Category Archives: Religion

On identity

Applying for your residency visa involves filling about a ridiculous amount of forms and getting a medical. But some of the questions asked on the application throw up questions about myself.

One is “religion/sect”. I seldom refer to religion when talking about myself — I don’t like labels. But this was a required question: and so down on the form went “Christian/Catholic”. I can’t say I’m accustomed to referring to the divisions of Christianity as sects, even though that’s exactly what they are. For me the word conjures up images of small, close-knit groups.

Of course such divisions do not apply solely to Christianity, there is a large one in Islam as well. But again — and even though I’m familiar with the word from Northern Irish history — the word “sect” doesn’t quite capture it for me. My brain doesn’t seem to want to accept it.

I’m not used to thinking of myself as a “Westerner” either, though the term is in common usage regarding surveys by one of the papers here. Is that my own bias, or do people of all nations who relocate find themselves in the same jarring situation?

My name has also proved interesting. Nobody can pronounce the English form correctly, so there is much confusion when they see my Irish one. Which, incidentally, has had at least five different spelling variations since I got here. Trying to explain that Irish people have names in both the Irish and English languages doesn’t seem to work as well as I’d like. That said most people seem cool with it. I just wish people would spell the damn thing right!

ADDENDUM: Facebook has again been blocked at work, so I can’t regularly check messages or play Scrabulous etc. Getting the web at home is not as straightforward as it appears, as is much here. FB access depends on finding internet cafes, and I may only get in once or twice a week until further notice.

Links of the day

The small farm and the cow. The man continues to inspire. (Paul Coehlo)

Tapes released of Simpson in Vegas. If these tapes are accurate Simpson is quite possibly the dumbest man in existence. (AP)

Ramadan’s peaceful roots.  (James Carroll/International Herald Tribune)

NY attorney general investigating energy companies. He’s probing if investors were given enough information about the financial risks of CO2 emissions of five firms’ future coal-power plants. (Earth2Tech)

Rule change favours Pakistan’s Musharraf. Seems he’ll be able to seek a new term as president while still head of the army. Slimy bollix. (AP)

Belgium to split? A division into Walloon and Flemish regions is looking more and more likely. (Catholicgauze)

Wallonie-sur-Mer. While we’re on the subject of Belgium, what the country would look like if the Flemish part was submerged, leaving only French-speaking areas. Plus an interesting few facts on how many governments the nation has. (Strange Maps)

Pervy priests

The Catholic Church in San Diego is to pay 144 clerical sex abuse victims a total of $198m (€143m).

This is the second biggest settlement of its kind in US history, the largest being the $660m the LA diocese agreed with 500 victims.

San Diego Bishop Robert Brom said he hoped the settlement would give closure:

The diocese has always been committed to resolving this litigation in a way that fairly compensates these victims of abuse and would still preserve the ongoing ministries and programs of the church.

We pray that this settlement will bring some closure and healing to the years of suffering experience by these victims.

The San Diego diocese filed for bankruptcy protection so it could meet the required compensation. It and four other dioceses filed in the face of civil lawsuits — although a judge had threatened to throw out San Diego’s protection if it didn’t agree sums with the victims.

The settlement comes after four years of talks.

Victims as quoted by the Associated Press:

“We shouldn’t have had to go through all this,” Betty Schneider, 62, of Temecula, told reporters in front of the federal courthouse. She said she was molested as a 10-year-old member of her church choir.

“I have grandkids the same age I was, and I hope all this helps kids to be protected better than we were protected,” she said.

Michael Bang of Atlanta said no settlement could be considered fair.

“They knew all along that I’d been molested, so to put me through this is unconscionable,” he said.

A court will decide exactly how much each person receives, but the average payout will be $1.3m. I really don’t think that’s enough, do you?

What would Jesus do?

Malaysia has banned a Tamil-language paper for one month for printing a picture of Jesus with a cigarette in one hand and a can of beer in the other.

Makkal Osai printed the caricature last Tuesday on its front page with a caption quoting Christ as saying: “If someone repents for his mistakes, then heaven awaits them.”


The paper’s editor apologised, saying the caricature had been taken from the internet, but a local politician filed a police report, calling it a “threat to national harmony”.


Periasamy said the graphic artist who downloaded the picture of Jesus had overlooked the fact that the picture had been altered to insert a cigarette in one hand and another object, possibly a can, in the other.


The artist had since been suspended, he said.

Most church groups were, understandably enough, a bit miffed by this. However, they accept apologies from the paper.

Christians make up about 9% of Malaysia’s population, with 60% Muslim, 19% Buddhist and 6% Hindu. The government previously closed two publications for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad (you no doubt remember the controversy over those Danish cartoons). Officials from the largely Hindu Malaysian Indian Congress, which forms part of the government, have demanded Makkal Osai’s editor be sacked and the paper closed.

I can’t find the image the paper used, but a trawl through the interweb has thrown up several along the same lines. Do these pictures offend you?