Posts Tagged ‘spirituality’

Winona LaDuke on Redemption

Winona LaDuke on Redemption

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Posted 26 September 2011, by Sacred Land Film Project, Vimeo, vimeo.com

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Winona LaDuke on Redemption from Sacred Land Film Project on Vimeo.

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Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe activist) speaks on the process of apology, redemption and healing; through the story of the Pawnee tribe and their return home to their native land in Nebraska.

This interview bite was conducted as part of our Sacred Land Film Project series, featuring indigenous communities fighting to save their sacred sites.

Learn more at sacredland.org

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http://vimeo.com/29633865

Occupy Wall Street: Nine Conversations and a Protest Song

 

Occupy Wall Street: Nine Conversations and a Protest Song

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Posted27 September 2011, byEdward Champion, Reluctant Habits, edrants.com

 

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Please visit the original site to listen to multiple audio tracks (the conversations and the song) associated with this article

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On Tuesday afternoon, I discovered this report from NPR Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos. NPR hadn’t aired a single story in relation to the Occupy Wall Street riots, which I had reported about on Sunday in relation to the pepper spraying incident. I decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and attend the protests myself. What follows are nine conversations I had with various individuals at the protests.

Douglas: “I’m here because I’m American. I was born here in New York. I was born here in Manhattan.”

Jeff and Miike came from Colorado.

Miike: “We came on Sunday specifically for this. And we decided we wanted to come down for the week also.”
Jeff: “We had already planned a trip to New York. And then they were talking about it on the radio station that I listen to in Denver. And they were saying there’s a total media blackout on this whole thing. And so I said I’m going to go down there. I called them up and said I’m going to go down there.”

Dorjee: “I hope it brings it down completely and we get a completely new system of human respect with viable resources and fair trade, instead of I lend you. You, you need a thousand dollars. Okay, I’ll give you a thousand dollars if you pay me back $1,000 plus $200.”

Me to Dorjee: “Be careful with that fist. Because you’re trying to be peaceful, right?”

Marvin was holding a sign that read JESUS IS NOT FOR CORPORATE GREED. What will the protest actually do?

Marvin: “It will make people more aware that we live in a capitalist system where more people are living in poverty than ever. And the most ironic part of it is that it’s a capitalist system, but we live off the Communists. We have to borrow money from Communists to even exist.”

Mary was a tourist who had stopped by Liberty Square on the last day of her vacation.

Mary: “I’m surprised it hasn’t happened earlier. Now it has. I started following it on Twitter. And then I thought I’d come down and see what was happening.”

Ed and Robin came to the protests all the way from West Virginia.

Robin: “The corporations have done a great job in dividing people, separating people into issues. People are coming together here and realizing that we have much more in common with each other than we do with the people who are trying to sell us on what a good way of life is here.”

Ed and Robin were also kind enough to perform their song “Let ‘Em Eat Cake” for me. Here is Uncle Eddie & Robin’s website.

Roman carried a sign calling for President Paris Hilton and had some unusual ideas about making sex appeal a more predominant characteristic than others.

Roman: “I’m an aspiring, you know, Paris Hilton. I want to just be able to live and party. I live with my parents right now but we don’t have much money. And I think that if Paris Hilton becomes President, you know, she can help everybody just party.”

Brian worked very close to Liberty Square. He was checking out the protests on his lunch break.

Brian: “This is funny anyway. [indicating sign] I mean, who hasn’t tried to go to school looking for a job when they first get out of school. I mean, that’s what we all do. It’s hard to find a job. But, like anything, you continue to look and try until you find one and do what most of us have done.”

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Please note that an earlier version of this story misidentified the “Steven Levy” as “Wired senior writer Steven Levy.” Reluctant Habits expresses its apologies to Wired‘s Steven Levy and greatly regrets the error.]

As I was circling Liberty Square and talking with many people about what it meant to protest, I observed an older man berating a young man going by the name of Matt. It was the only contentious banter I had observed in what was otherwise a peaceful gathering — complete with donated food, plentiful signs laid along the ground, activists singing protest songs on banjos and guitars, and even a library established in close proximity to the main dais.

I was curious about what had caused this older man to lose his gasket. Because while I had talked with people who did not approve of the protest (including some cops who declined to go on the record, but all NYPD officers I observed were calm and professional), the older man was the only one prepared to go ballistic. This being a public space, I naturally began recording audio and approached the shrieking man, hoping that I might use this moment to generate a civil discussion. But the man, who identified himself as “Steven Levy” (not to be confused with the Wired senior writer) wasn’t especially interested in explaining to me why he was upset at Matt.

“He and I were just talking with another woman,” explained Matt after the exchange. “And I think they’re more on the liberal interventionist side of the economic policies — at least in terms of their opinions. And I was like saying, ‘Look, I’m personally against Keynesianism. Because I think Keynes is all about government spending. And I don’t believe government is a good allocator of spending.’”

This position apparently infuriated Levy. When I approached Levy and Matt, Matt was explaining to Levy that the two of them were on the same side. Levy responded, “You don’t read well.”

I decided to intervene. I merely wanted to know what Matt was misrepresenting. The results can be listened to below:

Please visit the original site to listen to multiple audio tracks (the conversations and the song) associated with this article

About Edward Champion

Edward Champion is the Managing Editor of Reluctant Habits.

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http://www.edrants.com/occupy-wall-street-nine-conversations-and-a-protest-song/

EcoSikh presents on Sikh Women and Biodiversity at SAFAR Conference, Toronto

 

EcoSikh presents on Sikh Women and Biodiversity at SAFAR Conference, Toronto

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Posted 26 September 2011, by Staff, EcoSikh, ecosikh.org

 

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EcoSikh has been invited to make a presentation on Sikh Women and Biodiversity at a key academic conference on Sikhism and Gender at the University of Toronto on October 1, 2011.

The SAFAR: Our Journeys conference will feature over 30 speakers including Sikh feminist scholars, theologians and leaders, including keynote speaker Nikky-Guninder Kaur author of The Birth of the Khalsa: A Feminist Re-Memory of Sikh Identity.

Bandana Kaur of EcoSikh will be presenting a paper on Sikh women and biodiversity conservation in Punjab, the birthplace of the Sikh religion.

In her paper, titled “Women Farmers of Punjab: Forgotten Voices from the Plains”, Bandana will examine the Green Revolution from the perspective of Sikh women living in the Malwa region of Punjab, an area recognized for the challenges posed to the farming community. Her paper examines the historical relationship between women and agricultural biodiversity in Punjab, and contemporary efforts by rural Sikh women to revive agricultural biodiversity today.

“Sikh women engaged in agricultural biodiversity conservation can help inform a new approach to agricultural development in Punjab that recognizes complex and interrelated systems in: the content and diversity of what is produced, the inputs both human and technical used to produce these goods, and the knowledge systems upon which choices are based.”

A special issue of the academic journal Sikh Feminist Review will be devoted to the conference proceedings. This public record of Sikh feminist research will serve as one of the first accessible domains to privilege Sikh feminist scholarship.

 

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http://www.ecosikh.org/ecosikh-presents-on-sikh-women-and-biodiversity-at-safar-conference-toronto/

Saudi Women Granted Right To Vote (And Save Planet)

 

Saudi Women Granted Right To Vote (And Save Planet)

Why women’s right to vote is important not only for gender equality but for the planet

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Posted 26 September 2011, by Arwa Aburawa, Green Prophet, greenprophet.com

 

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It been a political roller-coaster of a year for the Middle East and it doesn’t look set to stop just yet. Yesterday, an event many thought would never happen in their lifetime finally happened- Saudi women were granted the right to vote. Not only did this de-bunk claims made by ‘Ethical Oil’ that Canadian tar sands were better than Saudi oil due to the latter’s gender bias but it also meant that women in the country were strengthening their ability to fight climate change and better resist the devastating impact it could have on them.

It is widely accepted that women will be worst affected by climate change and troubling phenomenons such as land grabs due to gender inequality which means they are less equipped to secure their own protection. For example, in the case of land grabs a recent report by Oxfam highlights their particular vulnerability as they lack the same land rights as most men and so they are more likely to be mistreated. Consequently, the recent move in Saudi to grant women an equal voice in the political sphere by 2015 is an important step to achieving gender equality which is vital if women are to tackle the impacts of climate change.

Saudi Women Gain Green Political Voice

Not that Saudi women weren’t working to tackle environmental problems facing the country prior to the vote. I spoke to the pioneering green women-led Saudi intiative Naqa’a around a year ago and they showed great concern about the need to stop climate change and deal with environmental issues in Saudi such as water shortages and wastefulness.

Although a women-led group, they also highlighted the fact that the need to protect the environment was a duty required of every Muslim – man and woman. However, the right to vote means that eco-friendly women in the country now have a stronger voice and will be able to express their views at the polls and at government policy level.

Building on protests demanding women’s right to drive in Saudi, it finally looks like the establishment (who are probably keen to avoid full-scale protests such as those in Syria and in Bahrain by pushing through these much-needed reforms) are paying attention to their citizens and their demands for change.

Clear Restrictions Which Need Challenging

Even so, there are some clear limitations to the recent news. For one, the law won’t take effect till another four years and some have criticized the overall democratic nature of governance in Saudi stating that the vote doesn’t really have an influence on the way the country is run. What’s more, women still cannot drive or travel abroad alone so there is still some way to go for gender and political equality.

Despite these restriction, it is encouraging to hear that women in Saudi have been granted the right to vote and stand for elections. It’s a step in the right direction and these are really exciting time we are living through at the moment in the Middle East – let’s hope that they will be just as green.

: Image via en_el_houston/flickr.

For more on Saudi and the environment see:

King Abdullah Gives Saudi Women Right To Vote

Interview With Naqa’a: Saudi Women Fight For Environment

Saudi Spring For Women Drivers In Saudi Begins Now!

Browse topics: , , , ,

 

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http://www.greenprophet.com/2011/09/saudi-women-vote-save-planet/

Immortal Technique

Immortal Technique

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The resistance continues at Liberty Square, with free pizza 😉

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Posted 27 September 2011, by OccupyWallSt, Occupy Wall Street, occupywallst.org

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Please click on the link below for a video of Immortal Technique talking with the Occupy Wall Street protesters:

http://qik.com/swfs/qikPlayer5.swf
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https://occupywallst.org/article/immortal-technique/

Ancestor-worshipping village shaman divines a path around Indonesia’s bureaucracy

Ancestor-worshipping village shaman divines a path around Indonesia’s bureaucracy

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Posted 26 September 2011, by Rob Kerby, BeliefNet News (BeliefNet), blog.beliefnet.com/news/

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A Kaharingan practitioner

In Tumbang Saan, a village of huts built on stilts in Borneo’s vast rainforest, village elder Udatn had a problem.

He’s a spiritual leader in Kaharingan, one of a number of names for the ancestor-worshipping, spirit-divining religion of Borneo’s indigenous forest people, the Dayak.

In Indonesia, bureaucrats cite a law that citizens must choose between the government’s six officially recogized religions: Islam, Roman Catholicism, Christian Protestantism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Hinduism, reports Aubrey Belford for the International Herald Tribune.

So Udatn couldn’t get government funding for local needs unless the bureaucrats had the right entries in their paperwork.

His solution: He has announced that his sect is a branch of Hinduism, reports Belford:

Of all the people in this tiny settlement, he speaks better than any other the esoteric language of the Sangiyang, the spirits and ancestors of the upper world, known simply as “Above.” His is a key role in the rituals of Kaharingan, “In the beginning, when God separated the darkness and the light, there was Kaharingan,” said Mr. Udatn, as he sat smoking a wooden pipe on the floor of his stilt home. (Like many Indonesians Mr. Udatn uses only one name.)

The world’s most populous Muslim-majority country is no Islamic state, but it is a religious one. Every citizen must subscribe to one of six official creeds: Kaharingan, like dozens of other native faiths, does not officially exist. Even in this village, a frontier where land clearing and mining is fast erasing ancient forest, people have long seen their faith under threat from officialdom.

Villagers have seized on a strategy being used by many Dayak: They are re-branding. On paper at least, most of the people of Tumbang Saan are now followers of Hinduism, the dominant religion on the distant island of Bali.

Here is a video of Dayaks using their age-old tapping technique to give a visitor one of their famed tattoos:

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Are Indonesian bureaucrats pleased with the solution? After all, notes Belford:

Few here could name a Hindu god or even recognize concepts, like karma, that have taken on popular meanings even in the West. But that is not the point. In a corner of the world once famed for headhunters and impenetrable remoteness, a new religion is being developed to face up to an encroaching modern world and an intrusive Indonesian state. The point, in short, is cultural survival.

“The Hindus have helped us,” said Mr. Udatn. “They’re like our umbrella.”

“What exists in Tumbang Saan is a strange compromise, born of the Indonesian religious system, where government functionaries play a key role in allocating funding and guiding religious doctrine,” writes Belford. “Some see it as a fake faith, invented for appearances; others hail it as a rediscovery of long-lost beliefs.”

So, welcome to Kaharingan Hinduism … or perhaps Hindu Kaharinganism, a ”new” religion birthed by bureaucrats faithful to official rules.

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http://blog.beliefnet.com/news/2011/09/ancestor-worshipping-village-shaman-divines-a-path-around-indonesias-religious-bureaucracy.php

Prairiewoods celebrating 15 years as ecospirituality oasis

Prairiewoods celebrating 15 years as ecospirituality oasis

The labyrinth at Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center, 120 E. Boyson Rd., Hiawatha, Iowa. Taken Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. (Angela Holmes/SourceMedia Group)

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Posted 24 September 2011, by Cindy Hadish, Eastern Iowa Life (SourceMedia Group), easterniowalife.com

 

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The Gazette

HIAWATHA — With more than 40 years in the making, Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center will celebrate its 15th anniversary with a nature festival.

After purchasing farmland in 1962 as a potential site for a regional headquarters, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, based in La Crosse, Wis., had numerous offers to buy the land on the Cedar Rapids/Hiawatha border.

“The sisters could have made millions,” says Prairiewoods Director Barry Donaghue of the Congregation of Christian Brothers. “But they said, ‘Let’s see if we can make it an oasis. Let’s take care of it.’”

Betty Daugherty, a Franciscan nun and one of six founding members of Prairiewoods, initiated weekly committee meetings to determine the future of the site.

Betty Daugherty

“It was a gradual process,” says Daugherty, who still resides at the center at 120 E. Boyson Road in Hiawatha.

Joann Gehling, another Franciscan nun and founding member, says planning began in earnest in 1994, once the philosophy was determined to combine ecology and spirituality into what would become known as an ecospirituality center.

Gehling, who lives near the center, says other religious communities had similar undertakings elsewhere in the country, but nothing like Prairiewoods existed in Iowa.

Joann Gehling

Their vision, based on the Franciscan philosophy of God revealed in the natural world, included restoration of the prairie and ecological practices, such as the use of natural materials and renewable energy in the buildings.

Doors of the center opened in 1996.

With 30 acres of tallgrass prairie and 40 acres of oak woodlands, the site offers the oasis that the sisters envisioned.

Picnickers and hikers walk the center’s woodland trails. Business workers find respite at retreats in the center’s main building, which sports meeting rooms, a fully-staffed kitchen and meditation room with inspiring view of the woods. Meals, cooked to perfection by chef Jill Jones, use produce grown on-site and other local foods.

One hundred solar panels generate 22,500-kilowatt hours of electricity annually and classes use a new building as a solar training facility.

Barry Donaghue

Artists and writers find solitude in Prairiewoods’ two hermitages. A 19-room guesthouse also provides overnight accommodations.

People of all backgrounds and faiths use an outdoor labyrinth and traditional sweat lodge.

As Donaghue describes it, the center isn’t focused on Catholicism or any particular religion.

“We don’t proselytize,” says Donaghue, who has studied and ministered in Australia, England, Ireland, France, Israel and the Fiji Islands. “Basically, we’re trying to get people to think.”

With that in mind, Prairiewoods is home base for groups such as Wednesday Women, who meet 10-11:30 a.m. Wednesdays to explore topics related to spiritual growth, and Green Living Group, which meets 6:30-8 p.m. the third Wednesday of every month to discuss subjects such as voluntary simplicity.

Holistic treatments, including massage and reflexology, are scheduled by appointment.

Prairiewoods also offers retreats and events, including Nature Fest, scheduled for 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2, to celebrate the center’s 15th anniversary.

The celebration features music, games, blessing of animals, an ice cream social and environmental art and poetry from Iowa winners of the 2011 River of Words.

In a column Daugherty wrote about exploring ecospirituality, she notes that “eco” comes from oikos, a Greek word for “home.”

“Hence, ecospirituality is not about a relationship with a God in a far-away heaven,” she writes. “The Divine can be found in our daily lives, in our human relationships and in our relationship with Earth.”

 

FYI

 

What: Nature Fest at Prairiewoods

Where: 120 E. Boyson Rd., Hiawatha

When: 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2

Other: Event features live music by Deep Dish Divas and Bob Ballantyne; games, nature tours and outdoor activities. Ice cream social begins at 1:45 p.m.; message from Sen. Rob Hogg and storytelling at 2 p.m.; blessing of animals at 2:45 p.m. and more.

The event includes the only Eastern Iowa showing of winners of River of Words, an environmental art and poetry competition for youths ages 5 to 19.

More information: www.prairiewoods.org

A deer roams the woods at Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center, 120 E. Boyson Rd., Hiawatha, Iowa. Taken Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. (Angela Holmes/SourceMedia Group)

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http://easterniowalife.com/2011/09/24/prairiewoods-celebrating-15-years-as-ecospirituality-oasis/

 

Luce Irigaray – Quotes

Luce Irigaray – Quotes

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Posted 24 September 2011, by Staff, The European Graduate School, egs.edu

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…more than other senses, the eye objectifies and masters. it sets at a distance, maintains the distance. in our culture, the predominance of the look over smell, taste, touch, hearing, has brought about an improverishment of bodily relations…the moment the look dominates, the body loses its materiality.

Irigaray, Luce.

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“Sexual difference is probably the issue in our time which could be our ‘salvation’ if we thought it through.

Irigaray, Luce.

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Between gods and men, territories are set up. At least in the no-man’s land of the heights of heaven, the depths of hell, and inside the boundary traced by the oceans. Dimensions installed by a cosmogonic trilogy that leaves each term in its generic place. There remains the earth ancestress, a fourth term, that was once the most fertile, that has been progressively buried and forgotten beneath the architectonic of patriarchal sovereignty. And this murder erupts in the form of ambivalences that have constantly to be solved and hierarchized, in twinned pairs of more or less good doubles.

Irigaray, Luce and Gillian C. Gill (Translator). Marine Lover: Of Friedrich Nietzsche. Columbia University Press. April 15, 1991. Hardcover 176 pages, Language English, ISBN: 0231070829.

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Is E=Mc² a sexed equation? Perhaps it is. Let us make the hypothesis that it is insofar as it privileges the speed of light over other speeds that are vitally necessary to us. What seems to me to indicate the possible sexed nature of the equation is not directly its uses by nuclear weapons, rather it is having privileged that which goes faster.

Irigaray, Luce. Parler n’est jamais neutre. Éditions de Minuit. 1987. p.110. (Quoted in and translated by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont, Intellectual Impostures, London: Profile Books, 1998, p.100.)

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“The ‘feminine’ is always described in terms of deficiency or atrophy, as the other side of the sex that alone holds a monopoly on value: the male sex. Hence the all too well-known ‘penis envy.’ How can we accept the idea that woman’s entire sexual development is governed by her lack of , and thus by her longing for, jealousy of, and demand for, the male organ? Does this mean that woman’s sexual evolution can never be characterized with reference to the female sex itself? All Freud’s statements describing feminine sexuality overlook the fact that the female sex has its own ‘specificity’.

Irigaray, Luce and Catherine Porter and Carolyn Burke (Translator). This Sex Which Is Not One. Cornell Univeristy Press. 1985. Paperback, 223 pages, Language English, ISBN: 0801493315.

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Who, surprised and horrified by the fantastic tumult of her drives (for she was made to believe that a well-adjusted normal woman has a … divine composure), hasn’t accused herself of being a monster? Who, feeling a funny desire stirring inside her (to sing, to write, to dare to speak, in short, to bring out something new), hasn’t thought she was sick?

Irigaray, Luce. “Body against Body: In relation to the Mother.” in: Fifth Conference on Mental Health entitled ‘Women and Madness”. May 13, 1980.

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http://www.egs.edu/faculty/luce-irigaray/quotes/

For the love of cats and dogs

For the love of cats and dogs

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Posted 25 September 2011, by Rashvinjeet S. Bedi, The Star, thestar.com.my

 

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Thanks to social networking, many pet lovers are taking their fight for animal rights to cyber space and forming groups to pressure the authorities to act against abuse cases.When news broke out that 300 cats were being neglected and starved at a pet hotel in Damansara Damai early this month, scores of pet lovers in Klang Valley headed to the premises to rescue the animals.

Many volunteered their services, taking the traumatised cats to veterinarians or fostering the animals until their rightful owners came to claim them.

Some even stood outside the shop from morning till night for a few days to inform cat owners who had just returned from their Hari Raya holidays the whereabouts of their pets.

In loving hands: Lai and rescued pup Baby leaving the Petaling Jaya district police headquarters after Lai and MDDB supporters lodged police reports in connection to a video depicting animal abuse. — DARRAN TAN/The Star

Animal lovers, banded under a group called KTAJ (Kucing Terbiar Anjing Jalanan), coordinated the rescue efforts.

The KTAJ is one of several animal welfare groups that have sprung into the limelight recently. These independent groups, some bearing little known acronyms, are made up of individuals who share a common bond – their love for animals.

Formed in March this year, KTAJ has already attracted more than 14,700 “likes” on its Facebook wall.

Besides KTAJ, other groups include Malay­sian Dogs Deserve Better (MDDB), Malaysian Cats Care Project (MCCP), Independent Pet Rescuers (IPR), Myanimalcare, Garden of Eden, and Paws mission. The roles they assume, at times, appear to have eclipsed those of mainstream organisations like the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and PAWS.

“Many individuals have been feeding and rescuing animals for decades but it is only recently that animal lovers, especially those from the younger generation, are organising themselves,” says MDDB adoption coordinator Christine Lai.

Saving cats: Suzana, founding member of KTAJ and, right, the KTAJ Facebook fanpage.

With social networking tools, animal lovers are now able to share their views online with many other like-minded people, resulting in groups being formed at the community level.

These groups use Facebook, blogs and Twitter to send out alerts if there is an emergency, as in the Damansara Damai case three Sundays ago where the cats were left at the pet hotel without food for days.

Both KTAJ and MDDB constantly update their Facebook to inform members on pets that need to be adopted or urgent rescue missions. They also highlight cases of animal cruelty by posting pictures and videos online.

Lai says the group was formed in 2008 when seven volunteers collaborated to rescue a stray dog whose ears had been torn out while trying to escape some dog catchers.

MDDB believes in organising members to have a louder voice so that the authorities will take action against those found neglecting or abusing animals. Members have exposed the sorry state at pounds and circulated photographs showing animals being mistreated.

“Initially, detractors rebutted our findings and even claimed our pictures had been doctored. But all that changed when members of the public started coming forward to expose similar atrocities.’’

Lai points to a video posted on YouTube which showed a group of local council workers brutally euthanising a dog at a housing estate in full view of residents. Someone captured the scene and uploaded it on the Internet. The video sparked off a public outrage with calls for action to be taken against the errant workers.

“This shows that cruelty against animals is no longer tolerated. We are glad that the people have become more proactive. We also want to change the public’s perception on animal welfare and create a more caring society.”

When videos of a cat “killer” in Serdang and abuse of Sushi the toy poodle went viral recently, they resulted in a huge outcry. Independent groups lodged police reports and handed petitions to the authorities, demanding justice.

Some good came out of it – the government decided to review existing laws and look into more deterrent measures. The Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry, for instance, has proposed to amend the existing Animal Act 1953 to impose a stiffer penalty of up to RM50,000 and a year’s jail for those convicted of ill-treating animals.

MDDB also tries to highlight the good work of independent rescuers to encourage others to follow suit.

“Many animal lovers have been doing great work quietly on their own. We want them to be seen and heard to inspire others,” Lai says.

MDDB has a halfway home for dogs, and employs several full-time staff. Funding comes from the public and the members’ own pockets. The group is in the midst of registering an association called the Animal Protection Society and hope to be able to operate larger shelters like the SPCA in future.

KTAJ, meanwhile, came about when a few cat lovers decided to band together after seeing MDDB’s fight for dogs.

Founding member Suzana Sulaiman, 30, says many stray cats too need help. The group’s target is to minimise the stray population by neutering and nursing the animals, fighting animal cruelty and helping the local animal shelters.

The architectural designer believes that independent rescuers prefer to work with independent NGOs such as KTAJ as they are more flexible than groups that operate during office hours.

“You are more likely to get a quicker response from these groups. You shout for help and there are bound to be volunteers. We can pull our resources together,” she says, adding that 80% of the group is made up of women, mostly students and housewives.

Another KTAJ member Shahriza Idrus, 32, says members share the same interest in wanting to create animals rights awareness.

“We got to know each other through Facebook. Our members have big hearts and there is transparency in everything we do,” she shares.

Members usually come up with their own funds but in cases where the medical bills are too steep, they can request others to help via their Facebook page, says Shahriza.

In the past two months, Shahriza has spent about RM400 on medical bills for two cats – one, a kitten with hernia and the other, an adult cat with a serious head wound.

Despite being a busy event planner, Shahriza finds time for the felines. She drives to a few areas every night to feed stray cats. Even when she returns home from work in the wee hours of the morning, she will stick to this routine lest the strays go hungry.

Her car is always equipped with dry food, newspapers and gloves. If Shahriza comes across any animal carcass on the road, she will wrap it up before placing it by the roadside. If she is not busy rushing anywhere, she will bury the carcass behind her house.

Shariza says she is always bombarded with questions by people who ask her why she channels so much time and energy on the animals.

“Cats cannot speak or ask for help. At least, people know how to earn money and defend themselves,” says the event planner who finds keeping pets therapeutic.

One of the earlier independent groups to be formed, the IPR was set up in 2005.

“Many of us cannot turn a blind eye on a puppy or stray animal by the roadside,” says IPR volunteer Carnea Lee, who is a real-estate agent.

The IPR, she says, has a pool of volunteers who are on call. Like MMDB, the group has an animal sanctuary in Kuala Kubu Baru run by members using their own funds and public donations.

There are also pet lovers who are not affiliated with any one group but will readily offer help when needed.

Rena Chang, 46, for instance, has rescued countless animals over the last 10 years and works with any group that requires her assistance. She herself keeps four dogs and two cats, all rescued.

The property agent and events management executive helps strays and abused animals find homes with people who can be trusted. She has come across a dog with its nose chopped off while another was beaten until its jaw was dislocated.

Caring for animals can be time consuming and financially draining, as Chang has learnt over time. Most of her weekends are occupied with rescue work and she last took a holiday in 2002.

But for Chang, it’s not about the money or time spent as she gets satisfaction from helping and caring for animals that suffer from neglect or abuse.

Some independent rescue workers have even gone to the extent of setting up pet shops so they can use the premises to house rescued animals and buy pet food at cost price.

Ruth Chow and Amy Gui of the Garden Of Eden (http://www.thegoeden.com) began rescue work in 1996 when they reluctantly rescued a kitten. Many more rescued animals soon found a home in their house. But neighbours, tired of the endless barking and yelps, reported them to the authorities.

In 2006, they started a pet shop to keep the authorities at bay and listed boarding as one of the services provided. They were also able to get good food and supplements for the animals at a cheaper price. However, people started to dump animals outside their shop.

“We had no choice but to keep the animals as we didn’t have the heart to leave them. In the few years that we ran the pet shop, the number quadrupled. It was difficult to sustain the business financially and we had to close shop.

“We were getting into debt. I’m still paying off the supplier to this day,” laments Chow.

Last year, they managed to rent a tract of farmland for RM1,000 monthly and now have over 90 dogs and 200 cats under their care. Apart from contributions from well-wishers, Chow teaches English and music to help sustain the animal sanctuary.

“We have to live frugally as we will never let the animals go hungry. To us, they are God’s creations too and have a right to live, just like us humans.”

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http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2011/9/25/focus/9468486&sec=focus