Category : Europe

(Der Spiegel) Targeting Terrorists: Germany’s Dilemma in Dealing with Islamist Threats

…. [This] case is a good example of just how difficult it can be for the German government to deal with people it considers a threat but who cannot be convicted of a crime due to insufficient evidence. The German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) has identified 602 individuals who are so-called “Islamist threats.” Some 300 of them live abroad — in Syria or in Iraq, often as fighters for terrorist groups like Islamic State (IS) — while around 100 are currently in jail in Germany. Of the 200 remaining suspected enemies of the state, most have not yet committed any prosecutable crimes, but authorities nevertheless believe them to be capable of “politically motivated crimes of considerable significance.” That’s how the BKA and the 16 state criminal offices have defined these individual threats since 2004. Put more simply, they believe these 200 identified individuals are capable of committing terrorist acts at any time.

“Threat” is a vague working term. And the individuals who have been identified as such often aren’t even aware of it. The decision to classify a person as a threat is made by the state offices of criminal investigation, and the person’s name is then added to a national list kept by the BKA. According to the definition, threats are identified “on the basis of certain established facts” which fall short of being actual crimes. Unable to prosecute them, the most the state can do is keep these individuals under close surveillance to the greatest degree possible.

But they often aren’t successful, as seen in the case of Anis Amri, the perpetrator behind the December attack on a Christmas market in Berlin. Officials had also classified him as a threat, but authorities were unable to prove he had committed any terrorist acts and they also couldn’t deport him to Tunisia. He was a free man who used his freedom to shoot a semi-truck driver, steal the vehicle and murder 11 more people.

Read it all.

Posted in Germany, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(Economist Erasmus Blog) European Court of Justice rules Employers may sometimes ban staff from wearing headscarves

The ECJ judges were looking into the cases of a Belgian woman who was fired from her job as a receptionist at a security company after she started wearing a headscarf, and of a French IT consultant who was told to remove her scarf after a client complained, and then dismissed when she declined.

In both cases, the ECJ suggested that national courts needed to investigate further to establish whether the women had been discriminated against. In the Belgian case, the court recommended working out if there might have been a simpler solution such as transferring the employee to a role where she was not in contact with the public. Regarding the French consultant, it considered it necessary to establish whether the disciplinary action was purely a response to the client’s whim (which appeared to be the case and would be insufficient grounds for a dismissal) or a legitimate consequence of a broader policy. Taken as a whole, today’s decision upheld the right of employers to enforce ideological neutrality in the workplace as long as it was done fairly and consistently.

This marks a contrast with the thinking of America’s Supreme Court, which in 2015 vindicated a Muslim woman who had been turned down for a job by the clothing chain Abercrombie and Fitch on the grounds that her headscarf was out of step with the look the company was promoting. Since 1964, American civil-rights legislation has told employers to provide “reasonable accommodation” of their workers’ religious needs, unless it would be unbearably burdensome to do so. Today’s decision also reflected a more secularist spirit than did one by the European Court of Human Rights in 2013, which upheld the right of a Christian woman to wear a discreet cross with her British Airways uniform.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

NYT: Ban on Head Scarves at Work Is Legal, E.U. Court Rules

The European Union’s highest court waded into the politically explosive issue of public expressions of Muslim identity on Tuesday, finding that private employers can ban female workers from wearing head scarves on the job.

The ruling comes as Europe is beginning a critical election season, with races in the Netherlands, France and Germany, and with anti-immigrant, anti-Islam populism rising in many countries. Dutch voters go to the polls on Wednesday, and the far-right party of the anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders is expected to fare well.

In its ruling, the European Court of Justice found that company regulations banning “the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign” did not constitute direct discrimination — so long as such prohibitions applied to religious garb from all faiths, a requirement that legal experts say could also encompass a Sikh turban and a Jewish skullcap, among other religious symbols.

you may find a PR from the Court on the ruling here.

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

Barcelona completes one of the greatest comebacks of all-time in Champions League stunner

There is no other way to describe this remarkable match, that may well be one of the greatest ever seen in the Champions League, and certainly saw the greatest comeback in the Champions League as Barcelona recovered from a 4-0 first-leg deficit to pull off a divine 6-1 victory over Paris Saint-Germain to go through to the quarter-finals.

No side had ever come from four down in the first leg before, no-one can ever have witnessed a match like this before.

To top it off, delivery came in stoppage time, from homegrown Sergi Roberto. It can’t be forgotten that it also saw one of the greatest collapses the game has ever seen, such was the PSG’s regular moments of chaos contrasted with some of the supreme quality on display.

Read it all.

Posted in France, Men, Spain, Sports

(FT) Gideon Rachman-The isolation of Angela Merkel’s Germany

Angela Merkel has described the idea that she is now the de facto leader of the western world as “grotesque” and “absurd”. The German chancellor’s angst is understandable. Modern Germany has no desire to lead the west and is not powerful enough to bear that burden. But unrealistic expectations are not the only reason for German anxiety. If Ms Merkel looks out from the glass box of the chancellor’s office in Berlin there is trouble on every horizon. To the east are the ever more authoritarian and Germanophobic governments of Poland and Hungary. And further east a hostile Russia. To the west, is the US of Donald Trump; to the north the UK of Brexit. And to the south lie Italy and Greece, two troubled countries that increasingly blame Germany for their economic woes. Collectively, the situation threatens to revive an old German nightmare: the fear of being a large, isolated power at the centre of Europe. The situation must feel even more grotesque because — unlike in the 20th century — Germany’s current loneliness has very little to do with the country’s own malign behaviour. On the contrary, it is the world around Germany that is changing fast, as populism and nationalism surge across Europe and in the US.

Read it all.

Posted in Foreign Relations, Germany, Politics in General

(Economist) The amazing story of “Les Misérables”, a book that changed the world

Save for Hugo’s literary rivals (Alexandre Dumas likened it to “wading through mud”), everybody loved the long haul of Valjean’s rehabilitation in the company of characters who soon entered folklore: the street-girl Fantine, her daughter Cosette, the urchin Gavroche, the student Marius. Shorn of its condemnation of slavery, the novel even circulated in a pirate edition among Confederate soldiers during the American civil war. In a weary pun on their commander’s name, they dubbed themselves “Lee’s Miserables”.

From the humane treatment of ex-offenders to the care of street children, “Les Misérables” spearheaded calls for reform and contributed to “the future improvement of society”. Few books really change the world. This one did, long before it broke box-office records on stage. In the musical Hugo’s hero intones—in a song loved by television talent-show contestants—“Bring Him Home”. Mr [David] Bellos does just that, as he restores “Les Mis” to its maker and his times.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, France, History

(Reuters) Bavaria pushes ahead with burqa ban as elections loom

Bavaria will ban the full-face veil in schools, universities, government workplaces and polling stations, the southern German state said on Tuesday.

The move comes seven months before a federal election where immigration will be a prominent issue and the Bavarian conservatives that govern the region, the sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s, are worried about losing votes to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD).

“Communication happens not only via language but also via looks, facial expressions and gestures,” Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said after the regional government agreed a draft law to ban the full-face veil for civil servants and in public places where there are concerns for public safety.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Germany, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

Bishop in Europe Robert Innes: Faith in Lyon

It took three and three-quarter hours to travel by TGV from Brussels to Lyon, far enough to be in a different climate, where the crocuses, primroses and even some daffodils were in bloom. We checked in to a family-run hotel close to the magnificent Place Bellecour, in the heart of France’s second city.

There was just time to change before leaving for Mass, where chaplain Ben Harding and I were guests of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin. He gave me a gracious introduction and invited me to read the gospel. The temperature inside the splendid cathedral was icy, and we were glad of our coats.

Read it all and enjoy the pictures.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Europe, France, Parish Ministry

Monday Mental Health Break-A Wonderful Visual Portrayal of Mont Saint-Michel

Posted in * General Interest, * International News & Commentary, Europe, France, Photos/Photography

Bridget Kendall Ramsey Murray Lecture 2015

Selwyn College Cambridge presents the annual Ramsay Murray Lecture on the subject of modern day Russia [including relations with Ukraine and Europe] under the Presidency of Vladimir Putin and given by the BBC’s Diplomatic Correspondent, Bridget Kendall.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, History, Politics in General, Russia, Theology

([London] Times) Dementia patients in Austria and Germany are still fighting the war 75 years on

Pensioners in Germany and Austria are suffering from delayed trauma caused by their experiences in the Second World War, resulting in assaults and threatening behaviour towards care home staff.

The problem is getting worse because the generation of children born after 1929, who were too young to fight in the war but old enough to witness its horrors, are now entering homes and hospices where suppressed memories are resurfacing, home managers and psychologists said.

Last month, an 83-year-old man pulled a pistol on two nurses in a care home in Altheim, Austria, after they found him in a corridor in his wheelchair during the night. They fled and called the police, who overpowered him. Last August, in the western German city of Münster, an 83-year-old man in a care home killed a 74-year-old man with whom he shared a room.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Austria, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Germany, Health & Medicine, History, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology, Violence

(Telegraph) ISIS recruiting child refugees as they head to Europe

Hundreds of asylum-seeking young people are going missing from care once they arrive in Britain, amid concerns they have been targeted for radicalisation by extremist groups during their journey to the UK, a think tank report has warned.

Militant groups such as Islamic State are deliberately preying on vulnerable young people for recruitment, as they make the perilous journey across the Middle East and north Africa, to Europe.

Extremists try to “buy” the allegiance of migrants and make them feel indebted, by working with people traffickers and funding their travel, the research by the Quilliam Foundation found.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Children, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Immigration, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Theology, Violence

(Former Wofford President) Ben Dunlap's Ted Talk: The life-long learner

Wofford College president Ben Dunlap tells the story of Sandor Teszler, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor who taught him about passionate living and lifelong learning.

One of my friends recommended this–it is quite energizing and challenging; KSH.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * South Carolina, Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Education, Europe, Hungary, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Music, Race/Race Relations, Theology

(CC) Philip Jenkins–Ethiopia's Martyred Monks

Italian television recently broadcast a heartrending documentary about one of the largest single acts of mass Christian martyrdom in the 20th century. This happened in 1937 when soldiers and militias slaughtered some 300 Ethiopian monks at one of the country’s holiest religious houses. In this instance, the perpetrators were neither communists nor Islamists but Catholic Italians, serving the fascist regime of Benito Mus­solini. That massacre at Debre Libanos was one in­stance in a larger campaign of several years’ duration in which Ethi­o­pian monasteries and churches were systematically bombed and subjected to mustard gas attacks. Outside Ethiopia, the persecutions remain largely unknown.

In popular memory, fascist Italy has always been regarded as a less pernicious member of the Axis powers, but in his colonial policies Mussolini yielded nothing to Hitler. In 1935, Italy invaded Ethiopia, and in the words of its local commander, Rodolfo Graziani, “the Duce will have Ethiopia, with or without the Ethiopians.”

The savage Italian campaign ultimately killed several hundred thousand Ethio­pians””some sources say a million. Graziani envisaged the extermination of all local chiefs and elites, much as Hitler would later attempt in Poland. Given the profound identification of the Ethiopi­an church with national spirit, Italian forces particularly targeted religious establishments….

A global church must have a global memory. Let’s never forget Debre Libanos.

Read it all (this appeared in the Christian Century print edition of January 18, 2017 on page 45).

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Anthropology, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ethiopia, Europe, Italy, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology, Violence

For his Feast Day–Medieval Sourcebook: Life of Anskar, the Apostle of the North, 801-865

When one of Anskar’s followers suggested to him that he could work miracles he replied, ” Were I worthy of such a favour from my God, I would ask that He would grant to me this one miracle, that by His grace He would make of me a good man.” No one can read the “Life” written by Rimbert his disciple and successor which, after being lost for five hundred years, was fortunately rediscovered, without feeling moved to thank God for the accomplishment of the miracle for which Anskar had prayed. He was a good man in the best and truest sense of the term. In the character presented to us by his biographer we have a singularly attractive combination of transparent humility, unflinching courage, complete self devotion, and unwavering belief in a loving and overruling providence. The claim to the title Apostle of the North, which was early made on his behalf, rests not upon the immediate outcome of his labours, but upon the inspiring example which he bequeathed to those who were moved to follow in his steps. For whilst the Missions which lie planted in Denmark and Sweden during the thirty-three years of his episcopate were interrupted after his death by the desolating raids of the Northmen, those by whom the work was restarted gratefully recognised him as their pioneer.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Church History, Europe