Thursday, February 04, 2010
  Beautiful but deadly: Urgent action needed
We took this photo of the beautiful area where these people have fled for safety just weeks ago
It's not biblical studies, nor digital academy, but it matters to me, and I hope to you!

According to the Burma Campaign (UK) the Thai authorities are threatening to force the return starting on 5 February 2010 of the 3,000 Karen refugees who fled to an area north of Mae La in June following a military offensive by the Burmese Army in Karen State, Eastern Burma.

The area they would return to is under the "control" of the DKBA and heavily mined they would face mass torture, harrying by military forces and many deaths if forced to return.
Although the Thai Government and local authorities have officially stated that they will not force people to return, in practice they are applying significant pressure on the refugees to return.

Until now the refugees have been kept in two temporary camps close to the Thailand-Burma border. Many of these refugees have already been forced to flee their homes four or more times.

If forced to return to Burma, the refugees face possible death, slave labour or forced recruitment as soldiers.

The area in Karen State where the refugees would be made to return to has many landmines. In addition, the area is now under the control of the DKBA, an organisation allied to the military dictatorship, which is guilty of committing horrific human rights abuses against civilians, including widespread use of forced labour, executions, torture and mutilations, forced recruitment of soldiers, including child soldiers, theft and extortion.
So PLEASE write to the Thai authorities to urge them not to force the refugees back to Burma. There is a simple form you can use here:

I have already written, editing the form letter in the hope that this will make it weigh more, but simply adding your name and address and clicking send is all that's needed. If the Thai authorities realise that many people outside care enough to post an email they may see this issue as one that impacts their tourist industry!

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Thursday, July 02, 2009
  Refugee camp threatened
The refugee camp where I taught a class on Old Testament Narrative for a four week intensivelast year is being threatened by armed attack. The DKBA a proxy force equipped and paid for by the Myanmar Junta is threatening to attack the camp across the nearby border. The Irawaddy reports:
Burmese refugees at Mae La refugee camp are on alert due to a threat of attack by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), according to the vice chairman of the camp. 

“The DKBA said they will destroy our camp,” said Vice-Chairman Htun Htun, speaking to The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

Many of the refugees have packed clothing and belongings in preparation for a military assault, sources in nearby Mae Sot said. Camp authorities have imposed a curfew of 9 p.m. On all refugee residents.

The DKBA threatened to attack Mae La camp after one of their influential commanders, San Pyote (aka Soe Myint), the head of Battalion 7, was ambushed and killed by an unknown armed group while traveling by longtail boat on the Moei River on June 26.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009
  Another ethical dilemma
Bryan in the comments neatly sidesteps my ethical dilemma in the post below Moral decision?. Our cat he says can be regarded as a "member of the family".

I don't want to address the complex issues of whether canines, felines etc... are more or less "members of the family" than brothers and sisters in Christ - both are only so in metaphorical (or spiritual) senses ;)
Karen villagers, mostly women and children, take refuge from the fighting inside the Thai border.
Photo from The National
Courtesy Free Burma Rangers

So here's a new dilemma, also caused by our move. The new house has no TV aerial, but has a Sky dish (for pay TV but which will capture also free to air digital TV). Should I:
  1. spend $200 for a Freeview set top box which will allow us to get free to air TV from the Sky dish
  2. spend $150 to get an aerial fitted
  3. send the money to Partners for the 4,000 villagers camping in the monsoon rains?
Incidentally if you want to donate for the 4,000 villagers chased from their homes here are links (donations are usually tax deductable in most of these countries):

Canadians wishing to obtain a receipt for tax purposes should make donations at the Partners Canada website.

Americans wishing to obtain a receipt for tax purposes should make donations at the Partners USA website.

Norwegians can find the information needed to make donations in Norway at:

Australians can find the information needed to make donations in Australia at:

UK Residents can find the information needed to make donations in the UK at:

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Monday, June 15, 2009
  Moral decision?
We faced a choice during our move that had nothing to do with packing or even the things we own (too many, but that's another story ;).

For the move, Quizzie (our cat - born a stray and somewhat nervous) went into a cattery. While she was there the vet looked her over as well as getting her vaccinations up to date. She has bad teeth and some gum disease. To fix this and to do a blood test to check on other possible health issues would cost $400 to $500 (even cleanng a cat's teth needs a general anesthetic).
At the same time, an Internally Displaced People's camp in Burma is under attack by Burmese government forces. Some 4,000 women and children have fled across the river to Thailand and there is a great need for basic supplies. So, assuming we have $500 we can spend what do we do? Prolong our beloved cat's life and make the next few years more pleasant for her? - After all we see her every day! Save the lives of a few refugees we may never meet?

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Friday, June 20, 2008
  World Refugee Day
Today, June 20th, is World Refugee Day. There are lots of ways you can "celebrate" it. But if you are stuck for ideas, perhaps it means you do not know much about the issues, in that case how about ten minutes surfing and exploring to learn more. For facts and figures the UNHCR is authoritative, and the IMC has a good one page summary.

If you prefer a more experiential approach you could read about the Mae La refugee camp, or look at one of the photoblogs: Timelight @ Mae La - Weblog or through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy which has more than photos. In particular you could read the rest of this post:
pray, yes, but we still can't eat your prayers

While the faith and the spirits of the people I met in Mae La were strong, their current physical conditions are matters of concern. Registration froze two years ago. People who come to the camp--four or five new families everyday--are not given food rations or materials to build huts because they are not registered. They must move in with other refugees and those who open their huts must share what they have with the new-comers. Already, cuts have been made in the amount of food they receive twice a month.
Whatever you do, do NOT just sit there, do something even if it is only to cry a little!

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Monday, November 19, 2007
  Sabbatical plans!
Now that the marking is finished, and before I prepare the paper for the Aotearoa NZ Association for Biblical Studies meeting (3-4 Dec) I am enjoying relishing planning my sabbatical which officially begins in days now :)

As well as writing:
  • an article on coherence and cohesion in Amos 7:1-8:3
  • organise a colloquium on the Coherence of Biblical Texts (perhaps alongside the SBL International meeting in Auckland in July 2008 )
  • another article on linguistic cohesion and coherence in Amos draft written (but not submitted)
  • complete Not Just a Father
  • editing: significant progress on Hypertext Bible Dictionary
  • possibly begin work on book on Family in the Bible or on Theology of Ageing
I will be going to teach intensive courses in two rather different Asian contexts.

A masters' course on Biblical Narrative at Colombo Theological Seminary will be intensive, the students get 9 hours of lectures and some reading before I arrive, and then over two weekends and some evening sessions midweek I'll deliver the other 27 hours of the classes.

The other class is undergraduate, teaching in a refugee camp which has its own Bible School with teachers coming from other parts of Asia with the occasional Western visitor like me.

Barbara will be coming with me to both places, and in the camp will probably use her counselling training! Our daughter Sarah will also come to the camp and will likely help teach English - education can be so important to people who have had so many other things taken away! I've been setting this up through Geoff Pound and his Theologians Without Borders, and have really enjoyed our email conversations, not least the excursi on topics like the possibilities of MP3s of lectures for local language distance education.

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