Posts tagged with: turkey

crane collapse meccaLongtime Acton University lecturer (and author of “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty”) Mustafa Akyol discusses the recent tragic deaths at Mecca in The New York Times. More to the point, Akyol talks about the fatalism which seems inherent in Islamic theology.

More than 100 people died when a crane collapsed in Mecca earlier this month. While Saudi Arabian authorities spoke of negligence on the part of the crane operators, the company itself seemed to be absolved of guilt:

The technicians that operated the crane, the Saudi Binladen Group, had an easy way out. One of them spoke to the press and simply said: ‘What happened was beyond the power of humans. It was an act of God.’


In this video, Richard Hovannisian, professor emeritus of Armenian and Near Eastern History at the University of California, Los Angeles, explains the Armenian Genocide.

Today is April 24, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, which is held annually to commemorate the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 by Ottoman Turks. It is also the official remembrance of the centennial of the campaign of human and cultural destruction. Here are more reflections and news items:

Message of HH Karekin II at the Canonization of the Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide

The Armenian Church — Mother See of Etchmiadzin

The martyrs of the Genocide today, in the luminous chambers of the kingdom of heaven, bearing the crowns of martyrdom, are the patron saints of justice, philanthropy and peace; whose intercession from heaven opens the source of God’s mercy and graces wherever justice is weakened, the tranquility and security of peace is disturbed, where human rights and the rights of people are trampled, threats arise against the welfare of societies, and persecutions against faith and identity are fanaticized.

The courage to call genocide what it is: Recalling the Armenian slaughter, 100 years later

Robert Morganthau, New York Daily News

In 1939, when Hitler was explaining the rationale for wiping out the Polish people in order to take over their land, he asked, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” If there had been a greater outcry and condemnation from the international community, perhaps Hitler would not have been so encouraged to proceed with his plans.


Raphael Lemkin

Raphael Lemkin

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide – a systematic, murderous campaign carried out by the Ottoman Empire against its Armenian population, killing 1.5 million and leaving millions more displaced.

Though these atrocities have been verified through survivor accounts and historical records, to this day, not all countries have recognized the atrocities as “genocide” – the foremost being Turkey, along with others, including the United States.

In a Huffington Post article, “The United States Should Remember Raphael Lemkin’s Words and Formally Recognize the Armenian Genocide,” H.A. Goodman draws particular focus to Turkey’s animosity toward the genocide label, even threatening other countries that recognize the tragedy as genocide.

Most recently, Turkey’s resistance was displayed when Pope Francis referred to the slaughter as the “first genocide of the 20th century.” The Turkish government responded by recalling its ambassador to the Holy See.

But perhaps an even more shocking reality surrounding the Armenian Genocide is this: at the time the Ottoman Empire began exterminating the Armenians in 1915, its actions were not considered illegal. It would be another 33 years before genocide was named a crime under international law, through the United Nations’ adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948, after which the word “genocide” was created and used for the first time, only 4 years prior. For these two significant actions we have one man to thank, a largely unknown Polish-Jewish lawyer named Raphael Lemkin.


ISIL flagStrategy Page has an excellent piece on Iraq’s ISIL and the political crisis there. Here are some of the most salient points.

  • ISIL is Al Qaeda’s arm in Syria and Iraq.
  • ISIL began as ISI or “Islamic State in Iraq” and was seeking to regain power for Sunni Muslims. “…
  • “…after U.S. forces left in 2011 the Iraqi government failed to follow U.S. advice to take good care of the Sunni tribes, if only to keep the tribes from again supporting the Islamic terrorist groups. Instead the Shia led government turned against the Sunni population and stopped providing government jobs and regular pay for many of the Sunni tribal militias. Naturally many Sunni Arabs went back to supporting terror groups, especially very violent ones like ISI.”


Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Catching Fire

In this week’s Acton Commentary, “Tyranny Is the True Enemy,” I explore the latest film installment of the Hunger Games trilogy, “Catching Fire.” I pick up on the theme that animates Alissa Wilkinson’s review at Christianity Today, but diverge a bit from her reading. As she writes, a major aspect of this second part of the series has to do with fake appearances and real substance, and the need to “remember who the real enemy is.”

Wilkinson is upset with the marketing buzz surrounding the film, arguing that it “declaws” the substantive message of the books themselves. There’s an element of truth to this. It comes home especially when watching an interview like this, in which Jennifer Lawrence seems to embody the idea that for a celebrity in today’s culture, “you never get off this train,” as Haymitch puts it to Katniss and Peeta on their own promotional tour.

But in focusing on the distracting nature of commercial merchandising of the films, I argue that Wilkinson ends up distracted from who the real enemy is. There is much that is morally problematic about the way that the Capitol operates. Wilkinson rightly shows the shallow consumerism and sensuality of Capitol couture. But the fact that this isn’t the real enemy, so to speak, can be shown by a bit of thought experiment.

Suppose that the consumption habits of the Capitol were far less odious to our moral sensibilities. Suppose the citizens all lived chaste, upright, and responsible lives in their city. Their oppression of the districts would be no less troublesome for all their virtuous consumption. The decadence of the Capitol only puts the real tyranny over the districts into sharper relief. John Tamny argues that to read Catching Fire as “anything other than a polemic against communistic, brutal government is a certain act of willful blindness.”

I won’t go quite that far, and I don’t agree that the film/book has nothing at all to do with critiquing consumerism, but I do think that such alternative readings often forget who the enemy really is. As Tamny (mis)quotes from Catching Fire, Katniss herself identifies the enemy as the one “who starves and tortures and kills us in the arena. Who will soon kill everyone I love.”

In the opening sequence of “Catching Fire,” Katniss is illegally hunting in an attempt to provide much-needed protein for her family. At one point, Katniss and Gale come across a flock of wild turkeys. This image is especially striking at the release of this film during the Thanksgiving season.

Far from promising a “turkey in every pot,” President Snow has no regard for the welfare of anyone in the districts. The citizens of the Capitol are all that matter, to the point that people like Katniss have to resort to illegal hunting and the black market for basic necessities like medicine and food.

There is a connection between hedonism and what might be called a “soft” form of tyranny characteristic of the vicious circle between the citizens of the Capitol and the government. And while tyranny in all its forms is to be rejected, the real enemy in the Hunger Games is the hard tyranny of President Snow and his jackbooted thugs. Everything else is, in the end, a distraction.

Orthodox-Bishops-KidnappedTwo Syrian Orthodox bishops have been abducted by terrorists in a suburb of Aleppo in Syria as they were returning from Antioch (Antakya, Turkey). While both clergymen are believed to be alive, their driver was killed during the attack:

Syriac Orthodox bishop Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo Paul, who also happens to be the brother of Patriarch John of Antioch and All The East were abducted en route to Aleppo from a town on the Turkish border where they were carrying out humanitarian work.

As they neared the city, they were met with an armed group in the village of Kfar who forced them out of the car. The driver, who was also a deacon was killed during the attack.

The bishops are believed to be alive and efforts are ongoing to secure their release, NNA reports.

The Greek Orthodox diocese of Aleppo declined to comment on the incident. The Russian orthodox church has condemned the act.

In May 2011, International Christian Concern said that the Christian minority—Christians make up less than 10 percent of the Syria’s 23 million people—are more afraid of the opposition forces than of the government, because under the Assad regime there has been tolerance towards religious minorities. Metropolitan Hilarion, the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations, noted that his close contact with the bishops of the Antiochian Orthodox Church made him believe that “in those places where the authorities are replaced by the rebel groups, Christianity is being exterminated to the last man: Christians are expelled, or physically destroyed.”

Update: Some news agencies have been reporting that the bishops have been released. But the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch says the reports are not true.

The Halki seminary near Istanbul was the main school of theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church’s Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople from 1884 until the Turkish parliament enacted a law banning private higher education institutions in 1971. ALeqM5joRHWNahzI013E9-PkQKkKTe2m3gFor more than 40 years, the law has kept Orthodox clergy schools closed. But in an encouraging development for religious liberties, Secretary of State John Kerry is urging the Turkish government to reopen the seminaries:

“It is our hope that the Halki seminary will open,” Kerry said during a press conference in Istanbul after two days of talks on the Syrian crisis and the Mideast peace process.

Kerry said he discussed religious freedom in overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey and the possible re-opening of the theological schools in talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

The Halki seminary, where Orthodox clergy used to train, is located on an island off Istanbul and was closed in 1971, after Turkey fell out with Greece over Cyprus.

Kerry also met on Sunday the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, whom Turkey considers the spiritual leader only of Turkey’s tiny Greek Orthodox minority.

Both the United States and the European Union, which Turkey aspires to join, have increased pressure on Ankara to re-open the seminary as well as introducing further rights for religious minorities in the new constitution it is currently drafting.

(Via: First Things)