Archive for November, 2014

Israeli coalition close to collapse as Benjamini Netanyahu threatens elections

November 30, 2014

Israeli premier hints at early polls after senior cabinet split over bill that would declare Israel a nation for Jews but leave Arabs as second-class citizens

Israeli premier hints at early polls after senior cabinet split over bill that would declare Israel a nation for Jews but leave Arabs as second-class citizens

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Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel’s government was on the verge of collapse on Sunday night as a split over a controversial new law designating the country a Jewish state deepened into an all-out assault by cabinet rivals on the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr Netanyahu signalled that he was ready to call an early general election to stifle the rebellion, led by ministers from centrist coalition partners to his right-wing Likud Party.

He lashed out angrily after his finance minister, Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party, publicly accused him of playing “petty politics” while ignoring weighty issues such as the budget and Israel’s foreign relations in the latest in a series of rancorous exchanges.

“Recently, hardly a day passes without us running into diktats or threats of resignation, or ultimatums and such, as ministers attack the government and its prime minister,” Mr Netanyahu told Sunday’s cabinet meeting. “I hope that we will be able to return to proper conduct. This is what the public expects of us because only thus is it possible to run the country, and if not, we will draw conclusions.”

His comments were the clearest sign yet that the country was heading towards an early poll less than two years after Mr Netanyahu formed a mostly Right-wing coalition in which Mr Lapid headed the second-biggest party. Opinion surveys have indicated that Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party would again emerge as the largest party in a fresh poll, giving him a fourth term as premier, despite falling approval ratings.

After days of talk of a “coalition crisis”, sources close to the Israeli leader said the country was “98 per cent into an election”, the liberal newspaper Haaretz reported.

The open talk of an election followed threats from Tzipi Livni, the justice minister, and Mr Lapid to resign if a bill to declare Israel “the nation state of the Jewish people” becomes law.

The prime minister says the law is necessary to fend off Palestinian opposition to Jews’ right to live in Israel but Mr Lapid and Ms Livni say it is a threat to the country’s democratic character since it would reduce Arabs to second-class citizenship, and that it has been introduced by electioneering purposes.

Amid the political manoeuvering, a parliamentary vote on the bill scheduled for Wednesday has been postponed, government insiders suggested.

In a unabashed personal attack, Mr Lapid told an audience in Tel Aviv that he had not spoken Mr Netanyahu outside cabinet meetings for five weeks.

“The major issues are stuck and the prime minister isnメt doing anything about the state budget, Israel’s international relations, personal security and housing,” he said. “Instead we are dealing with the pettiest of politics. The prime minister needs to decide that he doesn’t want elections. This crisis can be solved in a conversation between us.”

Nahum Barnea, an influential columnist with the mass circulation Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, criticised the prime minister in even more graphic terms, writing: “He has gone into what people who know much more than me about psychology call a manic-depressive state….There are ministers who are certain that he is no longer functional.”

The cabinet approved the Jewish nation state bill last week against a backdrop of of increasing tensions between Jews and Arabs and concerns over outbreaks of anti-Arab racism.

Those worries were highlighted over the weekend after arsonists attacked a mixed school in Jerusalem that promotes co-existence between the two communities.

Saturday’s attack at the Hand-in-Hand bilingual school resulted in severe fire damage to a classroom for first-grade children. The attackers also sprayed anti-Arab graffiti, including “Death to Arabs” and “There’s no coexistence with cancer” in Hebrew on walls inside the school. Mr Netanyahu condemned the incident.

Related:

Israel’s Justice Minister Critical of PM Netanyahu

November 30, 2014

Livni Says Netanyahu negotiating future government behind backs of ministers

Jerusalem Post

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday of negotiating his political future behind the backs of his coalition partners.

Justice Minister Livni, Finance Minister Lapid attend weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. Reuters photo

“Governing means putting forward the shared goals of the members of government” and not preventing ministers from expressing their positions, she said, alluding perhaps to the controversy surrounding the “Jewish state bill.” During a heated debate over the law last week, Livni told Netanyahu: “The elephant in the room is that you want us” – Hatnua and Yesh Atid – “to vote against this so you can fire us.”

Livni has publicly stated she would not contribute to the measure – which she called anti-democratic – passing in a preliminary vote. In a TV interview however, she did not commit to voting against it, which suggests she may abstain and save her spot in the coalition.

Livni told Israel Radio on Sunday that she would remain in the government so long as she “can prevent destructive decisions and unacceptable bills,” which could morph the country into something different than what Israel’s founders envisaged.

As for the nationality law – legislation which gives legal weight to Israel’s Jewish character – she said any vote on the bill had to be rooted in the Declaration of Independence.

Livni also visited the bilingual Hand in Hand school in Jerusalem – the target of a suspected arson attack – and said  that as a minister of justice she would act with zero tolerance against these kind of phenomena, of hatred, in the Israeli society.

http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Livni-Netanyahu-negotiating-future-government-behind-backs-of-ministers-383235

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Netanyahu Hints at Possibility of New Elections

The New York Times

JERUSALEM — Amid a political crisis over a proposed nationality law and growing acrimony among the fractious partners of Israel’s governing coalition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted on Sunday at the possibility of new elections only 20 months after his current government was formed.

Talk of the potential collapse of the government has become feverish in the week since the cabinet approved a contentious version of a nationality bill that was promoted by right-wing legislators with Mr. Netanyahu’s backing. Two centrist parties in the coalition have vowed not to support the bill when it is brought to a vote in Parliament, denouncing it as anti-democratic and risking being fired by Mr. Netanyahu, a move that would deprive him of his parliamentary majority.

Referring to the instability of his coalition in remarks broadcast at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, Mr. Netanyahu, the leader of the conservative Likud Party, berated ministers for attacking him.

“Recently, hardly a day passes without us running into diktat or threats or threats of resignation or ultimatums,” he said. He added: “I hope that we will be able to return to proper conduct. This is what the public expects of us because only thus is it possible to run the country, and if not, we will draw conclusions.”

An Israeli government official said Mr. Netanyahu would prefer the current coalition to continue, explaining the prime minister’s position. “But there is important work to be done,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly. “If the government cannot function, he will move to new elections.”

Read the rest:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/01/world/middleeast/netanyahu-hints-at-possibility-of-new-elections.html?ref=world

 

British MP attacks ‘confrontational’ China as Hong Kong protests escalate

November 30, 2014

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Sir Richard Ottaway claims Beijing has refused his parliamentary inquiry access to Hong Kong, as thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators return to the streets of the former colony

Sir Richard Ottaway claims Beijing has refused his parliamentary inquiry access to Hong Kong, as thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators return to the streets of the former colony

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A pro-democracy protester arrested by police officers on the main road outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong Photo: AP Photo/Kin Cheung

The chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has attacked China’s “confrontational” and “frankly ridiculous” decision to block a delegation of British MPs from travelling to Hong Kong, as renewed clashes between police and protesters broke out in the former British colony.

Sir Richard Ottaway, the Conservative MP for Croydon South, had planned to travel to Hong Kong in the third week of December as part of an inquiry into the state of the Sino-British Joint Declaration that paved the way for handover in 1997.

The inquiry, which began in July, has coincided with large-scale pro-democracy protests intended to pressure Beijing into granting citizens of the former colony greater voting rights in future leadership elections.

However, on Friday a senior Chinese diplomat informed Sir Richard that Beijing intended to block his group’s visit, the MP claimed.

“If the committee delegation insists on coming to Hong Kong, the Chinese government will have to take some measures not to allow the delegation to enter Hong Kong,” Ni Jian, the deputy Chinese ambassador to London, said, according to the Conservative MP.

Sir Richard said he had asked the diplomat to confirm that he was saying the committee would be refused entry to Hong Kong.

“Surely. 100 per cent, surely. You will not be allowed,” was Mr Ni’s reply, the MP said. “This is our clear decision. The Chinese government asked us to convey it to you.”

Just days earlier Sir Richard said he had received a letter from Chinese authorities informing him that the through visit his group “would be perceived to be siding with the protesters involved in Occupy Central and other illegal activities”.

On Sunday, Sir Richard called for an emergency parliamentary debate into China’s move.

“We are a Committee of elected Members of Parliament from a democratic nation who wish to scrutinise British diplomatic work in Hong Kong. The Chinese Government are acting in an overtly confrontational manner in refusing us access to do our job,” he said.

Sir Richard Ottaway claims Beijing has refused his parliamentary inquiry access to Hong Kong, as thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators return to the streets of the former colony Sir Richard Ottaway, the Conservative MP for Croydon South  Photo: PA

Speaking to The Telegraph, Sir Richard said Beijing’s decision “rather flags up the direction of travel of the Chinese authorities”.

“To actually say we have no right to review a joint declaration signed by Margaret Thatcher and the president of China is frankly ridiculous,” he said.

He also rejected Beijing’s claim that the committee’s presence in Hong Kong could be read as an act of support for the protests.

“There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support that assertion. It is pure speculation. As a committee we don’t support illegal activities.”

The controversy came as thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators flocked back onto the streets of Hong Kong, marching on its government headquarters in a bid to revive their two-month-old protests and force elusive concessions from Beijing. Anticipating possible clashes many brought construction helmets, umbrellas or even shields improvised from pots and pans.

Sir Richard Ottaway claims Beijing has refused his parliamentary inquiry access to Hong Kong, as thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators return to the streets of the former colony Police use pepper spray during clashes with pro-democracy protesters close to the chief executive office in Hong Kong  Photo: REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Running battles between police and protesters broke out as crowds surged towards government offices in Admiralty carrying banners that read: “I want universal suffrage. Topple the administration” and “We need to protect the students”.

“The protests have been going on for two months without much progress so it is good that we are escalating,” said James Choi, a 26-year-old office worker and demonstrator.

“I’m prepared to get beaten and arrested,” said Fox Woo, a 24-year-old dancer, who was also there. “Even if I bleed I will remain on the front line until the very end. We need to surround the government headquarters and force them to respond to our demands for democracy.”

The so-called Umbrella Movement protests began in late September in the wake of Beijing’s controversial ruling about the framework for Hong Kong’s 2017 leadership election.

Critics accused the Communist Party of attempting to install “fake democracy” by effectively retaining the right to screen candidates through a heavily pro-Beijing nominating committee. Beijing insists it remains committed to its commitment to bring universal suffrage to the former colony.

In a recent interview, one of Hong Kong’s most influential political figures urged China’s leaders to begin an immediate process of “reconciliation” and “compromise” with protesters or face forever losing the hearts and minds of Hong Kong’s youth.

“It is up to the government and to Beijing to think of a way through this current impasse and to bring everybody to the negotiating table,” said Anson Chan, the former head of Hong Kong’s civil service.

However, Beijing has shown no sign of offering such concessions. Xi Jinping, the president, labelled the protests an “illegal movement” earlier this month.

“With its goals appearing ridiculous and public support quickly diminishing, the Occupy Central campaign has failed,” the state-run Global Times tabloid argued last week. “Their radical illusion of reshaping Hong Kong is like tilting at windmills. It will never come to pass.”

Hong Kong Police Again Use Pepper Spray, Batons on Pro-Democracy Protesters

November 30, 2014

HONG KONG Sun Nov 30, 2014 11:42am EST

(Reuters) – Thousands of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists clashed with police in the early hours of Monday as they tried to encircle government headquarters, defying orders for protesters to retreat after more than two months of demonstrations.

The crowds, chanting “Surround government headquarters!” and “Open the road!”, made their way to the buildings in Admiralty, next to Hong Kong’s central business district and some of the world’s most expensive real estate.

Police use pepper spray during clashes with pro-democracy protesters close to the chief executive office in Hong Kong, November 30, 2014. REUTERS-Tyrone Siu
Police use pepper spray during clashes with pro-democracy protesters close to the chief executive office in Hong Kong, November 30, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Tyrone Siu

“I urge everyone to stay here until the morning to keep surrounding the government headquarters. Let’s stop the government from functioning tomorrow,” a protester clad in a black T-shirt shouted into a loud hailer.

Scores of protesters with wooden shields and metal barricades charged police as officers warned them to retreat. Police, who have been accused of using excessive force, struck demonstrators with batons in a bid to push them back.

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters are demanding free elections for the city’s next leader in 2017, not the vote between pre-screened candidates that Beijing has said it will allow.

The democracy movement represents one of the biggest threats for China’s Communist Party leadership since its bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy student protests in and around Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

Police use pepper spray during clashes with pro-democracy protesters at a rally close to the chief executive office in Hong Kong, November 30, 2014.  REUTERS-Tyrone Siu

Police use pepper spray during clashes with pro-democracy protesters at a rally close to the chief executive office in Hong Kong, November 30, 2014.  Credit: REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Demonstrators threw bottles, helmets and umbrellas at police as tensions escalated.

Police used pepper spray in an attempt to disperse the protesters, dragging several to the ground before cuffing them with plastic ties and taking them away. Scores of demonstrators held up umbrellas, which have become a symbol of the pro-democracy movement, to protect themselves from the spray.

The activists tried to reclaim Lung Wo Road, a key thoroughfare in Admiralty district that police cleared more than a month ago during some of the most violent scenes since the demonstrations began in late September.

Two student groups who have led the two-month long civil disobedience campaign had urged supporters to escalate their actions at the main protest site in the Admiralty neighborhood.

The flare-up comes after four nights of clashes in the working-class district of Mong Kok, across the harbor from Admiralty. Police on Wednesday had cleared the area — one of the city’s largest and most volatile protest sites.

The latest clashes underscore the challenges authorities face as a restive younger generation contests Beijing’s grip on the financial hub and demands greater democracy.

Twenty-eight people were arrested in the unrest on Friday night and early Saturday in Mong Kok, which is packed with shops, street stalls, jewelry shops and restaurants.

The Hong Kong rallies drew more than 100,000 on to the streets at their peak. Numbers have since dwindled to a few hundred and public support for the movement has waned.

(Additional reporting by Diana Chan, Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Rosalind Russell)

Injured protesters are treated during a rally close to the chief executive office in Hong Kong, November 30, 2014. REUTERS-Bobby Yip

Injured protesters are treated during a rally close to the chief executive office in Hong Kong, November 30, 2014.
REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Pro-democracy protesters carrying barricades removed at a tunnel during a rally close to the chief executive office in Hong Kong on Sunday. Credit Tyrone Siu/Reuters

HONG KONG — Protesters and the police clashed in the political heart of Hong Kong on Sunday night, when thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators surged around the city leader’s office, seeking to blockade it and other government offices, and officers used pepper spray to repel them. The confrontation ended weeks of relative calm at the protesters’ main remaining street camp.

The renewed political confrontation came minutes after student leaders of the protest movement urged supporters to besiege city government offices ahead of the working day on Monday, in an attempt to force concessions to the protesters’ demands for democratic elections for the city leader.

“Surround the government headquarters,” Nathan Law, a leading member of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, an organization of university students, declared from a podium in the Admiralty district where thousands of protesters had gathered. The protest area is a few minutes’ walk from the city government offices that the demonstrators have threatened to besiege.

Read the rest:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/01/world/asia/protesters-storm-hong-kong-leaders-office-as-movement-flags.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

Related:

  (Includes links to articles on Hong Kong from 2 prior weeks)

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, December 1, 2014 — “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof….”

November 30, 2014

Monday of the First Week of Advent
Lectionary: 175

Reading 1 is 2:1-5

This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz,
saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.In days to come,
The mountain of the LORD’s house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it;
many peoples shall come and say:
“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
That he may instruct us in his ways,
and we may walk in his paths.”
For from Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and impose terms on many peoples.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
One nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.O house of Jacob, come,
let us walk in the light of the LORD!

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Responsorial Psalm ps 122:1-2, 3-4b, 4cd-5, 6-7, 8-9

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R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
I rejoiced because they said to me,
“We will go up to the house of the LORD.”
And now we have set foot
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Jerusalem, built as a city
with compact unity.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
According to the decree for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
In it are set up judgment seats,
seats for the house of David.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
May those who love you prosper!
May peace be within your walls,
prosperity in your buildings.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Because of my relatives and friends
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
Because of the house of the LORD, our God,
I will pray for your good.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
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Alleluia See Ps 80:4

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R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Come and save us, LORD our God;
let your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel mt 8:5-11

When Jesus entered Capernaum,
a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying,
“Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.”
He said to him, “I will come and cure him.”
The centurion said in reply,
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof;
only say the word and my servant will be healed.
For I too am a man subject to authority,
with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes;
and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes;
and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him,
“Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.
I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,
and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.”
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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Today’s Gospel is a mirror. It reminds us of the words we say during the Mass at the moment of communion: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter my house, say but the word and I will be healed”.  Look at this text in the mirror, it suggests the following:
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• The person who seeks Jesus is a pagan, a gentile, a soldier of the Roman army, which dominated and exploited the people. It is not religion nor the desire for God, but rather the need and the suffering which impels him to seek Jesus. Jesus has no prejudices. He does not demand anything first, he accepts and listens to the request of the Roman official.
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• Jesus’ answer surprises the centurion, because it is beyond his expectation. The centurion did not expect that Jesus would go to his house. He feels unworthy: “I am not worthy”. This means that he considered Jesus a highly superior person.
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• The centurion expresses his faith in Jesus saying: “Say only one word and my servant will be cured”. He believes that the word of Jesus is capable of healing. From where does he get this great faith? From his profession experience as a centurion! Because when a centurion gives an order, the soldier obeys. He has to obey! Thus he imagines Jesus: it is enough for Jesus to say one word, and things will happen according to his word. He believes the word of Jesus encloses a creative force.
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• Jesus was surprised, astonished, and praises the faith of the centurion. Faith does not consist in accepting, repeating and decorating a doctrine, but in believing and trusting in the word of Jesus.
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Personal questions
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• Placing myself in the place of Jesus: how do I accept and listen to the persons of other religions?
• Placing myself in the place of the centurion: which is the personal experience that leads me to believe in Jesus?
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Concluding Prayer
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Come near to me with your saving power,
let me share the happiness of your chosen ones,
let me share the joy of your people. (Ps 106)
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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FAITH IN JESUS AS THE HOPE AND MESSIAH OF THE WORLD 

SCRIPTURE READINGS: :  ISA 2:1-5; MT 8:5-11
http://www.universalis.com/20141201/mass.htm 

The beginning of anything is always filled with hope.  This is true in the case of one who starts a new career or of one who starts a new family. Hope begins whenever a new child is born; whenever a new situation develops.  Yes, hope is everywhere.  This is particularly true for the Church as well as she begins the first weekday of the new liturgical year.   Thus it is only appropriate that this message of hope resounds in the Church at the beginning of the liturgical year.

Hope is vital for everything in life.  In fact, a person who lives without hope is one who is already as good as dead.  Without hope, one lives an unenthusiastic life; a kind of shadowy existence, resigned to life and fate.  For those who find such kind of life meaningless and disheartening, they might even attempt suicide.  That is why hope enables one to go on living.  Hope is radically different from resignation, which is but a defeatist attitude towards life.  Hope enables us to look forward and struggle through our crosses each day, knowing that life continues to be meaningful even in hopeless situations.

In Advent we celebrate this hope, the hope of Israel, the hope of the world and our hope.  Like all humankind, we all hope for a new heaven and a new earth.  The scripture readings assure us that the hope of Israel having all nations streaming to the mountain of Yahweh, God’s holy city, Jerusalem would be fulfilled.  In the gospel, we see how Jesus was not only the realization of the hope of the people of Israel but for all, including the Gentiles, symbolized by the Centurion.  He is the Messiah we are waiting for.

But what make us so confident to believe that His messianism is different from all others. There are many kinds of messiahs in the world.  They can offer us social, political and economic freedom.  Yet, these so called messiahs have never been able to fulfill the thirst of man.  The reality is that many people have been disappointed.  One after another, they collapse.  So how can we be so sure that Jesus would be the Hope for all?

Perhaps, the question which we are asking is what kind of hope does Jesus give us?  Unlike all the other earthly messiahs, the messiahship of Jesus rests not on human strength and ingenuity.  It comes from God Himself.  His power comes from His union with God.  Thus, our hope for a renewal is not a hope that simply comes from human strength.  Such hope therefore is certain. 

Secondly, the hope we are speaking about is not simply wishful thinking.  That would be to live in illusion.  We could be accused of living in a utopian dream or building castles in the air. No, Christian hope is real because it is based on Jesus Himself.   In Jesus, we see how God is coming to heal and redeem the world.  In Jesus, we see how the love of God extends beyond all boundaries.  In Jesus, the love of God is concretized in His words and actions.

Jesus indeed, as the centurion says, is one who has authority.  His word is creative and brings to fruition whatever is said.  Jesus indeed is the Word made flesh.  Jesus is the testimony of God’s love for us.  Consequently, because of Jesus, we know that our hope is grounded and not based on some figment of our imagination.

But how can this hope be realized now in our lives?  The gospel tells us that the fundamental requirement is that we must have faith in the person of Jesus.  This means that we are called to open our hearts to Him.  We are called to experience the being of Jesus, not simply hear His words.  We are called to fall in love with Him so to speak.  This is the kind of faith that the centurion had.  For this reason, he believed even before Jesus acted.  Thus Jesus was able to exercise His power of love through him.  Yes, faith is the first step towards realizing this hope.  Indeed, faith and hope are almost synonymous.  Yet it is faith that transcends hope.   While hope is not certain, Faith is certain because Jesus is the fulfillment of our hopes.

Then again, we must not be too superstitious to think that faith in Jesus is simply a blind trust in Him.  No doubt, it is an invitation to surrender ourselves to Jesus but more than that, it is to trust in His words and His promises.  Of course, faith in Jesus’ words will come naturally once we open our beings to the person of Jesus.  When we are touched by Him, our minds will also be open to what He wants to share with us.  We will then be receptive to His vision and His dream for humanity.  Of course, the dream of Jesus is not simply a dream but dream that has come true and will come true in its fullness when we live out that dream in our lives.  For that to happen, we must trust in Jesus and His words as true.

Of course, it is not simply trust but we must test out the words of Jesus in our lives.  And we do this by living out His commands, or rather the rules of life that He has lived and now shared with us.  This is absolutely necessary.  As the first reading tells us, faith requires that we climb the mountain of the Lord to the Holy Temple so that God can instruct us in His ways.  Faith in Jesus therefore means that we want to learn from Jesus how to live our lives; how to understand the meaning of life; how to see life.  Yes it is at the Holy Mountain, Jerusalem, that is, at prayer with Jesus and in Jesus, that God will help us to judge situations and to walk in His light as the Prophet Isaiah tells us.

Now when we begin to share the heart of Jesus in His compassion and love for all, and acquire the mind of Jesus to see things with the eyes of God, then hope is immediately realized before us.  We need not even wait until the end of time or at a certain time to experience the reality of this hope because with the eyes of Jesus, we will see God and His goodness everywhere.  We will see His love even in our loneliness since we are drawn to Him in prayer; we will see His strength, especially in our sickness, we will feel His consolation in moments of our desolation when our friends abandon us; and we will see His face in the midst of poverty, among the unloved and abandoned.   Indeed, to see God especially in difficult and unpleasant situations is to find God among the hopeless.  This is the height of our experience of God as hope.

Yes, Advent celebrates the coming of the Lord.  The Lord has come.  He will come again at Christmas in a special way and definitively at the end of time.  But at Advent, we want to say that He is coming at every moment – the moment when we walk in His way, and in His light – that moment when we experience deep peace and joy.  Now where can peace and joy come from if not from God Himself?   This then is the peace and joy that Jesus promised us, the peace and joy that the world cannot give.  Yes, we have hope and this hope is real when it is a hope founded in Christ.  This hope can be realized once we give ourselves in faith to Jesus and immerse ourselves in His life and love and work.  

– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/30-november-2014-1st-sunday-of-advent-2/#sthash.6CADQsZR.dpuf

Hong Kong: Democracy Supporters and Police Clash as Protests Escalate

November 30, 2014

By Tony Cheung, Shirley Zhao, Joyce Ng and Phila Siu
The South China Morning Post
December 1, 2014

nov30.jpg

Students fought running battles with police outside government headquarters on Sunday night as Occupy protesters tried to storm the Admiralty compound and lay siege to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s office.

Minutes after student leaders called on the thousands gathered at the Admiralty Occupy encampment, hundreds of protesters – wearing an assortment of hard hats and protective masks –  thronged around government headquarters and Tamar Park and  began trying to breach police lines at various points.

Two key areas of violence – some of which left protesters bloodied and requiring first aid treatment by makeshift medics as police used pepper spray and baton charges to repel attempts breach their lines – were Lung Wo Road and the walkways connecting Harcourt Road to government headquarters.

At the same time, fresh trouble flared in Mong Kok as police and protesters clashed, although the disturbances subsided after 10 or so minutes, leaving the situation tense.

The renewed violence came after police had earlier warned of resolute action to prevent any such blockade, while Federation of Students leaders told activists to avoid “giving the police a legitimate reason to take violent actions” as they stepped up the protests.

The Heads of Universities Committee last night to remain calm and be rational. “Please do not take part in any attack against the government headquarters,” it said in a statement. “Stay away from areas where there are clashes. Evacuate from the site immediately if your personal safety is in danger. Please contact your respective institution for help if needed.”

The escalation, rumoured for much of the weekend, was announced at 9pm on the main stage, when federation representative Nathan Law Kwun-chung urged people to head towards the government offices.

Police stand guard behind barricades at protest site in Admiralty. Photo: Dickson Lee

He said there would be a “long journey” through the night, and called on Hongkongers to “walk” with them.

Soon afterwards, supporters began streaming towards the government offices on Tim Mei Avenue. Soon after, police in riot gear raised warning signs in Tamar Park telling protesters to “stop charging”.

Hours earlier, police warned the public against attending a rally called by the federation in the protest zone.

About 3,000 officers were posted in Admiralty, with a further 4,000 in Mong Kok, where protests have continued despite the clearance of the main protest zone last week.

Describing the rally as posing an “extremely high risk”, Senior Superintendent Kong Man-keung of the police’s public relations branch warned the public against attending. He said student leaders had urged people to bring supplies to the site.

“I emphasise that if anyone obstructs the police in execution of their duty, charge the police line violently, or attempt to block the central government office, police will take resolute enforcement actions,” Kong said.

Oscar Lai Man-Lok, spokesman for student group Scholarism, said the crowd was the biggest in at least two weeks. He told protesters to stick to their non-violent principles and not to provoke or charge at police.

Among those present, there was support for the idea of stepping up the campaign.

Hin Kan, a university student, said he felt the night’s action was “encouraging”. “Unlike the guerrilla warfare in Mong Kok, we have here demonstrated a clear goal of blockading the government headquarters by storming the different access routes. This is a clear action demanding the government to respond to our call for universal suffrage.”

“Maybe we will lose tonight, but the call for democracy had taken root in our hearts.”

“The government has not responded to our demands yet, so we have to do something,” said Gary Wu, 24, an advertising worker.

“I support their plan to escalate their action … But if it is to stop all civil servants from going to work, it will affect people’s livelihoods and I have reservations,” said another protester.

Kevin Suen, also a university student, said: “How ironic. Christmas lights are shining but here we stand fighting for universal suffrage.”

He said he was not afraid of the police. “Two months on, I’ve got used to the pattern. we advance, police use pepper spray or batons and we step back. Those behind then  forward.”

Schoolgirl Fish Chan, 16, said she had attended despite being urged to stay away by her mother, who feared she would be hurt.

Earlier, a group of secondary school pupils staged a barefoot walk around the government headquarters. They knelt down after every 28 steps and walked around the buildings nine times to remember the police’s use of tear gas on September 28.

A former student leader exiled from the mainland after the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown told RTHK today that he feared there would be bloodshed at the Admiralty rally.

In the event of violence, he said he would push for Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung to face an international court.

Speaking in Taipei in his capacity as chairman of New School for Democracy, he said the school and other human rights groups would consider attempting to get Leung tried at the Hague International Court of Justice for crimes against humanity.

“The violence the Hong Kong government used has already exceeded a standard acceptable in humanity,” he said.

Wang has been exiled since the 1989 Tiananmen democracy movement ended in a bloody military crackdown.

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Secondary school students perform a barefoot “pilgrimage of suffering” to support the “Occupy Central” at the Admiralty protest site. Photo: Reuters

A well-placed source close to the Federation of Students said their call for people to come prepared for escalated action – possibly by blocking the entrances and exits to government headquarters – would force the police to make arrests, sending the signal to those less radical diehards still encamped in Admiralty that it was time to leave.

The strategy – which has not been finalised – flies in the face of the approach preferred by the core trio of older Occupy Central founders led by Benny Tai Yiu-ting, who plan simply to hand themselves in to the police in a bid to convince an increasingly sceptical public that they don’t want to flout the rule of law.

The founding trio of Occupy – Tai, Chan Kin-man and the Reverend Chu Yiu-ming – are set to surrender to police on Friday after ditching a plan to do it today because “they want to stay until the end of the fight”, according to a source close to that camp.

“The three co-founders once considered surrendering earlier than their scheduled date – December 5 – to avoid a confrontation, but in the end they scrapped the idea as others want them to stay until the end of the fight,” the source said.

The student leaders, however, hope that being arrested amid a police crackdown on escalated action would prompt protesters to rethink how the movement should proceed.

“It is a common belief of organisers that it is time to get off the streets and take the campaign for democracy forward to a more sustainable format,” said a source close to the inner core of the Federation of Students.

“Surrounding government offices would prompt police to take action, and it is hoped that the protesters will start thinking about how to carry on the movement elsewhere, without occupying.”

Federation of Students secretary general Alex Chow Yong-kang had earlier called on protesters to get back to Admiralty today with their “safety equipment” such as umbrellas and goggles. “It could be another turning point” for the movement, he said on Friday, without disclosing any concrete details.

Meanwhile, a group of journalists and members of the public filed reports at the police headquarters en masse yesterday regarding officers’ recent alleged assaults on journalists.

The move by the members of five local journalists’ groups came after a NOW TV engineer and an Apple Daily videographer were arrested while covering events at the Mong Kok protest site over the past week.

Other groups that also reported to the police collectively included the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the RTHK Programme Staff Union, Next Media Trade Union and Journalism Educators for Press Freedom.

Meanwhile, a group of British lawmakers investigating  the UK’s relations with Hong Kong have been told China will not allow them  into the former colony, Agence France-Presse reported.

The Foreign Affairs Committee, a panel of lawmakers who scrutinise the  Foreign Office’s work, is looking into Britain’s relations with Hong Kong 30 years on from the 1984 Joint Declaration,  which set out the terms of the 1997 handover of Hong Kong.

Richard Ottaway, who chairs the cross-party panel, said he would on Monday  call for an emergency debate in parliament on the situation.

The 11-member committee, which reports to the lower House of Commons,  planned to visit Hong Kong before the end of the year as part of its inquiry.

“The Chinese government have, in past weeks and months, registered their  opposition to the inquiry,” the committee said in a statement.

“I have been informed by the Chinese embassy that if we attempt to travel  to Hong Kong we will be refused entry,” Ottaway said.

“We are a committee of elected members of parliament from a democratic  nation who wish to scrutinise British diplomatic work in Hong Kong.

“The Chinese government are acting in an overtly confrontational manner in  refusing us access to do our job. “I shall be asking the speaker tomorrow to grant an emergency debate on the  floor of the house,” he said.

Earlier this month, the panel questioned Chris Patten, the governor who  oversaw the transfer of Hong Kong from British to Chinese sovereignty.

He rejected Beijing’s assertions that Hong Kong’s political situation was  no longer anything to do with London, citing binding agreements signed between  the countries.  “The Joint Declaration provides obligations on China to us for 50 years,”  he said.

Obama calls Chuck Todd ‘sad’

November 30, 2014

By  Kathianne Boniello
New York Post

Obama calls Chuck Todd ‘sad’

The commander in chief doesn’t think much of the man who labeled him “The Stranger.”

Shopping at a Washington, DC, bookstore Saturday, President Obama spotted a copy of “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd’s new book about his presidency.

“Oh, Chuck Todd!” Obama exclaimed. “Let’s see what Chuck has to say here!”

“How is he writing a book already? asked his 16-year-old daughter, Malia. “Sad.”

“He’s just sad,” the president joked in response.

Obama’s off-the-cuff pan was no surprise, considering what Todd thinks of the president.

The book, titled “The Stranger,” blasts Obama as a flip-flopping policymaker whose detached temperament has prevented him from implementing his ideas.

It includes what one reviewer called a “stinging indictment” of Obama’s time in the White House and slams the president as unable to fulfill his potential or work with those across the aisle.

But its author isn’t having any success in Washington, either.

Modal TriggerTodd took the helm of the NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sept. 7 aiming to boost the ratings of the languishing Sunday political gabfest.

An exclusive Obama interview on Todd’s show debut didn’t help. By October, the show’s ratings hit even lower lows, coming in third behind CBS’s and ABC’s political talk shows.

Todd’s book didn’t make the cut for Obama’s purchases in the visit to the Politics & Prose Bookstore.

In all, he put 17 books on his credit card.

“I hope it works!” he said as he handed the card to the clerk.

In September, his credit card was declined at the Estela restaurant in Noho, as he dined with First Lady Michelle Obama while visiting the city for the UN General Assembly.

At the bookstore, Obama made sure to haggle.

“You from out of town?” one of the bookstore clerks asked.

“I am,” the president said. “Do I get a discount for that?”

“Upcharge sometimes,” the clerk joked.

Luckily for the president, a second clerk stepped in.

“I think you get the neighbor discount,” the clerk said.

“The neighbor discount. I’ll take that,” Obama said.

His credit card worked fine.

Barack Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia purchase books at Politics and Prose in Washington, DC.Photo: UPI

The crowd mostly cheered as Obama and his daughters shopped, though one customer tried to steer the appearance toward politics.

“When are you going to close Guantanamo?” the person yelled from the crowd.

The president replied, “We’re working on it. Any other issues?”

Obama’s purchases included the classic “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad and newer titles like “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson and “The Laughing Monsters” by Denis Johnson.

With Post Wire Services

http://nypost.com/2014/11/29/obama-calls-chuck-todd-sad-during-visit-to-bookstore/

Hong Kong: Police Make Arrests As Pro-Democracy Protesters Assemble At Government Headquarters Shouting “I want true democracy.”

November 30, 2014
HONG KONG — Nov 30, 2014, 11:04 AM ET
Hong Kong Democracy Protest

Unhappiness in Paradise: Thailand’s crown prince has revoked royally-assigned family name of his wife, her family

November 30, 2014

BANGKOK — Thailand’s crown prince has revoked the royally-assigned family name of his wife, following the arrest of several of her relatives in a high-profile corruption case. News about the monarchy is heavily filtered by the palace, and under the lèse-majesté laws, the world’s harshest, anything deemed an insult or a threat to the monarchy is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

The office of Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, 62, issued a statement on Friday ordering the Interior Ministry to strip the family of Princess Srirasmi, 42, of the royal-appointed surname Akharaphongpreecha. “Individuals using the royal-appointed last name must change back to their old family name,” the office said in the statement.

Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is the first in line for the Thai throne. His father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is widely revered by Thais, is 86. The Thai monarchy can bestow honorary names to families in return for service under a 1915 law. Three people with the Akharaphongpreecha name were among 19 arrested in a crackdown on alleged police corruption this month in raids that netted tens of millions of dollars in assets.

Thailand’s Princess Srirasmi

Related:

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Thailand Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn with his wife and child

BANGKOK — In a rare public display of palace intrigue in Thailand, relatives of a prominent member of the royal family have been charged with numerous counts of corruption and stripped of their royally bestowed name.

The implications of the still-unfolding palace purge are not yet fully clear but come at a time of extreme sensitivity surrounding the monarchy, a potent symbol of national unity in a country that has been deeply divided politically for the past decade. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 86, is ailing, and the current scandal adds to a widespread sense of anxiety about succession.

The family members targeted in the purge are related to Princess Srirasm, the wife of Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn and the mother of Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, the presumed heir to the throne after his father.

The scandal began to unfold last week when a group of police officers who have links to the princess’s family was arrested. The group, which police say was led by Lt. Gen. Pongpat Chayapan, the powerful former head of the criminal investigation unit, was accused of running illegal casinos, oil smuggling and money laundering, among other crimes.

Troves of what the police say was ill-gotten wealth were paraded for the news media and prominently displayed on front pages, including what resembled a small museum of ancient Buddhist artifacts. The police also said they had seized 24 gold bars, hundreds of Buddhist amulets, stacks of property deeds and 80 truckloads of rare timber. The police dug out many of the items from an underground vault and released images of a backhoe tearing down a wall to get at them.

Reports of police corruption are common in Thailand, but the highly unusual twist in the case was the charge of lèse-majesté, specifically the allegation, not fully elaborated on by the authorities, that the accused used symbols of the monarchy for their own benefit.

On Saturday, the authorities released a letter sent by the office of the crown prince ordering the government to strip his wife’s family members of their royally bestowed name, Akkarapongpreecha.

The order appears to leave Princess Srirasm, who was a commoner before she married the crown prince in 2001, in a fragile position.

Yet as is typical with royal matters in Thailand, the scandal is being reported in vague and oblique terms, and very few basic questions are being asked or answered publicly.

“I would like to inform the press that this is an important case, a sensitive case,” Somyot Poompanmoung, the country’s police chief, told the media last week. “Sometimes we cannot reveal deep information and detail.”

Some aspects of the crackdown remain shrouded in mystery. One of the policemen accused of corruption, Col. Akkharawut Limrat, died after plunging from a building. His body was immediately cremated, contrary to traditional Buddhist practices.

Police officials have said little about the death, including where it occurred.

“He got stressed out,” Lt. Gen. Prawut Thavornsiri, a police spokesman, said. “So he jumped out of the building and died.”

Discussion in Thailand, typically a garrulous and freewheeling society, has been muted, at least publicly, on the possible motives of the crackdown and the implications for the monarchy.

“The silence is deafening,” said Thongchai Winichakul, a professor of Southeast Asian history at the University of Wisconsin who is more free to discuss the issue because he is based outside of Thailand. “This subject is forbidden from open and reasonable discussion. This fact tells a lot about Thai society today.”

The use of lèse-majesté law against Mr. Pongpat, who until two weeks ago was one of the most senior members of the police force, appears to further expand the scope of the controversial law.

In recent years, at least one member of the royal family has suggested that awareness and admiration for the monarchy have fallen among young people. Partly in response, the authorities have become more aggressive in prosecuting lèse-majesté cases. Anyone is entitled to file a lèse-majesté case in Thailand, so the law has turned Thais against one another.

A taxi driver was sentenced earlier this year to two years and six months after his passenger recorded on his phone a conversation with the driver that a court deemed insulting to the monarchy.

In October, a 67-year-old man was arrested in a shopping mall in Bangkok for scrawling a cryptic message that the authorities deemed offensive to the monarchy. Security guards in the shopping mall handed him over to the military. He remains in detention and, despite health problems, has been refused bail four times.

The lèse-majesté law calls for up to 15 years in prison for anyone who defames, insults or threatens the “King, Queen, Heir-apparent or Regent.”

The measure’s protection appears to extend beyond living monarchs. In October, two career military officers brought charges against a well-known Thai intellectual, Sulak Sivaraksa, for saying that an elephant duel involving the ruler of a previous Thai kingdom was legend and not fact. The ruler in question, King Naresuan, died in 1605.

David Streckfuss, a scholar specializing in Thailand and the author of a book about lèse-majesté, said he expected the law to be used with continued frequency in the coming months.

“However the succession unfolds, the lèse-majesté law ensures that the Thai public will be silenced,” he said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/01/world/asia/family-of-thai-princess-srirasm-is-stripped-of-royal-name.html

China blocks British MPs’ visit to Hong Kong

November 30, 2014

From the BBC

Demonstrators gather during a pro-democracy rally in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong on November 30, 2014

Demonstrators gather at a pro-democracy rally in Hong Kong

The Chinese embassy has told a group of MPs it will be stopped from making a planned trip to Hong Kong.

Sir Richard Ottoway, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, accused the Chinese authorities of acting in an “overtly confrontational manner”.

His committee is examining relations between the UK and its former colony, where pro-democracy activists have been protesting since September.

The demonstrators want elections free from interference by Beijing.

Sir Richard said he had been warned that if he and fellow MPs attempted to travel to Hong Kong as part of the inquiry they would be refused entry.

“The Chinese government are acting in an overtly confrontational manner in refusing us access to do our job,” he stated.

Sir Richard added that he would request an emergency Commons debate on the issue.

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-30267026

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  (Includes links to articles on Hong Kong from 2 prior weeks)