Prayers For Belgium

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Another Isis Attack, this time in Belgium. There have been at least 7 other cities this week who also experienced the violent terror of these groups.

Today, I am praying for and with those in Belgium, and all the others who are the latest victims of the evil of ISIS…I’m also thankful for those in the Muslim community who are speaking out against the brutality of ISIS et al.

In the U.S we often wonder how someone becomes “radicalized” by these Jihadist groups. I read a well written article on why peaceful muslims are drawn into radical Islam. It sheds some light on the subject, although it leaves some very hard questions which need deeper conversation.

Check out the article here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/03/22/radicalization-isil-islam-sacred-texts-literal-interpretation-column/81808560/

Nabeel Qureshi, author of the article and former Muslim, has also written a book called “Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward” which also looks into this current global problem.

Dealing with ISIS, and other radical groups, requires a global response. Humility, grace and an unshakeable commitment to end terror, injustice, persecution and violence is the only way forward.

Don’t Forget Burma…

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A friend of mine (thanks Chris Huber!) sent me a BBC compilation page concerning Burma (Myanmar). As many of you know, we team with the Free Burma Rangers and others to care for over 55 children who have been displaced because of the atrocities and genocide that occurs daily inside the borders of Burma. While that is only a drop in the bucket compared to the devastation that Burma experiences, it is a tangible way to make a difference in the life of some who can allow the ripple effect of transformation to emerge.

If you are looking for an opportunity to make a real difference in the life of a boy or girl, let me encourage you to consider giving to our Burma Project at SVA. feel free to message or email me for more info. and ways to give!

In the mean time, take a look at this page the BBC has put together to educate and advocate for human rights issues in Burma.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-11669604

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

As the smell of sulphur fills the neighborhood air and plans to celebrate with friends solidify, we are reminded that freedom matters. There is no other worldview besides a Judeo-Christian worldview, that could frame the beliefs in our Declaration of Independence. The opening words alone allude to a life that has purpose, meaning and morality…if there is no God, and we are a mere cosmic-accident, then “survival of the fittest” is the highest virtue, and our Declaration of Independence would read very differently:

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

We are far from a perfect nation…we often fail to live up to the vision…but that doesn’t diminish its truth or power.

This Fourth of July, as you celebrate with your friends, remember that our desire for freedom and equality comes from and reminds us that there is a God who is always at work…Here’s a great video to frame your celebration!

Reformers and Fences

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In many ways, it would seem that we are a world of reformers now. Thanks in large part to the power of social media, everybody has a platform to say whatever they like regardless of how accurate, intelligent or worthy their thoughts may be. Some people like to troll and cause conflict while others simply like to demolish the ideas and people that they disagree with.

One of the problems with this platform in our current context is that most people who are posting status update after status update, using their agenda as a polemic, seem to have forgotten the basic laws of logic and reason. What has taken their place, you ask? Emotions, opinions, and half thought through arguments.

In order to be a true reformer one must understand the scope of the thing that they wish to reform before they destroy it. Many go about reform the way history tells us Cortés burnt his ships in the harbor. While there was no going back for Cortés, sometimes we burn the ships before we have reasoned through such actions.

Today we are in the midst of cultural reform. Facebook has proven to be the new “speakers corner” as people pontificate, throw in a meme or two that agrees with their viewpoint, erroneously thinking that the picture and soundbite alone should end all other disagreement.

People are unfriended when they disagree, or perhaps more to the point, when they become belligerent concerning their topic.

The problem with the new reformers is that too often they have not thought through fully the reasons that something existed before. They have not entered into the “whys” of the thing they wish to eliminate or change. Some areas of reform seem easy such as ending human trafficking or eliminating global poverty. Some areas of current reform seem less clear to the populace such as gun rights and same-sex marriage. While boats are being burned, and status updates are flying, the conversations that are needed are being ignored in lieu of trying to determine who is right…who is wrong.

When emotions rule the day, we don’t ask the deeper questions, we simply want everyone to agree with our position. These are not easy issues, and before we tear down the things that have been in place for a while, we need to understand why they existed in the first place. Maybe they do need to be changed, maybe they don’t. Until we can clearly understand why something has existed, we don’t have the clarity yet to remove it.

G.K Chesterton spoke profoundly to this:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion.

Dialog is needed today on so many issues from global economics to civil rights. It would be my hope that we could engage the issues with honest reflection, being compassionate about the other person, even if we disagree on some issue.

But before we keep tearing down fences, lets make sure we know why the fence was put there in the first place.

The Power of Education

Poverty is an ever present evil all around the planet. You would think that by now we would have a handle on the great divide between those who have nothing and those who have an abundance, yet the truth remains that the chasm perpetuates.

Poverty is complex. There is not one single issue that needs to be addressed in order to reduce it. Rather there are cultural, global, spiritual, philosophical, economic, and even governmental issues (to name a few) involved in the global poverty crisis.

While it’s not -the- fix, education is perhaps one of the most important ways that we can wage a war on poverty.  When speaking of education I am including not only traditional educational systems, but also education on a moral, economic, spiritual and even technical and agrarian levels. As we invest in education,  there is a natural empowerment that happens. An empowered person knows how to find and utilize resources and create a new reality.

In a 2009 letter to G8 leaders, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mary Robinson and Muhammad Yunus noted:

“Education is the key to unlocking inter-generational deprivation, as it offers the knowledge people need to live healthy, happy lives…By investing in education, the G8 can leverage huge returns in women’s and children’s health, nation- and peace-building, and global economic development now and in the future.”

Education is essential if we are going to eliminate poverty, empower individuals and communities, and create sustainable solutions to the challenges we face globally such as HIV/Aids, inequity, violence, and life degradation.

There is currently more than 67 million primary-aged children who are deprived of basic education around the world. On one of my trips into Uganda I noted that the majority of the children who did attend primary education would not reach the secondary level due to family financial needs.

This truly broke my heart as I remember asking the kids, “So, what do you want to do with your life?” and the answer was just like the answers I hear from US kids.  “I want to be the President if Uganda” said one girl. “I want to be a doctor” said a young boy. “I want to be a teacher” said another young student. How heart breaking to think most of those dreams will not find fruition because of the stranglehold poverty has on our worlds children.

Global statistics tell us that over 250 billion primary aged children will not move into secondary or high school education…over 796 million adults and youth are illiterate today. This designation absolutely limits their potential and their life choices which makes them highly vulnerable and destined to remain stuck in a poverty straitjacket.

It’s time to look at how we can take a bigger role in eliminating poverty. I would encourage you to check out my non-profit  Planet Changer by going to http://www.planetchanger.org and invest in the elimination of poverty as well as help us look at how we can address increasing global education through our efforts at Planet Changer!

To help you ruminate further, here are some great quotes about education….

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”  ~Mahatma Gandhi

“Educate a boy, and you educate an individual. Educate a girl, and you educate a community.
African proverb via Greg Mortensen”   ~ Greg Mortenson, Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
~William Butler Yeats

“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”   ~Plato

“A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”   ~ Nelson Mandela

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”   ~Margaret Mead

“The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living differ from the dead.”  ~ Aristotle

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”   ~ Aristotle

“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”   ~ Malcolm X

“Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.”   ~ Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”   ~T.H. White, The Once and Future King

“Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.”
~ Martin Luther King Jr.

“When you know better you do better.”   ~ Maya Angelou

“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.”   ~ Walter Cronkite

“He who opens a school door, closes a prison.”   ~Victor Hugo

“Children deprived of words become school dropouts; dropouts deprived of hope behave delinquently. Amateur censors blame delinquency on reading immoral books and magazines, when in fact, the inability to read anything is the basic trouble.”   ~ Peter S. Jennison

“A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?”   ~ George Washington

“Teach the ignorant as much as you can; society is culpable in not providing a free education for all and it must answer for the night which it produces. If the soul is left in darkness sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.”  ~ Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

“Give a bowl of rice to a man and you will feed him for a day. Teach him how to grow his own rice and you will save his life.”   ~ Confucius

“Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand.”  ~Native American Saying