…and rather more about who they are and what they do.
To that extent I simply do not get excited about the current round of debates about atheism. I can happily read Richard Dawkins and agree with much that he says; I am an atheist too when it comes to old men with beards sitting on thrones somewhere above the sky. I am an atheist when it comes to those same old men dictating or writing instruction books valid for all humanity for all time. Hasn’t happened. People have written books or dictated them, out of their own historical moments, in their own cultural contexts, with much in them that should carry use-by dates. Those vainly seeking certainty in such books or in the institutions those books may have spawned are often taking humanity to perdition by the shortest possible route. On the other hand I can conceive that God, a concept beyond language — hence my Christmas poem #3, does speak if we will listen, and that voice is in the Bible, the Qu’ran, the Tao Te Ching, and in many other times, texts, and circumstances, as well as in actions such as these:
ALI MOORE: It’s been 13 years since up to a million people were killed during a 100-day killing spree in the African country of Rwanda.
The scale and speed of the slaughter of most ethnic Tutsis by the Hutu people shocked the world. Today, communities there are still trying to rebuild after the devastation.
Three families who survived the genocide and moved to Tasmania as refugees have come up with a unique way to help those back in their homeland. The Rwandan Coffee Club raises money to buy cows for villages, and as Jocelyn Nettlefold reports, this latte set is making a lot of difference to many lives.
AUBERT RUZIGANDEKWE, RWANDAN REFUGEE: Because I know soccer, it helped me to, you know, integrate.
JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: This season, Aubert Ruzigandekwe wants to lead the Hobart United team to premiership glory. Most of the players share more than just fancy footwork, they are refugees from war torn countries.
AUBERT RUZIGANDEKWE: They came through horrible, horrible stuff, so when you play, you forget a little bit about your problems, you forget about your past…
JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: Aubert Ruzigandekwe, an ethnic Tutsi, was working for the Department of Agriculture when civil unrest erupted in Rwanda 13 years ago. It’s estimated up to a million of his countrymen were killed.
AUBERT RUZIGANDEKWE: It was difficult for us, still, to imagine how your friend can become, just in one second, your enemy and try to kill you, and that’s what happened.
FAINA ILIGOGA, WIFE: And we lost everything, you know.
JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: Aubert Ruzigandekwe and his wife, Faina Iligoga, lost their parents, most of their siblings and friends.
AUBERT RUZIGANDEKWE: So we’re so, so lucky, yeah, to be still alive.
AUBERT RUZIGANDEKWE: Yet the family had to endure four years of separation before finally being reunited in Hobart in 2004.
FAINA ILIGOGA: We came here without knowing anyone, without having a family here, or friends. But actually to came here in a safe place, and we got love from people.
JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: One of their new friends, Anglican priest John Middleton, said it was difficult knowing how to help.
JOHN MIDDLETON, RWANDAN COFFEE CLUB: All refugees have experienced the kind of, you know, “why wasn’t I killed?” guilt feeling, as well as that sort of great desire to be able to do something more than send a few dollars home.
JOCELYN NETTLEFOLD: A year ago Reverend Middleton came up with the idea of the Rwandan Coffee Club… — 7.30 Report
There is an account of this project on the Anglican Church in Tasmania site.
Learning about different cultures has many benefits for everyone. John Middleton tells about a link his church has forged with refugees from the Rwandan genocide.
Hobart has a small community of Rwandan Tutsi genocide survivor refugees. Presently thirteen in number and comprising two families, the Rwandans have a loose relationship with St Mark’s Anglican Church at Cygnet. This had led to the formation of a Rwandan Refugee Support Group, which is drawn from the community at large as well as St Mark’s.
The Support Group recently held the third annual commemoration of the genocide. The first such commemoration in Tasmania attracted about 50 people. This year more than 300 people attended the ceremony at the Wesley Church Hall in Hobart, including Rwandan Tutsi genocide survivors from Brisbane and Sydney, and an Australian UNHCR medic from Adelaide, who was stationed in Rwanda following the genocide.
Life for the survivors in Hobart cannot be isolated from the lives of those in Rwanda who live in a country where the genocide ideology is still alive. Reports in the Rwandan press regularly tell the story. Recently an elderly survivor widow had her cow maliciously killed, removing not only her primary source of sustenance but also her hope, keeping her oppressed and threatened. Only months ago a furore erupted when a Government minister heading a committee dealing with justice issues for survivors stated publicly that ‘it was a pity they didn’t do the job properly’ (in other words: ‘and kill the lot’.) This minister lost her job over the matter; it speaks volumes about the mindset which still exists twelve years after the genocide.
There have been several murders of survivors since 1994 to prevent them from witnessing against perpetrators in court proceedings, and bashings are commonplace. 65% of survivor widows are infected with HIV due to rape during the genocide. These victims usually receive no support from government for treatment. 100,000 households of genocide orphans are headed by children who were aged between 7 – 12 years old in 1994. They have cared for their siblings for the past twelve years and none of the children has been educated. They managed to survive the aftermath – education was a luxury beyond their reach.
The Hobart survivors have begun what they call the ‘Rwandan Coffee Club’
They sell coffee and tea (and other items in due course) through their web site. The objective is to help fund projects in Rwanda to improve the lot of the survivors there.
Church groups and individuals are invited to join the Club, not by subscription, but by being ambassadors for Rwandan survivors by telling the story. The website has information about the catastrophe and encourages people to buy tea and coffee via the site.
And while sharing my enthusiasm for the Rwandan Coffee Club project and for the open spirit towards African migrants it embodies you may well be wondering where the voice of God was when the Hutus and Tutsis were killing one another. So do I, and I can’t answer that. Faith, doubt, uncertainty, questions that scream out for answers but find none — all part of the package, as far as I’m concerned, and much better than either cynicism or glib but spurious certainty.
If you listen you may even find God speaking to/through an atheist as well…
Not that I am accusing Bruce of channeling, but he does say some good things on his post The “cult” of atheism and its detractors; faux-academics and the theologically partisan media, even if it is in places in that Bruce-speak his detractors love to mock. Better though to discern what Bruce really is saying, as is true when reading anyone.
I’ve met moral relativists of a range of religious persuasions (especially in the inter-faith movement). Heck, I’ve come across more than one Catholic who has been of the opinion that if I died as I am, as an atheist, that I’d go to heaven. Even the previous Pope thought that atheists honored the holy spirit in their own way. And utilitarianism. Seriously, if you haven’t met a Christian who either hasn’t used the harm principle to resolve a conflict of absolutes, or who uses the harm principal as a matter of course, then you need to get out more…
This idea of atheism as a belief system doesn’t work. Atheists occupy a range of belief systems not unique to atheists. Heck, there are even pagan atheists…
As an atheist in Australia, I’ve found my perspective to be similar to that of a number Muslims, Christians and Buddhists. Aside from the obvious difference of a belief in a God, and a few cultural practices (few of which actually exclude atheists) we’ve lamented banal mass-manufactured culture together, made use of utilitarian ethics, derided Intelligent Design’s attack on science and been offended by attempts at divisiveness.
There is no atheist world view. There is no “cult of atheism”. Just a lot of atheists interested in atheist writing…
Bruce and Arthur do get upset, however, with some of the product of the ABC’s Religion Department, especially Rachel Kohn’s and Stephen Crittenden’s recent forays into contemporary atheism, which B and A rightly see as biased. I listen to both programs on occasion, and sometimes find them informative and interesting; fundamentalists probably never listen to them, on the other hand, because for all that there are valid objections to some of the presentations B and A refer to, neither program is fundamentalist-friendly. Nor should we stress out over the ABC running them; you can agree or disagree — and you can always listen to Phillip Adams or the Science Show instead. In fact far more people would listen to those shows, I would suggest, than do to Kohn and Crittenden. Sadly, very few people listen to any of them; they are probably watching commercial television instead…
The points Bruce makes about positions falsely attributed to Richard Dawkins are well made and should be noted by everyone taking part in this discussion.
That said, I am in some respects opting out of the discussion. Too old perhaps. Too set in my ways. I will however vent a few more heresies before Christmas; my friends at South Sydney will forgive them I’m sure, may even agree with some of them…
Damned glad people like John Middleton exist though.