Category : Europe

(Psephizo) Isabelle Hamley–Why does Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral matter?

It was therefore deeply moving, last night, to hear journalists groping for words they had almost forgotten—words that speak of faith and what faith had meant to the nation over the years. Many of them were trying to put into words the sense of connection they felt to the cathedral, how moved they were to hear hymns and prayers from Christians surrounding them, and find words that would nurture hope. This morning, journalists were tentatively using the word ‘miracle’ as they contemplated the picture of the inside of the cathedral, the cross illuminated from the side windows, still intact, and heard of the news that many windows had survived, and the organ maybe too. To hear these words spoken with awe and genuine interrogation is nothing short of a miracle – and it may be short lived. But as I listened, I realised that Notre-Dame had lived up to its destiny: it reminded a people of its past, and of the hope of new life we find at the foot of the cross.

France has tried very hard to push God away, and forget the faith of centuries. But when the people fell silent, the very stones cried out. The question is, now that we remember, what will we do with these memories for the future? There is a small window of opportunity for the nature of public discourse to change. For the derision and suspicion of faith to morph into respect and attentive listening. Yesterday, the French president embraced the rector of the cathedral. Church and state in a long forgotten embrace? It was a fleeting image, and yet a hint that new life, new ways of imagining our life together are always possible.

And for me, this is the real question of the rebuilding. What is it we are rebuilding? What kind of vision will animate the endless years of work ahead? Will we listen to the memory of stones, and honour the God whose cross triumphed over destruction, fire and ashes? Notre-Dame held memories we had forgotten; will we accept God’s gift of memory, and reshape some of the distorted, incomplete stories we tell ourselves, so that we can move into a better future? I hope and pray that we do; and I believe that we can, because I believe in the God of Good Friday and of Easter Sunday, who ultimately holds all memory, all past and future in his hand.Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Police/Fire, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

Archbishops of Canterbury and York ask cathedrals and churches to toll bells Tomorrow for Notre Dame

From there:

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are today encouraging, where possible, all cathedrals and churches across England to toll a bell for 7 minutes at 7pm this Thursday, as a mark of solidarity following the devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. This initiative has been suggested by the British Ambassador to France, Edward Llewellyn, and it is hoped that many will take part.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Church of England (CoE), France, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Police/Fire

(BBC) Anti-Semitism threatens Romania’s fragile Jewish community

Ugly scenes of smashed and toppled headstones at a Jewish cemetery in Romania have shocked the country’s dwindling Jewish community and prompted international condemnation.

Vandals badly damaged 73 gravestones in the north-eastern town of Husi earlier this month, amid a surge in anti-Semitic attacks across Europe.

“It’s a very disturbing event, but it’s nothing surprising,” said Maximillian Marco Katz, founding director of the Centre for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism in Romania.

“It shows that anti-Semitism is alive, it doesn’t matter who did it,” he told the BBC.

“They didn’t knock down two or three gravestones, they knocked down 73 gravestones – that takes some determination and it takes time.”

A criminal investigation has been opened.

Read it all.

Posted in Judaism, Religion & Culture, Romania

(RNS) Beth Allison Barr–History lends plenty of hope for the resurrection of Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral

Henry VI of England was crowned also king of France here, a mostly empty title for him in the midst of the Hundred Years’ War. More than 300 years later, Napoleon Bonaparte would crown himself emperor of France here, a title which meant a bit more, at least for a short while. Here, the bells would ring the end of World War I and World War II.

As I watched the flames engulf the 19th-century spire, I could almost see the medieval world. Fire was an ever-present reality for both the timber frames of medieval towns and the inner frames of buildings like cathedrals.

Just this past summer I was studying a manuscript at the Weston Library in Oxford, a medieval liturgical book belonging to St. Chad’s, one of the four parish churches in Shrewsbury, Shropshire. A small note written on the bottom of one of the folios describes a 14th-century tragedy: “a fire burnt the whole parish of St. Alkmund’s starting at daybreak on the eve of Pentecost….anno. 1312.”

The comment was written without much fanfare, but as I watched the fiery spire of Notre Dame crumble and collapse into the burning building, my thoughts strayed to the desperate medieval bodies who would have worked tirelessly on that holy night in 14th-century Shrewsbury. They would have struggled to bring water from the River Severn, snaking silver around their town, trying to contain a fire quickly consuming the heart of their town and endangering the lives of their families and friends. Just like the fire of Notre Dame, they would only be partially successful. They would save the town at the cost of a parish.

Stories of catastrophic fires fill the pages of medieval and early modern history.

In 1174, a fire spread from a nearby cottage in Canterbury, England, to the wooden roof of Canterbury Cathedral. The heat was so intense that it melted the roof and caused significant damage to parts of the cathedral. St. Paul’s Cathedral in London burned at least three times in its long history, the most famous of which was the Great Fire of 1666.

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Posted in Church History, England / UK, Europe, Police/Fire

The World Famous Notre Dame Cathedral is Devastated by Fire

Posted in France, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Eternal God, the whole cosmos sings of thy glory, from the dividing of a single cell to the vast expanse of interstellar space: We offer thanks for thy theologian and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who didst perceive the divine in the evolving creation. Enable us to become faithful stewards of thy divine works and heirs of thy everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ, the firstborn of all creation, who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, France, Spirituality/Prayer

Remembering Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945): III

I have made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period of our national history with the Christian people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people.

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a final letter to Rienhold Niebuhr before departing America for Germany in 1939

Posted in America/U.S.A., Church History, Germany

Remembering Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945): II

PRESENTER: Should Bonhoeffer be regarded as a Protestant Saint?

ARCHBISHOP: What makes it an interesting question is that he himself says in one of his very last letters to survive, that he doesn’t want to be a saint; he wants to be a believer. In other words he doesn’t want to be some kind of, as he might put it, detached holy person. He wants to show what faith means in every day life. So I think in the wider sense, yes he’s a saint; he’s a person who seeks to lead an integrated life, loyal to God, showing God’s life in the world. A saint in the conventional sense? Well, he wouldn’t have wanted to be seen in that way.

Archbishop Rowan Williams on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, speaking in 2006

Posted in Church History, Germany

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Gracious God, the Beyond in the midst of our life, who gavest grace to thy servant Dietrich Bonhoeffer to know and teach the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, and to bear the cost of following him: Grant that we, strengthened by his teaching and example, may receive thy word and embrace its call with an undivided heart; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, Germany, Spirituality/Prayer

(RNS) Shattered statues and satanic symbols mark rise in attacks on French churches

Sometimes it’s a cross of human excrement smeared on a church wall, with stolen Communion hosts stuck at the four corners. Other times, a statue of the Virgin Mary lies shattered on the floor.

Now and then, a fire breaks out in a house of prayer.

Roman Catholic churches have increasingly come under attack in France, a country so long identified with Christianity that it used to be called “the eldest daughter of the church.”

A recent fire at St. Sulpice, the second-largest church in Paris, has shed light on a trend that has become commonplace in many smaller towns.

“Who has heard of the sacking of the monastery of Saint Jean des Balmes in Aveyron? Of those teenagers who urinated into the holy water font of the church at Villeneuve de Berg in Ardèche?” the Paris daily Le Figaro asked last week in an article highlighting some of the lesser-known profanations around the country this month.

Incidents such as these get a brief mention in the press, complete with quotes from Catholics shocked at the sight of scattered hosts or beheaded statues, and sometimes a short video clip on national television.

Read it all.

Posted in France, Religion & Culture, Violence

(CH) The Oldest National Church in the World

When investigating the origin of church-state collaboration, most Westerners look back to Constantine and the 313 Edict of Milan, which made Christianity the favored religion in the Roman Empire. But Christianity likely achieved state- approved status even earlier in Armenia, where celebrations this year will commemorate 1,700 years of faith.

According to legend, in 301 Gregory the Illuminator (so named because he “enlightened the nation with the light of the gospel”) ascended from a stone pit after 13 years of imprisonment for refusing to renounce his faith. He then cured Armenia’s King Tiridates III of madness and converted him to Christianity. Gregory went on to establish the church in Armenia on the spot where he saw Christ descend in a vision. In all his efforts, Gregory built on the groundwork laid by the apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew, who reportedly preached the Gospel in Armenia as early as the first century.

(Note: Recent scholarship suggests that most or all of Gregory’s accomplishments are more accurately dated to the years between 313 and 316, meaning Rome was actually first to convert, but Armenia’s sticking with 301 because the year “has always traditionally enjoyed the character of official acceptance.”)

Read it all.

Posted in Armenia, Church History

(New Statesman) Rowan Williams–Brexit shows Britain is no longer able to imagine a “common good”

Democracy rests on a presupposition that is not often made explicit. Popular consent implies that everyone’s view and interest, without restriction, is worth taking into account in the running of a society – which is why the principle on which democracy rests is the same principle that affirms the rights of minorities and the need to continue testing the strength of popular consent. Any search for a permanent resolution of social issues that is declared to be beyond argument or challenge is a move away from the fundamental principle.

In other words, two salient aspects of a consistent democracy are that we go on arguing, and that our freedom to do so is protected. The law defends us from coercion and forcible silencing. Without these, we have naked populism, a reversion to the situation where the powerful (in numbers, wealth or status) determine what is “right”. Genuine politics gives way to suppressed or threatened violence.

In genuine politics – if there is no overwhelming consensus, and if the people who disagree with us are not going to oblige us by simply going away, and if coercion is not an option because of our legal settlement – we are committed to argument and negotiation. And this entails a readiness to suspend belief in the unqualified rightness of our own interests and to try to imagine a state of affairs emerging that could be manageable both for us and for those who do not share our ideas or priorities.

So to find ourselves – as we now regularly do – in a situation where opposing groups each regard the other’s agenda as the worst outcome imaginable is a dire situation for democracy. Not because it is not nice to be so rude to each other, but because it indicates a disturbing loss of any sense that there might be common goals that we can only discover through a process of argument and scrutiny; a loss of any willingness to think around the corners of the definitions we started with.

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Posted in --Rowan Williams, Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Theology

(BBC) A key Moment in History Remembered today–Sheffield bomber crash: Flypast on 75th anniversary

Thousands of people cheered a flypast honouring 10 airmen who died when their plane crashed in a park 75 years ago.

The US bomber came down in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield on 22 February 1944, killing everyone on board.

A campaign for a flypast started after a chance meeting between BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker and Tony Foulds, who tends a park memorial.

A tearful Mr Foulds was given a rousing round of applause as the planes flew over. He said: “This is unbelievable.”

Relatives of the aircrew and thousands of people from across Britain paid their respects as the planes roared over the memorial at about 08:45 GMT.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Denmark, England / UK, Germany, History, Military / Armed Forces

(The Local) The yellow vests and France’s new wave of anti-Semitism

For 30 years or so, there has also been a radical muslim and ultra-leftist strand of anti-Semitism in France, born from support for Palestine and hatred of capitalism (seen as dominated by wealthy Jews). The revival of anti-Semitic acts, and violence, in the 1990s and the 2000’s was mostly due to this new phenomenon.

The figurehead of this “new anti-Semitism” is M’bala M’Bala Dieudonné, the stand-up comedian who has been convicted of anti-Semitic hate-speech. His emblem is the “quenelle”, an arm gesture which may or may not be a perversion of the Hitler salute. It has certainly become a widespread means of deniable, anti-Semitic behaviour.

The kind of graffiti which appeared in Paris last weekend – the swastikas and the word “juden” – bear the finger-prints of the older, rather than the newer brand of anti-Semitism. Increasingly, however, it is difficult to tell them apart.

Anti-Semitic slogans can be found on Gilet Jaunes banners and anti-Semitic arguments in Gilets Jaunes sites on the internet. “Macron once worked for a Rothschilds bank. He is a tool of ultra-liberal, globalist forces, controlled by Jews….”

This is not something that you hear from “ordinary” yellow vests on roundabouts. Anti-Semitism has specifically been decried in several lists of Gilets Jaunes positions and demands.

But there is undeniably a sickening anti-Semitic obsession in one section of the yellow vests movement. It is tempting to attribute this influence to Dieudonné’s political mentor, Alain Soral.

Read it all.

Posted in France, Judaism, Religion & Culture

Saturday Food for Thought from Gerhard Ebeling

Found there:

“To pursue the problem of church discipline to the depth of its rootedness and the breadth of its branchings out is to be referred to the [very] center of theological thinking. Indeed, of all of the questions that beset the church today and demand resolution, I know of none upon which the themes of theology converge so decisively, none whose resolution is so urgent and would be of such fundamental and far-reaching significance, as that of church discipline.”

Posted in Church History, Ecclesiology, Germany, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(DN) Amsterdam’s mayor: ‘prostitutes should not be a tourist attraction’

Amsterdam’s mayor Femke Halsema has called for changes to the city’s red light district, arguing that turning prostitution into a tourist attraction is ‘humiliating’ and ‘unacceptable’. The mayor, who took office last June, told Het Parool she wanted to consider all options for reforming the area, including the status quo, but gave a clear signal that the current situation was untenable. ‘The circumstances in which women have to do their work have worsened. So I can understand why a lot of Amsterdammers think: this is not the way we want prostitution to be or how it was supposed to be,’ she said. There has been growing concern that the number of tourists flocking to the red light district has made it more difficult for prostitutes to work in the area and compromised their safety. Unlicensed prostitution remains a problem in the city and has been linked to human trafficking.

Read more at DutchNews.nl:

Read it all.

Posted in City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Sexuality, The Netherlands, Urban/City Life and Issues

(NYT) Sharp Rise in Anti-Semitic Acts in France Stokes Old Fears

Swastikas drawn on portraits of a women’s rights champion and Holocaust survivor in Paris; the word “Juden” (Jews, in German) spray-painted on a bagel bakery; a tree planted in memory of a young Jewish man who was tortured to death, chopped down in a Paris suburb.

A spate of reports in recent days illustrates what the government officially confirmed on Tuesday: Anti-Semitic incidents have risen sharply in France. Such episodes jumped by 74 percent in 2018, to 541, up from 311 in 2017, the interior ministry reported.

“Anti-Semitism is spreading like a poison, like a bile,” the interior minister, Christophe Castaner, said on Monday as he visited the site of the felled tree.

The tree was a memorial to Ilan Halimi, a Jewish man who was kidnapped and tortured to death after being held captive for three weeks by members of a French criminal gang in 2006. The authorities and Jewish institutions were preparing to commemorate the 13th anniversary of Mr. Halimi’s death, which falls on Wednesday, when the tree was found destroyed.

Read it all.

Posted in France, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Impose a Speed Limit on the Autobahn? Not So Fast, Many Germans Say

With few exceptions, like Afghanistan and the Isle of Man, there are highway speed limits essentially everywhere else in the world.

But this is Germany, the self-declared “auto nation,” where Karl Benz built the first automobile and where cars are not only the proudest export item but also a symbol of national identity.

It’s also the country where, in darker times, Hitler laid the groundwork for a network of multilane highways that in the postwar years came to epitomize economic success — and freedom.

Call it Germany’s Wild West: The autobahn is the one place in a highly regulated society where no rule is the rule — and that place is sacred….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Germany, Travel

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Josephine Margaret Bakhita

O God of Love, thou didst deliver servant Josephine Margaret Bakhita from the bondage of slavery to serve you in true freedom; by her example help us to see those enslaved among us, and work to release them from their chains. In your mercy, give to all survivors healing from their wounds and joy in their liberation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Italy, Spirituality/Prayer, Sudan

(The Conversation) Katie Gaddini+Linda Woodhead–Brexit shines light on Church of England rift between leadership and Anglican majority

In sharp contrast to the evangelicals, other Anglican voters in England cited immigration as a major issue persuading them to vote Leave, as they wanted to preserve England’s cultural-ethnic identity. Most important of all, however was their concern about excessive EU interference.

For now, the archbishops and and like-minded bishops are in power at the top of the Church of England, but without the support of most grassroots Anglicans. Their stance on Brexit makes this very plain. Traditionally the Church of England has been “the Tory party at prayer” and, in terms of votes cast, it still is.

But the “old guard” of mainline Anglicans is slowly dying out and the new breed of enthusiastic, charismatic-evangelical clergy are having more success in winning over some young people. Supporters of their approach – like the archbishops – say that speaking in tongues and other charismatic practices are the best way to revive the dying Church of England. Opponents say that they are likely to drive out the last remaining Anglicans and alienate their children. Either way, it will affect the political complexion of England as a whole.

Read it all.(Please however note that the authors sadly repeat the completely fallacious idea that 81% of evangelicals voted for Trump. For why this statistic is just wrong see here,there, and here among many places).

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Europe, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Andrei Rublev

Holy God, we bless thee for the gift of thy monk and icon writer Andrei Rublev, who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, provided a window into heaven for generations to come, revealing the majesty and mystery of the holy and blessed Trinity; who livest and reignest through ages of ages. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Russia, Spirituality/Prayer

C of E General Synod to debate call for reconciliation for divided nation

The UK’s political leaders should draw on “Christian hope and reconciliation” to help steer the country through a time of seemingly “entrenched and intractable” divisions, according to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

The call comes in the text of a special motion on the state of the nation, tabled by the two archbishops, to be debated by the Church of England’s General Synod, which meets in London next month.

Read it all.

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

(Church Times) ‘Put aside differences’ to find a way through on Brexit, Bishop Lowson tells politicians

Politicians need to put aside their personal differences to find a way through on Brexit, the Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Revd Christopher Lowson, said on Wednesday.

Speaking after the defeat of the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement, Bishop Lowson said: “The need is for us as a nation, and especially in the Commons, is to listen to the people and to find a way forward that most can agree on.”

He went on: “We need to put aside our personal differences to find this way. Whether we have a general election or a second referendum is a question for the politicians.

“But I think there needs to be some kind of discovery process so the Commons can work out what they find acceptable — taking the temperature of what is possible. There has to be some give and take, though.

“As a nation, we have been through some fairly significant challenges over the centuries and we have found a way through them. As Christians, we believe that God will find a way forward.”

Bishop Lowson was one of four bishops to vote against the Prime Minister’s deal in the House of Lords, along with the Bishops of London, Durham, and Birmingham.

Read it all.

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

A Statement from Archbishops of Canterbury+York in the midst of the ongoing Brexit debate

From here:

We echo the call of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland to Christians and all those of faith and goodwill to give time for prayer beginning this Sunday in their local churches or as they choose: praying for wisdom, courage, integrity and compassion for our political leaders and all MPs; for reconciliation; and for fresh and uniting vision for all in our country.

Archbishop Justin Welby and Archbishop John Sentamu

Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

(PRC FactTank) Split between Ukrainian, Russian churches shows political importance of Orthodox Christianity

The recent decision by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to split from its Russian counterpart after more than 300 years of being linked reflects not only the continuing military conflict between the two countries in recent years, but also the important political role Orthodox Christianity plays in the region.

Ukraine is an overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian nation, with nearly eight-in-ten adults (78%) identifying as Orthodox (compared with 71% in Russia), according to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey of much of the country (some contested areas in eastern Ukraine were not surveyed). This is up from 39% who said they were Orthodox Christian in 1991 – the year the officially atheist Soviet Union collapsed and Ukraine gained its independence. With roughly 35 million Orthodox Christians, Ukraine now has the third-largest Orthodox population in the world, after Russia and Ethiopia.

In addition, Orthodox Christianity is closely tied to Ukraine’s national and political life. Roughly half of all Ukrainians (51%) say it is at least somewhat important for someone to be Orthodox to be truly Ukrainian. The same is true for Russia, where 57% say being Orthodox is important to being truly Russian. In both countries, about half (48% in each) say religious leaders have at least some influence in political matters, although most Ukrainians (61%) and roughly half of Russians (52%) would prefer if this were not the case.

Read it all.

Posted in Orthodox Church, Russia, Ukraine

(WSJ) Jihadists Behind Bars Pose New Threats for Europe

A terrorism trial starting here on Thursday highlights the difficulties Europe’s courts and prisons face containing the spread of jihadist ideology behind bars.

Mehdi Nemmouche, a 33-year-old Frenchman of Algerian origin, faces life in prison for allegedly shooting and killing four people at the Brussels Jewish Museum in May 2014. But once in prison, law-enforcement officials warn, terror suspects and convicts breed even more plots and spread their ideology to other inmates.

European prisons are fertile recruiting ground for new terrorists despite efforts in France, Belgium and other European countries to isolate dangerous and radicalized suspects in dedicated wards to prevent them from proselytizing. The perpetrators in several recent attacks were radicalized in prison, including Mr. Nemmouche and an alleged accomplice also on trial, say prosecutors. In Belgium, which has the highest per capita rate of returnees from Syria and Iraq in Europe, one third of 125 returnees were in prison in early 2018, according to the Egmont Institute, a Brussels-based think tank….

Read it all.

Posted in Belgium, Europe, France, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(NYT) As Ukraine and Russia Battle Over Orthodoxy, Schism Looms

Ukraine is on the verge of opening the biggest schism in Christianity in centuries, as it breaks from the authority of a Moscow-based patriarch and this week expects to formally gain recognition for its own church, taking tens of millions of followers.

Intensifying a millennium-old religious struggle freighted with 21st-century geopolitical baggage, Ukraine’s security services have in recent weeks interrogated priests loyal to Moscow, searched church properties and enraged their Russian rivals.

“They just want to frighten us,” said the Rev. Vasily Nachev, one of more than a dozen priests loyal to the Moscow patriarch who were called in for questioning.

The new Ukrainian church is expected to be granted legitimacy on Jan. 6, the eve of the Orthodox Christmas, when its newly elected head, Metropolitan Epiphanius, travels to Istanbul to receive an official charter from the Constantinople patriarchate, a longtime rival power center to Moscow.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, History, Orthodox Church, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Economist) Remembering Norwegian heroism 75 years on

But it is an earlier act of resistance against occupation that the men sitting around the table are discussing. The next day they will start retracing a path taken by a group of Norwegian commandos a generation older than them, who, in February 1943, attacked a plant at Vemork, on the southern edge of the plateau. The plant, created to use hydroelectric power to make fertiliser, had developed a rare speciality in the manufacture of deuterium oxide—“heavy water”. In a nuclear reactor, heavy water slows down neutrons, and thus speeds up nuclear reactions. The allies believed Vemork’s heavy water was crucial to Germany’s development of atomic weapons.

The first raid on the site, in November 1942, had been a disaster. Operation Freshman involved British commandos landing gliders close to the plant. The gliders went off course and crashed. The survivors were captured, tortured and executed by the Gestapo: 38 were killed in all. In the 1943 assault which the veterans are commemorating—codenamed Gunnerside—Norwegian commandos parachuted in well away from the target, from where they were to cross the Vidda undetected, join forces with a smaller group, codenamed Grouse, which had acted as scouts for the ill-fated Freshman, and mount the attack.

Read it all.

Posted in Germany, History, Military / Armed Forces, Norway

(NPR) Iranians Are Converting To Evangelical Christianity In Turkey

In a hotel conference room in Denizli, Turkey, about 60 Iranians sing along to songs praising Jesus mixed with Iranian pop music. When the music stops, American pastor Karl Vickery preaches with the help of a Persian translator.

“I’m not famous or rich. But I know Jesus. I have Jesus,” he says, with a Southern drawl. The Farsi-speaking Christian converts shout “Hallelujah!” and clap.

Vickery, who’s part of a visiting delegation from Beaumont, Texas, then offers to pray for each person in the room.

Women with hair dyed blond and short skirts and clean-shaven men in slacks stand up to pray in unison. Vickery puts his hand on one woman’s head and speaks in tongues. One man closes his eyes as tears fall. Another woman raises her hand and shouts “Isa,” Jesus’ name in Arabic and Persian. The room smells of sweat.

Among the parishioners are Farzana, a 37-year-old hairdresser from Tehran, and her daughter Andya, 3, who runs around, taking photos with her mother’s cellphone.

“It feels good. Our relationship to God becomes closer,” Farzana says. She doesn’t want to give her last name because she says her family in Iran might face persecution for her conversion. Her family knows she is a convert and they’re scared for their own safety inside Iran.

Read it all.

Posted in Evangelicals, Evangelism and Church Growth, Immigration, Iran, Religion & Culture, Turkey

(FT) Holocaust survivor Charlotte Knobloch on the rise of anti-Semitism and rebuilding Jewish life

[Charlotte] Knobloch is right to worry about time. Even the most cursory examination of her life would require days, not hours. Born in 1932, the year before the Nazis took power, she witnessed the pogroms of November 1938, and went on to survive — miraculously — the regime’s systematic attempt to murder the Jews of Europe, by hiding in a German village and pretending to be Christian.

While initially after the war she was determined to leave the land of the perpetrators, she stayed in Munich, raised a family, joined the board of the local Jewish community, and embarked on a late career of advocacy culminating in a stint as president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews. Above all, she became a builder: the cluster of constructions that grace the Jakobsplatz today are to a large extent the fruit of her vision.

“Sometimes I catch myself thinking this cannot be true. Every day, when I arrive here, I draw such happiness from seeing the synagogue, and the museum and the community centre,” she tells me as she spoons up her eggs. “What is amazing is not just that we have this, but that it has become so accepted. When the tourist buses stop here, I often hear the Munich guide say: ‘And here you can see our synagogue.’ I cannot imagine anything more beautiful.”

For Knobloch and many others, the decision to build a new temple in the city where Hitler plotted his rise to power was deeply significant. It was, she tells me, the moment she decided to “unpack her suitcase” — to finally admit to herself she had made Munich her home, despite the past.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Germany, Judaism, Religion & Culture