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Defamation of Christianity in our Marketplace.

By Paul Merkley.

DEFAMATION OF CHRISTIANITY THE MARKETPLACE.

By Paul Merkley.

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According to the organization, Open Doors (usa@opendoors.org) persecution against Christians is increasing, intensifying and spreading throughout the entire world.

This responsible organization calculates that more than 245 million people are “highly persecuted for their choice to follow Jesus where they live.” This is an increase over last year’s 215 million.

Worldwide today, a high level of persecution is the lot of one in nine Christians in the world — up from 1 in 12 last year. Every day, eleven people are killed because they are Christians.

Outright persecution in the textbook sense is not going on in our own midst, of course, although there are indicators already that persons and organizations whose hearts are set on outright persecution are working devotedly to lower respect for Christian faith, further and further, with the goal of achieving conditions under which outright persecution will have become possible. The first step on this path is lowering respect for Christian faith and for Christian practice, through ridicule and mockery.

Almost everywhere in our midst, it is generally accepted that Christian faith should never be presented in the public space as something that engages healthy minds. Any reference to the church or to the Bible or to any Christian organizations has to be handled as damaged goods – definitely not to be recommended to the enlightened minds. In short: in the public space nothing positive is ever said about the Bible, the church, priests, clergy, or individuals who identify themselves out loud as Christians. In the world of popular entertainment, such persons and such institution get mentioned only briefly and always as objects of scorn and ridicule. All of this contributes to a pattern of increasing boldness in expressions of contempt for what has been received from our civilization and culture:

A recent contribution to this missionary effort is the publication of a crudely blasphemous portrayal of Jesus as a moronic sort of comic book action hero. ( https://www.cbr.com/jesus-christ-dc-comics-superhero/.) Since the appearance of that item, the googlim have brought to my attention an Australian publication which goes even further in the work of mocking to death Christian faith. The amazing brazenness of this material is all the more damaging to the values of our civilization by reason of the fact that its central message is an appeal for support of a cause that is presumed to be impervious to criticism — organ donation.

https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/australian-company-uses-blasphemous-portrayal-of-jesus-crucifixion-to-push-organ-donation

In this Australian commercial, Jesus Christ is portrayed dying on the cross as Roman soldiers try to sign him up to donate his organs after death. Australian Christians are calling the commercial, produced for the government-backed Dying to Live campaign “beyond blasphemous.

It is hard to believe that the government employees responsible for this literature simply failed to notice the possibility of offense. Events of this kind make it clear that there is a willful and perfectly conscious effort in our midst – in this present case, supported by public money – to distribute contempt for the story of Jesus.

Serious Christian individuals, as well as church organizations, have a duty to be vigilant around these matters and to protest in the loudest terms; otherwise, organizations that make profit out of all provocative publicity – from comic-books all the way up to government manifestos – will conclude that mockery of Christ is a sure way to make profits in every corner of the market place.

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When one reads about 11th century Europe, the focus often turns to key events such as the Norman invasion of England in 1066, the beginning of the crusades (1096), or the rise of cathedral schools, to name only a few. Often lost is recognition of global warming advancing the standard of living of tens of millions of people. Continue Reading »

THE DISMAL PROSPECT FOR CHRISTIANITY IN EGYPT

By Paul Merkley.

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Recently, Pope Francis visited Egypt (https://www.osv.com/…/Pope-Francis-preaches-peace-unity-in-Egypt.aspx.)

As usual on such occasions, the principals, Pope Francis and President Sisi of Egypt, huddled briefly out of view. The content of their discussion we cannot know, but the published statement for the press and the waiting world afterwards exposes their heartfelt concern for all suffering people everywhere. As for Egypt, itself, the Pope expressed confidence that the Catholics of Egypt and Christians generally were all proud Egyptians and that they all rejoiced in the goodwill of their neighbours.

In spite of the politically-inspired reassurances of the Pope, we know from testimony of the Christians who have fled to our world that the Christian population of Egypt experience substantial, daily persecution by the general population – which is reckoned to be 97% Muslim. Reporting in Western media on this theme has been sparse, but it is not impossible to find. (See, “Christians in Egypt face unprecedented persecution,” Guardian, January 10, 2018.)

 

The Pope also had a message for Western leaders who invoke anti-Islamic rhetoric. “Demagogic forms of populism are on the rise. These certainly do not help to consolidate peace and stability,” he said.

It should surprise no grown-up person to find that actual reality is clearly at odds with the Pope’s fantastic description of the life of Christians in Egypt. For some reason that I have never seen adequately explained, only the Guardian seems to have a continuing interest in this matter of how Muslim governments treat their Christian population. With respect to Egypt, here follows an example is its recent reportage on the situation of Christians in Muslim Egypt.

 

Christians in Egypt are facing unprecedented levels of persecution, with attacks on churches and the kidnap of girls by Islamist extremists intent on forcing them to marry Muslims, a report says. In the past year, Egypt has moved up an annual league table of persecution of Christians compiled by the charity Open Doors. (“Christians in Egypt are facing unprecedented levels of persecution,” Guardian, January 10. 2018.)

Other sources report on exceptionally spectacular cases of Muslim persecution of ‘Christians in Egypt, but show no commitment to ongoing research into the theme. (“Christians in Egypt bury their dead after attack,” ctvnews.ca, November 3, 2018; bbc.com/news, May 26, 2017.)

The Muslim population of Egypt is officially reckoned at ninety-two percent. The Christian population is officially reckoned to be 10 percent of this figure. Of these, only 200,000 are Roman Catholics; the vast majority belong to the Orthodox churches.

The number of Christians is declining daily, as almost all of the emigres from Egypt to our world have been Christian. The primary reason for this fact is simply that Christians are readier to emigrate, out of determination to find a better life. The Egyptian authorities are disposed to understate this matter — for obvious reasons.

This is a general fact of life just about everywhere in the Muslim world — that readiness to emigrate follows from the fact that Christians are generally much better-educated than the general population. The history behind that circumstance is that reading of the Bible is a powerful force in the upbringing of Christians generally. Accordingly, dedication to basic literacy is a major preoccupation in the culture of Christians and of Jews everywhere in the world. Among many other consequence is that Christians, like Jews, achieve higher levels of education and of professional training than is found among the members of the larger host culture. From this discrepancy follows a corresponding discrepancy in wealth and material success – from which follows the resentment of the local masses. And from all of this follows the inclination of Christians and Jews, to seek greater economic opportunities and a more congenial life in the outside world – in Europe and in the Americas.

Many Muslim countries have for several generations been witnessing emigration rates among their Christian minorities so steeply rising that there is a clear prospect today of the disappearance, before many more decades go by, of the Christians from the lands of their birth.

It is safe to say that most of our journalists and politicians are under the impression that the Muslim are the aboriginal people of the Middle East and that the Christians are “imperialists” – late arrivals who tried to bury the original Muslim culture under the weight of missionary action and thinking. The beginning of wisdom on the matter of Christian/Muslim relations is that, despite near-total amnesia on this matter on the part of our intelligentsia, Christian people made up almost the entire population in the lands where the alien Muslim hoards found them in the decades immediately following the Prophet’s death in 732AD. The missionary method that Muslims have used at this moment in History is the same as the one that they have used in all parts of the world where they were proved successful– in Asia and in Africa and in the Far East. It always begins with a heart-stopping demonstration of the consequences that would follow from refusal to submit.

(We should never forget that “Submission,” both in theory and in practice – has always been what Islam means. Muslims have never been interested in discussion.)

Islam’s first victories were won under threat of imminent death. Massive taxation was imposed upon those who would not accept the terms of their quasi-enslavement. These were to be the terms of existence for non-Muslim people throughout the Arab world– until the British and the French imposed their Empires in the mid-Nineteenth-century.

In the wacky, upside-down world in which our own politically-correct scholars operate today, the British and the French who liberated the masses who had so long been enslaved by Islam, are branded as “imperialist.” Contempt for our own Christian origins requires monolithic denunciation of Christian missionaries and the nominally-Christian political regimes that were their collaborators, while the monsters who imposed by violence Islamic conformity on everything and everybody – and who will do so again, when opportunity affords — are portrayed as victims of cultural imperialism.

Today, most people of Middle-Eastern origin living in Canada and the United States are Christians. The reason is simple: to have sufficient knowledge of history and contemporary realities to recognize the superior opportunities provided by the North American situation requires some knowledge of recent History – and that, of course, requires literacy. Because their religious lives were founded upon serious devotion to the reading of the Bible, Christians were qualified, as their Muslim neighbours were not, to see the advantages of leaving the Arab world behind and moving to the New World.

Take the case of Iraq. Following the Iraq war, the Christian population of Iraq collapsed. Of the nearly 1 million Christians, living in Iraq at the time of the American-led invasion in 2003, most have emigrated to the United States, Canada, Australia or to some of the 28 member states of the EU. Most of the rest are now concentrated within the northern Kurdish enclave of Iraqi Kurdistan. As Christian numbers decline, hatred of them grows among the Muslims whom they are leaving behind. Christians made up 12% of the population of Iraq in 1948 (at that time, about 5 million.) By 1987, when the total population of Iraq was about 20 million, they made up about 7%; in 1987 they were 6% of a total of 20 million; they were 6% in 2003 , of a total of 27 million. The Muslim masses are or course resentful of the opportunities to leave that belong to such people. Such opportunity is fundamentally a consequence of being better equipped for a new life in a new world – and that in turn requires better education– something that has always marked Christians everywhere in the world, but which has likewise y occasioned rage amongst the Muslim masses.

 

So far, the Christians of Egypt have seemed to be relatively the most secure. This circumstance turns on the large degree of respect that this community commands in the eyes of its dictator, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

However, as I write (Monday, September 23), news is coming of a massive demonstration being mounted in Cairo and satellite demonstrations in other cities (including Alexandria and Suez) demanding the resignation of President Sisi. (www.middleeasteye.net/news/protests-break-out-against-egypts-sisi,-cairo😉 The wed-journal, Middle East Eye describes the protests as the largest since Sisi took control of the country in 2014, in the wake of the overthrow of former President Mohamed Morsi.

No doubt there is merit in the case again Sisi, who, like every Arab leader in the history of the world, has used the highest office in his land to enrich himself his family and his coterie and has brutally expunged any who voice dissent. So far expert voices seem agreed that Sisi has the resources to quell these scattered disturbances and to recover quickly at least the degree of authority that he had before. Still, it needs to be considered that if the dictator Sisi is overthrown, the Christian population of Egypt faces rapid extinction. Any successor is bound to include in his indictment of his predecessor the charge that he made himself an instrument of the Christians — and in doing proved his villainy.

If Sisi falls, the demonization of Christians – already a force great enough to have prompted all Christians in Egypt to contemplate seeking refuge in our world — can now proceed apace; and as it does, we can be sure that our own elected politicians will look the other way for the sake of ingratiation with the new man of the hour—the latest of the long line of champions of Islam.

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CHRISTIAN PEOPLE IN THE ARAB WORLD ARE FACING EXTINCTION:

(2) The Cases of Iraq and Syria. .

by Paul Merkley.

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Christians have always been seen by their neighbours in the Middle East as People of the Book. Their commitment to reading is founded in devotion to the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures that make up our Bible. While piety certainly drove the ambition of the earliest Christians for access to Scripture, a parallel benefit of literacy and the wonderful effects of Bible-reading upon imagination, were soon discovered. Literacy begat enthusiasm for secular wisdom – including Science and History.

In the years following the conquest of Middle Eastern Christians by the Muslims, the latter noticed that the children of Christians were participating in much great numbers in emigration from the Arab and Muslim world. As more and more Christians took advantage of their greater qualifications as literate people to emigrate, the Christian proportion of the population remaining in the Middle East began declining steadily.

This began well before the dawn of the Twentieth Century. In 1900, Christians made up 25 percent of the population of the Middle East; by 2000 they were less than 5 percent. Wherever they may still be found in the Middle East, they live in the midst of chaos. Few reliable governmental services exist; and this state of affairs exists in spades today in Iraq and Syria, where the ISIS state declared Christians to be enemies of the people, and forced them to hide or to flee. The effects of this today upon the matter of determining population can only be guessed at. One percent or less of the total population of Iraq and Syria may be approximately correct. But however numerous, they are all bent on finding a way out.

Almost all of the Christians living today in Iraq and Syria belong to churches whose origins go back several centuries before the origins of the major churches of the West. By the same reckoning, they go back at least three centuries before the Muslim horde came over the hills and put an end to the independent existence of the Arab kingdoms of the time.

As conquered peopled have done everywhere, many of the conquered Christians of the Middle East armored themselves against humiliation by inventing grander histories for themselves than they were entitled to. An excellent example of this can be seen in the determination of the Christian population of what we call today Iraq and Syria to be referred to as “Assyrians.” The psychology is obvious – but not to their credit. The Christian people who in the Eighth Century AD were humiliated by becoming subject to conquering “Arabs”— illiterates, and from the point of view of the newly subject Christians, uncivilized – have insisted ever since upon being called “Assyrians” – as though they were the descendants of the warrior race who appear in Jewish scripture as perhaps the greatest conquering people race of the ancient times. The message is: Abject, conquered people we may appear, but in our hearts we are the conquerors, while you ……

Sadly, a principal factor explaining the surrender of the Christians and the triumph of the Muslims some sixteen centuries ago was the fact that the Christians had wasted so much of their energies over the previous centuries fighting over theological matters and matters of ecclesiology. The result was that they were reduced into several sects, whose very names are known today only to hyper experts. (See my essay, “How Christian Communities Die in the Middle East: Lessons from the Sorry History of the Assyrians,” http://www.thebayviewreview, July 29, 2013.)

Particularly sad has been the story of the Christians of Iraq. Like all of the Christian communities of the Middle East they gained a degree of independence from their Muslim masters when the British and French established their “Protectorates” in the Nineteenth Century on top of the local jurisdictions that operated under the aegis of the Ottoman Empire. And then, the Ottomans made the grand error of throwing in their lot with the Empires of Germany and Austria during the First World War. Germany (in case you haven’t heard) was defeated, and her colonial possessions handed as prizes to the British and the French – who carved out Protectorates over Syria and Iraq.

During the 1920s and 1930s the Christian people of Iraq and Syria, although a minority, seemed reasonably well-situated to stave off the challenge represented by the aggressive Islam of their neighbours. Or so they might have been had they been able to resist the temptation to leave the Middle East and go to Europe and to the Americas. In 1947, 4.7 million Christians represented about 12% of the population of Iraq.; by 2013, the number had dropped to perhaps 450,000. During the months of the ISIS campaign of liquidation, neighbours marked their doors (usually under cover of darkness)with the Arabic equivalent of our letter N (for “Nassara = Nazarene or Christians – an open invitation to looting. Their numbers are now estimated to be as low as 200,000.

Then came the American-led invasion (2003) and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. In Saddam’s Iraq as in Assad’s regime next door, the Assyrians had looked to the dictator as their protector against popular Muslim hostility. The moment that Saddam Hussein fell, Muslim mobs, acting on the advice of their religious teachers, began attacking the churches. Even before the Islamic State got into the game a few years ago, hundreds of Christians had been kidnapped and murdered by other Iraqis because of their Assyrian ethnicity and their Christian faith.

Thus, the single most important feature in the history of Christian people in the Arab world has been their flight from it.

A few years ago, the organization which speaks for the Assyrian community issued an appeal to the Five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council to establish an internationally-administered safe haven, a sovereign entity, for Assyrians of Iraq and the larger region. At one point, France, one of the Permanent Five, came up with the suggestion that the nations of Europe ought to get together and establish a safe haven in Europe for the Assyrians. But the association which speaks for most Assyrians came up with this unanticipated response:

France has announced its intention to grant asylum to the Christians forced out of Mosul [and to address] the immediate and disastrous situation facing Christian Assyrians in Iraq … All the Christians of the Middle East thank you, France, for offering a safe haven in, say, Marseille. But we know that it is not a tenable solution. The Assyrians need a permanent safe haven in the Middle East itself: the birthplace of Christianity and where our legacy of seven thousand years rests.

To further bolster the Assyrian credentials, these spokesmen note that “they also speak the language of Jesus.” (AINA editorial board: August 13, 2014: “Europe Must Arm the Assyrians, Provide Immediate Humanitarian Aid.”)

The eminent Roman Catholic author George Weigel insists that it is now time to reckon what is happening to the Assyrians as “genocide.”

Today, western politicians seem to fear that naming the genocide of Christians for what it is, or treating Christian refugees as refugees, will be taken as a gesture of disrespect for Islam. This is shameful. (George Weigel, “ISIS, Genocide, and Us, http;//www.firstthings.com, February 20, 2016.

Weigel has put his finger upon the major deficiency in the Assyrian cause — that these are Christians. The liberal-internationalists who make our foreign policy are so obsessed by determination not to appear unfriendly to Islam that they turn a deaf ear to the rightful claims of Christians.

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CHRISTIAN PEOPLE IN THE ARAB WORLD ARE FACING EXTINCTION.

By Paul Merkley.

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Most people in our part of the world who imagine that they are well-in formed about current affairs are under the impression that the indigenous people of the Middle East are the Arabs, and that where non-Arab communities exist these are the products of European missionary efforts in recent centuries. But this is just one figment of the righteous post-colonial imagination – only one among the political fantasies which are countless, like the sands of the sea.

The reality is that, far from being indigenous to this part of the world, the Arabs arrived in the late seventh and early eight centuries AD — quite recently, by the reckoning of Ancient History — and established by violent force their several regimes upon the truly indigenous populations– who were for the most part, Christians.

Ever since the Arab/Muslim conquests of the Eighth Century, these Christians had lived as subject communities, pledging allegiance to Istanbul, receiving in return the protection of the latter against the hostile local Muslim people.

(The term “Protection” in this context has to be understood as akin to its usage in the practice of the Mafia.)

But then, having joined the losing side in the Great War (1914-1918), the Ottoman Empire was forced by the European powers to release from its regime the whole of its Arab possessions. Independent, states, almost entirely Muslim, were carved out of this vast terrain. Christians made up a substantial minority within each of these regimes.

As with all other Christian people, everywhere and at any time, the reading of the Bible was at the heart of their religious practice; and so they sought out opportunities for literacy. This has set them apart from all peoples who have over time been their neighbours – except, of course, their spiritual parents the Jews. While originally grounded in spiritual purpose, literacy qualified the Christians for training and certification as medical doctors and other professionals, such as scientists, engineers, lawyers, et cetera. Historically, they have always moved in “elite” circles. But, so long as they remained within the Arab-speaking world, opportunities to serve in these disciplines were never sufficient.

All of this led to antipathy, jealousy and complaint, from the Muslim populations, among whom the Christians lived. And so this in turn drew the thoughts and minds of Christian Arabs to emigration.

For all these reasons, the Christian proportion of the population of the Middle East has declined steadily and rapidly since the dawn of the Twentieth Century.

In 1900 Christians made up 25 percent of the population of the Middle East; by 2000 they were less than 5 percent. Plausible numbers are hard to find for today’s Christian population, given that most of them have fled from the Middle East Wherever they may still be found in the Middle East, they live in the midst of chaos. Few reliable governmental services exist; and this state of affairs exists in spades in the matter of reckoning population—given that the ISIS state declared them enemies of the people, and forced them to hide or to flee. One percent or less is probably approximately correct. But however numerous, they are all bent on finding a way out.

The Arab states, ribs out of the side of the Ottoman Empire, have never given good government to their people. All became venal, tyrannical, anti-democratic regimes of one sort or another. Our politicians remain dedicated to the policy of pretending to see progress in these regimes. But this is dishonest fantasy, to which our governments imagine that they are bound by the needs of statecraft and economy policy, and which they have been promoting sedulously since the 1940s at least. .

In this and subsequent essays I intend to look more closely at these themes as they have played out in the several distinct political regimes within the Arab world.

To be continued….

WHAT THE HISTORY OF ETHIOPIA TEACHES US ABOUT THE IDEA OF PROGRESS.

By Paul Merkley.

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Recent events, both in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, and throughout the land, suggest that that ancient country – Africa’s second most populous nation at about 110,000,000, nearly four times the population of Canada — is headed for division, civil war, and even anarchy.

The most recent events in a very confused chronicle include a failed coup on June 26, conducted by what is described as a “rogue state militia”, followed a day or two later by “dozens” of large-scale protests (www.dw.com/en/dozens-killed-in-weekend-protests-across-ethiopia; www.voanews.com/africa/assassinations-arrests-test-ethiopias-fragile-push-toward-democracy; http://www.nationalpost.com/pmn/elections-pmn/ethiopia-faces-more-conflict-with-ethnic-groups-push-for-region.)

It will probably be several weeks before we know what these events amount to.

This is a depressing development. Political life in Ethiopia is now in total disarray — a step closer to almost inevitable anarchy.

It would take a steady hand and nerves of steel to write the history of Ethiopia. Ethiopia is one of two nations (the other being Israel) that appears in the earliest books of our Bible—at least in the King James Version — by the name (“Ethiopia,” which means “land of burnt faces”) that it has today.

In our Bible, the Kingdom of Sheba, corresponds to what we call Ethiopia, but extends beyond those present-day boundaries to include the Horn of Africa and the south coast of the Arabian Peninsula. In Biblical days, the kingdom was renowned for its material wealth: The “Queen of Sheba,” we read, came to Jerusalem “with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, and very much gold, and precious stones” ( IKings 10:2); “Never again came such an abundance of spices” (IKings 10:10; IIChron 9:1–9) as those she gave to Solomon.

Like every other assertion that the Bible makes, this one is, of course, disputed—in whole or in part. But there seems to be no good reason to doubt its main details.

Ethiopian historians follow this Biblical account, and add to it the detail that the child born to Solomon and Sheba was Emperor Menelik I who founded the Solomonid dynasty. This dynasty continued until Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed in 1974 by a Communist coup; the Communist regime which, in turn, was ousted a few years later.

Not even the experts can rhyme off the names of all the regimes that have governed this poor African nation. During the late Nineteenth Century, when the European nations were caught up in their “scramble” to re-organize African people into “colonies,” Ethiopia remained independent. But then, in 1936, Ethiopia’s last monarch, Haile Selassie, fled as Mussolini, dictator of Italy, sent in his armies and imposed his cruel regime – for no better reason than that the rest of Africa was already all parceled up into European-colonial blocks. But the Ethiopian people, with the assistance of the British, fought their way out of Italy’s clutches by 1945; Haile Selassie slouched back, but proved so incompetent and so venal that he had to slink away again in September, 1974. When the dust settled upon that chapter, a Communist government – of all unlikely things! – was standing in Haile Selassie’s place. This regime proved incredibly cruel, even by Communist standards. The nation lost about eight million people to famine. When the Soviet Union collapsed, so did its clients – including Communist Ethiopia (by 1991.)

Since 1991, efforts to put the Ethiopian government on a sound basis through the holding of elections have all come crashing down, as in every case one or more of countless nationalist movements have withheld their support. Today, Ethiopia is governed by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front – a grand name, but just another African kleptocracy.

Today, all across Ethiopia, massive popular protests, aimed at securing basic human rights and a fairer distribution of wealth, are being dispersed by Ethiopian police forces and military. Chronic inter-tribal hostilities have caused so much internal dislocation that the government has been able to blanket the nation with one seamless declaration of national emergency after another. Millions of people are reckoned as internally displaced.

Ethiopia, then also known as the Kingdom of Aksum, was one of the first states to officially adopt the religion of Christianity—from the top down. Today, the vast majority of the population of Ethiopia adheres to Christianity – and the vast majority of these belong to the State Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Roughly a third of the populace follows Islam (primarily Sunni.) During the late 19th-century “Scramble for Africa”, Ethiopia was one of two nations to retain its sovereignty, standing exempt from long-term colonialism by a European colonial power. But then, in 1936, the country was occupied by Italy and became part of the Italian East Africa, until it was liberated during World War II. In 1974, the Ethiopian monarchy under Haile Selassie was overthrown by a communist-military government backed by the Soviet Union. This People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, in turn, was overthrown in 1991 by the non-Marxist Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, which has been the ruling political coalition since.

Unfortunately, Ethiopia’s right to be called a “democratic nation” has been tarnished again and again, despite so many apparent new beginnings. According to the Democracy Index published by the United Kingdom-based Economist Intelligence Unit in late 2010, Ethiopia is an “authoritarian regime”, ranking as the 118th-most democratic out of 167 countries in the world. In fact, over the last decade alone, Ethiopia has dropped down a notch or two with each annual publication of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s list of the democratic qualifications of all of the world self-described “democratic nations.” The latest report attributes the sagging reputation of Ethiopia to that government’s crackdown on opposition activities as well as the low level of performance of its media and civil society. The current report of the Economist Intelligence Unit designates Ethiopia a de facto one-party state.

This is a depressing development. Political life in Ethiopia is now in total disarray—a step closer to almost inevitable anarchy.

What makes this this even more depressing is the recognition that the History of Ethiopia takes us back as far as documented History takes us anywhere. Actual historical material for the earliest centuries is, of course, sparse. Still, Ethiopia’s history takes the historians as far back as the History of the Ancient Hebrews — about two thousand years further back than the origins of any European nation.

This thought all by itself demolishes the notion of human progress. To all but the specialists, there is nothing about Ethiopia’s history to suggest that along the way Ethiopian common people were ever better governed, happier, materially better-off or more secure in their homes than they are today. Ethiopia’s thirty-five centuries or so of history – that is, about twenty-five centuries more history than that of any European nation — while colorful and very noisy, does not yield the hallmarks of “progress” that Nineteenth Century Liberals told us would stand out as the organizing theme of World History.

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A TALE OF TWO TRUDEAUS:

The Current Challenge to the Place of Christian Faith in Canada’s Public Life.

By Paul Merkley.

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From the beginning, Canada has allowed a place in her public life for expression of our indebtedness to the God of the Bible – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.

The status of this concept in our present constitution is secured by reason of wording that appears in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which stands as the preamble to the Canada Act of 1982 – the principal source for our current constitution. Here we read, “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.. (https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/Const)

Our experience of independent national life, now a matter of a century-and-a-half, has demonstrated that occasional public expression of this indebtedness is necessary for sustaining broadly-shared confidence in divine protection over our public life.

This acknowledgment is in every way compatible with individual, personal, and private acceptance of the great variety of other religious commitments –as well as well as the options of agnosticism and atheism.

A close study of the historical record bears out, in fact, that it is only under this practice – that is, in a context where nominal affirmation of the God of the Bible exists side by side with a reasonable agnosticism when national symbols are invoked – that “peace, order, and good government” in fact do exist as a matter of history.

In light of this historical reality, we should be taking very seriously the fact that at the very top of our political life there is taking hold today an attitude of contempt for Christianity, its legacy and its values. In preamble to an address to a convocation of scientists, Julie Payette, our twenty-ninth Governor-General, appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on July 13, 2017, brazenly put to use the prestige of her office to launch a dogmatic assault upon the theological premise which, as just noted, is embedded in our Constitution. “So many people,” she opined, “still believe, want to believe that maybe taking a sugar pill will cure cancer if you will it good enough and that your future and every single one of the people here’s personalities [sic!!!] can be determined by looking at planets coming in front of invented constellations!”

This excursion from the world of biblical faith into the world of daily newspaper horoscopy demeans the former while it insults the intelligence of just about every adult. The reporter who quotes this blast describes it as having been “met with the delight of many scientists and researchers in the room.” No doubt. And this could arguably be the most depressing aspect of the story. Such segue from the context of Biblically-based religion into the world of horoscopes is meant to level down the former to the philosophical and moral of paganism.

A more basic question might be: Are today’s scientists so lacking in self-respect that words as cluttered and confused as Payette’s seemed not to bother anybody in that roomful of post-graduate scientists? In fact, the reception, we are told, was rapturous.

Plainly, the purpose of Payette’s words was to establish in the public record an ex officio declaration of contempt for the religious belonging of most of the people whom she is supposed to represent. Would she dare express similar contempt, ex officio, for hockey?

Clearly, our Governor-General calculates that   Canadian people are indifferent to the reputation of the faith that has informed public life of Canada from its beginning…a calculation that the Canadian public is not bothered by such an expression of contempt for the principles that are plainly stated in the document which embodies our present Constitution – the Canada Act of 1982.

The least worrying part of the Governor-General’s observation here is not in the words, but in the spirit – a brazen and palpable contempt for the religious faith which (the best studies show) is shared by two-thirds of the Canadian public. In this light, it is amazing that this bombshell has gone virtually un-noticed:

A few alert critics were, however, disturbed by the mean-spirited character of Payette’s pronouncement. Conservative political strategist Alise Mills a senior associate with Sussex Strategy Group, said that Payette went way over the line with her speech, which Mills characterized as not only “political” but “mean-spirited.” “I definitely agree science is key,” she said, “but I think there is a better way to do that without making fun of other people.”

As I watched the chattering classes and prominent Liberal politicians storm to Payette’s defence, it occurred to me how indistinguishable the latter group is from the former. Many Liberal partisans would have seen the criticism as God-bothering nonsense from a bunch of conservative dinosaurs…. To the extent “middle class” means anything, in an electoral sense, it means a large group of people who aren’t rich, who don’t have three university degrees, who have never even visited France let alone failed to properly disclose a chateau they own there, and who are more likely than not to believe in God ….With her dig at religion, Julie Payette plays a dangerous game… The chattering classes might be just fine with an anti-religious Governor General. The folks who put Julie Payette in Rideau Hall certainly shouldn’t be…. [The intellect5ual elites think:] Why shouldn’t a scientist, appointed as the Queen’s representative in Ottawa, take the odd jab at the two-thirds of benighted Canadians who believe in God (per Angus Reid in 2015), and the 53 per cent who believe God is “active in this world.” (Julie Payette Speech Mocked People With Religious Beliefs, Critic Says https://nationalpost.com/opinion/chris-selley-with-her-dig-at-religion-julie-payette-plays-a-dangerous-game-for-liberals.)

Mills rightly noted that “Payette wasn’t just promoting science, she was mocking people with religious beliefs, and specifically, evangelical Christians who don’t believe evolutionary science.”

A political-science student of literalist bent would detect a discrepancy between this proclamation of Canada’s Governor-General and the founding document of the nation that she has hired on to serve.

In similar vein, Chris Selley, writing in the National Post, notes: “I definitely agree science is key but I think there is a better way to do that without making fun of other people.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t seem to have any issue with what Payette said, saying, “I applaud the firmness with which she stands in support of science and the truth.”

Interestingly, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who possesses three-quarters of an undergraduate B.A., went to Twitter to congratulate the Governor General for “speaking up for science.”

In comparison and contrast with Justin Trudeau, his much-better-educated father, Pierre Trudeau, (Prime Minister, 1968-1979) did everything humanly possible to keep the matter of his active Catholic practise out of our view during his lifetime. In this, he was a zealous as was Prime Minister W.L.M. King to keep from public view his devotion to spiritual mediumship. Trudeau succeeded to the extent that it was only long after his death that the archival historians found the evidence of his daily attendance at morning Mass. No doubt, Trudeau calculated that such information – so hard to reconcile with his carefully-cultivated image as the “swinger” — would not be a political asset. And no doubt he was right.

Justin Trudeau has been, at least in one sense, more open about his Catholic belonging while at the same time having, at least on record, much less commitment to practice of that faith. Certainly, there has never been any suggestion of daily attendance at mass. Indeed, he has been reluctant to give a straight answer to the question of whether he attends mass at all these day.

Still, Justin Trudeau states, “My own personal faith is an extremely important part of who I am and the values that I try to lead with.”

The question occurs: Is it better for a public man’s reputation that he should be found, after his death, to have worked as furiously as Pierre Trudeau did to put his public off the scent of his religious practise—or (as Justin Trudeau does today) that he should so publicly declare his contempt for the role that religion does in fact have in the daily lives of most Canadians?

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