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Archive for the ‘a different world’ Category


congo: the new vocab of suffering

the video above is indirectly related but does include some “new vocab”. it also serves a bookend for the final post from this series.

i’m posting a series of articles by nicholas kristof of the new york times as he tries to bring light to the issue of congo.  if you are the praying kind, please join me in lifting up the needs of follow human beings. if you are in a position to do something else in addition, please consider your position in such a time as this.

The Grotesque Vocabulary in Congo

I’ve learned some new words.

One is “autocannibalism,” coined in French but equally appropriate in English. It describes what happens when a militia here in eastern Congo’s endless war cuts flesh from living victims and forces them to eat it.

Another is “re-rape.” The need for that term arose because doctors were seeing women and girls raped, re-raped and re-raped again, here in the world capital of murder, rape, mutilation.

This grotesque vocabulary helps answer a question that I’ve had from readers: Why Congo? After a previous visit to eastern Congo, a reader named Jim D. objected. “Yes there are horrible things happening in Africa,” he wrote on my blog. “None are anything we can do anything about by ourselves.”

“My question is why do you not concentrate on this nation’s poor,” he asked. “Yes, Africa suffers, but you need to look in your own house first.”

Jim D. has a legitimate complaint, echoed by other readers: We have enormous needs at home, and we shouldn’t let foreign crises distract us from them.

But do we really need to say that we can’t address suffering in Congo or Haiti, or anywhere else, because we have our own needs? Particularly when the Congo war has claimed so many lives (perhaps more than six million), isn’t it time for the U.S. to lead a major, global diplomatic push for peace?

Sometimes it’s said that women and children bear the brunt of the brutality in Congo. That’s not quite right; a United Nations official estimates that the population here in South Kivu Province is 55 percent female because so many men have been executed. Women are less likely to be killed but more likely to be tortured.

So can anything be done about this abattoir, or is Jim D. right that it is just one more tragedy to which we must wearily resign ourselves?

One answer is simple: Some people are already showing that it is possible to make a difference here. International Rescue Committee is helping rape survivors recover. The World Food Program averts starvation with its food distributions. And Eve Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues,” is working with Unicef to build a City of Joy here to train women — some of them shattered by war — to transform their communities. City of Joy will teach legal rights, self-defense and skills for economic empowerment, and a team of female construction workers is helping build it right now.

“The intention is to transform pain into power,” explained Christine Schuler Deschryver, who manages the project in Congo.

As for whether it is possible to end the war itself, it helps to understand why Congolese civilians are subjected to autocannibalism and re-rape. It’s not just mindless savagery. Rather, after talking to survivors and perpetrators alike over the years, I’ve come to believe that the atrocities are calculated and strategic, serving two main purposes.

First, they terrorize populations and shatter traditional structures of authority.

Second, they create cohesiveness among the misfit, often youthful soldiers typically employed by warlords. If commanders can get their troops to commit unspeakable atrocities, those soldiers are less likely ever to return to society.

So don’t think of wartime atrocities as some ineluctable Lord of the Flies reversion to life in a natural state but as a calculated military strategy. We can change those calculations by holding commanders accountable.

A four-step approach would be:

• Pressure on Rwanda to stop funding its pet Tutsi militia in Congo. Rwanda also should publish a list of those facing criminal charges for its 1994 genocide so that more Hutu militiamen not on the list might go back. A Rwandan war shouldn’t be fought in Congo.

• An international regime to monitor mineral exports from Congo so that warlords do not monetize their militias by exporting minerals through Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. Legislation to do this, backed by an advocacy group called the Enough Project, is pending in Congress.

• A major push to demobilize Rwandan Hutu fighters and return as many as possible to civilian life in Rwanda or settlements in Congo or Burundi. That should be coupled with a crackdown on leaders in Congo and those who direct action from Europe and the United States.

• A drive to professionalize the Congolese Army and end the impunity for murder, torture and rape, starting with the arrest of Jean Bosco Ntaganda on his warrant for war crimes.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to eastern Congo last year was a landmark, but it needs more follow-up from the Obama administration. What is required isn’t some new formula but much greater political will. Otherwise, the fighting will go on for years to come — and this lovely, lush land will spawn even more horrific vocabulary.

Posted under a different world

congo: the politic of rape

Click here for the accompanying video

i’m posting a series of articles by nicholas kristof of the new york times as he tries to bring light to the issue of congo.  if you are the praying kind, please join me in lifting up the needs of follow human beings. if you are in a position to do something else in addition, please consider your position in such a time as this.

The World Capital of Killing

It’s easy to wonder how world leaders, journalists, religious figures and ordinary citizens looked the other way while six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. And it’s even easier to assume that we’d do better.

But so far the brutal war here in eastern Congo has not only lasted longer than the Holocaust but also appears to have claimed more lives. A peer- reviewed study put the Congo war’s death toll at 5.4 million as of April 2007 and rising at 45,000 a month. That would leave the total today, after a dozen years, at 6.9 million.

What those numbers don’t capture is the way Congo has become the world capital of rape, torture and mutilation, in ways that sear survivors like Jeanne Mukuninwa, a beautiful, cheerful young woman of 19 who somehow musters the courage to giggle. Her parents disappeared in the fighting when she had just turned 14 — perhaps they were massacred, but their bodies never turned up — so she moved in with her uncle.

A few months later, the extremist Hutu militia invaded the home. She remembers that it was the day of her very first menstrual period — the only one she has ever had.

“First, they tied up my uncle,” Jeanne said. “They cut off his hands, gouged out his eyes, cut off his feet, cut off his sex organs, and left him like that. He was still alive.

“His wife and his son were also there. Then they took all of us into the forest.” That militia is known for kidnapping people and enslaving them for months, even years. Men are turned into porters, and girls into sex slaves.

Jeanne and other girls were regularly tied spread-eagle and gang-raped, and she soon became pregnant. The rapes continued, sometimes with sticks that tore apart her insides and left her dribbling wastes constantly. Somehow the fetus survived, but her pelvis was too immature to deliver the baby.

One of the people the militia had kidnapped was a doctor who was forced to treat the soldiers. The doctor, seeing that Jeanne was close to dying in obstructed childbirth, cut her open with an old knife, without anesthetic, and removed the stillborn baby. Jeanne was delirious and almost dead, so the militia dumped her beside a road.

“She was completely destroyed inside,” said another doctor, Denis Mukwege, who saved her life after she was brought here to Bukavu. Dr. Mukwege, 54, presides over the 400-bed Panzi Hospital, supported by the European Union and private groups like the Fistula Foundation. He is sometimes mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize for his heroic efforts to fight the war and heal its victims.

Dr. Mukwege operated on Jeanne nine times over three years to repair the fistulas that were causing her to leak wastes. Finally he succeeded, and she returned to her village to live with her grandmother.

“He told me to stay away from men for three months,” Jeanne remembers, to give her body time to heal. But three days after she returned to the village, the militia came again and raped again. The fistula reopened.

Jeanne, kept naked in the forest and stinking because her internal injuries had reopened, finally managed to escape and eventually found her way back to Panzi Hospital. Dr. Mukwege has already started a second round of surgeries on her, but there is so little tissue left that it is not clear she can ever be continent again.

About 12 percent of the raped women he treats have contracted syphilis, and 6 percent have H.I.V. He does what he can to repair their injuries and help them heal — until the next time.

“Sometimes I don’t know what I am doing here,” Dr. Mukwege said despairingly. “There is no medical solution.” The paramount need, he says, is not for more humanitarian aid for Congo, but for a much more vigorous international effort to end the war itself.

That means putting pressure on neighboring Rwanda, a country so widely admired for its good governance at home that it tends to get a pass for its possible role in war crimes next door. We also need pressure on the Congolese president, Joseph Kabila, to arrest Gen. Jean Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges. And, as recommended by an advocacy organization called the Enough Project, we need a U.S.-brokered effort to monitor the minerals trade from Congo so that warlords can no longer buy guns by exporting gold, tin or coltan.

Unless we see some leadership here, the fighting in Congo — fueled by profits from mineral exports — will continue indefinitely. So if we don’t act now, when will we? When the toll reaches 10 million deaths? When Jeanne is kidnapped and raped for a third time?

Posted under a different world

congo: moving into the neighborhood

i’m posting a series of articles by nicholas kristof of the new york times as he tries to bring light to the issue of congo. if you are reading this on facebook, please go to the original post for a video that likely won’t import. if you are the praying kind, please join me in lifting up the needs of follow human beings. if you are in a position to do something else in addition, please consider your position in such a time as this.

as believers, we are entering the season of lent where we reflect on what it means that jesus moved into the neighborhood to serve a dying world. he calls us to do the same. mr. kristof has found a story that embodies this call in the life of lisa shannon. i do not know if she is a believer or not, but i would hope to find more believers living like this.

From ‘Oprah’ to Building a Sisterhood in Congo


Five years ago, Lisa Shannon watched “Oprah” and learned about the savage, forgotten war here in eastern Congo, played out in massacres and mass rape. That show transformed Lisa’s life, costing her a good business, a beloved fiancé, and a comfortable home in Portland, Ore. — but giving her a chance to save lives in Congo.

I found myself stepping with Lisa into a shack here. It was night, there was no electricity, and a tropical rainstorm was turning the shantytown into a field of mud and streams. Lisa had come to visit a woman she calls her sister, Generose Namburho, a 40-year-old nurse.

Generose’s story is numbingly familiar: extremist Hutu militiamen invaded her home one night, killed her husband and prepared to rape her. Then, because she shouted in an attempt to warn her neighbors, they hacked off her leg above the knee with a machete.

As Generose lay bleeding near her husband’s corpse, the soldiers cut up the amputated leg, cooked the pieces on the kitchen fire, and ordered her children to eat their mother’s flesh. One son, a 12-year-old, refused. “If you kill me, kill me,” he told the soldiers, as his mother remembers it. “But I will not eat a part of my mother.”

So they shot him dead. The murder is one of Generose’s last memories before she blacked out, waking up days later in the hospital where she had worked.

That’s where Lisa enters the story. After seeing the Oprah show on the Congo war, Lisa began to read more about it, learning that it is the most lethal conflict since World War II. More than five million had already died as of the last peer-reviewed mortality estimate in 2007.

Everybody told her that the atrocities continued because nobody cared. Lisa, who is now 34, was appalled and decided to show that she cared. She asked friends to sponsor her for a solo 30-mile fund-raising run for Congolese women.

That led her to establish Run for Congo Women, which has held fund-raising runs in 10 American states and three foreign countries. The money goes to support sponsorships of Congolese women through a group called Women for Women International.

But in her passion, Lisa neglected the stock photo business that she and her fiancé ran together. Finally, he signaled to her that she had to choose — and she chose Congo.

One of the Congolese women (“sisters”) whom Lisa sponsored with her fund-raising was Generose. Lisa’s letters and monthly checks of $27 began arriving just in time.

“God sent me Lisa to release me,” Generose told me fervently, as the rain pounded the roof, and she then compared Lisa to an angel and to Jesus Christ.

Scrunching up in embarrassment in the darkened room, Lisa fended off deification. She noted that many impoverished Congolese families have taken in orphans. “They’ve lost everything,” she said, “but they take children in when they can’t even feed their own properly. I’ve been so inspired by them. I’ve tried to restructure my life to emulate them.”

It’s true. While for years world leaders have mostly looked the other way, while our friend Rwanda has helped perpetuate this war, while Congo’s president has refused to arrest a general wanted by the International Criminal Court, while global companies have accepted tin, coltan and other minerals produced by warlords — amid all this irresponsibility, many ordinary Congolese have stepped forward to share the nothing they have with their neighbors.

So Lisa is right that Generose and so many others here are awe-inspiring. Lisa tells her story in a moving book, “A Thousand Sisters,” that is set to be published in April. Congo is now her obsession, and she is volunteering full time on the cause as she lives off the declining royalties from her old stock photos.

She earns psychic pay when she sees a woman here who named her daughter Lisa. After we visited Congolese Lisa, I asked American Lisa about the toll of her Congo obsession — the lost business, man and home they had shared.

“Technically, I had a good life before, but I wasn’t very happy,” she mused. “Now I feel I have much more of a sense of meaning.”

Maybe that’s why I gravitate toward Lisa’s story. In a land where so many “responsible” leaders eschew responsibility, Lisa has gone out of her way to assume responsibility and try to make a difference. Along with an unbelievable cast of plucky Congolese survivors such as Generose, she evokes hope.

On this visit to Congo, Lisa is organizing a Run for Congo Women right here in Bukavu, for Feb. 28, with Congolese rape survivors participating. You can sponsor them at www.runforCongowomen.org. And one of those participating in the run, hobbling along on crutches and her one leg, will be Generose.

Posted under a different world

congo: waiting for help

i’m posting a series of articles by nicholas kristof of the new york times as he tries to bring light to the issue of congo. if you are reading this on facebook, please go to the original post for a video that likely won’t import. if you are the praying kind, please join me in lifting up the needs of follow human beings. if you are in a position to do something else in addition, please consider your position in such a time as this.

Orphaned, Raped and Ignored


Sometimes I wish eastern Congo could suffer an earthquake or a tsunami, so that it might finally get the attention it needs. The barbaric civil war being waged here is the most lethal conflict since World War II and has claimed at least 30 times as many lives as the Haiti earthquake.

Yet no humanitarian crisis generates so little attention per million corpses, or such a pathetic international response.

That’s why I’m here in the lovely, lush and threatening hills west of Lake Kivu, where militias rape, mutilate and kill civilians with a savagery that is almost incomprehensible. I’m talking to a 9-year-old girl, Chance Tombola, an orphan whose eyes are luminous with fear.

For Chance, the war arrived one evening last May when armed soldiers from an extremist Hutu militia — remnants of those who committed the Rwandan genocide — burst into her home. They killed her parents in front of her. Chance ran away, but the soldiers seized her two sisters, ages 6 and 12, and carried them away into the forest, presumably to be turned into “wives” of soldiers. No one has seen Chance’s sisters since.

Chance moved in with her aunt and uncle and their two teenage daughters. Two months later, the same militia invaded the aunt’s house and held everyone at gunpoint. Chance says she recognized some of the soldiers as the same ones who had killed her parents.

This time, no one could escape. The soldiers first shot her uncle, and then, as the terrified family members sobbed, they pulled out a large knife.

“They sliced his belly so that the intestines fell out,” said his widow, Jeanne Birengenyi, 34, Chance’s aunt. “Then they cut his heart out and showed it to me.” The soldiers continued to mutilate the body, while others began to rape Jeanne.

“One takes a leg, one takes the other leg,” Jeanne said dully. “Others grab the arms while one just starts raping. They don’t care if children are watching.”

Chance added softly: “There were six who raped her. One raped me, too.”

The soldiers left Jeanne and Chance, tightly tied up, and marched off into the forest with Jeanne’s two daughters as prisoners. One daughter is 14, the other 16, and they have not been heard from since.

“They kill, they rape, burn houses and take people’s belongings,” Jeanne said. “When they come with their guns, it’s as if they have a project to eliminate the local population.”

A peer-reviewed study found that 5.4 million people had already died in this war as of April 2007, and hundreds of thousands more have died as the situation has deteriorated since then. A catastrophically planned military offensive last year, backed by the governments of Congo and Rwanda as well as the United Nations force here, made some headway against Hutu militias but also led to increased predation on civilians from all sides.

Human Rights Watch estimates that for every Hutu fighter sent back to Rwanda last year, at least seven women were raped and 900 people forced to flee for their lives. “From a human rights perspective, the operation has been catastrophic,” concluded Philip Alston, a senior United Nations investigator.

This is a pointless war — now a dozen years old — driven by warlords, greed for minerals, ethnic tensions and complete impunity. While there is plenty of fault to go around, Rwanda has long played a particularly troubling role in many ways, including support for one of the militias. Rwanda’s government is dazzlingly successful at home, but next door in Congo, it appears complicit in war crimes.

Jeanne and Chance contracted sexually transmitted diseases. Like other survivors in areas that are accessible, they receive help from the International Rescue Committee, but Chance still suffers pain when she urinates.

Counselors say that most raped women are rejected by their husbands, and raped girls like Chance have difficulty marrying. In an area west of Lake Kivu where attacks are continuing, I met Saleh Bulondo, a newly homeless young man who was educated and spoke a little English. I asked him if he would still marry his girlfriend if she were raped.

“Never,” he said. “I will abandon her.”

A girl here normally fetches a bride price (a reverse dowry, paid by the husband’s family) when she marries. A village chief told me that a typical price would be 20 goats — but if the girl has been raped, two goats. At most.

Thus it takes astonishing courage for Jeanne and Chance to tell their stories (including in a video posted with the on-line version of this column). I’ll be reporting more from eastern Congo in the coming days, hoping that the fortitude of survivors like them can inspire world leaders to step forward to stop this slaughter. It’s time to show the same compassion toward Congo that we have toward Haiti.

Posted under a different world

signs of the end of the world: superbowl sex trade

my homage to rem’s its the end of the world as we know it and sport’s illustrated’s sign that the apocalypse is upon us…beyond a moment of zen, this feature displays wtf on steroids! leaving the realm of being humorous or laughable and entering the reality of really disturbing with(at least)one foot in evil territory.

here is the dark side of any major sporting event.  some countries even legalize prostitution during soccer tournaments perhaps in an attempt to capitalize on tax revenue. the bright side is that there are people attempting to help.

Volunteers try to help young sex workers on Super Bowl weekend

(CNN) — Volunteers are taking to the streets of Miami, Florida, this weekend to provide alternatives for teenage girls working the streets as prostitutes on Super Bowl weekend.

Just as Miami’s hotels, restaurants and retail stores are seeing a bump in business for one of the biggest sporting events of the year, law enforcement and social service agencies say they are also witnessing a spike in trafficking of underage sex workers.

“Many social service agencies and law enforcement agencies recognize that there was an increase of victims of trafficking during last year’s Super Bowl,” said Regina Bernadin, Statewide Human Trafficking Coordinator for the Florida Department of Children and Families.

“That correlates with research that whenever there’s a convention, a concert or a large event, traffickers will bring girls to the area to serve the influx of visitors,” she added.

Girls and young women, as well as their pimps, come from as far as New York and Texas to meet the increased demand, says Brad Dennis, director of search operations for KlaasKIDS Foundation, which is spearheading the outreach effort.

“It’s just that party culture,” Dennis said. “Super Bowl is an entertainment event and everyone wants to come down and party and when you throw that mix into an area with lots money to spend, it’s a traffickers’ playground.”

Due to the clandestine nature of underage sex trafficking, it’s hard to track the exact number of girls who are brought in for the Super Bowl and other big events. But a look at online escort listings gives some clues, Dennis said.

One free online site offered 38 ads for Miami on January 16, but more than 200 on Saturday night, he said. It was impossible to tell how many of the advertised escorts might be underage.

On less high-profile weekends in Miami, Trudy Novicki, Executive Director of Kristi House, said her organization looks at the number of reported runaways as an indicator of how many girls could be working in the sex trade.

“We know that a very high percentage of runaways will end up being approached by a pimp within 72 hours of hitting the streets and they will be prostituted in order to survive on the streets,” Novicki said. “So we know there is an extremely high correlation between runaway juveniles and underage prostitution.

Kristi House is also helping to coordinate the Super Bowl weekend outreach, Novicki said.

The profile of a typical runaway cuts across socio-economic lines, Novicki said, but many of them leave home to escape some form of abuse.

In an effort to reach those girls, state and local law enforcement agencies are teaming up with social service agencies to coordinate nighttime outreaches to girls on the streets.

Starting Wednesday, small teams of three or four volunteers have set out each night scoping the streets for potential trafficking victims, covering ground from Fort Lauderdale to South Beach to Hialeah. The hard part isn’t locating the girls but finding an opportunity to approach them without drawing the attention of their pimps, said volunteer Eddy Ameen.

“Safety’s always an issue because we know the girls aren’t alone. We have to make sure we’re not presenting potential harm to them,” said Ameen, executive director of StandUp For Kids Miami.

If they get a girl’s attention, they hand her a card with a hot line number for resources on how to get out of “the life,” Ameen said.

“It’s usually a very brief encounter — just a few minutes, if that. Some may not call the next day or the day after or ever. We can give out card 100 times and maybe five will call. But if they do, we’ve made a difference,” he added.

Another component of the operation aims to educate hotels and the hospitality industry on how to spot sex-trafficking operations on their premises and report it — an approach that yielded the majority of leads at last year’s Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida, according to Dennis.

“Last year we put together 21 leads that we gave to law enforcement, most of them from business owners or hotel owners basically stating I believe I have a trafficker and his girls stay at my hotel,” he said.

“They’d see a lot of traffic coming and going, or girls standing out on corners.,” Dennis added. “Those are all obvious signs, but good on them for actually reporting it.”

The epidemic of underage sex trafficking isn’t contained to Super Bowl weekend. An estimated 100,000 girls in the United States are under the control of a pimp or trafficker, according to Shared Hope Intermational, a nonprofit that works to combat worldwide sex trafficking.

It’s a reality that groups like KlaasKIDS, StandUp For Kids and Kristi House encounter daily, Ameen said.

“The common perception is that the girls enjoy it, they make money, they’re independent or they do it by choice. But when you work with young people selling their bodies, it’s not a choice. It’s a way to survive,” he said.

“I don’t want the idea to go away when Super Bowl ends. The reality is that it’s more concentrated on Super Bowl weekend, but they’re still out there come Monday morning.”

Posted under a different world, end of the world

pause: call for haiti supplies donations in nyc

check out if you have any of the items below to be shipped out of nyc tuesday for haiti relief efforts:

helping haiti — an updates from the charity: water office from charity: water on Vimeo.

There’s a plane leaving NYC for Haiti on Tuesday and we need your help filling it with cargo.

We’ve been in close contact with our field partners, and are turning the charity: water office into a drop-off point for the following items that are most needed in Haiti right now:

Feminine hygiene products
Sleeping bags*
Medical gloves
Cases of bottled water

Please do not mail these items to our office, but rather stop by during these times —

Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Monday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

IF YOU CAN CARRY THE DONATIONS BY HAND IN ONE LOAD: Please enter through the front door at 200 Varick St. You will need a photo ID to enter the building. We are located on the 2nd floor, Suite 201.

IF YOU ARE A BUSINESS OR ARE DONATING IN BULK: Please email us to schedule a drop-off time (email Lane Wood).

These supplies will be transported next week by Partners in Health to where they are needed most. Our other partners in Haiti, Concern Worldwide US, are sending supplies from Ireland and still have a pressing need for donations.

We still encourage online donations to our partners on the ground, too:

Click here to donate to Partners in Health.
Click here to donate to Concern Worldwide.

Many thanks for all the emergency relief donations to our partners, all the reTweets from our friends around the world and all the hard work to help the hundreds of thousands suffering through this crisis.

*These items can be gently used.

Posted under a different world

pause: help for haiti

the story of haiti is heartbreaking and people are looking for ways to help via donation. here is the organization that our church regularly gives to during world wide crises to support in relief efforts; and what they are currently doing.

Posted under a different world

gay rights in a different world: the right to life

the west is a different world as seen in this story from uganda. while in the states, the homosexual community is fighting for the right to marry, the battle for rights is much different elsewhere…gays are fighting for the right to live!

in the west there is discrimination and minority groups are shortchanged and even abused but when something like this surfaces, we see how very different life is in the west.

i’m surprised there is so little coverage about this when gay marriage rights are usually the lead story on any given night when there is movement.

i wonder if the same crusaders for rights here have the same compassion to fight for rights for others when the stakes are deadly. they haven’t said much from the safety of their own turf yet.

‘Death for gays’ debate in Uganda

Dec 9, 2009 12:14 AM | By Sapa-AP

Proposed legislation would impose the death penalty for some gay Ugandans, and their family and friends could face up to seven years in jail if they fail to report them to authorities. Even landlords could be imprisoned for renting to homosexuals.

Gay rights activists say the bill, which has prompted growing international opposition, promotes hatred and could set back efforts to combat HIV/Aids. They believe the bill is part of a continent-wide backlash because Africa’s gay community is becoming more vocal.

“It’s a question of visibility,” said David Cato, who became an activist after he was beaten up four times, arrested twice, fired from his teaching job and outed in the press because he is gay.

“When we come out and ask for our rights, they pass laws against us.”

The legislation has drawn global attention from activists across the spectrum of views on gay issues.

The Ugandan legislation in its current form would mandate a death sentence for active homosexuals living with HIV or in cases of same-sex rape. “Serial offenders” also could face capital punishment. Anyone convicted of a homosexual act faces life imprisonment.

Uganda is not the only country considering anti-gay laws.

Nigeria, where homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment or death, is considering strengthening penalties for activities deemed to promote it. Burundi just banned same-sex relationships and Rwanda is considering it.

Homophobia is rife even in more tolerant African countries.

In Kenya, homosexuality is illegal but the government has acknowledged its existence by launching sexual orientation survey to improve health care.

In South Africa, the only African nation to recognise gay marriage, gangs carry out so-called “corrective” rapes on lesbians.

A 19-year-old lesbian athlete was gang-raped, tortured and murdered in 2008.

Posted under a different world

tribute to abe pollin

a mentor teased me that when i moved to the dc area that i would no longer be a knicks fan…that i was now a bullets fan! i shivered and recoiled at that. especially since i had loved the lovable, winning but never able to win knicks of the early 90’s. i didn’t know any people who liked the bullets. that mentor was more of a prophet than i would know or admit. until today.

i bought tickets to the bullets to take my kids in the youth group to nba games. who wants to be a minister who offered kids a chance to sit in an office at the church to shoot the breeze? i didn’t. i wanted to ask kids…hey, want to see jordan, shaq, kobe, jason kidd, iverson, etc play??? those years i owned tickets were terrible….that is the team was terrible. most nights, they barely gave an effort. i almost fell asleep at some of those games. and one time, one of the kids actually did!

but i was also genuinely thrilled when they made the playoffs with webber, howard and strickland! it was a joyous affair. because i had gone down some long dark days with a team involuntarily….when there was light, i was taken for a ride…one that is usually reserved for diehards.

then more dark days for the team. then the jordan era in dc. then some more dark days. it was more dark than light. and i joined the masses in mocking their elderly owner, abe pollin. one radio personality constantly compared him to mr. burns on the simpsons. i delighted in those analogies. perhaps after giving him so much of my money…..i rejected his old school style of running a club. his seemingly bumbling ways. or was it just tough luck ways?

then i kept hearing quiet stories about him. his loyalty. his family first attitude. his heart for people over even winning. he made some moves that backfired but his motivations were pure(mostly). even in the midst of personal tragedy, he kept wanting to help transform his city. he built affordable housing. i think he paid for his own arena whereas other owners hold communities hostage…..see seattle/oklahoma. and it turned out that mj was an @$$#0!e….see hall of fame speech…so he was right to jettison that disease out of town. in short, he was a lovable loser type…a charley brown….good heart, right motives but never getting his moment in the sun…..which isn’t true! he did win a championship in the 70’s and was a multi-millionaire so you can’t feel that bad for him.

but he will likely be appreciated more in death than in life.

after michael jordan, he brought in eddie jordan along with ernie grunfeld, gilbert arenas, jamison and a few others. their initial rise was so important to the city and i think i’ve cheered for them and cared for this group of players as heartily as i did for ewing, oakley and starks. maybe it was after i started to appreciate mr. polin more.

here are some excerpts from his obituary:
He arrived in Washington more than 75 years ago, the gangly son of a Russian metal worker named Morris Pollinovsky who came to America a poor man speaking no English. Through decades of hard work and a seemingly unstoppable will, Abe Pollin rose to the top of the worlds of business, philanthropy and professional sports. In the process, he transformed his adopted home town by bringing professional basketball and hockey franchises here and spending $220 million to build a massive sports and entertainment arena that has dramatically changed the face of downtown Washington.

Mr. Pollin, through his indomitable drive and fierce devotion to his adopted home town, left his imprint on the city as no other sports owner or businessman has done. In addition to building thousands of units of housing for a range of incomes, he was the pillar of countless charitable and civic efforts, culminating in his building MCI Center (now Verizon Center) in 1997 and triggering a stunning renaissance of Gallery Place and surrounding neighborhoods.

Strong-willed and sometimes cantankerous, Mr. Pollin adamantly refused to compromise his principles in the sports world, even if it meant losing. He got rid of all-star basketball players such as Chris Webber and Rasheed Wallace because he did not like their erratic lifestyles and work habits, and he suffered through a public relations nightmare in 2003 when he summarily fired Michael Jordan, then the most famous athlete on the planet. Jordan, who made a highly publicized comeback for the Wizards as a basketball executive and then as a player, had brought national attention and increased revenue to a mediocre franchise. But Mr. Pollin saw Jordan as a selfish and disruptive influence.

Mr. Pollin was well known for his philanthropy, which touched global efforts such as UNICEF, while never forgetting local causes such as the I Have a Dream Foundation. He championed improving the lives of children, considering it an obligation of those who could afford to do so, and his contributions over the years were believed to be in the multiple millions.

In December 1984, Mr. Pollin read an op-ed column in The Post about 40,000 children dying daily from malnutrition in Africa. He called the writer, inquiring whether the number was a misprint. Mr. Pollin was assured it was accurate and was given a phone number for UNICEF’s top U.S. official. Mr. Pollin organized a trip to northeastern Uganda to observe the pestilence first-hand and later spearheaded UNICEF relief drives for Africans, and then for Kurds in Northern Iraq, and for women and children to survive winter in Afghanistan.

“I don’t know of others who have the global perspective he has,” said Charles “Chip” Lyons, then president of UNICEF USA. “He’s as much hard-charging for children in Uganda and Afghanistan as he is for kids in the District. He just gets that in a way that most people don’t.”

and my favorite………

In a story he told The Post in 1991, Mr. Pollin was sitting by himself in a Washington restaurant. A man came up to him, tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Are you Abe Pollin?”

Mr. Pollin looked up, anticipating a complaint about one of his teams. “Yes, I am,” he replied.

“You don’t know me, but you changed my life,” the man said, “You built that Linda Pollin project, and I moved in there, and that’s the first decent place we ever had to live. That changed my life.”

the whole article can be read here.

Posted under a different world

dc sniper saga reflections

a week ago, john allen muhammad was executed in virginia. he was known outside of the dc area as the shooter who randomly shot and killed people over a three week period in 2002. for those of us who were living in this area, this was a new experience, a new definition of terrorism. 9/11 was only a year removed yet this was even more fearful. people were afraid to do anything outside: shop, get something to eat, pump gas, walk around….you could be shot.

and the places where the victims were gunned down: wheaton, rockville, silver spring, kensington, manassas, fredricksburg, falls church, aspen hill….these were not places named on the news to me….these were places i was familiar with and went to. one victim was shot outside a restaurant i ate at weekly. another at a gas station i had used before. another at the local big box store. it was too real.

cynically and with a tinge of survival mentality, we would not get gas if we did not have to since gas stations became an easy, favorite target for the shooter. but as soon as we heard of a shooting, we would rush to pump gas because we figured he was done for a few days. it was an awful way to live.

we went to china to visit rob and julie toward the tail end of the ordeal and i had two hopes: that the us would not start another war while we were overseas and they would catch the killer so we could come back to a restored, safe community. both hopes were realized.

having been through that situation, terrorized and brutalized by this man, i have been thinking about his execution. in theory, i believe there is room for the death penalty but in practice because innocents are executed in the process, i am generally against the death penalty believing that life in prison is sufficient justice. but what to do with john allen muhammad?

i was stunned to hear this reaction from one of the victim’s family members. someone who was even more affected…much more affected. i had been asking my congregation if anyone still thinks the sermon on the mount is viable and a few days later read this:

Bob Meyers, whose 53-year-old brother, Dean, was shot dead while pumping gas in Virginia, called Tuesday’s execution surreal.

“Watching the life be sapped out of somebody intentionally was very different and an experience I’d never had,” he said on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”

“I’d watched my mother die of natural causes, but that was very different.”

He said he might have attained some closure, “but I would say that pretty much was overcome just by the sadness that the whole situation generates in my heart. That he would get to the place where he did what he did, and that it had to come to this.”

Meyers said he had forgiven Muhammad for two reasons: “One is that God calls for me to do that in the Bible and the second thing is related to that. If I don’t, it rots me from the inside out. It doesn’t really hurt John Muhammad or anybody that I have bitterness against.”


wow. humbled. yet still unsure about how i would have voted.

Posted under a different world