GOOD

Vegetarianism Divided this Village

In religiously-contentious India, a surprising new battleground

Jain Temple in Palitana. Photo by Kalpeshzala59 via Wikimedia Commons

This summer, Palitana, a town of 50,000 people in the coastal lobe of northwest India’s Gujarat state, announced it would officially become a completely vegetarian municipality. No meat can be slaughtered, sold, or harbored, no eggs can be collected, and no fish can be caught within its borders. Since then, the city has gained an international reputation as the world’s top veggie city, trouncing the American and European cities that once billed themselves as the best spots for meatless mavens to visit.


But Palitana’s transformation wasn’t just a snap-of-the-fingers ethical decision. It was a religious one—the result of a long battle by India’s 4-to-5-million-strong Jain minority. And the imposition on the city has caused a fury in the town’s meat-eating, non-Jain quarters. Hopefully the city will be able to strike a balance, respecting Jain culture and faith without impinging on the rights of others, as they work out their civil discord in local councils and courts. And maybe when the smoke clears they’ll be able to keep their international, tourist-drawing veggie acclaim as well.

The Jains involved in Palitana’s veggie transformation are one of the world’s oldest but least known religious faiths. They believe their faith, lacking in gods or prophets, rests upon the wisdom and guidance of a series of enlightened individuals, the twenty-fourth and latest of whom, Mahavira, delivered the bulk of the Jain’s modern scriptures in India in the 6th century B.C. These teachings prescribe a life free of material attachment, lying, stealing, sexual indulgence, and violence—the last point being taken so far that the Jains avoid killing any living creature, including bugs, which the most devout brush from their path on the ground as they walk. So a strict vegetarian diet is a core of their faith.

And Palitana is their holy city. Its nearby mountains are pilgrimage sites for all Jains, as are the hundreds of temples and shrines in the town and throughout the nearby foothills. In recognition of the holiness of the site, the Jains have long wished to see their traditions institutionalized and enforced in the area.

Years ago, the government recognized Jains’ right to enforce their religious rules in and around core pilgrimage sites and routes leading to the Taleti region of Palitana. But in 2012, Jain ascetics claimed that bans on animal slaughter were not being enforced, and in a radical move, threatened self-immolation if the state did not approve a wider and better enforced ban on meats and butchering in their religious areas. The ban was soon granted, creating several 100-meter vegetarian zones. But this summer, local Jains took their demands further, launching a four-day, 300-man hunger strike to demand the extension of these zones to the whole city.

Jain Temples in Palitana. Photo by Pratap Tur via Wikimedia Commons

Many might think it was unreasonable for the Jains to try to enforce their religious ideals on the secular ordinances of the city of Palitana. But they didn’t pull the demand out of nowhere. Many smaller towns in India, and cities of equal or greater size, like Haridwar, Uttarakhand, and Katra, Jammu and Kashmir, have long banned meat in recognition Hindu religious traditions. In 2009, two men were even arrested for carrying beef in Haridwar. Love it or hate it, such religious protection via state enforcement is a part of Indian life.

This precedent doesn’t mean everyone in Palitana has taken the transition well, though. The city has a twenty-five percent Muslim population (about the same size as Haridwar’s Muslim population), who cry foul, saying the ordinance forbids them from practicing their own religious rituals involving animal sacrifice—not to mention the fact that it’ll close down dozens of butcher’s shops and fish mongers. Jain insistence on the ban in spite of the sizeable Muslim minority’s protests have led Indian blogger Sanjeec Sabhlok to compare them to the Taliban.

The Jains of Palitana have offered to compensate Muslim merchants and fishermen for their losses. But these aggrieved groups are seeking the annulment or modification of the law in court. And it seems entirely possible that their discontent will bubble up in black markets for meat, all the more troubling to the city’s religious majority. These struggles will, hopefully, push a compromise between the two factions, bringing the Jains the respect and space they desire to practice their faith without infringing on the rights of Muslims. And when that compromise arrives, it may still leave Palitana an especially holy and culinary distinct city, which brings its perks not just for the devout, but for merchants making a buck off of this international reputation. That’s all the more motivation to reach an amicable truce, which would itself be a heartening and welcome development in the all-too-often religiously contentious India.

Articles
via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Communities
via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

Lifestyle

Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet