Category: International Affairs

open-doors-mapFor the sixteenth consecutive year, North Korea is ranked as the most oppressive place in the world for Christians, according to the international non-profit ministry Open Doors.

Every year Open Doors publishes the World Watch List to highlight the plight of persecuted Christians around the world. The list represents believers “who are arrested, harassed, tortured—even killed—for their faith.” The list measures the degree of freedom a Christian has to live out their faith in five spheres of life (private, family, community, national, and church) plus a sixth sphere measuring the degree of violence.

Here are the top five countries listed by Open Doors as being the most dangerous for Christians:
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Theresa_May_UK_Home_Office

Although Americans have lost the notion altogether, British tradition still remembers that Christmas is a season that begins, rather than ends, on December 25. In addition to Christmas, many businesses close their doors on December 26 in observance of Boxing Day. Over the years, the holiday has also become the UK’s third-largest shopping day, generating £3.74 billion last year.

Since shoppers need workers to serve them, more retailers have remained open each year. This spurred more than 200,000 Brits to sign a petition asking the government to force shop-owners to close that day, so that retail workers can enjoy “some decent family time to relax and enjoy the festivities like everyone else.”

Prime Minister Theresa May responded that British businesses, like the post-Brexit UK, are free to remain open for business. “We do not believe it is for central government to tell businesses how to run their shops or how best to serve their customers,” the administration said. “Therefore, we are not proposing to ban shops from opening on Boxing Day.”

Her decision begins with the right procedural point by reining in central government. While government offices closed, it is not her place to dictate that policy to businesses of varying sizes and facing differing local circumstances (and financial outlooks). There are also other considerations.

Some people cannot be given the holiday – or any holiday – off because of the nature of their work allows no breaks. Aside from emergency and medical personnel, convenience store clerks, security guards, and a host of other professions would be structurally excluded from any government proclamation.

But what about the rest of the people? Was her decision a bane or a boon for workers? Is this humbug or helpful?

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Coptic Pope Tawadros II

It has been just over a week since a suicide bomber entered the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral complex in Cairo, killing himself and making martyrs of 27 Egyptian Christians. They were mostly women and children attending the Sunday morning service. Two months before, the Anglican Archbishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt, addressing a conference in Cairo, had called for Christians to be “ready to sacrifice their lives for the sake of Christ.” This has certainly been the experience of Coptic Orthodox Christians, who experienced the loss of 21 lives in 2011 in another Church bombing, and 21 Egyptian Orthodox migrant workers beheaded in Libya in 2015. The leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II, preaching at the funeral of those recently killed, said, “It is the destiny of our church to offer martyrs, and that is why we call it the ‘Church of the Martyrs.’”

There is sorrow and anger that such incidents take place, but the Church in Egypt has not turned to violence in response to the violence meted out on her members. Rather than threatening anyone else, crowds of mourning demonstrators offered their own lives as martyrs in defence of the Christian community, chanting, “With our soul, and with our blood, we will defend the Cross.” Such a witness to the desire for peace in the face of almost unbearable provocation has gained respect around the world. But the principled willingness to face martyrdom – and the suicide bomber in Cairo was no martyr – does not justify such indiscriminate violence, either in Cairo or elsewhere in the world where extremists view political or religious violence as a means of furthering a particular worldview.

Europe has not been able to isolate itself from such terrorism in the past, nor in the present. (more…)

The nation of Spain is prosecuting 37 people – including former officials in the ruling center-Right party – for steering government contracts to their politically connected friends. It will not help the defense that the suspects gave themselves audacious, Godfather-inspired nicknames like Don Vito and “The Little Meatball.” While a disturbing example in itself, a series of studies show that corruption is becoming a growing threat in the EU – and the larger the government, the greater the level of perfidy.

The number of single-bid contracts in the European Union nearly doubled between 2006 and 2015, and the number of bidders per contract fell by 40 percent during the same period. The penchant for cronyism in such arrangements is obvious.

As government officials award contracts based on favoritism, citizens must resort to bribery in order to procure the services their taxes already funded. Transparency International found that, “[o]n average, one in six households” in Europe and Central Asia “paid a bribe when they accessed public services.” EU bribery rates – which range from zero percent in the UK to 42 percent in Moldova – generally track with the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, where the UK ranks only behind Switzerland, and Moldova ranks a dismal 117.

Interestingly, in Western EU nations, the most likely bribe recipients were part of the government-run healthcare systems. (more…)

President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel

President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel

President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held their last joint press conference as heads of state on Thursday, pressing national leaders – in President Obama’s words – “not to take for granted the importance of the transatlantic alliance.” And they grounded that longstanding partnership on their conception of the bedrock principles that they believe unite North America and the EU.

“The commitment of the United States to Europe is enduring and it’s rooted in the values we share,” Obama said, “our commitment to democracy, our commitment to the rule or law, our commitment to the dignity of all people, in our own countries and around the world.” Merkel agreed that the transatlantic alliance is “based on our shared values.” The tone and content of their press conference echoed Merkel’s statement following Donald Trump’s election as president, as well as their joint New York Times op-ed, also published Thursday, in which Obama and Merkel call on transatlantic nations to “seize the opportunity to shape globalization based on our values and our ideas.”

The notion of shared U.S.-European values has undergone a resurgence since America’s presidential election. French socialist president François Hollande urged President-elect Trump to “respect” such “principles” as “democracy, freedoms, and the respect of every individual.” Other EU leaders have made similar statements. (more…)

In a recent article for The Telegraph, Sir Roger Scruton discusses the importance of national borders in Europe and the threat that the EU poses to them.  He explains how religion once united Europe but since religion began to fade in the 17th century, territory took over as the principle that Europeans turn to in order to find unity.  Scruton says this:

European civilisation has been steadily replacing religion with territory as the source of political unity. The process began in the 17th century, as the call for popular sovereignty and national unity began to be heard above the noise of religious conflict.  Following the French Revolution and Napoleon’s failed attempt at a pan-European Empire, Europe emerged as a collection of nation states.

Scruton goes on to talk about how national identity contributed to the outcome of the Second World War: (more…)

Yesterday, Hillary’s concession and Donald’s victory speeches would be made only one mile apart at the Midtown Hilton at the Javits Center in New York City. As the night wore on, the Clinton party quickly soured in the ballroom while the Trump camp began uncorking the bubbly. The opposing sentiments set the two camps a world apart.

Clinton’s presidential campaign director John Podesta, with aplomb, delivered unwanted news: for now the Democrats’ dream had died and all those sobbing at the Javits Center should wipe dry the tears and call it a night. They would get some rest to renew their political fight.

The reaction, however, was far from noble among Clinton’s media ‘adorables’ here in Italy. There was weeping to be sure, but also gnashing of teeth. (more…)