Tuesday, December 25, 2007

MORE PICS – QUEEN “responded” to Hindraf Memo – in X’mas Message – Attention to Marginalized people; Pope urged leaders to end Conflicts

Merry Christmas from Malaysiakini - The Malaysiakini team wishes all their readers Merry Christmas and are taking a one-day break to celebrate the holiday. Seasons Greetings also to one and all visiting from this Blog.

For the first time this year, the Queen recorded her message in the 1844 Room at Buckingham Palace watching a recording of her first televised Christmas broadcast from 1957. 50 years after her first televised Christmas Day speech, the Queen is now up-to-date and had her 2007 X’mas message uploaded on the Royal Channel on YouTube.

The gist of this annual X’mas message is the Queen has called on people to show more empathy for those on the edge of society - people who feel cut off and disadvantaged” Just like Mary and Joseph with no proper home and Jesus was born in a manger. Essentially the marginalized people like what the poor Indians are facing now in Malaysia.(see NST highlighted case Bottom). Apparently she must have read the Hindraf Memo or heard about it in news report. Whereas the Pope Benedict XVI issued a Christmas Day appeal Tuesday to political leaders around the globe to find the "wisdom and courage" to end bloody conflicts in Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan and Congo.

= = == == =Full transcript of her message
The Christmas Broadcast 2007

One of the features of growing old is a heightened awareness of change. To remember what happened 50 years ago means that it is possible to appreciate what has changed in the meantime. It also makes you aware of what has remained constant. In my experience, the positive value of a happy family is one of the factors of human existence that has not changed. The immediate family of grandparents, parents and children, together with their extended family, is still the core of a thriving community. When Prince Philip and I celebrated our Diamond Wedding last month, we were much aware of the affection and support of our own family as they gathered round us for the occasion. Now today, of course, marks the birth of Jesus Christ.

Among other things, it is a reminder that it is the story of a family; but of a family in very distressed circumstances. Mary and Joseph found no room at the inn; they had to make do in a stable, and the new-born Jesus had to be laid in a manger. This was a family which had been shut out. Perhaps it was because of this early experience that, throughout his ministry, Jesus of Nazareth reached out and made friends with people whom others ignored or despised. It was in this way that he proclaimed his belief that, in the end, we are all brothers and sisters in one human family. The Christmas story also draws attention to all those people who are on the edge of society - people who feel cut off and disadvantaged; people who, for one reason or another, are not able to enjoy the full benefits of living in a civilised and law-abiding community.

For these people the modern world can seem a distant and hostile place. It is all too easy to 'turn a blind eye', 'to pass by on the other side', and leave it to experts and professionals. All the great religious teachings of the world press home the message that everyone has a responsibility to care for the vulnerable. Fortunately, there are many groups and individuals, often unsung and unrewarded, who are dedicated to ensuring that the 'outsiders' are given a chance to be recognised and respected. However, each one of us can also help by offering a little time, a talent or a possession, and taking a share in the responsibility for the well-being of those who feel excluded.

And also today I want to draw attention to another group of people who deserve our thoughts this Christmas. We have all been conscious of those who have given their lives, or who have been severely wounded, while serving with the Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The dedication of the National Armed Forces Memorial was also an occasion to remember those who have suffered while serving in these and every other place of unrest since the end of the Second World War. For their families, Christmas will bring back sad memories, and I pray that all of you, who are missing those who are dear to you, will find strength and comfort in your families and friends. A familiar introduction to an annual Christmas Carol Service contains the words: 'Because this would most rejoice his heart, let us remember, in his name, the poor and the helpless, the cold, the hungry, and the oppressed; the sick and those who mourn, the lonely and the unloved.' Wherever these words find you, and in whatever circumstances, I want to wish you all a blessed Christmas.
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Tuesday, 25 December 2007, 13:21 GMT

Pope calls for end to conflicts

Pope Benedict XVI has appealed for just solutions to the conflicts in the Middle East, Iraq, Africa and elsewhere in his annual Christmas message. He denounced terrorism and violence that victimised children and women. His address came as millions of Christians around the world celebrated the traditional day of Christ's birth. In Bethlehem, biblical place of Jesus' birth, more pilgrims visited the town for Christmas than in any year since the Palestinian uprising began in 2000.
'Joy, hope and peace'

The Pope spoke from a balcony in St Peter's Basilica in Rome, overlooking the square where thousands of people had gathered in the winter sunshine. He said he hoped the "light of Christ" would "shine forth and bring consolation to those who live in the darkness of poverty, injustice and war". An enthusiastic crowd broke into chanting during pauses in the Pope's address. In his Urbi et Orbi speech (Latin for 'To the City and the World') he said: "May this Christmas truly be for all people a day of joy, hope and peace." He urged political leaders to have the "wisdom and courage to seek and find humane, just and lasting solutions" to "ethnic, religious and political tensions... [which are] destroying the internal fabric of many countries and embittering international relations". The address was broadcast live on television to dozens of countries and was followed by greetings in about 60 languages.

Bethlehem Mass
In the Pope's midnight Mass at the basilica, he urged people to find time for God and the needy. In front of the Basilica, a new floodlit Nativity scene was unveiled. This year, the larger-than-life-size statues of the baby Jesus and his family have been placed in a Nativity scene set not in a Bethlehem stable but in a room in Joseph's house in Nazareth. Vatican officials say the change was made to illustrate the notion that Jesus was born everywhere, not just in Bethlehem.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a Muslim, joined the midnight Mass in Bethlehem and emphasised that not only Christians were celebrating the festival. The new year, God willing, will be a year of security and economic stability," he said. "We pray next year will be the year of independence for the Palestinian people," he added. Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the Catholic leader in the Holy Land, called for peace in the Middle East as he led the Mass.
"This land belongs to God. It must not be for some a land of life and for others a land of occupation and a political prison," he said in a sermon delivered in his native Arabic.

ABOVE: Christians in Iraq went through heavy security to a Church to celebrate Christmas

Security fears

Local officials in Bethlehem say double the number of pilgrims have visited this year compared to last. Fears about security and Israel's West Bank barrier - an eight-metre (24ft) concrete wall separating the town from Jerusalem - have discouraged potential visitors in recent years. Israel says the barrier is vital to prevent attacks by Palestinian militants. During the second Palestinian uprising, which started in September 2000, tourism collapsed. Relative stability for past two years however has led tourists and pilgrims to return to the town in larger numbers. But the BBC's Bethany Bell says there are still far fewer tourists than there used to be before the uprising and that many of those celebrating outside the Church of the Nativity were local people.

Pope Benedict XVI greets crowds Tuesday to give his traditional "Urbi et Orbi" speech at St. Peter's Basilica.
Benedict delivered his traditional "Urbi et Orbi" speech -- Latin for "to the city and to the world" -- from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, blessing thousands of people gathered in the square below under a brilliant winter sun.

Wearing gold-embroidered vestments and a bejeweled bishops' hat, or miter, Benedict urged the crowd to rejoice over the celebration of Jesus Christ's birth, which he said he hoped would bring consolation to all people "who live in the darkness of poverty, injustice and war." He mentioned in particular those living in the "tortured regions" of Darfur, Somalia, northern Congo, the Eritrea-Ethiopia border, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Balkans. "May the child Jesus bring relief to those who are suffering and may he bestow upon political leaders the wisdom and courage to seek and find humane, just and lasting solutions," he said. Beyond those conflicts,

ABOVE: Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem was full of worshipers for midnight Mass

Benedict said he was turning his thoughts this Christmas to victims of other injustices, citing women, children and the elderly, as well as refugees and victims of environmental disasters and religious and ethnic tensions. He said he hoped Christmas would bring consolation to "those who are still denied their legitimate aspirations for a more secure existence, for health, education, stable employment, for fuller participation in civil and political responsibilities, free from oppression and protected from conditions that offend human dignity."

Such injustices and discrimination are destroying the internal fabric of many countries and souring international relations, he said.In a nod to his engagement with environmental concerns, the pontiff also noted that the number of migrants and displaced people was increasing around the globe because of "frequent natural disasters, often caused by environmental upheavals."

The pontiff delivered his message just hours after celebrating midnight Mass in St. Peter's Basilica. Benedict followed his speech with his traditional Christmas Day greetings -- this year delivered in 63 different languages, including Mongolian, Finnish, Arabic, Hebrew, Swahili, Burmese, and in a new entry for 2007, Guarani, a South American Indian language. As he finished, the bells of St. Peter's tolled and the Vatican's brightly outfitted Swiss Guards stood at attention as a band played and a crowd numbering in the tens of thousands waved national flags and cheered

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Dec 25, 2007

Christians celebrate Christmas as leaders urge peace

Wearing gold and white vestments, the pontiff wove his sermon around Christmas' significance of the birth of Jesus.

BETHLEHEM (West Bank) - CHRISTIANS around the world celebrated Christmas on Tuesday as the Catholic leader in the Holy Land pleaded for peace in the Middle East and Pope Benedict XVI spoke against selfishness. In Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah said in a sermon for Christmas midnight mass:

ABOVE & BELOW: The midnight mass in Bethlehem,

'This land of God cannot be for some a land of life and for others a land of death, exclusion, occupation, or political imprisonment.' 'All those whom God, the lord of history, has gathered here must be able to find in this land life, dignity and security,' he said, addressing thousands of Christians from all over the world in a sermon delivered in his native Arabic.

ABOVE: In Gaza City, Palestinian Christians gathered to pray for peace

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas attended the mass fresh from last month's meet in the US city of Annapolis, where he formally relaunched the peace process with Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

ABOVE: Pope Benedict spoke out against selfishness as he celebrated midnight mass at Saint Peter's Basilica packed with thousands of worshippers.

Pope Benedict spoke out against selfishness as he celebrated midnight mass at Saint Peter's Basilica packed with thousands of worshippers.’ Man is so preoccupied with himself, he has such urgent need of all the space and all the time for his own things, that nothing remains for others - for his neighbour, for the poor, for God,' he said in Italian. The leader of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics also spoke of degradation of the environment as thousands listened in the vast basilica and millions more on television. Recalling Christmas homilies of the fourth-century Bishop Gregory of Nyssa, who lamented a 'universe torn and disfigured by sin', the Pope asked: 'What would he say if he could see the state of the world today, through the abuse of energy and its selfish and reckless exploitation?'

ABOVE & BELOW: The midnight mass was steep in traditions & rituals

Earlier, the 80-year-old pope kicked off Christmas festivities by lighting a candle for world peace in a window overlooking St Peter's Square as this year's nativity scene was unveiled. Midnight mass is nothing more than a memory for Christians in Baghdad where danger is ever present. The last one was celebrated four years ago, before the American invasion in 2003. A mass is now held at dusk on Christmas Eve, and another on the morning of Christmas Day. In the Philippines, Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales urged the government to address injustices suffered by the country's millions of poor. 'Our prayer and pleading, like a Christian prayer of hope and peace, is for the poor to be paid more attention to in our Christian country's economy and laws. This will eventually bring peace to everyone,' he said in his Christmas message. Guns fell silent in the country's long-running communist insurgency as the security forces and Maoist guerrillas observed a traditional Christmas ceasefire. In Indian Kashmir, Muslims joined several hundred Christians to celebrate mass and offered prayers for peace to return to the troubled area. Across in remote northeast India, which has a large Christian population, thousands of worshippers also celebrated Christmas by praying for peace across the insurgency-wracked region?

'People cannot rejoice unless there is peace. We hope our prayers are answered,' Baptist minister Reverend N. Pau said in Guwahati, the main city in Assam state. 'We want an end to all forms of bloodshed and killings.' In neighbouring Bangladesh, Christians offered prayers for victims of last month?s cyclone, which killed at least 3,300 people. 'Hundreds of thousands of people have been affected by the devastating Cyclone Sidr,? Archbishop of Dhaka Poulinus Costa said. 'Many of them are passing these winter nights without food and clothes and in dire condition. Let us stand by their side. Let us pray to God for their welfare,' he added. In officially atheist China, millions of Christians celebrated Christmas in approved and so-called 'underground' churches, while countless other non-believers seized on what has become an increasingly commercial day to go shopping.

State-run newspapers made little mention of the religious aspect of Christmas, which is not a national holiday. Unseasonably cold weather in Sydney and along much of the east coast kept Australians away from the beaches, with numbers visibly down at Bondi where locals and tourists traditionally gather to celebrate Christmas. While the drop in temperature may have dampened plans for beachside celebrations, the colder weather and rain brought an early Christmas present to farmers struggling with a prolonged drought in the eastern state of Queensland. 'Hopefully it might be the end of the drought. We're all hoping so,' Roma mayor Bruce Garvie told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. -- AFP

= = == = = = = =and in Malaysia- December 25, 2007 19:13 PM

Moderate But Joyous Christmas
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 25 (Bernama) -- Malaysian Christians Sunday celebrated Christmas on a moderate scale but in a joyful mood. The improving situation in the flood-hit states of Pahang and Johor also added cheer to the Yuletide celebrations. Christians attended church and held "open house" for their relatives and friends. Others took advantage of the holiday to visit shopping complexes and recreation centres, the popular haunts being Mid Valley Megamall, Suria KLCC and Sunway Pyramid. People also thronged the Zoo Negara.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his wife, Datin Seri Jeanne Abdullah, attended a Christmas tea party for about 200 invited guests hosted by the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, Datuk Murphy Pakiam, at his residence in Jalan Bukit Nenas, here. Several foreigners in the city whom Bernama reporters talked to said they were amazed to see Malaysians, regardless of race and religion, sharing in the Christmas celebration. Filipino Alex Tamondong, 47, who is studying in Malaysia, said Christmas in Malaysia was unique because, despite Islam being the official religion, the people of other faiths were free to hold their religious celebrations. Frank Kluter, 41, of Germany who has been residing in Malaysia for nearly 30 years, said Christmas in Malaysia was always a joyous occasion. "I have no problem practising my religious faith here and I believe neither will anybody," he said.

Production operator V. Mages, 51, said Christmas in Malaysia was special because everybody shared in the celebration. A manager of a private company here, Marianne Visvalingam, 27, whose relatives are staying abroad, said Malaysia was special to them as everybody would be in the country for the Christmas celebration. "Christmas is the time of the year when all the family members, including from England, Australia and Singapore, return home," she added.

In KOTA KINABALU, Sabah Yang Dipertua Negeri Tun Ahmadshah Abdullah and his wife, Toh Puan Dayang Masuyah Awang Japar, attended a Christmas "open house" hosted by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan at the Hongkod Koisaan Kadazandusun Cultural Association in Penampang. Also present were Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman and his wife, Datin Seri Faridah Tussin, and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Maximus Ongkili. Some 5,000 people were at the open house which saw "Santa Claus" distributing gifts to more than 300 children. The VIPs then adjourned to the open house at the residence of Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Bernard Dompok at Mansakazon Heights, also in Penampang.

In KUCHING, people of various religions visited their Christian friends who held "open house". Sarawak Yang Dipertua Negeri Tun Abang Muhammad Salahuddin Abang Barieng paid a visit to Bishop Datuk Made Katib at the St Thomas Cathedral in Kuching to wish him Merry Christmas.
In KLANG, the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes held various religious activities beginning yesterday up to this morning.
In SEREMBAN, Christians converged at the Church of the Visitation at Jalan Yam Tuan before visiting their relatives and friends.
In JOHOR BAHARU, the shopping complexes as well as the Johor Zoo and the Danga Bay tourism centre were crowded with families taking their children for an outing.

= == = and now is the time for M'sians Indians to get MIC Instant "quick help"

Home for them is the staircase; By : V. Shankar Gane; NST

SHAH ALAM: A single mother and two children have been sleeping at the staircase of a flat here since Dec 16 after they were kicked out of

their rented flat. K. Jeya Thilaga, 36, is staying on the third floor of the flat in Taman Alam Megah with her 11-year-old daughter and her sister-in-law's 15-year-old girl. With her income of RM420 a month, she has not been able to pay the RM380 rental for three months. The owner finally evicted them from the flat and with nowhere to go, she just put her few belongings at the side of the flat staircase and they slept on mats. Jeya, who was a picture of despair when the New Straits Times visited her, said she had nobody to turn to and nowhere to go.

She said her husband left her six years ago and her three older children also left her about a year ago. She works as a contract worker at a factory here but as an asthmatic, she had to take frequent medical leave. "The little income I get, I spend it mainly on provisions and for my medical bills. My sister-in-law's daughter is also an asthmatic. With all these problems I just could not pay the rental. "When the owner told me to move out, I had to put my belongings at the staircase and sleep there. "My neighbours have been giving us food and also allow us to use the bathrooms. To have some money in hand, I have sold my gas cylinder and am ready to sell other things, too. However, all hope was not lost as news of her predicament reached Shah Alam councillor R.S Maniam and arrangements were immediately made to get her a house.

He forked out RM1,000 from his own pocket and arranged for her to move to a council home in Section 23. A council home is provided by the local council as a temporary home for those in urgent need of a house. The rental is only RM250 per month. Maniam also bought her a month's supply of provisions and would be enrolling her for aid under the urban poverty eradication programme. "I was shocked to see her and the children sleeping on the staircase and I hope she will have a normal life now." Maniam said the elder girl was without a birth certificate and efforts would also be made to get her proper identification documents.

= = == = == = Watch the Queen's X'mas Message on UTube (6.55 mins)

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