why does the oil giant refuse to clean up its act?

Dear Gabriel,

There used to be life and hope in the Niger Delta town of Bodo, a village filled with thriving fish ponds and mangrove trees. Then in 2008, two oil spills changed everything — twice, nearby Shell Oil pipelines spewed toxic oil for weeks before they were repaired.

“It killed all the mangrove trees, the ecosystem, everything we put there. Everything just died in a day.” –Bodo resident Christian Lekoya Kpandei

What was Shell Oil’s initial response to the devastation in Bodo, to Christian’s ruined fish ponds and livelihood? Silence.

Although Shell has accepted liability for these two spills, it is still silent on the issue of undertaking a comprehensive clean-up of the affected area, fully compensating the people whose lives have been devastated by the spills, and rehabilitating the affected area.

Counter Shell’s silence with some noise of your own. Tell Royal Dutch Shell’s CEO that it’s time his company own up, pay up and clean up its human rights mess in the Niger Delta.

The facts are indisputable. According to a recently released UN report, Shell has failed to adequately clean up pollution in the Niger Delta for years. It’s a familiar story these days — yet another corporation trying to weasel out of a mess of its own making.

Today, on the 16th anniversary of the execution of Nigerian environmental and human rights defender Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight of his fellow activists, Amnesty is launching a new report that reviews the record of the Bodo spill and adds damning new facts.

Shell Oil, which recently reported profits of $7.2 billion for July-September 2011, initially offered the Bodo community just a few thousand dollars and 50 bags of rice, beans, sugar and tomatoes as relief for the disaster.

Shell Oil is one of the three biggest companies in the world by revenue, a juggernaut in international business. But when it comes down to paying for a cleanup fund in Nigeria — to pay basic compensation to residents like Christian who lost everything in the oil spill Shell is liable for — this multinational corporation refuses to take responsibility.

Of course, if Shell commits to a $1 billion cleanup fund in Nigeria, as Amnesty is asking it to do, Shell’s shareholder profits may suffer a little. But we believe corporations should not put the profit of a few over the health and human rights of entire communities.

Stand up for “the 99%”, wherever they are. We can’t be silent while the human rights to water and livelihood are being destroyed by corporations like Shell.

Let’s win a key victory in the fight against environmental abuses in the oil industry and for human rights. Sign our petition now calling on Shell Oil to clean up its Niger Delta mess.

For justice,

Tanuka Loha
Director, Demand Dignity Campaign
Amnesty International USA

P.S. Momentum is already on our side! Just last month the US Supreme Court agreed to hear two cases that will determine whether corporations can be sued in US courts for human rights abuses committed abroad. One of them involves a group of Nigerian nationals who sued Royal Dutch Petroleum and two of its Shell Oil subsidiaries, alleging their complicity in serious human rights abuses by the Nigerian government in the early 1990s to suppress activism against the oil industry.

Cheapest Trip Ever!

It was on a gorgeous afternoon that I sat at an outside table of a local downtown coffee house and took an unexpected voyage around the world.

I had just put my derriere on a metal chair (made in Italy) and was waiting for my friend Betty (originally from Chicago) to join me with pictures of her recent trip, when the woman at the next table asked about the emblem on my shirt. I told her it was an Iranian National Soccer Team patch. She asked if I knew someone there and I said our family had an Iranian exchange student live with us for a year when I was growing up. She explained that she and her husband, who had just joined her, were fans of Majid Majidi and other Iranian filmmakers. She introduced herself, her husband and their child (Sylvie, Richard and Marcel), just as Betty sat down with her Guatemalan coffee.

Turns out that Sylvie and Richard (Oxman) put on a political/international and cultural event (including documentary films) which is called OneDance and includes filmmakers, educators and activists from around the world. They are also the proprietors of French Paintbox. Several times a year they organize retreats in the Southwest of France and meet participants from around the world. It doesn’t sound like your ordinary tour, as those on the trip have the opportunity to study and paint daily with master teachers’ such as Isabelle Maureau from l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure Des Beaux Arts De Paris. Sylvie said they also take daily excursions to botanical gardens, vineyards, museums, grottoes, country fairs, musical events, cafes, etc. She said it’s always a mixed group and you don’t have to be a painter to attend (thank goodness).

As their son Marcel, who looks like a miniature French movie star, came up to tell me that we both had on the same colored shirts (white), I thought about my wife’s French connections. I mentioned that my father-in-law spoke five languages and that he had lived in France for many years and that he and his wife (my mother-in-law) are originally from Germany. My friend Betty and her son both speak French, as does her husband (whose family goes back to Nova Scotia). Betty, obviously not thinking, asked if any of my children speak French. She should have known that that could send me on a long torrential downpour about my kids.

I looked down at my tennis shoes (made in China) and told them about my daughter, who traveled to Eastern Europe with her husband and how much they liked Italy, The Czech Republic and Turkey. Our other daughter was in Tahiti for three months, as part of her college studies. Two of our sons have been to and loved, Ireland and England and some of our best friends live in Sweden, I concluded, realizing I had never answered the question about speaking French. Sadly, I finally admitted, I don’t speak French or any other language, besides English, but both our daughters can speak Spanish, my wife German and youngest son took French for a year and a half in school. I’ve been trying to learn Kinyarwanda, which is spoken in much of East Africa (especially Rwanda), but still only know a few words.

After Sylvie, Richard and Marcel naturally tired from my monolingual linguistics, having heard all about my wife’s three-month trip to China, the Cameroon and French soccer teams and world politics, they politely said their au revoirs’. Betty was finally able to get a word in edgewise and told me about her trips to the East Coast, Nova Scotia and Nigeria.

About an hour later I walked past a World Bazaar retail store, paid my parking garage ticket (with American dollars), got in my Japanese car, turned on some Brazilian music and drove past Mexican, Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian and Afghani restaurants to my friend’s home on an Italian named street.

I’d only been at the restaurant for a couple of hours, but it seemed like I had traveled the globe. It was a pleasure meeting the Oxmans, hearing about French Paintbox and talking with Betty; but quite ironic that I, a stay-at-home American native, had felt like such a world citizen. For the price of an espresso (coffee from Nicaragua) it was definitely the cheapest trip I’ve ever taken!

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