My hour with His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Yesterday I went to visit my old friend, His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, Tibet. It was an absolutely beautiful morning as I spent time waiting for His Holiness on the veranda of His residence. I could see He was in a side room being filmed in conversation with a group of people. As He came out of the room His face lit up when he saw me. “My dear friend from Australia” He said, “Come with me” as we hugged tightly and I kissed Him on the top of His head. He led me to a large room at the end of the veranda. On a carpet were two lounge chairs and a coffee table where He motioned for me to sit. There were only two other people in the room. Chimmi, His private secretary and a translator. They were seated on smaller chairs near the wall. As we sat down He motioned to the cups of tea, looked at me and said “Welcome to my home, my dear old friend”. He then told the interpreter and Chimmi how I had called Him a good Christian (and I think He is) and how He thought I was a good Buddhist (which I am)! As we were sitting He drew a beautiful watch out of a small bag. “This was given to me by some people at a conference”, He said, “And I want to give it to you”. He tried to put it on my wrist but the band was a bit too tight. He was determined to put it on properly. “It’s okay like that”, I...

Being brave enough to lose yourself

Every now and then I get tempted to put one of my sermons up on the blog. A rush of egotism I feel I might have something worthwhile to say. However, when I read the transcript I realise all I am reading is just words. You see, religion is not words, it is more than that, it’s not beliefs, it’s more than that. It affects the core of you that is you. It is what you do with the knowledge that core has given you that’s all important. The other day I was talking to a friend of mine who was raving about someone’s latest sermon. From what I could see it was all words. This sermon went into minute detail explaining the meaning of words going right back to their ancient Greek roots. All well and good but without action these words mean nothing. They are just an interesting way of talking about the evolution of language. Many sermonisers also like to quote philosophy or philosophical passages. They can be helpful but what I have found is just because people agree with the sentiment behind philosophical concepts it doesn’t mean they practice it. Just because we recognise something is good for us it does not mean we automatically do it. There is a vast gap between recognising and doing. I think about that a lot particularly in today’s world where we are bombarded by words. It is almost as if silence is not acceptable any more. It has to be filled with either music or words. I have noticed in many charismatic church services many people become captivated by...

We are leaving refugee children to die in the snow

The whole operation began on Calais station before the train arrived. I noticed a team of armed police arrive, followed by security types and then a policeman with a large dog on a leash. They grouped around the stairs leading up from the station platform and hesitated as though they were not sure to which platform the train was arriving. They gathered in two small groups at the top of each stairway to the two platforms each looking hesitatingly at the other and then began to lounge around waiting as people on a mission are want to do. The onlookers were slightly bemused by this, “All they’ve got to do is look at the platform indicator” someone said in French and then slunk off, not wanting to be singled out as a troublemaker. It was then I noticed not all French people like what’s going on. But they know very well to keep their thoughts to themselves. I didn’t notice the train had arrived until it was too late. Suddenly there was a flurry of activity. The two groups flowed into one and disappeared into one of the roofed stairways and emerged surrounding what looked to me like a youngish teenage boy. He was so short and thin.  He was wrapped in an overly large winter jacket with a white fur trimmed hood.  This framed his young (terribly young), dark face with two large overly darting eyes, the whites of which stood out as much as the white trim framing his small, dark face. The boy was very quiet and resigned and quietly walked within the surrounding gang who...

My Trip to Calais – January 2017 – Now the Jungle is Gone

For well over a year I have been visiting ‘The Jungle” in Calais. My blogs tell of my anguish at first hand witnessing the hardship suffered by so many who were there. They tell of me ‘coming in from the cold’ and my life forever being changed for the better by my experiences with so many of the refugees. That in turn changed so much of what I did and how I went about doing things in Ashfield and everywhere else. Through these refugees found a deep sense of connection that will forever enrich my life. These blogs tell of how I met Clare and how over time her work grew and developed into the ‘Care4Calais’ organisation she now runs. My previous blogs were entitled 7th October, 2016 http://billcrews.org/site/my-trip-to-the-jungle-walking-with-the-refugees-on-wednesday-7th-october-2015/ 12th October, 2016 http://billcrews.org/site/visiting-the-jungle-calais-for-the-second-time-this-needs-to-be-read-in-in-conjunction-with-my-earlier-blog-of-12th-october-2015-called-my-trip-to-the-jungle-walking-with-th/ 27th October, 2016 http://billcrews.org/site/clearing-jungle-calais-france/ In January 2017 I visited Calais again to see for myself what had actually happened there during and after the closure. As always I’ve learned to go by myself and look for myself. That is because so many vested interests have an interest in putting a spin on things and I like to see and report for myself.  I am writing this from the perspective of witnessing a train arrive and a squad of armed police with dogs and security guards swooping down on it as they seem to do with every train or bus arrival and whisk off what seemed to me to be a not very tall, skinny, late teenage, early 20’s boy; all dark face and wide eyes encased in a fur lined jacket. He was led off into a...

Taking former unknown homeless man Frank Lawlor’s ashes back to the UK

Preamble In early June 2016 a homeless nameless man died one evening at our free Loaves and Fishes free food van in Sydney’s Woolloomooloo. By early January 2017 I was returning his ashes to his family in Birmingham, England… For me, it was a very moving time to return Frank Lawlor’s ashes to his family in Birmingham. As I was on the train from Euston to Birmingham I was reflecting on why it was so important to me for all this to happen.  I was surprised at the intensity of my feelings with regard to finding his family and returning his ashes to them.  As the train sped along I thought of all those people who die alone and unacknowledged.  When we were looking for details of Frank’s life we were contacted by many, many people who thought Frank could be their father.  It struck me that for many people there is a father shaped hole in their lives.  This has often been brought out to me in our Father’s Day, Loaves and Fishes Free restaurant lunch when I give a gift to those homeless who are fathers. “Are you a father” I ask?  And often they will shuffle and say “yes”. Now I am sure many don’t have much contact with their children for good reason but then there are others who are just suffering.  I particularly remember one man showing me a photo of his baby son. “How old is he now”? I ask. “He is 23 years old” was the reply. “How long since you have seen him?”  I asked. “23 years” was the answer. So there...

The Trump victory

When I was first asked to write a comment on the election of Donald Trump to be President of the USA I thought “no” because everybody and his dog would be commenting. However, on thinking about it I thought, why not. Really, everybody knows as much as I do and I might as well say what I think. My first reaction is to say this is a victory for bastardry. I do not think it is right to denigrate people because of the colour of their skin or their sexual orientation or the physical ability. I do not think it is right to denigrate women and get away with it. I find it very sad that in a country as great and as powerful as the United States, it can only throw up a brash business tycoon and a sullied politician as candidates for a position that holds the keys for a nuclear Armageddon. We are living in tumultuous times. The world is on the move, literally. Millions of displaced people are looking for a new home because they have been driven out of theirs. Instead of finding welcoming hospitality they are finding walls, barricades and outright hostility. Economically times are changing. Governments in the face of multinational corporate wealth and influence find themselves powerless to enforce standards. Also, because today money makes money faster than work does, we find money can freely cross borders where people can’t and workers can work as hard as they can for diminishing returns. We find across the board the rich are getting richer and the poor are either staying where they are...