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.

New Zealand Mosque Attack

My heartfelt sympathies go out to the friends and family of this despicable crime. New Zealand and other decent countries deserve better than this awful tragedy. 

I watched carefully the response of people from all side of the political spectrum. It was incredible to see the wonderful response of the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden.

These sort of crimes could happen anywhere in the world. The fact that it happened in New Zealand was appalling as they had been immune to terrorism on the scale that has been seen other countries around the world.

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The different between other terrorist attacks was that it was carried out by a white supremacist someone who believed that his race is better than others and those people who were killed somehow deserved it.

Like others who have murdered in the name of an ideology the terrorist had to be radicalised a word that is often used to describe the process of someone turning from a normal human being into a cold mass murdering killer. I wrote a blog post in 2017 about how people become radicalised into becoming terrorists and it is often a long process that has taken place over time where people will look for answers to complex problems.

People will want to know the reason why the terrorist did what did and why he thought carrying out such an atrocity was the right thing to do. He will try to promote his cause in court and claim his a soldier in some sort of war. We often put ourselves in the position of the person carrying out the crime and wonder how and why they could carry out something so despicable.

These sort of actions don’t happen over night they aren drip-fed through media, television and news outlets that often portray immigrant communities in a negative light. We know there are bad people in all races not all are perfect we all have problems to contend with whether it is illegal drug trades, knife crime or domestic violence. Each community has its own share of problems.

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Just as the Islamic community now is being blamed for terrorist groups like Isis people believe in conspiracy theories repeating by far right agitators like Tommy Robinson. These sort of conspiracies are extremely dangerous. At the turn of the 20th century there was a publication printed called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In it was the ideas that somehow the Jewish people should be regarded with suspicion as they were seen as some sort of threat to world order and that they were the ones who wanted to over all control and domination.

The same lies is being spread by those on the far-right and those who choose to demonise all immigrants as bad people. This is how people like the terrorist become radicalised in the first place.

I always like to think I am a free-thinker. I am a humanist. I don’t believe in god but I do believe religion and political ideologies can have a strong influence on someones beliefs, and actions. Sometimes those actions have catastrophic consequences.

I want a life with compassion, hope, love, justice and hopefully peace.

 

 

A review of 2018

It’s been a very odd year things have happened I never thought would happened and I am getting closer to having a normal life. I look back on 2018.

At the beginning of the year I visited Newcastle Central Mosque as part of a national campaign for people to visit their local mosque to learn more about Islam and to dispel the myths and lies that often heard about Muslims in this country and around the world. I am really looking forward to visiting again in 2019 and receiving the same warm welcome I was given at the start of the year.

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Not only did I visit a mosque a made time to visit a recently open Buddhist centre again in Newcastle. It was a really interesting time talking to people about their beliefs. I was amazed that there is a thriving Buddhist community in the north east. Wonderful to see that they had raised so much money and completed the renovation of an old shop on Westgate Road.

Not only was I to visit in Newcastle but I stumbled across a cafe in Chester-le-Street where people were serving food that would have been destroyed. Refuse Cafe takes that food and with having no set price you pay what you think the meal is worth and donate. A way to use the surplus food that is often discarded by large companies. Cutting the waste that we produce.

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I started a Chester-le-Street facebook group which basically post local news all to so with the town. It was in response to a local free newspaper no longer distributing around the town but being on sale instead in local newsagents. I combined the facebook site with the twitter account @lovechesta I acquired in the early part of the year. It has gone fairly well in my opinion we have about 1400 followers so far and slowly that number is increasing.

I continued by speaking out on the likes of Tommy Robinson and his band of hideous followers as Brexit deadline looms their obvious attempts to capitalise on this event and persuade people to become anti-islam still exists in this country. As long as I am still breathing I won’t let him win.

I got closer and closer to becoming employed this year much better than the previous year and how the world of work has changed so much in the years leading up to this time. More and more people chasing posts and the competition has become harder by employers expecting much more.

I wanted to trying a write more and my pathetic non-exist attempt at painting still remains to be resuscitated. It lies dormant and unused. Let’s hope 2019 is the year I finally pull my finger out and do something about it.

My health took a serious turn at the beginning of December as most of the people who know me read about; it ended up a couple of days of hospital and then weeks of recovery. It’s in these moments that you realise that people do care and those that have decided the no longer wish to be a part of my life have given little or no response to what has taken place. I am blessed that I have friends that are genuine who I have know for over thirty years. Life isn’t all plain sailing and those who cannot cope with a storm have no place in my life.

So I am making progress on the job front made changes to my lifestyle and looking forward to seeing what the new year brings.

Newcastle Buddhist Centre

It was a quiet Sunday morning and an email notification pinned into the inbox telling me about Newcastle Buddhist Centre. A little research found me a few hours later in their new home on the Westgate Road. 

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I visited Newcastle Central Mosque back in February and thought it a good idea that I visit other religious centres around the northeast. Purely out of my own curiosity and interest in religion.

During my university years, I had studied Buddhist Philosophy and Psychology not that I remember too much about it now but I still retain a basic knowledge about the religion. My interest in learning about what other people believe or use as a mantra for their own lives will always fascinate me.

Newcastle Buddhist Centre belongs to a western version of Buddhism called the Triratna Buddhist community which incorporates various parts of the two strands of Buddhism from the Mahayana and Theravada traditions.

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It was good to see that they had used a building that had been empty for a while. Breathing new life in to old. Making sure that they use the things that around. It was a beautiful building and still retained some of the old stone fireplaces that would have been used when the building was a house.

Walking in I met a lady called Sarah who immediately asked if I would like a cup of tea. You know you are going to like a place when someone offers you a beverage before you tell them the reason for your visit.

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The house was lovely. I know from my own experience with renovation how much things cost to put right and there was no expense spared when it came to making the place a sanctuary for peace and calm. Entering into the main room on the first floor you felt you could spend time in meditation and calm. They provided mats, cushions, chairs and even blankets for those who spend time in mindfulness and tranquillity.

Another gentleman gave me a brief rundown of the history of the Triratna Buddhist Community. A small photo of the founding teacher had been placed at the foot of a large figure of the Buddha sitting aloft a foundation that represented the industrial industries of the northeast.

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I explained the history I had experienced growing up and my own involvement with meditation. Something I don’t practice at the moment but knowing the benefits of with someone who has suffered from depression and anxiety it’s certainly something I am keen to explore once again.

They had their official opening the day before I visited and the month of June there are a lot of events catered for people who are thinking about exploring meditation and mindfulness.

Asking about their membership I was told they do have a number of people who are regulars but also there are people who will attend every few months and to me, that is what I found appealing that you are not obliged to attend and not frowned upon if you miss a few meetings.

Their connections and events were just not limited to the northeast. I noticed a number of activities planned all over the UK. A time when we are immersed in social media and 24-hour rolling news its difficult to maintain a balance between connecting people online and communicating with others in the real world. People are paying hundreds of pounds for weekends of digital detox. I think its time we all looked at how much time we are spending each day.

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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.

Tommy Robinson – banned from twitter

Stephen Yaxley Lennon or Tommy Robinson as he is more commonly known has been removed from a social media platform. 

Stephen Lennon is his name although he is has gone under other aliases and pseudonyms. Even to the point of using someone else’s passport to enter the USA illegally. I have said it before what he is a far-right extremist. He hasn’t done anything positive or made a credible contribution.

His various claims prove he is racist. When you cannot distinguish Islamists with ordinary Muslims you discriminate.

 “We are war with Islam – we have been 1400 years” No we are not. The only ones who claim that are people who cannot distinguish between extremists and ordinary Muslims.

“Islam isn’t a religion its an ideology” Nope. No one claims that. By every definition, in every book, Islam is the 2nd biggest religion in the world. It is 20% of the earth that followers that religion. If it was that bad why do people follow it?

I have seen in numerous videos Stephen Lennon asks ‘What have I said? In what way am I racist?.

Well. Let’s look at a Facebook post of his from a couple of weeks ago. He is irate that someone who has raped an eleven-year-old girl hasn’t been sent to prison. The person assaulted someone. Not rape. Before you jump down my throat yes the person in the article did something terrible, no denial, it’s not a competition.

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I look at facts. The person did a terrible thing. Stephen claims he raped the girl. He didn’t – the article makes no mention of that at all. So it’s lies. Then he goes on to complain that the person should be sent to jail and the reason he wasn’t as his wife doesn’t speak English. Engaging with people to justify anti-immigrant sentiment.

The article is also four years old. It makes no mention that other people are convicted sent to prison. This is what we mean when we say that he lies. He isn’t to be trusted. There are other examples of this. Yet, we are supposed to get out information and opinions about Muslims from him?

I am no angel. I have fucked up. I am not claiming to be an ambassador or spokesperson. What I do know is about religion and peoples beliefs.

Let’s look at some of his supports on twitter who have reacted to his permanent ban.

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A ludicrous statement. If he has done good things why are only a few commending him? Nigel Farage? No other modern politician has made any other credible contribution?

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Again. Another stupid statement. No one should be banned. Really? So I could continue to make threats of violence? Stalk someone etc. It isn’t a public platform. Its a privately owned company. Yet somehow, Twitter has gained monetary support from governments – incredibly stupid and false. Bordering on a conspiracy.

I could continue and give you other ludicrous examples. He has been removed from one social media platform. That’s it. He hasn’t been removed from facebook and others that I know of. This won’t stop his lies and racist beliefs it will compound his conspiracies and fallacies. His silly uneducated followers who don’t look at facts will continue to support him.

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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Parsons Green Tube bomber Ahmed Hassan sentenced to life

Teenager Ahmed Hassan is sentenced to life with a minimum term of 34 years after leaving a homemade bomb on a packed underground train.

He just looks like any other teenager. His hair is a little crazy and looks like he hasn’t slept or eaten a decent meal in weeks. But Ahmed Hassan is a convicted terrorist who brought shock and panic to the capital September last year.

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‘I sentence you to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 34 years. You will have plenty of time to read the Koran in prison. The Koran is a book of peace. Islam forbids breaking the law of the land. Islam forbids terrorism. You have violated Islam and the Koran by your actions.’

These are the words of Mr Justice Haddon-Cave the judge who sentenced Hassan. These aren’t taken lightly and not out of malice. They aren’t words that have been used in the heat of radicalisation or without knowledge and experience. Yet there are those people still in this country who have no idea how and what Muslims believe. They have taken it upon themselves to be educated by tabloid newspapers and right-wing commentators who claim to speak for the ordinary working man.

I have seen all sorts of ridiculous claims over the last few months about misconceptions and blatant fallacies when it comes to Islam. I challenged one person who said ‘They never arrest any Muslims and send them to prison like they do to Britain First leaders’. I gave them numerous examples of how this wasn’t the case; facts don’t matter to them.

Islam is a religion of peace. I will say that until my dying day. It is those who chose to distort, lie and make up their own rules to suit their interpretations of Qu’ran. You can take any holy teachings or writings and mangle them to your own way of thinking. You will see the world how terrorists and right-wing commentators want you to see it that process is called radicalisation. You are believing misconceptions, biased opinions, perverted and altered for their own ends.

I want peace, calm and tranquillity. I want unity among people of different faiths, religions and practices. I want to live in a world were people of different backgrounds and countries can learn from each other. I want to know how and why people think they way they do and educate myself. Make myself a better person and not shutting myself off from other human beings. This planet is an amazing place. It is full of decent, wonderful, hardworking people who make a great contribution to it. Closing your mind to the world is ignorance.

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.