Tag Archives: Constantinople

DAVOS, BYZANTIUM AND RUSSIA

Joseph-Stiglitz-003

“Median income today is lower than it was a quarter century ago,” according to economist Joseph Stiglitz, interviewed by CNN’s Richard Quest at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.   The two men were discussing the charity Oxfam’s statement this week that said the top 1% now have as much wealth as all the rest of us put together. According to Mr. Stiglitz, this is due to government policies in the US and other western nations in the last 25 years.   His prediction for the coming year was quite gloomy.

John Defterios, CNN Emerging Markets Editor, reminded people that the global economy has 7-8 year “cycles.”  Whereas many are saying we just came out of a cycle following the 2008 collapse, we are in fact ending one cycle and moving into another.

The 7-year cycle will be a familiar concept to any Bible scholars who understand the Old Testament financial cycle, based around the seven-year land Sabbath.  Debt, both governmental and private, is now at an all time high and threatens the global economy, which is nothing more than a house of cards.   Increasingly needed is a biblical Jubilee Year, where all debts are cancelled and we start over.  God’s plan was for a Jubilee Year every fifty years, after seven land Sabbaths had been completed.

Leviticus, chapter 25, explains this financial plan.  The instruction was that all debts be cancelled and that people return to their ancestral land and start again.  We no longer live in an agricultural economy, but the principle can be applied.   The vast majority of people worldwide are now in debt to one degree or another, while the 1% gets richer and richer.  Eventually, there will be an explosion with revolutions everywhere, unless something is done to cancel the debt.

Don’t hold your breath — governments and banks are not likely to let that happen.   Until they have to, that is!

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Meanwhile, I found Leonardo DiCaprio’s statement that “oil should stay in the ground” rather intriguing.  If conservationists get their way, how will he fly his personal plane?  He may have money to burn but it’s not a good jet fuel!

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I’m finishing The End of Byzantium, the book by Jonathan Harris I mentioned in a previous post.   Constantinople, the capital of what had been the greatest power in Christendom, fell to the Muslim Turks in May, 1453.  The fall sent shock waves throughout Europe.  The next 250 years was to be dominated by the threat from the Ottoman Empire, which did not completely end until the collapse of the empire less than a century ago.   This was the last caliphate.

There are lessons to be learned from Byzantium.

There was great division at the top among the various leaders.   We have this today with the presidential candidates, each one looking for his or her own advantage, regardless of what damage may be done to the country.  That was the same in Byzantium amongst the ruling class.

Secondly, some of the wealthy elite did well from their connections with the Turks, mostly in trade, but also donations to co-operate with the Turks.  Reading this, I was mindful of the Clinton Foundation receiving donations from Middle Eastern leaders, a conflict of interest for sure.

Thirdly, Byzantium was weakened financially, losing its trading advantage to other nations.   The Republics of Venice and Genoa had become the banking centers by the time of the fall of Constaninople.

A fourth point of great interest was that once the capital fell, it wasn’t long before the rest followed.   Could this happen in the US?  Of course it could.  If terrorists could deliver crushing blows to both Washington DC (the political capital) and New York City (the financial capital), the rest of the country would follow.

I should add that although I would have preferred life under the Byzantine Emperor to life under the Ottoman Sultan, the former was hardly Christian and thoroughly deserved its fate.  That’s another lesson for us today – the West deserves its fate, which it has brought upon itself.

A further lesson from Byzantium is the truth of Daniel 2:21, that God is behind the rise and fall of nations.  “And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings.”  In this case, Constantine XI, the last Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, was overthrown by Mehmed II, the Sultan at the head of the Ottoman Empire.

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Talking of Washington DC, the news yesterday was dominated by the threat of a severe snow-storm bringing the city to its knees.  It still hasn’t started, at 10am Friday morning, but could come any time.  MSNBC stated that, every time there’s a severe snow-storm: “230,000 federal government workers sit idle.”

Since when did this have anything to do with snow???

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Back to Turkey and the Middle East.  Up to this point, Islamic terrorism has been perpetrated by Sunni Muslims.  With the end of sanctions on Iran and the release of hundreds of millions of dollars being held by western banks, Iran could also be in the terrorist business.  Shia Islam could be an even bigger threat than Sunni.

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Still in the Middle East, more German Jews are moving to Israel as a result of increased anti-semitism in Germany.   Headlines can be misleading.  The anti-semitism does not come from German Germans, but from Muslim immigrants.  But it still makes life in Germany worrying and unpleasant.

The influx of migrants has affected many European countries.  Sweden is now being called the “rape capital of the world.”  Swedish women have a 1 in 4 chance of being raped.   Reports say that gangs of young Middle Eastern men grope, sexually assault, and rape women.   Where are the women and children we were being shown on nightly television a few months ago?  It turns out that 80% of migrants were young men, who left their families behind in war-torn Syria and other countries.   The outcome is not surprising.

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An article by Boyd D. Cathey contains the following, in defense of President Putin:

In support of his goals, Putin has championed Russian laws that:  (1) have practically outlawed abortion in Russia (no abortions after the 12th week, and before that time in limited cases, and also the end of financial support for abortions, reversing a previous Soviet policy); (2) clamp down on homosexuality and homosexual propaganda –absolutely no homosexual propaganda in Russian schools, no public displays of homosexuality, with legal penalties imposed for violating these laws; (3) strongly support traditional marriage, especially religious marriage, with financial aid to married couples having more than two children; (4) have established compulsory religious instruction in all Russian schools (including instruction in different Christian confessions, in different regions of the country); (4) implement a policy instituting chaplaincy in Russian military regiments (and religious institutions now assist in helping military families); (5) have made religious holidays now official Russian state holidays; (6) have instituted a nationwide program of rebuilding churches that were destroyed by the Communists (the most notable being the historic Church of Christ the Saviour in Moscow); and (7) officially support the Russian film industry in producing conservative religious and patriotic movies— interestingly, the most popular film in Russia in 2009 was the movie “Admiral,” a very favorable biopic of the leader of the White Russian counter-revolutionary, Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak, who was executed by the Communists in 1920.  The film was supported by the Russian cultural ministry.”

Since the fall of the USSR in 1991, Russia has built 26,000 new Christian churches.   As the writer points out, Russians are returning to (traditional) Christianity at the same time that Americans are turning progressively against it, embracing secular and anti-Christian values.

Thirty years after Ronald Reagan, we see a Christian Russia opposed to a post-Christian America (President Obama’s description of the country).   No wonder people are confused – the world has been turned upside down in our lifetimes!

Further evidence follows below:

jobs

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ISTANBUL SUICIDE BOMBING

Turkey bomb

In my last post, I wrote about the fall of Constantinople.  In 1453 the city fell to the Muslim Turks and was soon renamed Istanbul.

This post begins with mention of Istanbul, one of the most interesting cities that I have ever visited.   Not only was it founded by Constantine the Great in 330, it was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, Byzantium, for a thousand years.

When you walk around the old part of the city, you are walking on 1700 years of history.

No wonder so many tourists visit Istanbul.  Ten of them were killed this morning, eight of them Germans, when an ISIS suicide bomber from Syria blew himself up.   In a statement, ISIS said there would be more and bigger bombs.  This was the fourth ISIS attack in Turkey in six months.

Whether or not ISIS was deliberately targeting Germans is not known.  The attack was deliberately perpetrated in the tourist area of the old city, close to the Blue Mosque and not far from the Hagia Sophia, a 1500-year-old church built by the Eastern Emperor Justinian in the sixth century.   The church has survived a number of earthquakes and the fall of Justinian’s Empire – whether it will survive ISIS remains to be seen. Turkey is likely to see many more terror attacks.

Germany is also likely to suffer at the hands of terrorists, made more probable by Chancellor Merkel’s “open door” policy to Syrian refugees.   One million refugees arrived last year.   Things are not going well.

On New Year’s Eve, about a thousand Middle Eastern and North African men descended on the area around Cologne Cathedral. During the course of the evening, dozens of German women were sexually assaulted and a few were raped.   It turns out that, contrary to claims that almost all the refugees were women and children, in fact 80% were young men!

This has naturally led to greater demands for the refugees to be deported.   A big demonstration in Leipzig yesterday got out of hand, adding to Chancellor Merkel’s woes.   With more refugees set to arrive, the problem is set to get worse.

Meanwhile, Germany is dealing with foreign policy challenges that threaten the coherence of the European Union, of which Germany was a founder member and is the biggest economy.

German Foreign Policy reports:  “High-ranking German politicians are calling for punitive measures against Poland.   The Polish government’s measures neutralizing the country’s constitutional court as well as its new media laws are “in violation of European values,” according to Volker Kauder, Chair of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group.    The EU member states must now “have the courage to impose sanctions.” “

With the above problems, there may be little time to give any attention to Britain’s campaign for changes to the EU Treaty that would alleviate some of the financial burdens on the UK from its EU membership.

A report in the Guardian newspaper yesterday claimed the EU would play “hardball” with London, as they have nothing to lose.   If the UK leaves the EU, it could face punitive measures that would make it harder for the country to trade with its European neighbors.

The same article also pointed out that the Scots are not as keen on leaving the EU as their southern neighbors in England.

A withdrawal from the EU may be a setback for the project of European unity, but it could also lead to the breakup of the United Kingdom.

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?

WHAT IF THE PRESIDENT IS WRONG?

Obama Islam not the enemy

US President Barack Obama says the US is “not at war with Islam – we are at war with the people who have perverted Islam.”   (BBC website, February 18th)

The President continued to explain that socio-economic factors are behind extremist terrorism.   If more could be done to help young people in the Mideast find jobs, it would lessen the terror threat.   However, this conveniently overlooks the fact that major terrorist attacks have been perpetrated by affluent jihadists.   The idea that it’s all due to poverty and unemployment is a throwback to sixties liberalism.   Unfortunately, millions of people still think that way, endangering the rest of us.

This comes at a time when ISIS is wiping out Christians across the Middle East, determined to establish “Christian free zones.”

For an alternative view, let’s do something few politicians ever seem to do – look at history.

Muhammed died in 632 AD.   At the time of his death, the new religion he started was confined to the Arabian Peninsula.   By the end of the seventh century it had conquered the whole of North Africa and a great deal of the Middle East, including Jerusalem, Damascus and Antioch, pushing back the Byzantine and Persian empires.   Of course, it’s always possible that the young soldiers of Allah went far afield simply looking for jobs, but that’s not a conclusion you will find in the history books.

Once they had conquered North Africa, they crossed over into Europe, taking over the Iberian Peninsula and remaining there for a few hundred years, ruling what are now Spain and Portugal.   In 732 they reached the gates of Paris but were halted in their tracks by a military force led by Charles Martel, the grandfather of Charlemagne.   If this decisive victory had not taken place, there would be no problem between the West and Islam today, as we would all be Muslims!

Move forward 350 years.   By the end of the eleventh century, the Turks were a serious threat to the Byzantine Empire.   In 1065, the Turks took control of Jerusalem and massacred 3,000 Christians. Prior to the Turkish invasion, the Saracens controlled the area.   They had allowed Christian pilgrims to visit the Holy Land.   But the Turks made it impossible.   In 1095, Pope Urban II called on the countries of Catholic Europe to launch a Crusade against the Muslim Turks.   A series of crusades followed until 1291, when the Christians gave up on the idea of ruling the region.   It wasn’t until 1917 that a Christian power, Great Britain, would once again dominate the Middle East.

Islam continued its expansionist course, gradually taking more and more territory from what was left of the Eastern Roman Empire.   In 1453, its capital, Constantinople, fell to the Muslim Turks.   They have controlled it since.

Having conquered the Balkans, the Ottoman Turks twice reached the gates of Vienna at the very center of Europe.   Central European nations and the Catholic

Church defeated the Muslims, saving Europe from Islam.

This is not to say there has been peace between the West and Islam ever since.   During the period of global British domination, the British fought Islamic extremists in the Sudan in the 1880’s and 90’s, culminating in the battle of Omdurman in September, 1898.

For much of the twentieth century, Islam was kept at bay.  Until World War II, most Islamic territory was under European colonial rule.   By 1960 this had come to an end.   Iran, modern Persia, was the first country to see its government overthrown by radical Islam, in 1979.   From that date until the present, the West has been under constant threat from Islam, both Shia Islam (Iran) and Sunni Islam (al Qaeda, ISIS and Boko Haram to name just three).

With such a long history of Islamic imperialism, how can the president claim that the religion has been perverted by violent extremists?   Islam has been a constant threat to the West since its birth in the early part of the seventh century.  If anything, the first part of the twentieth century was an aberration, a brief interlude during which Islam was not pushing against the West.

“The rise and expansion of Islam was one of the most significant and far-reaching events in modern history and its impact continues to reverberate in our own times.”  (“The spread of Islam from 632,” Collins Atlas of World History, 2003)

Echoing down the centuries, the following statement remains true today.  “This expansion owed much to the enthusiasm and religious conviction of the conquerors but it was also facilitated by the war-weariness of the empires of Persia and Byzantium.”  (“The Spread of Islam”)   Today’s zealots are equally motivated, while the nations of the West, after more than a decade of wars in Islamic lands, are war-weary and clearly in denial about the serious threat to western civilization.

When you look back at history, the threat is clear.   In fact, it’s a greater threat now than it’s ever been, simply because there are so many millions of Muslims in our midst already.   Which brings us back to our politicians.   President Obama is not the only western leader saying that Islam has been perverted by extremists. Following the attacks in Denmark last weekend, the Danish prime minister said much the same thing.   The British, German and French leaders have expressed similar sentiments.

Because there are so many Muslims living amongst us today, politicians dare not risk upsetting them.   They need their votes.   A significant number of constituencies in the United Kingdom, for example, have very large Muslim populations, which could determine the outcome of the election scheduled in May.

The threat should be clear to anyone.   Western nations are asleep. But sleep does not last forever.   Eventually, it will be time to wake up.

Islam has been pushing against the West for centuries.   In modern times, the push of radical Islam has been going on since the fall of the Shah in 1979, half a lifetime ago.   When will the “King of the North” arise to fight back?

POPE’S VISIT TO ISTANBUL

Pope in Turkey

What’s behind the Pope’s visit to Istanbul?

It should always be remembered that the Vatican is a country, with its own king, the Pope.   Historically, Vatican meddling in secular affairs has contributed greatly to human conflict. This is particularly true when it comes to the historic struggle between Islam and Christendom.   Popes have been instrumental in leading the West against Islam.

Pope Francis’ visit to Istanbul can hardly be described as pastoral, as there are only 35,000 Catholics in Turkey.   It’s therefore safe to assume the visit was political. What did the pope have in mind?

This visit was the fourth time a pope has visited Turkey. The first was Pope Paul VI in 1967. He caused quite an upset when he prayed in the Hagia Sophia, the sixth century church built by the Emperor Justinian. When Istanbul (then called Constantinople) fell to the Muslim Turks in 1453, the church was turned into a mosque. Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Repubic, turned it into a secular museum 80 years ago.   Pope Francis was careful not to pray in the 1,500-year-old building, not wishing to provoke Muslim sensibilities.

The visit was intended to improve relations, firstly between the primary leader of Christendom and his equal, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, the 270th person to hold the title. Both churches go back a long way.   The historic schism between the two occurred almost a thousand years ago, in 1054.   Threatened by secularism and Islamic extremism, both leaders talk about unity, but, after a millennium, it’s not likely to happen.   This does not, however, mean they cannot work together.

The pope is also interested in establishing closer relationships with the Islamic world. Unlike the Orthodox Church, there is no primary leader in Islam, but the pope is concerned about the worsening situation in the Middle East. A century ago, most of the countries that are in turmoil today were ruled from Istanbul as regions of the Ottoman Empire, the same Turkish Empire that conquered Constantinople in the fifteenth century. Istanbul was, therefore, a good place to start to reach some sort of rapprochement with Islam.

The pope called on Islamic countries to roundly condemn ISIS and to protect religious minorities in their midst. The whole region has witnessed a great deal of persecution of Christians in recent decades, after centuries of fairly peaceful relations between the two major religions.

With the persecutions in mind, the pope should have asked the religiously conservative leader of Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, what happened to the Christians after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The official answer is that their conqueror, Mehmed I, generously gave them the freedom to practice their religion, as evidenced by the presence of a small community today. Only 1% of the country now is Christian. One thousand years ago, almost all the people were Christians. I asked this question a number of times during a visit to Turkey but never got a truthful answer.   History shows that while some fled to Italy (and contributed to the Renaissance), most were killed, sold into slavery or forced to convert.

It’s what we can all expect if ISIS defeats the West.

Is the papacy once again going to lead the West against resurgent Islam?