Lent: A prayer for serenity

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.

The first time I saw this prayer by Saint Francis of Assisi was at an aunt’s house in 2008 and it has been a favourite ever since. I love how simple the prayer is to understand yet challenging to transform into a way of life. Each of us are fighting our own battles and in this struggle, we lose our peace, hope or sometimes even ourselves. I love how this prayer reminds us about our strengths and limitations and most of all, inspires us to be courageous and transform our lives. It is within ourselves to define the person we want to be, make the change and to live up to it.

Water is life…let’s love and respect it!

March 22 is observed as International World Water Day focusing on water and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources according to the United Nations World Water Day. In 1992, an international day to celebrate freshwater was recommended at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and since 1993 this day has been dedicated to issues related to water.

Water is an important source of life and each individual is responsible for protecting water. Water is not to be polluted, a source for dispute or to be denied to people for political disputes. Water is important for survival and each individual, animal and plant deserve access to water. I am fortunate to live in a country where clean water is available in plenty and I can actually drink tap water! This is certainly not the scenario where I come from. In India, there is a shortage of water and access to clean drinking water is diminishing each day. Millions of people suffer from water-borne diseases and pollution adds to this serious calamity. Statistics according to http://www.worldwater.org show that in India, within the population of 1.2 billion, 128 million lack access to clean water and 839 million have no sanitation services. In Bangladesh, diarrheal diseases kill almost 100,000 children each year.  There are several other countries that suffer from shortage of water and millions of people are dying.

How do we as individuals and as a civil society respond to water crisis in the world? It is just not the responsibility of people working in sustainable development to look for solutions and start projects to conserve water. Each individual is responsible to know about water crisis and make a covenant for a sustainable future. Perhaps, we fail to realize that each of us play a vital role in protecting our natural resources. By polluting water, we are polluting life. By cutting down trees, we are destroying the natural cycle of life. We as humans are made to love and respect our resources of life such as water, air, soil, etc but do we truly love and protect our environment? How can we, along with our families and friends contribute towards a sustainable development to ensure that not only our children but each person living on this planet will have access to clean water to drink and fresh air to breathe? Maybe we can start by sensible usage of water, un-polluting water, planting more trees, so on and so forth…

How many Konys should we kill for putting an end to child soldiers?

The viral outbreak of the Kony 2012 campaign video has managed to captivate the hearts of many (people with good intentions). Kudos to some excellent marketing skills, they have sold the idea brilliantly! I wish we could use the same skills to promote the passion for justice without targeting an individual but to target issues from grass roots. The problems in Uganda and many other countries where war crimes are flourishing, is more complex and tormenting than what we see or hear. We certainly cannot relate to these crimes with the Kony 2012 video because this video wants us to promote the campaign and donate money. It does not ask us to promote awareness on children’s rights or human rights education but it focuses on buying a product and believing that by doing so, we are contributing to eliminating the evil from the society. Sadly, by supporting the campaign, we will not be destroying evil. If Kony is killed, the fighters from his troops will join other forces and still continue with their atrocities. Therefore, how many Konys are we going to kill?

If we really want to focus on the issue of child soldiers in Uganda, the first step would be to get our facts right and understand the current situation of the people. It is important to pay attention to the political and social framework. Radical understanding of the issues will contribute towards policy developments, awareness campaigns, promoting human rights education and many other methods that will actually help putting an end to violence and war crimes rather than being selfish and wanting to put an end to one person’s life. Policy development is crucial for governments and Uganda needs to have a stable government, one that is going to promote peace and justice, one that is stronger than the current system.

As individuals, we have a bigger responsibility towards protecting human rights and children’s rights rather than focusing on one person. In any case, I don’t think Kony deserves so much of our time and energy!

Women’s Day 2012

Poster by Aiko Widhidana Sumichan

Poster by Aiko Widhidana Sumichan

Excerpt from liturgy on International Women’s Day 2012 by YWCA

“Crumbs. We have so many in our lives. A Crumb is a fragment of bread. A dispensable small thing that we easily throw to dogs or in the garbage. Have you ever felt like a crumb? Have your people felt like crumbs?…But we are not crumbs. We fight, shout, pray, get educated, hold together in the face of pain and suffering. And we want more than crumbs….”

What is your dream for Women’s Day?

Today is celebrated as International Women’s Day in many countries. Each year, we remember the lives and struggles of women on various walks of life and we celebrate the spirit and strength of women. As much as we may agree that women deserve to be loved and celebrated every day, there is something special about Women’s Day. Research indicates that International Women’s Day has been celebrated since 1900’s as the world was waking up to radical ideologies and discourses. Women have played a crucial and meaningful role in history, politics, literature since the beginning of time yet it took several thousands of years to identify the oppression and inequality of women.

I have admired a lot of women as I grew up and continue to be awed by many. Freedom, strength, beauty, courage, respect, love, dreams, intellect and commitment are the words that strike me when I think of women that inspire me each day.  As I grew up, I was taught to be independent, to think, to make decisions, to be discerning, to enjoy the simplicity of life, to be angry when I witnessed injustice, to be generous, to have fun, to protect myself and to be a person that smiled with the world. My upbringing has played a crucial role in making me a confident and an outspoken woman with a mind of my own. Our childhood and adulthood have been modelled and influenced by many people and experiences. I have big dreams for women to be accepted and treated with respect by society and I know that each one of us has to work very hard to make this happen.

With these hopes and experiences, how do we understand International Women’s Day? Is it just a day of celebration? Is it a day to remind us of our strengths and struggles? Is it a day of hope for women to be treated with dignity and respect? Is it a day for empowerment? What should be the role of Women’s Day in today’s context?

I hope each of you will be able to share your comments so we have a wide spectrum of responses and there will be a space for us to read each other. Women should continue to inspire and be inspired!