The recent terrorist attacks in Paris have again brought to the forefront discussions about problems of culture faced by both Europe and the United States. The attacks have complicated western responses to the Syrian refugee crisis, with concerns about the stated intentions of groups like ISIS to smuggle operatives into western nations among the legitimate refugees in order to carry out terror operations. And of course, the questions of the compatibility of Islam with western political and economic values, as well as questions about the will of western nations to defend and uphold those values have returned as well. Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg joined host Al Kresta last Tuesday on Ave Maria Radio’s Kresta in the Afternoon to discuss these important issues; you can listen to the full interview via the audio player below, and be sure to check out Sam’s article “The End of Europe” at Public Discourse.
It’s common for some to criticize Pope Francis’s wariness about capitalism, but Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump just took that to a new level, saying he’d try to “scare” the pope by telling him: “ISIS wants to get you.
I’d say ISIS wants to get you,” Trump said. “You know that ISIS wants to go in and take over the Vatican? You have heard that. You know, that’s a dream of theirs, to go into Italy.
I’m gonna have to scare the Pope because it’s the only thing, Trump said. The Pope, I hope, can only be scared by God. But the truth is — you know, if you look at what’s going on — they better hope that capitalism works, because it’s the only thing we have right now. And it’s a great thing when it works properly.”
In today’s Crisis Magazine, Acton’s director of research Samuel Gregg calls for a a new papal encyclical: one addressing ” the on-going brutal persecution of Christians in the Middle East.”
The facts about the deepening subjugation of Christians around the world hardly need repeating. Every day we read of the mistreatment of Christian guest-workers in Saudi Arabia, the violence unleashed against Christians in India by Hindu nationalists, the repression of Christians by China’s Communist regime, or the slaughter of African Christians by Muslim extremists. What is being inflicted upon Christians across the Middle East by ISIS and other Islamic terrorists is in a league of its own. It is, in a word, unspeakable.
With persecution of Christians there at an all time high, many have chosen to leave the Middle East. Christianity Today, reporting on the latest Pew Research report, says the number of Christians in the Middle East has dropped from 14 percent of the population to just 4 percent. That translates to less than half a million people in the Middle East who identify as Christians.
The problem turned from bad to worse with the rise of the Islamic State as it intensified the Muslim persecution of Christians and other minorities as part of its campaign of terror in the region, the report said.
Now, “Christianity is under an existential threat,” said Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat in the US House of Representatives and an advocate of Eastern Christians.
With each passing day, the news is inundated with images of murder from the Islamic State. Anyone they target suffers not only death, but often a horrifically slow and tortuous one. What President Obama considered to be a “JV” team proves to consist of professionally trained, competent warriors bent on annihilating their foes. These terrorists attack any opponent who stands in their way, but reserve particular hatred and brutality for Christians. The war they wage is as much of a military conflict as it is an ideological conflict, their end goal being global subjugation to hardline Islamic Law.
What does this mean for Christians? As the secularization of Western culture further isolates Christianity, an open extermination assaults in the Middle East. In the modern era, the entire world seems to wage a relentless war against Christians. However, compared to what our Christian brothers and sisters living under the Islamic State endure, the trials of Western Christians seem trivial. Louis Sako, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch, said in mid 2014 that there “were about 1 million Christians in Iraq and more than half of them have been displaced. Only 400,000 are left while displacement is still rising.” (more…)
We are five months into 2015, and life is still unjust. People are still ignorant and hurting each other. All the things we hope and pray for – peace, love, faith, understanding – still seem unattainable.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) has spent his life thinking, theologically, about these things. In today’s Crisis Magazine, author James Day examines Ratzinger’s writings and teachings regarding “the source of mankind’s pervading unhappiness and alienation from each other and God.”
Ratzinger has seen in his lifetime a world transformed from celebrating widespread Catholic feast days in the “years of Our Lord,” Annis Domini—A.D.—to the artificial designation of the relativistic Common Era, and with it, an abandonment of things divine and a lowering of standards so much so we dare not contemplate forgiveness, reconciliation, and a new way. This transformation has been a disaster for both the possibility of real change and recognizing the impact of Benedict’s place in culture’s wake. James V. Schall’s reflection written the week of the pope’s abdication continues to hold true today: “Anyone who is not aware of the intellectual caliber of Benedict simply reveals his own incompetence or incomprehension.”
I attended an informative — and very moving — presentation yesterday on the humanitarian relief effort underway in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. The talk was given here in Grand Rapids by Mark Ohanian, director of programs for International Orthodox Christian Charities (see my podcast with him here). What I learned was that despite the massive scale of human suffering, the crisis is likely to get much worse. Given the gains that the Islamic State is making in Iraq, that might be a safe prediction.
Ohanian said that the relief effort in Syria, where IOCC works alongside Red Crescent and other principal agencies, is made more difficult and expensive because of the breakdown in Syrian society and the need to import so much of the supplies. The video above shows how entrepreneurial Syrians are already starting businesses in the refugee camps to help themselves.
If you want to offer direct help the refugees, you can make a donation on the IOCC site here. IOCC, in partnership with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, serves all refugees regardless of religion or ethnicity. (more…)