Vigil for the victims of New Zealand attack

Sometimes you feel helpless when bad things happen thousands of miles away. I felt I needed to show solidarity with those who are suffering.

In the days after the Christchurch killings I felt utterly helpless. In the past when I have seen such suffering I have been able to help by sending to money to those who need it. This time is different as how can you let people know that these people are not alone and we won’t sit silently allowing such hate and evil go unnoticed.

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I follow a north east group which protests against racism and those who chose to stir up hatred within the entire country. They felt it was necessary to hold a vigil for the people who have survived the massacre in New Zealand.

It was amazing to see so many gather in St Nicolas’s Cathedral, Newcastle. It isn’t surprising but very sad at the same time that we have witnesses the rise of hate-related incidents in this country and it parts of the world. People’s inability to leave in a harmonious way has led us into some terrible times.

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The rise in social media and people sharing unsavoury views about certain groups has led some in our society to have views which I think are plainly warped. Their views about the Muslim community has been distorted by those who have played a dangerous divisive game for years. Spreading lies and mistruths for their own agenda.

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Thank goodness now the social media companies have started to crack down on those who spread hate. The main ones have put the brakes on those who spread hatred. They have decried their so-called action as attempt to ‘silence’ and ‘censor’ them. This only plays into the hands of the supporters as it gets them angry even though there are thousands of other ways in which hatred can be spread throughout the world.

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The evening was a peaceful reflection where there were members representing a number of faiths, including those from the Jewish and Roma communities, came together as one. As someone with no faith I still strongly believe in standing shoulder to shoulder with those in a minority who had suffered in such a way.

Dipu Ahad is a Labour councillor in Newcastle and was the person who introduced some people to speak about the attack in New Zealand. It was heart-warming to hear of the generosity of those who had reached out to the community on the other side of the world. As I said at the beginning of this post I certainly felt helpless at being unable to share my sympathies with those who were hurting but after this evenings vigil I felt I was able to give my support to the victims of hate and violence.

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Billy Preston

Billy Preston isn’t a name you would have heard of and probably wouldn’t know what part he played in music history. 

I was mulling over some time today and listening to some Beatles songs and it got me thinking about their infamous roof top concert they played at the end of the 60s. I was reminding myself of how much I love the song their performed called ‘Don’t let me down’. It was during this performance I noticed a man playing keyboards and wanted to know who he was and what connecting he had to the band.

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My first reaction to him was that I loved the hair. But who was he and where did come from? His name was Billy Preston and he was born in Houston, Texas and his family eventually moved to Los Angeles where Billy was a renowned child prodigy as his keyboard skills had got him work with Little Richard as his keyboardist (their name not mine). It was while performing in Hamburg in the early 60s he met the Beatles.

Billy hooked up with the band again just as they were breaking up at the end of the decade and he played during the ‘Get Back sessions’ and kept the band together for what would be some of their final work.

He struggled all through his life with sexuality, knowing he was gay, which was in direct conflict with his strict evangelical Christianity. It must have been terrible of him knowing that who he was in a life which would have been fraught with guilt and self-loathing as homosexuality to those around him was a grave sin.

During the latter years of his life he struggled with drugs as it was a way of coping with the sexual abuse he suffered a child. It didn’t help his well-being that his mother did not believe him when he disclosed the abuse he had experienced.

Billy passed away in 2006 as a result of hypertension and pericarditis. He was 59.

In some ways the world has made great steps in LGBT inclusivity but still there remains pockets of hatred and ignorance when read of stories where people have been attack or worse killed because of their own sexuality.

Holy Week – Good Friday

Also known as Great Friday, Black Friday and Holy Friday. We have reached the most crucial part of the week.

We look at the accounts in the gospels and they speak of Jesus being arrested. Judas has carried out his final act and has told the Romans and the priests where to find Jesus. He has been paid. Later in the book of Matthew, we learn that Judas returns the money to the priests and then hangs himself.

Judas must have known as Jesus was taken away what would happen to Jesus his overwhelming guilt and betrayal cause him to commit what some Christian’s say is a sinful act.

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There is no doubt that in the lead up to Jesus crucifixion that there was terrible suffering. Jesus had prayed to his father that if he could be spared this sacrifice let it be done but this was not too happen and Jesus would die.

Jesus was brought before the priests and he was found guilty of blasphemy by claiming to be the son of god. He was sentenced to be crucified. The Romans were a pretty ruthless bunch of people and believed that by publically flogging someone and nailing them to wood it would deter would-be thieves and murderers from committing any crimes.

Jesus death Christian’s believe is a sacrifice for all bad things people have done. Taking on the sins of the world people can have a relationship with their creator.

Holy Week – Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday is now here and it reminds Christians of a time when Jesus gives his ultimate commandment.

Most Theologians and believers point to the fact that the word ‘Maundy’ comes from the middle English and old French mandé – from the Latin mandate which we get the word ‘mandate’. It’s definition is an official order or a commision to do something.

“A new command I give unto you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34 NIV)

When someone faces death they want to know that people who are left behind are safe and happy. Jesus knew his fate and that those disciples would now go out and give the message of the gospel to the rest of the world.

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It seems now that more than ever that commandment is relevant to a world that often seems lacking in love and compassion.

Christians are reminded of the Last Supper. The time that Jesus spends with his disciples eating and drinking in his presence. He reminds them that each time that they do eat and drink they remember him. They should give thanks for his life and the sacrifice that he is about to make.

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My thoughts turn to the music of Tomás Luis de Victoria his work is seen as one of those most prominent in the counter-reformation. An accomplished organist and Catholic priest his music for my bring an auditory musical side to Easter we are often denied when swamped with adverts for boxed chocolate eggs and synthetic families smiling and laughing over the Easter Sunday meal table.

Have a listen. Take time. Reflect. Even if you aren’t a Christian or have no religion. Just taking time out of your day over the next few days.

Holy Week – Monday to Wednesday

So we have to reached Monday in Holy Week. You think nothing happens on these days but you are wrong. 

The days between Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday are called Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday and (something I didn’t know) Spy Wednesday. What a great name but we will get to that in a minute, first Holy Monday.

Christian’s remember the anointing of Jesus at Bethany. A woman who is believed to be Mary (not the mother of Jesus) but another – who Jesus had previously forgiven  – pour ed some very expensive oil onto Jesus’ feet. There are some suggestions that she was partly in giving thanks for her forgiveness others say it was a way of calming him before he was put to death on the cross.

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The one thing that is noticed by others who witnessed this was that the oil was expensive and probably the equivalent to a year’s wages. Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus complained that it could have been sold to help the pour but Jesus knew it was an exemplary act of kindness.

Holy Tuesday is a day when some Christians will remember the prediction of Christ’s death. Some readings in the church are of the passion of Jesus. In other words, the time of Christ’s suffering in the days leading up to his crucifixion.

Spy Wednesday is a time when Christian’s will remember the beginning of the end. The time when all the doubts and fears of Jesus’ followers accumulate in the man that is about to betray Jesus. Some Christian’s will say that this is the time when true evil entered Judas’ heart and he plotted to hand Jesus over to the authorities. A time when they realise that Jesus will soon die.

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Conspiracy theories the new religion

You used to be laughed at if you believed in conspiracy theories and not the truth. Now the tables are turned. You aren’t normal if you don’t believe in them. 

I am really having a hard time with the internet and humans at the moment. I have spoken a few years ago about the ridiculousness of conspiracy theories. People who have revisionistic ideas about how they view past events and some atrocities claiming certain things didn’t take place.

I want to know why people believe in conspiracy theories and can this be linked in the same way that humans attach religion to themselves by giving their lives meaning, purpose and hope.

The fact that as humans we look for an explanation of events and occurrences. We want to know why things happen. The part of our brain the amygdala is the thing that kick-starts the processes of emotion. It starts out processing fear of something so when we are confronted with that which should scare us into running eg. enormous cat with a mallet chasing after us.

Our evolutionary brain helps us decide that which is a real or false threat. Then we look for the reason why something happened. One assumes that in child-psychology and development as a young person grows constantly as the question  ‘why?’ – a characteristic that parents no doubt will attest.

Our brains are processing that all that information and it’s not to say some conspiracy theories are all false, some do in fact turn out to be true. Someone, like myself, claims to be a free-thinker we are able to process quite clearly that which is true and that which is complete bullshit.

Take for example these posts from The Daily Star I have collected over the last year. These are all headline news topics written and presented to get you to (click bate) click and read. If you were to only get your news and information from this one site you probably be a nervous wreck unsure whether to the world is coming to end by either freezing to death, nuclear war or being fried in your own juices due to a heatwave.

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When I was researching this post I found it fascinating that some people have a propensity to believe in conspiracy theories and this then moves on to confirmation bias. So even if you have all the facts in front of you people will still tend to trust their own thoughts and beliefs. That which you think is true is confirmed eg. all Chinese people eat green rice. You will seek out that information which confirms your belief rather than rationally choosing to look over information provided to form a new opinion. You don’t challenge facts and information even though you are told otherwise which leads to belief perseverance.

Every time I hear or read of some spurious claim on social media I have to test the information rather than relaying it others to make sure I am not sharing blatant lies. Our connection to social media now has allowed being sucked into all sorts of conspiracies and falsehoods.

Religion tends to rely on higher powers and hierarchical structures to confirm and guide people in all situations. Lots of people will claim that they are not a slave to anyone else yet allow facebook sites, twitter accounts, fanatical leaders to provide them with their own assumptions of the world.

So for me, I think those people who dance behind the pied-pipers of conspiracy theories are just the same as those who readily make decisions about their own lives according to how their holy scriptures or priests tell them. There’s no such thing as a free-thinking follower of religion neither is there someone who subscribes to organisations who promote and encourage ridiculous conspiracies.

Religious Hate Crime

Golding and Fransen jailed for what the judge said: “It was a campaign to draw attention to the race, religion and immigrant background of the defendants.”

I am no fan of the Christian Institute. I think their reporting is biased and targets the LGBT community unfairly. In a blog post, I wrote in July last year I explained to them that despite their claim that LGBT community is only 1.7% of the population nearly 50% of their youtube videos were about or mentioned LGBT people.

“I still believe despite the progress that this country as made we have a long way to go to be accepted in society. I did a short survey of the Christian Institute’s YouTube channel and tallied up the number of videos they had posted in 2017 to their site. It’s a total of 170 videos and out of that 69 videos mentioned LGBT issues; that’s nearly 41%. Even in their own videos, they quote that LGBT people only make up 1.7% of society; they devote nearly half of their content to LGBT issues.”

I know that I don’t like their views and I am certainly unhappy that they target people in the gay community with their own ideas about sexuality. I accept they hold those views as they are entitled to do so. That’s what is meant by free speech.

Let’s say for example got really angry with them and travelled to their offices and demanded to speak to someone in their organisation. If didn’t feel I had been heard and to make my views known again I could return to their premises and ask them why they held such views about LGBT community. I could follow their director after he left work and ask him questions.

Now, this is where the law comes in. At what point do the ideas of free speech end and religiously aggravated harassment start? There is a fine line between the two and laws were set up to protect people of faith from such harassment. This is what we are as a country whether we like it or not. When you read about those laws they are there to protect the people. This is what makes us a great country of respect for others religion.

But I have read comments about Fransen and Golding:

“18 WEEKS IN JAIL BUT MUSLIM RAPISTS AND KILLERS GET NOTHING FOR THEIR CRIMES AND THEIR CRIMES ARE REAL CRIMES…..SCREW EUROPE I’M STAYING RIGHT HERE…” – Lack of knowledge about the case. The perpetrators were jailed.

Other comments are either to foul to write or completely left-field and have nothing to do with the case.

I have said it before more education is needed in religion, not the lack of it or total removal as some have advocated. Just because you understand something does not mean that you have to agree with it.

Detective Inspector Bill Thornton of Kent Police said: ‘The crimes committed by Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen were abhorrent and motivated by religious insensitivities.

‘They claimed to be exposing the men who had been accused of rape when in reality they knew little about the case in question and could have put the trial at risk due to their reckless actions.

‘It was the bravery of the female who was attacked and the tireless work of Kent Police detectives who ensured the men responsible are now serving a significant period of time behind bars, not because of any misguided attempt by Golding and Fransen to claim credit for their conviction by bringing religion into the equation.

‘The fact that completely innocent members of the public were accused of being rapists, making them fear for their own safety, shows how little regard they have for the consequences of their actions.

‘Kent Police simply will not tolerate any offences that are motivated by prejudice and hate, and will investigate all such incidents thoroughly in order to bring those responsible in front of the courts.