The power of forgiveness ..

The power of forgiveness ..

When missionary Graham Staines and his two sons were burned alive by Hindu extremists back in 1999, his widow Gladys had two choices – either to leave India and go back home to Australia or stay on and let the power of forgiveness and love become the two most powerful traits in her life.

Gladys chose to stay and continue their ministry to lepers in India. In a true Christian show of love and forgiveness, she continued in her mission to a section of people no one wanted to have anything to do with.

Recently, Gladys was announced as the 2015 recipient of the Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice by the Harmony Foundation, a Mumbai-based charity whose awards are endorsed by Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa’s Order.

Gladys thanked God for His help in empowering her to carry on with her mission – especially after her husband and two sons were killed. At the time of her husband’s death, the couple had been in Ministry for 15 years, looking after lepers.

Hers is an incredible journey of love and forgiveness – one that inspires us in the dark days we are living in. It inspires not only because of her commitment to serving God but also because she chose to forgive and move on. She chose hope over bitterness, peace over hatred.

She also chose to believe that not everyone in India endorsed the hate crime . She understood that in service, you always watch out for the needs of others. In face of incomparable personal tragedy that would have left anyone devastated, she was able to show the radiance of God’s love .

Gladys did not – would not allow her grief to overshadow her – and her late husband’s life’s work with the lepers of India. She stayed on, trusting the path God was taking her on. The people whom she was looking after, the lepers, were also grieving with her ; they shared a common bond of loss and connection.

She and her husband had been working for the Evangelical Missionary Society in Mayurbhanj (EMSM),  founded by an Australian missionary a century ago.  ESMS has also engaged in missions of supporting local churches and vulnerable communities.

Gladys returned to Australia in 2004 ; in 2005, she was awarded the Padma Shri for Social Service, India’s fourth-highest award for civilians. Gladys used the money to upgrade the home for lepers into a hospital.

A lot still remains to be done on behalf of persecuted Christians in India. Yet, Gladys’ story remains one of hope and true Christian love in a land that is predominantly Hindu.

Gladys Staines is best known as the most famous Christian after Mother Teresa in India. Her powerful testimony bears more witness to the mission  she and her husband engaged in, than anything else. Her story is not just a story of one family ; it is also a wonderful gift that is fragrant with the power of forgiveness, love and selfless giving.

She chose to give of herself when she could have taken herself away – in many ways, her story echoes with that of Corrie ten Boom, the historic and courageous Christian Dutchwoman whose powerful story of forgiving the Nazi tormentors who killed her family, transformed her ministry and has impacted millions.

For in true forgiveness, lies hope and comfort. In choosing to share love when hate is all you can think of, bypassing the soul to let your spirit connect with God’s, is where the deepest longing of the human heart is met.

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Stoning a woman to death…

Stoning a woman to death…

When Jesus Christ was brought a woman caught in adultery, He had only one sentence for those wanting to stone her ; He who casts the first stone must be without sin. They were powerful words and they brought results.

As we await further news of a Sri Lankan woman condemned to be stoned to death for adultery, it isn’t only the Christians who recall the powerful words of Our Lord. On social media, many non-Christians have been sharing the gentle but firm, power packed words of Jesus Christ in the face of a human being condemned.

It’s a hurting world. There is enough abuse we read about every day. There is so much to hang our heads in shame. A little forgiveness can go a long way. A little pardoning can mean the world to someone. Which would we choose today – choose to forgive or to carry the stone?

It is the 21st century. On one hand, ISIS is bent on a killing spree of crucification, selling children as sex slaves and deploying crude and barbaric methods of executing people. On the other, Saudi Arabia is enforcing stone age punishment methods. Where is the progress we have made as a modern civilization? Those who reject the justice and fair play that Judeo-Christian civilization fostered upon some of the world’s most advanced civilizations, in pursuit of free-for-all politically correct but hopelessly imbalanced agendas, where are your voices? Simply put, there’s nothing the modern world can offer to counter the barbaric methods deployed by these modern day sadists.

For all the talk of equality between the sexes, between the haves and the have nots,  we have not come full circle, or so it seems. Not when those in the Middle East have deliberately chosen to turn the wheel back.  Where are the voices that rose against the Lord’s Prayer being displayed as an advertisement in theatres? Where are the free and the liberal whose life’s goal is to ensure equality for all?

I will not even touch on Paris and California attacks – that is another subject altogether. But those who have taken up the rallying call of the atheists, the LGBT community and gender issues, need to also make sure their voices are heard over and above the din of ISIS and stones being cast to kill a human being in Saudi Arabia.

 

We live in a dangerous world. A world in which one civilization has the liberty to consider a sex change for a child as young as six while the other does not even have the liberty to drive a car without being accompanied by a male relative. Two extremes, both dangerous but where and how do we draw the line?

For the West, this is a moment of truth – one that powerfully suggests that the politically correct era is ending, sorry about that, but consider going back to the values, the traditions, the thinking that powered their civilization to great heights. And until and unless that happens, the West as we know it, with its foundation based on the Judeo-Christian values, may no longer be viable.

Whether ISIS or the stone throwing Saudis, the world must unite to declare that we have established parameters that have been enforced for a greater part of history.

 

Zuckerberg style paternity leave..is it relevant?

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Reading about one of the world’s busiest men running the Facebook empire wanting to take paternity leave got me thinking. Does this mean that Silicon Valley is officially recognizing paternity leave as an important step in encouraging and empowering men to share the responsibilities that come from a new born in the family? If so, it certainly sounded good.

Tech companies have always encouraged maternity/paternity leave in the hope of retaining talent. Yet most have not made much use  of the facility, it seems, for fears of missing out on the pace of work. Even in the case of Marisa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, who chose to take minimum time out with both of her pregnancies, worked throughout.

Comparisons aside, Zuckerberg’s statement is a powerful one and highlights the importance of giving family due time. In tech driven businesses, this can be a tough call. Not that it is easier elsewhere. Careers have been put on hold for those wanting to go all the way in caring for children. In the case of Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, it is even more poignant because the couple miscarried earlier. The significance of wanting to spend time with the new born and be around the new mother in a role that both empowers and assists her,must mean considerably to the Facebook founder.

So, does this mean that paternity leave is important for all men whose wives are due to give birth? Or is it just more of the politically correct statements and standpoints to show the world that gender is a key issue in Silicon Valley?

Paternity leave, I’m certain, does help. I remember the aftermath of having my daughter, recovering from a bleeding fibroid and facing the post natal depression blues. Having my husband around helped. It was not just sharing the work – it was also being able to share the fears, the uncertainties, the complications and being able to be comforted and soothed by the person closest to you and the family. Sometimes, what matters is the fact that your husband is around – not even doing anything but just being there so that you can be assured everything is alright. New mothers need an extra hand in reassurance, as we all know.

Undoubtedly, Zuckerberg has set a new standard for all the young, tech driven fathers out there. As a parent who is also a millennial, his decision speaks much for the restoration of faith in families, in fathers wanting to spend time with children and in giving family priority over work. It tells the young generation that work could never replace family, which in itself is a strong delivery. It puts the concept of getting married, having children, raising a family in a new light – for the better.

Now that the founder of the social media giant Facebook confirms paternity leave is ok, we should see the concept gaining momentum at places of work. Argued, evaluated, thought over, mulled over – call it what you may. Every new mother would benefit from an extra pair of hands – especially from the one  who is closest to her.

 

 

 

We are all Parisians tonight…but..

We are all Parisians tonight…but..

What is it about Paris that is most alarming tonight? As we mourn the dead, pray for the families and express our solidarity with the sorrow of the world’s most loved city, there are similarities that should send a chill down our spine. What appears as a strong thread through Paris also has the potential to reach Berlin. Or London. Or just about anywhere else in the free world.

It is sad but time to realize that the politically correct bubble has burst long time ago – it burst when when some issues were deemed more fashionable than others and pushed to the front. In the same guile imagination that thinks a show that relies on sex and nudity to ‘express’ the lives of young women in a big city “Girls” to the one that still likes to nourish the notion that inter-faith as a platform truly works. Inter-faith dialogues don’t work with people who believe their way is the only way. It doesn’t help them change their view – instead, they will try all they can to push their viewpoint in.

The Judeo-Christian heritage of the West, the Biblical values that built America, the strong work ethic that made the West the world’s best, is slowly but surely eroding. Multi-culturism as a concept has failed and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that. There never has been a better time than now to enforce those ethics ad empower and engage the young to discover the values of that heritage so that at least, they can be spared the likes of ISIS.

There are certain principles we are expected to live by – not all bridges are meant to be crossed. Women must be empowered yes but not to take over the man’s world. The underprivileged, the under-represented and the under dog all have their day – but there will always be limits. No one promised us a perfect world of perfect justice. Some, such as the radical Islamists, will never see the viewpoint of the rest of the world. They will never be included – and the sooner we understand that, the earlier this menace will stop.

Calling a spade by a politically correct name will not take us anywhere. Yes it is the 21st century but the principles that have governed this universe haven’t changed in the name of progress. Too much of anything is not good for anyone.

As concerned as we should be for the Syrian refugees streaming into Europe, we should also be more vigilant. Although the pictures of a dead little boy lying on a beach tag at our heart strings, we must take decisions with our heads. The pictures of the streaming refugees mostly show restless young men with smartphones who don’t fit the bill for refugees fleeing a war – are they being planted in Europe as sleeper agents so that more bombs can go off? Where are the checks and the balances?

How many more bomb attacks must the world endure at the hands of the Jihadists before the lessons are learnt? As we pray for the families, the victims, the injured, we need to ask ourselves the question, have we learnt anything tonight?

Ven. Sobitha Thero – the visionary who chose to stand in the gap…

Ven. Sobitha Thero – the visionary who chose to stand in the gap…

He didn’t belong only to the Buddhists but to all Sri Lankans…

For Christians, Old Testament history is full of those who chose to stand in the gap on behalf of their people and their nation – especially significantly during some of the darkest and the bleakest times. There were others ; Queen Esther was raised for ‘ a time such as this’ – (Esther 4 :14). But each of them was courageous, committed and chose to come forward at a time when others were too afraid, too timid or too indifferent to care.

When Sri Lanka’s time came to stand up and be counted, it fell upon a valiant Buddhist monk, Ven. Sobitha Thero, to do so. His calling was for a time such as this. Ven. Sobitha chose to stand in the gap, to make his voice heard on behalf of all Sri Lankans, against the powers of a dark and a vile dynasty of corruption and nepotism. He fired the first words and set about on getting civil society activated – and with it, awakened the nation into the possibility that there could be change – after all. He single handedly lit a flicker of hope in all of us that later became a light strong enough to cover the whole nation – whether we were Buddhists, Christians, Tamils, Moslems mattered not. What he inspired us to dream was that a concept of Good Governance was indeed a possibility for Sri Lanka. Good Governance may not have delivered on all fronts yet and there maybe issues as there always are – but what made the difference was that we defeated an impregnable monolith of a dictatorship because he dared to make it possible.

As social media posts reflect, all Sri Lankans – irrespective of religious and ethnic affiliations, chose to mourn this giant of a human being. He didn’t belong only to the Buddhists – he belonged to all Sri Lankans.

I still remember the day, under the Rajapakse regime, when they tried to gag Ven. Sobitha – this was fresh on the heels of his coming out strongly with the good governance movement. I remember seeing intimidating vehicles and troops outside the Naga Vihara Temple in our neighbourhood, one night. My husband Asoka and I wondered out loud – if the shove came to a push and the state chose to surround the temple and force the courageous monk inside to keep his mouth shut, would we the people, show our strength and challenge them?

That was not to be. Social media carried posts of the brave Buddhist priest being threatened by the then regime but nothing could – nothing would hold him back. He gave his all to bring the historic regime change in the country. He showed that it could be done. It was our Nelson Mandela moment – our Martin Luther King moment. It was his moment to step into the gap. He rose gallantly above all religious leaders of the country – and stood tall over the shifting of a nation’s perception that a perverted state could not be overcome. If anyone, history would credit him with that.

I remember the time when our shepherd, the Bishop of Colombo Dhilo Canagasabey called for the Christian community to take part in a Day of Lament to protest the impeachment of the Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake back in 2013. We made the effort but the baton had to be carried further than that – into the hearts and minds of people everywhere in Sri Lanka and it had to fall upon a leader of courage who were up for the challenge.

That leader stepped forward to be in a class of his own – in 2014. He sounded the clarion call. He stepped into the gap when the very words, good governance, sounded hollow enough to dampen the spirit of a nation subdued and crushed beyond repair.

True to his calling, Ven. Sobitha wasn’t happy with the results of the Good Governance in governing – he believed as many did, that more had to be done. And that is true. Yet, the significant step was that we had passed on from darkness to light, under his watch.

We owe him, as a nation, to ensure that the change he believed in was possible for Sri Lanka, will come. And that it will show our children the way forward.

May he attain Nibbana – I’m sure thousands of fellow Christians and those of other faiths join me in the sincerity of their hearts in wishing him farewell.

Mozart’s sister was equally talented and the point is…

Mozart’s sister was equally talented and the point is…

Apparently, Mozart’s sister was as talented as the gifted composer. And it seems she had to give up music in order to find a husband and settle down. Now to the naked eye, there’s nothing wrong with this – it was the expected thing to do at the time. A woman back then had to find a husband at a certain age in order to survive. Not that things are much different today although we would have to hold our tongues to be politically correct. Any woman in her late thirties and unmarried, can hear her biological clock ticking loud and clear. But that’s not the topic today.

Mozart’s sister’s legacy is being revived, some say, to fulfill the feminist agenda. Among other things they want you to consider – letting women fight on front lines and screaming injustice every time a man mouthes what is deemed to be a sexist joke. Now, for every politically correct gender agenda, there are perfectly justifiable battles women are fighting elsewhere in the world – Saudi women cannot drive or cannot complain against their husbands. Women in India are fighting rape and male attitudes against women. Elsewhere in Africa, women are fighting to avoid genital mutilation. Every battle a valid one.

Which is why we must be careful not to trivialize the victories we have had, the victories that must be won. Equality is not about matching the men physically and challenging them to dare to go to war with women as comrades but about being confident in who we are, no matter what roles we may be called upon in life to play.

It does trivialize the importance of gender issues when we choose to cry mayhem over every time some man in his seventies or sixties, belonging to a generation when sexist jokes were pretty much ok, make one. It does bring down our rallying call for justice a peg or two when we raise the battle cry over women who had no other choice but to live as per the norms of her day. It is not about the sisterhood – it is about gaining enough respect and recognition to warrant a push for greater, much needed change. Change that will be taken seriously because it is needed for the millions of women placed in much less fortunate circumstances. Women who are fighting battles everyday to keep their families together, their children fed and themselves safe.

Even in the developed world, women face many discrimination issues – over pay, career prospects and opportunities. The glass ceiling is very much there even though we may not always see it.

So the next time media runs a story that probably will be the next great feminist story, we need to be able to assure ourselves that sisterhood is not about being politically correct in a world clearly gone mad, beyond all borders with the PC agenda.

It is about being able to draw attention to the issues of discrimination against women all over the world. It is being able to identify the real issues from the noise. And be able to stand up and be counted for it.

What does it feel to hit 50 – finally?

What does it feel to hit 50 – finally?

Ever since finally becoming half a century old this month, the question I get asked often is how it feels to finally hit the big five o. And my answer is always the same – age is but a number. It doesn’t feel any different being 50 years old – you are the same old you but yes, there are things you can work on.

When you reach 50, you begin to understand what really matters in life and what doesn’t. It’s a great point in time to choose what is important in life and what can wait. Or forgotten. You understand the fragility of time and the importance of spending time doing things you want to do. Somethings that were on the back burner can be brought up front. Spending time with your spouse and the children are important –  at 50, realization comes that time can be fleeting and the opportunities to make the best use of relationships can be gone before you can grasp them. Finding time for your aging parents is also paramount here ; they don’t have much time left and it would be good to make an effort to spend some time with them.

At 50, you don’t want to hold grudges and be enslaved by them. It’s a great opportunity to forgive and forget. And to let the slights pass. Especially from younger, over confident folk who think they’ve seen it all – you can laugh it off and shake it out of your system. Retorts and rebuttals are not worth the while, considering the bad blood it pumps into your system.

At 50, you are comfortable – or at least you should ideally be – with who you are. You don’t have time to keep analyzing the portrayal of you by others. Fat or thin, easy to please or hard to get, you are who you are – and you can only improve upon what you are. You can set goals to achieve once you understand and realize that the buck ends with you. You can still bring on change even at 50 – but first, you need to know where and what to change without having to reconsider it later on.

Hitting 50 , in my book, gives you a few privileges. Chief among which is not to have the time or the desire to put up with anything you don’t want to. Having lived for half a century, you somehow come to the conclusion that you don’t really have the time to keep on playing games. If someone doesn’t want to be your friend, that’s fine. Not that you would ignore that person for the rest of your life but you understand the dynamics of relationships. They don’t always stay the same and that’s fine too. You don’t have the time to spend mentally reversing situations and regretting the flash backs.

At 50, feel entitled to some opinions – even though they don’t seem to matter to anyone else but you. You have earned them ; they are yours to keep. You may not always be right but you have time on your side. You have been there, done that and when someone not touching this side of 40 thinks you ought to know better, you have earned the right to shrug it off.

Being 50 is also a great time to finally comprehend that you will never have that hour glass figure or be able to squeeze into that bandage dress hanging for ions in your wardrobe. Give it to charity – instead, focus on eating and exercising right. Not because it is fashionable but because it can keep you fit and healthy and add productive years to your life.

In the final analysis, being 50 isn’t bad at all. In fact, it is good because it is that point in your life when you know for certain what remains and what is fleeting.  appreciate more – you can look out of the window and experience the sunset instead of worrying if another day just ended on an uncertain note.