I was a refugee (for a couple of days, in law not fact)

congo

Refugee for a day (or two)

When Mobutu’s tyrannical kleptocracy in Zaire (now again Congo) began to fall apart, when people were desperate because they could not buy medicines or schooling for their children, the parachute regiment captured the airport and marched into Kinshasa. They and many of the civilian population  began to loot the city, while Mobutu’s Presidential Guard fought back. After a day or two the French and Belgians sent their own paratroops to oversee the evacuation of foreigners. The British (this was before we became NZ citizens) embassy arranged for Brits to go on a South African refugee plane that was able to land at the airport after it had been recaptured. Our passports were in a Zairean government office to get residence visas. So we traveled on temporary refugee papers issued by the embassy.

In just hours we were separated from colleagues and friends, not knowing nor able to find out what had happened to them. But fearing the worst. We shared some of the fear, shock and pain of leaving “home” that real refugees feel, but only some, because we had been people with two homes, and we still had resources of citizenship to protect us and open possibilities of a new life to us.1

img_3212Real refugees

We’ve also experienced life in a refugee camp, teaching courses on two occasions in a camp on the Thai-Burma border. During those months we saw second hand what it is like to be a real refugee. We heard stories of horrific experiences at the hands of the government forces. We met students who had never experienced a free life outside the wire boundaries of the camp. People with no papers (except the document that entitles them to a small food ration) and little hope.

Because these, real, refugees are members of an ethnic minority at war with the national government many of them do not seek UN refugee status, preferring to dream of the day when they can return home and rebuild. But for many after all that time the grinding dullness of life on the edge, whose purpose is merely to wait, prompts them to seek “resettlement” (see Resettlement and repatriation seem such gentle words). This means giving up the old hope (of return home to live with dignity in peace) and making tenuous ties to family and friends who make us who we are. Yet it offers a different hope: a new life. That’s what it means to be a refugee, to have lost all hope in your old life, and to seek a new one.

Land of opportunity

In the colonial period Europeans came to New Zealand seeking a new life, in a land of opportunity. They forged their new lives usually successfully, often at the expense (sometimes at the barrel of a gun, directly through land confiscations, dubious “deals”, or less directly) of the Maori who already inhabited the land. But by and large New Zealand now is a peaceful land, underpopulated full of wide open spaces. We have low unemployment and because of that history opportunities for trade and industry that are surprising in a place so far from anywhere. We even have a record of race relations that is less bad than many similar places.

How come we do not welcome more refugees? Refugees are people with “get up and go” both literally and metaphorically. They have drive and initiative. They are good at looking after themselves. Usually they are unusually socially responsible. With all that space and all those opportunities, why do we not welcome more new New Zealanders?

  1. We even had the hope of returning soon. For we assumed that Mobutu would leave or be killed and the coup would install a new (and therefore better) government. In fact two decades of civil wars have made Congo a byword. []

Performers and audiences

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I am convinced that alongside (but poorly if at all correlated with) the personality dimension Introversion-Extroversion is another I think of as “Performer”. I am highly introverted, but love standing talking to an audience. By contrast I know several strong extroverts who really do not enjoy that sort of attention, but if thrown into a den of lions room full of people would be happily chatting to new acquaintances within minutes (I’d still be hiding in the furthest darkest corner, trying mentally to project an invisibility screen).

So, I prepare the 5 minute Bible podcasts and read the stories because I hope for an audience. The bigger, the better!

This morning I was depressed looking at the stats and realising just how few people actually listen to a full episode. (Facebook has begun to show how long people listen for, and most switch off in the first moments and few are left by 30 seconds into the piece.)

Then I got a treat, an email from Librivox from the “thank a reader” section containing this encouragement:

He reads the book like an actor acts in a movie. He acts out every character that he reads. He puts so much passion and life into his reading and he is so expressive. He keeps the listener so engaged and his pronunciation is excellent. He is by far one of the best readers I have ever listened to.

That is just what I was trying to do when reading my part in Woman in White! Then to complete the chasing away of the blues, searching for a post I had made in one of the forums I came across this reference to my voice:

his voice is: soft, tender and warm. When I listen to his voice, I have a feeling that I have just been given a freshly baked, warm and soft doughnut.

This introverted performer is delighted. Until the next time I look at the stats and see how few people do actually listen till the end.

BTW it is my birthday tomorrow (15th May) so if you want to “make my day” just invite some friends to listen to a story or a Bible podcast and drive those terrible stats up ;) I might even do an encore!

In which Christopher Robin leads an Expotition to the North Pole

Image from Wikipedia

I have added another chapter to my readings from Winnie-the-Pooh. “In which Christopher Robin leads an Expotition to the North Pole” naturally if you live in Canada, NZ and various other countries with enlightened copyright laws it is quite legal to listen and enjoy. If you live in the Disney Union or the United States of Monsato you would be committing a serious crime if you dared to listen!

Recording audio

Over the last year I have been forced (by equipment failure and an unwillingness to spend “too much”of the family budget on Internet publishing) to experiment with various options for recording audio.

I’ve done some of the 5 minute Bible podcasts using our camera (then combining a presentation with the video in the visual version of the podcast) this approach gets OK audio, except when the camera is too far from the speaker.

But most of the time I have used the internal mics on my Tascam DR-40 (digital audio recorder) at first I thought the quality was quite good. However, I have begun to wonder if it is better to attach a mic (I’m using the one I used to use with the external sound card).

I wonder if any of you would be willing to listen to a bit of the 7th chapter of Winnie-the-Pooh, and compare it with one of the earlier chapters and let me know what you think of the differences in recording quality?

It would be a big help – one of the problems with doing such stuff without colleagues or technical support is that I don’t have an unbiased pair of ears to criticise!

Two pleas, please!

Jim West needs more Logos users to “preorder” his commentary series it is a remarkable effort by one pastor/teacher to write clear straightforward comment on every book of the Bible (so far there are 36 volumes “covering 59 books of the Bible and 4 books of apocrypha”). I believe that the commentaries do not share the sometimes histrionic tone of his blog, where he claims logos are planning to kill him if the series gets sufficient preorders ;) But rather offers sensible useful comment aimed not at other specialists but at everyone.

That’s the first plea, for a serious work, but presented humorously. The second plea is not like unto it, rather it is free and without cost, but a birthday wish. To celebrate the fact that I have survived 66 years I am collecting audio and video readings of classic stories for children and adults. The request is simple, just if you have a blog link to the site, or if not share it on Facebook or other soacial media. Then people will start to visit, the great and wise Google will deign to notice its existance and my effort will be worthwhile :)

Lamenting in/with Sri Lanka

Two friends have recently spoken well of the recent pastoral letter from Dhiloraj Canagasabey, the Anglican Bishop of Colombo. Both in different ways, and for different reasons call it prophetic.

After succinctly and clearly explaining what “the rule of law” means:

The rule of law means that we as a nation are governed by a system of laws to which the lawmakers themselves are subject. This is a way of ensuring that power is not concentrated in the hands of one person (or group of persons) and exercised arbitrarily…

He explains in briefly and in unemotional language why Christians have a special call to speak out when as currently in Sri Lanka this safeguard is threatened. But far from merely asking for political action or protest he moves to call the churches first to self-examination and lament. The process he proposed began yesterday, and continues today with meetings in the cathedral and other churches. Which will extend into:

a series of Bible studies, reflections and discussions during Lent. Which is traditionally a period of self-examination and penitence, to reflect on what it means to live as a faithful disciple-community of Jesus in the context of our nation today.

One of my friends wrote:

We are so grateful for a leader who seems to be finally speaking out to the church along biblical lines. Thought you might be interested to see what he says (I’ve attached a copy of the letter in case you haven’t seen it already). I believe this is an important first step in mobilising the church to do one of the most important things that we are meant to do – intercede. Some churches from other denominations have also decided to adopt the concept. 

We should join her in prayer that this will happen, and that the process will be filled with the blessing of the presence of the Holy Spirit working powerfully among Sri Lankan Christians during this critical time.

Paul Windsor (ex-principal of Carey now working with Langham Preaching) adds the more specific prayer:

that the preachers being trained through Langham will develop a prophetic edge that will speak up and speak out on matters of injustice.

The full text of the letter is included in the Anglican Communion News Service report here.