Category : Foreign Relations

(NPR) Pakistan’s High Court Acquits Asia Bibi, Christian Woman On Death Row For Blasphemy

Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday announced the acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was convicted and sentenced to death in 2010 for blasphemy in a case that has roiled the country.

In the courtroom, it took less a minute for the chief justice, Saqib Nisar, to upturn a series of legal rulings that had kept Bibi on death row for eight years.

In terse remarks to the hushed, packed courtroom, he said that Bibi’s conviction and sentence had been voided.

In a 56-page verdict issued after the ruling, the three-judge bench appeared to side with Bibi’s advocates. They have maintained that the case against the 51-year-old illiterate farmhand was built around a grievance by her fellow Muslim workers, who appeared angry that she might drink from the same vessel as them. She was ordered by a local landlord to bring water to the women on a day while they were picking berries.

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

(CT) Free at Last: Andrew Brunson Released by Turkey After Two Years

American pastor Andrew Brunson has been released after being detained for two years in Turkey.

At a hearing this morning, a Turkish court freed him from judicial control, which lifts his house arrest and travel ban.

Despite a guilty verdict sentencing him to 3 years, 1 month, and 15 days in prison, Brunson may return home to the United States as soon as today due to good behavior and time already served.

NBC News broke the news yesterday of the expected deal between Turkey and the United States over Brunson, a North Carolina pastor who had worked in Izmir for decades and was arrested on terrorism and espionage charges in the aftermath of a failed coup in 2016.

US officials and religious freedom advocates considered the charges against Brunson to be erroneous, and multiple witnesses retracted their testimonies against him during today’s hearing.

Trump administration officials were optimistic but cautious that Turkey would follow through on the deal, reported The Washington Post. The deal would likely lift recent US sanctions in exchange for Brunson’s release by being sentenced today to time already served.

Officials expect Brunson to “be handed back his passport and put on a plane to the US,” reported The Wall Street Journal….

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Missions, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Turkey

(NYT) Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040

A landmark report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change paints a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought and says that avoiding the damage requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent.”

The report, issued on Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders, describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040 — a period well within the lifetime of much of the global population.

The report “is quite a shock, and quite concerning,” said Bill Hare, an author of previous I.P.C.C. reports and a physicist with Climate Analytics, a nonprofit organization. “We were not aware of this just a few years ago.” The report was the first to be commissioned by world leaders under the Paris agreement, the 2015 pact by nations to fight global warming.

The authors found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels by 2040, inundating coastlines and intensifying droughts and poverty.

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Posted in Anthropology, Climate Change, Weather, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Theology

(AS) Bill Murchison–Is Anti-Semitism Creeping Back Under Episcopal Church Auspices?

I return to the so-called Israeli question: the acid test of logic, saying nothing of decency and generosity. The infection of anti-Semitism appears to be spreading. As if “the Jews” somehow — as used to be asserted by the brain-deprived — league and conspire and plot and plan to take over the world. I think we must not tax my fellow Episcopalians — at this present time —with outright anti-Semitism; that is, with the desire to put the Jews in their place. At General Convention, they affirmed, formalistically, Israel’s right to exist within secure borders. Then, without a sideways glance at Palestinian vows to eradicate Israel, and at the street violence constantly to be feared, and often witnessed, the Episcopal resolutions slammed Israel for measures intended to keep the peace: measures sometimes violent, sometimes ham-handed but generally efficient.

The problem is not American in isolation. It is international. It is political. In the July/August issue of Commentary, Melanie Phillips, the British journalist, asks whether the Jews of Europe should ponder leaving — given the recrudescence in their homelands of squalid anti-Semitism, practiced by the left. The same left, more or less, that dominates the national hierarchy of the Episcopal Church. “The symbiosis,” she writes, “between hatred of the Jewish state and hatred of the Jews is now part of the DNA of the progressive world.” It arises “because the West is in trouble. And a society in trouble always turns on the Jews.”

The Phillips thesis delves deeply into the moral flabbiness that seems, in 2018, to characterize judgment of rights and wrongs in the relationships of nations and people jostling each other in the communist twilight, seeking to distinguish friend from adversary and competitor.

A certain clarity in foreign policy — so he claims — lights up the mind of Donald J. Trump. More than anything else, it underscores the unclarity, the confusion muddying up 21stcentury life.

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Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, General Convention, Israel, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Conservative Religious Leaders Are Denouncing Trump Immigration Policies

Leaders of many faiths — including JewsMainline ProtestantsMuslims and others — have spoken out consistently against the president’s immigration policies. What has changed is that now the objections are coming from faith groups that have been generally friendly to Mr. Trump.

A coalition of evangelical groups, including the National Association of Evangelicals and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, sent a letter to President Trump on June 1 pleading with him to protect the unity of families and not to close off all avenues to asylum for immigrants and refugees fleeing danger.

The Southern Baptist Convention, a conservative evangelical denomination that is the nation’s largest Protestant church, passed a resolution on Tuesday at its meeting in Dallas calling for immigration reform that maintains “the priority of family unity.” The measure called for both securing the nation’s borders, and providing a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants living in the country. It passed on a near unanimous vote of the thousands of delegates in the room.

“We declare that any form of nativism, mistreatment, or exploitation is inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” the resolution said.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Washington Post) Bernard Lewis, eminent historian of the Middle East, dies at 101

Bernard Lewis, a preeminent scholar of Middle Eastern history whose work profoundly shaped Western views of the region — including fears of a “clash of civilizations” — but also brought scorn from critics who considered his views elitist and favoring Western intervention, died May 19 at an assisted-living facility in Voorhees, N.J. He was 101.

The death was confirmed by his romantic partner and co-author, Buntzie Churchill, who did not cite a specific cause.

Dr. Lewis’s prolific scholarship — including more than 30 books, hundreds of articles and competence in at least a dozen languages — traced fault lines that define the modern Middle East, such as sectarian divisions, the rise of radical Islamists and entrenched dictatorships, some backed by the West.

Along the way, Dr. Lewis often gained a privileged vantage point for events in the region during a life that spanned the era of T.E. Lawrence, oil discoveries in Arabia and showdowns against the Islamic State.

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Posted in Anthropology, Books, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Middle East, Religion & Culture

(CT Gleanings) Families Who Cross the Border Together Won’t Stay Together

amily unity is among the biggest factors for American evangelicals advocating for immigration reform; it comes up in almost every statement, prayer, and open letter rallying believers around the cause.

And it continues to prove a major concern, as the government’s recent crackdown on border-crossings requires authorities to split up parents and children who illegally enter the country together.

Despite the pleas from top evangelical leaders—including some of President Donald Trump’s advisers—to protect the family unit, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced this week that all adults caught by Border Patrol would be prosecuted as criminals while their children would be separated and treated as if they entered the US as unaccompanied minors.

“I have put in place a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for illegal entry on our Southwest border. If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple,” he said on Monday in San Diego, where a caravan of migrants, many of them mothers and children, had arrived a week before.

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Posted in Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General

(CEN) The shameful treatment of the Windrush generation

Britain invited these West Indian citizens from the Caribbean after the economic devastation of WWII to join the labour force.

As has been pointed out, at that time the UK was not part of the EU but of the worldwide family of nations known as the Empire. The migrants who came were in fact British subjects: that was their constitutional identity in relation the UK.

They arrived here as to the mother country of the British Empire, not as strangers, and they were shocked that in many areas they were faced with racist abuse. They wanted to integrate into society, back then a Christian society in many ways.

They filled vacant jobs and proved vital in helping rebuild war-ravaged Britain. So now, when we hear that their children are suffering government pressure to ‘go home’, as if illegal immigrants, it is shocking news. Furthermore, papers certifying the status of these second-generation Windrush invitees have been destroyed by the Home Office.

As this horror story was coming out the heads of the Commonwealth were meeting – it could not have been a more sensitive moment: the family of nations continuing from the British Empire must have been truly upset by British behaviour towards their people who were nothing but loyal and hard-working citizens. Individual stories of people being denied health care or threatened with deportation brought home the real unpleasantness they have had to face.

From the Christian angle this kind of treatment is simply wrong and needs to be reversed and compensated for, whatever the origins of the victims. But in this case we are talking about a population of often deeply Christian people, fellow members of the Body of Christ.

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Posted in Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Religion & Culture, West Indies

(Church Times) PM Theresa May apologises to Windrush British citizens

After pressure from campaigners, the Prime Minister was forced into a U-turn this week after she initially refused to meet Caribbean leaders to discuss the plight of the “Windrush generation” — a reference to the ship Empire Windrush, which, in 1948, brought workers from the West Indies to Britain — who face deportation despite living in Britain for decades…

Thousands of people from the Caribbean, including children who travelled under their parent’s passport, made their home in Britain between 1948 and 1971. Owing to a lack of paperwork, many children of the Windrush generation have struggled to prove that they are in the UK legally, and have faced the prospect of deportation and the suspension of benefits or access to health services.

In a meeting on Tuesday, Theresa May apologised to the 12 Caribbean heads of government for the treatment of the Windrush citizens, and promised that no one would be deported.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Caribbean, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Religion & Culture

(1st Things) Michael Doran–The Theology of Foreign Policy

Allow me to stand, like a tourist on the lip of the Grand Canyon, and marvel at the wondrous chasm that separates the Jacksonian and Progressive persuasions. They differ in their understandings of: human nature (as broken or perfectible, static or malleable); morality (as absolute or relative); the relationship between the individual and society (as requiring personal responsibility, or as requiring collective and systemic solutions); the proper role of government (to safeguard personal liberty, or to safeguard equality); the mission of the United States in the world (to be a beacon of freedom, or to lead the way toward a new era of peace and brotherhood); and the meaning of history (as maintaining a holding pattern until the end of days, or as leading inevitably to human betterment).

These began as religious disagreements. Yet even as God recedes from our public life, the disagreements persist. Perhaps it is because God has receded that they persist. In a secular world, there is no universal moral authority capable of adjudicating between the two sides. All we have now are experts.

For the better part of a century, the descendants of H. L. Mencken have dominated our cultural life. They have relentlessly presented the preferences of the Progressive persuasion as if they flowed directly from science, logic, and secular expertise. Our latter-day Menckens have painted the religious face of Jacksonianism as mumbo jumbo, while depicting secular Jacksonians as bigots, ignoramuses, or worse. But the Progressive persuasion is every bit as religious and irrational as the Jacksonian persuasion. Its vision of history and of America’s place in it is no more scientifically verifiable than dispensational premillennialism’s belief in the Rapture. Indeed, the Progressive persuasion’s belief in the perfectibility of man defies all experience—at least all of my experience. It is a conviction that can only be described as theological, yet our schools teach it as if it were science.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Theology

A Group of C of E Bishops’ Easter letter warns of slavery in our midst

Slavery is on the rise in Britain in a way we have not seen since the days of William Wilberforce. Last year 5,145 victims were found in the UK. It is a big increase on 2016’s figure, but it still does not come close to the tens of thousands that the National Crime Agency believes are hidden.

It might seem that we should leave this problem to the police. But this Easter we are asking everyone to open their eyes to the signs of potential exploitation around them. The Clewer Initiative, our national anti-slavery project, educates people on what to look out for. New life for those entombed in darkness.

As Wilberforce said more than 200 years ago, “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say you did not know.”

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence, Women

(CBS) Marking 7 bloody years since the Syrian civil war

Take the time to watch it all and pray for the end to this unimaginable tragedy.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Middle East, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Syria, Uncategorized, Violence

(ACNS) Anglican Bishop of Boga, Mugenyi William Bahemuka, predicts a Congolese genocide

In the past month, three new military bases have been established by the United Nations’ peace-keeping force in the democratic Republic of Congo – MONUSCO – in the Djugu territory of Ituri province, but it has so-far failed to stem the increasing tide of violence. Last week, 33 people were killed in an attack on the village of Maze. The Bishop of Bogo, Mugenyi William Bahemuka, has said that it is “difficult to confirm” that the recent violence is an extension of ethnic and tribal conflicts. “Is it a planned insurgency that will turn out to be either a civil war or a genocide?” he asked. “Both are situations no one would like to experience. Once again we need prayer and advocacy for peace.”

Bishop William said: “It is becoming difficult to understand the main reason of the killings in Djugu. The situation appears to be beyond control as time goes on. The Provincial and National governments keep assuring people that that situation will come to an end soon. Community leaders and politicians from the two communities claim to dissociate an ethnic conflict on what is happening in Djugu.

“On the night of Thursday to Friday, the village of Maze and few surrounding villages were attacked – and this is happening after the deployment of police, the army and United Nations’ peace-keeping forces in the area. . . Who is behind all this? No answer is found yet.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Africa, Anglican Church in Congo/Province de L'Eglise Anglicane Du Congo, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Religion & Culture, Republic of Congo, Theology, Violence

(Daily Mail) Brexit and a broken Britain: The Archbishop of Canterbury says the inequality and division in the UK is our ‘greatest challenge since WW2’

As a country, we are facing our biggest challenge and shake-up to society since the Second World War.

As we look around, we see divisions and inequalities that are already damaging our way of life. But we also see grounds for hope and the capacity to overcome our problems.

Brexit makes the future more uncertain. We must heal the divisions caused by the vote and accept the dissenting voice as well as the majority. Those who disagree with us are not our enemies.

I’m not Eeyorish about our prospects post-Brexit, but neither am I blandly optimistic that we are destined for the sunlit uplands.

The reality is that over the past few decades – under governments from across the political spectrum, and driven by forces beyond the powers of any one party – the most important building blocks of our nation have been undermined….

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Books, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Mark Simon: Who Made Xi Jinping Pope? A Vatican-China deal is imminent. Millions of Chinese Catholics should be afraid.

Ever since the red flag rose over China in 1949, Roman Catholics there have suffered because of their fidelity to the pope in Rome. Now the Holy Father himself has become a source of tribulation. In its eagerness to reach a deal with China, the Vatican is elevating the persecutors over the persecuted.

Xi Jinping, an atheist and hard-line communist, became leader of China in 2012. The Chinese government has since stepped up its violations of human rights, including religious freedom. This is no accident. In 2016 President Xi declared that all party members should be “firm Marxist atheists and never find any of their beliefs in any religion.” The following year, in a speech that emphasized the dominance of the Communist Party over all Chinese life, he said the government would work to “Sinicize” religion—a euphemism for total control over the faith.

Against this backdrop, for some reason Pope Francis and his Vatican diplomatic corps think now is a good time to deal with Beijing. Given Mr. Xi’s view that religion is often a cover for anti-regime activities, it is hard to see him accommodating anything other than total surrender. Fortunately for Mr. Xi, Pope Francis is on the other side of the table….

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic