Showing posts with label Religion Related. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Religion Related. Show all posts

23 February 2020

Let's Make China Free The Uyghurs!

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Let's Make China Free The Uyghurs!
Let's Make China Free The Uyghurs! (image via Avaaz.org)
Dear friends,

Coronavirus put China in the spotlight, but there's another crisis it wants to hide from the world: 1 million Uyghurs have been brutally detained and brainwashed by Chinese authorities!

Women raped and tortured, children stolen from their parents.

It's too horrific to believe this is happening in 2020 and most of our governments aren't brave enough to speak up. But we won't remain silent! In days, the UN could discuss this nightmare, and insiders say that a global call to bravery can get key countries to finally challenge China. If everyone reading signs now, we can deliver 1 million signatures into the meeting -- 1 for every Uyghur who has been detained!

Then, we'll take survivors' voices to parliaments across the world and pressure global companies to end their engagement in this cultural genocide -- showing China and the world that we won't let go until the Uyghurs are free.
Click here to sign the urgent call to free the Uyghurs!
Beijing has felt threatened by the Uyghur community for decades -- but it's steadily gone from caution to control, to repression, and now mass incarceration and indoctrination. The sheer scale of the repression requires huge tech infrastructure -- facial recognition, surveillance on homes and public spaces, and massive DNA databases.

Global brands offer capital and tech, while China offers up forced labor and huge returns on investment in Chinese surveillance technologies -- it’s an unholy alliance! But if the UN, governments, companies, and investors speak out, impose sanctions on those responsible, and throttle funding streams coming into China, Beijing could shift course… and we could make it happen!

Recently, a Holocaust survivor offered an 11th Commandment for humanity: “Thou shalt not be indifferent.” This is a matter of conscience for all of us.

Let’s start by compelling our governments to call on Beijing to protect the human rights of the Uyghur people. Then, we'll urge global investors and CEOs to break their silence and stop business as usual with China! 
Sign now and share with all of your friends.
Click here to sign the urgent call to free the Uyghurs!
Time and again our community has stood with brave minority groups fighting for their right to exist. From the Indigenous in the Amazon to the Maasai people in Kenya, we have amplified their voices for the world to hear. Now, let's amplify the voices of the Uyghurs suffering in mass brainwashing camps in China, and do all we can to help them walk free. Join now!

With hope and determination,

Loup Dargent
On behalf of Meetali, Diego, Luis, Huiting, Nataliya, Will, Wissam and the rest of the Avaaz team

More information:

27 December 2019

Reggae Artist, Safira Mono Targeted by VooDoo Community for Her Latest Single "Tunback Blow" [Video Included]

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Tunback Blow - Artwork
Tunback Blow - Artwork
Reggae artiste Safira Mono is getting a lot of flak from several individuals in various countries including Jamaica, Haiti and Ghana following the release of her recent single "Tunback Blow," produced by James Lord.

The single tackles the taboo topic of obeah, a system of spiritual and healing practices developed among enslaved West Africans in the West Indies. She hones in on a particular practice of the 'tunback blow' which is a means of deflecting evil sorcery onto the perpetrators of the original act.

"Obeah is real if we believe it to be so. Our minds are more powerful than we may have been led to believe. Therefore, if a person possesses an evil intent, the mind is powerful enough to manifest that evil into reality. I wrote and recorded 'Tunback Blow' based on life experiences. If we put out negative energy, we should also expect a negative return," she said.
The song was released recently and ignited a fierce online debate about the practice with some accusing Safira Mono of promoting sorcery and slackness.

Safira Mono
Safira Mono
Although obeah remains a popular practice among those of African ancestry, it is still frowned upon by society, and widely practiced in secrecy. In fact, obeah has been outlawed in Jamaica since 1760 after Tacky's Rebellion.

Variations of obeah are practiced in the Bahamas and in several Caribbean nations. Obeah was decriminalised in Anguilla in 1980, Barbados in 1998, Trinidad and Tobago in 2000, and St Lucia in 2004. In Guyana, the government recently announced its intention to remove the crime of obeah from the criminal code.

Last year, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck advocated that a new law to protect vulnerable people from being fleeced by those who exploit their beliefs, and suggested that there were moves afoot to repeal the 1898 Obeah Act. Chuck's remarks in Parliament ignited a firestorm of abuse on social media, and he clarified his comments, denying that the government wanted to make the practice of obeah legal.

"It is evident that Jamaica is not ready for talks about what to do with obeah, we have a complicated relationship with our African ancestry and heritage. But the government needs to understand that criminalising people's belief systems is unconstitutional and could be challenged in court," Safira Mono said.
Even at the height of the lucrative Christmas season, the annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, the practice is ramped up because of the high financial stakes involved.
"Obeah is practised all over Jamaica, is like it decriminalised already, dem more brave and open with it downtown and in some rural towns, especially commercial areas because of the intense competition to make sales. Trust me, if someone promises say dem ah go obeah yu, dem will dweet in front of your face, dem no 'fraid," Safira Mono said.

The Video:


SOURCE: Safira Mono

24 December 2019

Knights Templar: Still Loved By Conspiracy Theorists 900 Years On

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Knights Templar: Still Loved By Conspiracy Theorists 900 Years On
Conny Skogberg via Shutterstock 
On Christmas Day, 1119, the king of Jerusalem, Baldwin II persuaded a group of French knights led by Hugh de Payne II to save their souls by protecting pilgrims travelling the Holy Land. And so the Order of the Knights Templar was formed.

This revolutionary order of knights lived as monks and took vows of poverty and chastity, but these were monks with a difference – they would take up arms as knights to protect the civilians using the dangerous roads of the newly conquered Kingdom of Jerusalem. From these humble beginnings, the order would grow to become one of the premier Christian military forces of the Crusades.

Over the next 900 years, these warrior monks would become associated with the Holy Grail, the Freemasons and the occult. But are any of these associations true, or are they just baseless myth?

The Crusades ended in 1291 after the Christian capital of Acre fell to the Mameluke forces of Egypt and the Templars found themselves redundant. Despite their wealth and European holdings, their reason for existence had been to wage war in defence of the Holy Land.

But the French king Philip IV was in debt to the Templar order and, with the Holy land lost, he capitalised on their vulnerability and had the Templars arrested in France on Friday October 13, 1307 in a dawn raid on their Paris Temple and residences. In 1312, the order was abolished by papal decree and in 1314 the last grand-master, Jacque de Molay, was burned at the stake in Paris with three other Templars. With the order destroyed, any surviving former members joined other orders or monasteries. 

Execution of Jacques de Molay in Paris, March 1314.
Execution of Jacques de Molay in Paris, March 1314. Giovanni Villani, Nuova Cronica - ms. Chigiano L VIII 296 - Biblioteca Vaticana
Despite the arrests and charges of heresy being laid against the order, a document known as the Chinon Parchment was found in 2001 in the Vatican’s archives which documents that the Templars were, in fact, exonerated by the Catholic Church in 1312. But, despite clearing them of heresy, Pope Clement ordered that they be disbanded. 

Appropriation of a legend

The suppression of the Templars meant that there was nobody to safeguard their legacy. Since then, the order has been appropriated by other organisations – most notably as ancestors to the Masonic order in the 18th century and, more recently, by right-wing extremist groups such as the Knights Templar-UK and mass-murdering terrorist Anders Behring Breivik.

The Knights Templar’s association with Freemasonry is not so much a myth as it was a marketing campaign by 18th-century Freemasons to appeal to the aristocracy. Historian Frank Sanello explained in his 2003 book, The Knights Templars: God’s Warriors, the Devil’s Bankers, that initially it was Andrew Ramsey, a senior French Freemason of the era, who first made the link between the Freemasons and the Crusader knights.

But he originally claimed the Freemasons were descended from the crusading Order of the Knight Hospitaller. Of course, the Hospitallers were still operational, unlike the Knight Templar, so Ramsey quickly changed his claim to the Templars being the Freemasons’ crusading ancestry.

The Knights Templar had actually been mythologised in popular culture as early as the 13th century in the Grail epic Parzival by German knight and poet Wolfram von Eschenbach. In this Grail epic, the Knights Templar were included in the story as the guardians of the Grail. After the order’s sudden fall, these warrior monks became associated with conspiracies and the occult.

For some, a mystery still surrounds the fate of the Templar fortune (which was in reality seized by Phillip IV, with the majority of their property redistributed to the Hospitallers) and the Templar confessions (extracted under torture) to worshipping an idol dubbed Baphomet. The link between the Templars and the occult would resurface again in the 16th century in Henry Agrippa’s book De Occulta Philosophia.

Modern-day myth

Modern fiction continues to draw upon the widespread mysteries and fanciful theories. These mythical associations are key themes for many popular works of fiction, such as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code in which the Templars guard the Grail. The Templar myth has also found its way into the digital gaming format in the globally successful Assassin’s Creed franchise, in which the player must assassinate a villainous Templar.


Nine centuries after they were formed, the Templars remain the most iconic and infamous order of knights from the Crusades. The Templar legacy has grown beyond their medieval military role and the name has become synonymous with the occult, conspiracies, the Holy Grail and the Freemasons. But these are all false narratives – fantastical, but misleading.

The real legacy of the Templars remains with the Portuguese Order of Knights, Ordem dos Cavaleiros de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo (Order of the Knights of Jesus Christ). This order was created by King Diniz in 1319 with Papal permission due to the prominent role the Templars played in establishing the kingdom of Portugal. The new knighthood even moved into the Templars’ former headquarters at Tomar.

For historian Micheal Haag, this new order “was the Templars under another name” – but it pledged obedience to the king of Portugal and not the Pope like their Templar predecessors.

And so the essence of the Templar’s successors still exists today as a Portuguese order of merit for outstanding service – and the Templar myth continues to provide a rich source of inspiration for artistic endeavours.

About Today's Contributor:

Patrick Masters, Lecturer in Film Studies, University of Portsmouth

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

21 December 2019

"OOOM 100: The World's Most Inspiring People" 2019 Issue - Eight Women In The Top 10

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"OOOM 100: The World's Most Inspiring People" 2019 Issue - Eight Women In The Top 10
OOOM Magazine’s new issue with the OOOM 100: The World's Most Inspiring People list (PRNewsfoto/OOOM Holding GmbH)
OOOM Magazine published today its fourth annual OOOM 100: The World's Most Inspiring People list, compiled by an international jury. The results are remarkable: No less than eight spots in this year's OOOM 100's top 10 are claimed by women.

Greta Thunberg was voted the most inspiring person of 2019, who "grew into a symbol and role model for an entire generation, a generation that takes to the streets by the millions to protest for better climate policies," says OOOM Editor-In-Chief Georg Kindel, chairman of the jury. "She dominated the year and showed all of us with her persistence that every person on this planet has the power to change the world."

In second place of the OOOM 100 ranking is 
Jane Fonda: "Fonda stands out as a passionate climate activist who is fearless and radical in her protests, to the point that she accepts weekly arrests. She is a woman that shows us all what courage means," says the OOOM 100 jury.

Third place goes to 
Michelle Obama, who, in the words of the jury, "is the president of hearts, the antithesis to Trump's White House. A strong woman and role model for all."

Number 4 in the ranking of the world's most inspiring people is Sanna Marin, Finland's new prime minister and the world's youngest head of government at only 34: "She proves that real change is possible." In fifth place is American soccer star Megan Rapinoe, the FIFA Women's Player of the Year, who also fights vocally against the discrimination of homosexuals and minorities.

In sixth place is Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives. According to Jury Chairman Kindel, "She is Donald Trump's worst nightmare, and America's political conscience. Pelosi is a woman with principles, something America now needs more than ever."

In the seventh spot is Pope Francis, the highest ranking man in this year's vote ("A great spiritual leader, a hope for many"), followed by Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand as number 8: "She represents a modern type of power woman."

The ninth spot in this year's ranking is claimed by Tesla and Space-X founder Elon Musk: "Musk is a visionary who lets humanity reach for the stars." 


Number 10 goes to the much-awarded actress and screenwriter Phoebe Waller-Bridge (e.g., Fleabag): "She changes the image of women with charm and self-irony."

SOURCE: OOOM Holding GmbH

Related Stories:


1 November 2019

KAICIID Allocates 1.5 Million Euros for Initiatives to Counter Hate Speech in 2020

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More than 190 international delegates and guests, among them Heinz Fischer, former President of Austria and Adama Dieng, Special Advisor to the United Nations Secretary General for the Prevention of Genocide, will gather in Vienna on 30-31 October for a conference organised by the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) as a response to the UN Plan of Action on Hate Speech presented earlier this year.
More than 190 international delegates and guests, among them Heinz Fischer, former President of Austria and Adama Dieng, Special Advisor to the United Nations Secretary General for the Prevention of Genocide, will gather in Vienna on 30-31 October for a conference organised by the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) as a response to the UN Plan of Action on Hate Speech presented earlier this year. (Photo: Daniel Shaked)
Faisal bin Muammaar, Secretary General of the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) announced an allocation of nearly 1.5 million Euros for initiatives aimed at countering hate speech across the Centre's global programmes in 2020.
"The advent of the digital age has magnified the effects of antisemitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia and other manifestations leading to the isolation of individuals and groups on the basis of their identities, whether faith-based, gender-based or race-based," bin Muammaar said.

"The Centre aims to enhance the positive role of religious leaders and their institutions in countering hate speech and contributing to social cohesion at local and regional levels. To this end, I can announce that KAICIID is investing nearly 1.5 million Euros in 2020 towards the implementation of the recommendations and action plan agreed by this conference."
The investment, announced at an international conference organised by the Centre and attended by nearly 200 delegates and guests from all over the world, is intended to further align KAICIID's activities with the United Nations Plan of Action on Hate Speech announced earlier this year. The Centre was also involved in discussions leading to the 2017 UN Global Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actors to Prevent and Counter Incitement to Violence That Could Lead to Atrocity Crimes and has made countering incitement and hate speech a key component of its programmatic outreach.

KACIID's initiatives for next year will be administered in its focus countries and regions, comprised of Nigeria, the Arab region, Myanmar, Europe and the Central African Republic. They will include:

  • Social media campaigns against hate speech and training for vulnerable groups such as women and people seeking refuge to counter the phenomenon.
  • Supporting existing efforts and assisting in launching new national initiates to counter hate speech.
  • A tailored training programme for media experts, journalists and social media influencers on the responsible use of their channels.
And in a new initiative, the Centre will be investing a significant amount into gathering and presenting polling data to help inform and shape its programmes while at the same time improving its contribution to discussions at policy making levels.

These commitments follow an allocation this year of almost 900,000 Euros which have also been directed at programmatic interventions dealing with hate speech and its impact on social cohesion. This allocation is in addition to amounts spent in other programmatic activities.

The announcement was made during the conference entitled "The Power of Words: The Role of Religion, Media and Policy in Countering Hate Speech," which had keynote contributions made by the former Austrian President Heinz Fischer; Adama Dieng, Special Advisor to the United Nations Secretary General for the Prevention of Genocide; and Ján Figel, Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the European Union.

During his keynote address, Fischer told delegates: "If a word can have such an impact and such relevance, we can imagine what damage hate speech can bring to a human being, to a community, to society and to the principle of peaceful dialogue and respectful cooperation.

I accepted this invitation with pleasure, because I am ardently against hate speech and I am convinced that the overwhelming majority of the Austrian population is supporting this position. Fighting against hate speech is an essential element of defending human rights," the former President of Austria said.
Dieng for his part expressed concern over the growth of hate speech worldwide in recent years and commended KAICIID's work in the field. "At the United Nations we extremely value the work of KAICIID. We extremely value the convening of this first and historic conference on the power of words. We have to remember that the holocaust did not start with the gas chambers. It started much before with words. Words kill," he said.
Cardinal Miguel Ayuso Guixot, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, who represents the Holy See at KAICIID's Council of Parties and is a member of the Centre's Board was one of the high level religious leaders opening the conference. "World peace through human fraternity is not some idealistic dream but a reality that has emerged, taken hold in concrete ways, in events such as this, fostering dialogue and understanding. KAICIID is a living example of the efforts to counter hate speech, not only through the media, but by the very experience of working together to better relations and understanding between religions," he said.
The bulk of conference delegates were from the Arab region, where hate speech has been a major cause of division and violence. H.E Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayyah, President of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies and religious leaders representing the Arab region's Christian, Druze, Jewish, Muslim and Yazidi communities also attended. Many of them are part of the KAICIID-supported Interreligious Platform for Dialogue and Cooperation in the Arab World. The conference also received contributions by members of organisations such as the KAICIID-supported Muslim Jewish Leadership Council (MJLC), as well as other European experts, in order to produce shared perspectives and initiatives common to both regions.

The conference created specialist panels of experts to discuss countering hate speech in the policymaking, religious, media and educational fields. Delegates produced a special declaration and an action plan.

22 July 2019

Kate Magdalena's Streets of Any Town Highlights America's Homeless Crisis [Music Video Included]

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"On the corner of the streets of any town, there's a man who life forgot; he's going down." - Kate Magdalena
"On the corner of the streets of any town, there's a man who life forgot; he's going down." - Kate Magdalena
San Francisco recording artist and singer-songwriter Kate Magdalena wrote Streets of Any Town in response to a conversation with a homeless man on Nashville's honky-tonk street, Broadway. The song is this man's story, but it is also the larger story of men and women across America living on the streets. 

The song asks the question: is it really okay in the USA to allow people to live on the street? 

  • The song also packs a religious punch with its refrain "the least of you", recalling Jesus' words from Matthew 25:45 -- 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
The song is the fourth track released from Kate's album A Larger Dance coming in October, and available for pre-order next month. The songs have been recorded and produced by Grammy-nominated-producer Billy Smiley (Johnny Cash, Whiteheart, Clay Aiken, and the Newsboys) and feature some of Nashville's finest musicians with Fred Eltringham (The Wallflowers and Sheryl Crow), Byron House (Robert Plant and the Band of Joy), Blair Masters (Garth Brooks) and Brennan Smiley(The Technicolors).

Streets of Any Town will be playing on local country radio stations across America, promoted by Grassroots Promotion, out of Nashville. Kate hopes that the song, and its accompanying music video may be of use to any individual or agency working with issues of homelessness. 

The Music Video:


About Kate Magdalena

For Kate, singing is a way to bring what is inside, outside. It is to make the invisible audible. Kate has an ability to move her listeners with her voice, to bring pleasure and joy. Kate was raised in an era in which people looked to the arts and music to inspire social activism. Like Dylan's great songs, Kate's music addresses some of the pressing issues of our own day.


25 June 2019

"Cover of Future" Boosts Global Awareness on Climate Change with Art

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The original "Cover of Future" displayed at Tam The Palace of Tam Chuc Temple in Kim Bang, Ha Nam Province, Vietnam during 2019 UN Vesak festival
The original "Cover of Future" displayed at Tam The Palace of Tam Chuc Temple in Kim Bang, Ha Nam Province, Vietnam during 2019 UN Vesak festival
Scientists warn there are only a dozen years before millions of people experience the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty due to climate change (more details here). 

  • This warning was also announced loud and clear to world leaders, Buddhist leaders, and Buddhists around the world at the United Nation's 2019 Vesak Festival through one single painting.
Called the "Cover of Future", Vietnamese artist Nguyen Thi Kim Duc used traditional Vietnamese silk, Van Gogh inspired water colors, soft but bold strokes, together with deep and lifeless colours to paint a dying tree, partly submerged in sea water. This painting depicts the devastating results of climate change - a world without green trees, animals and humans.

Using a simple painting style, Mrs. Nguyen wanted the artwork to pass from "heart to heart", relaying her love for the environment, like in Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu's words: "People rely on land, land relies on God, God relies on religion, religion relies on nature". She also wanted people to realize that the planet can only be saved if they change their wasteful and polluting habits.

105 copies of this painting were given to the heads of states and leaders of Buddhism from over 100 countries who attended attend the Vesak celebrations. They include Buddhist leaders such as Professor, Dr. Phra Brahmapundit - Chairman of the International Council for the Day of Vesak (ICDV), Mr. Nguyen Manh Hung - Minister of Information and Communication of Vietnam, Ryan Giggs - Coach of the Welsh National Football Team, the Prime Minister of Nepal, the President of Bhutan's Senate, and Sang Ji Zha Xi - Deputy Secretary General of the Chinese Buddhist Church. They were all very sympathetic and touched upon receiving the painting.
"Through the "Cover of Future, I want to remind world leaders about their responsibility of preserving our world. As the decision-makers, they must take the lead in this fight to spread the message of taking responsibility to protect the environment to their people and if they don't take action straight away, the world will end. I want to see them hang this picture in their living room, so they can be reminded of their duty daily," said artist Nguyen Thi Kim Duc.
Artist Nguyen Thi Kim Duc - A Vietnamese businesswoman who wants to see a green future and succeeded in captivating world leaders' attention on this issue at the 2019 UN Vesak festival
Artist Nguyen Thi Kim Duc - A Vietnamese businesswoman who wants to see a green future and succeeded in captivating world leaders' attention on this issue at the 2019 UN Vesak festival

About the Artist

Nguyen Thi Km Duc currently serves as the Director of the Institute of Human Resources – HV Talent and the Chairman of the board of HTD Media Joint Stock Company. She also founded Butta, the first social network for the Buddhist community in Vietnam.

Mrs. Nguyen's passion for the environment is a result of her father's influence. Her father is the well-known Vietnamese author Nguyen Son Dong who wrote the famous novel "Xu Doai May Trang" and many Vietnamese poems. Mrs. Nguyen said her father's poem "The Freshness To Life" shaped her passion in helping preserve the world humans live in.
"On a block of wood this afternoon
Raindrops were so small
It pained my heart
But the forest was vast
People's immensity as well,
Please join me!
For evergreen forest
The freshness to life
"

  • Mrs. Nguyen hopes that "Cover of Future" will be considered as a brand ambassador for our environment and anti-climate change, and hopefully be present around the world to promote the Green Planet protection in the future.


SOURCE: HTD Media

19 April 2019

4/20 Anthem "Pot Salad" Released by Art Rock Band Das Funk Haus Rolls Marijuana Culture and Religion in a New Smokin' Video and Six Song EP

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"Pot Salad"
Still from the Das Funk Haus video for the new single
The South Florida band Das Funk Haus will be releasing the brand-new Pot Salad EP on Saturday, April 20th, 2019 at 12am. The new EP is following the music video for the single "Pot Salad" which is available on the YouTube channel Cortez Heights Records

The Pot Salad EP contains five new Das Funk Haus compositions that run the gamut of marijuana culture, self awareness, social house cats, and even Frank Sinatra. This is the sophomore release by the Florida based Art Rock project, and is released on the bands own imprint, Cortez Heights Records. 

The Pot Salad EP follows the music video which gives gracious nods to classic films, paintings, religion, and lots of weed. It's a tongue in cheek blend of visual and musical flavors you will want to sit back and enjoy. Pot Salad is a perfect mix of funk and Zappa-esqueness written specially for 4/20 fans.
The new Pot Salad EP is Das Funk Haus' follow up to their 2014 album Electric Garden Party, which the Marquette Wire called "a feel of late-night jam sessions filled with a hazy smog of instrumentals, think Jimi Hendrix meets Dave Matthews Band, plus a whole lot of intrigue." 

Electric Garden Party charted #12 Relix Magazine September 2014. The band is always evolving around founding members H.B. Russell, and Percival Frequency, and now has expanded into a six piece progressive rock band. 

The new recordings on the release show off some of the new members, especially new drummer James Hershey, and new back up vocalist Suzy Dazzle. All of the new songs were mixed and produced by H.B. Russell and Dave Pezza.
Das Funk Haus has a unique musical vision that was originally founded 1995. The art rock, psychedelic funk band combines a six piece rock band with modern lyrical concepts that seem to cater to all who search for something different.
SOURCE: Cortez Heights Records

The Video:



9 April 2019

Is Humanity Stuck in a Downward Spiral of Hate and Polarization, Or Can We Find a Better Way Forward?

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Buried Rivers - Cover
Buried Rivers - Cover
Although the Holocaust happened some 75 years ago, religion-based hate crimes and the audacious rise of white nationalists continue to roil the U.S. and the world, from the Tree of Life massacre of Jews in Pittsburgh to the senseless loss of Muslim lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.

As Israel and the world prepare to celebrate Yom HaShoah or Holocaust Remembrance Day marked by the period from April 28 through May 2, and the number of living Holocaust survivors continues to fall, second-generation Holocaust survivor Ellen Korman Mains maintains that this topic could not be more current.
Mains says, "It's important to commemorate these events, not only to remember the dead and overcome ignorance of the past, but to take stock of our personal and societal patterns in the present and how we can shift these so that genocides and mass violence don't continue into the future."
Mains adds, "Since the Holocaust could not have happened without the silent participation of bystanders − ordinary people not so different from ourselves − we need to look at the deeper roots of genocide and how we can prevent them from spreading."
In her No. 1 Amazon bestseller, Buried Rivers: A Spiritual Journey into the Holocaust (West Lake Books), Mains, whose mother survived Auschwitz, explores the question "How can you still believe in basic goodness?" while journeying through Poland and Germany, where she felt troubled spirits seeking answers to this question.

In an interview, Mains, who will be giving a Yom HaShoah talk based on her book at the Boulder JCC at noon on May 1, can answer such questions as:

  • What do the roots of nationalism and of genocide have in common?
  • The Politics of Us and Them: Can religious or spiritual practice help us come together or do these only serve to divide and polarize us more?
  • The Cycle of Victim/Perpetrator: How do we shift from blaming others to creating positive action in the world?
  • Why is it easier to believe in lies than to deal with the complexity of truth?

Praise for Buried Rivers



"A powerful testament to human resilience and courage, this book reflects the power of inquiry in a world riven with suffering, and the capacity to transform that suffering into wisdom." 
Rev. Joan Jiko Halifax, Abbot, Upaya Zen Center and author of Standing at the Edge
"A beautiful and important memoir that uplifts as much as it compels.
Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, Ph.D., author of Wounds into Wisdom: Healing Intergenerational Jewish Trauma
"A compelling personal spiritual journey that crosses religious boundaries in order to tackle some of the deepest mysteries of life and death.
Zvi Ish-Shalom, Ph.D., author of The Kedumah Experience: The Primordial Torah
"By shedding light on something so dark, she demonstrates that healing, opportunity, and magic can emerge from the densest suffering.
Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel, author of The Power of an Open Question and The Logic of Faith
Ellen Mains
Ellen Mains

About the author

The daughter of Polish-born Jews who survived the Holocaust, Ellen Korman Mains has led meditation retreats internationally, and speaks about the cross-section of spirituality and social change. 

Trained in several body-mind disciplines, she also helps individuals deepen compassionate self-awareness. 

A citizen of Canada, the USA, and Poland, she lives in Boulder, Colo., but spends extended periods of time in Poland teaching, promoting dialog, and connecting with her heritage.

SOURCE: Ellen Mains

25 March 2019

New Permanent Exhibition Arrives for Installation at the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum Opening September 17th

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The Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum
The Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum 
After three years of planning and construction, the first major pieces of the core exhibition of the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum arrived today. 

The Museum, set to open Tuesday, September 17, 2019, is the first of its kind to be built in the world that will honor both human rights and the memory of the Holocaust—a unique mission among 21st century educational institutions.

Leading supply chain solutions provider, NFI, delivered the first of seven 20-ton shipments from Seattle-based fabricator, Pacific Studio, to the new Museum. The materials will be installed in three main wings: the Holocaust/Shoah Wing, Human Rights Wing, and Pivot to America Wing.

  • The exhibition will include a variety of pieces, including a floor-to-ceiling replica of the Brandenburg Gate and ten 17-feet-tall, free-standing artistic interpretations of modern genocides. 
The exhibition will also feature the Holocaust by Bullets Gallery that will feature 500 bullets raining down from the ceiling as a visceral representation of the bullet-by-bullet assassinations that occurred in Europe prior to the creation of Nazi death camps. 

  • Additionally, visitors will have the opportunity to explore the history of civil rights in America through immersive technology kiosks.
The Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum - Holocaust/Shoah Wing
The Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum - Holocaust/Shoah Wing
"After years of intense preparation, we are thrilled to see our dream of an international center for Holocaust and human rights education become a reality," said Mary Pat Higgins, Museum President and CEO.
"We wish to thank our wonderful board member, Ike Brown, Co-Owner of NFI, who generously shipped all of the materials at no cost to the Museum," said Frank Risch, Museum Board Chair. "He is truly an Upstander and we would have trusted no one else but NFI with this precious cargo."
"The new Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum is more than a museum. It is a message to the world that we will never forget the Holocaust, and we will do everything we can to make sure its lessons, especially those involving human rights, are taught to future generations," said Ike Brown. Ike and his wife Candy are the first donors to financially support the building of the Museum. "It is an honor for our NFI team to play a role in making this important institution a reality."
The Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum - Plaza
The Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum - Plaza

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18 February 2019

America's First Jewish Escape Room - OneBefore, Launches in Brooklyn

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The OneBefore Escape Room - Trying to Escape
The OneBefore Escape Room - Trying to Escape
Gamliel Beyderman, the Russian-born, Orthodox Jewish data scientist on a wild journey to launch America's first Jewish Escape Room finally opened the doors of his venue to the customers right before Chanukah even though their site OneBeforeEscape.com has been discussing the concept for months!

The Brooklyn location is in Midwood, a predominantly Orthodox neighborhood, even though the venue caters to anyone (Jewish or not) interested in all things Jewish. 

  • No background in Jewish studies is necessary to complete the room. 
  • The facility welcomes school trips and features a 35-person event space that doubles as a fine art gallery focused on the themes explored in the escape room.
After witnessing his teenage son's fascination with escape rooms to the point of building one on the basement of their home, Beyderman realized this medium can be a powerful educational tool to explain complex ideas - through play.

The escape room dramatizes the genealogical discoveries made by Dr. Jeffrey Mark Paull in his quest to illuminate his family's lost connection to noble past. Paull captured his experiences in a volume called "A Noble Heritage." The stranger-than-fiction, but true plot weaves genealogy, Jewish history, loving kindness, sacrifices and miracles.

In Beyderman's own words: "I was amazed that [Paull] restored every single ancestral link connecting himself to the Shpoler Zeide, Rabbi Pinchas Koritzer, Rashi, and ultimately King David. As Jews, we are surrounded and comforted by the stories of their mighty deeds, their Torah - every day. My idea was to take the visitors of our escape room right into those stories through the escape room puzzles.

The visit continues in the Shpoler Zeide Gallery where each artwork is a story and a portal for meditation about the visitors' experience.

A second escape room at the same location is currently under construction. It promises to take the visitor on a journey to meet the legendary 18th century mystic, Rabbi Pinchas Koritzer. 

The room is an attempt to recreate a trip through the 20 generations of the Shapiro Rabbinic dynasty to find the greatest treasure of the Jewish people. The themes range from saving the manuscripts of Rabbi Pinchas from the flames of the Holocaust to the Jewish mystical numerology (gematria), to the heart-warming story of Rashi, the greatest Bible commentator of all time.
The OneBefore Escape Room - "Happening Place"
 The OneBefore Escape Room - "Happening Place"
OneBefore Escape is a part of the global escape room phenomenon, as well as an immersive museum of how technology allows us to trace our roots to the most illustrious leaders of the Jewish people. It is in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, near the numerous kosher restaurants, shops and steps from the subway.
SOURCE: OneBefore Escape

17 December 2018

Exorcisms Have Been Part Of Christianity For Centuries

by
A painting showing Saint Francis Borgia, a 16th century saint, performing an exorcism.
A painting showing Saint Francis Borgia, a 16th century saint, performing an exorcism. (Francisco Goya)
The Exorcist,” a horror film released 45 years ago, is a terrifying depiction of supernatural evil. The film tells the story of a young American girl who is possessed by a demon and eventually exorcised by a Catholic priest.

Many viewers were drawn in by the film’s portrayal of exorcism in Christianity. As a scholar of Christian theology, my own research into the history of Christian exorcisms reveals how the notion of engaging in battle against demons has been an important way that Christians have understood their faith and the world.

Early and medieval Christianity

The Bible’s account of the life of Jesus features several exorcism stories. The Gospels, reflecting views common in Judaism in the first century A.D., portray demons as spirits opposed to God that haunt, possess or tempt people to evil.

Exorcism by St. Exupere, Bishop of Toulouse, France, at the beginning of fifth century.
Exorcism by St. Exupere, Bishop of Toulouse, France, at the beginning of fifth century. (Philippe Alès, CC BY-SA)
Possessed individuals are depicted as displaying bizarre and erratic behaviors. In the Gospel of Luke, for example, a boy is possessed by a demon that makes him foam at the mouth and experience violent spasms. Jesus is shown to have a unique power to cast out demons and promises that his followers can do the same.

In the centuries that followed, accounts of using Jesus’ name for casting out demons are common. Origen, an early Christian theologian, writing in the second century, explains how the name of Jesus is used by Christians to expel “evil spirits from … souls and bodies.”

Over the years exorcism came to be associated more widely with the Christian faith. Several Christian writers mention exorcisms taking place publicly as a way to convince people to become Christians. They argued that people should convert because the exorcisms Christians performed were more effective than those of “pagans.”

Early Christian texts mention various exorcism methods that Christians used, including making the sign of the cross over possessed persons or even breathing on them.

Minor exorcism

Beginning some time in the early Middle Ages, specific priests were uniquely trained and sanctioned for exorcism. This remains the case today in Roman Catholicism, while Eastern Orthodox traditions allow all priests to perform exorcisms.

Early Christians also practiced what is sometimes called a “minor exorcism.” This type of exorcism is not for those considered to be acutely possessed.

This took place before or during the ritual of baptism, a ceremony whereby someone officially joins the Church. The practice emerges from the assumption that all people are generally susceptible to evil spiritual forces. For this reason some sort of prayer or statement against the power of the devil would often be recited during catechesis, a period of preparation prior to baptism, baptism, or both.

Demons and Protestants

Between the 15th to 17th centuries, there was an increased concern about demons in Western Europe. Not only are there abundant accounts of priests exorcising individuals from this time period, but also of animals, inanimate objects and even land.

A woodcut from 1598 shows an exorcism performed on a woman by a priest and his assistant, with a demon emerging from her mouth.
A woodcut from 1598 shows an exorcism performed on a woman by a priest and his assistant, with a demon emerging from her mouth. (Pierre Boaistuau, et al., Histoires prodigieuses et memorables, extraictes de plusieurs fameux autheurs, Grecs, & Latins, sacrez & prophanes (Paris, 1598), vol. 1.)
The narratives are also much more detailed. When someone possessed by a demon was confronted by an exorcist priest, it was believed that the demon would be aggravated and cause the individual to engage in more intense and violent behavior. There are reports of physical altercations, floating around the room, and speaking or screaming loudly and angrily during the exorcism process.

Protestants, who were skeptical of many Catholic rituals, combated demonic possession with more informal practices such as impromptu prayer for the afflicted individual.

During the Enlightenment, between 17th to 19th centuries, Europeans began to cast doubt on so-called “superstitious” elements of religion. Many intellectuals and even church leaders argued that people’s experiences of demons could be explained away by psychology and other sciences. Exorcism began to be viewed by many as unnecessary or even dangerous.

Exorcism today

Many Christian denominations still practice some form of minor exorcism. Before people are baptized in the Episcopal Church, for example, they are asked: “Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?

Exorcism is practiced by Christians across the world
Exorcism is practiced by Christians across the world (Lutsenko_Oleksandr/Shutterstock.com)
The Catholic Church still has an active ministry devoted to performing exorcisms of possessed individuals. The current practice includes safeguards that require, among others, persons suspected of being possessed to undergo medical and psychiatric evaluation before an exorcism takes place.

Exorcism is particularly common in Pentecostalism, a form of Christianity that has grown rapidly in recent decades. This branch of Christianity emphasizes spiritual experience in everyday life. Pentecostals practice something akin to exorcism but which is typically called “deliverance.” Pentecostals maintain that possessed persons can be delivered through prayer by other Christians or recognized spiritual leader. Pentecostalism is an international Christian tradition and specific deliverance practices can vary widely around the world.

In the United States belief in demons remains high. Over half of all Americans believe that demons can possess individuals.

So, despite modern-day skepticism, exorcism remains a common practice of Christians around the world.The Conversation


About Today's Contributor:

S. Kyle Johnson, Doctoral Student in Systematic Theology, Boston College


This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

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