Monday, April 25, 2016

Tradition vs. Love

Our daughter, Jessica, is playing Tzeitel, the oldest daughter in Fiddler on the Roof with Voices of Hope, a musical group raising money for cancer research.  Mike and I will not able to see the performance so we were allowed to come sit in on a rehearsal while we were in Massachusetts.  One scene they rehearsed was the Sabbath scene...setting the table, lighting the candles, and praying for the blessings of the family.

Passover is this week and in the past our community has celebrated Seder. In the Jewish faith, many rites involved the family. Even in the long, drawn-out Seder there are rituals set in the litany that are meant to break up the monotony for the children.  

 In the Jewish faith we see a strong bond within the family.  Much of what was written in Leviticus is to strengthen the family.  The weekly celebration of the Sabbath starts in the home.  Harsh penalties were established for those who may cause threat to the bonds of family, because family was to be the corner stone of the Jewish nation.   Gleaning was written into the laws to support those who had no one to farm.  And the year of the Jubilee was established to free slaves, return land to the original owners, and forgive debts...this was to reset the clock every 50 years in order for ALL families to have a chance.

Families were not just mother, father and children but were grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins...and they supported each other.   

Widows and orphans were to be supported by society...these were families at risk.
And strangers were welcomed into the family.  The Sabbath was to include people on the road.  The door was to be left open for Elijah to come in for the Seder as well as strangers.  The family was the bedrock of hospitality to all.

And yet we use selected passages in Leviticus to exclude and condemn people.  Tradition vs. love...this is the theme in Fiddler on the Roof.    Many of us hold onto old laws that have become traditions instead of leaning towards love, or as Jesus said, "holding to the letter of the law while ignoring the spirit of the law."

We tend to take laws that were established when populations were low and at risk of being decimated* other words, passages that condemn sexual practices that would not result in babies and laws designed to give vulnerable children fathers to support them - like the stoning of women who lay with more than one man - and make them laws today, when populations are growing by leaps and bounds and paternity tests are easy.  And as far as we know, no one has ever held to the law of the year of the Jubilee.
As we become more and more global, those of us of faith need to see the world as our family.  Scientists says we all come from one mother.  If we adhere to a Divine creating us all, then this still holds.  We share common chromosomes.  We are more alike than different.  Maybe it is time to act like one giant family.  We let traditions separate us instead of support us.  We allow laws set in books of faith to condemn instead of showing us ways to love:

  • Supporting one another 
  • Hospitality 
  • Supporting the weak, the poor, the vulnerable
This is family.  These are traditions we need to have.  This is love.   -Kathleen

*There were also passages telling the Israelites to kill every man, woman, child, and farm animal when they conquered a people.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Zika Virus in Nicaragua

Welcome spring!  Or I would if it weren’t so dry, hot and dusty right now in Nicaragua.  The only two things I am for which I am grateful in the hot, barren, brown, lifeless time of year in Nicaragua…I did mention hot, didn’t I?...are 1) clothes on the line dry very quickly and 2) the mosquito population is down…they at least know that the only thing worth doing these days (besides laundry…no, wait they wear no clothes!) is to lay eggs and die.

I only wish their eggs were not so hearty…eggs from mosquitoes can lie dormant for one year just waiting for that little bit of standing water to hatch bringing forth those pesky, pesky…and now, disease ridden pests.

AND we have just one more virus with which to deal, here in the tropics when the rains do come and flowers burst open and dust gets driven back into the soil.

There has been lots of hoop-la in the States over the Zika virus passed to one person and another by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, the same mosquito, by the way, that carries the five strains of dengue (which can have a hemorrhagic component) and chikungunya…remember that one from our blog last year?

There is much we do not know about the Zika virus, but we do know these things:
•    Symptoms when infected can include fever, mild rash, headache, malaise, joint pain, conjunctivitis (much like dengue and chikungunya), although…
•    frequently people may not know they even have it because of the mild symptoms.
•    Some studies have shown that the Zika virus is not only passed by the mosquitoes but also by semen…that’s a new one!  One man was tested to have had the active virus up to 10 weeks in his semen.  Why is all this a concern?  Because…
•    In Brazil, recently the local health authorities have observed that there has been an increase in babies born with microcephaly in the northeast part, as well as…
•    An increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome that has coincided with those infected with the Zika virus.

Microcephaly is a condition when the baby’s brain does not develop and can result in death in the early years.  Guillain-Barré syndrome is temporary, partial to more severe paralysis

What does this mean, besides that there is still a whole lot we do not know?

Guillain-Barré syndrome requires hospitalization in case the respiratory system shuts down.  Outside breathing machines are required to keep the patient breathing.

Microcephaly is a condition no parent wants for their children, but for poor countries that do not have the resources to care for special needs children, a large population of microcephalic children would be a public health nightmare as well as an extreme burden for families, most of whom would have difficulties caring for their little ones.

Patients with Guillain-Barré in El Salvador
As of publishing, the Ministry of Health in Nicaragua has reported 131 cases of Zika, of which 12 are pregnant women. 

There is no Zika virus vaccine now.  Experts think that once exposed, one becomes immune to the virus…so the best hope right now is to prevent getting bitten (almost impossible without air conditioning and bug spray), use condoms if pregnant (difficult in a machista culture),  and to postpone pregnancy, which is the strategy we are offering in Nicaragua: 

Postpone pregnancy until more information is out and/or until the woman is immune because she has been exposed or vaccinated. -- Becca