Displaying items by tag: Europe
Bosnia has three presidents. Each one represents a particular ethnic group, and the fragile multiethnic government faces its greatest crisis since the Balkan wars. Serb nationalist leader Milorad Dodik is threatening to tear Bosnia apart by withdrawing the Serb territory he leads from Bosnia. He has stopped meeting the other regional presidents and vowed to withdraw from the armed forces and tax agency in favor of his own agencies. Political rivals and foreign diplomats say recent scandals suggest his rhetoric is to deflect corruption allegations. But in a region where the war shadow is everywhere, Bosnians fear their country’s peace is threatened. ‘It will not be peaceful,’ warned Sefik Dzaferovic, one of the three presidents. An opposition party leader said, ‘He hates stability because he then has to explain why we are living like we do. He plays on people's emotions regardless of the consequences.’ The UN called it ‘the greatest threat’ to Bosnia’s survival since 1990.
The EU's LGBTQ+ goodwill ambassador cross-dressed as a bearded Virgin Mary for a same-sex rendition of the Holy Family draped in the colors of the transgender flag. Riccardo Simonetti appeared on the cover of a queer community magazine boasting thick facial hair in a white robe, blue head veil and holding a baby doll representing Jesus. He posted the photos to his Instagram feed with the caption, ‘If we ignore the fact that Jesus wasn’t white, we could believe the Virgin Mary had a beard, why not?’ Another photo depicts Simonetti, still dressed as Mary, with a man in a pink robe embracing him from behind. ‘Very proud and honoured to be on the cover of December’s issue of a queer institutions magazine. Special thanks to my friend @akwantu for playing Joseph in our newly-interpreted holy family photo using the trans flag as inspiration.’ The photo shoot drew backlash from Christians online, but he accused them of homophobia.
Omicron will become the dominant Covid variant in France by January. Germany, the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands, and France have announced additional restrictions to stem the tide. Germany's health minister said they must prepare for a challenge never seen before. He has designated France, Norway and Denmark as ‘high risk’ and added tougher rules on UK arrivals. A third of Ireland’s new cases have been Omicron. They are expecting infections at a rate that far exceeds anything they have seen to date. Italy, Greece and Portugal announced that visitors from the EU, even those who have been vaccinated, must present a negative test result on arrival, to stem the tide of infections. The UK is hardest hit, but English people with Covid can end quarantine after seven days instead of ten if they test negative on days six and seven. England has new restrictions before Christmas, while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have curbed social mixing.
France and Britain have clashed repeatedly over migrants crossing the Channel, post-Brexit trade arrangements, the sale of submarines to Australia, and fishing territories. The fishing dispute has come to a head as France threatened the UK with a lawsuit unless a few dozen fishing licences are granted as a ‘gesture of goodwill’ before 10 December. The deadline expired without a breakthrough in talks, despite France's threat, and 104 French boats still lack licences to operate in British and Channel Island waters. Britain earlier denied discriminating against French boats, saying many of the vessels are unable to provide the paperwork required to qualify for a licence. ‘This is a technical process based on evidence rather than deadlines’, a UK government spokesman said. France's Europe minister Clement Beaune said, ‘If they stick to their guns, then we will ask the European Commission to begin a legal complaint’.
Since 1960 we have witnessed a move away from traditional norms and values connected to Christianity and embraced ‘new’ cultural values unrelated to religious conviction regarding marriage, sexuality, family, education, beginning and end of life. It is cultural liberalism, which calls itself progressive compared to ‘conservative’ traditional norms and values. Cultural liberalism is to live an ‘authentic’ life. Church, social environment and the state should give ‘me’ the freedom to live and act according to what ‘I’ feel and desire. What was wrong yesterday is acceptable today - which is described as ‘progress’. However, while cultural liberalism spreads in western Europe it meets resistance in eastern Europe, encouraging us that it may not be the inevitable future of European society. Christians are challenged to remain faithful to God’s Biblical commandments and Church principles. We have good arguments to expose weaknesses in cultural liberalism. We have the enormous power of prayer.
For the second time in less than a year, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has blocked an attempt to make it legal for Portuguese doctors to kill their patients. The latest version of the Bill, approved by members of the National Assembly was judged to be too radical by the Roman Catholic president and returned to them unsigned. De Sousa said, If ‘fatal disease’ was no longer a prerequisite for ‘medically assisted death’, he considered the bill to be out of step with ‘the values of life and self-determination, in the context of Portuguese society’.
Speaking on the Greek island of Lesbos, Pope Francis said the migrants there were being used for political propaganda. He urged people to focus on the causes of migration, such as ‘forgotten wars’, instead of punishing those suffering from their effects. He criticised building walls to keep people out. Saying that there are people persisting in treating the problem as something that doesn’t concern them, history teaches us ‘narrow self-interest and nationalism lead to disastrous consequences.’ The pandemic showed that major challenges must be confronted together and there were some signs of this in climate change, but little sign of such an approach to migration. He spoke in front of refugees but aimed all comments at European political leaders. His words betrayed frustration at ‘the failure of politicians to adequately address the migrant issue’.
Ukraine reported over 90,000 Russian troops and tanks being moved to the border, inside Ukraine’s territory, causing western powers concerns. On 7 December Vladimir Putin spoke via a video link with Joe Biden, who called for a de-escalation of tensions. Hours before the video talks, Washington was not planning to make a military response, but to use tough economic sanctions. However, by 8 December it said it was preparing strong economic and ‘other measures’ over fears of a Russian invasion. Mr. Biden and leaders of the UK, France, Germany and Italy agreed to use ‘all the tools at their disposal’. National security adviser Jake Sullivan said the Biden administration was preparing specific robust responses in the weeks ahead ‘if they were required’. Moscow denies it has plans to attack. See
A well-known chocolate brand has omitted any reference to Advent from its Christmas calendars, calling them instead ‘Countdown Calendars'. Known to fans simply as Tony’s, the Fairtrade brand was founded in 2005 by three TV journalists who discovered that many chocolate manufacturers bought cocoa from plantations accused of modern slavery and using child labour. Launching their first festive calendar their promotion asked, ‘Are you looking for a way to count down to Christmas that gives you an excuse to chomp on our chocolate for 24 days straight? This is it.’ The company said making no reference to Advent keeps it ‘accessible to all who celebrate the festive season’. Christian Concern expressed unease over the marketing, saying, ‘To remove Advent from Christmas is to miss the meaning of Christmas.’ Others also criticised the ‘woke’ move, asking what is a ‘countdown’ to if not the birth of Jesus Christ.
Days after 27 people drowned in the English Channel, the BBC discovered that smuggling gangs are still telling migrants it is safe to cross. One smuggler said that the drownings were a lie and that there was no danger in making the journey. The brutal journeys migrants make across the Channel are full of stories of crisis. Pray for the detection and removal of the guerrilla-style smuggling operations among the French dunes. Pray for authorities to have more compassion for the streams of soaking passengers washing ashore in Kent. Pray for this international criminal industry to be thwarted by even more sophisticated detection. Pray for an end to the supply of specially-made boats that refugees are packed into. New arrivals in French camps are given tips on how to find a people-smuggler. One young man from Afghanistan was told to look for ‘the Kurdish man’ hanging around during food distribution.