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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Kali maa and infinite multi-tasking, and our inability to say, do or write about many things in one breath.

Not a day passes without someone accusing you of not including his or her issue in your talk, write up or act. Per the legend, only a woman, Kali Maa could perform many tasks at one time, she has multiple heads and hands to do that.  When Obama speaks, no matter how good his presentation is, there is always a group - anxiously waiting for him to recite their name, and everything else is meaningless to them if their group is not mentioned. 

It's not only Obama, everyone in the community service, a Pastor, Pundit,  Imam, Father, Rabbi, Gyaniji, Shaman or a religious head is also put to the same tests. During the month of Ramadan, I have heard a few Imams who drag their prayers to include every representation, and take a very long time to recite such inclusive prayers, yet that would not be enough. 

You are not an exception to such treatment and neither am I, and here is my experience. 

One of the three major annual events we hold is Holocaust and Genocides.  Given the 2 hours program, we divide it up into three segments; 30 Minutes for Holocaust and 20 minutes for a Genocide (of the 50 Genocides on our list), and 20 minutes for a Massacre, the rest of the time goes for other chores. 

Two years ago, we included a skit in the program to knock off the consistent complaints. In the skit, I would go on the podium and start speaking, “Today, we are going to talk about Holocaust, Sikh Genocide and Gaza Massacre… “Immediately an individual who was assigned to play my father’s role would walk up to me and slap hard on my face… and I fall on the floor.  

He takes over the microphone and says, “I cannot believe you my son, I did not teach you to exclude others and talk only about yours.” I get up from the floor and grab the microphone and recite a long list of names about 25 Genocides until I ran out of breath….  and fall again. 

He grabs the phone again and says, “Oh I see now, sorry my Son, I did not realize you can pack only 25 names of Genocides in one breath and not all the 50 on your list.”

Those who do not show up to the events always complain that, “Mike you are biased, you did not include Kashmir Pundits or the Bosnia Genocide… My eternal question to them is why did you forget Rwanda? Why did you forget Pol Pot? Why did you forget…?

In the last 9 years, we have been able to talk about 12 or 13 Genocides, but always show the entire list on the screen, even then there are Genocides we don’t even know about.  Indeed, some day, I will write a book about dealing with some of the most difficult situations with different communities; – Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Jews, African Americans, Native Americans and others.  

The first time we put the program together in 2006, a few members (just a few) of the Jewish community were on the edge and concerned about bringing up Palestinian Massacres (Sabra and Shatila).  We do talk about every one, we must see the inhumanity embedded in all of us to reflect and find solutions.  God has always been good to me and guided me during that critical moment in the opening speech,  in my invocation, instead of naming all the Genocides and Massacres, I called on a silent prayer and asked people to pray for the Genocides and Massacres they knew, to make it an all inclusive event. There was a sigh of relief on the faces of those few, wow! Silence is Golden. 

 We have to learn our limitations, we are not Kali Maa or a computer to perform infinite multiple tasks in the given time, a single breath to a single hour.   

Now coming back to you, (the man who sent an email about me to groups) you can deal with one issue at a time.  The Yoga was the issue and that is what we dealt with.  If you want to talk about Kuwait Massacre, why didn’t you mention other massacres including Charleston Massacre? If you go to one of the Chinese buffets – why don’t you eat each one of the 72 items they have placed on the table? 

When you leave early from a party – do you go to every one of the 50 fellow guests and say goodbye to them? If you do, I’ve to learn from you. 
Let’s be contributors and not complainers.  

Mike is a speaker, thinker, writer, pluralist, TV-Radio commentator and a human rights activist committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. His info in 63 links atMikeGhouse.net and writings at TheGhouseDiary.com 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Texas Faith: When society’s morals shift


Each one of us struggles daily with the question of what is right from wrong, and that is very human. As a futurist predicting the changing landscape of religions and morality – I am pleased to share my understanding of the issues.... The sense of right and wrong are not set values either, they are dynamic and a reflection of the majority.... There was a time when a man and a woman living together was not acceptable and both of them would have been hung or shot, it is still the case in Iran and Saudi Arabia but not in the western democracies.

Continued at: 

Mike Ghouse

Texas Faith: When society’s morals shift
Rudolph Bush | Published at Dallas Morning News June 9, 2015 8:00 am

Many of us wish to be good, and we work to be good. But in a complex world, the question of what is good and what is moral is always shifting. Society’s sense of morality, of how we should act and react, changes.
The growing acceptance of homosexuality and the sense that marriage between couples of the same sex and couples of the opposite sex are equivalent is a powerful example. Or take the ever sensitive question of abortion, something that fewer and fewer Americans now believe is morally acceptable versus a generation ago.
It is often hard to know what is good and what is moral. It is easy to be pushed by popularity.

The writer Rod Dreher recently opined that America is no longer a true home for Christian people and that “we have got to prepare ourselves and our families and our churches through intentional living, through disciplined living, and through an awareness of the cultural moment to deal with perhaps even persecution.” He suggests that our nation is on a confused path of the sort that drove St. Benedict away from Rome and into the woods during the empire’s decline. Conservatives, he suggests, should “consider what I’ve come to call the ‘Benedict Option’ —that is, pioneering forms of dropping out of a barbaric mainstream culture that has grown hostile to our fundamental values.”
This appears to be in reaction to the changing cultural sense of morality. Dreher believes his views are a true morality, just as those who disagree with him believe theirs are.
How does a person who wants to good and moral find a true path of goodness and morality? How do we sift right from wrong? When do we bend to change and when do we stiffen our resolve?
MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism and speaker on interfaith matters, Dallas
Each one of us struggles daily with the question of what is right from wrong, and that is very human. As a futurist predicting the changing landscape of religions and morality – I am pleased to share my understanding of the issues.
The struggle continues for many, those who feel a sense of freedom from within want acceptable answers to the new issues that come up, and sincerely wish the others see it through and accept it. And those who think and want to find acceptance to new solutions are branded as liberals.
Whereas, those who resolutely follow the tradition are comfortable with it, but they also wish that others stick to the traditions as well. We usually label this group of people as conservatives, and those who want to force others to ‘behave’ are labeled as fundamentalists now.
To struggle is human, that is our nature.
God or evolution broadly created life and matter. The matter is pre-set to be in self-balance like the planets orbit around the sun, as though NASA’s computers have programmed them to function precisely, so is much of the nature. But life on the other hand was not created to be on auto-pilot, a mind was given to humans and complete freedom to figure out their own balance. We had the freedom to mess it up or continuously maintain that balance.
The struggle will always be there between conservatives and liberals. To maintain that elusive balance, both ends push and pull. The third group, which is the moderate majority, takes action at the tail end of the struggle and tilts the decision one way or the other, but usually they remain on side lines even though they are a majority, but their nature is not passionate to fight for the change.
If conservatives had their say, we probably would have lived in caves and resisted any discoveries and changes. Many of us would have died because we would have opposed ‘modern’ medicine or any new things that made the life ‘un-natural’ or went against God. On the other hand if liberals had their way completely, we would have fallen off the earth, we would have tried every new thing without opposition and would have faced disastrous consequences.
The sense of right and wrong are not set values either, they are dynamic and a reflection of the majority. Much of the morality was determined by the fact of co-existence, and religion has contributed much to this, and it was necessary to hold people accountable for messing up the balance.
There was a time when a man and a woman living together was not acceptable and both of them would have been hung or shot, it is still the case in Iran and Saudi Arabia but not in the western democracies.
Same sex marriage was an ultra liberal value a decade ago; it was shunned by every form of civilization, western or eastern, but now there is a growing acceptance. It is still not acceptable in many counties, and even in a democracy like India, it is declared illegal.
Death penalty has survived in many nations, but is vanishing where the majority of the people feel differently about it. I am opposed to death penalty but until a majority of Texans feel that way, it remains the moral value of the state, and thus people.
It seems morality is determined by the majority acceptance, if the majority supports, it becomes a norm over a period of time. I predict the definition of sin would change from what God says to what is acceptable to the majority.

To read the views of other panelists go to Dallas Morning News at - http://dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com/2015/06/texas-faith-when-societys-morals-shift.html/#more-56519
Thank you


Mike Ghouse, Speaker
(214) 325-1916 text/talk
Mike Ghouse is a public speaker, thinker, writer and a commentator on Pluralism, Islam, India, Israel-Palestine, Politics and other issues of the day. He is a human rights activist, and his book standing up for others will be out soon | He is producing a full feature film " Sacred" to be released on 9/11 and a documentary "Americans together" for a July 4 release.  He is a frequent guest commentator on Fox News and syndicated Talk Radio shows and a writer at major news papers including Dallas Morning News and Huffington Post. All about him is listed in 63 links at www.MikeGhouse.net and his writings are at www.TheGhousediary.com - Mike is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Asia’s highest cross in Pakistan, congratulations.


This is good news, and a  good step forward. I hope with this Pakistan's tradition of Pluralism is rekindled. Let all religions flourish, let God be honored in every which way he can .  As any minority anywhere in the world, the Christian community of Pakistan has gone out of the way to build relationships with the majority and it is time to recognize this. Let the Government of Pakistan protect this monument.

When Barack Obama  became President of the United States, he gave hope to the world, that in a civilized nation, a person's skin color, religion, financial or minority status does not matter, as long as the person has the merit to serve the nation. Islam teaches and the Prophet reinforced the ideals of equal opportunity, access, schooling, housing, jobs or retirement with simple words in his last sermon - no discrimination of any kind and no one is superior to the other.  I am glad to see this cross, it is symbolic.

I hope someday,  the people will rise and make Pakistan once again a civil society and rip the discriminatory laws. I also hope some day a  Christian, Hindu, Sikh or an Ahmadi can become head of the state and uplift the psyche of the nation. Indonesia has done that with Djoko as its president.  That is a pinnacle achievement of a civil society.

I am delighted with this good news, as a Pluralist, may be some of us from Dallas join them in celebrating the opening of the cross.

May God bless Pakistan and  a genuine democracy emerge.

Mike Ghouse

# # #

Asia’s highest cross in Pakistan: A fitting tribute to selfless Christian community

May 29, 2015, 4:29 PM IST  in Gray Areas | World | TOI


When Pakistani real-estate tycoon Parvez Henry Gill’s dream project would be a reality later this year, it would tower over Pakistan’s financial nerve centre — Karachi — as Asia’s highest Christian cross. Gill hopes to inaugurate the 140-feet religious symbol with large celebration in presence of Pope Francis, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Queen Elizabeth II and ex-US secretary of state Hillary Clinton. The inauguration would be of great symbolic value in a city with large Hindu and Christian population and a sprinkling of Parsis and Sikhs. It would importantly coincide with the implementation of the National Action Plan formulated to combat terrorism and radicalization, which led to massacre of around 150 children in Peshawar last year. The real test of the plan would be how it changes the lives of ordinary Christians and people from other minority communities, who are often at the receiving end of discriminatory laws. Pakistan’s efforts to root out terrorism and radicalisation would be inadequate as long as it does not fulfill the promise of equal citizenship the country’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah had emphatically made to the minorities. In case of Christians in particular, it would not be a favour but recognition of their selfless services to the country.
(Getty images)
A 140-foot cross at the Gora Qabristan Cemetery (Getty images)
The Pakistani Christian contribution has not been limited to healthcare and quality education, which has given Pakistan some of its finest politicians, jurists, soldiers and sportsmen. The community has perhaps punched above it weight most in the battlefield, something that may surprise most. Christian officers have made their presence felt in upper echelons of Pakistani armed forces and have been decorated with highest gallantry awards. Air Commodore Nazir (Bill) Latif was one of the first Christian officers to make a mark in the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). He has the distinction of commanding all PAF fighter wings besides its Fighter Leader’s School and the tactical wing. Bill came into his in the 1965 war when India overwhelmed Pakistan as its tanks crossed the border and had Lahore Cantonment within their range.
Nazir (Bill) Latif (Wikipedia)
In his 2011 obituary in a Pakistan newspaper, Bill’s junior, Air Commodore (retd) Sajad Haider, echoed criticism of Pakistani version of exaggerated exploits in the 1965 war as ‘unsubstantiated rhetoric’. But he credited men like Bill with ‘halting the juggernaut of the Indian invasion’. Haider wrote Bill’s last mission during the war ‘was the deepest penetration’ in Indian territory against ‘their farthest bomber base in Agra – with Mig-21s, SAM missiles and the inferno of light and heavy anti-aircraft shells emblazing the sky over the target’. He added Pakistan’s second highest military award — Hilal-e-Jurat —was created for him, which he got for the second time for his role in the 1971 war even as Pakistan was decimated and dismembered. Bill, according to Haider, was the only commander in his air rank to fly ‘dangerous daylight and night missions against the Indian deluge in Khokhrapar sector threatening Hyderabad (Sindh)’ in 1971.
Like Bill, Wing Commander Mervyn Lesley Middlecoat is known for his rare exploits in the otherwise disastrous 1971 Pakistani campaign. He was conferred Sitara-e-Jurat for the second time posthumously when he fell into the sea after he ejected from his aircraft as a missile hit it over the Gulf of Kutch while strafing aircraft at Jamnagar air force base in 1971. Middlecoat (31) was commanding PAF’s 26 Squadron in Peshawar before the war. He had opted out of a deputation to Jordon to take part in it. Middlecoat was among six pilots chosen for bombing heavily-guarded Jamnagar base. He had earlier been awarded Sitara-e-Jurat for the first time during the 1965 war for defending Karachi when Indian jets bombed the city. The Ludhiana-born Anglo-Pakistani had brought down two jets and earned the name of the ‘Defender of Karachi’. Group Captain Faisal Chaudhry, another Christian officer, too was awarded Sitara-e-Jurrat twice for his role in 1965 and 1971 wars.
Rear-Admiral Leslie Norman Mungavin, who had opted out of his posting in London as defence attaché to fight the 1971 war, has the distinction of being the highest ranking Pakistani Christian military officer. He served as a prisoner of war following his capture in Chittagong before becoming the deputy chief of Pakistani navy and National Shipping Corporation chairman. The two-star admiral had opted for Pakistan after partition and served its navy for 33 years. He commanded various war ships and was awarded Sitara-e-Pakistan in recognition of his services. Mungavin’s body was cremated and his ashes were scattered over the Arabian Sea following his military funeral as per his wishes in Pakistan following his death in UK in 1995.
In the army, Christian officers Noeel Israel and Julian Peter have achieved the third highest — Major General — rank. Many like Yubri Malven and Simon Simon Sharaf, who is now a leading member of Imran Khan’s party, have been Brigadiers. Sharaf’s brother, Captain Justin George Napoleon Sharaf, spent over a year in an Indian prisoner of war camp after he was captured following the fall of Dhaka in 1971. Allahabad-born ex-federal minister Shiv Kumar Tressler, a Christian, retired as a colonel before joining the Foreign Service, where he went on to become director general in 1994. Among the decorated Christian army officers, Major Sermecis Rauf was awarded Sitara-e-Basalat for bravery. In 2009, Major Julian James, a commando, was wounded while fighting the Taliban death cult in Swat.
But no Christian officer has captured the public imagination as much as fighter pilot Cecil Chaudhry, whose contributions go beyond the battlefield. He was first conferred Pakistan’s third highest bravery award for his role in the 1965 war. But his heroics became legendary in the 1971 war even though his country was decimated and disremembered. Cecil Chaudhry is said to have continued flying his plane at the height of 3,500 feet even as it took a hit. The plane caught fire as Chaudhry landed it on a minefield with broken ribs inside the Pakistani territory. He was decorated with his second bravery award as he insisted on continuing fighting and shot down two aircraft over the area, where his own plane had been hit. Cecil Chaudhry had been cleared for promotion in 1983, but was shocked to learn that military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq had blocked it as part of his poisonous policies of exclusion. The decorated officer resigned three years later as Group Captain after 28-year-old career.
Cecil Chaudhry (Wikipedia)
He used his stature to speak up for the victims of injustices in the Pakistani society till his death as an activist and educationalist. He fought Zia’s poisonous legacy in the form of draconian blasphemy laws. He mentored Shahbaz Bhatti, the Catholic federal minister who was killed in Islamabad in March 2011 for his campaign against the draconian laws often used to target poor Christians. Cecil Chaudhry vowed to continue his struggle against the draconian laws after Bhatti’s assassination even as he was battling lung cancer.
Cecil Chaudhry had his share of successes as an activist. He was instrumental in ending separate electorates system for the minorities, which was another poisonous Zia legacy of religious apartheid. Cecil Chaudhry saw this as a betrayal of Jinnah’s ideals. He had a very non-sectarian view of activism and believed powerful persecuted 90% of his countrymen. The celebrated fighter pilot passed away in June 2012. Hundreds of politicians, military officers, educationalists and activists bid him final farewell at Lahore’s Sacred Heart Cathedral. They celebrated his legacy that is at par with his countrymen like Victor Turner and Alvin Robert Cornelius, who was Pakistan’s first non-Muslim chief justice. Agra-born Cornelius belonged to the Goan Christian community, which along with upper caste Hindus and Parsis buck the general trend of marginalisation of religious minorities. Hindus in Pakistan mostly belong to the lower castes, while large numbers of Christians are descendants of converts from these communities. This is among the reasons of their marginalisation.
Goan Christians are among the most prosperous minority communities in Pakistan. The community has given Pakistan some of the finest journalists, soldiers, educationists, sportspeople, businessmen, jurists etc. Goan Christians began making a mark ever since they arrived in Karachi when the British occupied Sindh under Charles Napier in 1843. They were attracted to the sleepy coastal-village-turned-megacity as it offered them new opportunities in trade and commerce. Parsis and Goans in fact managed the city as majority of the Hindus left Karachi while Indian Muslims began arriving there in 1947. They ran educational institutions, hospitals clubs, pubs and wine stores. According to a Pakistani Goan Christian website, Goans in particular ‘were in the limelight of everything, from municipality to customs, judiciary to policing, sports, music and stage plays to ballroom dancing, and of course cuisiné.
Goan Frank D’Souza, who was the first Indian to become a Railway Board member under the British, set-up Pakistan’s railway system in 1947 on Jinnah’s request. Tollentine Fonseca wrote the musical score of Pakistan’s national anthem while Manuel Misquita was one of Karachi’s first elected mayors after the formation of Pakistan.
Anthony Mascarenhas, whose famous article in 1971 turned the tide against Pakistan in East Pakistan (Bangladesh) in 1971, was a Goan Pakistani Christian. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi cited his article, saying it shocked her deeply and prompted her to campaign globally to prepare ground for India’s intervention in East Pakistan. Mascarenhas was very close to the Pakistani establishment. This was the reason why he was handpicked along with seven other Pakistani journalists for a 10-day tour to East Pakistan. The tour was organised to ‘expose Bengali rebels’ for massacring thousands of people opposed to them. Mascarenhas’s colleagues toed the establishment’s line while he had an article published in the UK’s The Sunday Times headlined ‘Genocide’, detailing the extent of Pakistani brutality in East Pakistan. Mascarenhas later became the first journalist to report Pakistan had developed nukes in 1979.
In the battlefield, Goan Brigadier Mervyn Cardoza’s exploits won him Tamgha-e-Khidmat (seventh highest award). His brother, Colonel Eric Cardoza, Lieutenant Colonel David DeSouza, Major Joseph Lobo, Major Kenneth Cardoza, Brigadier Dr Hilary Zuzarte have received Sitara-e-Basalat. Air Commodore Charles Zuzarte was decorated with the Sitara-e-Basalat. Other prominent Goans, who have served the military with distinction, include Brigadier FG Pinto (army), Commanders Stanislaus DeSouza, Arthur Cardoza, and Lieutenant Commander Phillip Menezes (navy), Flight Lieutenants Reginald Nazareth and Rudy D’Souza (air force). Among the sleuths Blasé Mascarenhas, who retired as Intelligence Bureau deputy director, was decorated Tamgha-e-Khidmat, for their services. Maurice Raymond was the first Pakistani General Manager of the Karachi Port Trust, while Joseph D’Mello went on to become Pakistan Railway Board chairman and Sydney Pereira the head of Atomic Energy Commission. Among the sportsmen, Mathais Wallis, who batted with Hanif Mohammad’s during his record 337-run innings at Port of Spain in 1958, and Antao D’Souza played test cricket for Pakistan.
Most of these men grew up in Karachi, which has suffered the most as a result of Pakistan’s obsession with strategic depth in Afghanistan and the chronic extremism it brought to the city still known for its diversity. Gill’s record-breaking cross should be an important celebration of this diversity and Christian contribution to the city and the country. Pakistan needs to compliment it with more concrete measures that go beyond tokenism and combat radicalism corroding the society with greater sense of purpose. By attending the inauguration of the cross, Prime Minister Sharif should put the money where his mouth is to end the scourge of extremism, which cannot be ended with out rooting Zia’s poisonous exclusionary policies reflected in discriminatory laws against the minorities. Karachi is Pakistan’s soul and the cross coming up there is perhaps a good omen for Islamabad’s promised curative surgery to rid the country of the cancer of extremism.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.