Polio and peace

Pakistan is one of the two countries where polio remains endemic. Among multiple reasons of polio prevalence, (false) religious beliefs have been thought to be a major barrier towards polio immunization there. Researchers from USCI University Malaysia, have recently published [1] pleasing findings on this score, observing religious scholars to be engaged in campaigns to dismantle the myths and battle the resurgence of polio in Pakistan. The research assessed the knowledge, attitudes and perceived barriers towards polio immunization possessed by a sample 770 Muslim scholars in the Quetta and Peshawar divisions of Pakistan (where the polio risk is high). The study showed there to be poor knowledge of polio by a majority of the scholars surveyed, but positive attitudes towards immunization. Security was an issue to more than three-quarters of the participants.

In those countries where polio remains a threat, it is invariably civil strife and security problems that for decades have been thwarting efforts to rid the world of the scourge of polio.

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[1] Muhammad Umair Khan, Akram Ahmad, Saad Salman, Maria Ayub, Talieha Aqeel, Noman-ul Haq, Fahad Saleem, Muhammad Ubaid Khan. "Muslim Scholars’ Knowledge, Attitudes and Perceived Barriers Towards Polio Immunization in Pakistan." Journal of Religion and Health (Published online 17 September 2016) DOI 10.1007/s10943-016-0308-6

What to do and what not?

I’ve long valued a list of tests by the late Professor Hedley Beare, published in the Melbourne Anglican years ago, that helps one assess what to take up that’s new, and what to stop doing—tasks to get rid of, to resign from, to give up or just quit. Each Advent I look at it again. This is a summary; a copy of the full article is here. Beare writes of the tests of:

  • Bliss: Is this activity something I really like doing, deep down? Is it something I really want to do?
  • Vocation: Is this something I am suited to doing, which appropriately makes use of my talents, and which is in keeping with my Christian and professional calling?
  • Uniquenes: Why me? Why have I been asked or approached? Is this something only I can do, for which I have unique competence?
  • Coherence: Does this activity harmonize with my current priorities and centres of interest?
  • Networking: Does (or will) this activity keep me in touch with significant people or activities, and will it do the same for my spouse or partner?
  • The Strategic: Is the audience or the target group for this exercise important enough to warrant the investment of my time and energy?
  • The Prophetic: Does this activity or assignment give me the opportunity to be prophetic (in the biblical sense)? Does the undertaking make me bold?
  • Remuneration: Who is meeting the costs of this assignment, literally?
  • Opportunities Foregone: Will this assignment prevent me from doing something else more important, or something which I must do, which I am already committed to do, or which I really want to do?
  • Peace: At the primal level, does this assignment leave me feeling easy in my mind?

Beare wrote: “One need hardly add that this review takes time; if I am not accorded that time, the answer is always ‘no’. Because such a review combines inner work and prayer, you don’t have to justify your decision or make excuses. ‘Simply let your Yes be Yes and your No, No’, Jesus advised (Matt 5:37).”

When to set up Christmas decorations

From the Vatican, an authoritative answer to a Really. Important. Question.

Actually, I rather like the answer, especially when Fr. McNamara urges circumspection when decorating churches and says that, “It is unnecessary … to fall under the spell of commercial enterprises which tend to anticipate the Christmas season.”

From Zenit – Code: ZE05112920; 29 November 2005.

When to Set Up Christmas Decorations, answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.

Q: What would you consider an appropriate time during Advent to put up Christmas trees, ornaments, lights and other decorations in churches and Christian homes?

poinsettiaThis question is simple only in appearance because customs surrounding the celebration of Christmas vary widely among different cultures.

From a strictly liturgical standpoint the preparations for receiving the Christ Child intensify from Dec. 17 onward and this is probably a good time to set up the parish crib, except for the image of the child, which is often added just before Midnight Mass in more or less solemn fashion. Other parishes prefer to set up the crib on Christmas Eve. There are no official rites regarding this widespread custom. In those places that use the Advent wreath, it is placed on the first Sunday of Advent. …e

Dec. 17 or the nearest Sunday might also be a good date to set up Christmas trees and other decorations in Christian homes, but it really depends on local custom and tradition. It is unnecessary, however, to fall under the spell of commercial enterprises which tend to anticipate the Christmas season, sometimes even before Advent begins.

Because some Christmas decorations have often lost their original religious meaning, churches should be rather circumspect about employing them and should do so with great discretion. If used at all, these decorations are best set up on Christmas Eve so as to respect the integrity of the Advent season.

Christmas trees are preferably located outside the sanctuary and church proper, and are best left in vestibules or church grounds. This has been the practice in St. Peter’s Square from the time of Pope John Paul II.

As far as possible, decorations should be religiously themed, leaving plastic reindeer, sugar canes and Santa Clauses in the local shopping mall or at least within the confines of the parish hall for children’s events.

Within the church proper, apart from the crib, Christmas may be evoked by using, for example, traditional poinsettias, holly and other traditional elements according to the culture. As I mentioned, different cultures celebrate Christmas in various ways.

Advent resolution

A Young Man at Prayer (mid 1470s), by Hans Memling (Oil on oak 39 x 25.4 cm.). National Gallery, London)

I’ll let this picture stand for my Advent resolution this year (the beginning of the church year). This portrait of an unidentified young man at prayer is likely to have formed the left-hand side of a small devotional picture. The open book, probably a Book of Hours or other devotional book, suggests that after a period of prayer and meditation the young man has looked up to see a vision of the object of his devotions.