Death of Peace activist in Middle East. He was a friend of mine

A few days ago I went to my local Catholic church to attend a mass in memory of a wonderful peace-loving man from the Middle East who was horribly tortured in prison by soldiers before being taken out through a screaming mob of religious fanatics to a hillside where he was publicly executed.
A social revolutionary, he was someone that I admired not just for what he had achieved in his short life but how he overcome prejudices even before he was born. For his mother was a young teenage girl who became pregnant whilst unmarried. In their very conservative traditional society, this would have meant being stoned to death. But her fiancée saved her from such a fate by marrying her even though he knew that the baby was not his.
Born into poverty, the child was forced to flee with his parents from their homeland to escape certain death at the hands of religious extremists.  The refugee family later returned to their village and lived quietly for many years. But later in life, the son became a target for the political and religious establishment when he started to travel around the country as a leading advocate for pacifism, religious tolerance, women’s rights, respect for children, and for a egalitarian classless society in order to end the economic exploitation of the masses by a wealthy clerical and political elite. Women and men flocked to open air rallies to hear him speak. His exploits were legendary: he once through his words saved a woman accused of adultery from being stoned to death by a group of fundamentalists. He befriended criminals, the sick, the poor, social outcasts, peoples of different faiths as well as members of the hated occupying army and their compliant state officials.  He condemned the hypocrisy of the all-powerful religious establishment who felt threatened by his ideology. They constantly harassed him, tried to break up his meetings, planted spies amongst his followers. Ever the pacifist, even when he was physically threatened, he never allowed his followers to use physical force to defend him.  But his enemies finally got him arrested on trumped-up charges of being both a blasphemer and an enemy of the state. He was condemned to a slow agonising death by a jeering crowd whipped up into a frenzy by clerics saying he had insulted their religion.
During his lifetime and since his death, some people have referred to him as a prophet, others say he was the son of God and there are those who think he was mad and delusional. I though over the years have been inspired by the radical progressive teachings of love, respect, liberty, equality and justice that were taught by this poor Jewish man from Galilee. Though I never met him, I would like to think that Jesus was a friend of mine.
May I extend New Year greetings of peace and goodwill to all my friends who are Muslims, Jews, atheists, Pantheists, Hindus, Buddhists, Druze, agnostics, Bahai’s and Christians. The cultural diversity and religious differences that we share strengthens our friendship.   
Áthbhlian faoi mhaise daoibh.

Global War on Women: Japan finally issues official apology & awards compensation to the Sex Slaves of its WW2 military.

In World War Two, it is estimated that circa 200,000 women from Korea, China, Philippines, Indonesia and elsewhere were kidnapped and forced to work in brothels as the sex slaves of the Japanese military. The term 'comfort women' that is used to describe them is an insult to the systematic brutality, torture and rape that they suffered over many years in captivity.
Now an agreement has been reached between the South Korean and Japanese government with the latter issuing an official apology for the enslavement of the women and granting one billion yen towards the surviving 46 elderly South Korean female victims. Credit for this long overdue action must be given to the decades long campaign by Korean female activists. 

In this war the Japanese Imperial soldiery felt it was their warrior right to rape the female members of the enemy population at will. The military brothels staffed by sex slaves were only one aspect of the abhorrent treatment meted out to the women of the countries they conquered. The 'Rape of Nanking' in China was aptly named. When the city fell to the Japanese army in December 1937, tens of thousands of females of all ages were gang raped with many horribly mutilated and then murdered.
In Europe during WW2, mass rape on a huge scale was carried out by Soviet armies in Germany during 1945, as a form of 'revenge' for the barbarity of the Nazi occupation in Russia, Ukraine and Byelorussia. 

Women: The First Victims of Men's Wars
Throughout history women are always the primary victims of the wars perpetuated by men. Their bodies are treated as trophies to be used and abused by the male victors. Most of the main ancient religious texts justify or accept this fact.

Sex Slaves in 21st Century
Sadly kidnapping and sexual enslavement of women is back with a vengence and openly being perpetuated by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on the Yazidi and Christian populations as part of a policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide against religious minorities, by Boko Haram in Nigeria and by Christian militias in the Central African Republic. There are countless reports issued by Amnesty and other human rights organisations about large scale sexual violence against women by Libyan people-trafficking gangs in an anarchic state ruled by crazed religious warlords.

Residents' Protest outside City Hall tomorrow (Mon) on new Sports & Community Centre

Many thanks to all those residents and supporters that took part in the packed meeting of local residents called to discuss the Ballinfoile-Castlegar Sports and Community Neighbourhood Centre on November 30th in the Menlo Park and who attended the action committee gathering on Monday last. The attendance at both events was a great morale booster to all campaigners!
Packed residents' meeting in Menlo Park Hotel
The next step in our campaign is to ensure that we have a good turnout on our peaceful protest that will take place at 2.30pm (to 4pm) tomorrow (Monday December 14th) outside City Hall in advance of a crucial meeting of Galway City Council when the management structure of the centre will be voted upon.
It is a now-or-never scenario for us on this key facility. So please if you are available make every effort to attend and encourage others (family, friends and neighbours) to take part. Even if you are not from our area, we would appreciate your support as this issue is about ensuring that every citizen of Ireland has a basic right to community and recreational facilities which is increasingly threatened due to the draconian cutbacks to public services as a result of the last government’s decision to force taxpayers to pay for the gambling debts of a rich well connected elite of bankers and property speculators.
Protestors from Ballinfoile, Tirellan, Sandyvale, Castlelawn district protesting outside City Hall in 1989
We as concerned residents are demanding that councilors ensure that the new state-of-the-arts sports and community complex that we fought for since 1987 to obtain serves the needs of and is controlled by the local community.
After the welcome news last September that the government had agreed to allow Galway City Council to break the local government jobs embargo in order to hire staff for the centre, it was disheartening to hear at last month's council meeting, called to decide the city budget for 2016, that only 50% (€300,000) of the finance needed to operate the centre (& that of Knocknacarra) as a fully fledged public enterprise would come from local authority sources. For this meant, according to Brendan McGrath council CEO, that they would have to bring in an outside contractor to form a public-private partnership to run the centre. For it is our fear that this arrangement could mean that privatization could occur sooner or later to the detriment of the local community as profit would take priority over social needs.
Ballinfoile - Castlegar Sports & Community Neighbourhood Centre
So we want to ensure that councillors on Monday keep by the commitments made by Brendan Mc Grath at the November budget meeting that:
a) peak hours would be retained for local groups/individuals
b) Low rental fees would be charged to local groups/individuals
c) People from the locality must be well represented on the oversight/management board.
Furthermore we request that:
d) local community representation makes up at least 50% of the oversight board
e) the new jobs that will accrue in this facility will be given to local people where possible.
f) consideration is given to social enterprise partnership programmes as an alternative to taking in private contractors.
If these just demands are not meet, it will represent a betrayal of decades of struggle by a local community and raises questions over who our political system serve.

Finally, we are asking all residents and supporters to attend the public meeting that will take place at 8pm on Tuesday December 15th in the Menlo Park Hotel to hear what was decided at Monday’s council meeting and what actions need to be undertaken.

Residents Demand Prioritising Local Control of new Neighbourhood Centre

A packed meeting of residents of the greater Ballinfoile locality and  of Castlegar this week in the Menlo Park hotel heard speaker and speaker stress the importance of ensuring that the new Neighbourhood Sports and Community Centre must serve and be controlled by local people. It was standing room only on Monday in the Menlo Park Hotel as residents finally could see decades of campaigning bear fruit with the much anticipated state-of-the-art centre being readied for opening.
However there was a strong fear expressed that, due to the severe cutbacks in local government funding resulting in Galway City Council not being able to operate the centre on its own and having to consider bringing in a private management company, that profits could be proritised at the expense of community needs.
There was unanimous agreement by the capacity crowd that the council should not take on an outside contractor until the principles of community representativity on an oversight board, peak hours retention and  low rental fees for local groups are formally agreed upon with residents of the area. Furthermore it was also agreed that the local authority should consider social enterprise partnership programmes as an alternative to private contractors. The council will discuss the management and operations of the Ballinfoile Castlegar Neighbourhood Centre at its meeting of December 14th and we want them to ensure that decades of campaigning and levies imposed on houses built since 1978 to fund local recreational facilities are not betrayed by the community now losing control of its new facility.