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

Sea ice is serious!

sea ice

Sea ice is a marker and amplifier of climate change. In recent years the melting season in the Arctic has been ending later in the year. As a result, the total sea-ice extent in September 2016 was over 3m sq km smaller than in September 1980. In the Arctic, it is around 2m sq km below average

sea ice

As Bill McKibben writes in The Boston Globe for 22 November 2016, it’s a pretty simple chart. What it shows is the total area of global sea ice, as measured by satellites dating back to 1979. The red line at the bottom is this year, with some weeks still to go. "And it’s disturbing, of course, because this year’s line is very different. It’s not following the normal pattern—there’s a lot less ice. If you look behind the numbers, you find that the volume of both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice is extremely low for the date—and the fact that it’s happening at both poles is what makes the chart so dramatic. It seems to imply that something very unusual is happening.

The National Snow and Ice Data Centre a crucial world resource in keeping track of the cryosphere. Its research and scientific data management is supported in particular by NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and other US government agencies.

NASA is also monitoring sea-ice as part of its work on climate change. And all this vital work is to be shut down by Donald Trump?

Christmas where?

I was going to try to write something, to sermonise a little, but this says it.

Christmas where?

… and so does this:

Finally, in considering the situation of migrants and refugees, I would point to yet another element in building a better world, namely, the elimination of prejudices and presuppositions in the approach to migration. Not infrequently, the arrival of migrants, displaced persons, asylum-seekers and refugees gives rise to suspicion and hostility. There is a fear that society will become less secure, that identity and culture will be lost, that competition for jobs will become stiffer and even that criminal activity will increase. The communications media have a role of great responsibility in this regard: it is up to them, in fact, to break down stereotypes and to offer correct information in reporting the errors of a few as well as the honesty, rectitude and goodness of the majority. A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world. The communications media are themselves called to embrace this “conversion of attitudes” and to promote this change in the way migrants and refugees are treated.
— Pope Francis. Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which will be held on 19 January 2014


In the midst of an usually-too-hectic work life, this is a favourite story I used to tell my colleagues

While visiting the University of Notre Dame, where I had been a teacher for a few years, I met an older experienced professor who had spent most of his life there. And while we strolled over the beautiful campus, he said with a certain melancholy in his voice, ‘You know … my whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered that my interruptions were my work.’ —Henri J. Nouwen, Reaching out: the three movements of the spiritual life. London: Collins, 1976, p52.