Sunday, April 29, 2007

World: Displace Me in Solidarity with Uganda

The Displace Me event seeks to raise awareness of the plight of children in Northern Uganda where a civil war has raged for 21 years.

Here is a background report on the civil war.

Here is an item from PBS Newshour on the latest diplomatic efforts to resolve the civil war.

Displace Me rallies occurred in 15 cities in the United States. I went to the one in the Los Angeles area at the Pomona Fairplex and met up with some people from my church's youth group. Here is the event description on the Fairplex web page:
On April 28, Invisible Children will host a nationwide event called “Displace Me” to raise awareness about the Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDP) camps and the effects of the 21-year war in Northern Uganda. Invisible Children is a media-based non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring and educating youth around the world, creating lasting social change. The Fairplex is one of 15 locations across the U.S. that will bring together thousands of youth to imagine for 24 hours what it’s like to be one of the millions in Uganda who have been displaced due to the war. Say “Displace Me," and leave your home to bring them home. Everyone who comes to “Displace Me” will be asked to bring the following: enough cardboard to build something the size of a small tent, a sleeping bag, a 1.5-liter bottle of water (with an airtight seal, to be collected upon entry,) a box of Saltine crackers (yes, they need to be Saltines, with sealed packaging, also to be collected upon entry, and a current photo of yourself wearing a white t-shirt with a red X. Event hours are 3 p.m. Saturday - 10 a.m. Sunday.
In regard to the cause and scale of the displacement camps, quoting from Resolve Uganda:
The toll of this crisis has been massive, not only on the people of northern Uganda, but also on the surrounding region. The LRA is currently wreaking havoc in three countries, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan, and causing widespread instability. The Ugandan government’s strategy of moving northerners into “protected villages” has turned into a displacement nightmare for 1.7 million people – over 80% of the region – who now live in squalid camps and lack access to basic resources. According to recent reports, 1,000 people are dying each week as a result of camp conditions. Again, children have been the primary victims. One-half of those displaced are under fifteen years of age and more than a third of boys and one-sixth of girls bear the scars of forced soldiering and sexual slavery in northern Uganda. For many years, upwards up 40,000 of these children “commuted” up to two hours every night to sleep on town streets to avoid abduction.
The Invisible Children movement of which Displace Me is one event was started by three young filmmakers from California who went to Uganda in 2003 and produced the documentary, Invisible Children: Rough Cut.

They decided to spread the story with modern media technologies and to mobilize people to take action by donating to relief work in Uganda and exerting political pressure for a resolution of the crisis. The rallies in 15 cities provided the organizers opportunities for speakers to share about what is happening in Uganda and to show videos to further educate and motivate the participants to take whatever action they can to bring relief and peace to the troubled region.

The large size of the events draw media coverage allowing the message to spread further. Here is a Kansas City Star feature story of the Displace Me rally in Kansas City.

The event even caught the attention of the White House as each of the 15 locations saw a video message from First Lady Laura Bush commending the activism of the youthful movement and describing some of the initiatives pertaining to Africa the Bush Administration has taken.

Probably one of the most moving moments at the event was the 21 minutes of silence to recognize that the civil war has raged for 21 years. The speaker encouraged the participants to be silent and reflect on the situation and what one wants to do about it and to pray for Uganda and all involved if they were inclined to prayer.

For me, during that time, the images of the suffering children from the videos would float in my mind and I would ask God to help people in the region and around the world to do whatever they can to bring peace, healing and justice to that trouble region. As I prayed, I could not help but think of other troubled places in the world where death and suffering is caused by war. Our hearts were both angered and saddened as we contemplated how much sorrow there is in those places and we resolved to do something about it.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Here is a feature story on the event on the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.

At the moment, there is a ceasefire in Uganda and negotiations are taking place. Camp residents are cautious but hopeful.

Wouldn't it be something if sometime over the year, the war came to an end and the people can go home to the countryside without fear and displacement camps will be no more?

Let's pray and work to make it so!


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Music: How much money would Joshua Bell make playing in a Metro Station?

A really fascinating article in the WaPo about what happened on January 12 when world renown violist Joshua Bell played music in the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station in Washington DC during the morning rush hour commute.

He played several of the most difficult and beautiful works for solo violin on his $3.5 million dollar 1713 Stradivari violin.

To read what happened, go here. There are also 4 video clips highlighting the story.

HT: Deceptively Simple.

Blogs writing about this article.

BTW: Joshua Bell made $32.17 in 43 minutes.

Here is the online chat with the writer of the story.


Culture: 60 years ago Jackie Robinson ...

Image source:

60 years ago, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball.

Over at is a whole bunch of features about the celebration of that historic moment and about a life well led.

Ceremonies at all games played tomorrow, April 15, will be held in recognition of Robinson. Most notable will be the wearing of uniforms with the number 42 on them by players who wish to honor Robinson in that way. The number had been retired by the MLB with only players who already were using number 42 allowed to continue wearing it. As of today, only Mariano Rivera is in that group. Of the honor he said:
As a minority, I feel honored wearing the No. 42 and carrying the legacy that Jackie Robinson left. I wear it with good pride. That's the way it goes. All the guys retired or left, and I'm still carrying the number. I feel blessed for that.
The idea of wearing 42 came from Ken Griffey, Jr.
It's just my way of giving that man his due respect. I just called Bud (commissioner of baseball Selig) and asked him if I could do it. He made a couple of phone calls and said, Yeah. We had a good conversation. It was about me wearing it on that day, and only that day.
Each jersey used in the remembrance will be auctioned and the proceeds donated to the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Quoting from their "about the foundation page:"
The Jackie Robinson Foundation (JRF) is a public, not-for-profit national organization founded by Rachel Robinson in 1973 as a vehicle to perpetuate the memory of Jackie Robinson and his achievements. Serving as an advocate for young people with the greatest need, the Foundation assists increasing numbers of minority youths through the granting of four-year scholarships for higher education.

The Jackie Robinson Foundation provides much more than financial support. While each Jackie Robinson Scholar receives up to $7,200 a year in financial support, they also become an active member in the Foundation’s unique Education and Leadership Development Program, which is an extensive mentoring program that includes attendance at workshops, assignment of a peer and a professional mentor and placement into summer internships and permanent employment.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Culture: Who am I?

Recently, one of the games we played at our youth group involved putting the name of someone in the pop-culture on the forehead such that the wearer can't see the name. One then asks yes/no questions to gain clues to the identity.

Can you guess who I am?

Am I a man? No.
Am I a real person? Yes.
Am I in the news? Yes.
Am I a political figure? No.
Am I a sports figure? No.
Am I in the movies? Yes.
Am I pretty? Yes.
Am I funny? Yes.
Am I this person? Yes!

Did you guess correctly?


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Art: Reflections on a Holy Saturday

As I look over Handel's Messiah, I think track 31 is the place that sort of describes the Saturday between the the Crucifixion and Resurrection. It would fit in a Good Friday mediation. Track 32 belongs with Sunday and Resurrection

Isaiah 53:8b
he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of [Thy] people was He stricken.

Jesus was taken off the Cross and prepared and placed into the tomb.

One of the most iconic works of art is Mary, the mother of Jesus, holding the dead Jesus.

Michelangelo's Pieta (1499), St. Peter's Basilica
Image source:

On Saturday, what did it feel like to be Mary?

Would she replay in her mind all she saw on Friday?

What did it feel like to be Peter?

He had promised to die for Jesus and he had denied Jesus and Jesus was dead.

What did it feel like to be any of the followers of Jesus?

Did they meet together and talk about what had just happened?

Did any of them think about the times Jesus talked about dying and rising from the dead?

On Saturday, their thoughts were on this: he was cut off out of the land of the living...

I wonder to what degree they thought about the second half: for the transgression of Thy people was He stricken?

I wonder to what degree they thought about what Jesus said in Mark 8:31 and in other places: He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.

Were they simply lost in grief and forgetting all Jesus taught about the bigger picture?

I could hardly blame them.

On Saturday, their thoughts may well have only been about the last images from Friday.

Image source:


Life: The Bright Side of Free Will

So on Friday nights, I'm often with junior high students from my church.

It is an interesting age. Prior to that age, kids tend to be like sponges taking in everything they hear more or less without question. But something happens when kids hit 12-14! They begin to wonder a bit about what they hear. But then again their attention spans aren't real long so if the subject is complex they might follow for a a little bit and then like a gust of wind sweeps in and their minds are elsewhere.

So last night, somehow, we got on the subject of free will. And, just like most adults I've had conversations about this subject, the focus quickly went to the dark side of free will and the persistence of evil. One of our adult leaders tried and eventually got them to think about the other side of free will: love.

It was interesting to see how it took several tries to get the group to go down that road and see the logical consequences of the bright side of free will. For just for a few moments, they were grabbing onto it and that was exciting to see. Of course, shortly after that, their minds flew off in another direction. But for a few moments here and there they were on track and those are the teachable moments we pray for and live for!

It was a good Good Friday evening with the students.


Friday, April 06, 2007

Life: You can't fight city hall

Good morning!

$70 please.

Yup, I had been good for a while. I had managed to go a number of weeks without a parking ticket but today, there it was issued at 7:05AM for $70.

I indirectly pay property tax by paying rent.

I pay another "property tax" of sorts with the parking tickets I get each year because I live in this zip code.

Speaking of taxes, April 15 is just around the corner and so a quick check of ...

While we are at it, might as well have everyone check out "PacMan" by "Weird Al" Yankovic.