An interesting thought for 30 and 31 Aug from Henri Nouwen's book, Bread for the Journey:
"GOD SAYS, 'I am offering you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live.'" (Deuteronomy 30:19)
"Choose Life. That's God's call for us, and there is not a moment in which we do not have to make that choice. Life and death are always before us. In our imaginations, our thoughts, our words, our gestures, our actions ... even in our non-actions. This choice for life starts in a deep interior place.
"Underneath very life-affirming behaviour I can still harbour death-thoughts and death-feelings. The most important question is not "Do I kill?" but "Do I carry a blessing in my heart or a curse?" The bullet that kills is only the final instrument of the hatred that began being nurtured in the heart long before the gun was picked up.
"When we look critically at the many thoughts and feelings that fill our minds and hearts, we may come to the horrifying discovery that we often choose death instead of life, curse instead of blessing. Jealousy, envy, anger, resentment, greed, lust, vindictiveness, revenge, hatred ....
"But God asks us to choose life and to choose blessing. This choice requires an immense inner discipline. It requires a great attentiveness to the death-forces within us and a great commitment to let the forces of life come to dominate our thoughts and feelings. We cannot always do this alone; often we need a caring guide or a loving community to support us. But it is important that we both make the inner effort and seek the support we need from others to help us choose life."
STARTED AN ONLINE INVESTIGATION into condoms and AIDS last week because two colleagues of mine accused the Church of suppressing the truth that condoms can save lives. Their source of information was a BBC Panorama programme called Sex and the Holy City which was broadcasted in October last year, with a follow-up segment called "Can Condoms Kill?" in June this year. (See also A Cardinal, AIDS and the BBC.)
Did some Google search. Posted a query on three Catholic online forums. Debated with my colleagues via email for a while. Finally, through the help of an online friend M., found a definitive document from the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (SPUC) which rebutted all the BBC accusations and raised questions instead about the integrity of the programmer and interviewer themselves.
As the SPUC director summarised in an open letter to BBC Director Greg Dyke, "Under the guise of serious reporting, the programme purported to show that Catholic Church teaching on abortion and contraception was costing the lives of thousands of women worldwide and condemning families to lives of poverty.
"However, not only did Sex and the Holy City fail to support such serious charges with objective, verifiable evidence, but there were also many other claims made in support of the general thesis of the programme which fly in the face of statistical, medical and scientific evidence from recognised authoritative sources."
In Bias and the BBC, SPUC research officer Fiorella Sultana De Maria wrote, "When the Linacre Centre (the leading Catholic bioethics body in the UK) spoke to Dr Roland of the Naval Research laboratory (NRL) about the issue, he said that none of the research he has monitored over the last 10 or so years contradicts the conclusion he came to from his own work that leakage of HIV through condoms was a definite possibility. He was prepared to be quoted on this point.
"When the Linacre Centre contacted Mr Bradshaw about Dr Roland, Mr Bradshaw's response was: 'My understanding of the NRL is that they do not wish to be quoted and never intended their work to be used in the HIV debate and have no view as to its relevance or otherwise.' Mr Bradshaw apparently only contacted him after the programme had already been completed and privately screened.
"Dr Roland's response to Mr Bradshaw's comment was: 'a rather strange claim to make, considering that my earlier papers (which certainly discuss HIV transmission) were all approved for publication by NRL'. Interestingly enough, Mr Steel stated in his letter to SPUC that 'the programme-makers made strenuous efforts to get one scientist in particular, C M Roland, to confirm his previously-stated view that latex was not impermeable, but he failed to respond to several requests.' "
By then, my colleagues have conceded that BBC seemed biased. Emailed a few complaints to BBC. Received one or two replies along the lines of "... there are also times when it is in the public interest for us to question and scrutinise issues that are the subject of legitimate debate. The BBC believes this programme explored issues of serious public interest and was informative and fair."
Can BBC's own method of making one-sided claims withstand scrutiny? In the programme, BBC somehow happened to (1) interview only pro-abortion or pro-condom (and not pro-life) medical experts (details in the SPUC document), and (2) repeatedly label Church representatives whom they interviewed as "peddling superstition and ignorance" (read the programme transcript).
Interestingly, The Straits Times published a commentary by Pranay Gupte yesterday entitled "Population control or reproductive health? It's all a scam". A senior writer with "more than three decades [experience] in covering population and development issues", Gupte wrote, "Between UN expenditures and those of individual governments and NGOs, some US$11 billion (S$19 billion) is spent each year on population-related matters. That is more than a fourth of what all 135 countries of the Third World receive annually in foreign aid, and almost a tenth of what they get each year in foreign direct investment (FDI) and foreign institutional investment (FII) in their equity markets. And the great population scam is all set to enter a new stage.
"Starting today, thousands of politicians, diplomats and academicians will gather in London's Queen Elizabeth II Convention Hall for a three-day conference to lament the world's allegedly rapid population growth. They are flying first class or business class, they are being put up in luxurious lodgings, they are being feted at tony restaurants - and international taxpayers are footing the bill.
"... It's culturally insulting - and historically erroneous - to say that poor people everywhere will keep producing children because of unrestrained libidos.... Anthropology suggests that people will always respond positively to economic and educational opportunities - and adjust family size accordingly. Few parents wish to have children whom they cannot feed."
Was furious with BBC for quite a while. However, Nouwen's writings (especially for 30th and 31st August) challenged me over and over again to bless instead of curse. The familiar saying "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness" now takes on new meaning.
How difficult it is to bless when one feels like cursing! Yet, it seems to me now that Jesus is saying, "You must." Just show me how through your Holy Spirit, Lord Jesus, besides praying through clenched teeth, "God bless Bradshaw, BBC and others like them!"
(See also Condom and Contraceptive Facts and Aids: Are we doing enough?)
Question: Who profits the most from increased condom sales?
Worldwide HIV Situation
The Philippines has a relatively low prevalence rate in the world with less than one percent of Filipino adults infected with HIV. (Check out Unicef statistics on Philippines and Thailand -- scroll up a little for HIV/AIDS stats.)
Telling the Truth: AIDS Rates for Thailand and the Philippines
According to the U.N., Thailand has 66 million people. According to the USAID-funded Commission on Population, the Philippines is now home to 82 million souls.
The first AIDS case in Thailand was diagnosed in 1984. Likewise for the Philippines. Thailand introduced a 100 percent condom policy in 1991-2 while the Philippines focused on abstinence and faithfulness (with prayer).
As of August 2003 there were 899,000 HIV/AIDS cases documented in Thailand and approximately 125,000 deaths attributed to the disease. These numbers are many times those projected by the WHO (60,000-80,000 cases) in 1991. As of September 30, 2003, there were 1,946 AIDS cases resulting in 260 deaths in the Philippines. This is only a mere fraction of the number of cases (80,000-90,000) that the WHO projected would be reached by 2000.
In an Oqey health report, researchers said Thailand managed to reduce AIDS successfully not just because of condoms but abstinance, " "20 years into the pandemic there is no evidence that more condoms leads to less AIDS," stated Dr. Edward C. Green of Harvard's Center for Population and Development Studies. Citing data on condom availability in many African counties, Green went on to say that "we are not seeing what we expected: that higher levels of condom availability result in lower HIV prevalence." Dr. Norman Hearst of the University of California San Francisco supported this analysis with statistics on Kenya, Botswana, and other countries, which show an increasingly alarming pattern of increased condom sale correlation with rising HIV prevalence by year.
"... In other cases, often reported by proponents of the safe-sex message, countries such as Thailand saw incidence rates for HIV decrease after the government mandated 100% condom use in brothels. Unfortunately, according to Hearst and Stoneburner, proponents rarely look closer at the data, and in such instances behavior change had much more to do with the decreased rates of transmission. "This is usually attributed to 100% condom use, but visits to sex workers declined by 60%... they did so out of fear and risk avoidance." "
(See also Uganda Aids education 'working' and The White House Initiative to Combat AIDS: Learning from Uganda.)
"...Bless Your Enemies"
"And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and that they may escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will." -- 2 Timothy 2:24-26
Thank you, Lord Jesus. Encountered the passage above in LRSS a few weeks ago. After some reflection over some experiences (the BBC scam as well as online and f2f debates) over the past few weeks, it is much clearer to me now why You want us to bless our 'enemies'.
May you bless Bradshaw, the BBC, X... abundantly and save them from evil influences. May you bless us all and save us from the Evil One. May we all give glory to you, the Father and the Holy Spirit. Glory Be....
Interesting statistics from Condom Conundrums in the 2005-09-24 issue of Zenit:
"A letter from Australian-based bioethicist Amin Abboud, published July 30 by the British Medical Journal, noted that any change in the Catholic Church's position on condoms would be detrimental for Africa.
According to Abboud, a statistical analysis of the situation in the continent shows that the greater the percentage of Catholics in any country, the lower the level of HIV. "If the Catholic Church is promoting a message about HIV in those countries," he added, "it seems to be working."
"Data from the World Health Organization puts the figure for HIV infection in Swaziland 42.6% of the population. Only 5% of the population is Catholic. And in Botswana, where 37% of the adult population is HIV infected, only 4% of the population is Catholic. In Uganda, however, where 43% of the population is Catholic, the proportion of HIV infected adults is 4%."