many people think the way muslims fast is quite harsh. and compared to some other traditions, i guess it is. some take water when they fast, others take fruit juices. still others take a narrow range of food. the 40 hour famine used to allow glucose lollies, back when i was young. so compared to these, our way of fasting is much stricter and can be difficult for those in hot countries where the days are long.
it is for this reasons that fasting is only for healthy adults. the sick and the young don't have to fast. pregnant and breastfeeding women don't have to fast. anyone travelling a reasonable distance outside their city doesn't have to fast. it's up to each individual to determine what they can bear, depending on their personal circumstances.
today i'm going to consider issues related to peace, or more accurately the absence of war. i'm lucky enough to live in a country that is not at war. the last wars that happened in my country were back in the 1860s when the colonialists fought for domination over the indigenous people, and won. since then, nz'ers haven't had the country bombed or had armies moving through the country fighting with one another.
i haven't had to send my children out to fight. i haven't had to watch my loved ones be maimed or killed. i haven't had to lose my home. i haven't had to watch key infrastructure get decimated, so that i'm forced to live without electricity, running water, schools, transport systems, and so on.
i have never been subject to torture, nor have my loved ones. i haven't had to suffer from rape as a war crime, like the women of congo, bosnia and many other countries. i haven't had my limbs chopped off to disable me, as was the practice in sierra leone. i haven't had to take up arms to defend myself, nor kill other people in order to survive.
i haven't suffered from separation from my family nor displacement because of war. i haven't had to suffer the stress of not knowing where my children are, if they're even alive & how they are managing to survive. i haven't had to spend endless hours trying to find any information as to where they might be. ditto for other family members.
i haven't had my children stolen from me so that can be trained as child soldiers. i did a post about children as casualties of war last month, and if you have a strong constitution, i'd recommend you view the clip i've linked to (ie not the one i've embedded) in the post. also worth reading is this post at shakesville about the implications of a child soldier being tried by an american military commission. i'd also strongly recommend the film blood diamond, which was on tv a few weeks ago.
i live in a country far away from this type of violence, so i have avoided any experience of the horrors of war. the closest i have come, and it's not particularly close at all, is being in india during a period of communal violence. back in the late 1970s, i remember hearing the shouts of rioters out in street and the sound of gunshots while staying at a relative's house. it was the first time i'd ever felt fear from violence, but luckily they passed by and we were safe.
i was also in india on 6 december when the babri mosque was destroyed. the city i lived was put under marshall law, and no-one was allowed out of their houses for weeks. as it happened, we had to travel from where we were staying to delhi, by train. we needed special permission from the district commissioner of police, and we had a police escort to the station. it was the second time that i had felt the distinct fear of violence, but in the end was totally safe.
as i say, these experiences were such a small taste of what life can be like in a community not at peace. i'm incredibly thankful to be living in a place where i can move about freely, without fear, and i don't have to worry about the safety of my loved ones.
i'm lucky to not have to live in a country that is occupied by an outside power, which can make decisions about the way i live without the consent of myself or my people. i don't have to face the prospect of roads i'm not allowed to travel on, checkpoints to be traversed, an incredibly unequal distribution of water, alienation from my land and crops, arbitrary demolition of my home as part of a strategy of collective punishment, administrative detention where i have no access to a lawyer nor any idea of the amount of time i will be held or the charges against me, trial by secret military tribunals, random closure of schools and universities which i can do absolutely nothing about, random destruction of market places, an economic blockade that prevents food and medical supplies from entering the region, in fact this (pdf version here where you can also access an alternative view).
there is so much more i could say about this topic, but i've had a busy day and hope that some of the issues i've raised will cause some reflection. if you wish to be active in this area, i'd recommend amnesty international, the aotearoa peace & conflict studies centre trust which i've written about here, peace movement aotearoa, global peace & justice, and many other organisations i'm sure. something else i'd strongly recommend is to take some time talking to refugees, and listening to their experiences - if they are able and willing to share. i remember hearing a somalian woman speaking about how she held her husband's head in her lap as he died as a result of the on-going conflict in that country. some of these people have incredibly sad stories, and i think that if people took the trouble to hear these stories for themselves, perhaps our refugees would face a little less hostility and bigotry in this country.
if you are someone who has suffered or is suffering from the horrors of war, my thoughts and prayers are with you. i dearly hope that things will be better for you very soon.