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INTERFAITH DIALOGUE, HYPOCRISY AND PRIVATE LIVES (Lebanon)

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 8, 2008

Monday, December 08, 2008

Talal Nizameddin wrote this article for THE DAILY STAR (Lebanon)

PUBLISHED BY ‘THE DAILY STAR’ (Lebanon)

First person by Talal Nizameddin

I am suffering from a total state of agnosia. Is this the same Michel Aoun who angrily vowed that he would break the head of the Syrian regime? Is this the same Syrian regime that pacified the Lebanese Army soldiers fighting under Aoun’s command and waged a ruthless campaign for 15 years to marginalize the idealistic Free Patriotic Movement supporters? At least I am almost sure that I haven’t been afflicted by amnesia. I remember when the Lebanese felt the thrill of defiance when they beeped their car horns driving through the Nahr al-Kalb tunnel leading to Jounieh from Beirut.

Letting bygones be bygones and forgiveness is a treasured feature of human nature and being an optimist, I say whatever breaks the ice and allows people to move on from a painful past should be welcomed with open hearts. But the process of forgiveness is a long and arduous one. In Judaism, Christianity and Islam it must begin with honesty, leading to confession and then as a final step absolution becomes meaningful. On a human level, in a one-to-one conflict, a discussion must take place that expresses the pain of each side so that there is an understanding of the hopes and fears of the other side before saying sorry reaches a level beyond words and touches the human within us.

It is said that since the end of the Cold War we have been living in the age of the clash of civilizations and the dialogue of faiths. In the Western and pro-Israeli media, Islam is the culprit, with the image of bloodthirsty mad Muslims rampaging through Mumbai killing randomly all those around them the latest episode of terror that does nothing to the great religion they claim to be fighting for. Among Arabs and Muslims it is the Jews who have manipulated the Holocaust tragedy to inflict suffering on Palestinians and Arabs. The Christian West is also blamed for a low-burning decadence that over time has led to the collapse of the world financial markets due to greed and the neglect of the poverty and misery of the so-called Third World.

What is strikingly noticeable about Aoun’s visit is the tour of the historic churches of Syria. The message clearly states that Christianity is safe from the harm of Muslim fanatics in secular Syria. But the manipulation of the clash of civilizations idea has been even better fine-tuned because there is now a distinction between Sunni Islam and Shiite Islam that has been dispersed in our media outlets like a wave of cluster bombs. Thus we have inter and intra-civilization clashes if we are to believe our political experts and TV commentators. Aoun and his supporters have played further on Lebanese Christian emotions, maliciously highlighting the difference between the Shiites, true Lebanese patriots who are fighting Israeli occupation and the Sunnis, bad people who are paid by the Saudis to turn Lebanon into a Wahhabi extension. Even by local standards Lebanese politics has descended to a truly low level.

In fact, the Saudi monarch courageously endorsed a United Nations gathering to promote dialogue among the world’s great religions despite criticisms from no other than Aoun and his comrades in March 8. Despite the good intentions, the Saudis may however be wasting their time. By entering into such discussions the world risks mirroring the same Lebanese facade that religious belief somehow lies at the source of conflict. It evades the powerful economic explanations and the fact that there is a huge gap in wealth between states and between individuals in the world we live in. It also, and just as importantly, diverts attention from the lack of representation, the lack of personal freedoms and the lack of human rights most people in the world endure on a daily basis. Blatant injustice, economic and political, creates extremism and not religions.

The West should not feel too self-satisfied about its state when there are calls for more social justice and greater freedoms. In Britain, as an example of an advanced European country, the state has been shown to fail time and time again in protecting children with one in four children according to a recent study suffering from sexual abuse. Crime is rampant and ethics are barely visible in the business and political realms. As in the United States, a philosophy of “grabbing hands grab what they can” has reigned for decades. Support for oppressive regimes, particularly here in the Middle East, is justified in the name of good diplomacy but the arming of parties fuelling regional conflicts is also considered good business sense.

If most sensible people agree that finding a solution to the Palestinian problem, which has nothing to do with religion, will make the Middle East and the world a better place, why on earth has it been so difficult for the world’s only superpower to convince Israel to accept a neighboring viable Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza? If the United States is truly a democracy, then I must concur with the people I despise the most, the religious fanatics, that blaming the elected leader of the United States is futile because the American people must shoulder their moral responsibility to force their government into a strategic change in their approach. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a political problem with a human dimension. It is simply about national self-determination and not religious fanaticism or civilizational clashes. Palestinians and Jews belong to the same religious family chart, whether they like to admit or not although undoubtedly their historic experiences have diverged.

Nowhere has the mythology of sectarian and religious warfare been more prevalent than in Lebanon. I am still surprised how many Western observers take for granted the cliches about Muslim-Christian divisions characterizing Lebanese society. In reality, Lebanon is more of a clan-based system, with chiefs of clans or communities often but not necessary being defined by their religious beliefs. It just so happens that the sect is an important form of self-identification that is manipulated for conflicts, whether it is over land or political power. That is why within Lebanese sects there are often more than one chief. Take the Maronites as an example of multiple chiefs or zaims, Suleiman Franjieh, Samir Geagea, Michel Aoun, Amin Gemayel and Dori Chamoun all godfathering their own loyal communities. Even the ideological Hizbullah recognizes the need to respect the independence of the unruly clans of Baalbek in return for acknowledgement.

In Lebanon inter-communal relations and divisions are far more complex than simple religious divides. The downside of this system is that the individual is forced into belonging into a clan, because the collective of clans are far more powerful than the formal state. Only the community can protect the individual. In Lebanon, individuals do not have private lives, as is the case in the West, because they are the property of the family, the village, the community. The pattern is the same among all of Lebanese sects. But then again, free from the regional political conflicts, the interference from outside and the flaws in the internal political system, why should we accept that the community is a lesser entity than the state in its value?

Some Western political theorists have even called for a return to communalism as a result of the social failures of the modern state. The Lebanese model offers the opportunity of creating a political system that safeguards communities and also protects the rights of individuals living within them because the hypocritical and simply false pretense of a unified centralized state has been unworkable and shows no signs of succeeding. The Lebanese want their personal liberty, social justice and their community at one and the same time. It is no easy task but where there is a will there is a way and Lebanon could present the world with an example to be emulated around the world. Lebanon’s greatness and loyalty from its citizens could be reinforced by the historic achievement of harmonious and fraternal communal cohabitation. The first step is liberation from the old slogans and working for the common good without playing on communal fears to achieve personal ambitions. When a zaim such as Aoun tours with an open heart the various neighborhoods of Beirut rather than the churches of Syria we would have began reaching the final step toward that sacred goal.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE

PUBLISHED BY ‘THE DAILY STAR’ (Lebanon)

Posted in AL QAEDA, CHRISTIANISM, EUROPE, FOREIGN POLICIES, FOREIGN POLICIES - USA, FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND CONSCIENCE, HISTORY, HUMAN RIGHTS, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, ISLAM, JUDAISM, LEBANON, PALESTINE, RELIGIONS, SAUDI ARABIA, SYRIA, THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN STRUGGLE, THE LAST DAYS OF GEORGE WALKER BUSH - 2008/Jan. 2009, THE LEBANESE CIVIL STRUGGLE, THE MEDIA (US AND FOREIGN), THE UNITED NATIONS, UNITED KINGDOM, USA, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

AT LEAST YOU’VE GOT OPTIONS …

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 27, 2008

Last update: November 27, 2008 – 11:02 AM

by Seth Freeman – (*)

LOS ANGELES – Please listen carefully, as this menu has changed. HOLD THE MENU ... I JUST WANT A GLASS OF WATER

For English, press or say “one.” Para espaqol, oprima o diga “dos.” For all other languages, press or say “three.”

One.

Thank you for your interest in our service. If this is a true spiritual emergency, please hang up and dial the number on the upper left-hand corner of the mailing label of your last solicitation. Otherwise, please stay on the line and your prayers will be answered in the order in which they were received.

All right, let’s get started. For prayers of repentance, press or say “two.” For prayers of supplication, press or say “three.” For prayers of forgiveness, press or say “four.” For prayers of serenity, press or say “five.” For all other prayers, press or say “six.”

I guess … er … supplic — three. Three.

I think you said “two.” Is this correct?

No.

I think you said “no.” Is this correct?

Yes.

OK, let’s try that again. For prayers of repentance, press or say “two.” For prayers of supplication, press or say “three.” For prayers —

Three.

— of forgiveness —

Three!

— say “four.” For prayers of serenity, press or say “five.” For all other prayers, press or say “six.”

Three.

I think you said, “Three.” Is this correct?

Yes. Correct. Yes.

All right. Let me see if I can help you. Please say the category for which you are supplicating. For example, if you are praying for help with a personal life problem, say “problem.” If you are praying for a material object like a new Lexus, say “car.”

Uh …

I’m sorry. I didn’t understand your answer. Please repeat your answer slowly and clearly.

It’s hard to describe. Things no longer make … sense …

I think you said “vengeance.” Is this correct?

No.

Good, because vengeance is mine. Please repeat your answer slowly and clearly.

Prob. Lem.

I think you said “problem.” Is this correct?

Yes. Correct.

Thank you. Let me connect you to that department.

Hold music: Pachelbel, “Canon in D” — tenor sax version (Kenny G) …

Please stay on the line. Your prayer is important to us. Your wait time is approximately seven minutes.

Hold music …

We’re sorry you are still on hold. We appreciate your patience and look forward to being of service.

Hold music …

Thank you for holding. We apologize for the inconvenience. Please state the problem for which you would like help. For example, if you would like help healing someone who is sick, you could say “illness.” If you would like help in making a woman who barely knows that you exist become interested in you romantically, you could say “wingman.”

No more menus.

I’m sorry. I didn’t understand your answer. Please state the problem for which you would like help.

I want help without having to go through six levels of options.

I think you said you would like help with sexual dysfunction. Is this correct?

No.

I think you said “no.” Is this correct?

Yes.

OK, please restate your problem. Speak slowly and clearly —

I’m sick of these menus.

I think you said you would like help curing a sickness. Is this correct?

No, no, these menus are driving me crazy.

I think you said you would like help dealing with a mental illness. Is this correct?

No. No, no!

I’m having difficulty understanding the problem for which you are seeking help. Please state your problem slowly and clearly.

My problem is … I … forgot why I called.

I think you said you no longer recall your problem. Is this correct?

I guess. I don’t know. Yes.

Excellent. We are pleased to have been of service. How else can we provide you with a wonderful day?

(*) – Seth Freeman is a writer for television. He wrote this article for the Los Angeles Times.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE

PUBLISHED BY ‘STAR TRIBUNE’ (USA)

Posted in ECONOMY, RELIGIONS, USA, USA HUMOR | Leave a Comment »

CENTRO ESPÍRITA DE ABADIÂNIA ATRAI TURISTAS E MUDA A ECONOMIA LOCAL (Brasil)

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 24, 2008

Publicação: 23/11/2008 12:20

por Vicente Nunes – Correio Braziliense

Abadiânia — Diz o ditado que a fé move montanhas. Em Abadiânia, Abadiorque ou Abadingland — como JOÃO DE DEUS - CENTRO DOM INÁCIOé chamado o município goiano, de 12,8 mil habitantes —, a fé move euros e dólares. A cada semana, pelo menos 1,2 mil estrangeiros desembarcam na cidade em direção à Casa de Dom Inácio, um centro espírita comandado por João de Deus, cuja fama de curar todos os tipos de doença se espalhou pelo mundo. Em média, os visitantes, muitos desenganados pela medicina convencional e dispostos a pagar qualquer preço pela vida, permanecem na cidade de duas a três semanas, tempo exigido para o tratamento espiritual. Nesse período, gastam entre US$ 4 mil e US$ 5 mil com hospedagem, alimentação e outras despesas do dia-a-dia. Dinheiro que fez surgir um pólo comercial bastante ativo.

“Duvido que haja algum ponto mais promissor nas redondezas”, diz Hamilton Pereira, que se divide entre o cargo de secretário de Finanças de Abadiânia e administrador-geral da Casa de Dom Inácio. “Com tantos turistas na cidade, brasileiros e estrangeiros, houve uma mudança profunda na estrutura econômica do município. Empresas que operavam de forma irregular corrigiram sua atuação. Pessoas que estavam trabalhando na informalidade passaram a ter carteira assinada. Terrenos e casas que não pagavam impostos foram registradas”, afirma. O resultado disso, ressalta, foi um aumento expressivo na arrecadação de tributos. De 2004 para cá, os impostos municipais quase triplicaram, passando de R$ 559,8 mil ao ano para R$ 1,4 milhão (estimativa para 2008). “Posso garantir que a estrutura que gira hoje em torno da Casa de Dom Inácio responde por mais de 30% das receitas tributárias”, frisa.

A indústria do turismo religioso de Abadiânia é composta por 42 hotéis e pousadas e pelo menos 20 lanchonetes e restaurantes. Só a empresária Elizabeth Camargo, 48 anos, que chegou à cidade há 15 anos “com um tumor no cérebro e condenada a um mês de vida”, é dona de três hospedarias, com 123 quartos e 380 leitos. “Atendo turistas de todas as partes do Brasil e de 28 países”, conta. Para manter essa estrutura funcionando, dispõem de 34 empregados. “Temos reservas garantidas para boa parte de 2009. Chegamos a receber grupos de mais de 30 pessoas, como o da Romênia, que chegou nesta semana”, diz. Na média, sua clientela gasta R$ 1,3 mil por duas semanas com hospedagem, incluindo o café da manhã e o almoço. “Funcionamos como postos de saúde. Os hotéis e pousadas servem como pontos de tratamento”, enfatiza. “Até a alimentação que servimos é controlada pela Casa de Dom Inácio”, emenda. Está proibido o consumo de carne de porco, de pimenta e de álcool.

O grosso dos hotéis e pousadas está distribuído pelo Bairro Lindo Horizonte — ou Pretty Horizon para os estrangeiros, que circulam por ele vestidos de branco, como manda João de Deus. Na verdade, o bairro é um pedaço isolado de Abadiânia, separado do restante da cidade pela BR-060, que liga Brasília a Goiânia. O ponto mais movimentado é a Avenida Francisca Teixeira Damas, que, além de hotéis e restaurantes, abriga lojas de roupas, jóias, artesanatos e de produtos de beleza, além de agências de viagem, casas de câmbio, escolas de línguas e, claro, salões de beleza com tratamentos terapêuticos com cristais. “Abri a minha agência de viagens, a To Lead, há dois anos e não tenho do que reclamar”, afirma Thiago Garcia, 29.

Com dois empregados, está há meses a procura de mais um funcionário. O futuro ocupante precisa, no mínimo, falar inglês e espanhol fluentemente. “Com tantos estrangeiros como clientes, não posso me dar ao luxo de empregar qualquer pessoa”, destaca, lembrando que os atuais funcionários estudam, por conta da agência, alemão e francês.

Quem está tirando proveito dessa deficiência é o universitário Daniel Prates, 29. Estudante de letras, montou uma escola na qual ensina português para os estrangeiros e inglês para os brasileiros que querem tirar uma casquinha da lucrativa indústria aglomerada em torno da Casa de Dom Inácio. “Eu mesmo não estudei inglês. Aprendi tudo o que sei com os turistas que vêm para cá. Hoje, falo fluentemente”, conta.

Fiéis inflam preços dos imóveis

Apesar de pregar a simplicidade e o desapego a bens materiais, a Casa de Dom Inácio há muito tempo deixou de ser um lugar dominado por pobres romeiros, que viajavam de ônibus sem nenhum conforto por dias e dias. Parcela importante dos fiéis que hoje freqüentam o centro espírita comandado por João de Deus é de estrangeiros abastados, vários deles fincando residência no pequeno município goiano. Esse desejo de viver “no paraíso”, como define Dina Williams, que, há dois anos, deixou a cidade de Pittsburgh, nos Estados Unidos, fez com que os preços dos imóveis no bairro Lindo Horizonte, ou Pretty Horizon, disparassem. Um terreno de 360 metros quadrados não sai por menos de R$ 60 mil contra R$ 15 mil do lado mais brasileiro da cidade.

A nova-iorquina Denise Cooper, 49 anos, optou, por enquanto, pelo aluguel. A residência fixa em Abadiânia depende de um visto de permanência, que ela ainda não conseguiu, mesmo trabalhando como enfermeira na Casa de Dom Inácio. O grande número de pedidos de vistos tendo como destino a cidade goiana despertou, por sinal, a atenção dos órgãos de segurança de vários países, como a CIA, a Central de Inteligência dos EUA, e da Polícia Federal do Brasil. Agentes têm ido constantemente ao município em busca de explicação para tanto interesse por um lugar que “nem aparece no mapa”, conforme frisa um policial.

A guia turística Tânia Cates, 49, que mora há mais de 20 nos Estados Unidos, discorda do “desconhecimento” de Abadiânia. “É cada vez maior o número de pessoas fora do Brasil que acreditam no poder de cura de João de Deus”, diz. Ela conta que faz entre três e quatro viagens por ano para a cidade, sempre com grupos superiores a 20 pessoas. “Desta vez, estou acompanhando um grupo de Idaho, dos EUA”, acrescenta. Faz parte da comitiva Virgínia Rebata, 54, ex-vice-presidente mundial da rede de Hotéis Marriott. Ela veio se tratar de uma elefantíase nas pernas. “Voltarei para casa curada”, acredita.

A riqueza trazida pelos turistas não anima o motoboy Virgílio Francisco do Nascimento Neto, 25. “A prefeitura aumentou a arrecadação de impostos, mas os serviços públicos continuam terríveis”, afirma. Que o diga a agricultora Divina Gonçalves da Cruz, 41, cuja a avó Amara, de 70 anos, foi obrigada a se tratar de uma diarréia no hospital público de Anápolis porque as unidades de saúde de Abadiânia sequer tinham soro para hidratar a senhora. Além disso, as escolas públicas estão dominadas pela violência. (VN)

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE

PUBLISHED BY ‘CORREIO BRAZILIENSE’ (Brasil)

Posted in A INDÚSTRIA DO TURISMO, BRASIL, CIDADES, ECONOMIA - BRASIL, ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, FLUXO DE CAPITAIS, GO, INDÚSTRIAS, INTERNATIONAL, O MERCADO DE TRABALHO - BRASIL, O PODER EXECUTIVO MUNICIPAL, ORÇAMENTO MUNICIPAL, POLÍTICA REGIONAL, RELAÇÕES INTERNACIONAIS - BRASIL, RELIGIONS, SPIRITUALISM | Leave a Comment »