More From Alder's Ledge

December 31, 2013

Letters Home

A Look At Alder's Ledge

For the past several years Alder's Ledge has been pushing ourselves to grow. We struggle for every last inch we gain. We fight for every ear we find willing to listen, to hear our collective scream. It's a war of sorts, and endless battle that saps every last ounce of strength our team has. And yet they, a surprising team of misfits, are relentless... ever passionate... ever willing to take to the cause day after bloody day.

We read articles about atrocities and suffering just as though it were as natural to us as breathing is. Some might look at this as a morbid fixation, a perversion of sorts, and yet for us it is a duty... a calling. Every word we read, every story that crosses our screens, strikes a chord within us. These accounts of others suffering ring in our own history as a team. We all have a past with genocide. We all have a relationship with these topics. And for that we reason we cannot turn away.

Genocide has a way of galvanizing our ranks. It's flames created the reason our main author fights with every ounce of energy left in him. It's cruelty gave birth to the reason our most beloved sister, an anchor for us all, struggles to keep us going even when everything has fallen apart. It's insanity is why the calming voice of the most gentle soul we have amongst us is so refreshing... motivating us when we stumble along. Genocide has a way of creating within our ranks a reason to remain when all the rest have turned away.

This year we started out with only six team members stretched across the globe. There was always someone online. There was always a conversation going on somewhere. And it was in this constant talking that we came to the conclusion that we needed to expand our voice. It was then that we took to Twitter for another outlet to scream.

Most of you who read this are probably from Twitter. And despite our presence there for most of the year being through our main author's account, we are all greatly blessed through getting to know you. We appreciate all the support and encouragement you all have given us over this past year. The ability to scream with people from all walks of life about these topics has been an amazing experience. And for that we always want to say thank you to each and everyone of you.

As a team the experience of expanding has made this past year one we will never forget. We went from six team members to a team of just under two dozen. This of course had every growing pain imaginable and plenty of frustration. But we are all still committed to the same fight... just stronger for all the struggling along the way.

With this expansion in members came a plenty of reasons to expand the reasons for which we scream. With new members came new histories and new personal stories that contentiously leak into the paragraphs that fill our posts. When we started writing about human trafficking we could not help but to include the passion of those amongst our team who lived through it. When we write about child abuse we have no way of filtering out the agony of our members who survived it. And when we write about refugees we speak with the voices of our members who were made to flee or born beyond their homelands' borders. These voices, this collective experience we all now share, are the heart and soul of our little team. These are the driving passions of our members.

At times these passions become so bold that we as a team have had to place warnings of sorts before the main body of given posts. When our soul can't be confined to what might be considered polite, we have tried to warn our readers of the post's content. Not because we are apologetic, but because we are brutally honest.

Yet for all the good this passion does for our team in motivating us it has also driven us to the point to breaking. This year we lost a member who struggled with some of the subjects we cover here. His passing has admittedly left us breathless as our team has struggled to say goodbye. We will never forget his desire to scream relentlessly. We will never forget how his presence amongst us made each and every day we had with him feel like a gift. And most of all, we will never forget how even as the hate mail came pouring in he prayed for those who hated him for how G-d created him. His memory will forever be embedded in all that Alder's Ledge does. His passing will never be forgotten.

As for the year ahead...

As a team we have a long path ahead. We are putting our main author on the road twice in the coming year. And our team mates in Asia are taking our message off the computer and putting it to words.

In China Alder's Ledge is taking to campuses where our members are introducing audio and visual depictions of what it means to be a "screamer". In a country where "the party" has control over most everything (despite appearances) we are pushing the envelope as team members there take risk to spread our message. They are telling their communities about the Rohingya people's plight. They are talking about China's complicity in North Korea's abuses of it's own people. They are talking about ethnic cleansing, genocide, human trafficking, and the need for protests and civil disobedience (if need be) to force change. None of this is popular with those who still believe in China's party line.

As for our main author, the face of Alder's Ledge, the trip down the path starts in England, Germany, and Croatia. Many of our team members will finally meet with the punk that started all this to begin with. And then the path ends in the Philippines or China.

All of this is to spread our message. It isn't a complicated message. It doesn't have many parts to remember. All we ask of those we meet is that they scream.

So what does it mean to scream?

A scream is a violent and desperate act to grab the attention of a deaf world. It is the relentless effort to force a blind world to open it's eyes and look at the suffering of those we fight for. By using our voice we restore a voice to those the world has ignored and left beyond hope's embrace. By screaming we tell the world that there is, if nothing else, a point where we as a people will no longer tolerate the anguish of the forgotten. We will not look away.

A screamer is thus someone who has become aware or witnessed genocide. A screamer is someone who has lost the desire to set on the sidelines while genocide culls the flock laid out before them. A screamer is someone who lets out the battle cry. A screamer is someone who runs toward the sounds of silent cries so that they might use their voice to bring recognition to those hushed voices. A screamer is relentless, remorseless, and tireless. 

We are spreading our voice.

We are screaming.

Now we ask simply, who is with us?

Who will scream for the voiceless?

Who will fight?

December 13, 2013

Gifts Of The Spirit

Family Isn't Always Flesh And Blood
(The Darkness Visible series)

(Shan Refugees In Koung Jor Shan Refugee Camp)
(Image via Al Jazeera)

This post contains spiritual content that may not match the views of all Alder's Ledge's team members. The views contained here are not meant to evangelize or any given faith over another. The sharing of these views is meant only to challenge the notions of what it means to be a "screamer". These are for illustrative purposes and to help those reading get to know our staff a little better.

Every new year brings people around the world a sense of hope and the promise of a fresh start. We celebrate the passing of the old year as we envision a year of endless possibilities just around the corner. In the West we use champagne and long nights of parties to somewhat drown the sorrows that had come our way and forget the pain of the past year. Yet for refugees around the world there is no such relief. The sting of a endless years of sorrow has a way of blurring the line between one year and the next.

The Shan people who comprise the Koung Jor refugee camp, just north of Chiang Mai, Thailand, recently celebrated the Shan New Year for the first time in their camp of about 500 refugees. Some of these refugees have spent decades trying to remain invisible as war has ravaged their homeland. Pushed over the border by ruthless elements of Burma's government, these refugees have suffered every indignity Myanmar could bring upon them. They are victims of ethnic cleansing and yet during this celebration the irony of smiles and sincere moments of joy washed over the faces of these refugees.

We, in our homes halfway around the world, meanwhile prepare for a holiday season of overindulgence and purchasing of gifts we don't necessarily need. We lavish our friends and family with material wealth even when we don't need to. And all the while these displays we so often associate with our holidays have nothing to do with the meaning of those said occasions. No amount of gifts, no amount of food or drink, no amount of time spent shopping, or any amount of time preparing actually can be linked to the reasons we are supposed to be celebrating. All these excesses, however, do just the opposite as they wipe away our smiles and sincere moments of joy we should be finding in those holidays spent with family.

There is nothing noble about the downtrodden, they aren't really any different than you or I. The only difference is what they have been through. They didn't choose to be cast aside and abused by a nation of ideologically driven politicians. They didn't want to be driven from their homes and forced to become aliens in a foreign land. Yet here is the catch... the difference that makes all the difference in the world... they find the meaning of a holiday, a celebration, in the one thing that we all should always remember. Family.

Recently I celebrated Hanukkah with my family. Every year this holiday has the task of giving gifts much like those given at Christmas by our Christian friends. Yet it also has another blessing in it that can't be purchased and isn't received by the family G-d gave me... at least not in the traditional sense. This blessing, this gift of the spirit behind the holiday, is the bringing of light to a dark and cold world. It is the blessing of giving of both my time, money, and any other resources I might have to those in need. It is the part of this holiday that I have grown to love the most. For it is the part of this holiday that reminds me of what family really means.

Over the years I have found family in some of the most bizarre places. A sister in Thailand, China, Burma, Korea, England... A brother in Canada, California, Japan, Croatia... Everywhere I have turned G-d has shown me that there isn't a person alive that isn't my brother, my sister, my beloved family. Our color, our creed, our faith cannot matter to me. For inside my Master has placed a fire that burns without end, a love for a family that knows no borders or limits.

For this reason the chance to give of myself to those who need it most is one that surpasses any gift I could ever receive. That chance to help bring a smile a face that has been missing that feeling for far too long... that is what every holy day embodies. It is in this service to others that we find what G-d meant when He told us to love Him, fear Him, and be of service to Him.

My beloved sister, in all her wisdom for such a young soul, reminds me often that in her practice of Buddhism the idea of serving others is essential to the growth of the spirit. In her work to help others she revels in the opportunity to learn from others' experiences, both bad and good. And by coming alongside them she is able to help those in need as they get back on their feet. But more importantly, she finds what it means to be family even with those who aren't our own flesh and blood.

For our Muslim staff the command in their faith to give charitably is a major part of their holy days. I have always cherished the moments where I have gotten to celebrate with them. To give to their causes and come alongside them as a brother during these holy times.

And for our atheist members, some of our most bold screamers, the notion that we are all a family of sorts is just as relevant. They challenge me to look beyond my faith, my people, and my own limitations to find new ways to serve others. These members remind me constantly that we are all born with a desire to be happy, free, and to feel the love of others.

What better way to show that love than to serve?

The people of Burma are suffering in ways that most of us will never truly be able to understand. Children there have seen things that they should never have had to lived through. Mothers in Burma have had to watch their children die right before their eyes. Fathers have had to live with the humiliation of not being able to provide for their families. Sons have watched their mothers and sisters be raped by a military that uses sex as a weapon. Daughters have had to care for their siblings after their parents were slaughtered like animals by barbaric mobs.

Every minority in Myanmar has a long sad story to tell a world that is hellbent on remaining deaf. Their voices have been stifled by the greed of a world ready to exploit the newly opened up country in which they live. And for many, their very existence is placed in question as countless genocides continue to set Burma's countryside ablaze.

This is why your service to them, your family, is needed beyond what words can fully express.

There are several ways that you can get involved and start serving the Rohingya, Shan, Wa, Kachin, Karen, Chin, and other minorities in Burma. The first is rather simple, and that is to start reading every bit of information you can get your hands on. Learn their stories, learn their plight, and learn what the issues they face mean to them as a people. Take in every article, every report, and every tweet or blog post you can find about the suffering in Myanmar.

Next comes the work of any and all screamers...

Start spreading the articles and information you gather. By posting this information to your social media outlets you start the process of screaming. This starts by reaching out to your friends and contacts online. Yet it is just the start. You must take this information and start spreading it to people face to face. By having that one on one contact you have the ability to engage the other person not just on an intellectual basis but have the chance to put some heart into it... emotions after all, make the information stick.

Next you need to start contacting your government officials. If you are in America this means that you must contact your representatives in Congress. It means that you need to bombard your officials in your state house and your governor (many states will attempt to forge new economic relationships with Myanmar). You must keep your government officials accountable for their lack of action when dealing with ethnic cleansing and genocide.

This is just a start when it comes to serving of your times and energy. And many of us who scream on a regular basis do most of these things without relent. These are our daily struggle as we serve those the world so often forgets. Yet this isn't the only way we need to be serving our family, our fellow man.

Charitable giving isn't just a part of the holidays. It isn't something that need be waited for. It is something that we should be doing on a regular basis. And if you do, then let me take a moment to thank you for your selfless generosity. But for far too many of us there are times where we hold back and tell ourselves that our actions and effort is more than enough... but it isn't.

In a world where money is a god in it's own right the act of charity must be continuous. No matter how little it might be, the act of giving of our own wealth to those who are without is an act that blesses both the recipient and the donor alike. It is an act that should be done without seeking of recognition. It is an act that should be done without concern for what that money could had been used for in our own financial needs. It should be given freely and without stipulation. And it must be readily given without hesitation.

For those who would wish to do this during the holiday season we here at Alder's Ledge would like to invite you to join us as we give to Partners Relief & Development.

The wonderful people at Partners Relief & Development have been serving the people of Burma for years. Their endless work on behalf of the refugees and oppressed within Myanmar is the sort of service we all should strive for. It is a selfless giving to those most in need that gives freely and without reservation. People like Oddny Gumaer are personal role models to the staff here at Alder's Ledge.

You can learn more about Myanmar and give to Partners Relief & Development by visiting their website: 

Please join us this holiday season in our efforts to scream for the oppressed and those in need across Myanmar. Your voice can help bring about an end to the suffering of thousands of refugees and internally displaced peoples in Burma. Your efforts can bring hope to those who have lived without it for decades. And your donations can keep vital workers in the field as they bring life saving medicines, food and water, and much needed help to the suffering in Myanmar.

Want to know more about becoming a screamer? 
Contact the author on twitter: @alders_ledge
Or a member of our staff: @AL_Staff

Source Documents 
(note: not all sources listed)

Partners Relief And Development

Al Jazeera 


November 12, 2013

Last Bullet In The Chamber

(A Bridge Too Far series)
(PLUCK series)

(Every Word Has The Power To Wound)

No matter how well I articulate my position on Palestine and Israel I will always be seen as a "Zionist". Of this much I'm certain.

Religion is a vile and despicable construct that has served no other purpose but to divide those G-d created so much alike. Poison from the lips of imams and scholars has taken it's toll upon the moderates' minds. Venom that drips like honey, so as to hide it's bitter ends, flows from those who claim to preach peace in the name of a G-d that has apparently turned His gaze away. Their decorated temples and houses of thieves bring in the sheep to the slaughter. Yet a devout mass makes no attempt to question their masters as they raise the axe above their bowed heads.

Yes, I will always be considered a vile and ill-mannered "Zionist". But not because I hold organized religion in such contempt. No, I am "the enemy" because of my lack of apologies for supposed sins I have never once committed.

For it is not Islam that I hate. It is not Judaism which I hold such abhorrent views of. It is the perverse twisting, the manipulating, of faith in the name of politicized religion. This placement of an imagined devotion to a religion rather than the G-d it allegedly is supposed to serve. This is the source of my discontent.

On the battlefield for the survival of Israel or the "reconquista" of Palestine the main line of battle forms along religion. It is across this barrier that the two sides use the propaganda they have been fed as they release volley after volley of hate filled rhetoric. Yet both claim to be after peace? Both sides claim to be hanging their hats beneath the banners of religions that preach love and yet this is where they decide to mount their attacks from?

All my life my faith has been at war with the religion to which it is supposed to belong. Under the mislead guidance of "men of G-d" I have had to bow my head. Years of internal combat finally broke the shell and released my repulsion with every pit of snakes we so elegantly call houses of G-d. No longer could I tolerate the manipulation of holy words to serve the desires of a few. No more could I tolerate the lies that come with crosses, crescents, or stars.

For years now I my faith has been signified by the kippa atop my head. My only temple to which I retreat is that of the shadows beneath the cover of my tallit. For my faith does not need a scholar, a rabbi, an imam, or a preacher. My G-d does not need a church, a temple, or a mosque in which to confine me. My brother, my akhi... my sister, my ahoti... these are not confined by those who pray to G-d by the same name as I. The world is my alter and the persistent service of my fellow man my religion.

This is faith.

Faith cannot be used to strike at another with hollow attempts at advancing ourselves. It leaves us defenseless before the world. It places us in a state of servitude to those who most need it. In faith we step out onto a battle field where everyone carries loaded guns. Yet faith offers us nothing with which to fire back.

When we use religion to attack one another we are void of the faith to which we supposedly cling. Religion provides us a series of ritualistic defenses to hide our vulnerability. It shelters us amongst a multitude so that we become faceless... nameless. We become Muslims... Jews... we however do not become unique.

Unique talents of the individual are only highlighted in organized religion if they serve the desires of those pulling the strings. These talents that would otherwise be valuable contributions to mankind as a whole are hoarded for the selfish advancement of a few. Thus creating in situations like that in Israel an arm race of sorts that utilizes man as ammunition rather than valuing us for who we are.

The most damning part of religion playing a role in Palestine and Israel's conflict is just how effective it really is.

Through the application of "the Jews" as a blanket statement a political statement implicates not just Israel but an entire religion as a whole. The interchangeable use of Zionist with that of Jew or Jewish makes this connection between politics and faith that much more difficult to break. By utilizing these words, this ammunition, the words of a few place an entire people within the cross hairs.

No matter how moderate or rebellious the individual might be these few words can trigger a reaction based on religious devotion rather than one that might arise out of faith alone. For my faith would guide me to look beyond the words alone and toward the pain from which they originate. And yet the sting of being implicated with the masses instead of being taken as an individual brings forward only hostility. And this is from where a person will draw their reaction to such blanket statements.

For every time that I take up the position to defend Palestinians' most basic of human rights there will always be this familiar sting. As long as there are those who would defend their religion in spite of those who might otherwise align with them... I'm nothing more than a supposed "Zionist". It is this familiar sting that drives many back to the trenches their religion has dug for them and off the position their faith has guided them to hold.

This is the miserable reality of religious perversion on both sides of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Entire masses so eager to die for a flag designed for them not by G-d but by the hands of perverse leaders. This is what breaks the heart of a G-d who lives not in Jerusalem but rather in the soul of every man.

November 7, 2013

Bullets For Words

(PLUCK series)








Christ Killer



Sand Nigger









“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. 
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” 
~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

All of these words have a certain way of hitting home for at least one or more members here at Alder's Ledge. They are cheap shots that we deal with daily. While out in public, while online, and even at home from time to time; these words have a way of falling upon the eardrums like a grenade. They sting like fire upon the soul as they prick at the flesh and drive up the will to fight. For each of us here at Alder's Ledge they are of course just words... but when we hear them they are like bullets.

Over the years of running this blog and maintaining a team of dedicated screamers we have endured every slur we could imagine and then some. At times we have had to look up a slur just to figure out what exactly we had been called. Yet for all the abuse we get we still remain dedicated. Our fight, our passion, our fire continue to grow as we work toward exposing genocides both past and present. 

As we have taken to one social media outlet after the other there is one thing we cannot ignore, no matter how hard we try. And that is the aspect of friendly fire as activists all around us take to the fight ever so viciously. While we applaud the effort, there is something to be said for turning our words... our bullets... upon our own.

Cannibalistic Peace

Outlets like Twitter are often nothing more than battlefields. Machine guns replace fingertips as bursts are set forth in 140 character bursts. And once those gun bursts are shot off for all to see, where there is no chance of taking them back, the person who fired first has no way to retreat. Whatever they felt was so important to merit their attack, either intentional or incidental, is permanently flying out there in cyber space. 

When it comes to activism on Twitter the machine gun is fed constantly with a chain of bullets offered up by the masses. This has the power to be used as a tool in fighting for justice. And yet it, like any weapon, has the capability to be turned on it's own. It is this aspect of firing off careless words in support of good causes that turns what could had been a good effort into friendly fire. 

For the main author of this blog that is highlighted mainly with the persistent mingling of the phrase "Zionism" with Judaism. This flirtation with blaming a collective over highlighting the individual makes sniping a religion more prevalent than attacking those who abuse it for their own advancement. It denies the diversity within Judaism, and yes... even the diversity amongst Israelis, so as to lump the target into a faceless mass where it can be culled. 

When you look at the use of one's words in this aspect the characteristics of war can be applied to every engagement. Whether we are truly trying to bunch up those we view as opponents or rather over simplifying the matter at hand doesn't make much of a difference once the first shots are fired. Once blood is drawn there isn't an opportunity to turn back.

For our Buddhists who work on this blog there is then the Rohingya issue that boils up hate speech targeting them. Most of our team members here who happen to be Buddhists are from Thailand and China. So the collective terms applied to them are not only applied through religion but geography as well. This helps every shot to sting just that much more as they delete our daily barrage of comments (note almost all comments are deleted anymore due to hate speech). 

"Buddhists in Burma have killed over 30,000 & raped women in front of their brothers for being Muslim, Those are the real terrorists."

 "Buddhists burn Muslims alive in Burma, yet we are the terrorists, right?"

"*All-h will punish Buddhists."

These are just portions of comments that often are seen in tweets as well. They are obviously hate filled rhetoric to us here at Alder's Ledge. Though some are founded out of a growing siege mentality amongst a small portion of Muslims we talk to, the hate behind them is unmistakable. And it is the hate within these excerpts that draws the battle lines and makes peace impossible. 

Our Buddhists team members are dedicated to combating the genocidal acts currently being perpetrated against the Rohingya and Kamen Muslims of Arakan, Burma. Many of our Buddhists team mates have worked with refugee agencies in their homeland and even within Myanmar. They practice their faith through their service to others, and this includes all religions and any ethnicity.

With that said the endless bombardment of their faith due to the hateful actions of a small minority within their faith. They have often expressed the feeling that their faith is singled out daily due to these individuals who wish to exploit Buddhism for nationalism rather than faith. For me personally, the irony of this feeling is something that can't be ignored. 

Buddhism and Islam both are supposed to be religions of peace and tolerance. When Muslims shoot off their opinion filled hate slogans against Buddhists it creates the same reaction these same Muslims have when being called terrorists. The sense of being attacked for their faith only rallies their will to resist and resist with unmistakable force. 

Yet retaliation should never be seen as justification by any means. 

Just because a certain individual decides to fire back doesn't mean that you were right all along. It means that much like you, the other person is simply human as well. When fired upon while trying to help the first reaction isn't to keep offering support but to rather withdraw and then counter attack. No human being is designed to run up a white flag when all they see around them are enemies. It just isn't natural. 

This creates a situation where those who are supposedly seeking peace are being subjected to friendly fire. The people that once welcomed them are now the ones sniping them from every direction. And just as it created a siege mentality in one community it creates much the same in the other. 

As the white flag comes down the flames go higher. And it is in this sort of fighting that we degenerate from peace on into cannibalism.

Irreversible Harm

Our team is comprised of thick skinned individuals. We take every abuse that comes with doing this job. And for the most part, we don't complain. Yet over the past week we have experienced the irreversible harm this friendly fire can create. 

Words are exactly like bullets in the sense that at times they do have the power to kill. 

A few weeks ago we posted an article called "Opting Out". The subject was important to a dear brother and friend who recently lost his battle with his demons. This struggle was one that many of us here at Alder's Ledge deal with or have dealt with over our years. It is a painful fight, a relentless siege of the mind, that those who fight it try desperately to hide. For that reason we decided to scream for those who are overcome by it. 

None of us were ready for him to leave us. But we don't get to go back and say goodbye. All we have now is the job to carry-on. Forever fighting, struggling, and screaming... just as he would be if he were here today. 

After writing that post with me our dear friend watched as hate mail began to pour in almost immediately. Most of what we see after post like that one aren't mere bullets but more like mortar shells. They have a way of eating away at our image of what humanity aught to be. They throw up dirt and smoke all around us as the hate clouds any sense of hope in our fellow man. 

Due to this the comment section is closed. 

We may never know why our friend left us. We may never know what those last moments were like, what was going through his head, or why we couldn't help. But I do know that the words he read, those he heard daily, and those we see constantly as a team all had their affect on how this ended. 

Before Pulling The Trigger

We all have a responsibility when it comes to speech in any form. The words we let loose are forever present in the minds and hearts of those who hear them. They have the power to heal or the power to kill. While a gentle word is like honey upon the lips of those who preach love and peace, those same words can be made harsh and become poison dripping from those same lips. 

In activism we have a responsibility not only to our own self but our cause. By firing off words tainted with hate we not only hurt those around us but damage the very cause we are trying to help prosper. With every word we speak out of anger, frustration, or hopelessness we create hostility in those we are supposed to be trying to reach. 

Before we speak, tweet, or update a status there should be a moment of questioning. We should think about how this will help or hurt our cause. We should think about how those who read or hear our voice will interpret what we are saying. After all, it isn't how we want to say something that really matters but rather how our audience will hear it and just how it will set upon their minds and hearts. 

We aught engage our audience with words that tug at their heart strings and not ones that burn like hot lead. This is how we win the battle for hearts and minds... with love, not hate.

*Note that the author of this blog post does not spell out the name of G-d due to religious observance.

October 30, 2013

Guilt Free Chocolate

Avoiding Chocolate Made With Child Labor
(part of the Lost Childhood series)

(70% Of World's Cocoa Produced With Child Labor)

As your child (and most likely you too) set out to enjoy this Halloween's bounty of chocolate laden treats there is a very important question that needs to be answered... Where did that chocolate come from?

West Africa produces just over 70 percent of the world's supply of cocoa. Each of the countries that produces this cocoa allow the use of child labor on their vast cocoa farms. The largest producer of these five countries, Ivory Coast, also permits and often encourages the use of forced labor (slavery). All are known to have large human trafficking rings active within their borders supplying children to work the fields of the sprawling cocoa plantations. 

This is where your Halloween chocolate comes from. 

Trafficking And Chocolate 

The children who are sent to the fields to collect the cocoa are not always victims of trafficking. Yet as the demand for cheaper chocolate goes up the number of children being trafficked into the slave trade goes up too. These children, often purchased or bribed into slavery, are subjected to physical, mental, and sexual abuses in an effort to force them into submission. The goal of the trafficker is to break the spirit of the child so that the chances of a runaway becomes minimal. 

Children who are trafficked in Western Africa can be used for many things throughout their life as slaves. Some will be used as child soldiers in times of conflict. Others can become victims of sexual violence and abuse. The use of children as sex slaves is a growing problem across the globe as "sex tourism" becomes an ever increasingly lucrative trade. Yet despite these more notable abuses, most children trafficked in West Africa will be used at some point as child labor. This allows the trafficker the ability to make a reliable income off their slaves while waiting for other higher earning jobs to come along. 

This horrific reality is one that children who are trafficked in West Africa face. They have no say in where they are forced to work or what abusive task they will be forced to perform. From the moment they wake up in the morning to the moment they are allowed to go to sleep they are forced to work in one way or another. There is no rest for these children. With each passing day the hope of freedom is ground out of them as they are degraded and abused at the whim of their owner.

It is modern day slavery.

Chocolate comes into the picture as trafficked children are "employed" on West Africa's vast cocoa plantations. These large operations (many of which are supported by chocolate giants like Hersey's) willingly and knowingly pay the traffickers as the children take to their fields. The use of slave labor allows these farms to increase their yields in multiple ways; including inhumane treatment of forced laborers, longer hours, more strenuous tasks performed, and little to no time for rest between heavy tasks.

The children who work on these plantations are subjected to physical abuse for even the most minor infringements or accidents. If injured while performing dangerous tasks the children are expected to continue working. If an accident includes a life threatening injury the child is given the most minimal treatment and then beaten before being sent back to work. Mercy is not commonly shown to these children. 

Avoiding Chocolate Produced With Child Labor

When buying chocolate this holiday season there are multiple ways to insure that you are buying chocolate that was not made with cocoa produced with child labor (or slave labor). Though the first way is rather simple really, just don't buy chocolate. But for most this way is just too difficult since we have a horrible addiction to the sweet sensations chocolate produces in our mind and mouth. So ignoring the obvious solution of avoidance... here are a few ways you can have a guilt free chocolate fix. 
 Fair Trade

This route is expensive for both the consumers and the farmers alike. While it ensures that the chocolate you are buying was produced by a farmer who was paid a fair price and produced it using ethical labor practices; it does not tell you how much the farmer paid for that certification. This is the portion of that label that is often overlooked. And yet it is important to note that the farmer (or farmers, which is most often the case) had to pay thousands of dollars to gain that label. 

So while you can rest assured that the farmer did not use child labor you cannot rest assured that the process is as nice and neat as you would be led to believe. 

For example-

Besides the thousands of dollars spent to get certified (which could had been used to invest in the workers themselves), the farmers are often paying dues to cooperatives. This increases the amount of money the farmers need to make before their product is worth the time it takes to produce. The increased cost also drives down the amount the farmer would otherwise be capable of paying their workers. 

Yet, outside all this, in the case of child labor and chocolate production fair trade is a valuable tool in helping you avoid chocolate made utilizing child labor. 


The vast majority of organic chocolate comes from South America. So while all organic chocolate may not be completely child free, the source country on the label should indicate another country outside West Africa. This method allows you to decide to buy chocolate that is not produced in the five countries mentioned in the first picture (all of whom are well known for child labor). Yet unless you research the country of origin it does not assure you that the producer did not utilize child labor. 

This method requires the consumer to research both the producer's labor practices and the common labor practices of the country where the cocoa came from. It also may require the consumer to research the ecological cost of cocoa produced in countries that are home to the Amazon Rain Forest. 

Source Country 

The most direct way to find out where your chocolate comes from and how it was produced is to put in the effort to research the producer and the country of origin. This method allows you to both gain knowledge of how your chocolate was produced and where it comes from. To do this you will find it is easier if you find a brand that is Fair Trade or certified organic. You may also want to find a brand you like (since that is the reason behind buying the product anyway). 

Once you find a product you know you want and just can't live without the real fun starts...

First you want to make sure that your chocolate is not made with cocoa from Africa.

Then try and find out just how many companies or facilities the product has gone through before reaching you. Chances are that if the product takes the shortest route from farm to shelf it is child labor free. If the product has to go from one country to the next (and then some) the chances for utilizing child labor in the production and/or harvesting of the cocoa goes up. It also means that less of your money is going back to the person who produced the cocoa in the first place. 

These two steps will greatly reduce the probability of your chocolate being made through the use of child labor or slave labor. 

Don't want to do all that work?

You can always visit sites like 'Stop The Traffik' to learn more about buying chocolate made without child labor. You will still have to do a little reading. But if you made it to the bottom of this post and didn't switch over to a YouTube video of cats or whatnot... I guess a little more reading won't kill you. 

Happy Halloween From All The Alder's Ledge Team

Want To Contact Us?

Tweet To Us On Twitter: @alders_ledge

Source Documents 
(note: not all sources listed)

Food Is 
Stop The Traffik 

Huffington Post

October 20, 2013

From One Circle Of Hell To The Next

Sexual Abuse Of North Korea's Women
(Part One)

For many North Koreans the life they live and that which the outside world imagines are rather different realities. A small percentage of North Koreans can be considered privileged and have access to the luxuries their South Korean neighbors enjoy daily. These lucky few are able to flaunt their wealth behind closed doors as they pretend to be serving their country's goals of a worker's paradise. For most there is the reality that many outside North Korea first think of... death, starvation, oppression, and state sponsored terror.

In North Korea everything the common Korean does is watched and monitored. Secret police can make anyone, at anytime, simply disappear. The very appearance of being an individual in state that idolizes conformity can be a fatal flaw. There just isn't any room in North Korea for self expression or individual thought. These two things alone are perceived to be the worst threats the state faces even as it's citizens continue to starve to death.

Citizens who are unlucky enough to be deemed an "enemy of the state" find themselves crossing from their current circle in North Korea's hellish existence to the next. These unfortunate souls join an estimated 200 thousand North Koreans in gulags across the country. The "great leader" (and his offspring) have operated these concentration camps for nearly 12 times as long as the Nazis had operated theirs. Yet unlike the Nazi camps, these souls, damned by the state, know that the work they will be doing will not "set them free".

Three Generations

North Koreans who are deemed to be a threat to the tyrants in Pyongyang don't just risk having themselves sent to death camps, but also have their entire families rounded up. North Korea's state policy is that three generations must pay in blood for the accused person's supposed offense. This policy is meant to stamp out the "seed" of the state's enemy.

The three generations policy creates a paralyzing fear in a society that is driven by terror. It creates within the household (a founding base for all civilization) a paranoia that never dissipates. Citizens are encouraged by this fear to monitor their family members. The fear that their brothers', sisters', or parents' mistakes could land them in a prison camp is enough encourage the worst acts of betrayal. Fathers are thus encouraged by the system itself to walk out on their families. Parents who can't provide for their children are encouraged by the system to abandon their children. It is this sense of defeat that chips away at the building blocks upon which North Korea's tyranny is balancing.

In camps the three generation policy is emphasized by a perverse system of bartering with prisoners by camp guards. Family members are told that they can receive rewards for reporting their family members for any given offense. Even though it is well known that many of these such reports will inevitably lead to the public execution of their family members, the rewards are often just enough to break the prisoner. Bribes of food and other vital necessities are the most common rewards. Other times the rewards are just lies and false promises.

This sadistic policy is also applied to the children of prisoners who are born into the concentration camps. Little is provided for the inmates in the way of medical treatment and provisions for raising a newborn. So it is hard to tell just how many children born into these conditions ever actually grow up beyond infancy. The practice of "infant executions" also culls the number of children born into the system the death camps are meant to uphold. But for those who survive their childhood the reality of life behind barbed-wire is all they may possibly know as they are slowly worked to death.

Sexualized Violence 

Once in the death camps the women of North Korea face a reality that is as close to a living death as many will ever come. Every prisoner in North Korea's concentration camps is considered to be less than human in the eyes of the state. Prison guards are trained to view them as animals with whom they can do anything they wish. For the women of North Korea this means they are openly and regularly subjected to rape and sexual molestation. No matter where they are in the camp, at any time, they are expected to subject themselves willingly to rape in all it's forms. There are no exceptions. 

Women who cooperate are raped routinely till the guard or guards move onto their next victim. Yet for many, no matter how well they managed to remain silent during the attacks, this departure of their assailant can mean a sudden execution. For those who appear to have resisted in any way, real or perceived, these victims are often immediately executed. All of them will afflicted with physical, mental, and emotional torment before they are made to "disappear" or suffer in silence. 

Women who survive rape have an added concern if they become pregnant. It is common practice in North Korea's prison camps to force rape victims to have an abortion. These abortions are done without proper medical treatment and are rarely done by a trained doctor. If the woman survives the torment of a crudely performed abortion she must endure the added insult of being refused the right to clean herself afterward. Instead of being given even a shower, forced abortion survivors are left to worry about infection or complications of the procedure itself. 

There is no mercy shown to North Korea's female inmates. They are among the most common victims of public executions, public displays of punishment, and sexualized violence. Girls are targeted for rape from the moment they are old enough to satisfy the guards' lust for virgins and new victims. From that point on the rapes and molestations are a daily threat for female prisoners. 


Childhood in North Korea's concentration camps is almost unimaginable. Husbands and wives who are imprisoned together know that these camps are no place to get pregnant. Yet there is no access to prevention methods of any sort. And as mentioned above, victims of rape are not given access to preventatives either. So any child conceived is at risk from the moment of conception. 

Carrying a child to full term is near impossible. Expecting mothers have to endure severe malnutrition and starvation on a daily basis. Hard labor adds to the stresses of being pregnant in one of North Korea's death camps. Rape and barbaric molestation brings on even more trauma with which the pregnant mother must endure. Then there are the beatings guards use to cause miscarriages in pregnant women.

If a woman under these horrific conditions does manage to give birth to a living child they then face yet another form of perverse barbarism: infant executions.

It was the first time I had seen a newborn baby and I felt happy. But suddenly there were footsteps and a security guard came in and told the mother to turn the baby upside down into a bowl of water. The mother begged the guard to spare her, but he kept beating her. So the mother, her hands shaking, put the baby face down in the water. The crying stopped and a bubble rose up as it died,” 
~ 34 year-old Jee Heon-a.

This story is just one of the tales of such barbaric acts committed by North Korea's prison guards. Not only did this guard attack the mother but then forced the woman to kill her own child. This sort of sadistic hedonism is a long standing undertone to the tales of barbarism carried out by guards who are rewarded for their savagery. The more grotesque they behave, the greater status they achieve in the eyes of a government that values loyalty to it over the lives of it's own citizens.

Ethnic Cleansing 
(Culling Of "Racial Impurities")

Forced abortions are a common treatment in North Korea (both inside and outside prison camps) for the state's policy of riding it's society of "racial impurities". Women are detained upon even the most remote suspicion of having an "impure fetus". At times the forced abortion are ordered by doctors while at other times they are demanded by guards and other agents of the state. In every case they are painful and risk the death of the victimized woman. 

One account of this was given to the United States Human Rights Council and tells of women who were detained for the purpose of causing forced abortions:

"A drug that in diluted form is used to treat skin wounds was injected into pregnant women’s wombs, inducing labor within hours. As there had not been the normal widening of the hipbones during the advance stages of pregnancy to enlarge the birth canal, the labor pains were the same as when delivering a fully grown baby. When the women moaned or cried out in pain as they lay on wooden and cement cell floors, they were hit with wooden stoves and cursed as "bitches who got Chinese sperm and brought this on themselves."'

The added insult in many cases is the brutal abuses committed against the victims while and after they are being forced to have brutal abortions. Physical assault is often applied along with verbal abuse as the women are being put through the agony of painful abortions. Yet at times physical assault is also the very tool used to cause the abortions themselves: 

"Mrs. Bang Mi-sun observed ten pregnant women in early 2002 taken to a hospital from the Musan An-jeon-bu detention facility for the purpose of aborting their "half-Chinese babies." Another seven-month pregnant woman adamantly refused to go to the hospital and guards compelled male prisoners to jump on her stomach until the woman aborted on the floor. The woman was then taken to the hospital where she died."

The children who do manage to survive are not afforded the basic dignity that any human life merits. Instead of being treated as a human being, these newborn babies are wrapped up in newspaper or bags and tossed into the garbage to die. In a state that supposedly values the worker and all his potential, entire generations of potential lives are discarded callously by an authoritative state.

While officially the state does not recognize the procedure of forced abortions (like all other abuses it commits), North Korea's obsession with racial purity helps to propagate this atrocious act. It's desire to create a society in which an "ideal Korean" worker exists only serves as a prop for the barbarism of it's corrupt military and political upper-class. In the end it is the upon the backs of North Korea's women that the burden of these disillusions falls. And it is the mother and child that pay in blood for a government that lust after the unachievable. 

Survival Sex

The act of forcing women to have sex for supplies of basic nourishment is an act so perverse that it's name alone seems lacking in it's ability to crudely fit it... survival sex. 

Taking advantage of women who are desperate to provide for their families or find that ever illusive next meal is abhorrent. It would be inconceivable if it wasn't such a defining trait across the spectrum of similar events to that of North Korea's prison camps. Survival sex was present in Nazi death camps during the Holocaust. It showed up during the genocide in Bosnia. And has been seen in Sri Lanka's ethnic cleansing of the Tamils. So it is sadly of little surprise that survival sex can be found in the accounts of North Korean refugees. 

In camp inmates the use of survival sex is often applied when a woman or girl becomes the target of a guard's intent to rape. The victim knows that they have a greater chance at surviving if they cooperate with their assailant. Through not fighting back the victim hopes they will not be killed by their attacker. In addition there comes the hope that they will be shown some "mercy" and given access to food and/or clean water. It is a perverse "game" (as referred to by a camp survivor) that guards use to keep a rape victim under their control (since all rape is about violent domination more so than it is about sex).

The gaining of food or water through rape is not assured for North Korean rape victims. Survival sex for them is something that they don't always know they are being subjected to. Instead they are only treated to just enough resources to keep them alive as their assailants see fit. This highlights the brutality of their plight since it best demonstrates the absolute minimal value the state (and the guards themselves) place upon the lives of these female captives.

The Outer Circle Of Hell

In our next post on this subject we will be taking the journey out of North Korea's inner hell and venturing over the border into China. For many North Korean women this is a journey from one circle of hell to the next. It is plagued by human traffickers, forced marriages, and the ever constant threat of forcible repatriation to North Korea. Even with the hope of crossing over into a better life, many will find this journey a living hell as they are transformed into the walking dead.

To learn more about this subject and others covered by Alder's Ledge:

Follow us on Twitter: @alders_ledge
Or follow us on Facebook: Alder's Ledge

Source Documents
(note: not all sources listed)

A Safe World For Women

Women Under Siege Project

Russian Times

October 17, 2013

Never Forget, Never Relent...

A Team of Screamers

There aren't many people who can request Alder's Ledge to do a post, especially one like this one. We are a small team that would rather hide behind the screens from which we work. So when our most soft spoken member asked us to explain to the world a little more about us... well we spent two weeks deciding just how that would or could be done.

So this is what we came up with...

A History...

Alder's Ledge began from the stubbornness of one individual and an old desktop computer. The subject was and has always been somewhat dark and dreary. What first began as widely rejected political opinions slowly gave way to the passion of the founding member... something even more depressing than politics... and that is of course genocide and genocide education.

As that founding member, I remember the first time I became aware of genocide. As a small child I remember turning on the television after school one spring day and seeing the news instead of cartoons. The images of people laying in dirt streets while others hacked away at them with machetes was burned into my mind that day. I recall asking why that was happening only to be told to forget it. But somethings never can be forgotten.

Soon after that came Bosnia. The images of people running for cover as a gunshot broke the silence still chills my blood. Watching a body drop as the world around that poor soul explodes into chaos... these are the things that young minds don't process well. Yet when Bosnia came onto the television I couldn't watch away. It was like I was watching history in replay mode.

For members of Alder's Ledge this story is told over and over again. Some of our members have a family history with genocide. Others have watched it play out on their borders. And others have survived genocide. The relationships we have with it are what drives us. The pain that it has left upon our hearts, our minds, our souls... that is the prick upon our flesh that keeps us moving.

One such member is a beautifully spirited team member from Thailand. Her story of growing up in a country right next door to the one that her family died in inspires us all. The love that she shows to people who many of the rest of us might deem unworthy is humbling in ways words can't express. That desire to address one of the darkest parts of the human experience with a love unlike any other is a light onto our path.

Stories like hers show Alder's Ledge how we are supposed to go about our work. It is why we attempt to be fair and honest in every case of genocide (or human rights violations of any sort). It is why we break complex cases of genocide up into long series of posts rather than condensing the subject. This allows us to explore the complexity of the subject in a way that shows compassion and justice rather than bias or hatred for the perpetrators.

For another member of Alder's Ledge this way of looking at the world has been with her since she was little. Growing up in a country where uniformity is expected, she watched how people act with one another. Seeing how people love, how they hate, how they can be indifferent to the suffering of others, and how they apply empathy in other cases; she learned what it meant to scream. By breaking the patterns that keep us blind to the suffering of others, she learned how to use here gentle voice to shatter the silence.

These are just three members of Alder's Ledge. In each case we have had to learn what it meant to us to scream on behalf of others. We have had to look both inward toward our own souls to examine what genocide meant to us and then look at the world it has ravaged. In every case we have come to the same conclusion. And that is that we can't afford to remain silent.

Our Work...

Currently Alder's Ledge has members in China, Thailand, Europe, and across North America. In each region we all do the same thing, essentially. We work to raise awareness of genocide in our local communities. We find organizations that work to help victims of genocide and then support them in any way we can. In addition we also work to connect our work with that of other organizations so that we can come alongside them and partner with them as best as we can. 
We are, as mentioned above, are a small group of individuals from differing backgrounds. All that we have today, all that this small blog has become, has been hard fought to gain. Every bit of growth we have made has been through sweat and tears. And every last bit of it has always been about helping others at any cost. That is precisely why we hide who we are and how we do it. The end results should be all that ever matter to us. 

Currently Alder's Ledge donates to Partners Relief and Development on a monthly basis. In addition to this our members donate to local charities and organizations that help refugees in Thailand, Syria, and across Africa (Sudan and Uganda mainly). Members who can, are supported in their volunteer work with groups across the world helping either raise awareness of genocide or refugees of war and ethnic cleansing. 

The rest of our work is done here on the blog. 

Screaming here on the blog is a job that takes hours of research and even longer discussing the topics amongst members with experience in the given issue. Though we are not experts in what we often emerge ourselves into, we do cite any sources that we use to educate ourselves upon the subject at hand. Recently we have begun linking the sources so that readers can continue their research after reading our post. This helps support our belief that a screamer should have a strong desire to learn constantly so that their voice can be confident and loud. 

Our Path Ahead... 

Alder's Ledge will continue to struggle to help spread awareness of genocides both past and present. We try to scream on behalf of the Rohingya and other ethnic groups in Burma who are suffering from what we consider to be genocide. In addition we will be focusing on North Korea, the Romani people in Europe, Syria, and countless other cases of ethnic tension and genocide across the globe. 

To do this we continue to put together presentations with small groups and local organizations. These presentations can consist of anything from dinner parties to simple one on one talks with interested groups or individuals. The main goal is and will always be the spreading of the information we have gathered on any given genocide (past and present). 

Our only motto is and has always been...

Never Forget, Never Relent, Scream.

October 15, 2013

Opting Out

Homosexual Teens And Prejudices In America

This post contains opinions that may be considered offensive to some readers on the basis of religious sensitivities. We make no attempt to hide the role that religious bias plays in this subject. With that said we have made no attempt either not offend any given religion or to target any given religion. Please read with an open mind and remain open to thinking critically about how our religious beliefs play a role in the subject discussed below. 

Thank you, from all of us here at Alder's Ledge.

The Path From Bullying To Opting Out 

There are many reasons that children target one another for bullying. Just looking different can cause a child to become the victim of bullying. The affects of bullying regardless of the reason for it are clear. Children who are bullied have a higher rate of suicide, they suffer depression, become anxious, and can become withdrawn. All of these highlight the isolation that bullying can create for it's victims. 

When left unhindered the symptoms of bullying can create emotional and mental issues that can take years to recover from. For some the scars left from bullying can become so incredibly painful that they seek more permanent ways of dealing with them. For these children the path from bullying can lead them to choosing ways of ending the pain once and for all. 

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in Americans between the age of 15-24 years of age (according to the CDC). On average there are 4,400 children in America who commit suicide each year. In a recent survey of high school aged American children an alarming 14% admitted to having contemplated suicide and 7% admitted to having attempted it before. In a study by Yale University it was noted that children who are victims of bullying are up to nine times more likely to consider suicide. For children suffering from bullying suicide is a last resort to ending the pain.

In the popular HBO series "The Walking Dead", in a world where the characters are surrounded by suffering daily, the act of committing suicide was called "opting out". This callous way of describing the last act of desperate souls best illustrates how society as a whole views those who turn to suicide. They are not seen as having lost hope but rather often portrayed as being cowards. 

This harsh view of suicide only serves to add insult to injury. The life that is lost in this, the most desperate of acts, cannot be returned. Every decision that individual would have made for the rest of their lives is decided in one horrific act. All they had to give the world, all the blessings they had to bestow upon others, and all their future joy is erased with just one act. But it isn't cowardly at all... it is just plain desperate.

For these individuals the pleas they made were sadly left unanswered (4 out of 5 who do commit suicide gave clear warning signs). For these; the rejected, the helpless, the downtrodden, there isn't a better tomorrow. They are simply gone... dead to a world that would not help them. 

Homosexual teens in America have recently received more attention when the subjects of bullying and suicide come up.

"Gay Iowa Teen Commits Suicide, Was Allegedly Bullied By Classmates"

"Gay New Mexico Teen Commits Suicide After Years Of Bullying"

"Another Bullied Gay Teen Commits Suicide"

For some the media attention to this year's rash of suicides amongst homosexual teens was seen as a media ploy. The conservative right tried to write it off as a method of the left to capitalize upon the deaths of children to push politics when talking about marriage equality. And for both sides, the callousness with which they viewed these deaths once again reflected the heartlessness that HBO showed in nicknaming the act "opting out". 

Far too little effort has been made in trying to understand how we can help stop these children from taking their own lives. We have for far too long only offered our condolences to the families they leave behind. And yet the solution to the crisis seems so simple it is painful to ignore. 

Answering Their Cries

Children who are being bullied show warning signs just like those who are contemplating suicide. There are moments where a parent or guardian should be able to spot these signs. All it takes is the effort to understand where your child is coming from and the courage to step in. For some the second part is the hardest of all. There is a fear that your child will resent you or the fact that you are perceived to be interfering. Yet once you have identified your child's suffering you must then ask yourself how can you not intervene?

In cases where a child is being bullied the following symptoms may appear (not always):
  • becoming withdrawn
  • becoming anxious about social interactions
  • wanting to skip school without being sick
  • signs of depression 
  • a decline in school performance 
  • a noticeable decline in self-esteem 
  • signs of physical assault, such as bruises or cuts
If these signs appear it is best to be persistent in your attempts to figure out why your child is displaying any of these symptoms. Some children may want to hide the fact they are being bullied. It is the duty of any adult that thinks a child is being bullied to intervene and stop the abuse immediately. For parents of children who have been bullied it is even more important to be vigilant against future incidents since bullying rarely ends after one incident.

For children who are contemplating suicide there are also signs that must be addressed once identified. It is important to remember that 4 out of 5 children who commit suicide will display clear warning signs, like the ones listed below:

  • trouble sleeping or eating
  • becoming increasingly withdrawn
  • signs of depression
  • losing interest in hobbies or activities 
  • giving away favorite possessions
  • saying goodbye to friends or family 
  • expressing that they can't handle things anymore
  • engaging in self harm or dangerous behaviors
  • increased interest in death or dying 
  • and past attempts at committing suicide 
Though many children will attempt suicide (one study indicated 14% of children in America between grades 7-12) only a portion of those will manage to kill themselves. For children who attempt suicide there is an increased risk of repeating the attempt again if the base problems are not addressed. This is why when bullying is related to the attempt it is ever increasingly important that the bullying itself be dealt with stringently.

For homosexual teens who become suicidal the bullying can also come from sources outside the school system. 

 Bullies In Faith And Family

Growing up many of us here at Alder's Ledge were exposed to several influences that openly portrayed homosexuality as morally wrong. Whether it was through Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or for some of us an officially atheist state mantra; these influences were put in place from the moment we were able to comprehend what it meant to be "normal". The church (or the state) told us that we were meant to pair off with one member from either sex and create more empty minds for their congregations. That is just plain and simple how the cycle of indoctrination is supposed to work. You are supposed to be born into the system and live by it. 

Over the years we each broke free from the framework that either G-d or country decided for us. For our Chinese members this was harder for the rest of us. But for those of us in the West it wasn't exactly easy either. In both cases it took a moment of rebellion... a moment where our eyes came open and our hearts finally began to beat. 

For one of our members the moment of realization that a relationship with G-d didn't mean having to forgo a relationship with their fellow man came rather recently. For another it was a moment that came from getting "gay bashed" even though he wasn't gay. And for the most tenderhearted member of Alder's Ledge it came from simply watching people... just watching and learning what love meant.

We can't express why our given faiths tried to teach us to look down upon another person simply because of who they loved. For many of us it took years to rationalize our religion with our views of our fellow man. But in the end we all came to one conclusion... whether it be society or our religions, the prejudices against homosexuality are unbearable.

That is why we decided to highlight this subject. The facts about this subject may not pertain to genocide (yet in some cases they do). But they do speak to the human rights issues that Americans and the rest of the world tend to overlook. And one of those happens to be the treatment of homosexuals as second class citizens.

This is only further complicated by the troubles homosexuals have to face when dealing with their family and individual faiths.

It is reported that nearly half of all gay males face negative parental reactions when coming out as homosexual. Of these nearly one quarter of them face being thrown out of their parents' homes as a result of openly admitting their sexuality. This contributes to studies that have indicated that anywhere from between 25 to 50 percent of homeless youth are homosexual or transgendered.

For many homosexual youths the reality of remaining "in the closet", or not admitting their sexuality to their parents, is something they will live with well into their adult years. Fear of rejection is only more so amplified by the fact the person they fear it from is their own parent.

As for faith...

Christianity in America, more often than not, cast homosexuality onto a long list of sins. Though the Bible tells Christians that they are not allowed to judge others (and that only G-d is supposed to) this classification opens up homosexuals to increased prejudice from the church. It allows for pastors (priest, fathers, or whatever else they might be called) to scrutinize the sexual orientation of certain members. Not only that, but the scolding is delivered from a pulpit in front of friends, neighbors, and family.

Islam on the other hand makes no attempt to hide it's condemnation of homosexuality but permits the given authorities the right to punish it as they see fit. This is one of the leading reasons why governments like Iran are able to openly kill homosexuals without much condemnation by Muslims across the world. While the religion of peace should be opposing the excessive abuses committed against homosexuals across conservative Muslim countries there is an eerie silence over the mouths of the faithful.

Judaism on the other hand has a far more hypocritical stance when it comes to homosexuality. We tend to portray ourselves as the open-minded branch of the Abrahamic faiths and yet strong prejudices against gays still exists. Beneath a facade of being "liberal", Jews across the world still tend to isolate homosexuals through the same practices seen in any other religion. So while we may lie and say we accept our gay brothers and sisters... we are just as vile perpetrators of prejudices against them as any other. The main difference is that we are lying to their faces while we do it.

Religion should never be wielded like a sword. The jihad (inner struggle) to accept that which we cannot change should not drive us to an outward struggle. We are to treat our fellow man as we wish ourselves to be treated. This is the greatest sign of maturity in our faiths. It is the one and true way to show the love that G-d first showed to us (even when we did not deserve it).

Most of us at Alder's Ledge do not view homosexuality as a sin. Those who do believe that they cannot judge someone else for sinning differently than they do. The main point, however, is that we had to break with the established views of our faiths to be able to embrace, in love, those G-d has given us. And that is something that needs to change.

The faiths we embrace should not need to be rebelled against to allow us to express the love they claim to embody. The masses that make up these faiths should be fighting against the prejudices they have helped to sow in our societies. They should be a place for people to turn to not be afraid of because of, or hate due to, the way they have treated them.

When a child is bullied due to their sexuality there are two things they should be able to turn to for comfort; their family and their faith. If these two things are left off the table then why do we expect society to fix the mess these two created? The family that cast them out to the wolves and the religion that rejected them are as much to blame as the bully itself. The contributions these two have made to the ongoing prejudice cannot be ignored.

Love may not fix everything.

But what better place to start?

Want to learn more or have questions for the author(s)?

Contact us on Twitter: @alders_ledge
Or FaceBook: Alder's Ledge

Source Documents
(note: not all sources listed)

Bullying Statistics 

Kid's Health

The Jason Foundation