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September 30, 2004

A new barbarism

At the time of the murder of Nick Berg, I wrote a piece decrying the barbarity and the shear evil that that act revealed at the heart of the Fundamentalists of Islam. This week's murder of two more (and perhaps by this time three more) victims of this vile and totally evil philosophy simply bears out my revulsion in that piece. To my mind, even more alarming, is the fact that I have so far seen and heard only one Muslim voice raised against this barbaric and totally unforgivable act. That of a Dutch Somalian MP! And she describes herself as the Muslim equivalent of a "Lapsed Catholic".

This fiery lady was this week in London, under constant armed guard because she has several Fatwas against her and is regularly threatened by Muslim men in the streets. Her crime? To speak out against the treatment of women, to demand a rethink within Islam of the way women are "possessions" to be beaten, killed, or insulted by their "owners" - the menfolk to whom their religion assigns them in complete submission. What is notable is that none of the leaders of her religion are prepared to debate her thoughts with her, instead they simply condemn her or attempt to belittle her. It is evidently easier to issue a Fatwa than to come up with reasoned and rational arguments with which to challenge her charges.

This is really the problem at the heart of Islam: moderate voices are simply howled down, threatened with a fatwa, or denied access to any public platform. No wonder then that the extremists at both ends of the spectrum have all the attention! As the Lady MP said during her visit, it is stuck in the thinking of the 12th Century!

Equally worrying about all of this is the fact that the moderates give every appearance of tacitly approving of the barbaric actions of the kidnap gangs now operating so freely in Iraq. Publically they mumble that these actions are "unfortunate" - not unacceptable, and there is every evidence, some of it from "insider" sources, that privately they express support, satisfaction, and even approval of this killing of "infidels" for their faith. It is simply not good enough. It is equally unacceptable that Arab language newspapers on sale here in the UK are loaded with anti-Western and anti-Jewish venom. I find it laughable that the head of the Muslim Council can, on the one hand wave off the accusation of "Anti-Semitism" by saying that the Arabs are a Semite people - and then by refusing to denounce it, give tacit approval to the torrent of anti-Jewish garbage in the press his followers import! If any English language paper published this trash there would be a huge outcry - and prosecutions would be pressed with a deserved vigour. So why have this gutless bunch of anti-Christian and anti-Jewish Labour politicians left the Islamic extremist press to continue spreading their poison?

As the outspoken lady from the Netherlands puts it - it's all "Trevor Talk". This is a reference to Trevor Phillips, head of the Commission for Racial Equality, and his often evasive pronouncements. The lady makes the point that all the Politically Correct protagonists indulge in these verbal acrobatics, avoiding any criticism of "oppressed minority groups" while castigating their real victims - the Christian and Jewish communities. Double standards aren't in this one, but, and it's a big but, they need to consider very carefully what they are promoting - already there are large areas where Muslim fundamentalist gangs have declared that Sharia Law is to be followed - and this is the declared ambition of these evil men in this country and the rest of the world.

Mr Blair and his poodles had better start deciding now whether this is what they want for their children - a Britain under Sharia Law, or an integrated society working for the fair and just society that most of these people claim to have settled in Britain to enjoy. And the supposed leaders of "moderate" Islam should consider carefully their tacit support of the barbarians acting in the name of their faith in Iraq. You cannot have both societies in one place.

Your call, followers of Islam.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:38 AM | Comments (2)

September 29, 2004

A sick joke?

A few years ago there was a joke about a would-be bomber who managed to bungle planting his bomb and setting the timer. The bomb detonated and blew our heroic "freedom fighter" to bits, causing him to have some difficulty reassembling his ghost so he could report to heaven. After several days he was sufficiently ready to present himself at the Pearly Gates and rang the bell.

A small peep window opened in response to the bell, and St Peter enquired who he was, to which our hero replied with name, rank, and organisation. St Peter whereupon informs him coldly that he has come to the wrong place - they don't take members of that organisation in Heaven.

Nothing daunted, our hero replies, "That's OK, I only came to tell you that you have 24 hours to get everyone out!"

On a more serious note of course, the reply sums up the mindset of the terrorist. To most of them the "cause" is an act of almost religious significance and this is what makes dealing with terrorists so difficult. That and the fact that you never know who is behind them, or what the "real" agenda is and what the next demand is likely to be.

The appalling situation with hostage taking and murder in that benighted place, Iraq, is getting ever more beastial and ever less negotiable. The dilemma is, as ever, whether anything is to be gained by withdrawing and allowing them the victory or to remain and try to deal with the Hydra. As always, it has to be a two pronged attack - one to limit their activities (you cannot defeat an enemy who simply melts into the crowd) and secondly to win the hearts and minds of those who hide and support them so that they are exposed and isolated.

It will be a very long haul.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:56 AM

September 28, 2004

A ray of hope?

The good news is that the Muslim Council of Britain has published a new guide for their followers - which condemns in roundabout terms - terrorism. It encourages their followers to report those who are drumming up support for terrosrist activities and to remember that they are BRITISH first, and presumably also subscribe to our freedoms of speech, religion, and tolerance! Obviously they have finally realised that the general impression of Muslims is now being dangerously slewed by these lunatics and their murderous activities in Iraq.

Of course, it is one thing to publish the booklet; it is quite another to counter the lead that the extremists already have with the young and ignorant followers of the al Hamza's of their fold. Now the Moderate voices of Islam have to seize the pulpits and the moral high ground; they need to persuade the young and gullible that there is no short cut to heaven via murder, atrocity, and intolerance. They need to reverse, too, the self declared "Sharia Zones" - Muslim Ghettos in some UK cities. They also need to look at integrating into this society rather than trying to recreate Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Iran, or wherever!

It is equally encouraging that they are sending a delegation to Iraq to try to negotiate the release of the hostage currently being threatened with one of their barbaric beheadings in the name of Allah. Whether or not they are successful, it will send a message to the local mullahs that this is not an acceptable way of doing business with anybody! Hopefully they will also be able to at least start their fellow Muslims thinking about the wider issues which they have so far refused to confront. Perhaps they may start people moving into the 20th Century - then it won't be such a big step into the 21st!

At least it is a start - but there is a huge amount of work to be done before the voices of moderation can prevail!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:43 AM

September 27, 2004

Reunion in South Africa

The Monk is off on an extended "pilgrimage" to the place he grew up and went to school. The occassion is the 40th anniversary of matriculation from one of South Africa's leading State Schools. Yup, the Monk is an Old Selbornian, and is constantly amazed at just where his classmates have ended up!

They are University Professors, teachers, accountants, company directors, a self-made millionaire, and a full house of doctors, nurses, engineers, clerks, shopkeepers, sportsmen, and those who have made their marks in other ways. One has made a name for himself in the realms of astrophysics studying Black Holes. Look up "Teucholsky" and "Black Holes"! He was Dux Ludorum of our year and so far ahead of the rest of us that the teachers just set him work and let him get on with it! It will be very interesting to see how we have all weathered as well; from the photos drifting through, some better than others.

Of course, this trip will mean limited access to a computer, so posting will be erratic and perhaps a little eclectic. I will trust Church Mouse to sort it out in my absence! Do bear with me; it will be an interesting journey - even though the past is, as one philospher has put, a "foreign country which can never be revisited!"

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:59 AM | Comments (1)

September 26, 2004

Do they condone or condemn this barbarism - that is the question!

A leading "Radical" (read - supports murder of Westerners) Muslim Cleric gives us a perfect example of the dichotomy which faces those of the Islamic Faith who do not support the murder and violence committed in their name. On the one hand this man was expelled from Saudi Arabia for "subversive" activities, and on the other chooses to live in Britain - but attempts to undermine the Christian Democracy which has given him shelter! Several quotes from a recent report on him are worth considering -

"The leader of the radical Islamic group Al-Muhajiroun has said that extremists held in Britain - such as Abu Qatada and Abu Hamza - should be released in exchange for Iraq hostage Ken Bigley."

Now let me see - are either of these men threatened with having their heads hacked off for their murderous behaviour and incitement to commit murder and other atrocities? Not that anyone here would be aware of - unless from their own disillusioned followers of course.

Then there is -

"Earlier this month he sparked outrage by suggesting that an attack on a British school, as happened in Beslan, Russia, would be justified as long as women and children were not deliberately killed and only died in crossfire."

Call me old fashioned, but that is a bit out of order in my book, how does he justify this? Surely if Islam is as peaceloving and gentle as its protaganists would have us believe, then this sort of statement is a wee bit out of line with the supposed sentiments of the Koran surely?

Finally there is the report that -

"Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed refused to condemn or condone the terrorists threatening to execute Mr Bigley and said he backed their cause - the removal of British and American troops from Iraq."

Now my understanding of the majority of Muslim opinion is that this man is somewhat violent, somewhat aggressive, and his brand of Islam is not theirs. But, if that is so, why do we not hear their leaders rising up en masse to condemn his utterances and deny him a platform? Why is he still allowed to remain in a country and among a culture he so patently loathes?

Where is the voice of "moderate" Islam? Why do these supposed majority members of this faith not isolate and condemn these vile men for their barbaric and patently murderous utterances? Why, indeed, must we continue to tolerate this vile poison in our midst?

If the majority of adherents to "peaceful" Islam do not share the views of this obscene man and those like him who sponge off a generous Christian Western society while venting their venom and spite at the individuals who have extended the hand of Christian generosity to them - then let's hear them speaking out against this perversion of their faith. Or perhaps they share these views?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:21 AM | Comments (1)

September 25, 2004

The overtaxed awakening?

The latest YouGov poll has produced some information that should be worrying our Illustrious Leader and the rest of the Ruling Classes - including the Civil Service. Asking a series of straightforward questions about how people see the taxation levels, and how these are spent, and - surprise, surprise - people don't feel a need to pay more, or that the government spend it well!

This has been slewed by a very subtle form of brainwashing over a number of years - the subtle, one almost says subliminal, suggestion that it is somehow "wrong" or "selfish" to resent paying a large chunk of your hardearned income. The LibDems are at it again this week at their Conference - pay more tax so we can "distribute it to the poor for you" is the battle cry, and Labour are on the same bandwagon. The Conservatives seem to be afraid of tackling this head on and the polls they all usually quote generally have the questions constructed in a manner which leaves one little option but to give the answers the polltakers want.

To quote from the Telegraph report on this ....
And how well that cynical formula has worked. Equating a willingness to pay more (and more) tax with moral goodness, and its opposite with selfish hard-heartedness, has so muddied the argument, so subverted the whole vocabulary of public discourse about political virtue and social responsibility, that it is almost impossible to utter the words that would open the argument to examination.

Well, it seems that, at last, we have a poll result which says exactly what people think about this. Could it be the first stirrings of a change of mindset? Could it be that the vast tax-burdened proletariat is awakening to the fact that more tax simply means more useless bureaucrats and fatter politicians? Could it be that "the masses" as unreconstructed Left wing socialists of the ban everything persuasion are finally stirring and saying, enough of this nonsense?

Certainly the questions about the Welfare State would seem to indicate this. The vast majority of those polled indicated that they thought the entire welfare system was benefitting the wrong people. It promoted idleness and penalised the truly needy - the aged and the infirm - while rewarding the feckless.

The usual siboleths all get trotted out whenever this sort of debate is attempted. The ones about "taxing the well off, so that the money can be used to alleviate poverty" or "to improve the NHS and make it fairer for everyone" (usually means that everyone gets the same sub-standard third world treatment!) or the famous "to provide a higher standard of education in the poorest inner city and deprived areas." Does it actually happen/ No chance at all - what usually happens is that the bulk of the extra money gets spent on salaries for more administrators (got to have them to make sure public money isn't wasted!) and on very expensive "initiatives" dreamed up by even more expensive consultants. Any left over generally goes in the generous annual salary awards Parliament gives itself. (In the last three years Parliament has given itself pay rises well above inflation - usually by a factor of 10 - and in the first year of the fire fighters dispute awarded themselves 40% - something they aren't prepared to allow anyone else to do!)

People have woken up to the fact that the Civil Service continues to grow exponentially, despite the much trumpetted "cuts", while the actual services, Army Navy, Airforce, Police, Nursing, Fire, and so on are all being "managed" out of existence. The costs keep going up, but the services keep going down.

Perhaps the Political Classes would do well to take a good hard look at reality, perhaps even take the trouble to listen to what the taxpayer and the electorate are saying - instead of telling us what they want us to say! Perhaps too, the moon is Blue!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:58 AM | Comments (2)

September 24, 2004

When is the Eucharist not the Eucharist?

The simple answer to that is when it is an Agape meal. Worryingly, this seems to be what the Anglican Archdiocese of Sydney, notoriously "Evangelical" and one might even say "Protestant Extremist", is saying. The difference is, of course, in who says the key prayers of institution over the offered elements of the communion.

Ozguru, himself raised in the Baptist and Evangelical Anglican tradition, but now a practicing Roman Catholic, has commented on his blog on the new proposal by the Sydney Archdiocese to use Lay persons to lead the Communion service where there is no priest available. I share his disquiet at this seemingly radical proposal, especially if it is to be a straighforward licencing of lay "Communion Makers".

The Communion is the central plank of Christian Worship, even though there are arguments about what it actually is or represents. It is the one act of worship which our Lord directed that we must all do and share "in remembrance of me". Whether you believe that it is transubstantiated or is in some way transformed to a spiritual "food" is immaterial. Since the earliest days of the Church in the time of the Apostles only a Bishop or a Priest can actually lead the Great Thanksgiving over the elements of the communion - the Body and Blood in terms of the scriptural charge in the Gospels. Bread and wine can be shared in an Agape meal, but it is NOT consecrated, and is simply the bread and wine of fellowship - a meal shared between friends.

The latest version of an authorised prayer book - intended for use by all Christian Churches - called Common Worship, does include a form of service which can be lead by a properly trained "Licenced" lay person, usually a Reader. This does not, however, include the Eucharistic Prayer, merely a shortened form of it which does not include the words of Institution - "on the same night that He was betrayed, He took bread, and after giving thanks, broke it, and gave it to them saying, take, eat, this is my body which is given for you, do this in remembrance of me" .... What it allows is for the pre-consecrated elements, the Body and Blood of Bread and Wine, to be taken from one congregation to another where there is no priest - by a lay person licenced and trained for this purpose. The Lay Person is not "consecrating" the elements, merely bringing them to another part of a congregation remote from the "mother" church.

The problem in the Sydney Archdiocese would seem to be that they have a much wider role in mind - one in which the Licenced Lay Person would be able to perform the act of consecration. For a Church which claims to be "Scripture Based" this would seem to ignore the entirety of the Acts of the Apostles and the evidence of other writers and historians of the Early Church. It will also set them outside of the fold of Anglicanism and essentially ex-communicate all Sydney based Anglicans who don't go along with this. Mind you, having experienced their version of Evangelical faith in some of its extremist forms, I have asked myself before whether the communion is valid if the wine is replaced by fruit juice (not even grape juice) and the words of institution were not fully said. I can normally adapt to most styles of worship, even though they may not be my preferred style or churchmanship, but I fear that this one would be a step far too far even for me.

Let us hope that the leaders of this section of the Anglican Church can be persuaded to sit down and consider the fact that they are a part of a wider tradition, one which has managed successfully until now to embrace a wide diversity of opinion and doctrine. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit can guide them in this.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:00 AM | Comments (1)

September 23, 2004

A cat may look at a Queen ....

In the 17th and 18th Century that saying probably had a lot more meaning to it - it would have been a subversive statement to say the least, since it was not permitted for a subject to look directly into the face of the reigning sovereign! However, no cat ever obeyed the laws set by humans, and "real" cats especially so. As many will know, I live with a "real" cat. She is demanding, insistent, and undoubtedly Top Cat in this household! If you are not sure what a "Real" Cat is - read Terry Pratchett and Alan Joliffe's small book on the subject!

A very good friend in Germany lives with a cat called Mausi (The German for Mouser!) who is very definitely both a Real Cat and Top Cat in their household. When she feels they are not providing the right kind of food, or not behaving correctly towards her, she pops out and brings back some mice, some birds, and the occasional rabbit. Her demeanour on these occasions is very much one of "if you can't provide properly for me, then you are certainly not providing for yourselves adequately, either!"

In much the same way the Madam Paddy Cat moved in on me, Mausi moved in on them as soon as they had moved into their house. Whenever either of them is away from home for any reason, Mausi takes charge and ensures that the missing member of her "family" is in no doubt of her opinion of "absentees" when they return.

So the old saying may have been subversive in suggesting that you should ignore convention - it certainly states the perspective of a Cat. Especially a Real Cat!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:09 AM

September 22, 2004

Thoughts from the Orthodox Church

I was struck, in my recent visit to Romania, by the way Christ is portrayed in the Icons you see everywhere. Nowhere do you see one of a Crucified Christ. You see Him seated with and without a Cross in hand, you see Him with hands displayed in blessing, you see Him "in Glory" shown with arms spread wide against a Cross as background, but you never see the crucifixion depicted.

There is a very good reason for this, one we in the West would do well to ponder! To the Orthodox, the Crucifixion was a means to an end; the Resurrection and the Ascension take precedence and place Christ on the throne of heaven as "Emperor of the World". This is not a figure of penitence or of pain, but a figure of ultimate authority and power! The pain is behind Him; the power of Heaven is the present. While penitence plays a large part in their worship and in their spiritual growth, far more emphasis is placed on rendering to the King Emperor of Heaven the service and worship that is due to Him. And, as King Emperor He is a Spiritual authority who can be petitioned by His subjects in time of need.

In their understanding of Christ in this manner there is a clear distinction between the cuddly Sunday School imagery so many Western Chritians foster and the figure of authority and power of our eternal Emperor in heaven. In the Orthodox view we are not and cannot be equal to Christ, we are His subjects and as our merciful and bountiful Emperor, he showers upon us that which we need to live this life and to develop in the spirit for the next.

Perhaps next time you sing the hymns which project the imagery of Christ the King, you will give some thought to the image of Christ the Emperor of Heaven. I know that my image of Christ will never be the same again.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirtr, Now and for ages of ages, Amen.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:23 AM

September 21, 2004

Postal insanity

Well, it's official: the Royal Mail is to be destroyed. Its "monopoly" is to be taken away from it for its "abysmal" performance since the Whitehall Wankers started setting "targets". According to the official announcement we can all expect an instant improvement in 15 months time when private contractors are permitted to take on the delivery of mail.

Yeah, like the improvement in rail travel. British Rail had been underfunded and deprived of investment for years by the Treasury - who then came up with the famous wheeze of "let's break it up and sell off the services to private enterprise. That will improve services!" Yeah, like you couldn't buy a single ticket across the network without paying a massive premium. Like we still can't get a reasonable ticket price and the service? Well, you may get a train. On the other hand, you may not get where you wanted to be by the time you needed to be there, either!

Improved postal services? Not bloody likely - higher prices, fewer deliveries, and more junk mail maybe, but not a better service this side of Hell freezing over. Certainly not with Whitehall's Clowns writing the rules.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:02 AM

September 20, 2004

Postal crisis?

I read with interest and some amazement this week the news that because Royal Mail has "failed" to meet its target of delivering 96% of all First Class mail items by the next day, the Mail Service Regulator is planning to impose yet another massive fine on Royal Mail. To make it even more of an incentive to "improve" he is also considering throwing the delivery of mail open to the horde of commercial vultures who wish to "cherry pick" the bits that actually make money (normal letter delivery is actually subsidised by the delivery of parcels and other high cost/value items), no doubt an incentive to some minds, but it seems to me that this is yet another example of the lack of intelligence anywhere in Whitehall.

Given that the Royal Mail was "fined" 7.5 million last year for only achieving the delivery of 92.5% of the millions of first class mail items against a target of 96%, and had to deal with a major hole in its budgets as a result, I would say that they managed a near miracle to actually achieve the high level of delivery they did in this year. The 7.5 million "fine" resulted in their having to cut staff and undertake a major re-arrangement of their operations. The Mail Trains, certain sorting offices, and a number of other things have been cut to save money (another Whitehall wheeze!), and they still managed to get over 90% of the first class letter post delivered the next day. And this according to those Whitehall cretins is a "failure"?!

Show me a single postal service anywhere in the world that can deliver a letter to the other end of the country within 18 hours of its being posted - and I'll eat my Acubra! Very, very few even have a "First Class" and a "Second Class" letter rate, and even fewer guarantee much more than that the letter will get there sometime! I have just returned from Romania, and Post Cards I posted on the second day of my 7 day visit have still not reached the UK. I have been home for 5 days - yet I can (and have) posted letters to Europe and had acknowledgement with 4 days that the recipient had received it. From experience I know that even the German postal service does not promise to deliver "the next day" and does not have anything like the target to achieve that is imposed by the Whitehall Wankers to achieve. Elsewhere in the world there are postal services where users consider they are lucky if the letter is delivered this year - never mind next day!

Perhaps one of the Whitehall Cretins would care to explain exactly how they think imposing a massive "fine" on a publically funded service is going to help "improve" it? The money has to come out of the already limited budget they have for operating, so how, precisely, will this dramatic reduction in operating budgets bring an "improvement"? Equally, perhaps they would care to explain how handing over the profitable parts of mail delivery to private contractors (who will certianly not deliver letters to the outer Hebrides at 28p per item) will improve the delivery of the non-profitable parts?

Or is it just me that is missing the apparently blindingly obvious?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:48 AM | Comments (4)

September 19, 2004

Reviving religion

The Saint Nicolas Cathedral in Brasov

Perhaps "cathedral" is the wrong word, but it is the nearest I can get to the Romanian Orthodox title. This is the seat of the Archbishop of Brasov and is relatively small by Western standards, yet it is never empty, never still, and loaded with the sense of prayer. The interior of the building is riotously decorated with no wall or ceiling surface uncovered by the icon-style murals. The great screen separating nave from the inner sanctuary is elaborate and ornate and, while beautiful, manages to not overwhelm.

In the grounds stands the first school to teach in the Romanian language rather than in German (Romania was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1840), and its first modern King, Ferdinand 1, was a member of the Hapsburg/Hohenzollern dynasties and married one of Queen Victoria's children, Princess Mary, who became Queen Maria. The present ex-King, Mihail 1 (Michael 1 in English) now lives in a former Royal Guest House in a beautiful park in Bucharest, having become something of a national icon since his return.

Religion is important to this newly resurgent nation, and so it is encouraging to see the restoration of the ancient churches, the full congregations, and the strength of belief in God and his abundant grace.

The religious revival is palpable with new churches rising and old ones being refurbished. Even among the military, long banned by Communist Laws from practicing any form of religion, church-going is now commonplace. As the soul reaches out for nourishment, so the evil that the men of Godless politics and power have wrought is rolled back. A lesson, perhaps, for the "free" nations of the developed world?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:09 PM

September 18, 2004

Dealing with the Devil

Browsing in my tea break yesterday morning, I came across a very good idea for overcoming the terrorist problem. Having given this a lot of thought, reecently, I have come to the conclusion (again - I was a target in another life and another hemisphere for "Freedom Fighters" supported and funded by Mr Blair and his cronies - for Humanitarian purposes of course!) that terrorism can rarely be beaten by military means. Militarily, once you have created a nuclear desert of the supposed terrorist base country you have won - but the "collateral damages" to the innocent civilian population may be rather higher than the net result!

In any serious action against terrorism you have two problems: first, to contain and limit the options for action of the Terrorist. Second, to reduce the desire to resort to terrorism and to limit the base from which recruits can be drawn. Present events show that No 1 on this list is not as easy as it seems, but, the much maligned Israeli "Fence" has reduced the access to target areas, the latest bombings have shown that the bombers are not able to reach the favored targets with the ease they formerly enjoyed. The facts that Afghanistan is slowly falling back into the hands of the terrorist gangs and that Iraq is also being taken over by these thugs who seem to operate with impunity in most areas away from towns and sometimes even inside cities show that we have not even begun to appreciate the necessity for the second and even more important phase.

From G'day Mate I found a suggestion which ultimately comes from the blog of A E Brain which has a great deal of merit. I hope that someone, somewhere in government studies it and gives it the consideration it deserves! His suggestion that we provide a home and compensation for those (who may well be Muslims and from countries other than our own!) be provided with compensation and perhaps a pension, and the option of citizenship of the country in whose service they died is a sensible one. It shows we care, it shows that we take care of those who work for us, and it shows that we are not the enemy!

And that is what we now face: the problem of addressing No 2 on my list, of cutting off the arguments for persuading the young, the frightened, and the bereaved as a source of recruits for the men of evil who run these terrorist organisations. It is no good simply continuing a military campaign of containment; we have to win over the hearts and minds of the young, the moderates, and those who must eventually take charge in their own societies, and cut off all the Hydra's heads. That cannot be done from London, Washington, or Moscow, it has to be done locally by the populations from whom these malignant monsters spring.

Blair and the Irish Prime Minister are currently at Leeds Castle trying to persuade Rev Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams that the terrorist war in Ireland is over, that the IRA will disband, that the normal political process should take over. I think Hell will freeze over first! Paisley believes (with some justification!) that Blair is disingenuous and has sold the majority population of the North down the river, Adams believes (again with some justification) that having bombed and murdered his way into the Northern Ireland Assembly, his one guarantee of staying there is to make sure that he has the IRA as a backup!

This will never be resolved until the two governments, that of the Irish Republic and that of the UK, agree to work together to address the legitimate concerns of the communities of both North and South and to cut off the flow of cash and recruits to the men of violence on both sides. Visit Dublin and most Dubliners can point out the homes of the Commanders of the IRA; vist the North and the same applies to the "Unionist" side's various "Armies". The truth is somewhat different; these organisations are now the local racketeers - a local Mafia - they run the protection rackets, the drug smuggling and selling, and the prostitution rackets. This is well known - but the governments on both sides seem to be reluctant to crack down and close these malignant organisations down. One wonders why? Who benefits from allowing them to continue?

No, the war on terrorism will not be won simply by force of arms. This is a many-headed Hydra and it needs careful co-ordination to take out the weapon carriers, the funders, the supporters, and the organisers. It needs a campaign to turn the populations from which they draw their recruits into allies who will shut off the ready supply of footsoldiers, it needs the local communities to shut them down, deny them aid, deny them the platform to spread their poison. That is where the next phase of the war on terror needs to be focussed. This is now about hearts and minds, about reassuring the people caught in the middle, about providing accurate and supportable information, about dealing effectively with genuine grievances, and about ensuring that the recruiting dries up.

Terrorism is the legacy of the Cold War - a war fought by surrogates of both sides in remote areas away from the main protagonists. It was successful beyond their wildest dreams - but now that the Genie is out of the bottle it will not go back until the populations who currently see terrorism as the only way forward, the only way to make their feelings known and to get their aspirations heard, can be persuaded to reject it utterly as a legitimate strategy will we finally defeat this scourge.

Let us pray that our leaders can recognise their own role in the creation of this monster and find a way to kill it before it kills us all!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:44 AM

September 17, 2004

Transylvanian interlude

Castle Bran perches above the village and guards the pass to Wallacheria.

Looking every bit as eery as Dracula's Castle should, Castle Bran perches atop its rocky outcrop. Actually, the Castle (despite my earlier misinformed post) is only Dracula's Castle in Western legend. It sits on the border of Transylvania and Wallacheria, the neighbouring Province of Romania, and Vlad Tepes (or to us, The Impaler) was not ruler of Transylvania but of its neighbour. During his time this was a garrison fort guarding the border and the approaches to Brasov - and it served as a Customs Post. Vlad and the Ruler of Transylvania had a convenient arrangement on this and shared the tax take.

In the 1890's it ceased to be a garrison and was given by the town of Brasov (then known as Kronstadt) to the new Queen Maria of Romania. She refurbished it as a country retreat and bequethed it to her daughter Princess Ireena, who turned it into a hospital and worked as a nurse there in the second World War. Under the Communists it was allowed to decay until it had almost been lost. Since the late 1970's, however, through the efforts of dedicated individuals and finally the City Council of Brasov the Castle has been restored to the condition and furnishing style of Queen Mary's ownership. It is a gem and well worth the effort to get to.

Our Romanian hosts' generosity was almost embarrassing in that the value of their currency is non-existent, yet they managed to show us hospitality of unbelievable quality. The rising prosperity is slowly becoming more apparent, so, too, is the improvement in living conditions, lifestyles, and the economy. This is a people determined to restore their national pride, their economy, and their democracy - and while they will unashamedly shop around for ideas and ways to improve, have achieved a small miracle all on their own. I have no doubt at all that they will achieve even more in the years to come!

For those seeking something unspoiled and genuinely beautiful - pay the Romanians a visit. Don't miss Transylvania; there are still bears (smaller than Black Bears) who don't mind coming to town to pick up supplies, either. The wolves are a bit more shy but can be heard in the forests and on the mountains and occasionally seen on the forest edges. Another "don't miss" is Moldavia - especially the Orthodox Monasteries.

Do pray for the people of Romania as they shake off 50 years of oppression and degradation. They are a proud nation - but also a generous and hospitable one.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:48 AM

September 16, 2004

Disaster to left, Emergencies to the right, and stupidity straight ahead?

I don't know, I go away for seven days, and it seems the world falls apart! As Hurricane Ivan mauls its way across the Caribbean and into the Gulf Coast one does have to wonder at the weather patterns that have produced three such violent hurricanes in one season and on more or less the same track. Global climatic change may well be a factor, but interestingly, this is not as unusual as it may appear. It appears that these super storms (and indeed the apparently unusually wet August in the UK!) are not as unique as first thought.

Admittedly, records pre-20th Century are a bit unreliable, but there are accounts of equally devastating "seasons" dating back to the Spanish Dominion of the 16th Century. These storms do rampage through the area regularly, but many simply glance past most of the main inhabited areas. That said, Florida really has taken a hammering (is still getting hammered!) and we can only extend our sympathy and our aid where possible to the victims. Our prayers are also helpful at this time.

Then there is the ongoing drama of hostage taking and murder by Islamic "Heroes"

Of course, in a few months I will probably get prosecuted for saying this - it will be "inciting religious hatred" under Mr Blunkett's new anti-Christian and anti-Jewish law. Following on from the horror of Beslan, the latest kidnapping of a Briton and two Americans in Bagdad will no doubt end in more murder. One more "triumph" for the appeasers and for the men of violence who now reign with impunity while the lawyers drag out with endless technicalities the pitifully few trials (maximising profits!) and the liberal left continue to turn loose murderous psychopaths convicted of bombing and shooting those who dared to stand up to them. Add one more victim to the pile - the Briton shot dead in the street in broad daylight in that model of democracy and tolerance - Saudi Arabia.

One more thing: Blunkett's new law masks is the fact that Islam is now aggressively proselytising in the UK and whole areas are now proclaimed to be under Sharia Law and not British Law by the fundamentalists who have been promoted and encouraged by the "Multi-cultural" claptrap brigade. The media don't publish it, the politicians don't talk about it, and anyone who dares is marked for attention by the bully boys from the likes of Al Hamza's disciples. Attacks on Jewish Synagogues and cemetaries are up, attacks on churches are up, Muslim propaganda against Christianity is increasingly offensive - but Mr Blunkett thinks that Islam needs to be given even greater power to permanently change our society to yet another third world sinkhole of fundamentalism. Pretty good record so far? You ain't seen nothing yet!

In the midst of all this disaster and emergency what does our overstuffed and arrogant political elite do? Why, ban the hunting of foxes!

In scenes yesterday that must cause even the most cynical of us to quake in our shoes, parliament rammed through a law which eats at the very heart of democracy. Simply because it can, this obscene government of class warriors (all themselves from the class they despise the most!), filled with their spiteful envy of anyone who has managed to rise above their level of filth, have finally shown their true colours and emerged covered in disgrace. The anti-hunting lobby so ably represented by that self-made obnoxious little tyrant Dennis Skinner, the equally obnoxious Alun Michael with his complete paucity of reason, the equally obnoxious Tony Banks, and the oily Gerald Kauffman and other idiotic supporters of this ban, have nothing to be proud of. The motion passed only because they have an overlarge majority, and will only get through to being law by invoking an Act intended for use in National Emergency - not for when some tyranical minority wish to impose their will.

After yesterday, democracy is dead; it remains now only to dispose of the stinking corpse. The countryside will not take this lying down, and Blair will live to regret his cynical surrender to this ignorant, arrogant, and totally anti-democratic pressure group within his party - a move designed only to save his own political hide. As the truth about this cynical and power hungry little worm of a man becomes daily more apparent, I wonder that the populace of these isles does not rise up with the huntsmen and their supporters and throw the entire House of Commons into the Thames.

Mind you, think of the pollution that would cause!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:22 PM | Comments (1)

September 15, 2004

A contrast with the Abbey?

This is a picture I took in 2002 on a visit to my mother-in-law's in Australia; it is a special little church, even though the churchmanship is at the other end of the spectrum from my own!

Some of my readers may even recognise it, the little church at the end of Church Lane, Castlereagh, New South Wales. It stands on a promontory looking across the Nepean/Hawksbury River towards the Blue Mountains. It was here that we worshipped as a family and it was from here that we buried my father-in-law in 2000.

While it lacks the soaring grace of the Abbey, and the solemnity of the "High" church practice, God is present here as He is in the Abbey and elsewhere. This little church may not win a place in a book on Australias 1,000 best churches, but it will certainly have a place in my list of "best places I have worshipped."

Just goes to show - one really doesn't need much to feel at home in a Church. A friendly congregation, the presence of God in the worship, and the time and space to appreciate it all.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:36 AM | Comments (3)

September 14, 2004

How embarrassing!

In a bit of a facer for the Politically Correct antics of the Labour Party and Tone the Cronymaker, Sir V S Naipaul, a Nobel Prize Winner and author, says that Multi-culturalism isn't working. The noble knight, himself born in Trinidad and Tobago, says that integration is the only way for any newcomer to a society to go. He describes as absurd the idea that an immigrant should bring their own culture with them.

He has a number of other equally unflattering things to say about the welfare state, the "Jobs for the Boys" culture that has come with "Multi-Culti", as he calls it, and argues that our society should focus on "Britishness" and not on dividing people up by culture, race, or gender. Himself a Hindu by birth, but not considered particularly religious, he doesn't have a lot of good to say about Saudi Arabia and its funding of terrorism or state sponsored Wahabism. According to Sir S V, the Saudi's have contributed "nothing to the world - it has just filled up the gambling houses and the brothels. They are not fine people actually."

Harsh words, but probably ones that we will not hear any Cabinet Member applauding - much more likely to attract howls of indignation from Labour's seried ranks of "love thy Arab/Palestinian victim" Brigade.

Anyone else noticed, by the way, how a ban on Fox Hunting is suddenly back on the agenda with threats of resignations from the Cabinet if "promises to ban it aren't honoured"? Frankly a Cabinet without that Terrorist supporter and activist Peter Hain has definite attractions, but as Tone is in difficulties over his usual freeloading summer break and the Troll Chancellor is looking for promotion, he'll buckle under the pressure and allow his bleeding heart brigade to impose yet another restriction on personal freedoms.

All part of the service - anyone care to reread Terry Pratchett's 1997 post-election prize winner - Carpe Jugulum? I suggest that you have a copy of dear Tone's handwritten manifesto handy when you read the Count de Magpyr's "New Deal" for Lancre.

Oh, and it's worth remembering that Sir S V Naipaul was in one of Tone's first Honours Lists.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:10 AM

September 13, 2004

Is ET out there ?

According to the Astronomer Royal, the answer is yes. This is qualified of course, by his adding the rider that they may not be bipedal, or even pedal at all - they could be huge ballon-like creatures floating in atmospheres as wild and alien as Jupiter's, or even as multi-individual as a swarm of ants or bees.

No, this isn't a venture by the eminent Professor into the realms of science fiction or fantasy, he is responding to the widening of our knowledge of the cosmos as Hubble and other instruments probe ever deeper into the universe and more and more planets and planetary systems are found. The fact that we have not received the equivalent of a radio message from them saying "we're here, where are you?" simply means that we may not even be on the same mental wavelength. In the Professor's words, we not be able to communicate or for that matter to even begin to understand how another life form reasons or communicates. Who knows; on some soggy water filled planet there could be super-intelligent dolphins as a top life form whose environment, and lifestyle is so perfectly matched that they have no need of a technology that would allow them to communicate with any but their own species, anyway!

In a neat twist to my posted comment the other day regarding the fact that the Church had welcomed the "elevation" of our small lump of rock to the status of "planet", as it moved us up the pile, the Professor comments that if we were to prove to be the only "intelligent" (I sometimes wonder about that when I contemplate the actions of terrorists!) life in the universe, then we are even higher up the tree than we thought. Frightening, really; think what some of our funny-bunny brigade would make of the news that we are it. This little lump of rock hurtling round our small star is the only one with sentient life!

Doesn't bear thinking about.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:09 AM

September 12, 2004

Is it a bird? Nope, its a bat!

A bit of fun at the Funny Farm the other day with the discovery of a small and probably rather upset bat hanging from the ceiling outside the door of a rather unpopular manager's office. It was greeted with much hilarity by the staff who made a point of greeting it with a cheery "Hi Jon, forget to change back last night?" or "Finally showing your true nature, John?"

If I were the bat I think I would be upset to be maligned in this way! As it is, the story had a happy ending - the bat was rescued by the appropriate authority and released back into the wild that night.

Just a thought though - what if it IS the absent John? No one has seen him around since then ......

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:42 AM

September 11, 2004

A special time of remembrance and prayer.....

For the thousands of survivors and family members of those who did not survive those terrible attacks on the United States on this day three years ago, Church Mouse would ask that you set aside a wee bit of time to remember them and pray for the necessary resolve for all who work to prevent like tragedies occurring in future. That work will be painful, difficult, and arduous, but it must be done to eliminate the scourge of those who profane and desecrate true religion with their pursuit of deadly zealotry.

11 September must be a day put to good purpose for it to mean anything. May the departed rest in peace, and may the rest of us strive for peace!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:02 AM | Comments (1)

September 10, 2004

A question of trust?

Asked recently on a BBC2 Newsnight interview in the UK, Newt Gingrich didn't beat about the bush when asked by the-left leaning Gavin Esler, the host, why the US preferred to go it alone in world conflicts rather than under the UN umbrella.

Mr Gingrich came back with a polite but unanswerable reply; "How can Americans believe in the UN when they have just elected Sudan to their Committee on Human Rights? And who chairs the committee? Libya!" It rather closed the discussion down, Mr Esler was left gaping. Nice to hear someone express the problem and the opinion so openly.

Enough said, I think. Tone take note: this is what your Multi-cultural claptrap about "all cultures are valid" garbage promotes. Oh, and that small matter of children and girls killed for "muti".

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:07 AM

September 09, 2004

The tyrant's human face...

It is very interesting to see the reaction among the cognicenti and the liberal left press to the previews of the new film on the last days of Hitler. Almost mass hysteria in their rage at the fact that he is shown as a "caring", sick and disillusioned man succumbing to his infirmities. Why the outcry? The main reason for the outraged criticism this film has unleashed, is that it destroys the cardboard cutout two dimensional monster image that the left love to hate. It replaces it with an image of three dimensions, one which we all recognise could be the man next door!

There is nothing in the film that wasn't already known about Hitler, his love of routine, his rather strait laced views on sex, marriage and fidelity. What is new, is seeing them alongside his almost casual orders to troops to go out and die, to the camp commanders of the concentration camps to step up "production" and the ordinariness of so much of his daily routine. It has tended to be lost in the image projected in the last fifty years that this man was not a complete moron, he was not an ignoramus either. While he lacked a great deal in terms of formal education he had read extremely widely and was a very knowledgable commentor on art and architecture. He was also not the complete idiot he is often portrayed as in military matters either - something that emerges as soon as a proper study is made of his briefings with his General Staff.

There is no sign of the slurring speech, or the spittal sprayed rantings, this is a picture of a man who is erudite, sane and in full control of his thoughts. That is waht seems to disturb the left liberal lobby the most.

The problem here is that most people prefer to see him as an aberration, something out of the ordinary, a madman, a freak. They don't like the thought that he was an intelligent, caring (to those he liked or approved of!) and reasonably ordinary man. That makes the "monster" one of us!

We have the same problem whenever we examine any of the other tyrants our species throws up at regular intervals. Joe Stalin could casually order the extermination of a few thousand people "for the greater good" - then go home to his loving daughters and share a convivial meal with them. He liked nothing better than to be surrounded by children and to be able to play games, tell stories or read books to them. Yet his contemporaries were terrified of him. Nor is he unique in this behaviour, there are many other examples of such behaviour.

Ghengis Khan was one such, capable of huge kindness and savage brutality. His descendent Tamerlane, who ruled an Empire from the Aegean to the heart of India, and to his small circle of family and friends was the epitomy of kindness and compassion. To his subjects capable of unspeakable tyranny. As Stalin's most recent biographer has pointed out, the humanity of these tyrants is what makes them even more frightening. It is their very humaness which destroys the illusion of a species of "inherent goodness and peace".

In another equally revealing glimpse of the heart of a tyrant, we are now able to see behind the smile of Chairman Mao, a vision afforded by the translation of a book by his personal physician. This reveals another aspect of the monster, this time a man with a voracious sexual appetite - for teenage girls. Somewhere along the line this monster caught venereal disease, and never even paused. His physician ended up having to expend an enormous amount of energy treating the girls this venal man infected. But it is very revealing that his government ensured that wherever he went there were a plentiful supply of young women available to satisfy his seemingly insatiable apetite for sex. Yet, among his own family he projected the image of a caring, loving father figure.

It is important that the world see and understand the full picture of these tyrants and their modern equivalents. It may be uncomfortable for many to see just how like the person next door or the loved parent in the livingroom they are. You simply cannot assess a tyrant by one aspect of their picture only. Even Osama bin Laden has a reputation as a loving, caring father and an equally caring leader of his "troops". Perhaps if we understand this aspect of the tyrant, we may begin to understand how to avoid falling under their control.

The insight into the side of Hitler seen by his closest friends brings into perspective just how this man managed to become so influential and so widely accepted. Perhaps it is time we grew up and accepted that there is a tyrant lurking within the best of us. Some of us have the moral background and the restraint to refuse to allow it to exercise itself - but whenever any man rises to a position of power without that restraint, or within a system which does not have the stability or the systems to restrain them - you have the monster loose.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:34 AM | Comments (2)

September 08, 2004

Defence of the realm - Part 2

My thanks must go to Skipjack for a snippet from a newspaper in the US repeating an item originally from the Murdoch newspaper, "The Sun". Not being a Sun reader, I missed this one, but it reveals a lot about what our incompetent bunglers at the Ministry of Defence (perhaps it should be renamed, soon, as the Ministry of Indefensible Bungling, or the the Ministry of Defencelessness.) have done to our once proud armed forces!

It comes to something when newly promoted NCO's have to shop around for their rank markings. It doesn't hold out any hope at all of their being able to find essential spares for any of their equipment! After the debacle of ammunition shortages in Iraq, shortages of troops, lack of spares, lack of desert camouflage outfits, lack of flak jackets, and boots that melted in the desert, you'd think this shower of complete incompetence would have learned the lesson and got their act together. You'd be wrong.

The Civil Servants who run the Armed Services now (bet you thought it was the Admirals, Generals, and Air Marshalls - but no, they take their orders from Permanent Under Secretaries - abbreviation: PUSS! I say no more!) think it is far more important to spend the price of a Type 45 Destroyer on redecorating their offices' block and buying chairs for their useless and incompetent bean counters to sit in at 1,000 per chair! One chair would have paid for the rank markings they needed for every Sargeant in the RAF! Need a gun on the new Eurofighter - can't have one because we've spent the money redesigning the uniform! The fact that there is a gun fitted because the weight is needed to stabilise the aircraft is neither here nor there - taking it out would cost even more! The firing mechanism and controls aren't there though, because, according to the cretin bean counter who made this decision - "modern missles are much more effective!" Yeah, right! So what happens when you've used them all and there's still a bandit to deal with? You throw the Teddy Bear mascot at him?

This is the same arggument that says that one modern ship can do the same as two hundred old ones. Really? It can be in two hundred places simultaneously? That really is a neat trick; wonder where the technology is for that one, then? In someone's high tech chair in Whitehall, perhaps?

The real trouble with these morons is that they think that ships, planes, tanks, and the men who man them are simply symbols or items on pieces of paper. They don't really exist - do they? Perhaps the answer is to take them all out of those comfy offices and put them in the firing line until they admit to their complete incompetence and resign or get blown away.

Ce vis pacem, para bellum.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:28 AM

September 07, 2004

Translyvania visit

I guess I could get pretty amusing with a heading like that. But, I'll resist. Actually I am going to a Conference at which I am speaking on the subject of Risk Assessed solutions for fire safety in Brasov, in the heart of Transylvania and quite near Castle Bran, the home of Vlad Dracul.

It is 9 years since I was last there, and am very interested to see how it has changed and in what ways. I made some good friends among the people there the last time and hope that I can renew acquaintances now. I will be there for a full seven days and attending several functions as well, including the National Fire Service day in Bucharest. This will be my first visit to Brasov; on my previous visit I went to Tirgu Mures and Sigishoara - which just happens to be where Vlad Dracul was born.

We tend, in the West, to think of him purely in terms of Bram Stokers "Dracula" or as Vlad the Impaler, the scourge of the Turkish invaders. Neither really tells you much about the real man behind the legend. In Romania he is a National hero - a figure of revered respect. After all, he saved this Christian Nation from being overrun and forced to convert to Islam by the Turkish invaders who had crushed Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Bosnia, and so much more of the Balkans. His method of defending his borders was certainly brutal, definitely unpleasant, but extremely effective. All Turkish prisoners were impaled and placed where they "decorated" the approaches to the border. It tended to demoralise the invading armies.

Vlad Dracul is named for the symbol of his banner - a golden Dragon emblazoned on a shield of gold. Dracul is the Romanian word for Dragon and the sign above the door of his birthplace in Sigishoara (pronounced Sig-i-shwara) is just that.

A fascinating place, an even more fascinating history - the home of the Dacians, the outpost of Rome and whose Legions guarded the Forts along Hadrian's Wall in England - and a really remarkable people. More when I return!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:31 AM | Comments (2)

September 06, 2004

Terror on the rampage

The atrocity in Beslan, Russia, over the last few days just about says everything you need to know about the Islamic Fundamentalist approach to dealing with anyone they perceive as an enemy, essentially anyone who isn't a member of their peculiarly twisted brand of Islam. The news that some of the smallest hostages had been released by the terrorist thugs in the Russian hostage drama sounded hopeful. At least the world now knew that the hostage takers were Chechen rebels and that there were about 40 of them - most "wired" with suicide bombs and fully prepared to kill their innocent hostages and themselves for their cause. Their "cause"?

Why, full independence for a poverty-striken chunk of land with almost no industry, insufficient food production, or work for its population. Why? Because they are Muslim fundamentalists who want an Islamic "paradise" ruled by Ayatollahs - or something! A perfectly acceptable reason to murder a large number of non-Muslim "enemies".

This accords perfectly well with Mayor Ken Livingstone's favourite "moderate" Muslim cleric, Al-Qaradawi's fatwa and other pronouncements on the subject of Islamic resistance to "invasion" and "attacks on Islam". The revelations that he advocates killing Americans and Britons who have "invaded" the territory of Islam is no surprise to those who, unlike Mr Livingstone and his Labour Party halfwits in Parliament, consider this man and his fanatical followers to be "moderate". It really makes one wonder what they call "extreme". I suppose I must be fair and point out that Red Ken Livingstone does state publically that he condemns any violence "in Iraq", and the Minister who supported the visit of Al-Qaradawi recently, never shared a platform with him - and that the Metropolitan Police who promoted his visit now say they are "evaluating" their involvement. Doesn't stop the terrorists folks, but it makes us feel better about it, doesn't it.

The news that the siege was ended by the Russian Security forces, whose hand seems to have been tipped by the premature detonation of one of the "Black Widow" bomber's bomb, will, no doubt, reverberate round the globe. That there were so many casualties among the hostages is a matter of deep regret, and we should all pray for the victims and their mourning families. That so many of the scum who perpetrated this outrage should have managed to escape, hiding amongst their hostages in truly "courageous" fashion and using them as shields to the last, should send a message to their supporters, appeasers. and followers that signals loud and clear the type of gutless cowards they really are. It can be of little comfort to know that most of those who escaped were later cornered - one of these vicious women even went to the local hospital and tried to blow up her bomb in the Casualty Waiting area - a Security Guard grabbed her and threw her out, thus preventing her from doing this and her attempt to detonate the bomb - the rest appear to have takebn hostages with them, but this doesn't seem to have stopped the enraged population from dealing with at least two of them.

We should also pray for an end to the pronouncements of the appeasers who do nothing but encourage these fanatics to believe that they can and will get away with these ever more bloody attrocities. Already there are those whose hysterical voices are raised in condemnation of the Russians' ruthless supprssion of this insurrection. How long do these no doubt well-meaning, but certainly misguided, folk believe this situation could have gone on? What other groups might have been encouraged to attempt an even more dastardly grab for hostages and the spotlight? No, tragedy though it is for those who have been hurt, killed, or scarred by the trauma of this event, it is better that it has ended swiftly and without bargaining. This sends a message that no one can misread - don't try this sort of stunt in Russia, they don't have the squeamishness to be found elsewhere. Of course, this means that we in the West need to be even more vigilant - the terrorists now know that while they cannot intimidate the Russians - they just might be able to do it here!

One piece of good news, I suppose, is that the French journalists are reported to have been handed over to a more "moderate" group of terrorists to be released after negotiation. I wonder how many Euros will flow into the terrorists coffers in exchange?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:22 AM | Comments (1)

September 05, 2004

A very timely sermon...

The readings on which I must preach today include the story of the Good Samaritan, one which I should think that every preacher has had at least one go at interpreting. In the last 20 years or so, I must have had several attempts to find a way to get this particular message across. With the events of this week in mind, indeed of the last several months, if not years, to look back on, I hope I have at last found something which will speak to all my congregation.

It is appended below for those of you who wish to explore the all-important question from the story of the Good Shepherd, "Who is my neighbour?".

Tewkesbury Abbey
Trinity 13 2004
Sung Eucharist

+ In the name of God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

"Thou shalt love thy neighbour, as thyself!"

Jesus' hearers of the story of the good Samaritan would, at first, have been amused - certainly by that opening line - "a certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho." In Christ's time no one in his right mind undertook that journey without a well armed escort! To do so was almost a suicide attempt. Someone living in that part of the world today would probably have a similar reaction to anyone announcing they planned to walk that route. Then it was infested by bandits who even made it necessary for the Roman patrols to go fully prepared; today, with an Intifada in progress, not even Palestinians undertake that road lightly. Such is the progress we have made with the Gospel message of peace and brotherhood in 2,000 years.

"But he, willing to justify himself, asked, 'And who is my neighbour?' " It seems we still have not learned the answer to that question, especially when you are confronted with the abomination of murdered children in Russia, as fanatics first seize and then murder hostages. It rises as a question each time some suicide bomber blows themselves up in a crowded shopping mall or on a bus. It manifests itself when aircraft are seized by fanatics and deliberately rammed into buildings, and still we do not understand the answer.

The Samaritan was not just an untouchable - they were completely and utterly beyond contact or even dialogue to the orthodox Jew. By the time the story got to this point, there would have been no one still smiling or laughing. What was being said there was almost the same as saying to a Russian that the person who has just saved his or her life by donating blood for the lifesaving transfusion was a Chechen. Or to a member of the Hasidic Jewish Sect that the man who pulled him from the rubble of his bombed house and then rendered lifesaving first aid was a member of Hamas. Or perhaps telling the Reverend Ian Paisley that Jerry Adams had saved him following a heart attack.

This is the problem we must face: our neighbour is not just the person in need, they are also the person we dislike, the person with whom we are at war, and even the person trying to rob you! Nice little problem, isn't it? Even for our suicidal traveler on the road to Jericho, the very robbers were his neighbours.

Thus the problem for us is how do we deal with them?

The Archbishop of Canterbury said on radio, even while I was preparing this sermon, that the events of this week have severely tested his faith. I can well believe it; my own faith has taken a hammering as well, and it certainly isn't over yet. I suppose we should all be grateful that I am not President Putin or President Bush - there would be nuclear deserts in certain parts of the world if I were, but that does not solve the question, and it certainly isn't Christian!

In its fullness of meaning the story of the Samaritan encapsulates the Christian dichotomy - I must love not only my friends - but my mortal enemies as well. I am required to turn the other cheek, to return harsh words with love, and to return hurt with kindness. Impossible! It flies in the face of my humanity which demands revenge. It demands an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Life for life, blood cries out for blood! Yet, if I am truly a follower of Christ this cannot be; I must recognize the neighbour and render aid to the injured, friend and foe alike!

As we watch these events unfold on our television screens in the comfort of our own homes we are insulated from it all. It is almost a game show - something we can distance ourselves from and turn off when we tire of it. Yet we are as much a part of it as the people who have lost husbands, children, mothers, and innocence in the tragedy in Russia. We are as much a part of the tragedy in Iraq as we are in Israel and Palestine. John Donne, for all his faults, summed it up rather well in his famous sermon which said, "No man is an island, entire of itself." We are all part of the whole, as much as if Beachy Head were to collapse into the sea and be swept away it would reduce this island, so, whenever any of our neighbours are killed, maimed, or butchered, so are we. "There is one body in Christ" said St Paul, and the Samaritan story shows us just how inclusive that is.

So, what do we do about the fanatics, the psychopaths who behead their victims in the name of their faith and cause? How do we deal with these people? How do we deal with the mob who would rather release a Barabas than a Jesus?

Perhaps the answer lies in seeing the way a body deals with cancer. Untreated, it will invade every cell and kill off the host; treated, the body's defences work to isolate and contain the cancerous growth, strangle it, and destroy it. Now, I am not advocating a call to arms, far from it; what I do advocate is that we must work with those moderate minds and voices in the trouble spots around the world. We need to give heed to their fears and concerns and find ways to address them without destroying what is good in our societies. We need to become better neighbours!

The Jews hated the Samaritans because the Samaritans had broken away from mainstream Judaism and followed their own version, sacrificing on hilltops - the "High Places" of the psalms - and following a simplified version of the Law of Moses. They mixed, perforce, but the misunderstanding and distrust was mutual. Seems almost as if we are describing the Middle East of today, yet it is still the same problem. These are the barriers that need to be breeched, to be broken down and replaced by bridges. Trust is what is needed, trust, knowledge, and understanding.

Our Victorian forebears thought they could create a "system" which could guarantee prosperity and employment for all. It is not working and it is a fundamentally flawed concept, even though we keep trying to make it function. I suspect that something approaching a working model will only be created when we recognize that "neighbour" principle. To be a neighbour does not require you to abandon your beliefs or your dignity, your worship system, or your prosperity; it does require you to recognize the needs of others and to seek to help them in constructive ways. It requires us to seek understanding - even if at first glance it appears incomprehensible - you cannot help if you do not understand! Some wounds are easily attended, a bandage, a sticking plaster, and some disinfectant may be all that is required. In other instances the wounds are not so visible and extend deep into the psyche - perhaps into the collective psyche of an entire group or race. They are still our neighbours, and we are still obliged to seek to help.

No one said it was easy then, no one says it is easy now. But it is what is required of us as followers of Christ. Heaven help us all as our faith is put to the test in addressing this one. If the Archbishop has suffered a test of his faith, how much more so have we?

"Go and do thou likewise!"

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:21 AM

September 04, 2004

Hurricane rising

I have been watching with interest the approach of Hurricane Frances towards the Florida coast. Of course, from the wilds of darkest Gloucestershire, I am unlikely to be affected, but I do know people in Florida, some even read this blog! And, in a distant past of my career, having had to deliver emergency services during a stray cyclone (The Southern Hemisphere's version of a Hurricane), I am very conscious of what the population there can expect and what my colleagues in the emergency services will have to deal with.

Despite this, I have seen some humourous posting on the subject of hurricane preparation - try the links the Laughing Wolf has to several of his blogging friends for the really funny Hurricane Preparations notes. I guess if you live in an area prone to these storms you do develop a sense of humour to deal with it or you would simply pack up and leave!

I will be watching the weather reports for this area and praying for the safety of my friends, colleagues, and their loved ones during the coming days. Lord have mercy.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:08 PM | Comments (2)

September 03, 2004

A memory of war

The 3rd of September marks the day on which Western Europe plunged into a war which would engulf the world in 1939. That was the day that appeasement of Hitler and his vicious cronies, Stalin, Mussolini, and the Japanese Military Government finally failed, and decent men, men unafraid of responsibility, took charge and made a stand against tyranny. It marked the day the "unfinished business" of 1918 finally came home to roost.

No sane person ever "celebrates" a war. No sane person ever wants one. But, as the Roman historian Pliny noted, "Ce vis pacem; para bellum." It is a simple philosophy, and one the "free" democracies regularly forget to their cost and shame. Translated, it says - "Who seeks peace; prepares for war!"

It is the motto of the former Royal Navy School of Gunnery at Whale Island, Portsmouth, HMS Excellent. It is apt, but it is also forgotten that it was while Britian had a fleet capable of reaching anywhere in the world with which to deal with any dictator, pirate, or insurrection that the world enjoyed almost exactly one hundred years of peace under the Pax Britannica. Those days are long gone, and now we live in the Pax Americana, a recent comer to this field, and one we hope will stay alert and sufficiently aware of the responsibilities to maintain another hundred years of peace - who can tell?

It is fitting at this time to remember that the war cost a lot of lives, not just soldiers, but civilians. This was the first time mass bombing of cities was used as a tool of war; this was not the first time, however, that civilian populations were used as pawns on the checkerboard of strategy, and naturally there were enormous casualties there as well.

We in this little isle tend to forget that it was the Merchant Navy who braved the sea routes and the U-boats to bring in the food, the raw materials, and the armaments which eventually turned the tide and won the war. They lost 30,000 men in the fight, and their memorial is on Tower Green in London. Next time you pass that way, pause and give thanks for their bravery and sacrifice. It is they who created the peace that we enjoy.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:14 PM

Descent into barbarism

Each new terrorist atrocity seems to spark another of even more barbaric savagery. One could almost be excused for thinking that the routine beheading of hostages taken by these savages is "normal" in some parts of the world. One would be very wrong - and it is very important to realise that! Unfortunately even the supposedly Right Wing press is now bleating about the "deadly legacy of the war in Iraq". Come on folks - if you have a hornet's nest in the loft, do you leave it to grow? Of course not, you get in the exterminators! So, some of the hornets escape and attack? Do you give up? No, you keep going until you have them all out of there or dead! Unfortunately this isn't the response to the crisis in Russia or the Middle East.

The response to the atrocities of the terrorists from most "liberal" "humanist" quarters is one of handwringing and accusation of the West having "provoked" these misbegotten psychopaths. They lose sight of the fact that, under their twisted moral code, a mass murderer enjoys a life of regulated routine, with all the trappings of comfort permissable for good behaviour in his or her prison cell - and can look forward to release into the community after half of the imposed sentence is served (less if you are a terrorist belonging to a group the Labour Party has labelled "Freedom Fighters" or "Oppressed Minorities") - while their victims are conveniently forgotten - because they're dead or so maimed as to require hiding from society. Predictably this lobby of wimpish, handwringing socialist cretins is already bleating about how all Westerners should pull out of the Middle East, Terrorists should be "invited" to discuss their "grievances" and reach a "settlement". Of course, the evil Western Exploitation of the oil rich nations and the Judeo-Christian conspiracy to "oppress" Islam is also being touted.

It is all very well to sit in London, Paris, Brussels, or anywhere else and blame "American heavy-handedness" for this state of affairs, but it is not entirely the full picture nor is it true. London, Paris, Brussels, Berlin - they have all had a hand in fostering this situation - and now the liberal left who created it don't know how, or probably haven't the guts, to deal with it.

Where is the determination to crush this evil barbarism? Well, don't bother looking to the mob outside the Republican Convention in New York, you won't find anyone there prepared to go out and fight for an end to this aberration. All you will get from the Left Liberal coalition is more cant on the need to avoid "descending to the same level as the terrorists!" Is killing a rabid dog descending to a status of being rabid? I think not; in fact, killing a mad dog is a kindness to the animal, a humane thing to do, as it would, in any case, die horribly if left. So would any human who is unfortunate enough to come into contact with its spittal, or worse, to be bitten by it.

There is only one way to beat terrorism. It must be hunted down without mercy, wherever terrorists are found or captured, they must be expunged from the genepool without sentiment. It is no different to the action of killing a rabid dog, for that is what these psychopaths are.

There must also be the determination to deal as swiftly with those who promote and foster terrorist activities. They are the real cancer, the rogue genes who hide, frequently in high places, and fund and foster the footsoldiers. They, too, must be put out of circulation permanently. There can be no distinction between the psychopath holding the gun or the knife or the bomb and the malignant promoter who keeps his or her hands clean while insidiously funding, hiding, or supplying the terrorist. That "Godfather" is as guilty as the murderer who brings fear and death to a school or to a town centre.

There is only one way to stop this barbarism - that is to deal with it as harshly and as swiftly as necessary to demonstrate once and for all that it will not be tolerated anywhere. These psychopaths and their supporters must be rounded up and put out of the world and the human genepool - permanently. This is one time when "jaw, jaw" simply will not work. The only option is a total war of extermination on all who practice terror as an instrument of politics.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:12 AM

September 02, 2004

Protestor or Terrorist? That is the question!

The interesting contrast between the mass protests outside the Republican Convention in New York and the seizure of children and adult hostages in a school in Russia raises a few disturbing questions. In the West, since the 1960's, it has become the norm for "peaceniks" to stage often disorderly if not downright violent protests against any government, institution, or person that they deem to have breeched their peculiar code of ethics. Elsewhere, of course, open rebellion is often the action of protest and the same group who are now gathered to try to disrupt the Republican Convention would argue that these fellow "warriors" for justice, are "Freedom Fighters". Until they attack a shopping mall, school, or public building near you.

The Russian news is far from encouraging. First because there is no clear indication as yet as to who the attackers are or what they are attempting to achieve by this action. There is also no clear indication of how many hostages they have managed to seize. The only thing that is clear is that they are using the children as a shield, and they are shooting at the security forces ringing the building.

The group outside the Convention venue in New York are opposed, they say, to violence. They claim that the President went to war illegally and want to bring him down in any way they can. It appears that some at least of their number are prepared to use violence to achieve their ends, but it is not clear exactly how or what they intend to do if they succeed in unseating Mr Bush. Just how far from terrorism is that aim? In a country where the government is decided by a majority voting through a democratic process - at least on paper - it would appear to me (admittedly an outsider with no sympathy for protest marchers, placard wavers, or any other form of civil disruption activity) that if a majority of the voting public are satisfied with what is being done in their name, those who are not have one of two choices. Go and live in the supposedly "better" society you argue is being destroyed, or accept the majority opinion and shut up. That, believe it or not, is democracy!

What, after all, gives this vocal and blinkered minority (and they seem to be present in every "Democratic" society) to violently, and in defiance of anyone else's right to freedom of opinion and speech, disrupt commerce, industry, or a perfectly legitimate meeting? What makes them different from Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF Party Enforcers and thugs? What makes them different from the murderous abominations now holding anywhere between 100 and 400 children and adults hostage in a school in Russia?

Whether the "Intelligence" was accurate or not, Mr Bush decided to strike at the heart of the area which has spawned more violent and fanatical terrorists than any other. In this he had the majority support of Congress and the Senate - part of the democratic process. There is certainly evidence that Saddam was bankrolling some terrorist groups, and Syria, Iran, and several others in the Region are still doing so. Let's face it, many in those regions are easily convinced of the need to take up arms against the Great Satan - not exclusively the US but now apparently the entire West. Why is there such a wealth of people prepared to take this course of action? Why are they so easily convinced?

Most people would identify poverty as one reason - and probably with some justification. But at least half of those currently disturbing Central New York City would be very quick to add - Western "exploitation" is a "major" contributory factor. Yet, is that a justifiable charge? Is the West to blame for the misappropriation of national wealth by the Ayatollahs, by the Rulers (now a hereditary President!) of Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the rest of these oil and blood-soaked nations? I think you would be on very thin ice there; no Western Corporation controls how they spend the money (except perhaps the Swiss Banks!), and certainly very few of us in the West enjoy the Oil Dividend that many of these countries pay their citizens instead of a tax demand every year!

No, the poverty of the Region is not the sole factor; the hatred stirred up by the militant Islamic clergy (interestingly, Mohammed himself decreed that there should be NO clergy - probably because he could see how they would misuse the religion!) certainly is, so is the depth of ignorance (again fostered and promoted by the Ayatollahs and their minions) and the promotion of some truly twisted logic vis a vis the life hereafter promised to those who die for the religion! Helped no doubt by payments to the families of "martyrs" which come from the funds held in those mysterious Swiss accounts - and are paid in US Dollars! This is the system and the evil that Mr Bush, rather naively in my view, attempted to crush. The trouble is that it has no fixed address, no fixed abode, no face, and no army, navy, or airforce that can be readily identified! The President went to war in the belief that in toppling Saddam he could send a message across this region that there was no safe haven for terror. In this he has at least in part succeeded, many of the fence-sitting governments are now looking to controlling their loose cannon, but, of course this is not sufficient for the "peacenik" brigade!

What I find strange with these folk is that they are perfectly happy to allow ghastly dictators to flourish and to commit monstrous attrocities in their own countries and against their own people - just as long as it's safely the other side of the world and in someone elses backyard. Yet, this is the same group that are now claiming that Mr Bush failed to do enough to prevent 9/11. Sorry, folks, but you can't have it both ways.

Worse, the activities of these "peaceniks" everywhere are now verging on terrorist activity. It is time to start re-assessing this so-called "right" to protest. The proper place for such protests is in the ballot box, not on the streets in violent and pointless confrontations!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:00 AM

September 01, 2004

Deus ex machina ... Method from the system?

Further to my recent post on the subject of the Church and its contribution to the advance of Scientific research, I would like to add some further thoughts. The "Flat Earth" myth is a classic example of distortion by self-interested groups in this debate, since, at the time of Columbus' arguments with the Spanish Crown and the Spanish Inquisition, the Church's official position was the Aristotilean Theory as modified by Ptolemy of the concentric Spheres. Hardly a "Flat" concept since they also argued that Solon's calculations "proved" the sphere. What was under debate was the argument as to what lay beyond the horizon - largely since (and as has been subsequently adequately proved!) Columbus produced a set of calculations that were less than half the Solonic ones for the diameter of the Sphere.

No doubt he intended these to show that the mystic East was close enough to reach from a Westward voyage, but here Christian Scholars challenged his calculations. As it turned out, they were right; he was only half way there!

It was Copernicus that seriously challenged the Aristotilean theory of concentric spheres, and he was a Canon of the Church. He also enjoyed considerable support and funding from that body, and it was his work that Galileo built upon after first trying to prove it wrong. In fact, the Church welcomed the change from the vision of Aristotle and Ptolemy, as their theories actually placed the Earth and Humanity at the bottom of the pile - as "tainted, flawed, and subject to all of creation!" Copernicus' new vision which elevated our planet to equal status with other heavenly bodies moved us up the ladder of creation. Nowhere does the Bible actually give any indication of how the writers actually saw its place in creation or, indeed, in the universe. Their concern was with what happened to the people and the places in which they operated. Matters such as the creation story (and if you take the trouble to look you will find that Genesis Chapter 1 is actually not a bad description of the Big Bang and Evolution in very simplistic terms) are dealt with in poetic rather than scientific terms. Why? Because it was taken from an oral tradition and was never intended to do more than explain for a nomadic people how the world came into being. Chapter 2 gives a second version of the evolution of man - and Adam and Eve means simply in Hebrew "Man" and "Woman". Again, a poetic story never intended as scientific fact - nor have the mainstream Churches promoted it as such, despite the propaganda of the Age of Enlightenment.

Equally, Darwin's theory moved mankind from being the lowest order of sentience (as was previously the case in "scientific" theory) to being the top of the heap in terms of creation and evolution. As the Theory of Evolution postulates, mankind is the pinnacle of evolution - and few thinking Churchmen have argued against that theory.

As early as the 14th Century, Church Scholars were studying anatomy and medicine, a practice much hindered by secular authorities who thought this was a ghoulish pursuit. Indeed, much of what is contained in many medical textbooks today has its origins in the "Medieval" research done by Churchmen. What the Church in this period did recognise was that the general populace did not and would not understand such deep concepts as the origins of life, the vastness of space, and the interactions of many substances - a point well proven by the witch-hunting outbursts in so-called "Enlightened" Protestant countries, often led by men of education! As more recent studies have found, these outbursts arose from the contamination of wheat and therefore bread by Ergot, a poisonous fungus which arises in wheat grown in waterlogged fields - something often avoided in areas where the Catholic Church held greater sway simply by virtue of the influence of the Monastic traditions of husbandry and study of what grew where and how best to avoid these problems.

What the protagonists of the Age of Enlightenment and their more recent propagandists such as Bertrand Russell and others of his generation have done is repeat myths generated in the white heat of the Reformation, where any argument to discredit the Catholic Church was considered a good argument, without checking their facts. Once the realities are studied in some depth, you begin to realise that these men are propagating disinformation which completely discredits their own arguments for the elevation of Human Reason as the substitute for God. This is a development of the great Victorian "Deus ex machina" theory which proposed that "The System" could be created which would ensure perpetual prosperity for all. Despite all the evidence of its failure, despite all the evidence that it cannot and will never work, its adherents continue to promote it assidiously - always attempting to undermine the message of the Gospels and of religious thinkers by constantly repeating the canards of the past.

What shame they cannot open their minds to the truth - and see that the one side compliments the other and that there is no contradiction between religion and science, only truth.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:40 AM