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Christian Politicians on the Wrong Side of History

20 Apr

 

Church State

Some politicians in Ireland want Church and State to intersect

Why should the Irish people care that some Kerry councillors want to erect a crucifix on the wall of their chambers? Who does it really affect? After all, most other people in Ireland are Christian like them, although I assume that the Kerry councillors aren’t just Christian in the nominative sense and, unlike most other people in Ireland, actually make more than a few cursory visits to the pew every year.

But Irish people shouldn’t just care about what’s happening in Kerry, they should be angry about it too. For one reason it shows that ‘liberal’ Ireland still has to dust off some of the residue of its past. But for another and more important reason it shows that some Kerry councillors, whether aware of it or not, want to contravene the liberal democratic values of not just Ireland, but of all Western democracies that value religious freedom and equality, and that should make Irish people very angry indeed.

The church has no place in the state and it’s for its own benefit that it doesn’t. The fundamental truth, unknown by the councillors, is that a religiously neutral state is the chief guarantee of religious freedom and religious pluralism. The United States has one of the most religious societies in the Western world but its strict separation of church and state means that it’s also its most secular state. Thomas Jefferson said that “erecting a wall between church and state is essential in a free society”, and no state guarantees religious freedom and equality as much as The United States.

I assume that such an archaic action is a reaction to the weakening of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. Indeed, it was reported that at least one councillor said that they were tired of apologising for their religion. Although I believe that in the near future, the Church will further apologise for its position on HIV/AIDs and its treatment of homosexuals (just as it has for mass rape, torture, murder, slavery and the persecution of other religions) such is its need to stay somewhat current with the rest of civilisation. The councillors may be tired still.

But I digress, regardless of how moral or immoral the Roman Catholic Church may be is not what’s most important. What is most important is that neither the Roman Catholic Church nor any other faith has a place in the state. And there should be no exception, not even if, as one of the Kerry councillors said to justify, “the vast majority are of Christian faith.” The appeal to majority is not just a fatuous one it is fascistic too. It is an appeal that theocrats in Islamic states make at the expense of Christians, Jews and other religious minorities who are pushed to the margins of society because they are not the majority.It is an appeal that betrays incredible ignorance.

At the end of the cold war the academic Francis Fukuyama declared the ‘End of History.’ What Fukuyama meant was the debate between liberal democracy and communism was over-liberal democracy won. The same is true of the debate on secular democracy and theocracy-secular democracy won. The Kerry councillors should be mindful that they, like the communists, are on the wrong side of history.

 

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17 Apr

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Ukraine steps closer to the brink

Three pro-Russian separatists were killed yesterday as they attacked a base of the Ukrainian national guard. It is the most violent incident to date in a 10-day pro-Russian uprising in eastern Ukraine. It has overshadowed emergency talks which are taking place between Ukrainian, Russian and Western diplomats in Geneva to try to resolve the conflict. The incident follows farcical scenes earlier in the week when Ukrainian soldiers, sent to restore order in the east, were confronted by pro-Russian crowds and forced to retreat and give up their weapons and equipment. Russian President Vladimir Putin has reiterated that Ukraine is on the brink of a civil war. For more go to Reuters.

Korean ferry search hampered by conditions

Bad weather and strong currents are among the conditions hampering search efforts for 282 people reported missing after the South Korean ferry, The Sewol, capsized yesterday off the south coast of the country. Of the 475 people on board, 340 were students and teachers from a Seoul High School. So far 179 people have been rescued and 14 people have been confirmed dead although that figure is expected to rise as rescuers struggle to locate survivors. It has been reported that only two life rafts were successfully launched sparking suspicion of the conduct of the captain and crew. For more go to the BBC.

Abducted Nigerian students whereabouts unknown

The fate of 115 Nigerian schoolgirls reported to have been abducted by Islamist extremists on Tuesday has been thrown into doubt today after their principal denied the Nigerian military’s report that they had been freed. The military had reported that all but eight of the 129 students and teachers abducted by men posing as soldiers had been accounted for. The mass abduction coincided with an attack on a bus station outside the capital Abuja, which has also been blamed on Islamist extremists. For more go to The New York Times.

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Iran cuts uranium stock

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16 Apr

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Hundreds feared drowned as ferry sinks

Nearly 300 people have been reported missing as a ferry sank off the coast of South Korea today. Survivors reported hearing a loud noise before the ferry began to list on its side. There were 459 people on board, 338 of them students and teachers from a Seoul high school. There has been confusion as to the number rescued and missing. Coastguard officials said 164 had been rescued so far while the Ministry of Security and Public Administration earlier reported that 368 people had been rescued, although this figure was later revised downward. Vessels from the South Korean Navy and Coastguard as well as a US Navy ship are conducting a rescue operation. For more go to Reuters. 

Ukraine stands on the brink

Tensions escalated in Ukraine today as pro-Russian separatists seized more public buildings in eastern Ukraine while many Ukrainian troops sent to restore order have reportedly defected to the separatists side. Tensions are tense in the eastern city of Slovyansk where this morning combat vehicles flying Russian flags rolled through. Ukrainian soldiers and combat vehicles were also blocked by a crowd of civilians on the outskirts of the city. The operation by Ukrainian forces to quell the restive east is now in its second day and has been described by acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov as “counter-terrorism.” Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that Ukraine was on the verge “of a civil war.” For more go to The Washington Post.

Iran consider banning vasectomies

Iranian MPs are considering banning vasectomies and tightening abortion laws in efforts to increase Iran’s birthrate. The Islamic state initiated an effective birth control programme two decades ago in response to a rapid increase in birthrate following an eight-year war with Iraq. The programme includes subsidised sterilisation and the distribution of free condoms. The supreme leader, Ayatalloah Ali Khamenei, has criticised the programme, describing it as a western imitation, and has urged a U-turn to increase Iran’s population. For more go to the Guardian.

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Al Qaeda leader vows to attack America

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15 Apr

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Obama presses Putin to stop separatists

US President Barack Obama yesterday urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to use his influence to make Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine stand down. Separatist groups continue to occupy public buildings in several cities despite threats from Ukraine’s acting President Olexander Turchynov to forcibly remove them. The groups occupying the buildings are demanding referendums on greater autonomy or an option to join the Russian Federation. A meeting with delegates from the US, Russia, EU and Ukraine is to convene in Geneva on Thursday to discuss the crisis in Ukraine. For more go to BBC.

China to start new space race

Chinese President Xi Jinping today told members of the Chinese military to increase their air and space defence capabilities. Speaking at Air Force headquarters in Beijing, Xi said to officers that they need to speed up air and space integration. China has shown increasing ambition to develop its military space programme. Fears of a space arms race between China and the US and others were raised after China used a ground missile to destroy one of its satellites in 2007. For more go to Reuters.

UN human rights chief condemns Syrian abuse

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has condemned the widespread torture committed by all sides in the Syrian conflict. The Office of the High Commissioner yesterday released a report identifying individual cases of torture committed in detention facilities in Syria. The report detailed the torture techniques of state authorities and said that torture by opposition groups was on the rise, particularly in the north of Syria. More than 100,000 people are believed to have died in the three-year conflict. For more go the LA Times.

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Underwater search for MH370 cut short

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14 Apr

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Deadline passes as separatists ready for Ukrainian forces

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine are bracing themselves for a conflict with Ukrainian security forces after they refused to meet Monday’s deadline to disarm and end their occupation of state buildings. Ukraine’s acting president Oleksander Turchinov warned separatists on Sunday that they would face a full-scale security operation if they refused to meet the deadline. Turchinov has taken a more aggressive approach after a state security officer was killed in the city of Slaviansk. A crackdown on separatists could further escalate tensions with Russia who Ukraine and the US have accused of aiding the separatists in attempts to further annex Ukrainian territory and gain greater influence in the region. For more go to Reuters.

Dozens killed in Nigeria bus blasts

More than 70 people have been reported killed in two blasts at a crowded bus station just outside Nigeria’s capital Abuja. The blasts happened this morning as commuters boarded the buses to take them to the capital. Nigerian officials have said that the death toll stands at 71 with more than 120 injured. Experts have speculated that the blasts may have been carried out by Boko Harem, an Islamic militant group. This year alone, Boko Harem have killed more than 1,500 civilians in north-east Nigeria, according to experts. For more go to BBC.

Abdullah leads the way in Afghan election

Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah has emerged as the early leader in the first partial results from Afghanistan’s presidential elections. An estimated 7 million Afghans took to the polls eight days ago in the first democratic transition of presidential power in Afghanistan’s history. The first results, though far from definitive, give Abdullah a four point lead over former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani. Abdullah has received 41.9 percent of the votes counted so far, although he will need more than 50 percent to be declared the outright winner and avoid a likely runoff with Ghani. For more go to The Washington Post.

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Search for MH370 goes underwater

China refuses to talk human rights with UK

White supremacist kills three in Kansas

 

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US and Japan talk trade

Trade negotiators said today that big gaps remain between the United States and Japan after two days of talks on a bilateral trade deal which is viewed as being of vital importance to greater regional co-operation. The deal would form a key part of the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-nation partnership that would stretch across The Pacific. A deal between the US and Japan would follow that made between Australia and Japan earlier this week. The US wants Japan to open its rice, beef and pork, dairy and sugar sectors, while Japan wants US tariffs on imported motors vehicles reduced. Negotiators hope to have a deal ahead of US President Barack Obama state visit to Japan on 24-25 April. For more go to Reuters.

Indians vote in key states

Millions of Indians across 14 states are voting today on the biggest day of the general election so far. Voting is taking place for 91 seats including in the capital Delhi and key states such as Uttar Pradesh and Kerala. Voting began on Monday and will conclude on 12 May with the main opposition party the BJP expected to win the largest share of the 543 parliamentary seats up for grabs. More than 800 million Indians are eligible to vote in the world’s largest general election. For more go to the BBC.

Russia declined to share info on Boston bomber

Russian authorities declined to share information on one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects according to a FBI report. In 2011 Russian authorities told the FBI that Chechen Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a “strong believer” of radical Islam. Following an initial investigation the FBI requested further information on Tsarnaev which Russian authorities denied them. Three people were killed and dozens injured when two improvised devices exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon last year. Tameralan Tsarnaev was killed while attempting to elude police while his brother and other suspect Dzokhar Tsarnaev is awaiting trial before a federal court. For more go the New York Times.

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Separatists take stand against Ukraine

Up to 50 Pro-Russian separatists have barricaded themselves in a public building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk. The building is one of several that have been seized in the east of Ukraine in the past week by separatists demanding regional referenda on independence, similar to that which took place in Crimea last month. The government in Kiev has accused Russia of backing the separatists and fomenting unrest in the region, and have warned that they will use force to restore order if necessary. Russia has denied the accusations and has said that Ukraine and The United States have “no reason to be worried”. For more go to Reuters.

Prosecutor challenges Pistorius

Cross-examination of Oscar Pistorius began in Pretoria today. Pistorious stands on trial charged with the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at their Pretoria home last year. He has denied the charge, claiming that he shot and killed Steenkamp by accident, mistaking her for an intruder. The Olympian yesterday tearfully recounted the day that he shot his girlfriend. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel began today by pressing Pistorius on the “magnitude” of what had happened. For more go to BBC.

Search for MH370 narrows

The search area for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 has narrowed after two further signals, consistent with that of a flight recorder, were detected by ships searching the southern Indian Ocean. Australian authorities said today that the Australian defence vessel Ocean Shield has detected ‘pings’ on Tuesday and that the search area was being reduced to 75,000 sq km. It is now five weeks since MH370 and the 239 people on board went missing. For more go to the Guardian.

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Culture Secretary resigns amidst expenses controversy

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