Sunday, December 21, 2008

My friend Paulette

My very dear friend Paulette Hopple died on Thursday morning. It was sudden, yet not unexpected. For 20 years she'd had a death sentence over her because of a rare form of scleroderma which had attacked her lungs. Through much prayer God gave her more strength, vim and vigour than most of us without any disease. She was someone who never did anything by halves... it was always full on.
I've always been impressed with her keen interest in people, and no matter who they were she wanted to know them, was concerned for them and wanted to encourage them in whatever way she could. I remember on a visit with her earlier this year in Mae Sai. She would always speak with the beggars who'd come across from Burma; she wanted to know who they were, what language they spoke and what were the circumstances of their life that had brought them to begging. Invariably she would give them some money or pay for a good meal for them. I found this care about people to be quite overwhelming.
She had been serving God in Asia. While on a 6 week trip for language data collection and a literacy workshop she experienced increasing difficulty with breathlessness at the slightest exertion. She knew it was bad but did not stop until completing the literacy workshop in which training was given to speakers of the ethnic language with whom she worked. These folk were being trained to be literacy teachers for their own people in their own language. After this her breathing become more laboured and she ended up in hospital. Her heart was unable to oxygenate her blood and gave out just after midnight December 18.
I miss her, and will continue to do. She was a good friend to me. We've been friends since being in grad school together in the mid 70's, so it's been a long blessing.
All her friends and colleagues around the world are in shock, and feeling deeply the effects of sudden loss. Though it seems as if her life was cut short, it wasn't. It was God's time for her. It might not suit us, or make sense to us, but it was definitely God's time.
This mornming I was reading John 14:1-3 and was impacted afresh by Jesus' words when he said: "I am going to prepare a place for you ... When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am." Jesus had finished preparing Paulette's place and came to get her! Wow! And, I'm sure she was ready to go and knew it was time.
When will our places be ready? Will we be ready to go with Jesus when comes to get us? I pray we will. I pray I will.
Bless you all!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Koalas at Cape Otway

Koalas at Cape Otway
Originally uploaded by bhojman
Having just returned from a few days travelling along the Great Ocean Road along the souther coast of Victoria, I can't help but post this photo of a koala in a gum tree in the national park at Cape Otway. There were many in the trees along the road to the lighthouse. Koalas are always so cute!
Nothing seems to phase them... and they were observing us as much as we were observing them.
There were so many of them that there was plenty of time to observe and move around to het a good view of them.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Spring Garden - Kangaroo Paw

Around Sydney at this time of year (Spring) are many beautiful gardens open to the public. Today (17Oct08) some friends and I went for a drive to 4 of these. They were really beautiful! Here is some red Kangaroo Paw in a garden bed of blue flowers. I'm not juch on the names of flowers but I sure do enjoy looking at all the beauty of them. I find it very refreshing to the soul, especially after the pain of the past weeks and Mum's death last week.
There are many more of these pictures at my Flickr page if you'd like to see them.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

My Mum, 8 Oct 2008

My Mum died this afternoon (8Oct) at about 2:20pm.

My brother, Peter, received a call from the nursing home this morning to say that Mum's breathing had become very shallow and they were moving her into the palliative care room. I'd intended to go up tomorrow but decided I should go today. She was deeply unconscious yet still held my hand. I sat with her praying and speaking gently to her for about 2 hours. At one point I asked her to squeeze my hand if she could hear me. She did and shook my hand quite vigorously for her weakened condition. I knew she was hearing me so continued to speak blessing over her. My sister Stephanie arrived about 1:30pm and I took the opportunity to go for some lunch. On my return I passed Steph driving off. She said Mum's breathing was extremely shallow and sometimes stopped altogether. As I walked down the hallway the nurse, Heather, met me to say that Mum had just died. She just stopped breathing.

The staff were wonderful! They came into the room to farewell to Mum and took the time to sit with me and give comfort. They talked of the good experiences they'd had with her, and they gave me opportunity to talk of Mum and what she meant to me. They asked if I'd like the chaplain to come and I felt it very right to say 'yes'. The chaplain was wonderful. We prayed over Mum and she anointed her with oil and committed her into God's hands. We had a good time talking and sharing together which helped me to process what had happened and was happening.

I don't know when the funeral will be, possibly Tuesday. We have yet to let all the rels know as well Mum's many friends.

Even though this has been expected for some time, it is still painful. I grieve Mum's passing, but I'm glad she's finally at rest. She's in God's hands, the very best place to be.

My Mum: born 3 July 1917, died 8 October 2008... a long life!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Australian King Parrot and juvenile Crimson Rosella at Majors Creek

God has made it possible for me to acquire some land at Majors Creek for the development of a small retreat centre. It is to be a place for the renewal of hope in a hopeless world. The land is beautiful! There are many birds, a resident wombat, rabbits, kangaroos, etc. There is a very lovely feel to the land, a sense of God's presence and blessing.
I was down there last week and watched the parrots enjoying a feast of flower buds on the weeds growing profusely in one section of the land. Here is an Australian King Parrot (left) and a juvenile Crimson Rosella. At times there were well over a dozen feeding within 5 metres of where I was sitting.
I have started to develop a website: Hope for Today

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

View of Middle Harbour, Sydney

A good friend of mine has just moved to Balmoral in Sydney. This is the view from her front verandah. Hard on the eyes, eh?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mum, an update

My mum lives on contrary to her doctor's expectations. The nursing home she's in is really very good; the nurses and aides are kind and helpful. I am impressed, and very glad for Mum's sake. It's also a relief for me and my siblings to know that she's getting good care.

Those of you have had a parent go through dementia know exactly what it's like... one day my Mum is pretty well with it and her conversation is quite lucid. Other days she's so deeply asleep there's no rousing her. On yet other days she is off with the fairies, talking about some very weird things, some of which are quite funny. Sometimes she's really cranky and wants to go home and sleep in her own bed. I'm often told to call a taxi and to help her get out of bed so she can go home. This is quite impossible as she has lost the use of her left leg and arm... and has been bedridden for the past 4 months.

I find myself often grieving for her loss of mobility and sensibility. Getting old like this is awful. Up till her 3 falls in 2 weeks back in May she was doing very well and still living in her own home. Since the falls and brain hemorrhages and several some small strokes she's become totally dependent on others for everything. It's no wonder she's often cranky.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sydney from North Head

Sydney from North Head
Originally uploaded by bhojman
I love the views of Sydney from North Head. Years ago there were no fences so one could walk right up to the edge of the cliff and enjoy the spectacular views up and down the cost. Now there's a well fenced walkway and signs to say to stay within the confines of the walkway... boring, really. It's now harder to get close to the cliff edge. Even though there are several viewing points they're not really enough.
Anyway, the views are still so very spectacular.

Friday, July 25, 2008

My Mum, the story continues

This week my siblings and I completed the clearing out of Mum's house in readiness for it to be leased. This was a hard job as there were so many memories, so many emotions. It all seems so final...

The lockdown at the nursing home was lifted July 15; it'd been in place for 10 days. We siblings were very glad to be able to go visit Mum again. She continues to decline and is completely bedridden. It's an awful feeling to see her so weak and so helpless. She is lucid most of the time we visit though sometimes she talks about things that have come from the past somewhere. She sleeps most of the time and often drifts off to sleep while we visit her.

I find myself grieving deep inside, grieving for the person she once was, for the weakness in which she finds herself now, and for my own sense of loss. 91 is a good age and we all must die sometime... and I am at peace about that. However, I do feel deeply the looming loss of her physical presence here on earth.

The doctors are surprised that she lives on even with all that is wrong with her, and with all the weakness and heart failure she experiences.

Not any easy time...

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Aging mothers

My plans changed dramatically when I returned from a 5 week trip to Thailand mid May. My Mum had 3 falls in a couple of weeks. I was with her during her last fall. Each time she banged her head but had no obvious injuries. With the 3rd fall she ended up with a brain hemorrhage and lost he use of her left arm and leg and was hospitalised. She's been in hospital since. Things don't look too good for her. Besides the hemorrhage, she's since had a small stroke, battled a nasty urinary tract infection, had a chest infection, a large clot develop in her left leg, etc...

She was way out of it for a while but has come good physically, at least she doesn't look as if she's going to die any minute. We (my siblings and I) have been constantly at the hospital.

Yesterday she was moved to a nursing home where she will probably live out the rest of her days. Today we found the home in lockdown as a number of residents have come down with a nasty bug... not a good time for my Mum to have been moved.

On July 3 she celebrated her 91st birthday. Here are a couple of photos of the occasion. The second includes my brother and sister and a niece.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Burmese military and their lack of compassion!

The Burmese military are at it again! This latest seems to be par for the course, and a continuing indication that the country's leadership cares nothing for the ordinary people. Today's Sydney Morning Herald has news of the military forcing the cyclone victims out of the refugee places and back to their non-existent villages; places where there are no houses or food or medical supplies. This is all so heartless!

US slams Junta: SMH

The Burma military's obstruction of international aid after Cyclone Nargis came "at a cost of tens of thousands of lives", US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates said today.

"Our ships and aircraft awaited country approval so they could act promptly to save thousands of lives - approval of the kind granted by Indonesia immediately after the 2004 tsunami and by Bangladesh after a fierce cyclone just last November," Gates told a regional security forum in Singapore.

"With Burma, the situation has been very different - at a cost of tens of thousands of lives."

Meanwhile, earlier reports said Burma's military government appears to be reasserting its authority over cyclone relief operations. Aid officials say the junta has been forcing survivors out of refugee camps and hindering the access it had promised foreign aid workers.

A UN official said yesterday the government was making cyclone survivors leave camps and "dumping" them near their devastated villages with virtually no aid supplies.

Eight camps set up for homeless survivors in the Irrawaddy delta town of Bogalay were "totally empty" as the clear-out continued, said Teh Tai Ring of the United Nations Children's Fund - UNICEF - at a meeting of UN and private aid agency workers discussing water and sanitation issues.

"The government is moving people unannounced," he said, adding that authorities were "dumping people in the approximate location of the villages, basically with nothing".

After his statements were reported, UNICEF issued a statement saying the remarks referred to "unconfirmed reports by relief workers on the relocation of displaced people affected by" the May 2-3 storm.

In his remarks at the water experts' meeting, however, Teh said the information came from a relief worker who had just returned from the affected area and that "tears were shed" when he recounted his findings earlier in the day.

Separately, at a church in Rangoon, more than 400 cyclone victims from a delta township, Labutta, were evicted today following orders from authorities a day earlier.

"It was a scene of sadness, despair and pain," said a church official at the Karen Baptist Home Missions in Rangoon, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of official reprisal. "Those villagers lost their homes, their family members and the whole village was washed away. They have no home to go back to."

All the refuge-seekers except some pregnant women, two young children and those with severe illnesses, left the church in 11 trucks yesterday morning.

The authorities told church workers that the victims would first be taken to a government camp in Myaung Mya - a mostly undamaged town in the Irrawaddy delta - but it was not immediately clear when they would be resettled in their villages.

An estimated 2.4 million people remain homeless and hungry after the May 2-3 cyclone hit Burma. Burma's government says the cyclone killed 78,000 people and left another 56,000 missing.

Aid workers who have reached some of the remote villages say little remains that could sustain the former residents. Houses are destroyed, livestock have perished and food stocks have virtually run out. Medicine supplies are nonexistent.

Terje Skavdal, a senior UN official in Bangkok, Thailand, said he could not confirm the camp closures but that any such forced movement was "completely unacceptable".

"People need to be assisted in the settlements and satisfactory conditions need to created before they can return to their place of origins," Skavdal, head of the Asia-Pacific region's UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told reporters. "Any forced or coerced movement of people is completely unacceptable."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The cruelty of Burma's leaders

Unbelievably, Burma's leaders are unable to be compassionate toward their own people; and they prevent anyone who would render assistance.

Burma's beggars being forced off the roads: SMH
Police have begun clearing roads of thousands of cyclone survivors in Burma's Irrawaddy Delta whose desperation has reduced them to begging for food from passing cars.

Most of the 2.4 million people in need of food, shelter and medicine have yet to receive any international aid, according to the UN. Volunteers from Rangoon and other cities have been driving to villages to deliver aid themselves.

But police are warning volunteers against making donations, and have threatened to suspend their driving licences.

"Aid goods should be given out at relief centres only," one officer told a volunteer trying to give food to cyclone victims.

"The people should learn to feed themselves. They should return to their homes. We do not want foreigners to think we are a country of beggars."

Police say they are trying to ensure the safety of the crowds of people who are lining the region's few roads. Desperation has grown so intense that hundreds of people stampede every passing car.

Six foreign staff based in Rangoon with the UN children's fund, UNICEF, were allowed by the junta to join teams of mainly Burmese workers to assess the scale of the devastation from Cyclone Nargis, which left 133,000 dead or missing.

Other charities such as Doctors Without Borders were also sending foreign staff into the delta.

"We're very pleased that we've been able to get international colleagues out" into the delta, a UNICEF spokeswoman, Shantha Bloemen, said in Bangkok.

Police, soldiers and immigration officers have staged roadblocks to question foreigners on the main route from Rangoon into the devastated town of Dedaye in the delta, which bore the brunt of the cyclone.

Police in Rangoon also yesterday detained 15 members of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy as they marched to her home ahead of the annual deadline for renewal of her house arrest.

The group was shoved into a truck by riot police after 30 of her party marched from their headquarters to Ms Suu Kyi's home, where she has been under house arrest for more than 12 of the past 18 years.

Security was stepped up around Ms Suu Kyi's home as the junta faced an annual deadline to decide whether to extend her current period of house arrest or release her. Most analysts expect her detention to be extended again this year.

The Indonesian Foreign Minister, Hassan Wirayuda, urged the junta to release Ms Suu Kyi, in light of the goodwill the world has shown in recent weeks. But in the aftermath of the cyclone, the anticipated extension has drawn little other international attention.
Agence France Presse, Associated Press, The New York Times

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Burma, breaking in and through

Though the higher ups have dug in their heels there are tales of extraordinary efforts being made by the "little people" (Burmese and expats) to help those devastated. Here's one such story from today's Sydney Morning Herald.
Pray for this beleaguered country and its people who have suffered so much trauma for so many decade.

Breaking through Burma's cruel wall of silence

Harry McKenzie* decided to crack the Burmese regime's Bamboo Curtain that bans foreign aid workers and journalists from the areas worst hit by the cyclone. He organised a truckload of food, hired a few locals and set off into the Irrawaddy delta. This is his story.

"DON'T worry about the dead bodies; the fish will eat them," a general in the Burmese junta was heard to say last week.

The general was being serious, it seems. Nearly a fortnight after Cyclone Nargis flung a tidal wave of salt water over the rice paddies of southern Burma, many bodies still float in the paddies, ignored and unclaimed, and hundreds of thousands of people are in dire need of food, fresh water and medicine.

Last week our secret aid truck penetrated the wall of secrecy the junta has thrown up around the Irrawaddy delta. The truck, packed with food bought by foreign donors, myself and locals, made it into Bogale, at the centre of the worst-hit area.

Thousands of people are living here in makeshift refugee camps, still desperate for food and medical help two weeks after the cyclone struck. These were people who had borne the unbearable, whose condition the Burmese military junta is desperate to shield from the outside world, and who it continues to refuse to help by allowing in foreign aid workers. Hundreds crowded around our little aid truck when it entered town last Thursday. They were crying and begging for food. "Me, me, give me food," shouted one man, who tried to drag off one of my aid workers.

My "NGO" - comprising four handpicked Rangoon "street kids" - worked through the night distributing parcels of food to surviving families in Bogale and surrounding villages. Villagers wept: "Please, please give us rice, soup, anything."

"People were begging on their hands and knees for a single packet of soup," a team member said. "Please don't leave us," cried a hungry young mother nursing her child. She had lost her husband, mother and three other family members.

Nearby, a parentless baby lay splayed on a concrete slab. Elsewhere, a wretched old man raged against the paranoid regime that had so cruelly abandoned his family: he had received no warning of the cyclone and lost most of his family in the tidal surge that killed at least 100,000 people and left 2.5 million in need of aid.

Save the Children and the UN estimate the death toll could now exceed 200,000 (the official Burmese Government figure is 78,000).

When food arrived last Thursday it caused a stampede, forcing local officials to padlock the gates to the Hindu temple, where 3000 were packed in.

Overhead, the thwump-thwump of a government helicopter tormented this living hell. Sent to "survey" the damage, the official choppers rarely land in the devastated areas. Our aid team travelled for two days in the delta and saw not a single government helicopter land.

Many in Bogale were too sick or exhausted to care. In a corner of the monastery, alone with her awful memories, sat a teenage girl. She stared blankly into space. She had lost seven members of her family. She survived the storm by clinging to a tree.

My idea started as a dream, and ended as an unlikely reality: to send a single truck of food, as a kind of Trojan Horse, into the delta to penetrate the worst-hit areas that were cut off from the world last week.

The Government has literally locked up Rangoon, blockaded the roads heading south and west, confining foreign aid workers and journalists to the city. Only locals were permitted into the disaster zone.

To make the plan work, I needed the right locals. The officials seemed to find the idea of a foreigner organising a private aid convoy a great old hoot. Major Tun even wondered whether he might take his fishing rod.

Further mobile calls yielded an official reply: No. "A boat is not possible," said one official. "Why not go by truck?"

Full circle. We agreed - a truck - and everyone relaxed.

It was 3pm on Wednesday; the plan was to leave at 5am the next day. We had two hours to buy food supplies before the markets closed. Rangoon central marketplace is a human hive of ramshackle little boxes of traders piled one on another.

But there is method in the madness, and Win had mastered the method.

Kumer waited in the truck outside as we negotiated with the traders. By 5pm we had bought six 20 kilogram bags of corn, three 40 kilogram bags of potatoes, 10 boxes of chicken noodle soup packets (about 1000 packets), 10 boxes of mosquito coils (500 coils) and 10 boxes of canned fish. Total price: 1,002,000 kyat (about $1040).

We met on the street at 5am the next day. The major, Win and I travelled in an old VW van - while Chi and Mug went with Kumer in the truck behind. We soon left the city and passed through wide rice paddies, still flooded, with smashed homes and villages on either side.

Within an hour we reached the first checkpoint. The youth at the gate, seeing Major Tun, sprang to attention, saluted, and waved us through. After surviving two more checkpoints we reached the large township of Kunyangon. We passed this, too, and it seemed I might reach the worst-hit area of the delta.

Then I noticed a motorcycle rider in an army uniform, who gestured for us to pull over. Major Tun's smile froze; I looked forward to watching the motorcyclist get a severe dressing down.

Alas, it was Tun who got the dressing down, for taking a foreigner into a restricted area. The soldiers inspected my passport and confined me to the van with curtains drawn. The team was interviewed by a senior army officer: where were we headed? Bogale. Why? To feed some people. With whose aid? Mr Harry's. On behalf of which NGO? None, this was Mr Harry's private initiative.

We were forced to turn around; the foreigner - me - was not allowed to proceed.

"Look, why don't I hide under the tarp in the back of the truck?" I suggested a little way back down the road.

"No, very, very dangerous," Win said. "They shoot you - maybe."

"OK," I said, "you blokes go to Bogale and the major and I will return to Rangoon."

It was agreed: Win, Chi, Mug and Kumer turned back to Bogale in the truck. I slipped them my camera and recorder, which Win rammed into his underpants.

That was how half our convoy made it into Bogale.

The team looked distraught on its return on Friday. They described the little truck's arrival in the stricken town.

"Mr Harry … Bogale is totally broken, broken, broken," Win said. "Every home is broken. There are 130,000 dead in the area. The villages have no electricity, no lights, no lunch, no dinner, no hope. The people are broken."

But he couldn't go on. He lay his head on the table and wept. Mr Chi wept too: "It is everywhere," Chi said furiously. "Bogale just one place. This f---ing government."

Win raised his head, still in tears: " … so many children and babies naked and crying. So many naked. I gave the people my shirt. They are my people."

Both men gave their shirts to the people.

As they wept I looked at Win's photos, taken at great risk. They revealed the scale of the horror: families wiped out; broken legs and arms, unset; babies sleeping on banana leaves in mud.

"The Government has given nothing," Chi stressed.

"We saw no government aid. We saw no UN or NGOs, and very few medicines. It was mostly private donations - by local businessmen - or from China."

"My heart is crying," Win said. "So many people crowded around us, crying, 'Please, please. Please help us."'

It is a portrait borne out by local and foreign aid workers. UNICEF said it feared a cholera epidemic from drinking bad water directly from rivers polluted with human excrement, bodies and dead animals.

"The water in the whole area is contaminated," one official said.

By Friday, UNICEF had sent 100,000 oral rehydration solutions, many more essential drugs, tarpaulins and bleaching powder (to purify water in wells). But the official conceded this was way too little; 2.5 million people were in dire need.

"I'm always thinking of how we can mobilise resources. But we can't bring in foreign workers."

UNICEF employs only 130 locals in Burma.

The biggest fear is cholera. Such an epidemic would kill millions without modern treatment and experienced doctors, whom the junta refuses to allow into the area.

A UNICEF official said: "Normal preventative medicines will limit deaths to 2 per cent of a stricken population; but without help, as in the Irrawaddy delta, the numbers killed will be at least 50 per cent."

Malaria, tetanus and measles were spreading last week; and typhus may also be a big concern. The UN is organising fumigation teams to spray the malaria-carrying mosquitoes, but few teams have been allowed into the area.

To help the 300,000 most in need would involve 10 times the current relief effort, one foreign official said.

"Otherwise tens of thousands will die in the next few weeks. The death toll may double."

A spokesman for Medecins Sans Frontieres in Rangoon said: "We're equipped to deal with 25,000 people, but if there's a massive outbreak of infectious diseases we wouldn't be able to cope at our present level of readiness. On the ground people are breaking down; our translator was crying when he returned."

MSF has just flown in psychologists to counsel their local staff.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of cyclone survivors have been forcibly moved into refugee areas, in the towns of Laputta, Pyapan, Bogale and Pathein, where they sit in temporary camps set up by the Burmese Army. In Laputta and surrounding villages the official death toll is 26,000.

One reason little aid is getting through is that so few experienced people are on the ground to distribute it. In the absence of foreign aid workers and so few locals, the junta has delegated responsibility for distributing foreign aid to local business tycoons. They include:

■ Te Zay, a top crony in the economic wing of General Than Shwe's regime, and head of HT00 Trading Company, the local airline and several construction businesses. Te Zay, also an arms dealer, heads the US sanctions list for Burma;

■ Steve Law, the son of a drugs baron and owner of Asia World, a local business with sharemarket and construction interests;

■ Serge Pun, the head of the local conglomerate FMI.

No doubt these men are doing their best to help, one official said, but foreign NGOs say the business leaders have no experience of massive disaster relief.

And, of course, corruption is never far away. One business leader used his private aid fiefdom for a photo opportunity showing him handing out DVDs and TVs to flooded villages with no electricity. Others were branding packets of foreign aid with their own corporate logos and filming themselves handing it out, as a publicity stunt.

Most aid goes straight to the Government or the army. The US is sending four plane-loads a day, all of which goes to the junta. Not surprisingly, bags of aid designated for the desperate south are showing up in the street markets of Rangoon.

Many foreign governments now see the regime's inability to deal with the crisis as a man-made catastrophe. The British Opposition Leader, David Cameron, has described it as a crime against humanity.

Nothing will change before Saturday, when the worst hit areas will be forced to participate in the second stage of a referendum on whether Burma should adopt a new "democratic constitution".

Few Burmese have the will to resist and vote "no", though most people affected by the cyclone feel extreme anger towards the regime. In the first round of voting an absurd 98 per cent were said to have voted "yes".

People had little choice: they were threatened with the confiscation of their crucial ID cards or bank books if they voted "no". In many villages the local chief simply requisitioned all ID cards, and ticked "yes".

Amid the chaos and sadness, one voice has been forced to stay silent: Aung San Suu Kyi. A Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and the symbol of democratic opposition, Suu Kyi remains under house arrest.

Her spirit seems to hover over the madness and tragedy of Burma, where the great courage and care of local people such as Win and Chi will prove helpless before this encircling nightmare of the junta's making.

* Harry McKenzie is not the writer's real name.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Burma, the drama and pain continue

The farce in Burma continues... The generals claim that the first phase of recovery is over and now they are moving onto reconstruction... and it's reconstruction on their terms as they take the land for their own purposes, like building a new naval base. They don't give a damn about the people! They want them to die, to be gone. How sick can a leadership be?

No wonder Tim Costello is discouraged!

Tim Costello dejected over inability to help in Burma (SMH):

TIM COSTELLO has dealt with devastation before. He has stood among the ruins of people's homes and lives, and bodies rotting in the streets.

But in Burma, while suffering in the wake of Cyclone Nargis was all around, it was a sense of frustration at being unable to help that overwhelmed the World Vision Australia chief.

In his first interview since returning to Melbourne on Saturday, Mr Costello broke down yesterday as he detailed the infuriating hurdles he faced in a country that seemed more focused on its elections than saving the lives of its people.

After flying in to the country's south with one of the few visas granted to foreigners on May 8 he was granted an audience with a general in Rangoon until two days later.

Mr Costello said he worked hard to prove he was not a "foreign saboteur". "We told [the general] we had come to ask for a letter to give us access through road blocks, the ability to distribute aid ourselves rather than through the military and permission for one of our planes to leave Dubai. He agreed to the first two."

The letter gave World Vision unrestricted access to deliver materials such as blankets and rice. But it was not enough.

Foreign aid workers from across the world continued to remain on standby yesterday as contaminated water threatened the health of thousands who have remarkably survived to this point.

Mr Costello broke down as he described the guilt of returning home.

"It's knowing what could have been done," he said. "This is the frustration. Even though it's not in your control and it's inappropriate and neurotic, you still feel it."

After praising the Government's $25 million aid commitment to Burma, Mr Costello said he was concerned about the impact of the junta's resistance to donors.

"Australians have not given," he said. "It would be interesting to compare the figures to China after they opened up, responded fast, allowed helicopters and journalists in, the whole lot.

"There is deep, deep cynicism in the donor public in Australia. They think … it's going into the Government's pockets, they're not getting the money. In truth, not a cent of our aid is going to the military.

"Getting that message through is very difficult … But we must not give up on them. They did not choose their government."

Julia Medew
May 19, 2008

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Keep the pressure up on the Burmese Junta!!

The quake in China is a disaster of huge proportions... so many dead, so many trapped, so many injured and so many missing. Yet the Chinese govt's response has been swift to provide all the help and aid needed.

What a contrast to the Burmese govt's response to the disaster in their own land. Many many thousands are in danger of dying from disease, starvation, thirst, and neglect. What agonising traumas are being visited upon the little people of the land! The ruling generals don't seem to care one little bit... except to keep control and oppress and depress their own peoples.

World govts, and the media ... keep the pressure up on these paranoid self-serving holders-onto-power-at-any-cost group of leaders
They are so out of touch with reality, it's laughable ... if it weren't so tragic.

How about ignoring the generals? Fly directly to the affected areas. Drop the needed supplies. Forget the permissions and visas and regulation. Save the people...

Save the poor and suffering! Do it now!

Burma's bizarre behaviour...

It is so hard to comprehend the totally bizarre behaviour by the Burmese military and leadership!

Today's Sydney Morning Herald reports has the story of the Burmese military stopping locals from helping those suffering from the cyclone's devastation. How bizarre can things get in that suffering country?
Army stops locals trying to give aid
MA NGAY GYI, BURMA: When one of Burma's best-known movie stars, KyawThu, travelled through the Irrawaddy Delta in recent days to deliver aid to the victims of the May 3 cyclone, a military patrol stopped him as he was handing out bags of rice.

"The officer told him, 'You cannot give directly to the people,"' said Tin Win, the village headman of the stricken city of Dedaye, who had been counting on the rice to feed 260 refugees who sleep in a large Buddhist prayer hall.

The politics of food aid - deciding who gets to deliver assistance to the homeless and hungry - is not just confined to the dispute between Burma's military junta and Western governments and outside relief agencies.

Even Burmese citizens who want to donate rice or other assistance have in several cases been told that all aid must be channelled through the military. This restriction has angered local officials such as Tin Win who are trying to help rebuild the lives of villagers. He twitched with rage as he described the rice the military gave him.

"They gave us four bags," he said. "The rice is rotten - even the pigs and dogs wouldn't eat it."

He said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees had delivered good rice to the local military leaders last week but they kept it for themselves and distributed the waterlogged, musty rice. ...

SMH 13 May 2008

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Seen in Laos

Seen in Laos
Originally uploaded by bhojman
Just had a few weeks in Thailand and spent most of the time up in Mae Sai. We went over to the Golden Triangle for a look see... then rented a boat to go across to Laos, at least to an island that's on Lao territory. It's really a place for tourists to spend money.
It was not all that enjoyable as it was hot and very muggy and I found the island to be quite oppressive...
Many stalls had bottles of pickled snakes and scorpions and other nasties... I believe they are bottles of liquor which can be drunk. I suppose some people find them appetising but I'm not one of them.
I was glad to leave and get back to the Thai side.
I was especially glad to get back to Mae Sai and the coolness of my friend's house.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Sunrise, Easter Morn

Sunrise, Easter Morn
Originally uploaded by bhojman
It's amazing the beauty of the early morning and a sunrise. I don't usually get to be up to see the sun rise but did so this past Easter Sunday. It was great, and I'm so glad I did.
To see the darkness give way as the sun slowly moved up over the horizon... wow! And the colour changing from the black and white of the night to the amazing colours of the day.
Light dispels the darkness... darkness does not dispel the light... even a single little candle dispels the darkness... we live in an amazing world!
And we have an amazing God!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Lake Macquarie

Lake Macquarie
Originally uploaded by bhojman
A photo taken at the foreshore at Warners Bay... a beautiful spot with nice walkways.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Gang-gang Cockatoos eating hawthorn berries

I was camped at my property in Majors Creek last week and had a fun time watching the gang-gang cockatoos eating the hawthorn berries. The trees were full of them, all cracking open the berries and eating the centre. They did this all day! I was ignored as I walked around taking photos of them. I've been told that as the berries ferment the gang-gangs get tipsy. I suspect they were beginning to experience that as I watched them. The morning I left they were screeching and it reminded me of someone with a hangover....
The one in the photo here is male. The female has a gray head with a gray tuft.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Naming the unborn...

A recent court decision in France means that parents of a stillborn or miscarried child can register their names thus recognising their humanness at whatever stage of development the child was at. This is a great move! It gives the parent the opportunity to grieve the lost life and acknowledge the pain of the loss. Pro-abortionists are not too happy with this decision as it has many implications.
French Court: Parents Can Register Names for Fetuses

PARIS, France, February 8, 2008 ( - France's supreme court has ruled that parents of miscarried or stillborn children can register a name for the child, no matter what stage of development the child was at at the time of miscarriage or birth, reports the AFP.

Previous to this most recent ruling, parents in France were allowed to register a name for miscarried or stillborn children, but only after 22 weeks gestation, or if the child weighed over 1.1 pounds.

This new ruling gives parents the right to claim the body of their child, which, until this point, was incinerated by the hospital along with other waste tissues. It also allows the mothers of miscarried or stillborn children to claim maternity leave.

According to the AFP report, the ruling is triggering a storm over the issue of abortion in France, with pro-abortion activists arguing that the ruling gives pro-life activists a strongly emotional argument for the humanity of the child, by indicating that a fetus at any stage has a right to a name. "A fetus is only viable after 26 weeks," said Chantal Birman, deputy president of a pro-abortion group called ANCIC. "You have to take the timetable of pregnancy into account."

She said that the court decision, "will help a rollback [on abortion availability] that has been taking place in Europe for the last few months."

However, there is an increasing recognition in medical circles that miscarriage or stillbirth can be an extremely traumatic experience for mothers and fathers alike, who may have developed a profound emotional connection with their unborn child. "The mourning process can be long and lonely," says the Helping After Neonatal Death (HAND) website. "After the death of a baby, it generally takes twelve to twenty-four months simply to find your new base."

Many parents have found that the process of grieving is helped significantly by the giving of a name to their child. "Giving the baby a name and having the baby baptized or blessed, if such rituals are important to us, are ways for us to acknowledge the reality of the life that has come and gone so quickly," says HAND.


Friday, February 08, 2008

Abortion survivor bombshell

A welcome move! How anyone could kill a baby born alive after an abortion is beyond me. I am glad to see that the medical profession is taking a stand. I've never been able to understand how anyone could terminate a pregnancy simply because the baby was inconvenient. That feels to me like someone else is playing "God" in the life of another.

In my capacity as a healing prayer minister, I've worked with women who've lived with the unexpectedly huge guilt of having had an abortion... it seemed so clinical to them at the time but ended up reverberating through their souls. I've also worked with several who survived abortion attempts on them. The pain of the rejection was immense for them... they felt as if they were supposed to be dead and sometimes had a death wish that dogged them in their attempts to be alive. This may not make sense to some of you out there but it happens.

We do not know when a foetus becomes a human life. My belief is that it's at conception! This probably does not sit well with some but, again, in my experience with healing prayer, I've prayed with folk who, in some deep hidden part of their spirits, have known things from the time of their conception. They knew they were conceived in violence or they knew that they were wanted or not. It is amazing what we know if we give ourselves the time and place to be still enough to listen to those deep inner places of our beings.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. I share this with you in hopes that it will help some make good decisions for themselves and for the lives of their unborn children.

Italian Doctors: Abortion Survivors Must be Given Care, Even Against Mother's Wishes

Doctors from four different Roman universities have issued a joint
declaration affirming the duty of doctors to rescue and care for
infants born alive after an abortion attempt, even against the wishes
of the mother.

The declaration, made by doctors at the obstetric clinics of La
Sapienza, Tor Vergata, Campus Biomedico and Sacro Cuore, represent both
the secular and religious sides of the Italian university system. The
first two universities are public, and the second two are Catholic.

"An extremely premature newborn must be treated like any other person in danger, and assisted adequately," said Domenico Arduni, director of the Tor Vergata gynecological clinic.

Arduini added that this principle would hold even if the child had
survived an abortion, and "even if the mother is not in agreement."

The four physicians issued the statement together during a meeting at Fatebenefratelli hospital in Rome last Saturday.

According to the Spanish publication El Pais, the doctors'
declaration and the Vatican's recent campaign for a "moratorium" on
abortion in Italy (which has now become a global campaign), "has fallen
like a bomb among scientists and politicians".

Emma Bonino, the Italian Minister of European Policy, complained to
El Pais that "the political class should not allow others to set their
agenda." The Italian health minister, Livia Turco, told the
publication that protecting the life of such children was "senseless
cruelty." A prominent physician reportedly suggested that abortions be
done by poisoning the baby with potassium chloride, thus ensuring his
death before exiting the womb.

However, the ANSA news agency reports that the liberal bioethicist
Cinzia Caporale has endorsed the physicians' declaration, stating that
while she is in favor of allowing euthanasia for adults who want it,
children who leave the womb alive should be cared for, even against the
will of the parents. "I don't even consider their consent necessary if
the fetus has survived an abortion," she said.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

New jawbone thanks to adult stem cells

It's amazing what can be done now in the medical world. Here is an adult's own stem cells being used to produce a replacement jawbone! It seems as if stem cells don't need to come from embryos after all. this is really exciting and more ethically right.

Scientists in Finland have replaced a 65-year-old patient's upper jaw with a bone transplant cultivated from stem cells isolated from his own fatty tissue and grown inside his abdomen, Reuters reported.

Researchers said the breakthrough opens up new ways to treat severe tissue damage and makes the prospect of custom-made spare parts for humans a step closer to reality."The use of a patient's own stem cells to grow a new jaw is a great example of how personalized medicine is becoming a reality," said Dawn Vargo, associate bioethics analyst for Focus on the Family Action.

"Despite all the talk about using embryonic stem cells to create personalized therapies, this displays the practical and timely advantages of adult stem cells."

(Citizen Link)

Friday, February 01, 2008

More on transplant breakthroughs

CBN News has a report in their health and science section which is exciting. A dear friend of mine had a kidney transplant 18 months ago and she's had a very rugged time of it. The anti-rejection drugs have given her all sorts of nasty side effects. The transplant is doing great... it's the stuff to keep her body from rejecting her new kidney that's caused all sorts of misery for her. It would be a terrific step forward if they could rebuild a new immune system that won't need medication.
Doctors Report Transplant Breakthrough
In what's being called a major advance in organ transplants, doctors
say they have developed a technique that could free many patients from
having to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives.The
treatment involved weakening the patient's immune system, then giving
the recipient bone marrow from the person who donated the organ. In one
experiment, four of five kidney recipients were off immune-suppressing
medicines up to five years later."There's
reason to hope these patients will be off drugs for the rest of their
lives," said Dr. David Sachs of Massachusetts General Hospital in
Boston, who led the research published in Thursday's New England
Journal of Medicine. ...

Read the rest of the article: Breakthrough - Chang

Monday, January 28, 2008

Burma history through postage stamps

The Irrawaddy has an interesting article about a book on Burmese postage stamps which tracing the history of Burma up to 1988. The author, an activist, who has rallied again the illegal junta of army generals does not recognise the government of Burma post 1988... it's not legal... the elections were won far and square by Aung San Suu Kyi but she has not been allowed to lead the country. And, the illegal government continues it oppressive and deadly treatment of any and all who would oppose it.

Burmese postage stamps record the country’s official history, therefore the pro-democracy movement goes unrecognized

Stamps of Burma: A Historical Record Through 1988, by Min Sun Min. Mekong Press, Chiang Mai, 2007. P84.
Postage stamps are more than just small, adhesive pieces of paper that people put on envelopes, the author of this book argues. In the case of Burma, they are “a colorful visual record of its unique history, from the British colonial government through the Japanese occupation, the British military administration, Burma’s independence, the revolutionary council, and the Burmese Way to Socialism.” But, as there are no stamps depicting the pro-democracy uprising of 1988, the author fills this void by designing his own stamps to commemorate this struggle for freedom, and, who knows?— one day they may be sold in post offices in his home country?

I did not associate the author, who uses the pseudonym “Min Sun Min,” with an interest in philately when I first met him in late 1988 on the Thai-Burmese border, where he had fled after the military had brutally crushed the mighty uprising of that year. He was a writer, and he told me about the free newspaper that he had run in his hometown, Bassein.

From the left:
Two stamps from the Japanese occupation of Burma; A stamp from the British colonial era followed by the first stamp after independence in 1948 replacing King George VI with Aung San

Min Sun Min was his nom de plume, meaning “Unique King,” and he proved to be unique indeed. A year later he ended up in New York, one of the first Burmese dissidents to make it to the West after the 1988 uprising. There, every Saturday when he was free from work, he donned one of his two suits, knotted his one red polyester tie and rode the subway to the Burmese consulate in the city. He stood there every Saturday with placards that read: “Hand over the power to the voters!” and “Release all political prisoners!” He was a lone protester long before human rights and democracy in Burma became international issues, but he began receiving letters of support from all over the world. That aroused his interest in postage stamps, and how they reflect historical developments in their respective countries.

His book covers postal history and the world’s first postage stamps and contains a brief history of Burma and images of stamps from various eras in modern Burmese history with explanations of their significance. The first provisional stamps of Burma were issued on April 1, 1937, the date of its separation from India. These were Indian stamps with a portrait of the late British King, George V, with the overprint of the word “Burma” at the top. The first definitive stamps with “Burma Postage” printed on them and a picture of King George VI followed in 1938.

Socialist era stamps

Colonial imprint remained until the Japanese occupation, when new stamps were issued with text in Burmese letters as well as Japanese katakana, which is used by the Japanese for transcription of words from foreign languages. The Shan states, however, had their own stamps, some with “the State of Burma” (bama naing-ngan daw) overprinted in Burmese, reflecting the complex nature of the Japanese occupation, which ended in 1945.

Then the British were back, but this time the stamps did not depict only the face of the British monarch; they also had images of Burmese farmers, elephants and women with Burmese parasols. Colonial rule was coming to an end, and the first set of stamps after independence on January 4, 1948, looked exactly like the last colonial stamps — but with the picture of the British king replaced by that of Aung San, Burma’s independence hero, who had been assassinated on July 19, 1947. He and his cabinet colleagues who were killed along with him were commemorated with a special set of stamps issued in 1948.

Burmese stamps of the future?
Democratic Burma’s stamps showed Buddhist monks and temples and honored the United Nations. Then came the military coup of March 2, 1962, and the introduction of the “Burmese Way to Socialism.” Now the stamps depicted heroic farmers, workers and athletes, and railways and other signs of “progress” under the one-party rule of the Burma Socialist Program Party. And, still, portraits of Aung San, which under the present government have disappeared.

After the 1988 uprising, the “Burmese Way to Socialism” was abandoned, but military rule prevailed. Min Sun Min does not include any post-1988 stamps in his book, “because it was a turning point in Burmese history. That was the year when the military illegitimately assumed (direct) power.”

The last set of stamps depicted in the book—designed by Min Sun Min and, therefore, yet to be issued—show demonstrators thronging the streets of Rangoon and a Buddhist monk exhorting his audience at a rally in the capital in 1988.

Thus, the book ends on a very positive note: Min Sun Min has faith in a democratic future for Burma. The images of the cataclysmic events of 1988 will not be forgotten, he writes, and, “They deserve to be recorded and issued as stamps, one day, when Burma is free.”

Bertil Lintner is a correspondent who specializes in Burma and Asian issues. His latest book is Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma’s Struggle for Democracy (in Korean)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Walking with God has positive impact on teens

A rather interesting article in today's Sydney Morning Herald describes the positive impact the being a Christian has upon teens. The survey found that teens with a belief in God has more social awareness and compassion for others.

Those teens who walk with God tend to have a big helping heart, too - Sydney Morning Herald
ALMOST a third of Australian teenagers do not have any religious beliefs, new research has revealed.

And academics from Monash University and the Australian Catholic University found those with serious spiritual and religious beliefs were likely to donate more money, participate more in their communities and be more concerned about their society than their non-religious counterparts.

Researchers surveyed 1219 13- to 24-year-olds nationally. At least 47 per cent of those aged 13 to 17 identified themselves as Christians. About 15 per cent classified themselves as New Age and 7 per cent as having "other" beliefs.

Researchers found that active Christians rated helping others and social justice higher than other spirituality types and that teenagers serious about their spirituality were more likely to be volunteers. They were also more likely to be more generous when giving to charity.
Purposeful … Caitlyn Foster at the All Souls Anglican Church in Leichhardt,
where she voluntarily runs a Fair Trade stall selling products from India and South Africa.
Photo: Tanya Lake

Caitlyn Foster, 17, describes herself as an active Christian and voluntarily runs a stall for the Fair Trade organisation at her church every Saturday, selling products from India and South Africa. It turns over up to $800 a week. Profits go back to the people who make the products.

A University of Queensland study found that moving away from traditional beliefs to "trendy", self-focused religions was not making young adults happier.

Sarah Price

A wretchedly awful reaction to Heath Ledger's death

This past Friday on Channel 9's "A Current Affair" there was the most unbelievably awful interview with a pastor in the USA (Westboro, Kansas). It was distressing to hear him as he railed against Heath Ledger, his family, gays, the war in Iraq and Australia. The introductory hymn was "God hates the world" with a catchy tune but a horrible message.

This pastor, Fred Phelps, and his brand of "christianity" bear no resemblance to the Christianity I know. It bears no resemblance to my own experiences with God and Jesus Christ. When I read the Bible, I see God's love towards all and his desire that we all know and experience love and forgiveness. The only crushing condemnation that came from Jesus' lips was against the self-righteous religious leaders of the day who felt they were better than everyone else. Jesus said they were blind, and hypocrites... people who wouldn't lift a finger to help the poor and downtrodden. I do wonder at what Jesus's response would be to the vitriol of Mr Phelps.

What was even sadder to me was the way the young children in his congregation were spewing the same kinds of words... hatred.

When asked about Australia, he said that they pray for Australia... and they have a map of Australia with the word "sodom" written in large letters over the whole continent. He said we were "the land of the sodomite damned". Shudder! Has God (or god?) given him the mantle of a judge over us all? Absolutely not. Jesus Christ is the judge, he's the only one worthy enough to be the judge. And, he's already made clear through his death and resurrection that he's paid the penalty for all sins and wickedness. Our part is simply to accept that.

Anyway, if you would like to watch the video, follow the link below:

Heath Ledger: Minister speaks
Heath Ledger: Minister speaks

Friday, January 25, 2008

Transplant miracle

In Oz, we are agog with the report of Demi-Lee Brennnan's miracle. She had a liver transplant at age 9 (she is now 15) and in some miraculous way her immune system and blood type have changed to that of the donor! The result is that she does not have to take anti-rejection drugs! If researchers can figure out how it happened they may be able to replicate it for others. What a wondrous possibility!
I wonder if her young age when receiving the transplant might have had something to do with it. Whatever, it's lovely to have some good news coming from the media!

15 year old Demi-Lee Brennan

Read the full story at:

Transplant girl's blood change a 'miracle' - National -

You can also see a video about it at:

A medical miracle

Have a good day!

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Another World War I veteran dies in France

One of the two remaining veterans of WW1 has died at age 110. It's a ripe old age for one who endured the horrors of war. I respect his feelings about not accepting medals and honours. So many died, so many young men died... and for what? The "war to end all wars" has become just one of many. There is so much death and destruction happening in so many countries in the name of something or other. Has any good come out of any of the battles? Maybe. But at what cost? We talk about having evolved from the apes. However, if that were the case how come we seem to be devolving not evolving in kindness, goodness, love and peace?
I am thankful for those who endured so much to deal with the megalomaniacs whose inflated view of their own importance has taken us on such a costly journey over tha past 100 yrs.

France's oldest man dies, one World War One survivor left - World -
France's oldest man dies, one World War One survivor left
France's oldest man, a First World War veteran who refused a medal and spoke powerfully about the horrors of war, has died at 110, leaving just one veteran alive from the conflict.
Louis de Cazenave died at his home in the Auvergne region in central France on Sunday, the government said.
President Nicolas Sarkozy called his death a reminder of the 1.4 million French who had lost their lives in the 1914-18 war.
Cazenave survived both the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and the Second Battle of the Aisne a year later, two of the bloodiest episodes of the "war to end all wars".
Born in October 1897, de Cazenave became an infrantryman in 1916 and retired in 1941. He refused a military decoration but was eventually awarded the civilian Legion of Honour in 1999.
"Some of my comrades weren't even given a wooden cross," he told Le Monde newspaper in 2005.
Recalling events etched into his mind 88 years earlier, he gave a grim account of the offensive on German positions along the river Aisne which caused about 350,000 French and German deaths and led afterwards to a partial French mutiny.
"You should have heard the wounded between the lines. They called out to their mothers, begged us to go finish them off," he told Le Monde.
"We found the Germans when we went to get water at the well.
We spoke to them. They were just like us; they had had enough."
He described patriotism as "a way of making people swallow anything" and war as absurd and useless. "Nothing can justify it, nothing," he said.
The last surviving "beardy," the nickname given in France to First World War veterans because of conditions in the trenches, is now Lazare Ponticelli, 110.
He has refused an offer of a state funeral, saying it would show disrespect to war victims who never got the same honour.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Arab comedians

Great article in today's Sydney Morning Herald!

THE comedian Maysoon Zayid introduces her act by declaring she is a Palestinian Muslim virgin with cerebral palsy, adding: "I just want you guys to know I am a virgin by choice … and that is my father's choice.

"My father has spent the majority of my life terrified that I will accidentally lose my virginity so there's a list of activities I am not allowed to do: there is to be no horseback riding, not even on a carousel."
Like much minority humour, Arab comedians are intent on challenging stereotypes.

Aron Kaydar, another Arab comedian on the festival bill, jokes that he will name his first-born son Al, as in Al Kaydar.

Zayid and a fellow comic, Dean Obeidallah, started the festival in 2003 when the Arab community was "under siege" and any news coverage that did not portray Arabs as terrorists was a reason for rejoicing.

Obeidallah, a native of New Jersey raised by Sicilian and Palestinian parents, said the terrorist attacks transformed how he was seen in his own country.

"Before 9/11, I am just a white guy living a typical white-guy life. I go to bed September 10th white. I wake up September 11th, I'm an Arab."

Initially, Arab-American comedians were wary of mocking themselves because their community was so widely criticised. Their humour had now evolved from pleas for understanding to a more mainstream comedy reflective of minority, immigrant humour, Obeidallah said.

The title of the festival - Arabs Gone Wild - would have been inappropriate and unthinkable several years ago, Obeidallah said, but the Arab-American community has become more assertive and confident. The festival of stand-up and sketch comedy will run over six nights off Broadway.

One festival sketch suggests that if Fox News gave itself free rein, Arabs could be blamed for all misfortune in America, including extreme weather events. And hurricanes would be given exclusively Arabic names, as in "Look out, here comes Mustafa. Run for your life."

Before the 2001 attacks many Arab comedians worked in ignorance of one another, but America's response to the attacks gave them a sense of a shared cultural experience.

Zayid said the war in Iraq had intensified the pressure on Arabs. "When you're vilified, you need a voice and the most vilified people in the media right now are the Arabs," she said.

She does not joke about September 11 nor about the 72 virgins some extremists believe are the reward in the afterlife to those martyred in the cause of Islam.

"I'll push the envelope as far as I can, but if I am going to get someone killed I am not going to joke about it," she said.

An example of the more mainstream humour that has evolved over recent years is Obeidallah's routine where he relates the discomfortof other Americans on learning he is an Arab. "Oh, you're an Arab," one said. "I love hummus."