In Bangladesh, arranged marriage is seen as a blessing to the family of young girls, who are often below the legal age of marriage.
Rainy is an Indian girl living in the slums of Bangladesh. Her family is of the lowest caste and could only sustain themselves by doing corpse clearers and janitorial works. They were forbidden from interacting with their community and the women in the family were not allowed outside. Rainy’s parents believed that arranging a marriage for her is a blessing to the family, and was conceivably grateful when they found a man in a rich family proposing to Rainy when she was 15, who recalled, “I was only a kid at the age of 15, I didn’t want to get married yet.” Despite her obvious reluctance and concerns, Rainy’s parents proceeded to arrange for the wedding ceremony. Fortunately, SATHI’s staff visited them in the process and explained to them the drawbacks and unlawfulness of underage marriage, which consequently led them to give in and cancelled the marriage.
Rainy is one of the few lucky girls in Bangladesh who escaped the fate of arranged marriage at a young age, who subsequently finished her high school despite the demeaning tradition.
On February 15-16, 2016, US President Obama hosted 10 government leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for a summit in California.
For decades, the US has continued to forge closer ties with ASEAN. However, most of ASEAN’s members have extraordinarily poor human rights records. Problems include lack of basic freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, failures on women’s rights, the political use of courts, high-level corruption, lack of protection of refugees and asylum seekers, and human trafficking.
[ePrayer – Pray for Justice and Peace in Sri Lanka]
5 years ago, Sri Lankan Government forces overwhelmed the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), ending a brutal civil war that wrought a death toll estimated at about 80,000. But the mayhem-filled final few months of the 26-year-long conflict, and its lingering violence continue to haunt the country, amid accumulating reports of human rights abuses targeting the Tamil minority. Tensions between the Tamils (Hindus by religion) and the Sinhalese (Buddhists) dominated Government date back to 1948 when the island gained independence from Britain. A separatist movement, agitating for a Tamil homeland in the north and east, began in the 1960s. An all-out war exploded in 1983. The LTTE started a violent fight against the Government. In 2009, Government forces launched a major offensive against the LTTE. The LTTE, along with about 300,000 civilians were pushed into ever-decreasing parcels of land. Conditions were dire and the UN estimates that some 40,000 civilians lost their lives. On 17 May 2009, the Government declared victory.
In recent years, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has twice urged the Government to independently and creditably investigate violations of human rights law. The Government has, however, failed to do so.This March, UNHRC resolved to request the High Commissioner for Human Rights to undertake a comprehensive investigation into alleged abuses of human rights by both parties in Sri Lanka at the end of the war. Sri Lanka has said that it will not cooperate with the investigation.A UN report affirmed that the Government forces shelled civilians indiscriminately during the conflict, indulged in summary executions and committed rape. Since the end of the war, there have been widespread allegations of repression, torture, and a culture of impunity. The Government has flatly rejected such charges.Opponents talk of government surveillance of telephones and emails, and of the omnipresent unmarked “white vans” suspected of being used in abductions.
There are reports of sexual violence against Tamil women detainees. The alleged perpetrators included army personnel and police officers. Available information seems to point to a systematic campaign. Most recently, a report described 40 Tamil refugees who had allegedly been tortured and raped in custody since the end of the war. Half had attempted suicide (Sri Lanka has one of the highest suicide rates in the world—every year, nearly 100,000 people try to take their own life). The perpetrators of the violence had not attempted to hide their identities, adding credence to the notion of impunity.
Underpinning all this is the Government’s continued use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which authorizes detaining people for 18 months. Meanwhile, the 2010 amendment to the constitution vastly expanded the powers of the executive. Military men occupy key administrative positions. In terms of its indicators of economic growth and health, Sri Lanka does very well. Literacy rates and immunization coverage are excellent. However, there are persistent health disparities between different regions and ethnic groups for indicators such as maternal mortality and infant nutrition. Health infrastructure in the northern and eastern provinces most affected by the conflict needs urgent restoration. [LANCET#1] [LANCET#2][HRW]
Meditation on Scriptures:
‘He will be gentle to those who are weak, and kind to those who are helpless. He will persist until he causes justice to triumph.’ Matthew 12: 20
Jesus is the protector of human rights and defender for the weak and helpless. He stands in the midst of the forces of darkness to set them free by His radiating light, and to give comfort and support to the defenseless.
Pray for for Justice and Peace in Sri Lanka:
Pray that UNHRCcan effectively expose the truths about human rights abuses in the country, let more people aware of these violations and give help to the victims;
Pray that the Sri Lankan Government will stop all violence against the innocent and peacemakers;
May God give comfort and healing to victims and grant them real peace and protection.
[ ‘SHARE’ Nov-Dec 2013 – Life Impacting Life ] FOCUS ~ INTERVIEW
Over 25 years, Mok has influenced many students
Interviewer> Lam Wai Shan
Gandhi said, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ Making changes may seem easier said than done, but there are bound to be things that you and I can do.
Mok Hing-luen is the Chairperson of CEDAR Club; he was a former frontline social worker and has 25 years of experience in social work education. Set to retire next year, Mok is waiting for God to make clear the way for him.
Mok is one of the founders of CEDAR Club. After seeing pamphlets of CEDAR’s exposure trips in 2002, he joined the next two trips to Cambodia and Bangladesh where he got to know more about world poverty. These two trips also gave him the idea of setting up ‘CEDAR Club’, and since its establishment ten years ago Mok has been meeting regularly with a group of like-minded members.
Whether at work or otherwise, Mok maintains and practises his beliefs, pursues justice and human rights. Whenever there is an imbalance between the ideal and reality, Mok would go hiking to regain that balance.
Hardship – preceding brilliance
Mok has loved hiking since he was young; he gave it up for a while to spend more time on work and family but returned to this hobby in 2001. Now he goes hiking at least once or twice a week, and up to four or five times a week during the summer holidays. Mok takes all necessary precautions although he had a brush with death once, ‘About seven years ago it was raining as I went up Kau Nga Ling; when I reached 400m it became blustery and foggy with heavy rain, greatly reducing visibility. The trail itself wasn’t difficult but the weather made that experience unforgettable.’
Hiking gloves are needed for climbing To Kwun Cliff
In January this year he went for To Kwun Cliff, ‘There is no hiking trail and one can only climb the cliffs. I spent over an hour and still could not climb up, so you can imagine the difficulty. I began to wonder if I should continue but two friends behind me said, “Of course, as you are here now it does not make sense to stop!”’ Eventually Mok prevailed and reached the peak; the breathtaking view was exactly what fascinated him about hiking.
Hiking – rediscovering values
In the realm of nature man is tiny and it is that Mok has more reflections on life’s meaning and values, ‘The beautiful views make me think what it is that we seek in life? We live not only to chase after material things, rather we should cherish and esteem the value and significance of being a human.’ And yet the reality is very different. After being involved with social work half his life, Mok understands this very well.
The view from the mountain is dazzling
‘Social work is people-oriented and has high regard for human dignity, values and basic rights, and also for social justice. However, social work is often market-driven and affected by bureaucracy, and as a result human needs are neglected.’ It is difficult to persist in one’s beliefs when social justice and human rights are abused, but hiking helps Mok rediscover their importance, making up for the discrepancy between reality and the ideal.
In fact, Mok has been mobilising the younger generation to uphold core values, and some results can be seen. People often ask him how he keeps this passion, and his answer is, ‘let life impact life’. Says he ‘I hope to be a role model and impact others. Whatever we do, we need to hold on to our beliefs, otherwise they turn lifeless and die out eventually.’
Retirement – turning a new page
As the second-half of life was about to begin, a ‘warning’ two years ago made Mok stop and reconsider his future. ‘Two years ago I kept falling ill, and that was a sign for me to stop for a moment, take better care of my health, and consider changing jobs.’ He has after all taught in the university for 25 years. After some serious consideration, Mok decided to resign. ‘I am no longer young and also tertiary education is getting more restricted and routine, I do need to change and grow differently. One door must be closed before another can be opened.’
So, what lies behind the other door? Mok says with a smile that recently many people have asked about his retirement plan. ‘There isn’t a concrete plan yet although there are a few basic criteria: Firstly, it won’t be a paid job because not many paid jobs allow for personal freedom. Secondly, it will have direct contact with people such as students or marginalised groups. Thirdly, it will involve participating in reforming local social movements, mobilising students to actively care for our society and bring about changes.’ So it seems that, just as Mok says, his post-retirement life will be even busier than before!
‘Gong sheng’ – experiencing living together
Apart from hiking and education, Mok is also involved in taking his students to Taiwan for ‘gong sheng’ (‘living together’ or communal life) experience. ‘“Gong sheng” has been going on there for over twenty years, where groups of local Christians live together in a self-sufficient and environmentally friendly life; they devise their own education and have created quite a few inspiring songs.’ Those songs and the experience have moved Mok.
Some ‘gong sheng’ Christians from Taiwan sharing in Hong Kong
In the past six years Mok and his students having visited the ‘gong sheng’ community have shared with people in Hong Kong. ‘It is difficult to carry out the Taiwanese model in Hong Kong, so we have adopted a fellowship-style gathering where about a dozen of people meet once a fortnight, mainly to share and bond together, making this a starting point to practise the essence of “gong sheng”.’
Mission – passing the torch
Mok admits that meeting once a fortnight is not truly ‘living together’ sufficiently to bond. Similarly, the occasional sharing held by CEDAR Club hardly helped members grow a sense of belonging. ‘A few years ago we collaborated with Mong Kok Kai Fong Association Ltd. Chan Hing Social Service Centre to visit low income families and through this kind of sustainable participation a sense of belonging was built. However, because of constraints on time and resources, it is difficult to run these programmes sustainably.’
CEDAR Club had visited quite a few low income families
Despite the limitations, we can find our place and mission in life if we are sensitive to God’s leading. Mok has found his mission and is actively practising and promoting it. He encourages his students, ‘Do not overestimate yourselves but do not think of yourselves as useless either.’ He receives and he relays, ‘Man is like a drop in the ocean – our predecessors were here, we received the baton from them, and when we leave, other people will take over.’ Thus is mission passed to the next generation and changes will follow.
Have you found your place and mission in life? We invite you to be a member of CEDAR Club, and through monthly meetings learn about poverty, reflect on life and faith, and care for the poor in practical ways.
South Sudan marks two years of independence on 9 July 2013, but the millions who continue to face displacement, hunger, disease and extreme poverty will be hard pressed to find any reason to celebrate.
Over the past two years, inter-communal violence and conflict between the rebels and Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) have caused nearly 350,000 people displaced. Fighting in southern part of Sudan has forced over 220,000 people fleeing into South Sudan. In addition, nearly two million South Sudanese have returned home since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, and so the country is facing serious food shortage. Further, South Sudan is in dire need of trained health workers and health centres and the government has faced criticism over its poor human rights record, such as poor prison conditions, widespread child and forced marriage, arbitrary detention and deteriorating press freedom. [IRIN]
Pray for South Sudan:
Pray for peace and reconciliation in South Sudan;
Pray for timely food and medical relief, and for comprehensive and appropriate rehabilitation.
[ePrayer – Pray for the poor and marginalised people]
A UN report outlining a new framework to build on the anti-poverty targets known as the MDGs was written to drive five major transformational shifts, including a transition from ‘reducing’ to ‘ending’ extreme poverty, leaving no one behind; putting sustainable development at the core of the development agenda; and forging a new global partnership based on cooperation, equity and human rights. The new framework focuses on assisting the poorest and most marginalised, a disproportionate number of whom are women, and puts reducing disaster risk centre stage in the Post-2015 Development Agenda debate. The report said no one is more vulnerable than people in poverty to face challenges by desertification, deforestation and overfishing and these are less able to cope with floods, storms, and droughts. Natural disasters can pull them into a cycle of debt and illness, to further degradation of the land, and a fall deeper into poverty. [UN News]
Pray for the poor and marginalised people :
Pray for global partnership for achieving anti-poverty targets after 2015;
Pray that people in poverty can be empowered to adapt and cope with natural disasters.