“The Singapore Interfaith Network on Aids (SINA) was formed recently by an inter-religious group concerned with the issue of HIV/Aids. It has established links with of a cluster of similar networks and together form the Asian Network on Aids (AINA) with Dr Erlinda Senturias as Consultant. It works in collaboration with the regional office of United Nations programme on Aids (UNAIDS) in Bangkok. These initiatives were made by the Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao, former Bishop of The Methodist Church in Malaysia and Singapore and General Secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia who attended the recent International Congress on Aids in Asia and Pacific (ICAAP) in Busan, Korea.
SINA seeks to bring together those who are involved in providing faith-based services to people living with Aids in order to develop a more wholistic approach. Effective anti-retroviral medication are being supplied to needy Aids patients, counseling and support are given to them and their families and a shelter is provided for the homeless stricken with Aids. We can do more and we must do more. Appeals will be made especially to more religious people and institutions to address this public health issue which is a threat to all – regardless of religion, race, gender, sexual orientation and socio-economic status. It has become a pandemic in our world and we are reminded of it on World Aids Day in December 1.SINA recognizes the urgent need of prevention of further spread of HIV through wider education including safe sex education in raising the consciousness of people. This HIV awareness will lead to caring for those who are afflicted, removing the stigma of the disease and eradicating discrimination of those with HIV/Aids.
The Ministry of Health has given the following report:
“In 2012, another 441 Singapore residents were newly reported with HIV infection. About 91% of the new cases were males and 9% were females. This brings the total number of Singaporeans living with HIV to 4,485 as of end 2010. As at 31 Dec 2010, 2,319 are asymptomatic carriers, 1,137 have or have had Aids related illness and 1,389 have died…
Of the 441 cases reported in 2010, 432 cases acquired the infection through the sexual route, with heterosexual transmission accounting for 52% of infections, homosexual transmission 37% and bisexual transmission 9%, intravenous drug use(4 cases) accounted for 1% of infections…
Over half (55% of all new cases reported in 2010 were aged between 30 to 49. years of age. Approximately 62% were single, 29% were married and 7% were divorced or separated.”
Our society has identified more than 4,485 people living with Aids now. They have been tested positive and 54% are already at a late stage of infection when tested. Thousands more live in denial and even afraid to go for testing for fear of losing their jobs and home and separation from their families and friends.
One such victim known only by the name of John lamented:”But my life changed when I was diagnosed as being HIV positive. I lost my job. With no income, I had to sell my flat to my siblings so that I could get some cash in hand to obtain treatment and HIV medication. My relationship with my family became strained when they found out about by HIV status. They chased me out of the house, the very same house in which we had all lived happily before. I had nowhere to go. I wandered around aimlessly and lived on the streets and beaches.” – John
Jacinta Rajoo in drawing our attention to John in her article in The Catholic News questioned us:
“So why are HIV/AIDS sufferers treated with such disdain? Why are they dealt the double or triple blow of not only being afflicted by this disease but also the pain of losing both material and financial freedom, or worst of all, their emotional and social support? “
It is generally known that Aids though contagious and incurable at the moment is just as death-threatening as other major diseases like cancer. With early detection and treatment people with Aids can live long and useful lives like the rest of us. We have the obligation to support and help one another.
Hillary Clinton early this month reported that:
“AIDS has killed 30 million people around the world, and 34 million are living with HIV today. In Sub-Saharan Africa—where 60 percent of the people with HIV are women and girls—it left a generation of children to grow up without mothers and fathers or teachers. In some communities, the only growth industry was the funeral business.”
She issued an appeal to Americans to usher in an Aids-free generation. This is a distinct possibility for all countries with the advance of medical science and social responsibility.
The worldwide call of UNAids is to “Get Together to Zero” – Zero tolerance of new Infections, Zero tolerance of Aids-related Deaths, Zero tolerance of Stigmatization and Discrimination.
It is achievable. It can be done. Together we can do it.”
– I received the above press release from Rev Yap today.
In Oct this year, I , as a volunteer with the group Explorations Into Faith, helped organise an Interfaith dialogue on Faith & the response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Hosted by Rev Gabriel Liew and the Kampong Kapor Methodist Church, the formation of this network, some initiatives it could take up, were some items discussed. Oct’s dialogue also brought together many people interested in the area of Faith & HIV, whom I believe have become key contributors to the SINA. Am really happy that Rev Yap & the SINA members have taken the initiative to tap on the resources & large following of different religious groups to help people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in Singapore. While the much-needed material support like drugs, shelters, counselors, support groups can definitely be provided by NGOs, religious organizations quite “easily” once they put their minds to it, I hope that the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS can also be addressed. Hopefully, by engaging & educating religious leaders, their followers can also be influenced, since religious leaders are highly respected and believed here in Singapore.
If anyone has any interest in being part of the group, or if you know of anyone , or would like to recommend any of your religious leaders/staff (or even staff of religious schools), please feel free to contact me. If you know of anyone who can be helped by the Interfaith Network (not just for material support, by say, to speak with family members etc) , do contact me as well. There are people of all the major religious groups in Singapore within the SINA who would be most willing to help.
I saw this line in the Economist “In July, Julian Assange told The Economist that Wikileaks alone decided what was worth publishing and what harmful information needed to be cut out. “”
I’m wondering if having a single Wikileaks gives too imbalanced a picture too, and what we need is a plethora of Leaks platforms?
Was also thinking about the ethics of the whole thing.
From an ethics standpoint, do govts & militaries should have the right to hold info secret?
i’m inclined to say “yes” , purely for security reasons
Yet i’m completely aware that the very mechanisms that allow govts to keep security info secret, are also being used to keep other info that ought to be disclosed, secret. Which is why we all love WikiLeaks.
But how does a Leaks platform decide what ought to be released and what ought to be secret? Because everyone has a different view/criteria? And are we really getting more info that’s rightfully ours, or are we just changing censorship masters(from govt to a Leaks platform owner) and allowing more players to fuck around with us to advance their own political agendas?
If info that compromises security is leaked out, who is responsible for that? The govts/militaries? or the people who stole/leaked the info?
Should the govts/militaries be responsible, because it’s their duty to safeguard these security info? I mean, if a Leaks platform could get their hands on it, I’m sure a malicious terrorist could too, and we can be sure the terrorist wouldn’t be announcing it on websites but with bombs. Think about it this way. If you engaged a vendor to keep your organisation’s IT systems secure, and yet your system gets compromised, do you replace your vendor or continue with his service & tell him it’s those hackers who are the arseholes?
On the other hand, we could also argue that the info thieves/leakers are at fault for compromising security too. If a thief breaks into your house, do we haul your arse to prison for using the wrong padlocks, or do we haul the thief to prison?
What if the info both compromises security and exposes abuses at the same time? then what?
The Economist reports that “After a week of clumsy American-inspired attempts to shut WikiLeaks down, it is now hosted on more than 700 servers around the world”.
I suppose, even from a purely pragmatic view point, it’s impractical to practice censorship by going after the people who leak info anymore. Technology and globalisation has changed all that. Even Singapore, with is wildly successful censorship practices, is not immune when leaking goes global.
Just from a purely pragmatic view point, the info owners that need to secure info better, and politicians need to take a lesson from religious leaders — “God” is always watching. It’s a lovely world we live in, and it’s beautiful to see how advances in technology and systems have turned the moral gatekeepers from “the gods” to “Big Brother” and now, finally, to “the people”
How many times have we heard people tell us : What are you complaining about? You’re free to do whatever you want what! What more freedom do you want?
We’ve been told: Yes, you can say whatever you want –– At Speakers’ Corner
We’ve been told: Yes, you can love whoever you want —- We’re not going to police folks for 377A
We’ve been told: Yes, you can worship however you want —- But do as we say or you go to hell
Freedom is a good thing to have. We need Freedom. It’s our basic human right.
We applaud those who advocate for the Freedoms humankinds deserve, the Freedoms that do not hurt others
But Freedom can’t be enough.
We need Dignity.
We need to speak with Dignity. Not in a corner.
We need to love with Dignity. Not in a closet.
We need to worship with Dignity. Not in disgrace.
I’ll like to salute 3 new/upcoming initiatives & appeal for everyone’s support.
Share the links on Facebook. Tweet them. Tell your friends about them.
Remember them when you’re in need of resources.
A newly launched website , written after much inputs & research from/by straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered & questioning people :
An Sg website to set things straight. To help set people’s thinking straight.
A website guided by this conviction:
Everyone has the right to an opinion, but no one has the right to pass off an opinion as a fact. When incorrect facts are populated, when opinions do not match reality, innocent people suffer the consequences. We aim to cross out these self-perpetuating cycles of misconception and misunderstanding by presenting the facts accurately and without bias.
Our goal is to spread the message of non-discrimination and equality, so that we can make Singapore a better place for everyone, queer and straight, religious or non-religious, rich and poor.
May 15, 2010 (Saturday), 5:00pm - 6:30pm , Speakers’ Corner
You don’t have to be LGBT to come
You don’t have to have LGBT friends or family to come
Just like you don’t have to be a tree to protect the environment
Just like you don’t have to be an animal to be kind
Just like you don’t have to be a child to believe they have rights
This is a 100% legit, 100% family event.
Have you ever wondered why every country in the world seems to have women or children trafficked into the sex trade except Singapore?
Could it be that we’ve simply called them whores & overstayers here?
are doing a research study to determine the reality of sex trafficking and the sex trade in Singapore. The results would be out in the 3rd quarter of 2010, so do watch out for that (Info was shared at a bloggers’ outreach event where UNIFEM, BodyShop and H.O.M.E made presentations)
The ENTIRE proceeds (not just profits) of this handcream that customers purchase goes towards UNIFEM’s research project.
So the next time you need a gift for your friend —- Go grab a tube of handcream from BodyShop!
My dad is, in general, someone who believes in equality for all races, religions and sexual orientations.
Yet the other day, I overheard him telling my brother to be careful cos there are all kinds of people these days ……. These gay men in all the catholic churches , all the gay priests.
It seems like these days, secularists blame the Catholic Church, religious faithful blame gay people (And yes, I realise i’ve just committed the same crime of generalisation and hence have turned secularists, faithful and gay people against me with a single sentence! so i should qualify and say that it’s the media that seems to portray that. Hmmm have I made an enemy out of the media people too???shucks.)
At the end of the day, this is a matter of respecting people’s freedom to believe in whatever they choose, and to love whoever they want; it is about protecting people from being abused, about bringing justice to those who have violated others while not unjustly categorising the innocent together with the guilty. All at once.
The guilt of the abusers do not lie with the Catholic Church & followers, neither does it lie with gay people.
The guilt lies with
- the individual people who abused the trust of the Church, the followers, and the children
- the individual people who turned a blind eye to justice and covered up the crimes
Just as there are heterosexual abusers and heterosexual good people, there are also homosexual abusers and homosexual good people. Within any institution or setting or organisation, we need to ask if the loopholes allow easy exploitation by either heterosexual or homosexual abusers (ie. individual people seeking opportunities to abuse victims)
We also need to recognise the RESPONSIBILITY that ALSO lies with
- the government and law enforcement officers, whose job is to protect the citizens of all race, religion, age, etc, rather than to protect the image and sanctity of institutions
- the citizens, whose responsibility it is to call governments and institutions to question and checks
- the families, whose responsibility it is to believe in and protect their children, rather than seemingly incorruptible institutions of any kind.
This means that everyone of us is responsible for ensuring such abuses do not happen in our local institutions.
Responsibility belongs to all.
But guilt, belongs only to the guilty.
In many of these countries eg. Ireland, the government and people’s preference to protect the image of the Church had resulted in the delays and obstruction of justice for decades. The disbelieve on the part of parents made victims of their own children over and over again.
The news leaked out today that the Catholic Church has been covering up widespread embezzlement of tithes & donations for years in Singapore.
Now, THAT caught your attention didn’t it. ; )
Before I get sued for defamation, let me say explicitly that my sentence above about the Catholic Church here is NOT true — there was no such news leaking out.
What I did hope to do, was to make a point: When it comes to financial crimes, people are MUCH more rational than when it comes to sexual crimes. http://www.todayonline.com/Print/Hotnews/EDC100424-0000048/Doubt,-dismay,-denial-and-disappointment
A Just Response is needed
Over the last few years, Singapore has been rocked by 2 major financial scandals in the charity sector. In the first, we saw the downfall of TT Durai and the transformation of NKF. In the second, we saw the downfall of Ming Yi the Monk and the transformation of Renci. Additionally, we saw the government introducing stricter laws and regulations to govern the charity sector – a move that many, including myself, applauded as long overdue.
What were the reactions of the public and the supporters when these scandals broke?
Did any donor say that people were just trying to attack and bring down kidney foundations? Did any donor say that anti-Buddhists were trying to bring down Buddhism in Singapore? Of course not! The suggestion sounds incredibly silly to even mention!
Everyone recognized the goodness of having kidney foundations. Everyone recognized the goodness of the Buddhist faith. Everyone recognized the goodness of hospitals, including Renci hospital.
But everyone also recognized that TT Durai and Ming Yi were human, had committed financial crimes, and had to be punished accordingly to fair laws, whether or not followers wanted to forgive them later.
A parallel can be drawn with the scandal that is rocking the Catholic Church now, and through this parallel with NKF and Renci, we can see how simple the solution actually is.
Many people recognize the concept and ideals of the Catholic Church are good. Many people also recognize the Catholic Church has made much positive contribution.
Yet everyone also recognizes that priests are human, and humans fail from time to time. The mistakes made by Catholic priests have been recognize eg. The corruption that led to Martin Luther’s Reformation and also during the Crusades.
For non-Catholics to attack Catholicism for the mistakes of these abusive priests, and priests who covered up the abuse, would be akin to attacking Buddhism for Ming Yi’s failings. For Catholics to perceive the charges and actions against these criminal priests as attacks against the Catholic Church, would be akin to Buddhists perceiving Ming Yi’s conviction as an attack against Buddhism.
When the NKF scandal broke, hundreds of donors immediately called to cancel their donations. Was it because they were against kidney foundations or charities? No! They simply did not want their money supporting corruption. In the same way, if Catholics stopped donating to Church from tomorrow, it won’t be an indication of disrespect to the Church, but simply not wanting to contribute to an administration who covers up abuse rather than seeks justice.
In actual fact, these priests — both the abusers, and those who covered up the crimes — are simply humans who have committed crimes within an organization and deserved to be punished according to the laws of the land, like any other abuser. Structural and systematic checks have to be put in place in institutions to ensure institutionalized abuse and cover ups never happen again.
I have an Irish friend. Here is his response to the article http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8060442.stm
‘Victims of child abuse at Catholic institutions in the Irish Republic have expressed anger that a damning report will not bring about prosecutions.’
He says “I actually started the get upset and cried a little this morning as I heard about the report, which was released yesterday, on this morning’s news. I’m going to buy a copy of the report and read it from cover to cover
I’m so angry that what I feel is that. If, after that report, 800 people who caused this abuse are being given protection of anonimity and immunity….then we should seek them out and give them our own justice….but these are old men and women (terms i use very loosely) are so old now…..that we would be abusers ourselves
One thing you have to appreciate to understand what happened is this. If a young person in Ireland during this time was discovered to be gay or overly interested in sexuality they were put into the priesthood ‘to cure them’. This on top of the sexual repression of the time and indeed the fact that a person who wants to bully-abuse people will seek out these kind of positions of responsibility…this is all astonishing
What makes me really really angry is that kids told priests in confession about this and were called liars! Kids told parents who told them they were liars…you don’t question the church! And because so many people supported the church, our government felt it couldn’t take on the church and instead let these kids be abused…tens of thosands of them”
I’ve rarely been this angry or upset in my life
indeed…..i know some of the people involved in prosecuting this case…..
it was estimated that there were something like 500 child rapists/priests in the Dublin area alone, and that throughout Ireland a conservative estimate that at least 150,000 children had been assaulted. I0,000 of these have been “paid off”, at a cost of $1.5 billion…..imagine how much it would cost if all were compensated…….
and this is just ireland………..”
I hope everyone does also realise that if the Church is made to compensate, where the compensation money comes from —- from the lay Catholic followers who have been tithing faithfully, and whose family members may have been victim to the abusers………
The lesson we must learn : Preventing similar abuse in institutions in Singapore
Seeing this scandal as an issue with the Catholic Church as opposed to criminals within the Catholic Church organisation also misses the point in another way. In fact this may be even more dangerous because it blinds us to the lesson we ought to learn.
Have we looked at the Catholic Church, asked how this could happen on such a wide scale for decades, and go unchecked? Have we asked if the same organisational weaknesses are present in our temples, our Buddhist, Taoist monasteries? Our military? Our boarding schools? Etc etc? If the same weaknesses are present, do we then ask if there really has been no abuse, or if we are simply doing what the Catholic Church has been doing for decades —- turning a blind eye? The moment we see it as a Catholic Church problem, we stop looking beyond there, and we miss opportunities to check the problem that may be also occurring in non-Catholic organisations.
I know that many people simply cannot buy the idea that Catholic Priests are such evil people, who need laws and checks and regulations to keep them from molesting kids. I think an excellent book written by Anna Salter provides great insight and explains the fallacy of this thinking very well. Anna Salter is a psychologist who interviewed many victims and perpetrators of sexual crimes. She wrote the excellent book ‘Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists, And Other Sex Offenders’ ( http://www.amazon.com/Predators-Pedophiles-Rapists-Other-Offenders/dp/0465071732 )
based on these interviews.
The main point made in this book:
People need to stop asking the question “How could good church people be abusers?!?!”
People need to start asking the question “What is the best platform for an abuser to make use of?”
The starting question cannot be “What are priests/monks like? Are they likely to commit such crimes?” because the answer is No. And that leads to self-denial / defensiveness.
The starting question always has to be, “What would be the best target/platform/opportunity for a criminal to make use of? Where is security the most lax?”
Then you realise that a swindler of money would be clamouring to start charities in countries where lax laws govern the finances of charities.
Then you start realising that child molesters are clamouring to be priests in systems that cover up their crimes. In schools that have no safeguard mechanism.
You know what’s the scary thing?
When you start asking those kinds of questions, you know that such abuse/crimes are taking place all over the world, in environments where we most trust our kids to be.
The USA, Ireland, Germany etc has done very well to acknowledge it happens, and take steps, even though i believe it is far from enough/ideal.
What scares me are the environments, all over the world, where people claim/believe that no/little abuse is taking place. Because it doesn’t mean no abuse takes place, it means nobody is even doing anything to look.
It’s happening all the world over, Asia, Europe, etc etc and i think Europe/US is already ahead in doing something about it. I think we need to learn from this experience.
it’s amazing how technology has enabled things to go on so normally with such a large earthquake
the whole report is about things that did NOT go wrong
which is quite beautiful
and at the same time quite sad that in so many other countries, hundreds of thousands had died needlessly because they had no access to such technology that could have saved them in an earthquake
reading this sort of thing just makes me feel quite at ease with the whole climate crisis stuff………… if it’s a problem with nature, it’s just a matter of time before human technology fixes it
stuff like wars, poverty, exploitation etc on the other hand, are human caused, and from the looks of it, will probably never ever be solved……..
Google Search term : europe investigation who h1n1
I have cut-&-pasted highlighted extracts from the websites listed, in this blog post (ie. Not original material).
Thus far I haven’t been able to find the large media organisations (bbc, cnn, StraitsTimes etc) carrying this news online. The online reuters article I found seemed to want to debunk the myth. If anyone can find these articles, appreciate if you can add on in the Comments, Thanks! )
Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly to Investigate WHO and “Pandemic” Scandal
by F. William Engdahl
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will launch an inquiry in January 2010 on the influence of the pharmaceutical companies on the global swine flu campaign, focusing especially on extent of the pharma‘s industry’s influence on WHO. The Health Committee of the PACE, a body representing 47 European nations including Russia, has unanimously passed a resolution calling for the inquiry.
Drug companies face European inquiry over swine flu vaccine stockpiles:
Council of Europe to discuss whether pharmaceutical firms spread alarm over pandemic to boost orders of medicines
James Sturcke and Owen Bowcott Monday 11 January 2010 19.47 GMT
The talks, due to be held later this month, come as British ministers decide what to do with a surplus of as many as 20m doses of vaccine ordered at the height of the swine flu outbreak.
“The governments have sealed contracts with vaccine producers where they secure orders in advance and take upon themselves almost all the responsibility.
“In this way, the producers of vaccines are sure of enormous gains without having any financial risks. So they just wait, until WHO says ‘pandemic’ and activate the contracts,” Wolfgang Wodarg, head of health at the Council of Europe, told the Daily Mail.
Wodarg, who proposed the resolution, added that H1N1 virus was “a mild flu and a false pandemic”. ( http://www2.wodarg.de/uploads/edoc12110.pdf )
The ‘false’ pandemic: Drug firms cashed in on scare over swine flu, claims Euro health chief
By Fiona Macrae 8:38 AM on 11th January 2010
A resolution proposed by Dr Wodarg calling for an investigation into the role of drug firms has been passed by the Council of Europe, the Strasbourg-based ‘senate’ responsible for the European Court of Human Rights.
An emergency debate on the issue will be held later this month.
Dr Wodarg said: ‘In order to promote their patented drugs and vaccines against flu, pharmaceutical companies have influenced scientists and official agencies, responsible for public health standards, to alarm governments worldwide.
He does not name any Britons with conflicts of interest.
But last year, the Daily Mail revealed that Sir Roy Anderson, a scientist who advises the Government on swine flu, also holds a £116,000-a-year post on the board of GlaxoSmithKline.
GSK makes anti-flu drugs and vaccines and is predicted to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the pandemic.
Professor David Salisbury, the Government’s head of immunisation said there were ‘no grounds whatsoever’ for Dr Wodarg’s claims, saying people with conflicts of interest were kept out of the decision-making process.
Man At Center of Worldwide 2009 H1N1 Hysteria Under Investigation for Gross Conflict of Interest
Posted by Anne Dachel December 10, 2009
World Health Organisation: ‘Mr Swine Flu’ Under Investigation for Gross Conflict of Interest. This is out on Google News in lots of European languages. What are the chances that any major American news sources will pick it up?
A German weekly magazine, published in Hamburg. It is one of Europe’s largest weekly magazines with a weekly circulation of more than one million. The Market Oracle
Professor Albert Osterhaus, of the Erasmus University in Rotterdam Holland has been named by Dutch media researchers as the person at the center of the worldwide Swine Flu H1N1 Influenza A 2009 pandemic hysteria. Not only is Osterhaus the connecting person in an international network that has been described as the Pharma Mafia, he is THE key advisor to WHO on influenza and is intimately positioned to personally profit from the billions of euros in vaccines allegedly aimed at H1N1.
Earlier this year the Second Chamber of the Netherland Parliament undertook an investigation into alleged conflicts of interest and financial improprieties of the well-known Dr. Osterhaus. Outside Holland and a mention at the time in the Dutch media, the only note of the sensational investigation into Osterhaus’ business affairs came in a tiny note in the respected British magazine, Science.
Osterhaus’s credentials and expertise in his field were not in question. What is according to a short report published by the journal Science, are his links to corporate interests that stand to potentially profit from the swine flu pandemic. Science carried the following brief note in its October 16 2009 issue about Osterhaus: “For the past 6 months, one could barely switch on the television in the Netherlands without seeing the face of famed virus hunter Albert Osterhaus talking about the swine flu pandemic. Or so it has seemed. Osterhaus, who runs an internationally renowned virus lab at Erasmus Medical Center, has been Mr. Flu. But last week, his reputation took a nosedive after it was alleged that he has been stoking pandemic fears to promote his own business interests in vaccine development. As Science went to press, the Dutch House of Representatives had even slated an emergency debate about the matter.”
No U.S. decision on H1N1 vaccine orders – official
Thu Jan 7, 2010 3:33pm WASHINGTON, Jan 7 (Reuters)
– The United States has not made a decision on whether to cancel or sell any of its orders for the H1N1 vaccine, unlike some countries in Europe, a federal health official said on Thursday.
Dr. Anne Schuchat of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said demand remains steady and the government’s focus is on having as many people vaccinated as possible.
“Right now we are at a point where we have ample supply. We’re really encouraging people to get vaccinated. So we haven’t made decisions here in the U.S. about giving back vaccines,” Schuchat told a media briefing.
Germany plans to cancel half the 50 million vaccines it ordered from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) (GSK.L) to combat the H1N1 flu virus, a German health official said on Thursday.
Earlier this week, France canceled over half the H1N1 flu vaccines it had ordered because of the pandemic.
The U.S. government has paid for 251 million doses of bulk vaccine from five makers — Glaxo, AstraZeneca (AZN.L), Sanofi-Aventis (SASY.PA), Novartis (NOVN.VX) and CSL Ltd (CSL.AX). (Editing by Philip Barbara)
http://www.swineflu.org/forum_posts.asp?TID=31894 (on how Wodarg came to be suspicious)
“In April, when the first alarm came from Mexico I was very surprised at the figures that furnishing the World Health Organization (WHO) to justify the declaration of a pandemic. I was immediately suspicious: the numbers were very low and the alarm level very high. It was not even in a thousand patients that there was already talk of a pandemic of the century. ”
“In things that have aroused my suspicions so there has been a part of this will sound the alarm. And the other curious facts. As such the recommendation by WHO to carry out two injections for vaccines. It had never been done before. There was no scientific justification for this. There was also the recommendation to use only vaccines patented individuals (…) We did not do so because they preferred to use patented materials vaccine as major laboratories were designed and manufactured to be ready in case of development a pandemic. And in doing this so we did not hesitate to endanger persons vaccinated. ”
“I have seen very concrete example how Klaus Stöhr, who was the head of the epidemiological department of WHO at the time of bird flu, and thus prepared the plans to cope with a pandemic that j ‘ mentioned above, in the meantime had become a top executive of the company Novartis. And similar links between Glaxo and Baxter (etc.) and influential members of the WHO. “
Over the weekend, I had the privilege of attending the 2nd Interfaith Conference on Dialogue & Engagement 2009*. Here are some of my thoughts (greatly influenced by the conversations I had that day) on the kinds of religious conflicts happening in Singapore, why they happen and what can be done.
Why religious conflicts happen in Singapore: Confusion over the new boundaries
Everyone agreed that we want to respect each others religions (including atheism/agnosticsm/humanism). However, the panel dialogue surfaced lots of situations/incidence which subtly screamed: You say you respect me, but here’s when you didn’t!
What that showed, in my view, was that people didn’t know how to behave in order to demonstrate their respect. We need to dialogue and establish what constitutes acceptable behavior; we need to define the boundaries.
In the past (judging from conversations with older people, and from the emphasis in school 20 years ago), there was a lot on religious practices and rituals, amongst the religious followers, in national campaigns and public messaging. These tended to be the source of misunderstandings as well. Religious differences were : Muslims didn’t eat pork. Buddhist/Taoist burnt offerings, Christians celebrated Christmas etc. People got upset when rituals of other faiths affected their lives eg. when ashes flew into each others living rooms.
Over the years of dialogue, we’ve come to accommodate each other’s rituals. When organizing an office party, we know we need to ask if there are vegetarians attending. We happily accept Christmas presents. We have no issues with colleagues wearing tudungs or turbans. We have agreed on the boundaries, and we know how to behave to show our respect for diversity.
Today’s population is more exposed to global issues, which is becoming increasingly ideological. New issues have cropped up. Issues where we haven’t had enough dialogue on, where everyone has a different idea of where the boundary is.
When we think of “inter-religious” dialogue in terms of rituals only, and insist on keeping everything else “secular”, we swept very real and contentious issues under the rug. Many of these issues were touched on during Saturday’s dialogue, and I will briefly outline them here.
Some areas of contention and conflict, which needs discussion:
Religious groups in the secular setting : the school, the workplace
It’s OK to give my colleague Christmas presents, invite them for Deepavali party, wear my tudung. Is it OK to give my colleagues Bible-verse-bookmarks, invite them to church, form office cell groups? It’s OK to talk about religious festivals during Moral Ed class, is it OK to talk about the different Creation stories during Science class?
Religious overtones in policy: Homosexuality, healthcare, advertising
- We accept that we have different dietary restrictions, and we’ve worked out ways to accommodate every kind of diet. Can we accept that we have different sexual practice restrictions and work out a way to accommodate everyone? Same with issues like euthanasia, abortion, HIV subsidies. Where advertising is concerned, does advertising in a religious publication mean that my company is inclusive and respectful of diversity, or does it mean that my company favors a particular religion, or has my company flouted secular principles? Everyone will interpret a gesture differently; we need a dialogue to establish different behaviors mean.
Religious practices at home: Funerals, altars, festivals
This is tricky. It always is when the homes and families are involved. But perhaps here is when dialogue is needed, acceptable behavior established, and rights guarded. What kind of funerals should be conducted when the deceased is of a religion separate from the family members? Are altars offensive or inclusive?
This list is far from exhaustive, but already, we see where the dialogue has to go to.
What can/needs to be done
Our inter-faith dialogue has to move beyond introducing our rituals to one another. We need to establish
1. Boundaries of acceptable behavior, and a common understanding of what each gesture means
2. Terms of engagement. How should we conduct our outreach activities without offense? How should we practice our faith outside the places of worship? What is the criteria for offensive/discriminatory behavior? When we disagree, how should we go about voicing our protest in an amicable way?
Without establishing boundaries and terms of engagement, it is inevitable that I offend you with well-meaning gestures. When you react negatively, I would then feel slighted. A recipe for conflict.
Who needs to be involved
1. Religious leaders/organizations.
Because of how they are looked to as the authorities, they have to be the ones starting the conversation. And then they have to preach in the manner they have agreed to. Representatives of secular/non-religious/minority religion groups need to be included too, to ensure they are not discriminated.
2. The State
It is the State’s responsibility to provide mechanisms through which the agreed upon boundaries and term of engagement are respected and enforced
3. Public & secular organizations – companies, schools, hospitals, NGOs
It came as a surprise to me to learn that NIE does not have a mandatory Race/Religious Sensitization course for the people who influence the thoughts of the next generation 300 days a year. Teachers, HR managers, policy makers, etc need to know how to deal with religious issues sensitively, and how to diffuse issues when they do crop up in a fair and sensitive manner. Telling a child to shut up and sit down doesn’t really help in the long run. Companies need to be aware that how they run their Christmas sales can be offensive or not. Hospital staff need to know how to tell when it is offensive or when it is helpful to offer to pray for the patient. If NGOs, educators, health workers, and religious groups had decided to sit down together to discuss sexuality education years ago, the whole AWARE saga might not have taken place. If clear terms of engagement had been established, perhaps the religious groups would have protested AWARE’s policies in a more civil and acceptable manner.
4. Public education
Going down to the grassroots level with inter-faith dialogues and activities is definitely useful, but only after the religious leaders have established societal norms and conventions, and after the societal infrastructure/mechanisms are in place to bring about this racial and religious harmony we seek.
This was organized by the EIF, together with the Buddhist Fellowship. EIF (Explorations into Faith) is a group under the Southeast CDC umbrella, that organizes inter-religious dialogues on a monthly basis, each time partnering a different religious group.
Participants discussed issues of Religion and Race in Singapore in small groups of about 5 – 10 people, and then came together for a forum discussion that saw a panel of 5 religious leaders, representing the Buddhist, Christian, Islam, Hindu, or Taoist faith. .
As part of the National Orange Ribbon Campaign (http://www.aux.com.sg/norc/index.php) to promote racial and religious harmony, the theme for discussion was on exactly that — Racial and religious harmony in the Singapore context.
I recently visited the Vatican City, at the same time when protest marches were being held in Ireland over the child abuse scandals against the Roman Catholic church.
The most beautiful thing about the Vatican City that struck me was neither the art nor the architecture – those were pretty but were cloying after a while. The most beautiful thing I saw were actually 2 men. One of them was the ticket seller to the Vatican Museum — he had only one finger and a slight stump of a thumb. Yet he was collecting money, giving change, dispensing tickets, with the speed and efficiency of any other ticket seller.
Having grown up in a culture where fetuses are screened and aborted for abnormalities, where disadvantaged persons can only sell tissue paper, where we are taught to pity them with paltry donations into tin cans, I’ve been flooded all my life with messages that disadvantaged persons were a liability to society. In the recent few past years, greater awareness about their abilities have been campaigned for, and I came to think that disadvantaged people could be as contributive to society as any other person could be — all a disadvantaged person had to do was a job that did not depend primarily on the skills he was handicapped for, and for society to give him that chance.
But the Vatican City ticket seller challenged my view completely. It said something about a society who would hire a person with only 1.5 fingers to sell tickets to thousands. It said something about a person who would take a job that primarily made use of a skill he was handicapped for – and excel at it.
The other person who touched me was the locker room (where visitors could deposit their bags and bulky items in lockers and pigeon holes) attendant. Visitors did not deposit their items into the lockers directly – they passed it to the attendant over the counter who then had to make sure everything was in place. This attendant had Downs’ Syndrome (or something similar, by his looks), and was as efficient and orderly as any good attendant I’ve ever come across.
I long for the day where my society would not see cheap foreign labor as the first choice for these jobs, and cease to see disadvantaged people as being disabled.
But I do think we are getting there. In the recent few years past, I have come across people with Downs’ Syndrome travelling by themselves on the MRT, very competently like any other normal person. A decade ago, such people were always accompanied by caregivers. Just seeing these people on the MRT more than convinces me that, if society gave them an education that is every citizen’s right, people with handicaps could be no less functional than a “normal” person. The image of a disabled person staring blankly into space, depending entirely on her caregiver, is one that is the fault of a society which has already condemned the person from birth, and has shirked its duty of investing in that person’s well being and education.
Visiting both the Vatican and Ireland during this period also is a reminder that no organization is perfectly good or perfectly bad. It was at the Vatican that I saw the most beautiful accordance of respect and dignity to people who have long suffered unjust and undue discrimination. Yet it is within the same Roman Catholic church system, that gross widespread child abuse has taken place. It really highlights the importance of not demonizing organizations or people, and the dangers of idolizing organizations of people. We need to look beyond identities, and look at each deed for itself, evaluate each deed for itself, so that the good can be recognized and reinforced, and the bad can be stopped and brought to justice.
It reminded me of a conversation I had with a Chinese friend. When I pointed out the atrocities of the Chinese Communist Party, he pointed out that Communism in China actually brought equality to women by allowing them to equal status in the workforce, that slavery in Tibet was abolished, and that prosperity has grown. Of course, we who have been influenced by the Western media would look at each of these achievements with a raised eyebrow, yet what we really need to do is to stop seeing these organizations as morally responsible persons, but start looking at each deed for itself, because you will find both good and bad.
When the Western and Islamic countries demonize each other, their accusations are probably true. But to the people that belong to each of these groups, they would see themselves for the good that they are, and very understandably feel a sense of injustice done towards them , when they are accused of being the monsters they do not see in themselves, their families and friends. And we all know that injustice and a threat to the safety of your loved ones are the strongest motivations for a person to risk life and limb to fight against the “enemy”. Is there any wonder we’re not going to solve the threat of terrorism in a long long time?
One of the reasons why power asymmetry exists in Singapore was very pronounced at a recent Health Technology Assessment conference I attended.
Power asymmetries arise when there is asymmetrical distribution of information and resources. It does not matter if you have the best democratic election mechanism in place, as long as information and resources is primarily in the hands of the State only. This also happens within large private organizations and the masses, which is why monopolies can be potentially abusive/exploitative.
One would think that power asymmetries existed in places like India and China because a large part of its population is uneducated and poor. In resource rich countries that exists in much of Western Europe, Australia, Canada, the USA power between the electorate and elected is more balanced. Why hasn’t that happened to the same extent in Singapore, despite us ranking way up there in terms of GFP per capita ?
I’m sure there are many reasons, and one of those came up strongly during this International conference.
In many countries with relatively higher State-people power balance, there are very strong NGOs, filled with experts and professional who were willing to contribute their time and expertise to generating and distributing information. Many of these organizations were privately funded too.
In Singapore, we have many charitable organizations. Most of our very few NGOs are also strongly focused on direct services to the disadvantaged group. That is not a bad thing – that is very commendable in fact. What is very lacking however, is this information generation through research, and information distribution through public education.
We really need 2 things. We need experts and professionals to come forward to volunteer. We need these people to stop doing so much overtime in the office, and start contributing. When I was volunteering at AWARE, I noticed that a disproportionate number of active volunteers are not even Singaporean. In the biomedical research industry, many were foreigners who came to Singapore for the money, and few of those who are Singaporean see the need to be involved in advocacy work.
The second thing we need is government-independent funding. Many NGOs and VWOs in Singapore take government funds to some extent. Once you have government funding, your messages are essentially taken hostage. Government funding is great when you’re trying to feed the poor, but not when you’re coming up with well-research evidence why poor people are being systematically produced.
Private funding has been thought to be a major issue in Singapore for a couple of reasons. Firstly, foreign private funding has always been used as “evidence” for foreign manipulation into Singapore’s politics and internal affairs. There are restrictions on the types and extent of foreign funds for certain activities. Secondly, many rich commercial firms in Singapore depend on themselves being in the good books of the government. Foreign firms who wish to remain in Singapore do not want to offend the government and none of our local firms are either big enough or government-independent enough to disregard the government’s agenda.
However, there is a source of private funding in Singapore that is capable of taking on this role — the religious organizations. Singaporeans are very religious, and see a lot of value investing financially into their afterlives. Many religious organizations already fund much of charity work. We need to start going beyond charity work, and start funding advocacy and research work. We need to convince the decision-makers that advocacy and research work is NOT being anti-government, that is very much pro-people, and that sometimes they really have to be brave. We need to convince decision-makers that researching into what processes in our system create the structurally unemployable is as important as feeding the children of these structurally unemployed. We need to be upfront and say, ‘Yes that sort of research may not go down well with certain powerful groups, but your religious texts that call for you to sacrifice for the greater good, were really talking about such situations, not terrorist activities or militant crusades.’
So we actually do have the expertise within our people, and we do have the funds too. What we need to do next, is to convince people to start using these for the public good.