COLOGNE CATHEDRAL MEMORIAL

Koln cathedral

It’s Friday morning here in Michigan.   As I write, I’m watching the State Memorial service from Cologne (Koln) Cathedral, for the 150 people killed in the “Germanwings” flight in the French Alps on March 24th.    The German Chancellor Angela Merkel was present, along with the German President Joachim Gauck.   Spanish leaders were also represented.   These were the two countries that lost the most people in the disaster.

The Cathedral is about a thirty-minute drive from Dusseldorf Airport where the plane was due to land after a short flight from Barcelona in Spain.

Koln Cathedral is one of the most magnificent buildings in Germany, an architectural marvel from the Middle Ages, a time of great faith in European history.   At such a time as this, faith is a great help to those who have lost loved ones.   The peace and serenity, together with inspiring music and the presence of 1,500 people, seemed to bring some comfort and closure to the relatives and friends of the victims, who still await burial.

The service is being relayed on BBC World, with occasional interruptions to bring the latest world news.  Religion is a common theme running through the morning’s news program.   Koln Cathedral is a reminder of the religious certainties of the past. Construction of the gothic cathedral began in 1248.   The church remains a Roman Catholic cathedral, in a country divided by Lutheran Protestantism five centuries ago.   The German Chancellor is the daughter of a Lutheran minister and grew up in the officially atheist German Democratic Republic (communist East Germany).  The German president is a former Lutheran pastor who came to prominence as an anti-communist civil rights leader in the former communist state. The professed atheism of the eastern European countries did not bring the utopia that people had hoped for.   I first visited the cathedral as a 16-year-old exchange student.   The German student I stayed with was also an atheist.

Fifty years ago it seemed that religion was a thing of the past. Now, it dominates our news on a daily basis.   This is especially true of news involving the Middle East.

A frequently mentioned news item this morning is the arrest of fifteen Muslim immigrants arriving by boat from Libya.   The men originated from West African countries.   10,000 refugees have landed in Italy in the last seven days.   The fifteen were all on the same boat and had deliberately pushed twelve Christians overboard during a religious dispute, killing all twelve.

Another news item was of regular chlorine bomb attacks on Sunni Muslims by the Shi’ite Alawite government of Syria.   Victims included small children who died agonizing deaths, witnessed by survivors.

Switching for a few minutes to a US based channel, concern was being expressed over a US citizen who had spent two months in Syria training with ISIS, and was arrested on his return to the United States where he was planning terrorist attacks on Americans in uniform.   The concern is that he is the first of many more to come, people motivated by extremist religious views, intent on mass killing.

In such a time of religious confusion, comfort can certainly be drawn from the religious certainties of the past.   But those certainties hide a disturbing reality.   In 1248, when the foundations of the cathedral were laid, beliefs were based more on tradition, on ignorance and superstition than on revealed scripture.

The Bible was not the foundation of the medieval church.   It wasn’t until 1534 that the Bible was first published in German, having been translated by Martin Luther.   It was the revealed truths in the scriptures that divided the medieval church, still clinging to beliefs and traditions that could not be biblically substantiated.

The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is the truth.   “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).   Jesus Christ is truth.   He is also “the Word.”   (John 1:1, 14)   God’s Word is truth.   (John 17:17)   The Apostle Paul adds: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”  (II Timothy 3:16)

The same Bible also tells us, in this age of great religious confusion, that salvation is only possible through Jesus Christ.   (Acts 4:12)

The solid walls of Koln Cathedral may be a reminder of religious certainties but they also reflect certainties that were wrong.   Today, we should be thankful that we have access to the scriptures, thanks to men like Martin Luther and his contemporary William Tyndale, who died to bring us the Bible in English.

Five centuries later, it was revealed just a few days ago, the Bible has still not been translated into 57% of the world’s languages.

For those of us who are blessed with a translation in our own language, we should renew our commitment to daily Bible Study and remember the importance of working out our own salvation (Philippians 2:12).

Martin Luther showed that it wasn’t the medieval church that could guarantee us salvation.   That remains true today.   Only Jesus Christ can guarantee us salvation.   Our eternal life depends on Him.   The Church can help guide us in the right direction, but salvation depends on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

The sister of one of the German victims of the crash prayed a very moving, yet simple prayer before the congregation:  “Lord, please dry our tears.”

This simple request brought to mind a verse in the last book of the bible:   “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.   There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”  (Rev. 21:4)

Understanding the real truth of God brings a peace of mind that truly sets us free.  (John 8:32)

RECORD NUMBERS OF REFUGEES REACHING EUROPE

Syrian refugees in London

One of the great ironies of the last fifty years is that the peoples who supposedly rose up against their colonial masters and achieved independence have been moving en masse to the very countries they rebelled against!

This exodus of people from Africa and the Middle East has increased in recent months with increased turbulence in Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Iraq.   Eritreans are also moving to Europe to get away from that country’s brutal dictatorship.   Many flee by land to Libya, then cross to Italy by sea.   Over 400 died today when their boat capsized, a fairly regular occurrence.

The Europeans, it seems, cannot do enough to help resettle all these refugees.   The United Nations is criticizing, claiming they are not doing enough.   It should be realized that the U.N. is dominated by people from the same areas of the world as the refugees.   As failed states rapidly fall apart, people want to seek refuge in western Europe.

It should be noted that the six countries all mentioned above are Islamic.   The problems these countries face are deeply rooted in the Muslim religion.   People flee from these lands, but when they arrive in their new countries, what do they want to do?   They want their new countries to embrace Islam!   They have clearly learned nothing. At the same time, they want to make everybody else’s lives miserable.

So, what should western countries do?

The first priority of every government is national security.   Who is to say that, amongst all those fleeing Islamic lands, there may be some who want to get to Europe, North America and Australia, in order to stage terrorist acts?   It’s not only possible, it’s actually quite likely.

The perception of increased threats to security is fueling the growth of right-wing political parties in some European countries.   This poses a serious threat to liberal democracy and the cohesion of the western alliance.

At the same time, the sheer numbers of people in transit constitutes the equivalent of an invading army.   If the cultural identity of nations is to be preserved, something must be done to stop the invasion.

But what?   What can be done?

Clearly, European rule of these nations cannot have been so bad, if the native peoples are now moving to the former rulers for “freedom.”

Perhaps a solution is for those same western European nations to seize a small coastal area of the troubled countries, establishing an enclave, or “colony,” which would enable those citizens who want to flee to the West to remain and live under western rule?   This is, after all, what Hong Kong was all about.

Of course, this is not going to happen.   The United Nations would throw a fit, screaming “colonialism.”   As they cannot say anything positive about any of the countries taking in the refugees, perhaps they should open up the United Nations building and all available surrounding land to house them and feed them – at their own expense, of course.

POPE CONDEMNS GENOCIDE

Crucified  Christian girls, Turkish Armenian Christian genocide, 1915
Crucified Christian girls, Turkish Armenian Christian genocide, 1915

In a few days, it will be exactly one hundred years since the Ottoman Turks started a genocidal program to eliminate their own Armenian citizens.   An estimated 1.5 million Christian Armenians died in a persecution that continued until well after World War One.   It wasn’t just Armenians.   Assyrians and Greeks, both Christian communities, also perished.

Yesterday, in a mass attended by the Armenian president in Rome, Pope Francis referred to the Turkish action as “genocide”.   Naturally, the Turks see things differently, claiming a smaller number died and that they were simply casualties of war.   There was no deliberate policy to wipe out Christians.   The Turkish Ambassador to the Holy See was quickly recalled yesterday following the Pope’s comment.

Popes have been around a long time, almost 2,000 years in fact.   And the Vatican has a long memory.

One thousand years ago, it was Turks killing Christians that provoked Pope Urban II to call western Europe to arms, launching the Crusades that led to two centuries of conflict between Muslims and Christians.

In 1453, the Turkish conquest of Constantinople ended the Roman Empire in the East.   Persecution and discrimination against Christians followed in Asia Minor.  During a tour of Turkey three years ago, I asked our tour guide three times what happened to all the Christians when the Turks took over.   I never got a straight answer.  My own research concludes that many fled the country, others were slaughtered, and many more were sold into slavery.  Only a small number were allowed to continue to practice their faith.

In 1529 and again in 1683 it was Catholic troops that saved Vienna from conquest by the Ottoman Turks.

Although relations have been much better in recent decades, it was a Turk who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II on 13th May, 1981.

And now the Vatican risks tension between Rome and Ankara by bringing up the Armenian slaughter of a century ago.

The reason for this is probably more due to recent and ongoing events in the wider Middle East.   All over what used to be the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire, Christians are being murdered by Islamic extremists.   In Syria, Iraq and Libya the slaughter of Christians continues unabated.

Furthermore, Turkey has not condemned this.

Western leaders have chosen not to address this humanitarian crisis.

Could a pope once again call the West to action against Islamic atrocities?

PROXY WAR PITS SAUDIS AGAINST IRAN

Shia-Houthi rebels                                                 Shia-Houthi rebels

The Middle East continues to dominate the headlines.

A proxy war is taking place in strategically located Yemen, between Iran and Saudi Arabia, backed by the US.

The country’s Sunni president was overthrown in January by Shia Houthi rebels from the north.   Supported by Iran, they are moving south, establishing control over a wider area.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of ten Arab countries in an attempt to restore the Sunni led government to power.   The US backs Saudi Arabia, but, as usual, it’s more complicated than that. AQAP (Al Qaeda in Yemen) is also fighting the Houthis.   Even Islamic State, a long way from home, is involved.

It gets messier.

Last week, the 22-nation Arab League met in Sharm el-Sheikh.   In a final communiqué, the 22 nations pledged to form a unified military force to deal with regional security issues.   This primarily means Iran.

The Sunni-Shia conflict is widening and now pits all 22 Arab nations against Iran.

The war in Yemen could also get worse. Most non-Yemenis have flown out of the country, rescued in aircraft sent to the country by their home governments.

Yemen is very important to the Saudis, who neighbor them to the north.   Saudi Arabia is feeling increasingly encircled by Iranian proxies, to the south in Yemen, to the north in Iraq and Syria and also Hezbollah in Lebanon

There is a growing fear that the war could spill over into Saudi Arabia, which has a small Shi’ite population. It could also affect Oman, which has been an oasis of peace under its current leader, Sultan Qaboos.   Bahrain, too, which is the regional naval base for the US Fifth Fleet, could be seriously affected. It’s Sunni king walks a tightrope ruling over a majority Shi’ite population, estimated to be about two thirds of the total number of Bahraini citizens.

Iran has effectively declared war on Sunni Islam. The country is aiding the Iraqi majority Shi’ite government against ISIS.   The US has been helping bomb the rebels, thereby risking accusations of being an Iranian proxy.   But, further south, the US is supporting the Sunnis in Yemen against Iran.

No wonder everybody is confused.   And no wonder our domestic news channels tend to avoid getting into this.   To fully understand the situation, you need a degree in history, another in geography and a third in comparative religion!

Suffice it to say, it’s a real mess.

Interestingly, this week Senator Rand Paul has entered the US presidential campaign.   His isolationist message will inevitably appeal to voters anxious to get out of the Mideast and leave the Sunnis and Shi’ites to fight to the (very) bitter end.  (One opinion poll today shows him leading over Hillary Clinton.)

However, it’s not as simple as that.   The Bible shows us that, out of this quagmire, will come a regional leader who will attack Europe.   A revival of the Roman Empire (the King of the North) will then have to intervene in the region.  You can read about this in the last few verses of Daniel, chapter 11 (verses 40-44).

We can already see the Europeans waking up to the seriousness of the threats coming from the nearby Middle East.   A 25,000 strong rapid reaction force has been established to deal with further Russian aggression.   But it can also be used to deal with problems that arise in the Middle East that may threaten Europe.

The Middle East is not going to calm down.   The problems in the region are only likely to worsen in the future, as we near the time of Christ’s return.

UK TV ELECTION DEBATE

British election candidates

In case you haven’t noticed, the United Kingdom is in the middle of a general election campaign.   The election itself takes place on May 7th, which does not leave much time for campaigning.

On Thursday, the seven leaders of the seven major parties held a televised debate on national television.   The debate was two hours long.   I watched it on “BBC World News” where it was shown live. There was only one brief commercial break in the middle.

The parties clearly divide into right and left.   The three parties that are supportive of austerity are the ruling Conservatives led by David Cameron, the Liberal Democrats led by Nick Clegg, and UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party) whose leader is Nigel Farage.   The Liberals are more in the center, but when it comes to spending, they believe in a balanced budget.

The ruling coalition since the last election in 2010 imposed austerity measures on the country, but has found it difficult not to overspend.

The other four parties represented are all to the left of the political spectrum.   All leaders were in favor of more spending on this or that and seemed to have no concept that all government spending is dependent on the success of the private sector, which they are inclined to want to clobber with more and more punitive taxes.   A favorite in the debate was a “mansion tax” on homes worth over two million British pounds ($3 million).   They do not realize that wealthy people have the option of moving to other EU member countries and can take their money with them.   They would also enjoy a better climate!

The four leftist parties are the Labour Party, led by Ed Miliband. To his left are Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru (the Party of Wales) and Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party.   All four kept demanding more money for their pet projects.   Apart from the suggestion of a tax on mansions, the three ladies also insisted on defense cuts, notably that Britain not modernize Trident, its nuclear weapons system.

No commentator pointed out that the ladies’ demands would cost the English taxpayer more money.   Already, the English bankroll the Scots and the Welsh – and, together with Germany, the EU.   As Mr. Farage pointed out, the subsidy to the EU amounts to ten billion pounds per day ($15 bn).

This is one reason why Nigel Farage wants Britain to pull out of the EU.   He constantly focused on this one issue when answering questions.   The EU does not allow Britain to govern itself.   On immigration, for example, a major issue in the UK, London cannot do anything because of treaty obligations with the rest of Europe, which allow for the free movement of people.   The Germans are insistent that this remains the case, even though it costs the UK tax-payer a great deal of money.   Immigrants from the rest of the EU can claim British welfare benefits upon arrival in the country and can use the free health service.   They can even claim family allowances (a weekly child benefit) for children they left behind.

When Mr. Farage pointed out that last year 7,000 people were diagnosed as HIV positive and that 60% of these are foreigners, he added that each one will cost the taxpayer 25,000 pounds a year ($37,500).   Nicola Sturgeon came right back accusing him of being “heartless,” saying that his comment was “shameful.”   For this she received loud applause.   Yet the liberal “Independent” newspaper reveals in a poll that half the British people support him on this issue.

Ms. Sturgeon seems adept at spending other peoples’ money.   She reminded me of Margaret Thatcher’s famous dictum:  “The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples’ money.”   If any of these three ladies has a major role in the next coalition government, the country could follow Greece toward financial ruin.

Polls after the debate said that Nicola Sturgeon did best.   If her party wins a lot of parliamentary seats in Scotland, they could enter a coalition with Labour and spend to their heart’s content – or, at least, until they run out of other people’s money!

It’s difficult to imagine a right of center coalition that includes the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and UKIP.   It may happen.   But if David Cameron needs UKIP to get the 318 seats necessary to form a government, he will have to give Nigel Farage what he wants, which is a referendum on EU membership by the end of the year.

Everything is up for grabs – anything could happen at this point in time.   But the most likely outcome will be a return of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, which has ruled the country for the last five years.   Noticeable during the debate is that the two leaders of these parties did not seriously attack each other, allowing for a continued marriage of convenience after the election.

With this election, it can truly be said that Britain is at a crossroads.   Everything achieved over the last few years of austerity could easily be lost, throwing the economy into a downward spiral; relations with Europe are also at stake at a time when the continental nations that comprise the EU are drawing closer together, with Germany very much in the driving seat.

ADMINISTRATIVE BLINDNESS

 

Eleanor Clift

Eleanor Clift is an arch-liberal who writes for the “Daily Beast / Newsweek.”  She is also a regular contributor to the weekly political discussion on PBS, “McLaughlin Group.”

Eleanor has often made me think of the old story about Winston Churchill.   When the very liberal Lady Astor came up to him one time, she said:  “Mr Churchill, if I was your wife, I’d put poison in your coffee.”  Churchill’s response was:  “Lady Astor, if I was your husband, I’d drink it!”  If I were married to Eleanor, I would have drunk it a long time ago, and I’m not a coffee drinker.

It’s been six years now since the Obama Administration came to power.   During that time, I’ve not heard her utter one criticism of the president.   The other regular “liberal” on the program, Mort Zuckerman, who voted for the president in 2008, is quite capable of pointing out the president’s faults, but not Eleanor, oh no.

Eleanor and the president are in tandem.   While she is incapable of saying anything bad about the president, he seems equally incapable of saying anything bad about Islam.   He can’t even bring himself to say anything negative about Islamic militants.   He won’t even use the term, lest people associate Islam with extremism.

I’m not one of those people who think the president is a closet Muslim.   He is certainly sympathetic to Islam, which is dangerous at this time in the history of the West.   For what we need now is for a powerful personage on the world stage to speak plainly and bluntly to the Islamic world – to make it absolutely clear that extremism will not be tolerated and that Muslim leaders must unequivocally condemn acts of terror.

This applies to US, UK and French based Muslim leaders, imams in our mosques.   If they will not condemn acts of terror, then they should be expelled, deported from our countries to the Islamic country they came from.   Instead, many of these imams are actively recruiting young men and women to join ISIS.

A firm stand needs to be taken, but we are not going to see it from the US president or anybody in the Administration.   Rather, we are being constantly told that Islam is a religion of peace, that extremists have taken hold of a peaceful religion, that Christians did some awful things to Muslims during the Crusades, etc., etc.   The refusal to face up to reality is a hallmark of this Administration.

There has been no clear condemnation of the massacre of 148 students Thursday in Kenya by Muslim extremists, a death toll that is set to rise.

On the same day, we hear nothing but good things about the new deal with Muslim Iran, even as Iranians celebrated all night in the Iranian capital, Tehran, firmly believing that they have triumphed in their long struggle with the West.   Their perception is that Allah has given them victory over the Great Satan.   If they have won, how can we in the West claim victory?   The Israeli prime minister has made it clear that the agreement will ensure Iran has nuclear weapons, not stop them.   He has described the deal as a threat to Israel’s survival.

Of course, it’s not just the Administration that is at fault here.   Most members of the press and the average citizen have their heads in the sand.

The trouble is, eventually they will have to come up for air, when they just might have to focus on reality.

 

OUT OF AFRICA

Goodluck and Buhari

After 55 years of independence, Nigeria has finally succeeded in changing elected governments peacefully, the first test of any democracy. President Goodluck Jonathan graciously accepted defeat and will be replaced at the end of May by Muhammadu Buhari.

The nation’s past has been dominated by coups and rigged elections.

Corruption is still a major problem and one of the biggest issues in the election.   It’s doubtful the new president, Muhammadu Buhari, a former military head of state, will make any progress in this area, as the problem is endemic.

He may be more successful in dealing with the jihadist insurgency of Boko Haram. That remains to be seen.

On the third biggest issue of the election, the economy, Buhari is faced with outside pressures he can do little about. Three-quarters of Nigeria’s government spending is dependent on oil. As the price of the black liquid has dropped dramatically in recent months, government revenue has declined, meaning there is less money for education, infrastructure and defense.

One in six Africans lives in Nigeria. 20% of Africa’s GNP is Nigerian. Now Nigeria can also be described as “Africa’s biggest democracy” (in terms of population). Hopefully, it can hold on to that title, at least for a while.

Goodluck Jonathan may have run out of luck, but he should be honored and respected for being the first man in Nigeria’s history to peacefully hand over the reins of power.

Staying in Africa, there’s news from the southern end of the continent, which bodes ill for the future.

And it has to do with Cecil John Rhodes, who died in 1902.

The English born South African pioneer and philanthropist donated land for the building of the University of Cape Town.   After his death, a statue was erected on the university grounds.   A few days ago, students pulled it down.

As it happens, the destruction of the statue coincided with my wife and I watching a 1936 movie on Rhodes, called “Rhodes of Africa”.   The movie simply showed the facts, how the man achieved great wealth in a similar way to other great men of the time.   Highly respected, he eventually became Prime Minister of Cape Colony. His greatest achievement was founding the two colonies of Southern and Northern Rhodesia, which are now Zimbabwe and Zambia. These territories of the British Empire owe their origins to him.   Even the width of the roads in the Bulawayo city center, were determined by Rhodes – they had to be wide enough to turn a team of oxen.

His drive brought great wealth and development to South Africa and Southern Rhodesia.   The wealth of the latter has been greatly dissipated by its current leader who has been in power for 35 years. He and his wife have confiscated most of the wealth for themselves and will not relinquish power.

Without Rhodes there would have been no wealth to confiscate.   Without Rhodes, there would have been no university in Cape Town. Without Rhodes, South Africa might not exist.

He was a great man and was recognized as such in the late Victorian era and on into the twentieth century.   But he’s now vilified, accused of being an imperialist and a colonialist. He was both, but at the time they were virtues.

Above all, Rhodes has fallen victim to increasing anti-white feeling.   South Africa is treading a dangerous path – many whites have the option of leaving. If they do, the country will lack the skills and expertise needed for a modern economy.

The whites who dominated South Africa in Rhodes’ time, right up until 1994, created a modern, thriving economy. Why can’t the students recognize this and be determined to build on his legacy, rather than choose to destroy it? Where’s the sense in that?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Once in a while you will stumble upon the truth but most of us manage to pick ourselves up and hurry along as if nothing had happened." — Sir Winston Churchill

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