Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Thursday, December 31, 2015

On the Last Day of 2015: Happy New Year

On this last day of 2015, I wish my readers a happy and blessed new year 2016 full of peace and good health; physically, psychologically, and spiritually.

I thank God that we have been granted life in spite of global terrorism and today's temptations that remind us of Apocalyptic messages particularly in the Book of Revelation attributed to John the Apostle.

In this Year of Mercy, it is my prayer to God that in his unlimited mercy He may accord global humanity eternal joy for which He created us and for which He offered us salvation through Jesus Christ. This is also the prayer of Hans Urs von Balthasar, one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century, made cardinal by Saint Pope John Paul II, whose literature on the mystical beauty of God has been read by many followers (see "Love Alone is Believable"), Jesuit scholar Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J. mentioned von Balthasar's prayer in one of his talks on eschatology in 2015 and the late Richard John Neuhaus, founder of First Things, referred to him in his article "Will All be Saved?"

I learned, however, that the scholar René Girard, retired professor of civilization and French at Stanford University, passed away to God at the age of 91 on November 4, 2015. His influence on the development of mimesis in shaping culture and religion has been immense. His significant contribution to many fields of knowledge can be seen here in a post by Bishop Robert Barron: and  Imitatio website where Mark Anspach wrote on René Girard's legacy here. I first learned about Girard when I was reading comments and reactions to the lecture of Pope Benedict XVI  at the University of Regensburg in 2006. One of the commentators was a Muslim writer who mentioned Girard's work on the centrality of the cross in Christianity and the response to violence. At that time I also learned of the writings of Prof. Fr. Samir Khalil Samir, S.J. related to the situation of Christians with radical Islam.  In fact, Girard's work became more relevant after the violent attack of Islamic extremists on 9/11, 2001 when planes were hijacked and crashed in the Twin Towers of New York killing some 3,000 U.S. citizens. Girard wrote frequently in First Things ("Are the Gospels Mythical" here and "On War and Apocalypse" here).

I lectured about Girard's thought a few times in 2007 and 2009 (see here). Fr. Georges Farah, whose credentials include a doctorate in philosophy and another in theology from The Sorbonne in Paris, commented too on Girard's mimetic theory and the scapegoat mechanism that Girard found in his anthropology of religion.

Let's hope a new year will usher the peace of Christ through Christian action and prayer in the global social and political changes of today and tomorrow. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Can Britain's Ban on the Muslim Brotherhood be a Turning Point for Global Christianity?

I think there is sufficient evidence that (as the Jesuit scholar Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J. said here in his homily) the world is converting to Christianity. In his apologetic book "Christianity among Other Religions", Professor Fr. Roch Kereszty, O. Cist. wrote that the only religions that preach to convert the world are Christianity and Islam. 

If Islam collapses, then there is an opportunity to fill the gap by Christian missions. 

Add the following points from recent reports:
1. According to The Economist (based on statistics provided by independent sources) Christianity remains the religion of Europe more than any other religion including Islam. Christianity is well and alive in Latin America and is increasing in Africa with vigor. Americans who are the most religious people on earth are fundamentally Christians. See the report here

In France, the National Front of Marine Le Pen has scored political points after the Paris Attack. According to Time Magazine here she may well form the next French government in 2017 (whether Majority or in a coalition with other parties). Her party is opposed to Islam in France. If she gets to power her strong voice will be heard in the rest of Europe's capitals as she promised a strong France and a conservative Christian French comeback, but it could also divide Europe. 

2. The Economist published an article on December 27 by one of the veteran writers "Charlemagne" on Pope Francis. Charlemagne's article states that Francis was selected to receive the 2016 Charlemagne Prize for his active role in breathing "a new life in the construction of Europe" citing Francis words that "Europe must be based on ideals, not economic calculations: above all the ideal of the sanctity of human life." This is a symbolic recognition of the Church's role in renewing Europe that could awaken Europeans to restore their recognition of Europe's Christian roots and promises reception of the Christian soul. 

3. Pope Francis has proven his geopolitical skills in a number of occasions - notably his intercession to reconcile Cuba and the U.S. where he took pain to sit down with the ailing Fidel Castro and his brother during his visit to Cuba in Summer in order to bring the Cuban people back to Church. On his way to the Philippines Pope Francis sent a message to the Chinese authorities greeting them for allowing his plane to go through their air zone. As a gesture he had delayed meeting with the Dalai Lama since the latter is an outspoken enemy against China for persecuting his Buddhist monks in Tibet.
However, there seems to be an improvement in the relationship between the Vatican and China. See this report published in September 2015.

4. The Far East has also been busy protecting the lands from Islamic extremists. India had its share in silencing them by force. China, as reported earlier this year in "Foreign Policy", is taking care of Islamic extremists in the Western Region and Northern Region infiltrated by Islamists. America loves it as China forces its troops into Afghanistan to clear it from Taliban as the American troops leave by 2016. And Russia loves it too as Chinese troops clear the Northern borders  of China that they share from any Islamic extremists while Putin finishes off Islamic extremists in Syria and turns his gaze to silence Erdogan and his Islamists as he did re the bridge that Erdogan wanted to build in order to revive a caliphate. When those are finished ISIS will be no longer a threat.
There are reports that talks between the Vatican an the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate are underway for a meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kiril of Moscow. See this report.

5.  I am not sure that Germany's Angela Merkel's admirable generosity towards Muslim refugees is based solely on a feeling to make up for the persecution of religion in East Germany's Communist era or the Nazi's persecution of Jews. In my opinion, there are probably hidden intentions in welcoming Muslim refugees without prior screening:

a) Merkel has and continues to press Greece's government to impose austerity measures on the Greeks for the loans and guarantees she provided as the leader of the Euro-zone. Her finance Minister criticized the Greeks this month for not facilitating the Islamic refugees crossing to Europe and forgot of course the bad treatment of Christian minority and the Ecumenical Patriarch at the hands of Turkey's Erdogan. 
b) On the contrary, Merkel who oversees Germany's ascension to power in Europe must have a plan for bringing a million Muslims into Germany in one year. These refugees will not find jobs unless they accept to work as cheap labour in the industrial factories and facilities for very small wages that Germans could not accept. This way she will be able to meet three challenges:
First: Germany would be able to continue exporting its products not only to Europe but to Africa and Asia too, now that they are cheap.
Second: Germany would be able to stop the ascending economic power of China by cutting off the Silk Road promised by Xi Jinping from taking place even though it cost China billions of dollars. 
Third: As a Capitalist, Merkel would be able, through the above policy, to remove labor unions from being there and obstructing her re-election.
The above means that her affection is temporary.
Recall that Pope Benedict who hails from Bavaria, Germany was the most vocal Catholic that critiqued Islam in his lecture at the University of Regensburg.  The Islamic reaction was visible and violent in many Muslim countries. Dismayed, Al-Azhar cut off dialogue with the Vatican.  And, of course, the liberal media attacked the Pope for his courageous stance.

I believe Pope Francis will use his popularity, communication and geopolitical skills to attract more Christians on the fringe back to Church, and convert as many from other religions in the globe. I think we are witnessing a turning point in world politics which have to be sustained by constant prayer and action for real peace; the peace of Christ. 

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


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