Category : Foreign Relations

(Express) How Christian persecution overseas is set to become UK priority

A religious literacy programme will be rolled out to ensure that civil servants and diplomats are no longer ignorant of the dire threats facing Christians around the world.

Sir Desmond Swayne, a leading Conservative campaigner for religious liberty, said: “This is all part of global Britain… This is us now reaching out with our soft power, using our diplomacy to defend religious freedom.”

The new training package will also give Government staff a crash course in the importance of religion to billions of people – and it may make damaging diplomatic blunders less likely.

There was embarrassment in 2018 when Britain’s most senior diplomat had to apologise for calling one of the holiest Sikh sites a mosque.

Research by the campaigning charity Open Doors suggests the persecution of Christians is getting worse, with “an average of eight Christians” killed for their faith every day last year, and 23 were “raped or sexually harassed for faith-related reasons”. It found North Korea was the country with the worst record on persecution, followed by Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Pakistan.

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Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(CC) China’s attack on the Uighurs and their Muslim faith

To coerce behavior in Xinjiang, the Chinese government has employed thousands of security agents along with high-tech forms of surveillance, in­cluding security cameras and facial recognition software. Because the Chinese press is censored by the government, news of these abuses has filtered out of the region largely through foreign journalists and independent researchers. China denied the existence of the internment camps until classified government documents were leaked last year; since then, government officials have described the camps as “vocational centers.”

China’s role as scheduled host of the 2022 Winter Olympics offers the world a chance to speak up for the Uighurs and apply pressure on the government to relent. So far, China’s economic clout on the world stage has rendered many nations hesitant to respond. The US shows no signs of making religious freedom for the Uighurs a key issue in trade negotiations.

The US Congress is, however, considering a bill that would direct the Trump administration to identify Chinese officials involved in the abuses and to deny them entry to the US and freeze their financial assets. The bill would also impose sanctions on tech firms that supply China with equipment used in repression and surveillance. The bill passed the House of Representatives and awaits a vote in the Senate. As modest as it is, such a law would be one of the more significant international efforts to hold Chinese leaders accountable for their brutal and systematic assault on a religious community.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Violence

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–Has President Trump Made Us All Stupid?

Donald Trump is impulse-driven, ignorant, narcissistic and intellectually dishonest. So you’d think that those of us in the anti-Trump camp would go out of our way to show we’re not like him — that we are judicious, informed, mature and reasonable.

But the events of the past week have shown that the anti-Trump echo chamber is becoming a mirror image of Trump himself — overwrought, uncalibrated and incapable of having an intelligent conversation about any complex policy problem.

But in the anti-Trump echo chamber, that’s not how most people were thinking. Led by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, they avoided the hard, complex problem of how to set boundaries around militias. Instead, they pontificated on the easy question not actually on the table: Should we have a massive invasion of Iran?

A great cry went up from the echo chamber. We’re on the brink of war! Trump is leading us to more endless wars in the Middle East! We’re on the precipice of total chaos! This was not the calibrated language of risk and reward. It was fear-stoking apocalyptic language. By being so overwrought and exaggerated, the echo chamber drowned out any practical conversation about how to stabilize the Middle East so we could have another righteous chorus of “Donald Trump is a monster!”

This is Trump’s ultimate victory. Every argument on every topic is now all about him.

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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iran, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, President Donald Trump

(FA) Will Iran’s Response to the Soleimani Strike Lead to War?

Perhaps the most provocative thing Iran could do is carry out a terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland or attempt to kill a senior U.S. official of Soleimani’s stature. This would be much more challenging for Iran to pull off than an attack on U.S. interests or personnel overseas but may be deemed by Iran as appropriately proportional. The last time Iran is known to have attempted an attack in the United States was in 2011, when American law enforcement and intelligence agencies foiled a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington by blowing up a restaurant. In that case, the plot was detected early on and easily foiled because of poor Iranian tradecraft. The episode suggested that Iran is much less capable outside the Middle East than inside it, an assessment that is buttressed by foiled Iranian bombing attempts in Denmark and France this year. So while Iran may try to conduct an attack inside the United States, it would need to get lucky to succeed.

If the Trump administration is smart, it will do all that it can to harden U.S. facilities and protect Americans while absorbing some of the inevitable blows to come. It should also reach out to Iran through U.S. partners that have good relations with the country, such as Oman, to try to de-escalate while also setting clear redlines in private to avoid an Iranian miscalculation. Finally, Trump should be satisfied to declare victory and boast that he got the upper hand on Iran by killing Soleimani—not take further military actions. But this type of restraint appears to run counter to Trump’s very nature. And even if he shows uncharacteristic self-restraint in the coming weeks, the desire for revenge in Iran, and the political momentum that desire is already beginning to generate, may inevitably draw the United States and Iran into a major conflict.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump

(WSJ) Bernard-Henri Lévy–The New War Against Africa’s Christians

A slow-motion war is under way in Africa’s most populous country. It’s a massacre of Christians, massive in scale and horrific in brutality. And the world has hardly noticed.

A Nigerian Pentecostal Christian, director of a nongovernmental organization that works for mutual understanding between Nigeria’s Christians and Muslims, alerted me to it. “Have you heard of the Fulani?” he asked at our first meeting, in Paris, speaking the flawless, melodious English of the Nigerian elite. The Fulani are an ethnic group, generally described as shepherds from mostly Muslim Northern Nigeria, forced by climate change to move with their herds toward the more temperate Christian South. They number 14 million to 15 million in a nation of 191 million.

Among them is a violent element. “They are Islamic extremists of a new stripe,” the NGO director said, “more or less linked with Boko Haram,” the sect that became infamous for the 2014 kidnapping of 276 Christian girls in the state of Borno. “I beg you,” he said, “come and see for yourself.” Knowing of Boko Haram but nothing of the Fulani, I accept.

The 2019 Global Terrorism Index estimates that Fulani extremists have become deadlier than Boko Haram and accounted for the majority of the country’s 2,040 documented terrorist fatalities in 2018. To learn more about them, I travel to Godogodo, in the center of the country, where I meet a beautiful woman named Jumai Victor, 28. On July 15, she says, Fulani extremists stormed into her village on long-saddle motorcycles, three to a bike, shouting “Allahu Akbar!” They torched houses and killed her four children before her eyes.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Nigeria, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence

(WSJ) On Christmas Eve in Hong Kong, Protests Are Still Going Strong

The night before Christmas was marked with tear gas and rubber bullets as police tried to disperse protesters gathered near the city’s harbor front, signaling a renewed escalation in the conflict after a few weeks of relative calm.

Hundreds gathered in the tourist-heavy neighborhood of Tsim Tsa Tsui to chant “fight for Hong Kong” and “five demands.” Around 9 p.m., riot police fired several rounds of tear gas near the Peninsula hotel, a luxury British colonial-era establishment that has been hit hard by falling numbers of tourists as months of protests drive the city into recession. As people fled, one protester threw an object at police, prompting one officer to fire rubber bullets.

An 18-year-old university student who identified herself as Rainbow Leung said she ran over after dinner to show solidarity with other locals fighting for their freedom.

“We want to support Hong Kong and stand against the violence,” Ms. Leung said. She canceled plans to attend an orchestra performance on Christmas Day to continue protesting. “The city is more important,” she added.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Hong Kong, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Politics in General

(CT) British Evangelicals Brace for Brexit

Faced with so many unknowns, British evangelicals are trying to remain focused on things that don’t change.

“It is essentially important our attitude to each other remains fueled by love,” Webster said. “As Brexit stumbles towards actually happening, evangelicals should not lose sight of loving our neighbor.”

In the end, the question of “how to Brexit like a Christian” has as many possible answers as the question of “how to Brexit” at all. Friendships have been tested, harsh words said, zealous positions taken.

That is because, John Stevens said, “there is no specific ‘biblical’ position on Brexit.” Stevens believes evangelicals have “to speak wisely and model unity-in-disagreement.”

“This will no doubt become easier once decisions are made and the uncertainty is ended,” he said. “In the meantime we need to keep praying for wisdom and grace, and keep trusting the good sovereign purposes of God. Who will win? At this point God knows. And that is the only true comfort.”

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Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(LSE) Ann Gillian Chu–Hong Kong: City of Protests, City of God?

The major difference between the pre- and post-Handover protests is this: prior to 1997, the people of Hong Kong had a sense that there was still potential for self-determination and idealisation once the Handover arrived. However, after the Handover, many became disillusioned with the process of Hong Kong’s Chinese assimilation due to the reversal of power between Hong Kong and mainland China. Accordingly, protests became a desperate cry rather than a look forward toward a hopeful future. Despite the differences in response pre- and post-Handover, there has always been a part of the Christian community that consider social justice to be a core concern of Christians, while there are those who consider social issues to be earthly concerns and urged the church to focus on evangelism alone.

Where do Hong Kong Christians go from here? There are those who aim to leave the Earthly City and look inward to the church community—withdrawn pietists—and there are those who think being Christian means having to engage with social justice and who are trying to fix the existing political system. But why should you care? The situation in Hong Kong presents important considerations on the nature of religious freedom for the rest of the world. Hong Kong has taken an unusual trajectory, having moved from a more free society to a more autocratic one. However, the shift toward autocratic political orders is becoming more and more common in the twenty-first century. Hong Kong’s political situation will provide a much-needed analysis of how Christians in a non-democratic, non-Christian society frame civic engagement. Watch Hong Kong and its prophetic existence.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Hong Kong, Politics in General

(Church Times) Hundreds of Christians in Nigeria ‘slaughtered’ by Islamist militia this year

More than 1000 Christians in Nigeria have been “slaughtered” by Islamist militia since January.

This is the key finding of a new report, Your Land or Your Blood, from the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), which was presented at the International Organisation for Peace and Social Justice (PSJ) crisis conference in London, last month. The PSJ promotes peace-building and social justice in Nigeria.

Since January, there have been five serious attacks in Kaduna State, in the centre of the country, resulting in an estimated 500 deaths. There were at least another five attacks in the counties of Bassa and Riyom, and more in Taraba State. The militant Islamist group Boko Haram remains in power around the Chad border region, including parts of Borno State in the north (News, 19 March).

More than 6000 people have been killed since 2015.

Baroness Cox, who founded HART to promote and support peace and development groups in Nigeria, has recently returned from a research trip to the country. She explained that the Fulani, a nomadic ethnic group of about 20 million people across 20 West- and Central-African countries, were largely responsible for the new wave of violence. The terrorist group was listed as the fourth most deadly in the Global Terrorism Index in 2016 and 2017.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Nigeria, Politics in General, Terrorism

(NYT) Suddenly, the Chinese Threat to Australia Seems Very Real

A Chinese defector to Australia who detailed political interference by Beijing. A businessman found dead after telling the authorities about a Chinese plot to install him in Parliament. Suspicious men following critics of Beijing in major Australian cities.

For a country that just wants calm commerce with China — the propellant behind 28 years of steady growth — the revelations of the past week have delivered a jolt.

Fears of Chinese interference once seemed to hover indistinctly over Australia. Now, Beijing’s political ambitions, and the espionage operations that further them, suddenly feel local, concrete and ever-present.

“It’s become the inescapable issue,” said Hugh White, a former intelligence official who teaches strategic studies at the Australian National University. “We’ve underestimated how quickly China’s power has grown along with its ambition to use that power.”

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Posted in Australia / NZ, China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(NI) Gordon Chang–Pro-China Forces ‘Annihilated’ in Hong Kong Election

Initial results from Sunday’s election in Hong Kong indicate that pro-democracy forces have handed Chinese ruler Xi Jinping a stunning setback. Pro-Beijing candidates are going down to defeat in District Council elections, the first real test of sentiment in the territory since protests began in April over the introduction of a bill authorizing extraditions to mainland China.

So far, pro-Dems have won 88.6 percent of the vote for 452 seats on 18 District Council boards. They have so far taken 351 seats versus 45 for the “establishment” forces. “Absolute political annihilation for the pro-Beijing camp” is how Stephen McDonell, a BBC China correspondent, described the result on Twitter. Tom Mitchell of the Financial Times called it a “Himalayan-sized avalanche.”

Turnout was a record 71.2 percent, well ahead of the previous high mark of 47.1 percent set in 2015, the year after the 79-day “Occupy” protests. A record 4.13 million people, in a region of 7.40 million, were registered to vote this year.

The District Councils, responsible for routine municipal services, have little power, but the Sunday elections took on significance, widely seen as a referendum on various matters because they are the only government bodies in Hong Kong whose members are elected by universal suffrage. “Sunday’s vote,” CNN noted on the eve of the election, “offers the first objective test of how people in the city feel about the protests and the government.”

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Hong Kong, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Politics in General

(Mirror) Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby says Jesus would not have got a UK visa

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby says Jesus would not have got a UK visa under the points-based system being proposed by the government.

The clergyman, who has been outspoken about social justice, said there would have to be a “shortage of carpenters” in Britain for Jesus to be granted entry during an event at the CBI conference in London.

He said: “Our founder Jesus Christ was of course not white, middle class and British – he certainly wouldn’t have got a visa – unless we’re particularly short of carpenters.”

The Archbishop was talking as part in a discussion on social inequality chaired by the BBC Business Editor Faisal Islam who shared a clip on his Twitter feed.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General

(Wash Post) Europe has resisted taking back citizens who joined ISIS. Now, it may not have a choice.

Bint Dahlia was 33 when she left Germany with her husband and children to start life in the Islamic State’s newly declared caliphate.

She is one of thousands of Europeans who did — and, five years later, one of hundreds trying to come back.

European governments have resisted repatriating their nationals since the caliphate crumbled. Leaders fear domestic attacks and public backlash and have argued that trials should take place regionally.

But now Europe’s hand is being forced. Although Turkey has said it is starting to deport people in its custody with suspected Islamic State links, even more significant are landmark court cases giving governments little choice.

Last week, an appeals court in Berlin ruled that the German government should repatriate Bint Dahlia alongside her three children from al-Hol, a squalid Kurdish-run camp inside Syria. (The woman’s real name was redacted in court documents shared with The Washington Post, and her relatives have asked that The Post use a family nickname for her safety.)

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

(CT’s The Exchange) Another Way for Immigration Reform? How Evangelicals Can Help Lead It

As I speak in evangelical churches on a regular basis, I find most evangelicals are desperate for an approach to immigration that respects biblical principles. That means keeping families together whenever possible, being fair to taxpayers and insisting that our government fulfill its God-ordained responsibility to secure our borders and protect citizens from harm.

It also means respecting the law – the point on which evangelicals feel most conflicted. While they don’t like raids and mass deportation, amnesty – which means dismissing and forgiving the violation of U.S. law – is also a non-starter.

The solution lies in the middle.

This week in Washington, D.C., the Evangelical Immigration Table unveiled an Evangelical Call for Restitution-Based Immigration Reform.

Dozens of the most prominent evangelical leaders in the country – leaders of evangelical denominations, presidents of Christian colleges and seminaries and pastors of prominent churches – voiced their support for a process that would require undocumented immigrants to get right with the law by paying a significant fine.

If they could pass a criminal background check and meet other requirements, they would be given the opportunity to gradually earn permanent legal status. Most immigrants I know would be thrilled to make things right and stay lawfully with their families.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NPR) An Advocate For Kazakhs Persecuted In China Is Banned From Activism In Kazakhstan

One afternoon last month, Serikjan Bilash went to the watchdog organization he co-founded in Almaty, Kazakhstan, to celebrate the opening of its new office.

Since its founding in 2017, the organization, Atajurt Eriktileri, has publicized thousands of accounts of ethnic Kazakhs who are among the primarily Muslim minorities rounded up in detention centers in Xinjiang, China.

But instead of entering the office that day, Bilash hovered outside the door, reaching only his hand in to greet well-wishers. The Kazakh government barred him from political activism for seven years for the charge of “inciting ethnic tensions.”

“I can work as a taxi driver. I can work as a cleaner or a barman. But I cannot work as a political person,” says Bilash, a Kazakh citizen born in China. “I can’t stand up, and I can’t speak openly to my nation. They closed my mouth.”

The punishment against Bilash has bolstered suspicions among Kazakh rights advocates that Kazakhstan’s government is working to silence a prominent critic of China in order to please its powerful neighbor and investment partner. That has sent chills through Kazakhstan’s Chinese-born community.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(BBC) British Parliament votes to delay Brexit

Boris Johnson has said he will press on “undaunted” with his Brexit strategy despite MPs backing the principle of a further delay to the process.

The PM vowed to introduce legislation needed to implement his “excellent” agreement in Parliament next week.

But he will have to ask the EU for an extension beyond 31 October after MPs backed a motion designed to rule out a no-deal exit by 322 votes to 306.

The EU said it was up to the UK to “inform it of the next steps”.

Ministers have signalled a vote on the PM’s revised Brexit agreement could now take place on Monday, depending on what the Speaker decides.

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Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(Economist) Drawing the line between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel

One reason debate over Israel gets heated is that both sides question each other’s motives. Supporters of Israel note that anti-Semites often cloak their prejudice in criticism of the Jewish state. They say some views—like saying that Israel should not exist—are by definition anti-Semitic. Pro-Palestinian advocates retort that charges of Jew-hatred are intended to silence them.

Such mistrust has grown in Britain and America, as anti-Semitism has resurfaced at both political extremes. On the left, legislators in America have accused pro-Israel colleagues of dual loyalty, and implied that Jewish money bought Republican support for Israel. In 2012 Jeremy Corbyn, now the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, defended a mural depicting hook-nosed bankers.

The right has used similar innuendo, often by linking liberals to George Soros, a Jewish investor. Muddying matters more, Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has also denounced Mr Soros. In America right-wing anti-Semitism also takes a more explicit, occasionally violent form. In 2017 marchers in Virginia chanted “Jews will not replace us.” And in 2018 a shooter at a synagogue in Pittsburgh killed 11 people.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Israel, Judaism, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Church Times) This is how to honour the referendum: Welby clarifies Bishops’ statement

A binary “winner-takes-all” approach to Brexit does not honour the result of the 2016 Referendum, the Archbishop of Canterbury said this week.

Archbishop Welby has written to clarify the College of Bishops’ statement, issued two weeks ago. He repeats his view that a no-deal Brexit would be a “moral failure”, an expression that attracted “intense criticism”, he reveals.

The College of Bishops produced a statement a fortnight ago which included the sentence: “In writing, we affirm our respect for the June 2016 Referendum, and our belief that the result should be honoured” (News, 4 October).

Archbishop Welby argues, in response to criticism of the statement, in the Church Times and elsewhere: “To honour or respect the 2016 Referendum result is not to sign up to Brexit at any cost.

“Honouring the result means no more than paying proper attention to an outcome that saw 52 per cent of those who voted favouring leave, but 48 per cent favouring remain.”

He goes on: “It does not mean that the Bishops have aligned themselves with any particular political party, faction, or wing within a party.”

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(FA) The Unwinnable Trade War–Everyone Loses in the U.S.-Chinese Clash—but Especially Americans

In late June, the leaders of China and the United States announced at the G-20 meeting in Osaka, Japan, that they had reached a détente in their trade war. U.S. President Donald Trump claimed that the two sides had set negotiations “back on track.” He put on hold new tariffs on Chinese goods and lifted restrictions preventing U.S. companies from selling to Huawei, the blacklisted Chinese telecommunications giant. Markets rallied, and media reports hailed the move as a “cease-fire.”

That supposed cease-fire was a false dawn, one of many that have marked the on-again, off-again diplomacy between Beijing and Washington. All wasn’t quiet on the trade front; the guns never stopped blazing. In September, after a summer of heated rhetoric, the Trump administration increased tariffs on another $125 billion worth of Chinese imports. China responded by issuing tariffs on an additional $75 billion worth of U.S. goods. The United States might institute further tariffs in December, bringing the total value of Chinese goods subject to punitive tariffs to over half a trillion dollars, covering almost all Chinese imports. China’s retaliation is expected to cover 69 percent of its imports from the United States. If all the threatened hikes are put in place, the average tariff rate on U.S. imports of Chinese goods will be about 24 percent, up from about three percent two years ago, and that on Chinese imports of U.S. goods will be at nearly 26 percent, compared with China’s average tariff rate of 6.7 percent for all other countries.

The parties to this trade war may yet step back from the abyss. There have been over a dozen rounds of high-level negotiations without any real prospect of a settlement. Trump thinks that tariffs will convince China to cave in and change its allegedly unfair trade practices. China may be willing to budge on some issues, such as buying more U.S. goods, opening its market further to U.S. companies, and improving intellectual property protection, in exchange for the removal of all new tariffs, but not to the extent demanded by the Trump administration. Meanwhile, China hopes that its retaliatory actions will cause enough economic pain in the United States to make Washington reconsider its stance.

The numbers suggest that Washington is not winning this trade war. Although China’s economic growth has slowed, the tariffs have hit U.S. consumers harder than their Chinese counterparts. With fears of a recession around the corner, Trump must reckon with the fact that his current approach is imperiling the U.S. economy, posing a threat to the international trading system, and failing to reduce the trade deficit that he loathes.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(Diocese of Oxford) A Christian response to Brexit

  1. –Watch over other faith and minority ethnic communities. Hate crimes and crimes against other faiths increased after the 2016 referendum. Reconnect with the mosques, synagogues and gudwaras in your area.
  2. –Encourage truthful and honest debate. The renewal of our politics will need to be local as well as national. Plan now to host hustings during the General Election campaign. Don’t be afraid of the political space but step into it with a message of faith, hope and love.
  3. –Pray in public worship and private prayer for the healing of our political life, for wisdom for those who lead us, for reconciliation between communities and for stability in our government.

Don’t underestimate what we can achieve if every church, chaplaincy and school does something and if every Christian disciple takes some action, however small.

Don’t take on too much either: loving our neighbour through the Brexit process needs to be woven into everything we do anyway, not simply added into busy lives. Don’t be limited by this checklist – you might have even better ideas. If you do, spread them around.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Religion & Culture

(CT) Syrian Christians to US: ‘Don’t Abandon Us Now’

The Kurdish-controlled area of northeast Syria stretches 300 miles from the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border. Approximately 750,000 people live there, including estimates of between 40,000 and 100,000 Christians.

Over 700,000 Christians have fled Syria since 2011. And while some warn of further displacement, others fear a greater threat.

“Turkey aims to kill and destroy us and to finish the genocide against our people,” said a statement issued by the Syriac Military Council, a Christian component of the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF), as reported by the Christian Broadcasting Network. “We hope and pray that as we have defended the world against ISIS, the world will not abandon us now.”

The Christian community of Qamishli, on the border with Turkey near Iraq, issued its own statement.

“The Turkish regime is based on armed extremist and radical groups that commit crimes against civilians and humanity,” said Sanharib Barsoum, the co-chair of the Syriac Union Party. “Such threats endanger the life of Syriac people in the region.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Middle East, Military / Armed Forces, Religion & Culture, Syria, Turkey

(Haaretz) President Trump’s Decision to Abandon Syria’s Kurds Is Bad News for All U.S. Regional Allies

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to move several hundred American soldiers out of the way as Turkey poises to invade southeast Syria is bad news for America’s allies in the region. Trump thereby gave a green light to a dangerous Turkish move while ditching America’s most reliable allies in Syria: the Kurdish fighters.

The president’s move paves the way for other players in the Syrian arena to realize their interests. First and foremost is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but ISIS, as well, and indirectly, the Bashar Assad regime in Syria and its two main supporters, Russia and Iran. From Jerusalem’s perspective, it is another warning sign that this president – until recently presented as Israel’s greatest friend ever in Washington – can’t be trusted.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Middle East

(Church Times) Love one another, C of E Bishops urge politicians

The language used in debates both inside and outside Parliament has become “unacceptable”, the Church of England’s bishops have said in a joint statement.

The College of Bishops published a statement on Friday which argues that the tenor of the political debate is “not worthy of our country”.

The declaration, which was drafted by a group of senior bishops and put out in the name of all 118 bishops, reads: “In the last few days, the use of language, both in debates and outside Parliament, has been unacceptable.

“We should speak to others with respect. And we should also listen. We should do this especially with the poor, with the marginalised, and with those whose voices are often not heard in our national conversation.

“We should not denigrate, patronise or ignore the honest views of fellow citizens, but seek to respect their opinions, their participation in society, and their votes.”

The statement was released a few hours after the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, joined calls for the Prime Minister to apologise for his “destructive” language in the House of Commons on Wednesday evening.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Language, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(NYT) China Wants the World to Stay Silent on Muslim Camps. It’s Succeeding.

When Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, visited Beijing this summer, he hailed a new Silk Road bridging Asia and Europe. He welcomed big Chinese investments for his beleaguered economy. He gushed about China’s sovereignty.

But Mr. Erdogan, who has stridently promoted Islamic values in his overwhelmingly Muslim country, was largely silent on the incarceration of more than one million Turkic Muslims in China’s western region of Xinjiang, and the forced assimilation of millions more. It was an about-face from a decade ago, when he said the Uighurs there suffered from, “simply put, genocide” at the hands of the Chinese government.

Like Mr. Erdogan, the world has been noticeably quiet about Xinjiang, where China has built a vast network of detention camps and systematic surveillance over the past two years in a state-led operation to convert Uighurs into loyal, secular supporters of the Communist Party. Even when diplomats have witnessed the problems firsthand and privately condemned them, they have been reluctant to go public, unable to garner broad support or unwilling to risk financial ties with China.

Backed by its diplomatic and economic might, China has largely succeeded in quashing criticism. Chinese officials have convinced countries to support Beijing publicly on the issue, most notably Muslim ones in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. They have played to the discord within the West over China. And they have waged an aggressive campaign to prevent discussion of Xinjiang at the United Nations.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(EF) Decade of tears and blood: 10 years of Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria

A decade after Boko Haram began a bloody campaign to impose sharia (Islamic law) on all of Nigeria, Christian leaders say some areas are still under the control of the terrorists.

The Rev. Mohammed Abubakar Naga, chairman of the Borno state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), told Morning Star News that the terrorists are still active in the northeastern part of the country where the group originated and has displaced thousands of people, effectively closing many churches.

“Gwoza East, especially the hills, has been taken over by Boko Haram,” Pastor Naga said by phone. “The terrorists still attack Christian communities there. This is even with the presence of personnel of the Nigerian army in the area.” After beginning a violent campaign to establish an Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria 10 years ago, Boko Haram has killed an estimated 35,000 civilians, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The agency said 37 aid workers lost their lives in the course of serving those displaced by the attacks. Two of the many pastors Boko Haram killed in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state include the Rev. Faye Pama Musa, then secretary of the CAN’s Borno state chapter, slain on May 14, 2013 after the terrorists followed him from his church building to his house and shot him to death; and Pentecostal pastor George Ojih, captured in 2009 and beheaded for refusing to recant his Christian faith.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Nigeria, Politics in General, Terrorism

Richard John Neuhaus for 9/11–September 11th, Before and After

Fourth, after some initial sortings out, America will identify itself even more closely with Israel. Disagreements over the justice of how Israel was founded and how it has maintained itself in existence will not disappear. But the diabolical face of the evil that threatens Israel, and us, is now unveiled. Among Americans and all who are part of our civilization, it will be understood that we must never surrender, or appear to be surrendering, to that evil. Finally, the question of “the West and the rest” will be powerfully sharpened, including a greatly heightened awareness of the global threats posed by militant Islam. Innocent Muslims in this country and Europe are undoubtedly in for some nastiness, and we must do our best to communicate the distinction between Islam and Islamism, knowing that the latter is the monistic fanaticism embraced by only a minority of Muslims. But almost inevitably, given the passions aroused and the difficulties of enforcing the law among people who are largely alien in their ways, such distinctions will sometimes get lost. We can only try to do our best by those Muslims who have truly chosen our side in “the clash of civilizations.” It seems likely also that, after September 11, discussion about immigration policy will become more intense, and more candid.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Islam, Israel, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

(Church Times) Alexander Faludy–After Brexit, bonds of affection are crucial

The Church of England can make a difference. Before the 2016 EU referendum vote, leading bishops sought to offer an appearance of neutrality which could easily be confused with disengagement. In the strange “between time” between the referendum and today, they belatedly sought to play the part of civic reconciler, urging churches to hold “tea and prayer drop-ins” to encourage better conversations (News, 22 March).

Unfortunately, clergy were not given either adequate notice or a supply of extra tea bags. The project occasioned more satire than mutual understanding. When it comes to improving Anglo-European understanding after Brexit, however, the Church does have significant, if latent, gifts to bring to the table.

To date, the C of E’s ecumenical relationships in Europe have mainly been appreciated by those who have specialist interests or personal ties to the partner Churches. Those partnerships could now be a source of social capital.

The Porvoo, Meissen, and Reuilly agreements connect us, respectively, with Christians in the Nordic and Baltic States, France, and Germany. After Brexit, link-scheme visits, exchanges, and prayer cycles might carry a new significance, emphasising a “bond in the spirit” with people to whom we are no longer bound by laws or trade.

Most people in the pews know little or nothing of the work of the fast-growing diocese in Europe. It, too, could be a valuable resource. Parishes and deaneries on “the mainland” might twin with their equivalents in the diocese in Europe for friendship and mutual support.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

A group of Church of England Bishops issue an open letter on Brexit

Seeing the evidence of division in every part of England, we are deeply concerned about:

  • Political polarisation and language that appears to sanction hate crime: the reframing of the language of political discourse is urgent, especially given the abuse and threats levelled at MPs doing their job.
  • The ease with which lies can be told and misrepresentation encouraged: leaders must be honest about the costs of political choices, especially for those most vulnerable.
  • The levels of fear, uncertainty and marginalisation in society, much of which lies behind the vote for Brexit, but will not be addressed by Brexit: poor people, EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in Europe must be listened to and respected.
  • The Irish border is not a mere political totem and peace in Ireland is not a ball to be kicked by the English: respect for the concerns on both sides of the border is essential.
  • The sovereignty of Parliament is not just an empty term, it is based on institutions to be honoured and respected: our democracy is endangered by cavalier disregard for these.
  • Attention must be paid not only to the Union, but also to the meaning of Englishness.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(FT) Putin and the Patriarchs–how geopolitics tore apart the Orthodox Church

Kirill thought his status as post-Soviet patriarch would earn him a key role of peacemaker, according to people close to the church. But when Russia annexed Crimea in February 2014, a rift opened between Kirill’s and Putin’s conceptions of the “Russian world”. Keenly aware that Putin’s actions severely undermined his authority in Ukraine, Kirill refused to absorb Crimea’s parishes and boycotted a ceremony in the Kremlin to celebrate Russia’s annexation.

Later that year, Putin underscored the rift by declaring that the Crimean town of Khersones — where Vladimir the Great, the first Christian ruler of Rus, was baptised in 988AD — was “Russia’s Temple Mount”.

The notion has no grounding in Orthodox theology and, by implication, undermines the primacy of Kiev and the Lavra. According to Roman Lunkin, a senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, it was an attempt to justify the annexation by presenting Putin as the protector of all Russian-speaking people.

The growing divide between Ukraine and Russia was underscored by the war with ­Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine shortly afterwards, where more than 13,000 have died. Filaret backed Ukraine’s offensive, saying the local population “must pay for their guilt [in rejecting Kiev’s authority] through suffering and blood”. Rebels in Donetsk, meanwhile, enjoyed support from Konstantin Malofeev, a Russian oligarch and prominent member of Moscow’s Orthodox elite.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Orthodox Church, Politics in General, Russia

(Church of Ireland) Bishop John McDowell–An Open Letter from a Border Bishop

The Border and the problems which it poses for any form of Brexit are not only technical or technological issues. Nor are they simply issues to do with trade or security matters. Expressed in the starkest terms, the Border is the background against which all political and much cultural life in Northern Ireland (and in a more limited way in the Republic of Ireland) is worked out. Some people like the Border and others do not, but positively or negatively, consciously or unconsciously, it is pivotal to how politicians and people here assess almost all policy alternatives.

For this reason alone, any big change which has an impact on the Border is unavoidably complicated and inevitably charged with emotional and symbolic significance.

After a period of relative obscurity, it now appears that everybody is fascinated by the Border. It is interesting, for a while, to be at the centre of the world’s attention. But on the whole I think many of us would rather have been left alone.

For a political border, it is very beautiful in places. That is largely because of the hundreds of small farms looked after by hundreds of sturdy farmers along its length. There isn’t much money in it for most of them, but if you ask them why they don’t move to somewhere less difficult to farm they say “You can’t roll up the land and take it with you”. The long term well–being of men and women like these, and their neighbours all along the border, requires and deserves a clearly spelt–out, sustainable agreement between both sides. This is so that they have not only that material basis necessary for civilised living but also hope for their children’s future. Neither peace nor prosperity are possible without hope.

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Posted in Church of Ireland, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General