Achieving “Human” Immortality By 2045?!

THIS got some major attention in the NYT as well when some of the smartest people in the world attended a major conference last weekend in New York City on how to achieve immortality!

We’ve now officially entered a whole new era where the human mind and consciousness are going to be blended in with computing and avatars.  Fifty years ago they said we would never successfully transplant organs. Never say never!

But the author of the article I cited first (above) raises at least one very important question in his own commentary.

I would like to have seen some ethicists in attendance  (I didn’t see any on the list of presenters that I scanned) to raise some other questions in that conference, because – at least in my mind –  some serious ethical and theological issues are now coming to the fore.

What does it mean to be human?  What comprises personality and “soul?” (Does this represent a modern day “Tower of Babel” where we are trying to control too much?)

Well, dear reader, what sorts of issues and questions does all this prompt in you? Feel free to leave a comment below, or some other place where I have posted a link to this column.

-Clair in Canberra


When Victory Brings Disaster

My heart really went out to these Colombian villagers when I read their story today.  They are truly in need of our prayers and some tangible moral support and accompaniment – probably more now than ever before.   I hope someone reading this might respond to this appeal from CPT International.  There are people ready to go to Columbia now to help support them, if the necessary funds can be raised.   I hear about these things because of my (volunteer) involvement in the CPT AustralAsia Regional Group.  -Clair

CPTnet – 18 June 2013 – COLOMBIA:

When victory brings disaster—Las Pavas and Garzal/Nueva Experanza need your help now!

by Pierre Shantz

26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then
can be saved?”27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is
impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”28 Then
Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”29 “Truly I tell
you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or
mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to
receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers,
sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age
to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last
first.”   – Mark 10:26-31  (New International Version)

Victories are for celebrating.  They are moments that give us the satisfaction of a job well done.  That the fight we undertook was worth it.  Why then in Colombia does a victory for so many communities who struggle for something as basic as a piece of land to farm to provide food for their families, become a nightmare and for some a death sentence?

This sounds sad and discouraging and I wish I didn’t have to paint such a
bleak picture but to hide the truth would be worse.  In fact for the past
months, we as a team have (not intentionally) hidden the truth by announcing several victories.  We did it because in fact there have been several victories that fully deserve a celebration.  Also for our own emotional
health we needed to enjoy these moments.  Communities affected by the
violence of the ongoing economic, political, and armed conflict of Colombia
don’t often have victories, tangible successes to grab on to.   We even used
them as a fundraising strategy because hey, everyone wants to support a
winning team.

Great victories happened for Garzal/Nueva Esperanza and Las Pavas, two
communities that CPT Colombia accompanies and under normal  circumstances we would all still be celebrating.  But as I said earlier these victories have become hard-to-imagine tragedies that could dishearten the happiest soul…

Read the outcome to this story (and more background) HERE

We Must Resist Having Our Enemies Constructed For Us

Woolwich and Terror: We Must Resist Having Our Enemies Constructed For Us.

Sireen Khudiri, 24 year-old Palestinian teacher, kidnapped and jailed without representation or visitation for setting up a FaceBook page calling for protection of Palestinian rights!

Sireen Khudiri, a resident of Tubas in occupied Palestine, was kidnapped by occupation forces while traveling in her car on the night of the 14th of May 2013.  And for what?  She is accused of creating a Facebook page that would harm the ‘security’ of the apartheid state of Israel!  (Read on for a glimpse of just how oppressive its getting over there.)

Sireen Khudiri is a 24 year old independent Palestinian activist who worked for more than 3 years in the international campaign of the Jordan Valley against violence. She supports and writes about societal abuses imposed by the Israeli occupation authorities.
Sireen is very popular in the schools she teaches in and supports the right of the children of the Valley for an education. She also publicises the demands of the Palestinian people and is a staunch fighter for their just rights. But there is no freedom of speech anywhere in Palestine.  Anyone who thinks Israel has a democracy and protects basic human rights should keep reading….
What happened?
On the night of 14.5.13 at around 3pm Sireen’s car was stopped at a temporary checkpoint on the road between Nablus and Tubas in the West Bank. After brief questioning by Israeli forces she was detained. The second person in the car was also detained.
In the early hours on Wednesday, Israeli forces raided Sireen’s family home whilst her father Khalid Sawafteh, her mother, three brothers, sisters in law and their two young children were sleeping. Twenty-five army jeeps entered the town of Tubas. Twenty officers entered the home and over one hundred remained in the street cornering off the house. The family and young children were all taken into one room whilst their home was ransacked. Israeli soldiers took all the computers in the house leaving Sireen’s relatives in shock.
The thing is, Tubas is located in Area A as designated under the Oslo Accords — an agreement drawn up between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government. ‘Legally’ it is under total Palestinian civil and military control. Israeli civilians and military are prohibited to enter Area A and any incursion into this area is considered a breach of this agreement.  Yet, despite this, Israeli forces have often done so and continue to carry out ‘operations’ in Area A.
Sireen is active in the non violent campaign for human rights in Palestine. She studied computer science at the Open University in Tubas. During her studies she was actively involved in a twinning project between Tubas and the University of Sussex, England. She took part in a delegation of students which visited the UK from Palestine to strengthen links and foster friendships.
Rashed Kahled, Sireen’s older brother said:  ‘We in the family are very concerned for Sireen and we would love her to be returned to us soon. My mother is very sad and fears for Sireen, she cannot sleep. How can we be at peace? We do not know what is happening and we are not allowed to see her.’
Sireen is accused by the occupation of creating a facebook page that would harm the security of the state of Israel. Although it is illegal to transfer people from the occupied territories to the country of the occupying power according to the Geneva Convention, Sireen is in the Eichel prison in north Israel. To this day she has not been allowed to see a lawyer or see her family. We demand her immediate release.
(Here is a good source for the story with even more details and updates)
So what can you or I do about it?

On Monday I intend to stop by the Israeli embassy here in Canberra and discuss this matter – or at least share my letter of concern.  I am hoping some other concerned friends and locals will be willing to accompany me, but I will go regardless.

The Israeli government needs to know that people all over the world are paying attention and not going to let them get away with this sort of oppression and illegal activity.  Below is a link where you can join a world-wide advocacy effort, organised on Sireen’s behalf within the last several days.

Ask youself, ‘if this were my 24 year old daughter or sister, what would I want to see happen?’  For Sireen’s sake — let’s create such a big voice around the world that it will be impossible to ignore:  (pass it on!)
We each need to become part of the change we seek, 

Churches burned – pastor tortured – thousands fleeing in West Papua. Can/will Australian faith community leaders speak with one voice!

Our recently-arrived local Rabbi here in Canberra, Shmueli Feldman, and I have started a good friendship.  So today he rang me with deep concern, personally moved at hearing a report on his car radio about a Christian church being bulldozed and destroyed by local Indonesian administration in West Java as the protesting church members watched and wept helplessly! 

Shmueli suggested the religious community of Australia (or at least those of us here in Canberra) organise to speak out with one voice against such a travesty. I fully support such a thought since this news report does seem to indicate violation of both local and international law and the principle of religious freedom.

But I also shared with him how this same (Indonesian) government is engaged in even worse atrocities in West Papua that rarely gets aired here in Australia – an unfolding saga of destruction and horror that I have been following for some time.  From what I can see, Australia is content to sit idly by and not make waves with its friend to the north.

As of February 26, the Indonesian security force sweeps had burned at least 18 houses to the ground in West Papua, destroyed five GIDI (Protestant) churches, and destroyed a library and two schools in Tingginambut, according to reliable church sources who relayed eyewitness accounts to West Papua Media.  The toll on local civilians posed by the military/police operations is grave:

“Witnesses have also reported that soldiers are deliberately burning and destroying food gardens and shooting livestock, including over 100 pigs. There are fears of a major humanitarian disaster unfolding with the reports of the destruction of food gardens and livestock, an act of collective punishment on a civilian population,” writes West Papua Media.

“Entire populations in villages the area of Gurake, Sinak, Tinggi Neri, Trugi and Nelekom have fled to the mountains. Several thousand people, mainly subsistence farmers, are said to live in the area. Townspeople from Mulia in Puncak Jaya are preparing to flee. As in the past, civilians who flee to the remote forests and mountains face possibly deadly separation from sources of food, shelter and medical care.Another trademark of these sweeping operations, also employed in the current military/police campaign, is the prevention of reporting on developments by the authorities. The only media personnel allowed into the operations area are those with approval from the Indonesian army. Independent journalists and human rights workers have been prevented from traveling into the area by a de facto Military Operations Area being applied across the entire highlands, including the regional center of Wamena.”

Beyond the homes and churches being burned, this week a pastor gets tortured!

(More background to this saga in West Papua is available here and here.)

There is a pattern of systemic religious intolerance in Indonesia.  In May 2012, during its Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council, the Indonesian government reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring the protection of freedom of religion and to address cases of religious intolerance. However religious minority groups in Indonesia, including Shi’a, Ahmadiyya and Christian communities, still face harassment, intimidation and attacks. Those who commit acts of violence against religious minorities are rarely punished and communities have been displaced by attacks.

For example, in Lombok, East Nusa Tenggara province, an Ahmadiyya community have been living for six years in inadequate housing after their homes were attacked and burnt by a mob in February 2006. The authorities have failed to resolve their situation or bring those responsible to justice.  Yet the right to freedom of religion or belief is guaranteed in Article 18(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Indonesia is a state party.

I am very concerned.  Who wouldn’t be after absorbing all this?

I hope someone reading this will be able to describe an initiative(s) already taken to organise the leaders of our Australian faith communities — to raise a unified voice and formulate a strong statement of unity and solidarity with our West Papuan and West Javan religious leaders.   (In spite of our Australian government’s propensity to maintain  good relations with Indonesia, but which only indirectly “supports” the regime by looking the other way.)  It’s important to address the behaviour by Indonesian leadership and call for cessation of this wanton violence and “collective punishment.”

I honestly don’t know, but would love to be reassured this has already been done or is underway.  If the later is true where can we sign?  At the least we can goad the conscience of our leaders in the Australian government, urging them to get their policies straight and put some pressure on the Indonesian government to abide by international law, respect human rights and indigenous culture – and in the case of West Papua, urge that it be given its independence as promised!  I look forward to your comments.

Just seeking the peace of “city” (our global village)


Before you go see “Zero Dark Thirty” read at least one of these two reviews – seriously!


The first review in Rolling Stone Magazine raises some VERY important questions for the reader to ponder, stimulates some reflection about the director’s motivations and what happens amongst theatre audiences when it’s viewed — says a lot about America and it’s violence-prone “kick-ass” culture right now! The movie depicts in detail the use of “enhanced interrogation” (torture) without much judgement and without a doubt will put a broad grin on Dick Cheney’s face!

Just one quote: “Bin Laden was maybe the most humorless person who ever lived, but he has to be laughing from the afterlife. We make an incredible movie that celebrates his death – a movie so good it’ll be seen everywhere in the world – and all it does is prove him right about us.”

The second review – found online at “Spirituality & Practice” – titled “Amorality in the War on Terrorism: A Commentary on Zero Dark Thirty” raises some other significant points to ponder. For example: ‘What Zero Dark Thirty does show us is the value of good “technique.” It’s a movie about how good technique was used to find and kill Osama bin Laden. And we’ve been warned about elevating technique above morality before. Child psychologist and writer Bruno Bettelheim wrote about “technique” in action during the Holocaust:

“It is this price in professional skill and knowledge, irrespective of moral implications, that is so dangerous. As a feature of modern society oriented toward technological competence it is still with us, though the concentration camps and the crematoria are no longer there. Auschwitz is gone, but as long as this attitude remains with us, we shall not be safe from the indifference to life at its core.”

In this passage Bettelheim is talking specifically about German doctors who worked in the concentration camps. But what he says also applies to any situation where the end is used to justify the means, the end is not questioned, and how we get to it is not subject to moral constraints. The lamentable attitude that remains with us to this day is a prioritizing of technique over compassion and life itself.

It closes with this: “Here’s our take-away from seeing Zero Dark Thirty and our attempt to understand its popular acceptance. We challenge its basic assumption that the war on terror is outside the realm of morality. The film endorses any techniques that work to eliminate the enemy. No alternative except killing Osama bin Laden is given any screen time. Surely during this ten-year manhunt, some voices spoke up against a violent solution, even suggesting that the search for Osama be abandoned, but Zero Dark Thirty does not include them in its so-called history. With its single-minded clinical focus on technique, this biased film is making a very strong statement. It is saying that the only response to terrorism is more terrorism because, after all, violence is the American way.

We live in a sacred universe. The choices we make — from the respect we show each other, to how we respond when we are threatened, to how we treat our animals, to what we eat and buy, and what movies we see and support — are moral choices and spiritual acts. May we make the right ones.”

I encourage posting links to reviews like this using social media, or simply send a link to this commentary around by email — because the implications are certainly worth discussing!


Mike Huckabee, James Dobson, and A Pastor’s Apology – stuff that really needs to be said!

Mike Huckabee, James Dobson, and A Pastor’s Apology