Category : Europe

(Sky News) Coronavirus: Italy’s hardest-hit city wants you to see how COVID-19 is affecting its hospitals

And for the record, it is NOT like flu, it is more often than not chronic pneumonia and it is killing hundreds here each day.

The head of emergency care, Dr Roberto Cosentini, says they have never seen anything like it, and he and his staff are warning other countries, especially the UK, that they will see it soon.

“It’s a very severe pneumonia, and so it’s a massive strain for every health system, because we see every day 50 to 60 patients who come to our emergency department with pneumonia, and most of them are so severe they need very high volumes of oxygen.

“And so we had to reorganise our emergency room and our hospital [to] three levels of intensive care.”

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Italy

(Reuters) ‘There are no funerals:’ Death in quarantine leaves nowhere to grieve

Struck down by coronavirus at the age of 83, the long life of Alfredo Visioli ended with a short ceremony at a graveyard near Cremona, his hometown in northern Italy.

“They buried him like that, without a funeral, without his loved ones, with just a blessing from the priest,” said his granddaughter Marta Manfredi who couldn’t attend. Like most of the old man’s family – like most of Italy – she was confined to her home.

“When all this is over,” she vows, “we will give him a real funeral.”

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Italy, Religion & Culture

(FT) Aggressive testing helps Italian town cut new coronavirus cases to zero

An infection control experiment that was rolled out in a small Italian community at the start of Europe’s coronavirus crisis has stopped all new infections in the town that was at the centre of the country’s outbreak.

Through testing and retesting of all 3,300 inhabitants of the town of Vò, near Venice, regardless of whether they were exhibiting symptoms, and rigorous quarantining of their contacts once infection was confirmed, health authorities have been able to completely stop the spread of the illness there.

Andrea Crisanti, an infections expert at Imperial College London who is taking part in the Vò project while on sabbatical at the University of Padua, urged countries that have been limiting virus testing, which includes the UK and US, to learn lessons and ramp up the numbers of people being screened.

“In the UK, there are a whole lot of infections that are completely ignored,” Prof Crisanti told the Financial Times. “We were able to contain the outbreak here because we identified and eliminated the ‘submerged’ infections and isolated them,” he said of the Vò approach. “That is what makes the difference.”

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Italy

(WSJ) Lessons from Italy’s Hospital Meltdown. ‘Every Day You Lose, the Contagion Gets Worse.’

The hospital had planned to send severe cases to Bergamo. “But we got indications that, if patients are over 65 or 70, they won’t get intubated,” said Davide Grataroli, one of the hospital doctors. “So, we’ve chosen to manage them here as best we can.”

That has been the situation for nearly three weeks. The patients know that the lack of intensive-care facilities dooms those not strong enough to survive the disease with limited help. “They accept it with resignation and no complaints,” said Ms. Busi, the nurse.

“The most devastating part is that they are dying alone,” she said. “Families see the patient for the last time at the emergency room. The next time is at the mortuary.”

Such a lonely death is hard to take, the nurse said: “It’s not our culture. We’re very connected here.”

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Italy

A very good interview that gives you an idea of the situation on the Coronavirus inside Italy, from a doctor helping to coordinate the response

Watch the whole thing–it is very much worth your time.

Posted in Globalization, Health & Medicine, Italy

(1st Things) Wesley Smith–Death On Demand Comes To Germany

…even I never expected full-bore death on demand to arrive in the West for another decade. I was too optimistic. A recent ruling from Germany’s highest court has cast right-to-die incrementalism aside and conjured a fundamental right both to commit suicide and to receive assistance in doing it. Moreover, the decision has explicitly rejected limiting the right to people diagnosed with illnesses or disabilities. As a matter of protecting “the right of personality,” the court decreed that “self-determined death” is a virtually unlimited fundamental liberty that the government must guarantee to protect “autonomy.” In other words, the German people now have the right to kill themselves at any time and for any reason. From the decision (published English version, my emphasis):

The right to a self-determined death is not limited to situations defined by external causes like serious or incurable illnesses, nor does it only apply in certain stages of life or illness. Rather, this right is guaranteed in all stages of a person’s existence. . . . The individual’s decision to end their own life, based on how they personally define quality of life and a meaningful existence, eludes any evaluation on the basis of general values, religious dogmas, societal norms for dealing with life and death, or consideration of objective rationality. It is thus not incumbent upon the individual to further explain or justify their decision; rather their decision must, in principle, be respected by state and society as an act of self-determination.

The court wasn’t done. The right to suicide also includes a right to assist suicide:

The right to take one’s own life also encompasses the freedom to seek and, if offered, utilize assistance provided by third parties for this purpose. . . . Therefore, the constitutional guarantee of the right to suicide corresponds to equally far-reaching constitutional protection extended to the acts carried out by persons rendering suicide assistance.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Germany, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(AJ) ‘Each day carries the fear of succumbing to the virus’: Anglicans in Italy experience coronavirus lockdown limbo

The Anglican church in Venice, like the other churches in the city, was not able to hold services on Ash Wednesday by order of the regional authorities, nor on the first Sunday of Lent. Nevertheless, the doors of the church were open during the times set for services so that people could use the building for private prayer. Bishop David Hamid, the lead bishop for Venice, has been in regular contact with the diocese and advice has come from it on how to administer Holy Communion, with no shaking of hands for the “peace.” Fortunately, as yet no information has emerged of a member of the church having contracted the virus, nor of anyone within the wider Anglophone community living in Venice, nor on the neighbouring mainland. At present we are in a “state of limbo” not knowing when we might be able to return to a more normal routine or what might be possible in the future. Each day carries the fear of succumbing to the virus. We are grateful for the emails of support and the offer of prayer that we have received.

What seems somewhat paradoxical is that the two churches which form part of the great panoramic view of Venice—Santa Maria della Salute, and Il Redentore—were built as acts of thanksgiving for the ending of successive plagues. On particular days each year for 400 years, and even today, Masses of thanksgiving are celebrated in these churches and popular traditions associated with those historical events observed. However, when a contemporary “plague” hits the city, a ban is issued preventing them from offering public worship. Hopefully, however, the day will quickly come when, within these same churches, a public thanksgiving will be offered for the speedy demise of the coronavirus and all who helped to combat it.

On March 2, Sims sent the following update:

The restrictive measures are in place through Sunday 8th March, with some slight variations from region to region. Religious services can be held provided people do not group together and a distance of at least a metre is kept between persons. This is a difficult criterion to meet. We have suspended all midweek activities and worship as have the Catholic and Protestant churches. We are evaluating if the criteria can be met on Sunday.

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Latest News, Health & Medicine, Italy, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Alessandra Bocchi–Italian Churches Go Into Quarantine

Pope Francis appears not to have prioritized the virus. On Feb. 23, as news of the coronavirus in Italy began receiving major coverage, the pope held a “peace summit” in Bari, where he criticized the “populist” leaders gaining power throughout Europe. Whatever one’s opinion of insurgent politicians, the comments offered nothing to address the fears of panicking Italians, who were donning face masks and emptying supermarkets. By Wednesday, the pope prayed for the disease’s victims and the medical personnel treating them, and Ash Wednesday celebrations were suspended or restricted in Italy.

Compare the pope’s response to how Cardinal Federigo Borromeo of Milan handled the black plague when it struck his archdiocese in 1630. “Be prepared to abandon this mortal life,” he said in Alessandro Manzoni’s classic “The Betrothed” (1827). “Go towards the plague with love, like a prize, as if towards another life, if a soul can be saved for Jesus Christ.” (Although the cardinal’s words are from a work of historical fiction, they reflect the reality of the time.) He invited priests to continue to provide all the sacraments even at great risk. Many clergymen answered the call, remaining in their churches and celebrating the Holy Mass amid one of the most terrifying plagues in history. Many died as martyrs serving believers who found solace in the church.

No one is urging the clergy to commit suicide-by-coronavirus. But “during the most serious time of this outbreak the pope decided to comment on the dangers of populism,” the Italian Catholic conservative writer Francesco Giubilei told me. “People of faith around the world today need spiritual direction and guidance on how to confront this crisis.”

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Italy, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

Dietrich Bonhoeffer for Ash Wednesday

“Confess your faults one to another” (Jas. 5:16). He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. This pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. so we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!

But it is the grace of the Gospel, which is so hard for the pious to understand, that it confronts us with the truth and says: You are a sinner, a great, desperate sinner; now come as the sinner that you are, to God who loves you. He wants you as you are; He does not want anything from you, a sacrifice, a work; He wants you alone. “My son, give me thine heart” (Prov. 23:26). God has come to you to save the sinner. Be glad! This message is liberation through truth. You can hide nothing from God. The mask you wear before men will do you no good before Him. He wants to see you as you are, He wants to be gracious to you. You do not have to on lying to yourself and your brothers, as if you were without sin; you can dare to be a sinner. Thank God for that; He loves the sinner but He hates sin.

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Posted in Church History, Germany, Theology

(CEN) Confusion grows over fresh divisions in Ukraine Orthodoxy

Orthodox Christians in Ukraine – and in Orthodoxy worldwide – are in confusion following Metropolitan Filaret (pictured on the left) of Kiev’s break from the new Ukraine Orthodox Church, established just a year ago by Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

The Patriarch’s decision ended three centuries of Russian Orthodox canonical authority over all Ukraine Orthodox.

Ninety-year-old Filaret, the Soviet-era Russian Orthodox Church leader in Ukraine who formed the breakaway nationalist ‘Kiev Patriarchate’ when the USSR dissolved, was Patriarch Emeritus and joint leader of the new church, which comprised his patriarchate and an earlier breakaway, the small Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

Led by Metropolitan Epiphany, the new church claims to control some 7,000 parishes, 77 monasteries and 47 dioceses, with some 500 parishes having switched allegiance from the continuing Russiaaligned Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate] – voluntarily or under nationalist pressure.

Declaring the new church “too much under the control” of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and that in practice his own role counted for little in its decisionmaking rather than being ‘side by side’ with Metropolitan Epiphany, Filaret has proclaimed the re-establishment of his former Kiev Patriarchate. He is busily rebuilding its support following an extraordinary ‘restoration assembly’ of his followers in Kiev’s historic St Volodymyr’s Cathedral last June, defying both Epiphany and the Ecumenical Patriarch.

Read it all.

Posted in Orthodox Church, Ukraine

(EF) Pablo Martinez–“Turning the truth into a matter of personal opinions, inexorably leads to loss of hope”

Question. We went from ‘I think therefore I am’, to ‘I feel therefore I am’, and then to post-truth. What is the reference that will be an anchor to human beings in this new decade?

Answer. The two great anchors of human beings are truth and hope. Both come together, they are inseparable and make the backbone of human existence. These two do not vary with time, we need them today just like twenty centuries ago. What changes is the relationship, the attitude of Man towards these two anchors. That’s where the origin of the current deep crisis of values lies. The replacement of ‘the Truth’ by ‘my truth’ has broken one of the anchors, dragging the other one, hope, with its breakup. In his best known work From Dawn To Decay, the renowned French historian Jacques Barzun, already warned that ‘the postmodern assault on the idea of truth could lead us to the destruction of 500 years of civilisation’.

The root of the conflict is not cultural or ideological, it is a moral one. Ultimately, it is not a matter of a new philosophy, but a matter of who has the authority in my life and in the world. Does anyone rule up there or can I rule?

A strong earthquake has shaken the foundations of Western civilisation, because in the last 30 years the foundation and nature of the truth have amazingly changed. The change is summed up in one sentence: ‘Truth is dead, long live to my truth!’

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

(EF) Spanish parliament starts the final process to decriminalise euthanasia

The first official debate to finally pass the draft law to decriminalise euthanasia, proposed by the social democrat party PSOE, took place this week in the Spanish Parliament.

It has the support of the majority of the parties. The draft law, inspired by the Dutch and Belgian model, proposes that those who suffer a serious and incurable or disabling illness, with unbearable suffering could ask for euthanasia.

First, the patient and a doctor will have to agree, afterwards a second medical opinion is needed, then the patient will have to confirm his decision two weeks later, and 15 days later it can be made. The process will not last more than a month.

Furthermore, the law foresees the creation of a Commission for Control and Evaluation in each region, in addition to a registry of health professionals who decide to be conscientious objectors. Doctors who allege this cause must do so in writing.

The draft law must now go through the Health Commission, go back again to the Parliament and, finally, to the Senate. A process that could be resolved before summer.

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Spain, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–The Age of Decadence

The farther you get from that iPhone glow, the clearer it becomes: Our civilization has entered into decadence.

The word “decadence” is used promiscuously but rarely precisely. In political debates, it’s associated with a lack of resolution in the face of threats — with Neville Chamberlain and W.B. Yeats’s line about the best lacking all conviction. In the popular imagination, it’s associated with sex and gluttony, with pornographic romances and chocolate strawberries. Aesthetically and intellectually it hints at exhaustion, finality — “the feeling, at once oppressive and exalting, of being the last in a series,” in the words of the Russian poet Vyacheslav Ivanov.

But it’s possible to distill a useful definition from all these associations. Following in the footsteps of the great cultural critic Jacques Barzun, we can say that decadence refers to economic stagnation, institutional decay and cultural and intellectual exhaustion at a high level of material prosperity and technological development. Under decadence, Barzun wrote, “The forms of art as of life seem exhausted, the stages of development have been run through. Institutions function painfully. Repetition and frustration are the intolerable result.” He added, “When people accept futility and the absurd as normal, the culture is decadent.” And crucially, the stagnation is often a consequence of previous development: The decadent society is, by definition, a victim of its own success.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Canada, Economy, England / UK, Europe, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Today in History

Posted in Germany, History

(NYT) George Steiner, Prodigious Literary Critic, Dies at 90

George Steiner, a literary polymath and man of letters whose voluminous criticism often dealt with the paradox of literature’s moral power and its impotence in the face of an event like the Holocaust, died on Monday at his home in Cambridge, England. He was 90.

His death was confirmed by his son, Dr. David Steiner.

An essayist, fiction writer, teacher, scholar and literary critic — he succeeded Edmund Wilson as senior book reviewer for The New Yorker from 1966 until 1997 — Mr. Steiner both dazzled and dismayed his readers with the range and occasional obscurity of his literary references.

Essential to his views, as he avowed in “Grammars of Creation,” a book based on the Gifford Lectures he delivered at the University of Glasgow in 1990, “is my astonishment, naïve as it seems to people, that you can use human speech both to love, to build, to forgive, and also to torture, to hate, to destroy and to annihilate.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, France, History, Judaism, Poetry & Literature, Religion & Culture

Congratulations to Novak Djokovic, 2020 Men’s Title winner of the Australian Open

Posted in Australia / NZ, Men, Serbia, Sports

(ABC Nightline) Important but difficult Viewing– The Children of Auschwitz: Survivors Return 75 years after Liberation

Take the time to watch it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Germany, History, Judaism, Military / Armed Forces, Poland, Religion & Culture, Violence

(BBC) You owe it to yourself to listen and watch this piece about Auschwitz survivor Max Eisen

Posted in Canada, Germany, History, Judaism, Poland, Religion & Culture, Violence

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Hilary of Poitiers

O Lord our God, who didst raise up thy servant Hilary to be a champion of the catholic faith: Keep us steadfast in that true faith which we professed at our baptism, that we may rejoice in having thee for our Father, and may abide in thy Son, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit; thou who livest and reignest for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, France, Spirituality/Prayer

(Telegraph) Christopher Howse–Sacred Mysteries: John Smith, the man who baptised himself

john Smith must already have been middle aged when in 1609 he did a strange thing. He baptised himself.

That was in Holland, where he had gone, with like-minded radical Puritans, and, it is supposed, his wife and two daughters, having broken with the Church of England. He had taken a degree at Christ’s College Cambridge and been ordained a priest by the Bishop of Lincoln, perhaps in 1594.

In Holland he found no church to join, so founded his own, which was to be constituted by breaking up the church fellowship he enjoyed and starting again. After baptising himself anew, he baptised his followers.

In the Old Testament, “Every master of a family administered the Passover to himself and all of his family,” he argued by way of justification in a little book, The Character of the Beast, published a year later. “A man cannot baptise others into the Church himself being out of the Church, therefore it is lawful for a man to baptise himself together with others in communion.”

This was such a peculiar position that it either shocked or amused most of his contemporaries.

Read it all.

Posted in Baptism, Church History, Sacramental Theology, The Netherlands

Saturday Mental Health Break–HyperZooming through part of Austria

HyperZooming through Hallstatt from geoff tompkinson on Vimeo.

Posted in * General Interest, Austria, Photos/Photography

A BBC Article about the Struggle with Militant Islamism in Western Africa

The current French operation has been running since 2014, co-ordinating on security issues with Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad.

They are fighting a complex web of jihadist groups that Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou has described as having become “professionals in the art of war”.

An attack by jihadists on an army base earlier this month led to the deaths of more than 70 soldiers in Niger.

In November, 13 French troops died in a helicopter collision during an operation against jihadists in Mali, the biggest single loss of life for the French military since the 1980s.

Regional leaders have called for more international support to tackle the militants but there has also been rising anti-French sentiment and protests in some cities in the region.

Read it all.

Posted in Africa, Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Mali, Military / Armed Forces, Niger, Politics in General, Terrorism

(Economist) Finland has slashed homelessness; the rest of Europe is failing

Tuya’s collection of bongs occupies an entire bookshelf in her immaculate little flat, though she does not smoke marijuana—she just likes the way they look. Her weaknesses, alcohol and pills, landed her in a homeless shelter in Helsinki for three years. But since 2018 she has had an apartment of her own, thanks to a strategy called “housing first” with which Finland has all but eliminated homelessness.

Akbar has no such luck. Last month the Afghan migrant stood in the mud of a camp outside Paris, brushing his teeth at a hose that served as a communal shower. For two months Akbar had been living in a tent city of 3,500 Asian and African migrants, hoping to apply for refugee status.

Tuya and Akbar are at opposite ends of Europe’s growing homelessness problem. Finland is the only European country where the numbers are not rising. In other rich welfare states, escalating housing costs are pushing more people into homeless shelters. In countries with weak social services, many end up on the street. And everywhere, migrants with the wrong papers fall through the cracks.

Statistics on homelessness are patchy, but dispiriting. In 2010-18 the French government doubled the spaces in emergency accommodation to 146,000, yet cannot meet demand. In Spain the number in shelters rose by 20.5% between 2014 and 2016. In the Netherlands homelessness has doubled in the past decade. In Ireland, the number in shelters has tripled. The German government estimates homelessness rose by 4% in 2018 to a record 678,000, most of them migrants. All this has thrown a spanner into governments’ plans. For years, they have been trying to shift from providing beds for the night to housing-first strategies like Finland’s. Instead they are struggling to keep people off the streets….

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Finland, Politics in General, Poverty

(Gibraltar Chronicle) New Anglican Dean named for Gibraltar

The Anglican Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe has announced that Canon Ian Tarrant has accepted his offer to become next Dean of Holy Trinity Cathedral and the Diocese of Europe.

Canon Tarrant, 62, is married to Sally and has three grown-up children, all now living outside the UK, and two grandchildren.

Ian and Sally met as teenagers while on a course in the Diocese of Chelmsford. Ian studied physics at Cambridge University, and later trained for ordination at St John’s College, Nottingham.

It was in Nottingham, where Sally had been studying ‘maths, maths, and more maths’, that they met again and got engaged.

They spent ten challenging years working for the Church Missionary Society in the Congo, returning to Nottingham where he became the University Chaplain and where their children went to secondary school.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Europe, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry

Monday food for Thought–The Red Dean of Canterbury on Joseph Stalin

In the same general period in which Stalin was starving millions, the Rev. Hewlett Johnson, Dean of Canterbury, described him as “leading his people down new and unfamiliar avenues of democracy.”

.–Paul Johnson, Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Eighties, (New York: Harper and Row, 1983), p.276, used yesterday in the sermon as an illustration of blindness

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Russia

(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.)

Read it all.

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

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Martin of Tours

Lord God of hosts, who didst clothe thy servant Martin the soldier with the spirit of sacrifice, and didst set him as a bishop in thy Church to be a defender of the catholic faith: Give us grace to follow in his holy steps, that at the last we may be found clothed with righteousness in the dwellings of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, France, Spirituality/Prayer

(WSJ) Elisabeth Braw–The Stasi Spies in Seminary

East Germany’s Communist government opened the Berlin Wall and thus the country 30 years ago Saturday. Geopolitics and economics drove this outcome, but East Germany’s religious communities played a complicated, significant and far too often overlooked role.

The Stasi, East Germany’s secret police agency, understood that the country’s congregations presented a major threat to the existing order. Lutherans were East Germany’s largest denomination, and many actively opposed the regime. Undermining them became a thorny task for a ruling class that disdained the brutality of the Soviet Union and its other satellites.

By 1954 the Stasi had built a Soviet-inspired agency to monitor churches, later named Department XX/4. It gradually perfected the art of subversion. The group’s officers came from the proletariat, as most top officials did. The Stasi recruited farmhands and factory workers and sent them to the Potsdam College of Jurisprudence, its officer training school.

To weaken faith communities, the department cultivated believers, including pastors, as spies….

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Germany, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education

(NYT) Death of ISIS leader is little consolation to a changed France

The death of the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was met this week with no outpouring of joy or even relief in France, even though this is the European country that suffered most from his depredations.

The reason is simple: the Islamic State’s crimes, and the fear they instilled in the national psyche, are so ingrained in France that the daily fabric of life has been inexorably altered.

As if proof were needed, within the last month, a former far-right candidate shot two Muslims who stopped him from burning down a mosque. A Muslim mother was reprimanded by an official for wearing a head scarf. And President Emmanuel Macron called for a “society of vigilance” after a Muslim employee at Police Headquarters in Paris killed four officers in a knife attack.

These recent symptoms of what some call an ongoing trauma for France demonstrate why Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death was ‘‘no more than a step,” as Mr. Macron put it Sunday in a muted reaction to the news.

Read it all.

Posted in France, History, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

Ole Hallesby on the Painstaking and Rewarding Work of Prayer

“The work of the Spirit can be compared to mining. The Spirit’s work is to blast to pieces the sinner’s hardness of heart and his frivolous opposition to God. The period of the awakening can be likened to the time when the blasts are fired. The time between the awakenings corresponds, on the other hand, to the time when the deep holes are being bored with great effort into the hard rock.

To bore these holes is hard and difficult and a task which tries one’s patience. To light the fuse and fire the shot is not only easy but also very interesting work. One sees “results” from such work. It creates interest, too; shots resound, and pieces fly in every direction! It takes trained workmen to do the boring. Anybody can light a fuse.

…the Spirit calls us to do the quiet, difficult, trying work of boring holy explosive materials into the souls of people by daily and unceasing prayer. This is the real preparatory work for the next awakening. The reason why such a long period of time elapses between awakenings is simply that the Spirit cannot find believers who are willing to do the heavy part of the mining work. Everybody desires awakenings; but we prefer to let other do the boring into the hard rock.”

–Ole Hallesby, Prayer (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortess, 1994 printing of the 1931 original), [Book Three] pp.77-78

Posted in Books, Church History, Norway, Spirituality/Prayer