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In our world where we often feel confusion, misunderstanding and even animosity with the fact that the world’s religions and spiritual traditions often differ, today we find some hope. Hope in the sense that, while all spiritual beliefs and religions may differ, they fundamentally have a common thread running through them all.
According to Karen Armstrong, that thread is strong enough for us to go beyond differences in belief. It is strong enough to truly love one another. It is compassion.
Karen Armstrong, and her team of spiritual leaders from around the world, have come up with a Charter to affirm the belief in the importance of interfaith dialogue and understanding, but more importantly, in compassion for each other as human beings in practice.
Personally, I thought that the Charter would be longer and more detailed, something similar to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, I suppose that compassion itself, is simple, and it needs no complicated thesis to explain what it is. You can easily recognise it when it is there.
And I suppose for me personally, this sort of Charter is significant. I’m a Christian myself who grew up in a mainly Christian country (Australia and Philippines), but I am now living in a predominantly Muslim country (Bangladesh) and working on behalf of refugees who were discouraged from practising their Muslim faith.
A great man once said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” That was Martin Luther King Jr.
In the area I currently live, there are Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and a small group of Christians, all living together. We really should stop focusing on the differences, and focusing on all these spiritual labels. But appreciate, instead, that in our diverse spiritual beliefs, these beliefs essentially stand for something universal – that we want to give compassion to others, whichever their creed.
In the end, we are all human beings. And we really need to figure out a way to live together in harmony.
The Charter for Compassion was unveiled on November 12, 2009, and it is given below:A call to bring the world together…
The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.
It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.
We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.
We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.
Visit the website of the Charter for Compassion for more info, or to affirm you support.
‘Lovers in Paris’ ended well. It was very climactic towards the end, particuarly as all the characters and their relationships began to unravel. Of course, there were some loose threads by the end of it, but I think the major themes and the main characters were very complete. There is a sense of finality at the end. For me, I guess watching the entire series, you get the sense of the overwhelming power of love, which can overcome anything. (A little too soppy for some, but I guess for me, love really is powerful and I personally believe it, too)
It’s a little sad having finished the series, and going through the lives and experiences of Carlo and Vivian. I liked seeing the real actors on ABS-CBN, and it’s weird seeing that they are totally different in real life. I suppose I just got sucked into the authenticity of their acting.
Here are some more tagalog words that I learned towards the end of the series!
Note to the press: If you found this post by searching for Adré, and you are thinking of calling MSF to contact me, please do not bother. MSF is busy managing the unfolding emergency in N'Djamena, and I am not available for comment. If you insist on calling (and I know how you reporters are) the best contact is the MSF press officer in New York(who will tell you exactly what I just told you). Hello everybody, and happy new years. 2008 is going to be really great for me, I have some news to share here to get all those who are interested in my travels back up to date with my life and my plans. First, the most important thing in my whole life... I've finally found the perfect girl for me. Her name is Marina, and we've been together over a year now. She and I weren't ready to talk so publicly about our relationship until now, but now the time has come, so that's the first really great piece of news for the blog in 2008. I met Marina in Liberia (and astute readers of my blog from back then will find some references to her). She was a coworker, and we were living in a small compound with 7 other MSFers, so we started off with a great deal of discretion. We have some funny stories about how each of our coworkers found out about our little "thing". The important part is that the boss, who liked to play the part of the mother to us all, didn't find out until the very end... that means we "won" the game. :) When we both got back from Liberia, we really had to adjust. Was it just something that happened to us inside of the MSF bubble, or would our relationship work in real life too? It took all year, and some hard times, to find the answer to that question. But the answer now is clear: YES! We are together now in Switzerland, and planning how to stay together. And that leads me to the second piece of news: we have found a posting with MSF where we can live and work together. We will be in Adré, Chad for 6 months. I leave January 10th, and she follows 2 weeks afterwards. I have been studying French during the last 5 months here in Switzerland to give me a reason to stay close to Marina and develop our relationship. Furthermore, I chose to study French to help my career with MSF and to help us have more possibilities to be together -- now that both of us are bilingual (at least for some types of jobs) that makes many more possibilities where we can live and work together, all around the world. After Chad, who knows... but perhaps we will live in Geneva while Marina studies, and after that we can continue working around the world. I will be working as a logistician in Adré, where MSF operates a hospital. It was a government hospital before the hostilities in western Sudan boiled over the border and destabilized the eastern frontier region of Chad. Now, there are 240,000 refugees from Sudan in the area, and demand for services like healthcare, water, and feeding have overwhelmed the Government of Chad's ability (and willingness) to provide. Thus, eastern Chad has become the humanitarian aid industry's second front in the war in Darfour (the western state of Sudan). My work will concentrate on construction and water systems, because MSF has the goal to rehabilitate a series of health posts and put them back into service during 2008. But in fact because the situation there is so volatile, I might end up working on other things instead... like the evacuation plan. :( Marina will be a nurse in the hospital. She will be responsible for the normal things an MSF nurse does in a post like that. She will be responsible for the pharmacy, the sterilization, the management of the nurses and the nurse aides, for ongoing training to improve the standard of care. This is actually quite a boring post, like her first one with MSF several years ago in Laos. To her credit, she's decided to take it to come with me to Chad. I suppose I will owe her big time when she finds something interesting to do somewhere else in the world and I have to find a way to come along with her! The context where we will be working, eastern Chad, is really much more the traditional MSF posting than Liberia was. Compared to Chad, Liberia is a vacation paradise. We will have a tough time sometimes, but we'll be together and that seems to give us more courage. That's how it should be with your partner, but it's perhaps not such a good idea to give each other courage when you are talking about a war zone! But, we'll be back inside the MSF bubble, where there are enough security rules, enough resources to keep us safe, and a healthy aversion to taking stupid risks. It's going to be a big adventure, and hopefully we'll really learn a lot from it. Finally, some administrative details... I am going to purge my huge list of people and only send updates from Chad to those who really want them. If you have gotten this far in my message, you clearly are interested. So please reply to me via e-mail and I will keep you on the list. If you have not read this far, don't send me e-mail. :) I will not be posting messages from Adré on the website publicly until after I get back next July. If you want to keep up with me, it has to be by e-mail. If you are reading this on the web, you need to send me e-mail at email@example.com to get on the list.
which means sth like "this upsets but a small world". my mom said it to me when I told her that a colleague will be upset if I don't call. and a friend of mine said that if switzerland makes again "zero points" in the eurovision song contest, it is only a small world of 6, 7 million Swiss that is upset :-)I like this expression. as a small update on the bloody german "I lost my purse" guy, my money never came. Frida, I thought the same as you: I could find myself in this situation... and Phil, well, yes, you are right. what else to say? I am not sure what I should be learning out of this... next time I walk away? I just give part of the amount? I smash the nose of the guy?but at least my visa arrived in Geneva today. and I found out the reason why admin is working so particularly lousy these days: they all fear for their jobs. UNHCR is considering to outsource admin to a less expensive country. IOM has already done so, their admin is in malysia. this is where unhcr might go as well, or to bukarest or budapest. haha. I am evil enough and have some experiences of the "service" provided, so I have to say this happens to my entire satisfaction. for this lousy service? we can definitely save a lot of money.I am thinking those days about how I changed in Afghanistan. I got different feedback from my friends. from "not very much" to "more distant" to "more patient" and "less tough on some issues" to "more demanding".what I definitely learnt is that no situation is easy to solve. there are so many aspects and factors that influence things. if you are thinking too much, one tends to over-estimate his/her influence and might even stop acting for fear of provoking wrong results. talk about academisation of humanitarian work.... what is right and wrong?so yes, I think I am more distant and more patient because I don't put myself in the judges' throne so quickly. I actually think I never did. but yes, I am less tough on some issues because I realised it is not so much the actions of people that makes things happen, but sometimes the sum of a hundred things. but I am also more demanding, because I still think that any act and working in general should always be done as good as possible, without overestimating yourself but also without the lame excuse that the individual does not count.the individual does not count that much. but at the same time, it can have an enormous impact. yes, I guess I learnt to accept that an individuals life is not sacred. why should it be? and I do think that there are ideas worth dying for. now I shouldn't be writing stuff like this before trying to enter the US *lol* either they stop me at the border because of my affinity to Islam, or then they put me directly into their special forces, for my affinity to the political right. geez, I am a strange person. absolutely fit for new york then, I guess :-)
I am waiting for my visa, and I am waiting for the money or a sign from that german guy I was helping out the other day... he did not send the money next day, but maybe it is still coming...in the meanwhile am thinking about a post with the title HONOUR, talking about responsibility, honesty, fairness and other lost values on this world!and I do send all my best wishes and strength to my colleagues in Herat, struggling with the latest battlefield and 130 dead people in Shindand - 100 km south of Herat, the impact of some new bombs, the contradictory reports from the ground - and Iran deporting the not so well-liked Afghans back to their country: 40'000 so far in a few days. and deporting is not a nice thing. it involves a lot of psycho pressure, also physical discomfort to abuse, apart from the fact of being deported from a country with a good living standard where you've been working for years (not officially, of course) back to a country like Afghanistan which is sliding into another period of unstability and insecurity.still, I would go back working in Afghanistan or a country like Afghanistan anytime. any time. staying at home is good for a rest, but I wouldn't want to live in Switzerland and die of boredom and disgust from some elements and life style in western society. the crap people are being told here, and ready to believe...
imagine... you walk into a train station in switzerland, and a young german guy approaches you. he says he had his purse stolen with all cards and stuff, and he needs money. he would send it back to you right next day. he needs 80 swiss francs, about 60$, 50 euros... (yeah go ahead, laugh about my miserable money converter skills!)I usually give money to people on the street - the ones performing music for instance, or people who just need a hand for a ticket or similar. not the drug people, not the beggars.now I am wondering if I am still too naive to believe any cock'n'bull story or if I will get the money in the next days. I hope I will get it. not for the money really, I have enough and it won't hurt. but it would be such an asshole thing to do to think up this story and appeal for help, and then just faking it. it would hurt on another level. we'll see...
one year in the UN and I start accumulate experiences about long ways of administration and utterly incompetent people not even realising their failure...I was supposed to leave Switzerland tomorrow Saturday for New York. I asked about one and half month ago who is in charge to organise my visa. I asked again two weeks ago, and got a reply that Geneva will organise it.I spent three hours with the lady of the Travel and Visa Unit on Monday, filling out forms, taking the picture, signing et cetera - only to get a mail from the same lady on Wednesday that she gave me the wrong forms and took the wrong format of pictures. She asked me some other forms and stuff. I visited the website of the US embassy and checked it, to find out that she clearly has no idea of what she is doing. oh well. why should she? maybe because she is working for the Visa and Travel Unit for several years now????it is not too bad for myself. this way I get a prolonged holiday at home!just doubting the efficiency of the UN once more, if it is not even able to organise a visa on time for a staff member to start her new job...Worldman, maybe you would just smile and thank for the service. just, what if there is no service? what if someone is simply not up to their job? and also, especially in Pakistan, I made the experience that the nicer you are the worse they treat you. Once you start bitching, people start paying attention and make things possible. I got better rooms in hotels, accelerated check in services and generous luggage allowances only when starting to be strong and annoying. I find it sad. no wonder this world is such a fucked up place, if being nice only counts as a sign for the other to keep on sleeping...
I am doing so fine. enjoy being at home - even though everybody in my family seems to have an emergency of some kind and needs to go to hospital and stuff. well, it all turned out okay in all cases but there were a few tense moments. good to be at home - even more in times like these.the last rumour that swept Afghanistan on the day that I left was the following one, that if you receive phone calls from certain numbers a deadly virus is transmitted, which causes immediate bleeding out of nose and mouth and ears, and you die. and they did send this email here as a warning.....Subject: BELIEVE OR DO NOT BELIEVEDear all,These are some suspicious numbers (Which is coming as a phone call tomobile phones and is causing very strong bleeding in intellectual/brainsystem!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) , presumably, almost all heard about. How much theseinformation are true and accurate I don’t know, but just I felt to share some ofthese numbers which I got it from XY office;111009000888009192431900880055079005588885555Wish you all safe moments,intellectual bleeding, my arse!! please, for anybody who believes this kind of crap: dont be afraid. you may have a mobile phone, but you clearly dont have any intellectual organ that could bleed at all.if feels so good to be out of it! getting the adrenaline out of my system. had the last Afghanistan experience on Monday when driving to the airport. there were credible sources warning about a suicide attack on Herat airport... we were told to go there last minute only and reduce the time of actually being on the spot. so I got out of our armoured car in the last minute - only to hear that the plane is an hour delayed. aaah, quel plaisir!but now am home. still alert about every unusual noise, but having such a good time with friends.
my plan was to leave herat and go straight to islamabad, spend a day, dubai, spend a day, and thanks to all those night flights be home by thursday morning.I should have learnt the insh'allah lesson better!herat to kabul was nice and smooth. UNHAS has this extra terminal for themselves, so passport stamp and transit check happens within few minutes. you hardly have time to go to toilet when you find yourself back in the same plane again. the planes are based in islamabad, and the typical monday route is islamabad - kabul - kandahar - herat - kabul - islamabad.I had a bit of bad luck - the guy in front of me of smelling of sweat quite badly. we were driving towards the runway when I was already looking around checking for a seat to change to once we are airborn, when the smell suddenly changed. and all passengers started to look agitated. and I realised its bloody SMOKE that we are smelling! and, like for re-assurance you look towards the flight attendants and see their faces fall and get all white, and you realise, haha, humanitarian air service has an emergency :-) well still being on the ground you can laugh when they stop the plane, push open the door and say "leave all your luggage and get off the plane now. leave your luggage, get out!"the other thing I realised is that I need a camera with a better zoom.after this picture ISAF showed up heavily armed and I stowed my camera away. we were in the restricted section of the airport... it took them almost 30 minutes to get the buses coming to pick us up - oh well, not bad. for security clearance it normally takes 24 to 48 hours!so I could spend another night in kabul and flew into Islamabad today morning. still the same boring city - and bloody office for unfathomable reasons changed my flights in a way that I have the whole day in Islamabad tomorrow, and there is no Dubai. I still arrive in Switzerland at the time foreseen, which was enough reason for the stupid jackass in the office here to say "but your schedule has not been changed at all - destinations and arrival times stay the same".I still wonder sometimes how deliberately stupid some people manage to be. must be quite a challenge to think in such a small box.talking of small box, this is the beechcraft we were using today to fly to Pakistan.nice and cosy, no neighbour as single seats only, and capacity 18 passengers. funny to see the pilots working so closely.had lovely clouds.bought myself some books in Saeed Book Bank (Jinnah Super Market Islamabad). If you ever come to Islamabad, this is the place to go. you find everything. critical books about world politics that are not in our shelves in Europe and even less in the US, I even saw "Mein Kampf" by Adolf Hitler today (wonder how many google search will hit on this page now....). did not buy it, I'd like to read it but hey, as a german native I wont read it in english.so this is my selection of books that will help me over the day tomorrow and steer away my thoughts from fancy Dubai while being in f... I mean in less fancy Islamabad:
last day.I just gave back my phone and radio equipment to our radio room guy. he was so sad, happy for me but sad, saying that I will always stay in the heart of the office family and asking me to please keep in touch. it does hit you right in the heart - almost physically - and the chest goes all tight, and the stomach seems to have thousands of sensitive nerve endings!parting... someone once said it is the most intense form of human contact. not everyone is up to it. some people are scared of living life to its fullest, maybe.Tous les changements, même les plus souhaités, ont leur mélancolie, car ce que nous quittons, c'est une partie de nous-mêmes ; il faut mourir à une vie pour entrer dans une autre. and for the non-french speaker the english translation of Anatole France' wisdom:All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.
there is nothing more exciting than packing and leaving to a new life.sorting out memories, throwing away things, just keeping the most treasured staff.with a little help from my friends - thanks guys you are great!!turning anger and disappointment into energy. I discovered really good horoscopes - on tarot.com. I have it on my google startpage, and yesterday it did tell me not to "hide the anger that is lurking under the surface, even if it is unconvenient for other people". I did, and it was a beautiful day also for my friends - and Friday 13th, I realised this morning! that is one of the few great things in Afghanistan: there is loads less of superstitious small talk ;-)however, today it says "(...) don't slip into the time-consuming trap of believing that you must explain yourself to others. Just keep pushing forward, inch by inch, in the pursuit of your dreams."dreams... I see myself walking through Grand Canyon, running to a Security Council Meeting trying not to sweat upon arrival, flirting with some great guys, enjoying Splash with my friends until I'm "gayed out", going for good bread (well maybe not in the US... but in New York!). I look forward having more contacts to my old friends at home again. Afghanistan has been too far away from everything. and I just want to have fun :-)and honestly. this is the first time I am looking forward to buying business suits and deux pieces. not sure about the high heels... am 1,82 already with flat shoes and I dont want to intimidate everyone ;-)Song of the Day - Poison by Alice Cooper
I am looking forward to getting out of here. leaving some of those things behind.sometimes you go on mission and it is a defining mission for you, your personality, your professional development, yourself. and sometimes you just go on a mission and have your share of work, have fun, meet new friends, learn some things - but it is not a defining point in your life.I would have expected Afghanistan to be the first. and I am disappointed that it was not. but well. life goes on - and I am looking forward to suck some more marrow out of life in the future!today... a relaxed day. after a really great funny party yesterday evening was woken up by phone calls to remind me we want to go for a picnic. alka seltzer is a good friend in those moments! were in a beautiful garden with a swimming pool, a little dairy fabric, cows and vineyards. nice. and in the evening our great guesthouse team (am tempted to write family - we do know so much about each other!) we went to the military base where they have a beautiful small spanish restaurant. and then spent some time with spanish military friends at their friday night party.a great day, all in all :-)