Saturday, June 24, 2006

99's in Dingle

So my cousin Liz and Alyssa (her roommate) have started their two month treck across Europe. They began with a week to adjust and have fun in Ireland with me and my family. Liz and I have been close, more like siblings than cousins since we have lived with their family for 3 years of my life and many summers, so it was great to have her here. One of those summers Alyssa lived in the house as well, so we know her pretty well too.

It's been interesting playing tour guide a bit this past year, with Rachel Dorr over at Thanksgiving, Jon Knoche and David Michael here a few weeks ago and now Liz and Alyssa last week. Each seems to care about different things. Rachel cared a ton about the culture and how it was different/similar to England, Jon and David were interested in James Joyce, the history and of course the pubs, and Alyssa and Liz were really easy going, just enjoyed hanging out and whatever came their way (although we did hit both the Guinness Brewery and the Jameson Whiskey Distillery) we watched the entire 1st season of Arrested Development while they were here.

Anyway the picture is off us eating 99's in Dingle, on the West coast. 99's are basically a normal soft ice cream cone with a Cadbury's Flake stuck in it, but they were one of Liz's favourite memories from when she had been in Ireland as a kid, so we had them a few times. (Liz is in the middle).

Amnesty Debate....just an update

On the street the past few days many workers have been hearing comments where people believe that Amnesty has begun supporting abortion rights in its campaigns. This doesn't come as much of a surprise as there have been many recent media reports about such a change and my dad even mentioned a Focus on the Family Article about it, so I know many in America must know about that.

We were briefed on the situation during orientation and this is what we were told. Basically, there has been no change to Amnesty's current position, which has always been "not to have a position on Abortion." There is however a debate going on at the moment, with some advocating for the inclusion of abortion rights in the situation of rape and incest. Basically, it's a very sensitive issue, and one that Amnesty is taking very seriously, as both sides feel very strongly. It's something that could definitely split the organization completely in two, so I imagine that the position will stay the same, as in having no position. If I hear anything else though I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A last!

So I've finally found a summer job. It's not glamorous and it's very tiring, but it's a job I can believe in, feel good about and really learn from. I'm working for the Irish Section of Amnesty International as a member recruiter. Basically this means that I go out with a team of people each day on the streets of Dublin and we ask people if they want to become members (which of course requires a monthly or yearly donation). It's a tiring job (even though I've only done one day so far), but I think I'll like it, especially as I get more experienced in getting people to talk to me. If you don't know much about Amnesty you can click HERE for more info.

Here's a few things briefly.

  • Amnesty is the world's largest and oldest human rights organization.
  • It's not a development group but instead campaigns for the adherence to international law and rights for people based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • It's 4 main current international campaigns are 1) Combating Torture, 2) Stopping Violence Against Women, 3) Stricter Controls on the International Arms Trade, and 4) Ending the Death Penalty.

I strongly support these 4 campaigns. There are 3 other Domestic campaigns particular to Ireland: 1) Stopping Domestic Violence 2) Ensuring the Rights of the Mentally Ill 3) Anti-Racism

It's interesting learning about the Human Rights approach to tackling these issues. I don't necessarily see myself working with Amnesty in the future, as I'd like to work with people involved in more wholistic work, but I'm learning a lot by focusing on the rights angle.

Besides what I'm learning, the hours of the job are great 11:00-6:00 monday-friday and the pay is good too, 13 euro per hour.

Thanks those of you who have been praying that I'd find a job. I really think this is one of the best things I could have found in my situation (short time period to both find and do the job). Pray now that I'll have perseverance and success in this new job and that I'd continue to learn and get to know my co-workers.


Monday, June 05, 2006

An interesting survey...and...what do I do with nationalism as a Christian?

So as I'm still in sort of culture analysis mode as I'm only back at home for 3 weeks so far. One thing that I found made me uncomfortable more than the average person when I was in America was the nationalism. I'm unsure of why it wore on me the wrong way so much, but it did. What's been making me think about this recently is a poll that an RTE programme "Prime Time" did that compared Irish attitudes in 1986 and now again in 2006.

If anyone doesn't know about the situation in modern Ireland, but life, culture, social reality.....I guess everything has changed since the 1980s. The economy has gone from having 20% unemployment when I was a child to now one of the strongest in Europe, from being seen as close to a third world country with emigration (both legal and illegal) to America and Britain extremely high, to now being one of the 10 richest in the world. Social life in Ireland has undergone huge changes too. People are becoming extremely disillusioned with the Catholic Church as sexual abuse scandals seem to appear with startling regularity. Many people have described the change in Irish culture as transforming from a pre-modern culture to a post-modern while not really experiencing the modernistic world view that has been present in other Western European cultures.

One comparison that the pole made struck me as I'm sure something like this would never happen in the US. In 1986 the poll said, "If Ireland was attacked would you be willing to fight for your country?" In 1986 50% of those responding said they would, while 30% said they would not, 20% were unsure. By 2006 however things have changed drastically. Now 50% said they would not fight for their country, 30% said they would and 20% said they didn't know.

This may seem hard to believe as if you're in Ireland people are definitely proud to be Irish and love their country. I think one difference between Ireland and America in this aspect is that the Irish pride and love for country is not rooted in the State. People, no matter who they voted for tend to distrust the government and politicians much more than their American counterparts. When the Taoiseach (the prime minister) appears in public people don't wave Irish flags, like they do for the American president. When you see the football team playing an international, or if Ireland's in the World Cup you'll see flags flying from every car and pub in the country. I don't necessarily think either type of nationalism is better or worse than the other, but I had to think about why I had a visceral reaction to the form of nationalism that I found in the US.

I'm sure there's plenty of factors that play into the difference in nationalisms (i.e. such as the age of the two societies, America being a young country that has only experienced one form of government while Ireland having a civilization for thousands of years and experiencing several different forms of state including foreign dominance has much more history under its belt and perhaps a healthy level of skepticism about the particular state and politicians that happen to be ruling).

As I'm a Wheaton grad, let me put a Christian twist on this. A few months ago during the Center for Applied Christian Ethics' annual symposium, I heard a young man named Josh Casteel, who recently received his status as a conscientious objector and was discharged from the US Army. He served as an interrogator for 6 months in a prison that has gained quite a reputation over the past while, and rightly so, Abu Ghraib. He spoke to us about many things, but one was about the place of nationalism. He discussed about how our allegiance to Christ and his order for our world (some call it his kingdom) should be our most important allegiance, much higher than country, and also before family. We should realize that we have more of a commitment to our fellow Christians around the world than our fellow citizen down the road. What does this mean? I'm not sure how to practically think out all the ramifications of that, but I know there are many. I know we may hear that a lot, but it is something we need to do more than hear. We need to listen to it. What would happen if all the Christians in the western world cared more about the fortunes of their fellow Christians, most who live in the developing world, instead of the economic gain of their own countries?