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faith or fiction

faithI was having a conversation with a friend of mine last week about her faith, or lack there of, and I was struck by how many people in my life have chosen a life devoid of faith.

Now, when I say faith I mean it in the traditional sense… a belief in God, or whoever you perceive your higher power to be and whatever name he or she takes.

I grew up under the banner of many religions… Catholic, Baptist, Mormon… and I haven’t attended church regularly since I was a child, but my faith has always been a source of comfort and guidance for me, even though I never had one denomination to call home.

People are usually surprised by my strong belief in God and Jesus, and the bible. I don’t live a particularly “Christian” life and I am certainly not condemning people around me who don’t agree with my beliefs. I support gay marriage, freedom of choice and religions that differ with my own. I drink, listen to R’n’B music (the filthier the better) and did not save myself for marriage (although I wish I had!). I also cuss like a sailor. But throughout my entire life, which was tumultuous at times, there was always one constant, an unwavering faith that a higher power was watching over me who I could go to for guidance and compassion.

Now, by that I don’t mean that I believe there is a man on white throne up in the sky who has a scroll with my name at the top and everything I am to achieve in life is already decided for me. Quite the opposite. I believe in an energy, a power that shows me roads I might take, and even though at times it would like to push me down the right one, is simply a hand on my shoulder as I decide my own journey… and who every now and then gives me a tap to remind me there are other roads to take when we hit a dead end.

At this point people will usually ask me… so do you actually believe that there was a man called Jesus who came from heaven and performed all these crazy miracles? My short answer… Yes. But let me explain how I interpret the Bible.

Do I believe God created the earth in seven days… No. But an energy in the universe created earth and life from nothing. Give that whichever name you wish.

Do I believe in Adam & Eve… No. It’s a nice story though.

Do I believe a virgin gave birth to the son of God… No. Do I believe a woman who was young and innocent gave birth to a special child who would change the world, yes. I believe people are born every day who have a special mission on this earth, Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela… Kanye 😉

“So you believe that Jesus could walk on water?”. No. But I believe sometimes we meet people in our lives who make us feel like we could do anything, who inspire us and lift us up until we feel like we could achieve the impossible.

“And what about bringing people back from the dead?”. No. But I believe that someones we meet people who wake us up and make us feel more alive than we ever have.

“Giving sight to the blind?”. No. But haven’t you ever met someone or heard a story that opened your eyes to something you never saw before? Who changed your perception about something and made you look at something in a different way?

“Turning water in to wine?”. No. But we all know people who are so intoxicating that being with them makes you giddy and excited, as though you are drunk.

“Filled empty baskets with fish and bread”. No. But people who sustain us in so many other ways that our soul and heart are full.

“Rose from the dead”. Unfortunately, no. But anyone who has ever lost someone dear to them knows the feeling of carrying them with them after they have passed. Of feeling their presence throughout their day to day lives long after they are dust in the ground.

I think one of the biggest mistakes of the church is that they teach the bible too literally.

Here is what I believe. Really good people are born everyday, people who will selflessly put themselves in harm’s way to help others. I believe there was man called Jesus who was that kind of person. He changed the way people thought, showed love and compassion to society’s undesirables and challenged the establishment in a time when it meant death. Can you really say you have never known or at the very least, read or heard about this type of person?

The bible to me is the (extremely) dramatised version of a simple man’s life. A good man. A man who happily took on the sins of his brothers and died for them.

So when people ask me am I Christian, I say yes. Any by that I mean, I believe in GOOD, the good of everyday people. I also believe in the spiritual realm and in forces greater than myself at work in the world.

I believe.

#istandformercy

Something about the world seems rotten to me today. In a country where child prostitution is common place, where murderers and drug kingpins can bribe their way out of prison, where rape and crimes against women get less punishment than petty crime, 2 reformed, repentant young men were murdered last night.

990082-6d5ec12a-9d4c-11e4-8f33-8e666e0016f7Australian opinions are fiercely divided about Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the infamous Bali Nine ring leaders. I understand the arguments for the death penalty and in this case, I understand that people are annoyed that these young men broke a law in a country where they knew the consequences and flaunted the rules.

What I don’t understand is the lack of compassion and the complete failure to see that these men had been completely rehabilitated and weren’t asking for a pardon for their crimes, they were simply asking for their lives. Lives which they would have spent behind the bars of one of the world’s worst prisons.

Waking up this morning to the confirmed reports that Myuran and Andrew had been executed I sat in silence and wondered, where do we draw the line on appropriate punishment for crime? When do we cross the line between keeping the streets safe and playing God? As jails get so crowded that the death penalty has become a way to make room, have we given up on the very reason the system was created in the first place?

Prisons came about because there is a need to remove dangerous people from the general population. They are there to keep the “good” people safe from the “bad” ones. The ultimate goal of a jail term is to rehabilitate and reform law breakers. The current system rarely works.

Somehow though, in the case of the Bali Nine ring leaders it worked! The corrupt and inhumane Indonesian prison system actually worked. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said this morning, “Indonesia has not just robbed two young men of their lives but robbed itself of two examples of the strengths of its justice system”.

To the families of Myuran and Andrew I put my voice with countless others in Australia and around the world and say that I did and always will stand for mercy.

While the world burns in Baltimore and shakes to its core in Nepal I hope the human race can rise above and thrive while its people and planet seem intent on destroying themselves. But who really stands a chance in a world where being sorry still has you facing the firing squad?

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little white lie

Belle Gibson has got to be one of the most hated women in Australia right now. Not only did she lie about  having cancer, she defrauded thousands of people and splashed herself all over social media spending the money she claimed to be raising for charity on lavish holidays for her “healing”. It’s not just that she has insulted every person struggling through an illness battle or that she took us all for fools for so long. The most incredulous, infuriating thing Belle Gibson is doing is still lying.

Belle-Gibson-860x450Gibson launched a global business, including a top-rating app and cookbook, off the claims that she was a young mother healing herself naturally from terminal brain cancer.

The thing that annoys me most about this story, other than the fact that it’s become such a big story, giving this disturbed young woman more publicity than she ever deserved, is that she blames it all on a troubled childhood. “As a child, she says her mother changed her name five times for reasons she doesn’t comprehend.” Reports Clair Weaver of The Australian Women’s Weekly.

Gibson isn’t the first person to use their upbringing or mental illness as an excuse for bad behavior. How many sports people have we heard use the terms bi-polar and attention deficit disorder as an excuse to drink and take drunks in the last few years? It’s like a broken record playing over and over.

Stories like Belle Gibson make me angry, not because she lied and continues to lie, it makes me angry because I and many other people survived equally or worse troubled childhoods and didn’t turn out to be lying, manipulative sociopaths.

It’s widely accepted in society that children from broken and abusive homes will have a tougher time maintaining healthy relationships and holding steady employment as they grow up. Let me tell you something. I have had both for the majority of my adult life. I have friends from “healthy” and “normal” families however who are a complete mess! No childhood is an excuse to be a grownup douche bag.

Reading this story over and over today left me wondering, is this a woman a victim of society, or is society a victim of her? Obviously there are no winners in this story. Although she may have been riding the wave of fame and fortune, she has certainly neither in her corner now, and she’s dragging her young son down on the sinking ship with her.

Maybe Gibson isn’t so much a product of a tough upbringing, but a product of her own feelings of desperation and insignificance. A woman who felt so invisible she built herself up by tempting fate and lying about having a terminal illness.

I wouldn’t ever make an excuse for her actions and I think she should be prosecuted for fraud and made to pay back every penny but the woman is obviously unstable and needs help.

Maybe what started as a little white lie should have been seen as a big red flag!

hands off!

It was one of those blustery, rainy days in Sydney this morning and I was lucky to get the last seat on the bus on my way to work. It was in the middle of the very back seat. The windows were fogged up and after the next 2 stops the isle was packed with passengers. I had to take a few deep breaths to ward off the impending panic attack and claustrophobia.

About 30 minutes in to my journey I noticed the male passenger beside me was sitting uncomfortably close. It’s true, the bus was packed, but there was plenty of room on the back seat and I had intentionally made sure there was no contact with the men on either side of me when I sat down. Yet, despite numerous shuffles and rearrangements, Mr Friendly was once again sitting right against me.

It’s not the first time a male passenger has tried to cop a feel on the bus. A few years ago a young man had me pinned me against the window of the bus while he groped around my legs and up my side. He then got off at my stop and started following me home. Thank goodness I ran in to one of my husband’s friends who walked me to my front door.

After both experiences I was left humiliated and angry. Humiliated that any strange man would feel the right to treat me this way and angry that I didn’t make a scene and say something at the intrusion.

I’m not a beautiful woman, I think I am attractive enough to blend in to the crowd. Not so pretty or ugly that I attract attention, just pleasant enough to forget. So it always surprises me when these things happen. “Why me?” I think. There are much prettier and skinnier girls. Plain Jane syndrome is supposed to come with benefits!

Sitting there this morning with this strange man’s hand against me I couldn’t help but think, why is it still the woman left feeling guilty after this sort of violation? With all the education around our right to speak up and demand respect, are we still programmed to believe somehow we deserve it? With all the perks of feminism and rights in our hands, are we now just “empowered” victims?

It’s a frightening statistic but 1 in 5 women will be raped in their lifetime. Someone you know has suffered sexual assault at some point in their lives.

I know women close to me who have been raped, physically and verbally assaulted and beaten by their partners or other men in their lives. None have been reported to police and none of the men in question have ever spent one night in prison to pay for it. In fact, over 50% of sexual assaults go unreported every year. Most of these women know their attacker but will never tell.

Mr Friendly on the bus was small fries but it’s all part of the same pie. As long as men feel entitled to treat women as objects that is what we will remain. It’s no longer about empowering women but educating and holding the men in our society accountable, ALL the men, even the rich entitled ones.

Enough teaching women how to take care of themselves on the dark walk home, it’s time to teach men to KEEP THEIR HANDS OFF and stay on their side of the damn seat!

“Here’s a hot tip… Stop telling girls how to dress and start teaching boys NOT TO F*!KING RAPE!”

white-ribbon2

innocence lost

On Monday 15 of December 2014, barrister and mother of 3 Katrina Dawson walked in to the Lindt café in Sydney’s Martin Place for her morning coffee with pregnant colleague and fellow barrister Julie Taylor. They had no idea that moments later, their lives and the lives of 15 other Lindt customers and staff would be forever changed.

As channel seven broadcast their live Sunrise program across the mall, a bearded 50 year old man entered through the café’s sliding glass doors. He was wearing a bandanna and carrying a blue bag containing a shotgun. The man was Man Haron Monis.

A woman trying to enter the café shortly after Monis found the glass door disabled and noticed patrons inside being ordered on to the floor. Believing she was witnessing an armed robbery she called police.

About a minute later a staff member arriving for work found he also could not enter through the main door and watched what was happening through the glass. He too believed his fellow Lindt workers and customers were being held up.

As police arrived, the faces of 17 terrified hostages appeared in the café windows. They were told to stand with their hands on the glass and their eyes closed. Some were forced to hold black flags against the windows. As Australia watched live on Sunrise, the flags came in to focus and a collective gasp rang out across the country. We’ve seen flags like this before. In that moment we thought, this is not an armed robbery. Australia, Sydney, is under terrorist attack.lindt

In the days following we would learn that Man Haron Monis was no terrorist. He was a man seeking fame and the attention of those he idolised. He was not acting as part of a political attack on Australia. He was not a soldier of the Islamic State. He was a desperate mad man wanting to make a name for himself and be a hero in a war he had never lifted arms for.

Man Haron Monis was a refugee who fled from Iran to the safety of Australia in 1996, claiming he was persecuted for his liberal take on Islam. In the years that followed he became a self-proclaimed spiritual healer and a self-anointed sheikh with no authority or standing in the Australian Muslim community. He was convicted of harassing the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan and an Austrade official who died in the Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta and at the time of the Lindt siege was on bail for his alleged complicity in the murder of his former wife.

Monis identified himself to his hostages as The Brother, and as police began evacuating Martin Place and the surrounding area, he began outlining his demands to them. It was only when messages and videos began appearing on social media that we began to understand what the faces in those windows were enduring inside the café.

Marcia Mikhael, a project manager and mother of three from Sydney’s north-west was forced to post to her Facebook page. “He is now threatening to start killing us,” Ms Mikhael wrote. “We need help right now. The man wants the world to know that Australia is under attack by the Islamic State.”

At 4:35pm, hope. Two male hostages made a break for freedom from the main door, followed by a male Lindt employee through a fire escape. Just before 5pm two female employees also escaped. Could this be the gun man relenting and letting hostages go? No.

Inside the café, Monis was now infuriated. He instructed hostage, 19 year old Jarrod Hoffman, to call radio 2GB and The Daily Telegraph to relay his demands: a direct line with Prime Minister Tony Abbott and an Islamic flag delivered to the café.

“He says an eye for an eye,” Mr Hoffman said. “If someone else runs, someone dies.”

None of Monis’s demands were met. However he persevered, instructing hostages Selina Win Pe and Julie Taylor to post videos shot on a smart phone to social media outlining his demands again. Other videos were also uploaded, with no result.

The demands would never be met.

By 2am Monis was tired. It had been 16 hours since the siege began. The hostages saw their only chance and ran for the exit. Monis woke. Tori Johnson, the café manager, attempted to wrestle the gun from him and Monis shot him dead. Reports also suggest that Mr Johnson was badly beaten before being shot.

At 2:03am six hostages fled through a service door. They included Harriette Denny, Jarrod Hoffman and software engineer Viswakanth Ankireddy, a 32-year-old from India who is living in Sydney with his wife and young daughter and working on a Westpac project.

Outside, police had heard shots and a sniper in the channel seven building had seen Mr Johnson go down, reports said. Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione later said that police now had to storm the café to stop more casualties.

At approximately 2:10am police shot out the glass doors and entered the café in a hail of bullets and flashes of light.

In those final, terrifying moments, they killed Monis. Barrister and mother, Katrina Dawson, who 16 hours earlier had entered the café for her morning coffee, was also killed in the firefight. Reports suggest she was protecting her pregnant friend Julie Taylor. Police believe it was Monis’s bullet that killed her.

Injured in those final seconds were Marcia Mikhael, shot in the leg, a 75-year-old woman shot in the shoulder, a 52-year-old woman who was shot in the foot, and a 39-year-old policeman whose face was sprayed with pellets.

Fifteen hostages were alive, but Ms Dawson and Mr Johnson became the victims of Man Haron Monis, a delusional lone wolf who wanted the world to believe he was an Islamic State warrior when he was nothing more than a wannabe terrorist and coward.

Nobody believed in him. No one thought he was a threat. But he was dangerous and, for over 16 hours, he held a nation hostage and stole our innocence forever.

 

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