Bush administration says they will remove N. Korea from list of state sponsors of terrorism and therefore lessen the trade sanctions currently imposed IF N. Korea makes a verifiable denuclearization declaration
China’s nationalism is both beneficial and detrimental to the country’s goals of a domestically stable region as well as a peaceful rise in global resposponsibility
UN World Food Program is faltering as many countries are experiencing hindered food supply production.
I received a letter in my school email inbox from the Dean of Students at my college, St. John’s University concerning religious pluralism on campus. Religious pluralism is a philosophy of coexistence and literally means accepting all religious paths as being equally valid. I will talk about the matter which took this situation to the level of having the Dean send a mass email to all 20,000 graduate and undergraduate students.
We live in an age of opinions, perceptions, and laws. More often than not opinions can cross boundaries of what can be considered socially acceptable. Our official Bill of Rights expresses that all U.S. citizens have the Freedom of Speech, to speak their mind wherever, whenever, and however they wish; within this socially acceptable space of course. I am upset by this and relieved in a way. Relieved because too often do problems and disagreements get swept underneath the rug, never being heard of again. . . or at least until the next incident. Upset because I see another prime example of blatant ignorance in our world. Be it purposeful or not. I feel it is meant to be challenged in a method conducive to educating.
The incident: An anthropology student attended an event put on by Campus Ministry at the University. A Hindu student was asked to speak in front of the group about their culture and religion. During the speech the Hindu student asked the group to join in a prayer towards a Hindu Goddess. Apparently some of the students were disturbed, particularly one student in distress who took it upon themselves to write a letter to the editor in the school’s newspaper.
"To the Editor:
When coming to St. John’s, I like many others
surmised that the University would foster and promote a Catholic
ideology. Mid last semester I thankfully was blessed to become a part
of Voices of Victory, St. John’s University’s gospel choir. An event we
were invited to sing at, which was hosted by the University’s campus
ministry, caused me much indignation and compelled me to write this
letter. I do not know any other way to hold the University accountable.
At the event, a Hindu student was invited to the podium to share his
faith. The Hindu student asked everyone at the conference to follow him
in prayer to what he regarded as a Goddess Lakshmi. He instructed the
many students present to clasp their hands together, close their eyes,
"to pray however they feel comfortable praying" to the Hindu Goddess.
Many Christian students did not know what to do. Some fell into praying
to the Goddess because they did not want to offend the student or be
different by not praying.
could not watch what I witnessed and walked out of the event. These are
only two quotes from the many upset students that attended the event. I
was apprehensive to go to the school paper right away and wanted to
talk with the administration first about what was experienced in hope
that they would resolve the issue. The University made me talk to the
head of Campus Ministry who attempted to justify the event by relating
it to a learning experience that may take place in a classroom. The two
experiences cannot be related.
The act of idolatry that took
place at the event was not regarded as wrong, or as an act that was
being studied from the Christian perspective of being something that
one should not do. Students were asked to participate and commit the
act. In the Talmud, Qur’an, and Holy Bible, this act is one of the
worst things one can commit. How does the University justify holding
such events? How does the University allow a Hindu students association?
experience I have had at the University was a worldly one. The
University seems to have compromised its teaching to appeal to the
culture of the times, an all-accepting Universal doctrine.
feel for the parents who pay however much money so that their children
receive solid Catholic morals only to have their children commit acts
that are grounds for going to hell."
Tell me these words aren’t just a little disturbing! A student at a Catholic (Universal) University should have knowledge of or at least respect for the religious beliefs of fellow students. First of all it is courteous and compassionate to appreciate another person’s beliefs. Second, I find it hard to believe that even if said words and actions were not desirable, this person would go as far as to label it "idolatry". Third, to make a point and have it argued means providing relevant support of that point; this does not mean wrapping a point around insults. However, believe me when I tell you that I am in full and exceeding support of the freedom to speak your mind, but when that freedom is used to injure another human being’s culture and feelings it should be held back. Or if not held back then brought up on an appropriate path where conflicts are able to be resolved among the parties in argument. If students are asked to participate in something in any way and are "invited" then obviously they have the option to decline the invite and to not participate. [I feel I am moving in circles with my thoughts because of my frustration. Pause. Organize. . . . Good.]
Take a read of the letter I received from the Dean of Students:
This letter is well constructed to get the University’s point of view across regarding religious acceptance. The school stands as an educational system that promotes the learning of other cultures and religions to the extent of the student’s will. It does not and will not ever silence the voices of those wishing to spread knowledge and understanding of their culture or religion. It is a shame that a communique like this needs to be released. I would hope that understanding and compassion would stand at our sides as we support humanity in its everlasting evolution. Matters concerning religion and freedom and a right or wrong demeanor are the most difficult to resolve just because they cross so many different lines. Personal freedom is considered, educational freedom is considered, religious freedom is considered, mutual respect and compassion is considered. Especially now that the globe is becoming one gigantic melting pot of cultures and societies and humans.
These thoughts were mine alone and I do not wish to offend any cultures or religions or humans for that matter. If I have made statements that deserve to be challenged I welcome the input via my comments sections below. [Love disclaimers, LOL!]
Response to "To the editor":
"I would like to present a rebuttal to a letter that appeared in last
week’s Torch concerning a Hindu student’s leading of prayer at an
interfaith gathering sponsored by Campus Ministry. The student’s letter
brought up one very important point, and yet the letter floundered with
its negativity and judgment about the validity of certain religions and
how they can be allowed on a Catholic campus.
described something that occurred at this gathering in which other
students were asked to "pray however they feel comfortable praying" to
Lakshmi, a Hindu goddess.
I do agree with the student’s express
discomfort in being asked to pray this way; no one should feel
obligated to participate in any religious ritual with which they aren’t
familiar or comfortable.
From here onwards, however, our points
of view diverge. Calling this occurrence an "act of idolatry," the
student asks "How does the university allow a Hindu students
association?" Further complicating matters, he insists that the
university has "compromised its teaching to appeal to the culture of
the times, an all-accepting Universal doctrine."
Although I was
not present at this event, I highly suspect that the Hindu student was
not trying to convert those gathered to Hinduism, but only asking
others to be open to another religious and spiritual experience, one
that is as rich in history, tradition, and value as any other.
Catechism #843 states that "The Church considers all goodness and truth
found in these religions as a preparation for the Gospel given by him
who enlightens all men that they may at length have life."
this way, the Catholic Church acknowledges the inherent value of other
religions, recognizing the "goodness and truth" in them as being a way
to Christ’s teaching.
As for allowing a Hindu students
association, as an American university, we have been steeped in the
tradition of religious freedom and tolerance. In his Summa Theologiae,
St. Thomas Aquinas states that "law should be possible both according
to nature, and according to the customs of the country," making it only
logical that an institution of higher education, albeit a specifically
religious one, would practice these American traditions.
There is more justification than this, however, for allowing
non-Catholic groups on campus. In his same theological text, Aquinas
also states that other religious rites "may be tolerated, either on
account of some good that ensues therefrom, or because of some evil
avoided." To deny such groups on campus would be a direct negation of
this. Evidently the university is not "compromising its teaching" but
rather upholding it.
dialogue has been at the forefront of Church thought and practice in
recent events. For example, even Pope Benedict XVI calls for "sincere
and respectful dialogue" to occur between members of different faiths.
the beginning of my pontificate I have had occasion to express my wish
to continue to establish bridges of friendship with believers of all
religions," he said in the wake of a controversial 2006 speech, further
adding that "inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue" is a "vital
necessity" for the future.
On a final note, unlike the
implication that we are "going to hell" at this university, Catechism
#847 adds that "Those, who… do not know the Gospel of Christ or his
Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, as
they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may
While the author of last week’s letter
seems to condemn anyone who either practices or tolerates the practice
of various religions, perhaps he should be less focused on the judgment
reserved for God, not man, and more concerned about portraying the
positive Christian values of religious acceptance, tolerance, and
dialogue that St. John’s University is fostering instead of stifling."
"With regards to a letter in the previous issue of The Torch on the
Hindu prayer to the Goddess Lakshmi, this response is intended not to
outline or argue a perspective as to what truly happened in the event
in order to be fair. What I can say is that as a native New Yorker, it
is shocking to read such contradictory and narrow-minded commentary
regarding religion in the 21st century.
Although St. John’s University is a school founded on the principles of
Catholicism, this does not mean that it is no longer a University, an
institution that perpetuates self-discovery and learning. In many ways,
education comes hand in hand with tolerance, as the opinions,
decisions, and beliefs of each and every student is unique in their
very own, and must be respected as such, as it does no harm to others.
is also shocking to hear the author state that the learning experience
cannot be compared to that of a classroom experience. Although we may
be in a Catholic University, our experiences that contribute to our
learning does not end in the classroom, and it is sad that one has to
differentiate one "learning" from another. In addition, in every part
of our lives, each and every person holds the freedom and the right to
make his or her own decision, and it is through their decisions that
they define their educational experience.
The most appalling
comment I found was, "How does the University allow a Hindu Student
Association?"The sheer fact that the University encourages
organizations such as the Muslim Students Association, the Jewish
Students Association, and the Hindu Student’s Association recognizes
the University’s mission and our acceptance of diversity.
recognizing other religious organizations bears an intrinsic hierarchy
of Catholicism being the "superior" religion, and marginalizes everyone
else who believes in anything different. Second, rejecting a Hindu
Students Association will cause a slippery slope in a thought process
that rides the fine line between being proud of one’s religion and
acting upon it in discrimination.
All in all, I felt the
commentary that followed his description of the uncomfortable event was
uncalled for and sheds a negative light on not only him but the skewed
idea of the faith he proclaims to believe."
eBay Bucks are going to be the rewards for purchasing more stuff on the online auction site. Apparently during this testing period invited users are able start with $5 of eBay Bucks after they sign up. Reward Program Participants can earn Bucks on based on a percentage of their qualifying purchases. They’ve posted the terms of the rewards program here, rewards.ebay.com. I quickly looked it over and for starters the program is INVITE ONLY, you earn rewards based on qualified purchases in most of the categories, and the rewards are usable for a 30-day period only.
Now, after signing into my eBay account to "Learn More" about the program I find that they are giving users 5% back on their purchase over the course of 1-month after which eBay will send a PayPal voucher of the amount of "Bucks" available which expires in another month. It seems like a straight-forward system. Earn Bucks throughout the month they designate and redeem them the following month. It is very limited for this trial probably for statistical purposes. With only a select timeframe available eBay will be able to get a good look at a huge segment of its users and their buying habits. I wouldn’t be surprised if they return with some interesting stats on how users react to this campaign.
I, however, will increase my usage of eBay with this rewards program as I haven’t been a steady user lately. I wonder if most of the users they sent the invite to have also been stagnant eBay users lately. I got the email at about 1am last night… woke up to "Yay! Another opportunity to spend the money pulled from already empty pockets." As a college student living with small means I put more energy into making wise purchases and the less I buy the more dinners I can afford.
[EDIT] From the eager mouth of eBay itself:
Mark your calendar, you can redeem your eBay Bucks from Aug 22-Sep 21.
Here’s how to redeem eBay Bucks
- Go to www.eBay.com and log in with the User ID you used to sign up here.
- Start shopping. Be sure the seller accepts PayPal.
something you love with a value close to that of your eBay Bucks. (You
may use it one time with a single order and a single seller. Any
balance is forfeited.)
- Pay for your item with PayPal before the expiration date: September 21, 2008 23:59:59 PM GMT-06:00
- In eBay checkout enter the unique redemption code printed on your voucher.
Important Redemption Terms
You may only redeem your eBay Bucks voucher using PayPal and eBay checkout on eBay.com or motors.eBay.com, not Express.
Your eBay Bucks voucher will be valid from Aug 22-Sep 21.
The voucher is valid one time for a single transaction with a single
seller. If your voucher value is not completely used up in that one
transaction, the balance will be forfeited.