"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life"

Father God, thank you for the love of the truth you have given me. Please bless me with the wisdom, knowledge and discernment needed to always present the truth in an attitude of grace and love. Use this blog and Northwoods Ministries for your glory. Help us all to read and to study Your Word without preconceived notions, but rather, let scripture interpret scripture in the presence of the Holy Spirit. All praise to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Please note: All my writings and comments appear in bold italics in this colour

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sudan Woman Sentenced to Death for Being a Christian 'To Be Freed'

This just posted on BBCs web site: Another answered prayer? or Political pressure? or both?

Sudanese authorities are to free a woman who was sentenced to death for having abandoned the Islamic faith, a foreign ministry official says. When, in fact, she never was of the Islamic faith. Her father was Islamic, her mother Orthodox Christian. The father left when Meriam was very small and she was raised a Christian.

Meriam Ibrahim, who recently became a mother, will be freed from custody in a few days' time, the official said. Hopefully, before they carry out the other part of the sentence, the 100 lashes for adultery - for sleeping with her own husband.

Meriam gave birth last week in prison, with her feet shackled.

That's all we have at the moment.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Delhi Bus Victim's Family - The Nightmare Continues

One of the most-read articles on this blog is - Rape and Murder on a Delhi Bus. The following heart-rending interview with the parents of the victim (still unnamed) took place a year after the horrific ordeal occurred.

A 23-year-old Indian student was fatally gang-raped inside a bus in the capital, Delhi last December. 

The attack caused international outrage and prompted India to introduce stringent anti-rape laws. A court sentenced her attackers to death this September. The BBC's Soutik Biswas met the family of the victim to find out how life had changed for them after her death.

Her father had returned home tetchy and tired after a grueling 16-hour working day at Delhi's international airport on the night of 16 December 2012.

He received a call from a breathless policeman an hour before midnight that his daughter had met with an accident and had been taken to hospital. (At that time it probably looked like she had been struck by a vehicle). An hour later, doctors told him she had been gang raped on a moving bus by a group of men. Two weeks later, she died in a hospital in Singapore.

Wake up India, she's dead, screamed a newspaper headline, as India exploded in anger and outrage.

Life had changed in an instant for the woman's family.
Mom and Dad in new apartment
A year on from the attack, the family has moved into a two-room apartment gifted by the government in a thriving suburb of Delhi. It's dank and the stairwell lights often don't work at night, but it's still a vast improvement over their crumbling brick home in a tumble-down neighbourhood where monsoon rains flooded the rooms.

The private company that runs the city's international airport has provided the 54-year-old father with a new job making entry passes with regular hours and a wage of 20,000 rupees ($326; £200) a month.

It's a far cry from his backbreaking job handling baggage at the airport: he would work double shifts for a paltry 6,620 rupees ($107; £66) a month.

Father and sons face media scrum on 1st anniversary
The family's two sons, aged 21 and 17 - their sister was the eldest at 23 when she died - now go to an upmarket engineering college and a prominent city school, their fees paid by the government. The elder son is studying to become a computer scientist; the younger one is planning to become a doctor.

Then there's the unrelenting public gaze: the parents have been on primetime TV news and have attended award ceremonies to remember their dead daughter, and everybody in the neighbourhood knows that the "victim's family" lives here.

Case timeline

16 December 2012: Student gang raped on Delhi bus
17 December: Bus driver Ram Singh and three others arrested
21-22 December: Two more arrests, including a minor
29 December: Victim dies in Singapore hospital
21 January: Trial of five of the accused begins in special fast-track court - they later plead not guilty
28 February: Sixth accused charged in juvenile court
11 March: Ram Singh found dead in Tihar jail
31 August: Juvenile found guilty and given three-year term in reform facility
10 September: Four men found guilty by a Delhi court
13 September: Death penalty verdicts issued

Strewn around the sparse apartment, there's evidence of modest prosperity: a small TV on a rickety table, a cheap washing machine, a gas cylinder, a new water heater in the bathroom.

"But sometimes I feel," the father tells me, "poverty was better for us. We slept well. We were happier. Today, we have everything, but yet nothing. Without our daughter our world has turned colourless".

"You know, I used to say, my daughter is the engine of the family. All of us were like bogies [carriages] yoked to the engine."

In his cream trousers and striped brown sweater, the father sits on a plastic chair, his head hunched, his eyes gazing at the floor. He has calloused hands of a man who has done hard manual labour: first, as a worker in a small factory making pressure cookers and then a overworked baggage loader.

He has worked hard to get his children educated, doing double shifts, selling a small plot of family land for 200,000 rupees ($3,224; £1,995) to enable his daughter to enrol in a four-year physiotherapy course which she had completed.

His phone keeps ringing incessantly, usually from journalists wanting to visit the family. His 46-year-old wife, the victim's mother, is wearing a bright pink chiffon sari and staring vacantly at a noisy media scrum building up at the door. The younger son fidgets with his phone on the verandah outside. A pale winter sun struggles to creep into the cold room.

They have brought a few of her possessions to their new home. Her favourite pink doll is one. "Let's keep my daughter on the bed with us for the picture," the mother tells the photographer.

A couple of her books on neurology and neuroscience and human anatomy, both photocopied because the family couldn't afford to buy the expensive originals, have made it to the new apartment. But most of her belongings, her brother says, lie packed in a trunk in the old house, where an aunt stays - "her clothes, her notes, her dreams".

It's understandable. Grief doesn't make living easy.
Mother - can't stop thinking about daughter's torture
Grief arrives in paroxysms that make the mother break out in cold sweats at night when she thinks of what her daughter went through at the hands of her attackers. "I begin choking sometimes," she says.

Grief arrives in waves every Sunday when she breaks down and cries because it is a day the family enjoyed most together, but also the fateful day she went to see her first English movie - Life of Pi - with a friend and never returned home. "Sundays are the hardest. I feel she's moving around us," her mother says.

She says she doesn't step out of the house much, and hasn't bought anything for herself since her daughter's death. Sleeplessness has made her sick. An ear infection needed minor surgery, but she's still suffering.

All that the family is really left with are her memories, the good and the bad. And a dream.

Her mother says she remembers how her daughter would talk the night away with her father and her brothers about their hopes for the future. They remember her final hours in the intensive care unit after doctors gave up hope: her brother says the family stood around her bed as "her heart beat slowed, the alarm bells went ringing and the monitors flat-lined".
Brother wants to be a doctor

Her father says he has a dream often.

"She comes in one dream, you know," he says, his eyes gleaming suddenly, looking at me. "We are in a hotel in a town to see her. She visits us. She stands near me and asks me whether I need money. I tell her, I don't need any money, just take care of your brothers. And then she vanishes.

"She would always tell me not to worry about money. That she would take care of the family."

That is what poverty does to you, the father says. Think about money all the time. Think about whether you have enough money in your pocket to take your daughter's body home.

"When I went to the hospital on the night of 16 December with a friend the doctors told me my daughter would not possibly live beyond a couple of hours. My first thought was how will I take her body home?" he says.

"Between the two of us we had 1,000 rupees ($16; £9). Would it be enough to pay for the medicines and the ambulance? She survived the night. Next day a politician came and paid me 25,000 rupees ($405; £250). I felt better. At least I had the money to take her body home if she died. This is what poverty does to you."

On the first anniversary of her death, the family will hold a small memorial service. They also plan to launch a trust with donations to feed and educate poor children, to begin with.

"We just want to keep her memory alive as long as it's possible. I know one day people will forget her. But they will remember her death led to changes - changes in the anti-rape laws, a change in consciousness," her father says.

"Women are speaking up against harassment and violence now. There is some fear of the law.

"That is my daughter's contribution, isn't it?"

Pakistan's Prime Minister Orders Action in Brutal Stoning Death of Pregnant Woman

Is it acceptable in the 21st century to leave some societies in the stone-age in terms of basic human rights?

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has described the stoning to death of a woman by her family in front of a Lahore court as "totally unacceptable". Not 'shocking', not 'horrendous' not 'barbaric', just 'unacceptable'. Good grief!

Farzana Parveen, who was three months pregnant, was pelted with bricks and bludgeoned by relatives furious because she married against their wishes.

Her husband told the BBC that police simply stood by during the attack.

Lahore's police chief has denied this and said Ms Parveen had been killed by the time police arrived at the scene.
Police investigating stoning
There are hundreds of so-called "honour killings" in Pakistan each year.

This incident has prompted particular outrage as it took place in daylight while police and members of the public reportedly stood by and did nothing to save her.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has ordered the chief minister of Punjab province to take "immediate action" and submit a report by Thursday evening.

"They watched Farzana being killed and did nothing," her husband, Muhammad Iqbal, told the BBC.

Mr Iqbal described the police as "shameful" and "inhuman" for their failure to stop the attack.

"We were shouting for help, but nobody listened. One of my relatives took off his clothes to capture police attention but they didn't intervene," he added.

Another witness told Reuters news agency that police ignored the attack.

"Policemen were standing outside the High Court, but no policeman came forward. In spite of the noise, no policeman took the trouble of coming forward to save her," the witness, who was not named, said.

However, Lahore police chief Shafique Ahmad questioned Mr Iqbal's credibility, and told the BBC that police did not stand by while the attack occurred.

Police were a distance away, and were told by a member of the public that a scuffle was taking place outside the court, Mr Ahmad said.

By the time police arrived, Ms Parveen had been killed after being hit on the head with a brick, he added.

Arranged marriages are the norm in Pakistan, and to marry against the wishes of the family is unthinkable in many deeply conservative communities.
Honour killing protest
Shahzeb Jillani, BBC News, Karachi
This murder has appalled Pakistan's small but vocal civil society. Social media activists took to Twitter and Facebook to express their shock. English-language newspapers have published strongly-worded editorials to denounce the brutal crime.

But all that is in sharp contrast to the muted reaction in the mainstream Urdu language media which, instead, chose to focus on political and security-related stories.

The killing of a woman in the name of honour remains an appalling reality in villages and towns across Pakistan.

As Dawn newspaper points out in its editorial: "The most shocking aspect of this killing, however, is that all the people witnessing the crime, even the law enforcers, were silent spectators as a woman was bludgeoned to her death."

Ms Parveen's father later surrendered to police but other relatives who took part in the attack are still free.

"We arrested a few of them and others are currently being investigated," local police chief Mujahid Hussain said.

Ms Parveen came from a small town outside the city of Lahore. According to reports, her family were furious because she decided to marry Mr Iqbal instead of a man they had chosen.

Her relatives then filed a case for abduction against Mr Iqbal at the High Court.

'Honour' killings in Pakistan

In 2013, 869 women murdered in so called "honour killings"

Campaigners say real number is likely to be much higher

Of these, 359 were so called "Karo Kari" cases, whereby family members consider themselves authorised to kill offending relatives to restore honour

Rights groups say conviction rate in cases of sexual and other violence against women is "critically low"

Source: Human Rights Commission of Pakistan annual report 2013

The newlyweds were only at the Lahore court to contest this case. Ms Parveen had already testified to police that she had married of her own free will.

Mr Iqbal told the BBC that when the couple arrived at the court on Tuesday to contest the case, his wife's relatives were waiting and tried to take her away.

As she struggled to free herself they dragged her to the floor, pelted her with bricks and then smashed her head. She died on the pavement.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said she was "deeply shocked" and urged Pakistan's government to take action.

There is, obviously, little appetite in Pakistan to bring human rights into the 21st century, but these villages are barely into the 15th century with their barbarity. I suspect Sharif's reaction is for the international media and utterly disingenuous.

Please pray for this murder to make a difference. Pray for the police, the courts, the government to be convicted of their contribution to this and other such horrible crimes.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Another Brutal 'Honour Killing' in Islam

This story was reported yesterday, but I felt the post immediately below took precedence. Another example of Islamic Insanity, but it's not restricted to Islam, the insanity of 'honour killing' is also well established in Hindu India.

A pregnant woman was stoned to death Tuesday by her own family outside a courthouse in the Pakistani city of Lahore for marrying the man she loved.

The woman was killed while on her way to court to contest an abduction case her family had filed against her husband. Her father was promptly arrested on murder charges, police investigator Rana Mujahid said, adding that police were working to apprehend all those who participated in this "heinous crime."
Scene of the stoning
Arranged marriages are the norm among conservative Pakistanis, and hundreds of women are murdered every year in so-called honour killings carried out by husbands or relatives as a punishment for alleged adultery or other illicit sexual behaviour.

Stonings in public settings, however, are extremely rare. Tuesday's attack took place in front of a crowd of onlookers in broad daylight. The courthouse is located on a main downtown thoroughfare.

A police officer, Naseem Butt, identified the slain woman as Farzana Parveen, 25, and said she had married Mohammad Iqbal, 45, against her family's wishes after being engaged to him for years.

Her father, Mohammad Azeem, had filed an abduction case against Iqbal, which the couple was contesting, said her lawyer, Mustafa Kharal. He said she was three months pregnant.

Nearly 20 members of Parveen's extended family, including her father and brothers, had waited outside the building that houses the high court of Lahore. As the couple walked up to the main gate, the relatives fired shots in the air and tried to snatch her from Iqbal, her lawyer said.

When she resisted, her father, brothers and other relatives started beating her, eventually pelting her with bricks from a nearby construction site, according to Mujahid and Iqbal, the slain woman's husband.

Mustafa Qadri, a Pakistan researcher for Amnesty International, said that while violence against women is routine in Pakistan, this incident was particularly shocking because of its public nature outside a crowded provincial court.

“They were literally going to the court to fight for justice. The fact that this woman was killed while she was seeking justice is shocking, but sadly also emblematic of the failure of justice to protect women like Farzana Parveen,” Qadri said.

“At the end of the day, these sorts of killings can occur because the justice system is so dysfunctional that the killers know they can get away with it.”

Iqbal said he started seeing Parveen after the death of his first wife, with whom he had five children.

"We were in love," he told The Associated Press. He alleged that the woman's family wanted to fleece money from him before marrying her off.

"I simply took her to court and registered a marriage," infuriating the family, he said.

Parveen's father surrendered after the attack and called his daughter's murder an "honour killing," Butt said.

Was it really an honour killing (an absurd term if there ever was one), or was the father mad because he wasn't able to squeeze any money out of Iqbal?

"I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent, and I have no regret over it," Mujahid, the police investigator, quoted the father as saying. Absolutely insane! Most countries and most religions don't actually kill people over insults. Some people may stoop to the level of returning insult for insult, but mature Christians do not even do that. I think Islam needs to redefine the word 'honour'.

Mujahid said the woman's body was handed over to her husband for burial.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a private group, said in a report last month that some 869 women were murdered in honour killings in 2013.

But even Pakistanis who have tracked violence against women expressed shock at the brutal and public nature of Tuesday's slaying.

"I have not heard of any such case in which a woman was stoned to death, and the most shameful and worrying thing is that this woman was killed outside a courthouse," said Zia Awan, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist.

He said Pakistanis who commit violence against women are often acquitted or handed light sentences because of poor police work and faulty prosecutions.

"Either the family does not pursue such cases or police don't properly investigate. As a result, the courts either award light sentences to the attackers, or they are acquitted," he said.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Parents Murder 15 Year Old with Acid After She Looked at a Boy

A couple arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of killing their 15-year-old daughter with acid say they carried out the attack because she looked at a boy.

The girl's father told the BBC that they feared she would bring dishonour on their family. Her mother said it was her "destiny" to die that way. She hadn't brought dishonour on the family, yet - this was a preventative murder, just in case.

The couple were arrested in Pakistani-administered Kashmir last week.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported 943 women died in so-called honour killings last year. Those are just the ones they know about.

That represented an increase of more than 100 from 2010.

Police say that the incident took place in a remote village in the southern district of Kotli. They say that the case was brought to their attention by the couple's eldest daughter.

The girl, known only as Anusha, was found to have burns over 60% of her body. Her father Muhammad Zafar told the BBC what happened:

"There was a boy who came by on a motorcycle. She (Anusha) turned to look at him twice. I told her before not to do that, it's wrong. People talk about us because our older daughter was the same way," he said. So, if people didn't talk about them, they wouldn't have tortured their daughter to death? They murdered her to impress the neighbours!!!

Her mother Zaheen described the aftermath: "She said 'I didn't do it on purpose. I won't look again.' By then I had already thrown the acid. It was her destiny to die this way."
And you know that because that's the way she died?

Anusha's father is reported to have taken his daughter inside, beaten her and then acid was poured over her with the help of his wife. Officials say that the couple did not take their daughter to hospital until the following morning.  This is just unbelievable! How do they justify that? It's impossible. They are not even human.

The couple say that an older daughter had already disgraced the family and they did not want to be dishonoured again. So pouring acid on a daughter who hadn't yet done anything disgraceful somehow restores honour? How utterly absurd, if not outright insane!

Police say this is one of the first cases of its kind in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, where such killings are relatively rare.

In March the government of Pakistani-administered Kashmir made acid attacks a criminal offence punishable with life imprisonment. And yet... I hope Mr Zafar enjoys his 'honour' while rotting in jail for the rest of his life, and then rotting in Hell after.

Meriam Gives Birth in Prison While Awaiting Execution for Being a Christian

A Sudanese woman awaiting the death penalty for abandoning her religious faith has given birth in jail near the capital, Khartoum, her lawyer has said.

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag married a Christian man and was sentenced to hang for apostasy earlier this month after refusing to renounce Christianity.

She is allowed to nurse her baby girl for two years before the sentence is carried out.

Born to a Muslim father, she was convicted by a Sharia court.

Sudan has a majority Muslim population, which is governed by Islamic law.

Ms Ibrahim was also convicted of adultery on the grounds that her marriage to a Christian man from South Sudan was void under Sudan's version of Islamic law, which says Muslim women cannot marry non-Muslims.

For this the judge sentenced her to 100 lashes, which will reportedly be carried out when she has recovered from giving birth.

Ms Ibrahim was raised as an Orthodox Christian, her mother's religion, because her father, a Muslim, was reportedly absent during her childhood. It would seem to me that Islam has no claim to this woman from the moment her father walked out the door. If he represents Islam, then Islam deserted Meriam, not the other way about.

According to Amnesty International, she was arrested and charged with adultery in August 2013 (for sleeping with her husband), and the court added the charge of apostasy in February 2014 when she said she was a Christian and not a Muslim.
Protesters against the verdict confronted a crowd who
backed the judge's decision outside the court - 15 May 2014
When she was sentenced, a crowd of protesters gathered outside the court to stand up for religious freedom
Lawyer Elshareef Ali said his 27-year-old client had given birth to a baby girl in the early hours of Tuesday morning in a hospital wing at the prison.

She also has her 20-month-old son with her as he has been held with her in prison since late February, he said.

Correspondents say death sentences are rarely carried out in Sudan.

Ms Ibrahim's legal team lodged an appeal on 22 May as Mr Ali says the verdict contravenes the constitution's enshrining of freedom of faith, the Bloomberg news agency reports.

Western embassies and rights groups have urged Sudan to respect the right of the woman to choose her religion.

Please pray that this would be the case. Pray for strength and health for Meriam and her husband and babies. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Muslim Brotherhood Activities Need to be Probed in Canada and USA

The Canadian government should consider investigating the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has entrenched itself in North America and represents a greater systemic threat than al-Qaeda, according to a newly released report on the group.

The aim of the group in North America is to weaken and destroy the free and open societies within Canada and the U.S.A. from within and replace them with the heavily politicized views of [founder] Hassan Banna, Sayyid Qutb and the Muslim Brotherhood,” according to the report, entitled The Muslim Brotherhood in North America (Canada/U.S.).

The report, written by Tom Quiggin, a court expert on terrorism and member of the Terrorism and Security Experts of Canada Network, raises concerns about the Brotherhood’s alleged ties to Canadian organizations, some which have either been accused of being terrorist organizations or alleged to have links to extremist groups.
Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists call out from the defendants' cage
as they receive sentences ranging from death by hanging for one, life in prison for 13
and eight to 15 years for the others after they were convicted of murder, rioting,
and violence in a mass trial in Alexandria, Egypt. (Heba Khamis/Associated Press)
Based in Egypt, the Brotherhood, which maintains it rejects violence, was labelled a terrorist organization by the interim Egyptian government last December, months after a military coup toppled the democratically elected president Mohammed Morsi. Egypt has also been cracking down on members of the organization, and an Egyptian court recently sentenced to death the group’s leader and 682 supporters.

This year, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced he had ordered an inquiry into the group’s activities in the U.K.

"What I think is important about the Muslim Brotherhood is that we understand what this organization is, what it stands for, what its beliefs are in terms of the path of extremism and violent extremism, what its connections are with other groups, what its presence is here in the United Kingdom. Our policies should be informed by a complete picture of that knowledge," Cameron said in April.

Quiggin believes that the organization’s period of relative moderation has come to an end and it is now becoming “increasingly aggressive in its actions."

But the threat facing Canadians is not so much physical but more systemic.

"This is cultural, this is political, this is a different kind of threat," he said.

The goal of the Brotherhood in North America is to establish front organizations and eventually gain political power, he said.

These front organizations are interlinked by a common ideology, set of beliefs and set of leaders, Quiggin said.

The Brotherhood has already tried to spread influence and raise money through these adherent groups, which have "sought to systematically and repeatedly circumvent and break Canadian regulations and laws," according to the report.

The report also raises a number of possible options for the government: looking into which organizations in Canada have affiliations with the Brotherhood; which adherent groups have links through their leadership; which should have their charitable status reviewed; and which have access to government.

“One of the points of this report was to say ‘Hey look, this group exists, the amount of money they’re moving around runs tens of millions of dollars, they’re funding terrorist groups all over the place. At a certain point we have to ask 'Do we want this behaviour to continue?'" Quiggin said.

The Canadian government should also consider co-operation or information sharing with the British investigation and holding its own inquiry, he said.

Islam knows that it cannot defeat the west militarily, so it is simply encouraging Muslims to move to western countries, have lots and lots of babies, and in a generation or two they will own western society and can then begin to apply Shariah law. 

They are just one generation from doing so in France and not far behind in some other European countries. Their goal is, and has always been world domination, and the many leftist higher-purpose persons who label people like me as racist, are making it happen.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Dubai - Built by Slaves Living in Obscene Conditions, Trapped for Life

A snippet of an article about Dubai from the Independent, written by Dr. Subramanian Swamy:

Dr. Subramanian Swamy is a very influential writer, politician and economist in India. He frequently comments on foreign affairs.

There are three different Dubais, all swirling around each other. There are the expats, there are the Emiratis, headed by Sheikh Mohammed; and then there is the foreign underclass who built the city, and are trapped here.

They are hidden in plain view. You see them everywhere, in dirt-caked blue uniforms, being shouted at by their superiors, like a chain gang – but you are trained not to look. It is like a mantra: the Sheikh built the city. The Sheikh built the city. Workers? What workers?
These living conditions remind me of the old walled city of Hong Kong.
Arguably the worst slum in the world until it was torn down in 1993-94.

Every evening, the hundreds of thousands of young men who build Dubai are bussed from their sites to a vast concrete wasteland an hour out of town, where they are quarantined away. Until a few years ago they were shuttled back and forth on cattle trucks, but the expats complained this was unsightly, so now they are shunted on small metal buses that function like greenhouses in the desert heat. They sweat like sponges being slowly wrung out.

Sonapur is a rubble-strewn patchwork of miles and miles of identical concrete buildings. Some 300,000 men live piled up here, in a place whose name in Hindi means "City of Gold". In the first camp I stop at – riven with the smell of sewage and sweat – the men huddle around, eager to tell someone, anyone, what is happening to them.

Sahinal Monir, a slim 24-year-old from the deltas of Bangladesh. "To get you here, they tell you Dubai is heaven. Then you get here and realise it is hell," he says.

Four years ago, an employment agent arrived in Sahinal's village in Southern Bangladesh. He told the men of the village that there was a place where they could earn 40,000 takka a month (£400) just for working nine-to-five on construction projects. It was a place where they would be given great accommodation, great food, and treated well. All they had to do was pay an up-front fee of 220,000 takka (£2,300) for the work visa – a fee they'd pay off in the first six months, easy. So Sahinal sold his family land, and took out a loan from the local lender, to head to this paradise.

As soon as he arrived at Dubai airport, his passport was taken from him by his construction company. He has not seen it since. He was told brusquely that from now on he would be working 14-hour days in the desert heat – where western tourists are advised not to stay outside for even five minutes in summer, when it hits 55 degreesfor 500 dirhams a month (£90), less than a quarter of the wage he was promised.

If you don't like it, the company told him, go home. "But how can I go home? You have my passport, and I have no money for the ticket," he said. "Well, then you'd better get to work," they replied.

Sahinal was in a panic. His family back home – his son, daughter, wife and parents – were waiting for money, excited that their boy had finally made it. But he was going to have to work for more than two years just to pay for the cost of getting here – and all to earn less than he did in Bangladesh.

He shows me his room. It is a tiny, poky, concrete cell with triple-decker bunk-beds, where he lives with 11 other men. All his belongings are piled onto his bunk: three shirts, a spare pair of trousers, and a cellphone. 

The room stinks, because the lavatories in the corner of the camp – holes in the ground – are backed up with excrement and clouds of black flies. There is no air conditioning or fans, so the heat is "unbearable. You cannot sleep. All you do is sweat and scratch all night." At the height of summer, people sleep on the floor, on the roof, anywhere where they can pray for a moment of breeze.
The walled city of Kowloon, Hong Kong
The water delivered to the camp in huge white containers isn't properly desalinated: it tastes of salt. "It makes us sick, but we have nothing else to drink," he says.

The work is "the worst in the world," he says. "You have to carry 50kg bricks and blocks of cement in the worst heat imaginable ... This heat – it is like nothing else. You sweat so much you can't pee, not for days or weeks. It's like all the liquid comes out through your skin and you stink. You become dizzy and sick but you aren't allowed to stop, except for an hour in the afternoon. You know if you drop anything or slip, you could die. If you take time off sick, your wages are docked, and you are trapped here even longer."

He is currently working on the 67th floor of a shiny new tower, where he builds upwards, into the sky, into the heat. He doesn't know its name. In his four years here, he has never seen the Dubai of tourist-fame, except as he constructs it floor-by-floor.

Is he angry? He is quiet for a long time. "Here, nobody shows their anger. You can't. You get put in jail for a long time, then deported." Last year, some workers went on strike after they were not given their wages for four months. The Dubai police surrounded their camps with razor-wire and water-cannons and blasted them out and back to work.

The "ringleaders" were imprisoned. I try a different question: does Sohinal regret coming? All the men look down, awkwardly. "How can we think about that? We are trapped. If we start to think about regrets..." He lets the sentence trail off. Eventually, another worker breaks the silence by adding: "I miss my country, my family and my land. We can grow food in Bangladesh. Here, nothing grows. Just oil and buildings."

Since the recession hit, they say, the electricity has been cut off in dozens of the camps, and the men have not been paid for months. Their companies have disappeared with their passports and their pay. "We have been robbed of everything. Even if somehow we get back to Bangladesh, the loan sharks will demand we repay our loans immediately, and when we can't, we'll be sent to prison."

This is all supposed to be illegal. Employers are meant to pay on time, never take your passport, give you breaks in the heat – but I met nobody who said it happens. Not one. These men are conned into coming and trapped into staying, with the complicity of the Dubai authorities.

Sahinal could well die out here. A British man who used to work on construction projects told me: "There's a huge number of suicides in the camps and on the construction sites, but they're not reported. They're described as 'accidents'." Even then, their families aren't free: they simply inherit the debts.

A Human Rights Watch study found there is a "cover-up of the true extent" of deaths from heat exhaustion, overwork and suicide, but the Indian consulate registered 971 deaths of their nationals in 2005 alone. After this figure was leaked, the consulates were told to stop counting.

At night, in the dusk, I sit in the camp with Sohinal and his friends as they scrape together what they have left to buy a cheap bottle of spirits. They down it in one ferocious gulp. "It helps you to feel numb", Sohinal says through a stinging throat. In the distance, the glistening Dubai skyline he built stands, oblivious.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

China’s Zhejiang Province Destroying Dozens of Christian Churches

China Aid Association

(Wenzhou, Zhejiang—May 22, 2014) Authorities in China’s coastal Zhejiang province ordered Wenzhou-area house churches to stop gathering on Sunday; meanwhile, more than 60 additional church buildings have been demolished or had their cross demolished across the province.

Sanjiang Church built ( I think) in 2012
Local Christians also told China Aid that pastors in the area have been threatened with financial measures should they attempt to defend their church’s building.

China Aid published a report this week, listing 64 churches that had been demolished, had crosses removed, demolished or covered, or received demolition notices.

Events in the compilation occurred both before and after the demolition of Sanjiang Church’s building. Many believe that the demolition of Sanjiang Church sets a precedent, leaving no hope for smaller churches to withstand persecution. After the April 28 demolition of the imposing, 30 million yuan (US $4.8 million) Sanjiang Church building, authorities have turned their attention to local, low-profile house churches, threatening them to quit gathering.

On April 4, a Catholic church in Pingyang County, Wenzhou, was forcibly demolished. The government sent in SWAT to intimidate believers. Some believers were beaten up for resisting the demolition and one person was injured, head covered with blood and dropping to the ground. The church building was bulldozed to the ground.

“There is a church building that also houses a grocery market about 1/3 miles from my home,” a house church worshipper from Yueqing County in Wenzhou said. “The people were notified to implement an order that all gatherings shall stop from this Sunday. If people there don’t stop their gatherings, the building…will be confiscated.”

It appears the “Three Rectifications and One Demolition” campaign isn’t slowing down; authorities demolished 10 more crosses topping Wenzhou-area churches.

“Some [of the demolished crosses] were demolished by the authorities and some were demolished by the people of the churches themselves,” said Pastor Zhang Mingxuan, president of the Chinese House Church Alliance.

Local believers said that some of the demolished crosses didn’t violate planning codes and there may be more churches affected. “As for the specific number of churches and crosses that have been demolished, I don’t know it clearly,” one Christian said. “In…places where they don’t have a strong force [behind the church], churches are not willing to make [demolitions] public. Many people don’t want to tell us, so we can’t help them.”

“We have heard here that it is estimated that more than 10 church will be demolished,” (he is probably referring to Wenzhou only) Mr. Tang, a house church member in Wenzhou, said. “Talking about demolishing crosses, in the two-thousand-year history of this area, there have not been many incidents like this. Even in the Cultural Revolution, people didn’t say the crosses violated the Constitution. Even when the churches were turned into warehouses, they didn’t demolish their crosses. Now, they don’t do things according to the law.”

Tang also said that the reason church leaders in Wenzhou are not appealing for help is that they have signed agreements with the government, stating that they won’t interfere in the government’s business with other churches so that their own church will be left alone. “Those who go to defend their religion won’t have a good time,” Tang said.

Tang said those who do try to defend their religion in the area have been threatened financially as well. “For those who have a job, they have been suspended. For those who have factories, their factories have been sealed. They will audit your tax documents. In a word, they will make you suffer greatly.”

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

America Could Become a Third-World Country Overnight - Dr Ben Carson

Dr. Ben Carson is quite possibly going to be the next President of the United States. A brilliant neurosurgeon and one of the best conservative thinkers of the day, he lays out how easily America could collapse and turn to internal chaos.

Unfortunately, the panelists at this meeting seemed more interested in gun rights than in the possible complete collapse of the American economy.

On Monday at The New York Meeting, Dr. Ben Carson said he does not believe in gun registration because America's massive debt could transform the nation into a third-world country in which martial law may be imposed.
Dr Ben Carson
Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who has been getting buzz in conservative circles, said that he changed his mind and was against gun registration because of the "sinister internal forces" that could surface in that scenario. He said he "used to think they needed to be registered, but if you register them they just come and find you and take your guns." A politically expedient 'change of mind' for an ambitious Republican.

"If we were only concerned about external forces, then we would be okay," he said. "But there are some pretty sinister internal forces."

He then asked the audience to think about a scenario in which countries around the world drop the dollar as their reserve currency.

"We have a national debt that is so high, and it's being raised even higher," he said. "Now, the only reason we can do that is because we are the reserve currency for the world. What if that changes?"

Carson mentioned that Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to "remove America as our reserve currency" if America imposed economic sanctions. This ought to scare the heck out of a lot of people; the US for one, but also China, Saudi Arabia, and all the other countries to which the US is heavily indebted.

"What if other people come along?" Carson asked, saying China and the U.N have mentioned doing the same. This has been discussed for a few years now. It would cost China a bundle if the American dollar were dramatically devalued, but it might be worth it, particularly should any military issues erupt between the two countries.

Just today, RT (Russia Today) announced that VTB, Russia’s second biggest lender, has signed a deal with Bank of China, which includes an agreement to pay each other in domestic currencies.
“Under the agreement, the banks plan to develop their partnership in a number of areas, including cooperation on ruble and renminbi settlements, investment banking, inter-bank lending, trade finance and capital-markets transactions,” says the official VTB statement.

The Renmindi is another name for the Yuan. I think I like Yuan better. But is this a signal from Putin that he is serious about removing America as reserve currency? It is certainly not beyond him to do something like that. And what would be the consequence?

"We would become a third-world nation overnight. Occupy Wall Street would be a walk in the park". 

"And all of a sudden, the things that would be going on in this country which would necessitate marital law... all this could happen very rapidly. We should be really concerned."

The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto mentioned previous comments of Carson's in which he gave an urban/rural distinction on gun rights. Carson had suggested that he would not want a crazy person to have a chance to get a semiautomatic rifle in high-density urban areas, while not having a problem with someone living alone in the countryside with those guns.

"Do you think the Supreme Court was wrong when it found that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep arms in Washington, D.C., and Chicago?" Taranto asked.

"I truly believe in Second Amendment rights," Carson said. "I would never advocate anything to interfere with Second Amendment rights; however, I do think we have to be intelligent." Remember, the NRA is reading this, Dr Carson.

He said his point in saying that was to address situations--like in Detroit--where people with AK-47s are mowing people down.

"We need to engage in a discussion about, 'Is there something we can do?'" Carson said before saying that "we have to keep in mind that law-abiding American citizens absolutely should have gun rights."

The New York Meeting is a monthly event run by Mallory Factor and O’Brien Murray. Panelists included Taranto, Peggy Noonan, and Sirius XM radio host and Breitbart contributor David Webb.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Absurdity of Islamic Law

A Sudanese court has sentenced a woman to hang for apostasy - the abandonment of her religious faith - after she married a Christian man.

Amnesty International condemned the sentence, handed down by a judge in Khartoum, as "appalling and abhorrent".

Local media report the sentence on the woman, who is pregnant, would not be carried out for two years after she had given birth.

Sudan has a majority Muslim population, which is governed by Islamic law.

"We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam. I sentence you to be hanged to death," the judge told the woman, AFP reports. Like a scene out of a movie about the crusades.

Western embassies and rights groups had urged Sudan to respect the right of the pregnant woman to choose her religion.
Meriam and Husband
The judge also sentenced the woman to 100 lashes after convicting her of adultery - because her marriage to a Christian man was not valid under Islamic law, which says Muslim women cannot marry non-Muslims.

So, if their marriage is not recognized then how can she be guilty of adultery since neither she nor her husband are married? 

This will reportedly be carried out when she has recovered from giving birth.

Earlier in the hearing, an Islamic cleric spoke with her in a caged dock for about 30 minutes, AFP reports.

Then she calmly told the judge: "I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy."

Amnesty International said the woman, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag, was raised as an Orthodox Christian, her mother's religion, because her father, a Muslim, was reportedly absent during her childhood.

In court, the judge addressed her by her Muslim name, Adraf Al-Hadi Mohammed Abdullah.

The woman was originally sentenced to death on Sunday but given until Thursday to return to Islam. How can she return to what she never was. They are assuming that if you were born in Sudan, you must be a Muslim. But, it appears, Meriam has no history of being a Muslim so all the charges against her are an atrocity.

Farouk Chothia
BBC Africa
There is a long-running debate in Islam over whether apostasy is a crime.

Some liberal scholars hold the view that it is not - and back up their argument by citing the Koranic verse which states: "There shall be no compulsion in religion."

Others say apostasy is tantamount to treason - and refer to what Prophet Muhammad said: "It is not permissible to spill the blood of a Muslim except in three [instances]: A life for a life; a married person who commits adultery; and one who forsakes his religion and separates from the community."

The latter is the dominant view in conservative Muslim states such as Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and the cause of much religious tension.

There were small groups of protesters outside the court - both her supporters and those who back the punishment.
Protesters outside the court in Khartoum hold banners saying
"Meriam has the right to be Christian” and
I have the right to choose any religion
About 50 people chanting "No to executing Meriam" were confronted by a smaller group who supported the verdict, but there was no violence.

Amnesty's Sudan researcher Manar Idriss condemned the punishments, saying apostasy and adultery should not be considered crimes.

"The fact that a woman has been sentenced to death for her religious choice, and to flogging for being married to a man of an allegedly different religion is appalling and abhorrent," he said.

The BBC's Osman Mohamed, in Khartoum, says death sentences are rarely carried out in Sudan.

Her lawyers plan an appeal to a higher court to get the sentence overturned.

On Tuesday, the embassies of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands issued a joint statement expressing "deep concern" about the case and urging Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion, AFP says.

The woman was arrested and charged with adultery in August 2013, and the court added the charge of apostasy in February 2014 when she said she was a Christian and not a Muslim, Amnesty said.

The group called for her immediate release.

She is said to be eight months' pregnant.

Please pray for Meriam, her husband, and her baby. Pray for the higher level court to see the injustice and unreality of these charges, and the barbarity of the sentences.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Another Banking Suicide During Remarkable Spree in Feb & Mar

Another banking suicide came to light yesterday. Another suicide that took place in two remarkable weeks in late February and early March of this year.

Six financial executives died in that period - most, obviously, by suicide, and perhaps all by suicide. But there are still questions about some including the man who shot himself 8 times with a nail gun. 

Almost all were fairly high level executives. 4 were in London, 3 in the US, and one in Zurich. We can now add one from Hong Kong. Li Junjie worked for JP Morgan and becomes the third executive from that company to have suicided.

His suicide came to light yesterday when JP Morgan Hong Kong pulled out of an art display that reminded them of the picture taken of Li Junjie before he jumped to his death.

A display of human figures on rooftops - by sculptor Sir Antony Gormley - has reportedly been cancelled because of the suicide of a Hong Kong bank worker.
Sir Antony Gormley's art meant to be unsettling
The Event Horizon exhibition was due to have been shown in Hong Kong, having toured London, New York and Sao Paulo.
Li Junjie

But investment bank JP Morgan is said to have asked for sponsorship to be withdrawn after one of its employees jumped to his death from a building.

The 31 sculptures that form the display were due to have been installed on Hong Kong's buildings after an exhibition of Sir Antony's work at the city's White Cube gallery.

However, the rooftop show was cancelled after Hong Kong Land, a property company, withdrew its sponsorship, according to The Art Newspaper.

The paper says that a branch of JP Morgan, which leases an office from Hong Kong Land, requested that the sponsor withdraw because of the suicide of one of its employees in February.
Li Junjie before jumping to his death
Bank worker Li Junjie had been photographed before he jumped to his death, standing on the edge of the roof of the JP Morgan office.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Women in Iran are Taking Off the Hijab - Stealthy Freedom

Women across Iran are posting photos of themselves without the hijab to a dedicated Facebook page called "My Stealthy Freedom".

The Facebook page was set up just over a week ago, and already has 130,000 "likes". Almost all are from people in Iran, both men and women.
So far the page has around 150 photos. They show women on the beach, on the street, in the countryside, alone, with friends or their partners - but crucially - all without the headscarf. Most include a few words, for example: "I loathe the hijab. I too like the feel of the sun and the wind on my hair. Is this a big sin?"

Ever since the Islamic Revolution 35 years ago, it has been illegal for a woman to leave the house without wearing a headscarf. The punishment ranges from a fine to imprisonment. "My hair was like a hostage to the government," says Masih Alinejad, an Iranian political journalist who lives in the UK and who set up the Facebook page. "The government still has a lot of hostages," she adds.
A woman on the beach - one of the images of the "My Stealthy Freedom" Facebook page
Alinejad got the idea after she posted some photos of herself without the hijab to her own Facebook page. The images were liked thousands of times. So many women began to send her their own pictures that she decided to set up a dedicated page. Though she's well-known for being critical of the government in Iran, she insists the page is not political. "These are not women activists, but just ordinary women talking from their hearts."

"My problem is not having to wear the headscarf. My problem is not having a choice," writes one woman on the Facebook page. "Stealthy freedom means, just for a few seconds, I will be what I want to be," writes another.

This, of course, flies in the face of comments by Boko Haram chief Abubakar Shekau, who forced more than 100 Christian girls to 'convert' to Islam. Shekau says that he 'liberated' them, then showed them dressed in long black gowns with hijabs in the hot sun of sub-Saharan Africa. 
A woman without the hijab looks down to the street -
one of the images of the "My Stealthy Freedom" Facebook page 
The hijab is a controversial issue in Iran. A recent billboard campaign reminding women to cover themselves up, was mocked on social media for comparing women to chocolates in a wrapper. But many support the wearing of the hijab, arguing it's an important part of Islamic law - there was a demonstration in Tehran last week, with protesters calling for a more strict implementation of the rules. Apparently, they want to 'liberate' more women!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

'Harbinger' Messianic Rabbi: 'Smile of Heaven' Removed from America

WASHINGTON – The prophetic words delivered in 1789 by President George Washington in his first inaugural speech echoed loud and clear Wednesday evening in the chamber of the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall – this time in the voice of Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, author of the best-selling “The Harbinger.”

The venue was a one-of-a-kind prayer meeting called “Washington: A Man of Prayer, 2014,” commemorating the events of April 30, 1789, when, after being sworn in at Federal Hall, Washington, accompanied by Congress, proceeded to St. Paul’s Chapel where, as one of his first official acts, he offered a prayer of dedication to God on America’s behalf.
Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn
The hall was filled with government officials, members of Congress, justices and other invited guests. The event – hosted by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. and emceed by Mike Huckabee – was televised and live-streamed by WND.

Cahn wove his challenge to the attendees by referencing Washington’s address and his warning that the new nation could not expect to prosper if it forgot God: “The propitious smile of heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which heaven itself hath ordained.”

Cahn continued: “We stand tonight on Capitol Hill, in the city named after the one who gave that prophetic warning, to ask, can a nation drive out the name of God from its public square, and the Word of God from its schools and the ways of God from its culture and still expect the smiles of God to shine upon it?

“Can the blood of 50 million unborn children cry out to heaven from this land and the smiles of heaven still remain?

“Members of Congress, can a government call evil good and good evil and forge laws that war against the laws of the Almighty and the smiles of heaven still remain?

“Supreme Court justices, can you strike down the statutes of the Almighty and overturn the judgments of the Most High and still expect the smiles of heaven to remain?

“Mr. President, can you place your left hand on the Word of God to assume your office and with your right hand sign laws which break the very Word upon which you swore and still expect the smiles of heaven to remain?

“The voice of our first president cries out to us tonight and answers, no you cannot do so and still expect the smiles of heaven to remain on this land.”

Christian leaders participating include the program director for the event, Dr. Jim Garlow, as well as Bishop Harry Jackson Jr., Dr. Robert Jeffress, Phyllis Schlafly, Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, Star Parker, Penny Nance, Dr. Peter Lillback, Bill Federer, Bishop Angel Nunez, Rosemary Schindler Garlow, Charmaine Yoest, Sergio De La Mora, Tony Perkins, Samuel Rodriguez and Rafael Cruz (father of Sen. Ted Cruz.)

Watch the video here. It may be the most amazing 4 minutes you will ever spend watching a video.

Questions About John Paul Jackson's Fight with Cancer - Update 2/21/15

Update: 21 February 2015

This from JPJs website:

"Over this past weekend we've started to see signs that his weakened breathing is causing vital organs to become oxygen deprived," reads a post on his website.

Jackson has been battling cancer since May 2014 after doctors found a large, aggressive growth in his leg that needed immediate treatment. Through this experience, he wrote how cancer taught him much about how seriously God takes our fears and vowed to use prayer to fight it.

"I am pursuing the kingdom of God and equipping people to do the same as vigorously as I am able. I refuse to allow the enemy a stronghold in my thoughts. God is great and all-powerful," Jackson said in 2014. "I believe He will take me through this battle. In the process, God will gain a great victory and His name will be glorified."

John Paul Jackson passed into the presence of the Lord on February 18th, 2015. 

My questions at the bottom of this post are still valid, but perhaps his passing and his attitude before passing will help us to answer them. I will be back in a few days with more thoughts on this.

The following article appeared in a Christian news web-site. I reproduce it, in part, for 2 reasons: 1. To encourage you to pray for him
2. To ask some genuine questions about his approach to the disease.

In no way do I wish to impune or criticize Jackson, He is a man of God and a Christian in very good standing as far as I can tell. But God has me asking questions about how we pray and how we glorify Him and this is a great opportunity to verbalize those questions. I will save them until you have read the excerpt.

John Paul Jackson Vows to Fight Aggressive Cancer With Prayer

John Paul Jackson, perhaps best known for his prophetic dream interpretations, has been diagnosed with cancer. Doctors found a large, aggressive cancerous growth in his leg that needs immediate treatment.

John Paul Jackson
“I have said on many occasions that I do not always understand God’s ways, especially in the heat of a test, but I do always trust Him, in good times and in difficult times,” Jackson writes. He called the cancer his “greatest personal test.”

In the face of the cancer diagnoses, Jackson has canceled his upcoming speaking engagements to prepare for what he calls a “rigorous treatment protocol.”

“I have not ruled out any and all forms of treatment paths, but at the top of that list is prayer. I know that God can heal me in one instant or through the hands of doctors over time,” Jackson says. “We are focusing our faith for a miracle, while following doctor’s advice until my healing is complete.”

During his treatment, Jackson vows to do what God has called him to do as best he can. But he will not include travel in the mix.

“I am pursuing the kingdom of God and equipping people to do the same as vigorously as I am able. I refuse to allow the enemy a stronghold in my thoughts. God is great and all-powerful,” Jackson says. “I believe He will take me through this battle. In the process, God will gain a great victory and His name will be glorified.”

Jackson has asked believers everywhere to join in the battle with him by offering two minutes a day to ask God to heal him and destroy the works of the evil one.

So here are my questions:

Is sickness always the fault of the devil?
Does God make people sick?
Is being healed either miraculously or through doctors, the best way to glorify God?
If not, how can we best glorify God in our sickness?
Should we pray for God's will to be done when we pray for healing?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this, and if you can back them up with scripture, that would be really great. God bless.


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Tiny First Nation a Remarkable Example to the World

While oil pipeline debates, anti-fracking protests and increasing fossil fuel demands embroil the country from coast to coast, a small Vancouver Island First Nation is leading the way on a different path.

The T’Sou-ke nation has shown us what can be accomplished with long-range planning, something that many democracies avoid for the sake of planning from one election to another. Mind you, they did receive a lot of funding from outside but it looks like the investment is well worth it.

In the past five years, the seaside T’Sou-ke nation has become a world-renowned leader in solar energy. Their projects are the model for others in the capital region and around the province.

The T'sou-ke nation and the village of Sooke are located on the south coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, near the southern-most point of the island.

They also have a massive wind-energy partnership in the works that could augment power for all of Vancouver Island, on a power grid connected to the mainland.

And then there’s the wasabi plantation, an experiment in cash-crop farming that will help bring financial and food security to the community.

These projects and others all stem from a community vision derived to bring members back together and to plan for future generations.

“When we were all involved in developing a collective vision to provide a safe and healthy community we looked far into the future and said, ‘What do we need to start right now to ensure a secure future for our grandchildren’s children?’ ” said Chief Gordon Planes. The answer came in four parts: Energy security, food security, cultural renaissance and economic self-sufficiency.

While the vision was meant for the T’Sou-ke to prosper, its influence has already spread to communities, academics and governments as close as Colwood and as far away as Sweden.

Planes not only welcomes the interest and outreach, he said it’s crucial.

“Education is the key to moving forward in a sustainable way. We all have to do this together — put aside our differences, get in the same canoe and go — time is running out,” he said.

The tiny Vancouver Island First Nation is emerging as a leader in modern clean energy and an example of traditional sustainable living that its residents have embraced for generations.

“This way of living never had a name. It’s just truly been a lifestyle that my ancestors passed on to my grandparents to my parents and now, hopefully, we will be passing on to my children and so on,” said Linda Bristol, a cultural adviser and former chief of the T’Sou-ke First Nation near Sooke.

In recent years, the aboriginal community has taken advantage of new technology to support traditional lifestyle values and help them thrive in a modern world and economy.

In September of last year, T’Sou-ke was the first aboriginal community in the world to be designated a solar community. Solar programs for Colwood, the Capital Regional District and several First Nations around the province are modelled on what T’Sou-ke has done.

The First Nation is also in the process of developing wind power, an income-generating wasabi plantation and revitalization of the seashore. It has attracted academics from around the world to study its successes, offered mentorship to other aboriginal communities and placed an emphasis on culture.

About five years ago, T’Sou-ke decided to come up with a comprehensive community plan to tackle concerns of its members. The first challenge was getting everyone involved in the process, starting with a meeting.

“It wasn’t just a newsletter that went, calls were made and voicemails left saying: ‘We’d really like to see you there,’ ” Bristol said. As a result, the first meeting was well-attended, and followed up with focus groups and visits to people’s homes over dinner to discuss their concerns.

“It definitely did unite the community because everyone put their thoughts on the table,” Bristol said.

What evolved from the meetings was a community plan meant to serve future generations and honour past traditions.

Chief Gordon Planes called it a back-to-the-future approach.

“We all need to go back to traditional values, respecting mother Earth and treating all life as sacred if we are to be successful in going forward in a sustainable way,” Planes said. “When we were all involved in developing a collective vision to provide a safe and healthy community, we looked far into the future and said: ‘What do we need to start right now to ensure a secure future for our grandchildren’s children?’ ”

“Energy security, food security, cultural renaissance and economic self-sufficiency were identified as priorities,” he said.

These four principles are the anchor to all community planning. Bristol described collecting salmonberries, roots and sprouts in the forest and mussels and clams along the shore when she was a child. When the salmon were running, her dad would spear fish for dinner, she said.

“I remember my granny sitting in the smokehouse. That’s where fish were cleaned, split onto wood racks and cured by slow-smoking. Back then, there was only about 50 of us, just five or six houses.”

Today, there are more than 250 members of the band. The small waterfront reserve is surrounded by development. Houses and boat launches dot the adjacent shore, a major highway, bridge and business border the community.

“When you’re small, you look after each other; everyone has their role,” Bristol said. “When you grow so quickly, people are not familiar with this. So there was a momentary disconnect. It took a few years for everybody to relate to each other, but that’s what happened.”

Autonomous energy
The massive sheet of 440 photovoltaic solar panels on the T’Sou-ke reservation looks space-age next to an ancient waterfront shell midden and atop a traditional dugout canoe shelter. The panels provide power for several administrative buildings in the community as well as eight houses. The rest goes back to the grid.

On a sunny day, the excess can be up to 90 per cent of the power produced. The profits from selling the power back to B.C. Hydro offset any power bills during the darker months of the year.

“We call it a net-zero program. Basically, B.C. Hydro acts like a big battery for us, and the extra power gets used elsewhere in the province,” said Andrew Moore, a former architect from London who was hired by the T’Sou-ke First Nation to do communications work but ended up in the core group planning the solar program. He estimates the exchange saves more than $1,000 a year in power bills.

In 2009, T’Sou-ke began the journey to become the largest solar energy-producing community in B.C. A $400,000 grant from the Clean Energy Fund of B.C. was the initial boost, and $500,000 more from various government sources followed.

In addition to the solar panels, solar hot water heating systems were installed on more than 40 homes. Conservation and education programs were started in the community and then opened up to visitors. In 2013 alone, 32 schools toured the solar projects. Students pledged their commitments to the environment on paper leaves posted on the band-hall wall.

There’s an electric-car charging station outside the main office and Moore had his electric bike charging at another one around back.

“The only way we know the power is out in the area is when people from town arrive at the front door with computers and phones to be charged,” Moore said.

These solar projects nabbed T’Sou-ke an official solar-city designation from the Canadian Solar Cities Project, making it the first designated aboriginal solar community and third designated city in Canada. In a September ceremony, Solar Cities executive director Bob Haugen presented Chief Planes with a brass sundial forged at a solar-powered foundry in Nova Scotia.

“T’Sou-ke is so interesting because they often produce more energy than they use and they have solar on so many households,” said Haugen, who operates the non-profit organization from Victoria. “Globally, this shows what so many cities can do with solar power and other clean energy sources. The implications for aboriginal communities that are remote or in the north are huge.”

The provincial government noted the potential in T’Sou-ke’s solar program and invited it to join a mentorship program for remote and First Nations communities in 2010 and 2011.

“The T’Sou-ke First Nation was selected as a mentor community because of their extensive experience in developing and implementing an energy efficiency program — including youth activities around energy efficiency,” said Matt Gordon, spokesman for the Ministry of Energy and Mines. “Peers have the ability to share lessons learned in a more candid and open format.”

Communities receiving mentorship said this type of peer mentorship has saved them money and time, and helped improve the quality of their projects.

The next big energy project for T’Sou-ke moves from the sun to the wind. In October last year, they announced a partnership with TimberWest Forest Corp. and EDP Renewables Canada to develop large-scale wind projects. The $750-million project could generate power for up to 30,000 homes — significant for the Island which gets two-thirds of its electricity from the mainland.

T’Sou-ke will provide some of its traditional territory to house the projects and have partial ownership. The turbines will be far away from any residential areas.

Last February, T’Sou-ke was one of five Coast Salish nations to sign an incremental treaty agreement with the province. This included the return of 120 hectares of Crown land in the Juan de Fuca electoral area, providing for land and development opportunities under their own for the First Nation’s private company, subject to government laws and regulations.

For Chief Planes, these various energy projects are legacy as well as business.

“Power is power. To have control over your own electrical power through the elements, the sun and wind, puts you in a very powerful position in society,” Planes said. “We have developed a strategy that not only makes all our nation’s administration autonomous in power but we are able to support other First Nations and municipalities to go in the same direction.”

Food security

Four-year-old Tessa Routhier carefully hoists a water nozzle over potted marigolds while her grandmother, Denise Routhier, meanders through plant beds pruning dry bits. The toddler clearly knows her way around a greenhouse.

“She was gathering seeds at school the other day,” says her grandmother.

The T’Sou-ke First Nation’s Ladybug Garden and Greenhouse was started in 2008 to harvest fresh produce and herbs for the community but also as a means to preserve native plants and how to find them.

“I remember my aunt would send us out to find things like mint or nettles and make us tea,” said Christine George. She started the garden with a $70,000 aboriginal health grant from the Vancouver Island Health Authority — now called Island Health.

“Now we take youth out on hikes to find things like camas, knotty onions, rosehips and chocolate lilies,” she said. A recent hike went to a cob oven found near the Sooke Potholes.

Community gardeners — young and old — gather all their own seeds and explore secret spots for things like labrador tea and cotton grass. Seasonal workshops include making essential oils and holiday wreaths from local holly.

“We also create booklets for children to identify and name plants in Sencoten, to practise the language,” said George, who is also the band secretary. “I come to the greenhouse on lunch breaks, as much as possible. It’s my passion.”

The garden produces food and herbs that go to weekly community luncheons, meals- on-wheels programs and markets — seven of which took first-place ribbons at the Saanich fair last fall.

Being an oceanside community, the loss of shellfish and salmon has been a huge gap maintaining traditional food practices. There are issues with sewage outfall, and Moore said Sooke doesn’t have the money to redirect drainage away from the river and basin.
He said T’Sou-ke is looking at developing its own treatment plant on-reserve that neighbouring streets could tap into to reduce seepage from old septic fields that finds its way into Sooke Harbour.
They have also entered into a joint project with the Chinese Canadian Aboriginal Development Enterprise to research feasibility of farming oysters and sea cucumbers on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Economic stability
Food is the source of the band’s new and ambitious income-generating project. It plans to produce wasabi commercially as a franchise for Vancouver company Pacific Coast Wasabi. The company already has a greenhouse project in Nanoose Bay.

T’Sou-ke was recently awarded $175,000 from Nuu-chah-nulth Economic Development Corp. for the project, which will include building three large greenhouses — likely next to the Ladybug Garden — with the goal of producing half an acre of wasabi a year. The root grows year-round, harvested every 12 to 15 months.

The project comes on the heels of having to let another one go. Last year, T’Sou-ke was offered $1 million from the provincial government to develop energy-saving technology for hothouse greenhouses. A feasibility study revealed that their plan for four acres of greenhouses to grow tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers to sell would not even come close to competing with products from California and Mexico.

“Although it was disappointing to give the money back, we find we have a more sustainable product in wasabi, a cash crop which thrives in our West Coast climate without artificial heating or lighting and attracts a high price from an international market,” said Moore.

Worldwide demand for wasabi is at a premium. Fears over radiation levels in Japanese soils after the 2011 earthquake and reactor breach have marred the market. The nasal-clearing stuff served with sushi in restaurants is often a cheaper horseradish paste dyed green. But pure wasabi goes for $70 to $100 a kilogram, a delicacy Islanders might soon be able to find at local farmer’s markets if the project succeeds. There’s also the pharmaceutical exploration of the plant’s anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory affects, something that’s gaining ground in science and popular health fields. Television celebrity Dr. Oz is a big wasabi fan.

“This will not only generate income; it will create new jobs,” Moore said.

Jobs have been proven to be one of the best byproducts of the First Nation’s ventures. Just ask Larry Underwood. He spent 17 years as a mill worker, travelling home to T’Sou-ke from Gibsons and Port Alberni on weekends to be with his family — which includes five kids.

When the solar project began, he found his opportunity to work closer to home and gain expertise in a different field. Now the band councillor is a certified installer and part of the greenhouse project.

“The opportunity for work and training was fantastic. I was commuting back and forth wondering what I was going to do,” he said. “But to be a minute away from work and be part of that big a project was something amazing. It was the biggest thing on our reserve.”

Renaissance of traditional values
While the new technology and income-generating projects will help future generations prosper, the foundation of the community plan is the legacy of culture.
Elder and spiritual leader Shirley Alphonse has a ritual she leads for T’Sou-ke children and youth. They are given a cedar branch to dip into the sea with a blessing for the ocean and everyone it touches around the world.

“They know the routine now; it comes naturally. There’s a respect for our teachings and it connects us to the rest of the world,” said Alphonse, who has shared the exercise with visitors and children from other communities.

Both Alphonse and Bristol are dedicated to preserving cultural knowledge, but see it as something that should be accessible and integrated in everyday life.

Alphonse’s guidance in cultural traditions extends from working with young people at the Ladybug Garden and art projects, such as basket-weaving, to leading youth in smudge ceremonies in traditional territories and even providing spiritual services for the community.

“I realized the power of healing circles after attending one for residential school survivors many years ago,” she said. This led to her calling as a unique spiritual healer. She offers traditional blessings but also serves as a liaison with the Catholic church, at the request of a Victoria bishop several years ago.

Being able to care and help alleviate suffering of others has been a gift, she said.

Bristol helps lead the T’Sou-ke Arts Group, which hosts a weekly crafting night and special workshops on knitting, weaving, carving, drum-making and more.

She also organizes the annual Ista Ya Conenet event, an Amazing Race of sorts where participants go on a scavenger hunt around the Sooke region with clues promoting cultural knowledge.

“We share and offer these things but do not impose them,” Bristol said.

“When they come to us, there is a genuine interest and they are welcomed.”

To learn more about T’Sou-ke, visit tsoukenation.com  

- See more at: http://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/island-first-nation-grasps-potential-of-alternative-power-1.779062#sthash.rpen4tx7.dpuf