Heavy Metal Monk Cesare Bonizzi Performs at Gods of Metal

By Frances Kennedy 
BBC News, Rome

At first glance, Cesare Bonizzi looks like the archetypal Capuchin monk – round-faced, stout, with twinkling eyes and a long flowing white beard. But beneath his robes beats a heart of metal.

Brother Cesare is the lead singer in a heavy metal band which has just released its second album. A former missionary in the Ivory Coast, he lives in a small friary in the Milan hinterland. The 62-year-old monk’s love affair with heavy metal began when he attended a Metallica concert some 15 years ago. “I was overwhelmed and amazed by the sheer energy of it” he says.

Brother Metal

Hard rock and heavy metal have, over the years, been criticised as the work of the devil. It’s a claim which Brother Cesare, also known as Brother Metal, says is nonsense. He started playing and recording cassettes, firstly with “lighter” metal music, but gradually he realised that what really moved him was the hard core.

  People think that I am in fancy dress, they can’t believe a robed monk is on the stage playing their music 
Brother Cesare Bonizzi

The members of his band were at first sceptical at the idea of teaming up with a Capuchin monk but their doubts soon evaporated. “Five minutes after meeting Brother Cesare I decided to go ahead, because he manages to convey so much energy, that other musicians and youngsters often don’t manage to express,” lead guitarist, Cesare Zanotti, told Reuters.

Sex, drugs and alcohol

Brother Metal recently appeared in the Gods of Metal festival in Italy, along with giants such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Slayer, playing to a crowd of leather-clad hard-core metal fans. “It was wonderful being there among all these young people” he told the Rome newspaper La Repubblica. “The only problem was that at one stage out slipped a “what the f…” because each time some people think that I am in fancy dress, they can’t believe a robed monk is on the stage playing their music”.

With a booming voice, Brother Metal belts out lyrics that are decidedly gritty, talking about real-life issues and not shying away from sex, drugs and alcohol. He does touch on faith and religion but is adamant that he is not seeking to draw people to Catholicism through his stage performances. Video clips of his performances on YouTube have helped spread his popularity and fan base.

Devotion to God

His second heavy metal album, “Misteri” (Mysteries) has just been released. In a sign of Brother Metal’s eclecticism, it drew inspiration from a group of women in southern Italy who sang about Mary, the mother of Jesus, and a heavy metal version of that song is on the CD. Other songs talk about how alcohol warms the heart but excess drinking can damage the liver, and how important sex is to man.

Brother Cesare says he has never had any trouble with his superiors over his choice of musical career and would like to send his new album to the Pope. “He is a music lover and metal is music!” he says. While Brother Cesare always wears his traditional brown robe and sandals as a reminder that he has chosen a life of devotion to God, he is keen to distinguish established religion from faith, and from proselytising. “I do it to convert people to life, to understand life, to grab hold of life, to savour it and enjoy it. Full stop” he says.


IHT article: Sworn to virginity and living as men in Albania

Sworn to virginity and living as men in Albania
By Dan Bilefsky International Herald Tribune
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Pashe Keqi recalls the day nearly sixty years ago when she decided to
become a man. She chopped off her long black curls, traded in her dress
for her father’s baggy trousers, armed herself with a hunting rifle and
vowed to forsake marriage, children and sex.

Had she been born in Albania today, says the 78-year-old sworn virgin,
who made an oath of celibacy in return for the right to live and rule
her family as a man,  she would choose womanhood.

“Back then, it was better to be a man because, before, a woman and an
animal were considered the same thing,” says Keqi, who has a bellowing
baritone voice, sits with her legs open wide like a man and relishes
downing shots of Raki and smoking cigarettes. “Now, Albanian women have
equal rights with men and are even more powerful, and I think today it
would be fun to be a woman.”

Sworn virgins became the patriarchs of their families, with all the
trappings of male authority, by swearing to remain virgins for the rest
of their lives.

The ritual was a form of self-empowerment for rural women living in a
desperately poor and macho country that was cut off from mainstream
Europe for decades under a Stalinist dictatorship. But in  Albania
today, with  Internet dating and MTV, the custom is all but
disappearing. Girls no longer want to become boys.

The tradition of the sworn virgin can be traced to the Kanun of Leke
Dukagjini, a code of conduct that has been passed on orally among the
clans of northern Albania for more than five centuries. Under the Kanun,
the role of women is severely circumscribed: Take care of children and
maintain the home. While a woman’s life is worth half that of a man, a
virgin’s value is the same  –  12 oxen.

The sworn virgin was born of social necessity in an agrarian region
plagued by war and death. If the patriarch of the family died with no
male heirs, unmarried women in the family could find themselves alone
and powerless. By taking an oath of virginity, women could take on the
role of men as head of the family, carry a weapon, own property and move

They dress like men, adopt a male swagger and spend their lives in the
company of other men.

Some also took the vow as a means to avoid an arranged marriage. Still
others became sworn virgins to express their autonomy. Some who
regretted the sacrifice transformed themselves back into women and
married later in life.

“Stripping off their sexuality by pledging to remain virgins was a way
for these women in a male-dominated, segregated society to engage in
public life,” says Linda Gusia, a professor of gender studies at the
University of Pristina in Kosovo. “It was about surviving in a world
where men rule.”

Taking an oath to become a sworn virgin should not, sociologists say, be
equated with homosexuality,  which has long been taboo in rural Albania.
Nor do the women have sex changes. In the northern Albanian countryside,
about 40 sworn virgins remain, according to researchers studying the

Known in her household as the “Pasha,” Keqi says she decided to become
the man of the house at age 20 when her father was murdered in a blood
feud. Her remaining four brothers opposed the communist regime of Enver
Hoxha, who ruled Albania for 40 years until his death in 1985, and they
were either imprisoned or killed. Becoming a man, she said, was the only
way to support her mother, her four sisters-in-law and their five

Lording it over her large family in her modest house in Tirana, where
her nieces served her brandy while she barked out orders, Keqi said
living as a man had allowed her freedom denied other women. She could
work construction jobs and pray at the mosque alongside other men. Even
today, her nephews and nieces said, they would not dare marry without
their “uncle’s” permission.

“I was totally free as a man because no one knew I was a woman,” Keqi
said. “I could go wherever I wanted to and no one would dare swear at me
because I could beat them up. I was only with men. I don’t know how to
do women’s talk. I am never scared.” When she was recently hospitalized
for an operation, she recalled, the other woman in her room was
horrified to find herself sharing close quarters with a man and
requested a move.

Keqi said that being a woman made her a more compassionate man. “If the
other men were disrespecting a woman, I would tell them to stop.” She
said being deprived of a life of sexual intimacy was a necessary
sacrifice. She did not miss having children, she added, because she was
surrounded by her nieces and nephews. “Once I made up my mind 100
percent, I had the strength to never turn back.”

Being the man of the house also made her responsible for  avenging her
father’s death, she said, including the Kanun’s edict that spilled blood
must be met with spilled blood. When her father’s killer was released
from prison five years ago, by then a man of 80, Keqi said she ordered
her 15 year-old nephew to shoot him. Then the family of the man took
revenge and killed her nephew.

“I always dreamed of avenging my father’s death. My brothers tried to,
but did not succeed. Of course, I have regrets my nephew was killed. But
if you kill me, I have to kill you.” In Albania, a majority Muslim
country, the Kanun is adhered to by both Muslims and Christians, though
the Ottoman Turks and successive governments have all tried to limit its

Albanian cultural historians said the cleaving to medieval customs long
discarded elsewhere was a byproduct of the country’s previous isolation.
But they stressed that today, the traditional role of the Albanian woman
was changing.

“The Albanian woman today is a sort of minister of economics, a minister
of affection and a minister of interior who controls who does what,”
said Ilir Yzeiri, a critic who writes about Albanian folklore. “Today
women in Albania are behind everything.”

Some sworn virgins bemoan this female liberation. Diana Rakipi, 54, a
security guard in the seaside city of Durres, in west Albania, who
became a sworn virgin to take care of her nine sisters, said she looked
back with nostalgia to the Hoxha era. During communist times, she served
as a senior army officer, training women soldiers in combat. Now, she
lamented, women did not know their place.

“Today women go out half naked to the disco and do not know their
limits,” said Rakipi, who has cropped hair and wears a military beret.
“I was always treated my whole life as a man, always with respect. I
can’t clean, I can’t iron, I can’t cook. That is a woman’s work.”

But even in the remote mountains of Kruje, about 50 kilometers, or 30
miles, north of Tirana, where long dirt roads snake through olive
groves, locals say the Kanun’s influence on gender roles is
disappearing. They said erosion of the traditional family, in which
everyone once lived under the same roof, had altered women’s position in

“Women and men are now almost the same,” says Caca Fiqiri, whose aunt
Qamile Stema, age 88, is the last sworn virgin remaining in her village.
“We respect sworn virgins very much and consider them as men because of
their great sacrifice. But there is no longer a stigma not to have a man
of the house.”

Yet there is no doubt who wears the trousers in the family’s one-room
stone house in Barganesh, their ancestral village. There, on a recent
day, “uncle” Qamile was surrounded by her clan, dressed in a qeleshe,
the traditional white cap of an Albanian man. Her only concession to
femininity were pink flip-flops.

Pointing to an old black and white photo hanging in the entrance  –
showing a handsome young man in his prime  –  Stema said she took an
oath of virginity at age 20, after her father died, and she was left the
eldest of nine sisters.

After becoming a man, Stema said she could leave the house and chop wood
with the other men. She carried a gun. At wedding parties, she sat with
the men. When she talked to women, she recalled, they recoiled in

Stema said becoming a sworn virgin was a necessity, and a sacrifice.
“The truth is I feel lonely sometimes. All my sisters have died, and I
live alone. But I never wanted to marry. Some in my family tried to get
me to change my clothes and wear dresses, but when they saw I had become
a man, they left me alone.”

Stema said she would die a virgin. Had she married, she joked, it would
have been to a traditional Albanian woman. “I guess you could say I was
partly a woman and partly a man, but of course I never did everything a
man does,” she said. “I liked my life as a man. I have no regrets.”

Go to iht.com/europe to listen to commentary from Dan Bilefsky and view
additional photographs of the sworn virgins who live in Albania.


Slovakia: Theatre to explain arrival of Euro to Roma community

Kosice based Roma Theater Romathan will explain the arrival of the euro to Roma people living in settlements. A theater piece was ordered by the central bank NBS. The script should be prepared by May and the theater should then start a tour around Roma communities. According to the bank, this is one of several activities for groups of inhabitants with limited access to information. (HN/2)


To Punish Thai Police, a Hello Kitty Armband

BANGKOK, It is the pink armband of shame for wayward police officers, as cute as can be with a Hello Kitty face and a pair of linked hearts.

No matter how many ribbons for valor a Thai officer may wear, if he parks in the wrong place, or shows up late for work, or is seen dropping a bit of litter on the sidewalk, he can be ordered to wear the insignia.

“Simple warnings no longer work,” said Pongpat Chayaphan, acting chief of the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok, who instituted the new humiliation this week. […]

Mr. Pongpat, who has trained with the American Secret Service and the Canadian police, was promoted to head the division three months ago and says he wants to modernize his force, “even though we lack the highest technology, equipment and mind-set.” […]

An early experiment using armbands was not encouraging. Mr. Pongpat first tried using plaid ones. But instead of feeling shame, Major Weeraprach said, the officers took them home as souvenirs. The force still has only one of the ten it originally issued.

Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/07/world/asia/07cnd-thai.html?ex=1187409600&en=6139cfd6c732e7da&ei=5070

[thanks Maaike for alerting me!]

Chelsea: We’ll get ya, Becks

By SHAUN CUSTIS (Sun.co.uk)
July 17, 2007


CHELSEA have been winding up David Beckham by saying they will kick lumps out of him this weekend.
Becks had his first training session with his new LA Galaxy team-mates yesterday and hopes to make his debut against the Blues in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Text messages have been winging their way to the ex-England skipper’s mobile telling him he is a marked man. The culprits have not been revealed but chief suspects are England pals John Terry, Joe Cole and Frank Lampard. Becks is clearly still struggling with the ankle injury he suffered playing against Estonia in last month’s Euro qualifier. After jogging with his team-mates for a few minutes in a session watched by a thousand fans, he then trained separately but is still expected to play a part in the clash with Jose Mourinho’s side. Chelsea’s stars are certainly keen for Becks to appear, as the texts have shown. SunSport was told: “It’s just a bit of banter between the lads. David can take a joke and he knows they don’t really mean it. At least he doesn’t think they do.” And America’s new superstar will be the target for more wind-ups when he attends a party with the Chelsea players tomorrow. When he was unveiled as Galaxy’s new signing, Beckham was asked how he felt about being a target for the hatchetmen out in the States. He said: “I’ve always been some sort of target in my career for players and teams I’ve played against. Hopefully, my team-mates will stick up for me.” Sounds like he is about to find out very soon!”

Pope: Christians Not True Churches

Tuesday, Jul. 10, 2007 By AP/NICOLE WINFIELD

(LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy) — Pope Benedict XVI has reasserted the universal primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released Tuesday that says Orthodox churches were defective and that other Christian denominations were not true churches.

Benedict approved a document from his old offices at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that restates church teaching on relations with other Christians. It was the second time in a week the pope has corrected what he says are erroneous interpretations of the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 meetings that modernized the church.
On Saturday, Benedict revisited another key aspect of Vatican II by reviving the old Latin Mass. Traditional Catholics cheered the move, but more liberal ones called it a step back from Vatican II. Benedict, who attended Vatican II as a young theologian, has long complained about what he considers the erroneous interpretation of the council by liberals, saying it was not a break from the past but rather a renewal of church tradition.

For full story: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1641666,00.html

Chelsea news: Jose makes peace with Roman

By Peter ORourke – Created on 15 Jul 2007


Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has revealed he and Roman Abramovich have repaired their relationship after clear-the-air talks last week.
“I know what he thinks, I know what he feels, I know what he wants.” […]

Mourinho says he is content with life at Chelsea and hopes to see out his contract which still has three years to run.

“After three years, I have bought a house in London and I am not renting anymore. “I didn’t do that because I wanted to sell next week or because I am thinking about leaving very, very soon. “I want to stay – and if Chelsea had wanted to make a change, they would have done it by now.”

Full article: http://home.skysports.com/list.aspx?hlid=476889&CPID=8&clid=8&lid=4161&title=Jose+makes+peace+with+Roman

Slovak Church: Yoga equals atheism

A glitch in cyberspace…when trying to read one of the only english written Slovak newspapers ‘the Slovak Spectator’, our warrior accidentally stumbled upon the article below. Further research (i.e. actually reading the full article after already writing a blog post but before publishing) showed that the article was from 2001, hence six years old! As the content of the article is actually quite amusing and as it does tell something about the Slovak society, be it Slovakia six years ago, the warrior decided to publish it anyway, and to get back later with an update on the issue.

So in the series ‘OLD NEWS’ we present….

Slovak Church: Yoga equals atheism

New casus belli: Yoga plan for Slovakian schools

Education Minister Milan Ftáčnik, a proponent and practioner of yoga. photo: TASR

By Martina Pisárová, July 2001

A proposal to introduce yoga as an optional course in Slovak elementary schools is an effort to stamp out Christianity in the country, say the Church and members of the ruling coalition Christian Democrat party (KDH).

The yoga proposal was put forth last year by Education Minister Milan Ftáčnik, who is an avid yogi himself and would like the courses to begin in September. But if the plan moves forward, said KDH Chairman Pavol Hrušovský, the party may seek Ftáčnik’s recall.

“Yoga is an attempt to eliminate Christianity in Slovakia,” Hrušovský told The Slovak Spectator July 19. “We think this is a very serious problem.”

“Before this, it was Soviet Communism [which tried to eliminate Christianity],” added party mate Vladimír Palko. “Now it’s Asian yoga.”

The Conference of Slovak Bishops (KBS) also spoke against the yoga proposal in the form of a Sunday sermon. On July 5, the country’s bishops co-wrote the “Shepherds’ Letter”, a sermon opposing yoga in schools, and distributed it to churches around the country.
Further excerpts from the Shepherd’s Letter read: “Is it really just physical exercise? Yoga rejects faith in God the Creator, it rejects Jesus Christ, the whole act of redemption, and [therefore] Christianity. It is a path to total atheism.

“Yoga leads to a spirituality which focuses on the self. However, the basis of Christianity is a spirituality which is directed towards others. To better understand what yoga is and what the results of it are, let’s have a look at India, a cradle of yoga. How is it possible that there are children and old people lying near trash containers and nobody even notices them? It is possible because under the influence of Hinduism everybody lives only for themselves. How is it possible that Mother Theresa had to go there to pick up those who were kicked aside by such a life style?”

“We Christians must not forget that we do not need yoga, but rather our daily bread which we ask in our prayers, which was taught to us by our Master Jesus Christ. With that, all problems can be solved and we won’t need to search for some dubious substitute.”

Added Bishop Rudolf Baláž of the Banská Bystrica regional diocese: “Yoga is a practice from a strange country.” […] ”

Full article: http://www.slovakspectator.sk/clanok-891.html

Heared on BBC world radio: Islamic scholar sees Breast Feeding as symbolic act which makes it right for men and women to work together

Source: BBC world radio/arabwomanprogressivevoice.blogspot.com

17 May 2007 […] So the latest Azhar fatwa, ingeniously thought of by the head of the Hadith section at the university who argues it’s based on a Prophet’s strong Hadith (saying), is trying to solve the problem that in this darn age men and women are spending time alone together at work when that is forbidden. The solution? Easy! The problem can be easily solved by having the woman nurse her colleague. Yep. Nurse him as in put her breast in his mouth. This way they become related through nursing and as such can be alone together without breaking any moral or religious codes. But they need to keep accurate records of who nursed whom so things don’t get mixed up. Once a man is nursed by a woman, she can take off her veil in front of him because now he’s “forbidden” to her.”

In the mean time the Egyptian scholar made his apology for what he calls a one time incident and an attempt to creative thinking.

The full blog comments:

For those of you who can read arabic, the original Fatwa: