25 September, 2010


So as soon as I typed the title to this post, I decided I had to listen to a little Aretha Franklin. It had been quite a while until now that I've listened to this song, and all of a sudden I wish I had some more soul music on my iTunes. Guess I'll have to work on that.

But, that is not what this post is about. There are a couple of articles out in the news that I'm sure will go largely unnoticed in the West. Last week I saw on CNN International TV an episode of the show 'Prism' which was talking about the fighting in Mogadishu and how it has intensified between the TFG (UN backed government in Southern Somalia which controls a few blocks of the city including the presidential palace, the airport, very little else, and very little outside of town) and Al Shabaab (terrorist group linked to and supported by Al Qaeda in control of a large chunk of the rest of the South of Somalia). The African Union troops in Mogadishu continue to battle insurgents daily, with people being killed all the time.

Meanwhile, up in the north in a region (or separate country depending on who you ask) called Somaliland where I am, things function. There are police. There is a military. But there is also an elected president and a two house legislature. There are storied buildings and pipe-born water. Electricity reaches many houses in the city in which I live, and it is all run by private businesses. Construction is booming rather than places being destroyed by mortars and heavy artillery fire.

I posted at the end of June/early July about elections which took place in Somaliland. The challenger beat the incumbent, and the loser stepped down recognizing the vote and giving up power. Little has been said about this. Little attention is given to the fact that while so much international attention is given to the Somali 'problem' with all the fighting and killing that continues to take place, there is a part of what the world knows as 'Somalia' that is developing mostly on its own. In fact, I wonder if there were more international attention if it would continue to develop, or if the special interests of the outside would cause chaos and confusion pitting people against one another for what they can profit instead of what profits the people.

We just may be able to see if that is the case, or if this region could actually be used as a place to bring development and inspire the South to change. There are a couple of articles you can read about the US being about to start ties with Somaliland. Until now, the North and South have been considered as one, and only the government in the South was recognized (even though it has power over just a tiny pocket of the entire country). The articles on BBC News and Voice of America News both talk of the problems in Somalia, but show that maybe the world is beginning to give some of that R-E-S-P-C-E-C-T that the people here have struggled to earn. It surely hasn't come easily as people were caught up in fighting back in the years before and after the infamous 'Blackhawk Down' episode. There has been civil war and Somaliland is still surrounded by areas of instability both in Somalia and neighboring Ethiopia with Eritrea not too far away. However, peace prevails and progress is happening. I hope that the investment of the US and other countries helps progress to increase and doesn't just complicate things and add too many interests to this small beacon of hope. Even though I will be leaving in a couple of weeks, I will continue to follow what happens in Somaliland.

15 September, 2010

Play Ball

FIBA. I don’t know what it stands for, but it was the international basketball championship which ended over the weekend in Turkey. It seems that Europeans and Africans don’t really care about basketball. But, I got to catch some of the final game in which the USA beat Turkey for the gold medal. I don’t think it really made much news as there were very few American NBA stars playing. And, in spite of that, the US led by Kevin Durant won it all. In a similar development, American football season has begun. Working with only Europeans and in Africa, my colleagues would not be aware of the fact above were I to make sure to spread the message. The Eagles disappointed in an opening game loss to the Packers, but I was excited nonetheless as I got to watch ESPN Sportscenter for the first time in quite a while and see the highlights.

The Olympics and the World Cup are universally known. Cricket and rugby have followers crossing continental divides. The biggest sports in the US, however, are relatively new in the world market. While the DR, Cuba, and Venezuela have been big with baseball for some time, it’s only recently made its way to Japan where it has become popular. American football has sprung up in leagues in Europe, but is not followed by many. Basketball leagues have begun recently in a lot of countries in Europe and Asia, but also are thin on supporters and fans though gaining ground.

The US can compete with the best countries in any sport really. There are professional leagues and competitions for just about everything, but ice hockey, tennis, and golf are probably the only ones with big followings outside the US in which competitors make millions (not really going to count the MLS as it is a relative newcomer in the US). And these three have nothing of the control on television broadcasting and merchandising deals that the MLB, NFL, and NBA control.

I don’t know where I’m going with this, but just think it is interesting that as an American, I find little common ground with others internationally on the sports that I grew up with. It isn’t just that we like boring sports in the US. NASCAR may be the exception as far as the rest of the world is concerned, though I don’t think Indy car racing (with worldwide popularity) is all that different. NASCAR usually only has four different turns that drivers go through over and over and over again over 3 hours of driving while Indy Car drivers at least have road courses that mix things up a little more. One cricket match can last days. It is not exciting. And yet, it is probably the 2nd most popular sport in the world behind football (soccer).

ESPN has no equal in the US. It is by far the most popular channel in the US among men. It is one of the things that I miss about living overseas. We do get an international version of ESPN, but it is not nearly as good as the US version. However, none of those from outside the US understand what I’m talking about (except maybe Canadians). And while ESPN is not something I’ll really be able to pass on to others, at least I can try to build up support for baseball, football, and basketball, and eventually the US will be able to spread its sports influence throughout the entire world. Maybe ESPN will be able to be universally recognized in the next 5 or 10 years. Then maybe I’ll be able to watch Sportscenter or NFL, MLB, or NBA games at convenient times and not just replays during odd hours in the time zones I find myself in. Until then, March Madness, playoff races and Top Ten plays of the Day will be things I just have to continue to live without.

08 September, 2010

Unfitting Title

Unbelievable!! (I wish it were unbelievable – in actuality, we’ve all interacted with people enough to know that there really are too many idiots out there who will do anything for attention or money or some deluded idea of righteousness.)

It has been in the news for quite a while, but now the time is nearly here. Some ‘pastor’ (he definitely doesn’t deserve that title) in Florida is going to burn Qurans on September 11. Thankfully, I’ve forgotten his name right now. I wish when this was over his would be a name that goes by unrecognized, because this must be more a publicity stunt than anything else. He’s either trying to get rich off of this, or just the attention is enough for him. Therefore, I request anyone who reads this to please not purchase any of his books, don’t go to his website, don’t watch videos on youtube or anything else related to this foolish man and those connected to him.

This embarrassment to the Church and to pastors is so shameful. There is no good reason at all for such an action to be taking place. It is completely opposite what the Bible teaches, what Jesus taught, and what Churches should be doing. Antagonizing and polarizing things such as this should be disregarded and ignored and are not worth even the attention of a blog post. I only write this to try to put in perspective how foolish it is, and talk about the correct responses and what we might learn from the reactions to it.

On Easter, how would Christians feel if someone (who claims to be a Muslim cleric) were to burn Bibles or crosses and try to make a big deal out of it? What would you think if you heard about a Nazi destroying yarmulkes or menorahs on a day to commemorate the Holocaust? How about people wearing KKK hoods and parading around with nooses on Martin Luther King Jr Day?

Saturday will be a part of the Eid celebration to mark the end of the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan. It is the equivalent to Christmas or Easter in Christianity. And there is a ‘pastor’ who is going to burn Qurans. How disrespectful and divisive. A similar type of action would be for this guy in Florida and people like him to rape the wives and daughters of Muslims. That would similarly be very much unchristian and offensive, but I’m sure would have a result that would actually affect him more, so he is scared to do it. He values his life, just no one else’s.

Most Muslims know that this guy does not represent Christianity and that this action is not typical of a follower of Christ. However, there will surely be those who try to use this as further fodder to attack the perils of the ‘Christian Western World.’ Just as you would (should) want to confront anyone who would support someone burning Bibles on Easter, wearing KKK hoods on Martin Luther King day, or destroying Stars of David at a Holocaust Memorial, you should want to confront anyone who would burn Qurans on Eid. You would want to confront it anytime, but during times which are dedicated or sacred, it becomes even more of an emotionally charged climate. We all know how crowds can easily be incited and people do things as a group they would never do alone.

It is my prayer that Muslims teach Christians a few things about forgiveness and show the world the Osama bin Laden’s of their ranks have little standing. I wish that Christians could stop this fool from shaming himself and others by burning Qurans. If it happens, though, take note of how the world responds. Most are condemning it already, and even though you may hear of a few isolated incidents in response that are similarly hateful and foolish, recognize that such a response is no different than the action itself, and is representative of a minority of Muslims. Just as most Christians would not want to be associated with this idiot, don’t associate all Muslims with those who may retaliate. And, if you don’t hear anything about any retaliation, consider what you would have done or expected to be the result of the other examples already mentioned. And know that people all over the world have sin. Don’t put people of your own religion on any pedestal while thinking that people of another are anywhere lower. People are people. Sin exists in every nook and cranny of the world. We all need to experience the grace of God and for God to reveal himself. I hope this ‘pastor’ in Florida someday realizes this as well.

One last thing: For those of you who may be Christian, please apologize for this on behalf of all Christians to any Muslims you may know. Ask their forgiveness for such a thing done in the name of Church and tell them it doesn't represent you or most others within the Church. Love them, respect them, and tell them this. If you don't know any followers of Islam, find the nearest place where they may be a mosque and write an apology letter. I hope it can be clear just how far this is from the message of Christ.