Category Archives: Europe

The Crucifix in Every Building?

I am thinking through this one. I appreciate that a country is certainly shaped by it’s culture and religious history, but is this the best way to present it? But why should a people not want to retain their heritage? Hmm.

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BY FRANCIS X. ROCCA AND DREW HINSHAW
WSJ 9/10/2018

ROME—Lawmakers in Italy’s new parliamentary majority want a crucifix to hang in every government building as a “permanent reminder” of the country’s Christian identity.

Across Europe, nationalists and upstart politicians are promoting the use of Christian imagery as they seek to change the Continent’s established politics and define Europe as Christian in reaction to recent Muslim immigration.

Christian symbols have long been a visible part of public life in much of Europe, but the new efforts reflect a more emphatic embrace of Christianity as central to Europe’s identity.

The moves are stoking disagreement among Christian leaders and drawing criticism from allies of Pope Francis, who says that Christianity mandates generosity toward immigrants.

“The cross is a sign of protest against sin, violence, injustice and death,” the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, a close adviser to the pope and editor of a Vatican-vetted magazine, La Civiltà Cattolica (Catholic Civilization), said on Twitter last month, in response to the legislative proposal by lawmakers with the League, an anti-immigration party. He called the use of the crucifix for political purposes “blasphemous.” And he warned: “Hands off!”

Many antiestablishment parties, a rising force in European politics, say preserving their countries’ Christian identity requires sealing Europe off to Muslim immigrants. They are pulling voters from mainstream parties that favor a more secular style of politics.

For decades after World War II, parties that identified as “Christian Democrats” were a mainstay of center-right politics in Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. But the decline of that tradition has opened up an opportunity for nationalists and far-right parties to claim the cross as theirs.

“The Christian Democratic parties saw Christian identity as a way to unite their nations, not divide them,” said Rocco Buttiglione, a former Italian cabinet minister and lawmaker with a series of such parties. “But they weren’t strong enough in defending that identity. They watered it down in order to attract votes on the left, and that left an enormous void.”

In Eastern Europe, Catholic leaders have responded more favorably than in Western Europe to efforts by politicians to link Christian identity to nationalist ideas.

In Poland, where government offices are frequently decorated with 2-foot-tall crucifixes, many Catholic bishops openly sympathize with the ruling nationalist party’s restrictive policies on refugees. In October, church leaders supported a mass prayer called “Rosaries at the Border” that implicitly opposed Muslim immigration.

Few Hungarian bishops have objected as Prime Minister Viktor Orbán recasts Hungary as an explicitly Christian country, closed to non-Europeans and battling what he calls “Muslim invaders.”

Mr. Orbán uses the term “Christian democracy” in a new sense: to describe the “illiberal” governance he is ushering in—a model he has said was inspired by more autocratic nations like Russia and Turkey.

Many church leaders express support for Mr. Orbán’s priorities, including the anti-migration fence Mr. Orbán had built along Hungary’s southern border in 2015.

“I’m in total agreement with the prime minister,” Hungarian Bishop Laszlo Kiss-Rigo said at the height of Europe’s migration crisis in 2015, saying the pope “doesn’t know the situation….They’re not refugees. This is an invasion.”

Mr. Orbán, a Protestant, showers the Catholic Church and other denominations with millions of dollars in direct subsidies, and ends many speeches with the Latin expression “soli Deo Gloria” (“to God alone the glory”).

“It is not good, not healthy, and dangerous,” said Bishop Miklós Beer of Vác, one of the few Hungarian bishops to oppose Mr. Orbán’s adoption of Christian language for nationalist ends. “Separation of church and state is a very important basic principle.”

The picture is different in Western Europe. The leader of the southern German state of Bavaria recently mandated that all state buildings display a cross. Markus Söder, the Bavarian premier and a member of the Christian Social Union, said on Twitter in April that the requirement shows a “clear commitment to our Bavarian identity and Christian values.”

The move hasn’t reversed the CSU’s slide in opinion polls ahead of regional elections in October, or dented support for the far-right Alternative for Germany. But it has drawn fire from Germany’s leading Catholic prelate, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, another of Pope Francis’ top advisers, who accused the CSU of “expropriating the cross.”

“You don’t understand the cross if you only see it as a cultural symbol,” Cardinal Marx said.

In Italy, the idea of defining Christianity as a part of the national identity drew support from much of Italian society not so long ago. In 2009, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that crucifixes in Italian classrooms, where they have hung under legislation dating back to the 19th century, violated the “right of parents to educate their children according to their convictions.”

The ruling drew protests from the Vatican and from politicians across the spectrum who said the crucifix exemplified universal values such as human rights. The court reversed its decision two years later, reasoning that the Italian policy didn’t amount to a “process of indoctrination,” since a “crucifix on a wall is an essentially passive symbol.”

Mixing church and state has become more divisive in Italy as antiimmigration politicians advance and clash with Pope Francis.

Several of Italy’s high-profile church leaders have criticized Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, the leader of the anti-immigration League, for brandishing the Bible and a rosary at political events.

The bill that would mandate the display of crucifixes in Italian government buildings was introduced by lawmakers from the League in March. It would cover “all offices of public administration,” including polling places, prisons, hospitals and airports, though it isn’t specific about where in the buildings the crucifix would need to be displayed.

The League’s embrace of Christian symbols is opportunistic, said the Rev. Rocco D’Ambrosio, a professor of political philosophy at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University. “It’s a kind of attempt to defend itself, to say ‘we are Christians, we want the crucifix in all public spaces, so you can’t accuse us of not being Christians.’ ” —Anita Komuves contributed to this article.

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Death by Diversity

And this is what some folks are trying to sell to America.
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WSJ – 6/19/2017
By Douglas Murray

Europe in 2017 is racked with uncertainty— the eurozone crises, the endless challenges of the European Union, national elections that resemble endless rounds of bullet- dodging. Yet even these events are insignificant compared with the deep tectonic shifts beneath the Continent’s politics, shifts that Europeans—and their allies—ignore at our peril.

Throughout the migration crisis of recent years I traveled across the Continent, from the reception islands into which migrants arrive to the suburbs in which they end up and the chancelleries which encouraged them to come. For decades Europe had encouraged guest workers, and then their families, to come. As Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel once admitted, nobody expected them to stay.

Yet stay they did, with their numbers swelling even when there were no jobs. Waking up to the results of their policy, European societies rebranded themselves “multicultural” societies, only to begin wondering what that meant. Could a multicultural society make any demands of its newcomers? Or would that be “racist”?

From the 2000s legal and illegal immigration picked up. Boats regularly set out from Turkey and North Africa to enter Europe illegally. Syrians fleeing civil war pushed into the Continent, soon joined by people from across sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, the Middle East and Far East.

Today the great migration is off the front pages. Yet it goes on. On an average weekend nearly 10,000 people arrive on Italian reception islands alone. Where do they go? What do they expect? And what do we expect of them?

To find the answer to these and other questions it is necessary to ask deeper questions. Why did Europe decide it could take in the poor and dispossessed of the world? Why did we decide that anybody in the world fleeing war, or just seeking a better life, could come to Europe and call it home?

The reasons lie partly in our history, not least in the overwhelming German guilt, which has spread across the Continent and affected even our cultural cousins in America and Australia. Egged on by those who wish us ill, we have fallen for the idea that we are uniquely guilty, uniquely to be punished, and uniquely in need of having our societies changed as a result.

There is also, for Europe, the sense of what I call tiredness—the feeling that the story might have run out: that we have tried religion, all imaginable forms of politics, and that each has, one after another, led us to disaster. When we taint every idea we touch, perhaps a change is as good as a rest.

It is often argued that our societies are old, with a graying population, and so we need immigrants. When these theories are challenged— by asking, for instance, why the next generation of Germany’s workforce might not come from unemployed Greece rather than Eritrea—we are told that we need low-skilled workers who do not speak our languages because it makes Europe more culturally interesting. It is as though some great hole lies at the heart of the culture of Dante, Bach and Wren.

When people point out the downsides of this approach—not least that more immigration from Muslim countries produces many problems, including terrorism—we get the final explanation. It doesn’t matter, we are told: Because of globalization this is inevitable and we can’t stop it anyway.

All these instincts, when put together, are the stuff of suicide. They spell out the self-annihilation of a culture as well as a continent. Conversations with European policy makers and politicians have made this abundantly clear to me. They tell me with fury that it “must” work. I suggest that with population change of this kind, at this speed, it may not work at all.

Yet still it is possible that the publics will not go along with the instincts of their leaders. Earlier this year, a poll of European attitudes was published in which citizens of 10 countries were asked a tough question: whether they agreed that there should be no more Muslim migration into their countries. Majorities in eight out of the 10 countries, including France and Germany, said they wanted no more Muslim immigrants.

Over recent decades Europe has made a hasty effort to redefine itself. As the world came in, we became wedded to “diversity.” As terrorism grew and more migrants arrived, public opinion in Europe began to harden. Today “more diversity” remains the cry of the elites, who insist that if the public doesn’t like it yet, it is because they haven’t had enough of it.

The migration policies of the political and other elites of Europe suggest that they are suicidal. The interesting thing to watch in the years ahead will be whether the publics join them in that pact. I wouldn’t bet on it.

Mr. Murray is author of “The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam,” out this week from Bloomsbury Continuum.

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Targeting Down Syndrome

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WSJ – 5/25/2017 By Sohrab Ahmari

Paris

You can learn a lot about a society by paying attention to what it censors. The Soviet Union went to great lengths to block the truth about freedom and prosperity in the West. Today China’s ruling Communists suppress historical memory of their crimes, above all the Tiananmen Square massacre, while the censors in my native Iran are obsessed with women’s bodies.

Then there’s France, where the government has proscribed a publicservice commercial that shows children with Down syndrome describing the joy of growing up with an extra pair of chromosomes. The decision has triggered a free-speech battle royal that may soon reach Europe’s highest rights court.

The 2014 ad, “Dear Future Mom,” addresses a pregnant woman who has just discovered her baby has Down syndrome. “Dear future mom,” says one child. “Don’t be afraid,” says another. “Your child will be able to do many things.” “He’ll be able to hug you.” “He’ll be able to run toward you.” And so on.

Several European Down syndrome associations came together to sponsor the ad. These included France’s Jérôme Lejeune Foundation, named after the geneticist who discovered the link between chromosomal abnormalities and conditions like Down syndrome, and who went on to campaign against prenatal diagnosis and abortion of babies with Down syndrome.

“In France the rate of detected DS pregnancies that result in abortion is 96%,” the foundation’s president, Jean-Marie Le Méné, tells me in an interview. He fears that the advent of new tests that can detect the syndrome earlier and with greater precision will push that rate to 100%— the eradication of an entire category of human beings.

Hence the “Dear Future Mom” ad. When it was released in March 2014, for World Down Syndrome Day, the ad broke records for social-media “shares” in a 24-hour period. Matteo Renzi, Italy’s prime minister at the time, was one of the millions of users who shared it.

In France three TV networks agreed to carry it as a public service. The feedback was glowing—until that summer, when the government’s High Audiovisual Council, or CSA, issued a pair of regulatory bulletins interdicting the ad. The regulator said it was reacting to audience complaints.

It wasn’t until after the foundation retained legal counsel, in December 2014, that the nature of the audience complaints became clear. There were only two.

The first objected to the foundation’s antiabortion position generally rather than the ad itself. The other came from a woman who had terminated a pregnancy after receiving a Down syndrome diagnosis. She still mourned that child every day, she wrote. Using the familiar lexicon of contemporary censorship, she added that she found watching the ad “violent.”

The foundation appealed, and the case eventually came before the Council of State, France’s highest administrative court. The council in November affirmed the ban, holding that the ad could “disturb the conscience” of women who had had abortions after a Down syndrome diagnosis.

A spokeswoman for the CSA wouldn’t comment on the record. But the regulator insists it was applying French laws that prohibit political messages during TV commercial time. “Dear Future Mom,” the CSA says, didn’t rise to “general interest” because it presented one side of a political debate.

This is a pretext. In its initial notice, published June 25, 2014, the CSA conceded that the ad “shows a positive image of the life of young people with Down syndrome and encourages society to work in favor of their integration and fulfillment”—a message that is squarely in the public interest and apolitical.

Which leaves only the viewer’s complaint of being traumatized. If subjective feelings suffice, any advocacy speech could be restricted—and unpopular minorities like people with Down syndrome are most likely to be silenced.

For the foundation, the claim that the ad evokes feelings of guilt only attests to its moral truth. Says spokeswoman Stéphanie Billot: “When you show a video of DS kids who say, ‘Well, I won’t be normal, but I will still be able to love you,’ the guilt becomes so unbearable that society rejects it. It’s a common, unconscious guilt for all who said nothing about the effort to systematically eliminate DS.” Guilt can be salutary.

The foundation this month lodged an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights, asserting freespeech violations as well as genetic discrimination. It helps that France is an outlier. The ad has aired in Britain, Croatia, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Spain and the U.S., among others. No other government took similar action against it.

The European court accepts fewer than 1 in 10 petitions, and the foundation will have to prove harm, since the ad did air as intended in 2014. That won’t be difficult, however, since the CSA says the purpose of the interdiction notice was to discourage networks from airing similar content. Several French broadcasters declined to run “Dear Future Mom” this year, citing a shortage of advertising time.

Mr. Ahmari is a Journal editorial writer in London.

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The Dutch, Welfare and Immigration

Interesting comment regarding America liberals trying to turn an “immigrant country into a welfare” state.  Not sure its really true, but, nonetheless. A good article to focus on what the press seems to MISS.
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WSJ 3/14/2017
By Leon de Winter

To hear the international media tell it, my country has changed from one of the most tolerant, affluent and easygoing nations on the planet into a zoo of xenophobes and racists—all because a politician with unusual hair has been saying politically incorrect things.

The Netherlands will vote Wednesday in elections for the Tweede Kamer, Parliament’s lower house. Twenty-eight parties are competing for 150 seats. Any of the established parties could find a niche within America’s Democratic Party; they all are basically social democrats. That includes the conservatives and the so-called extreme right-wing Freedom Party, led by Geert Wilders, the man with the unusual hair. Mr. Wilders is harshly critical of Islam and the country’s immigration policies, but his social agenda is as left-wing as the Socialist Party’s.

The Netherlands has changed, but it has been a decades long process. In the 1960s and ’70s, the Dutch invited guest laborers from Morocco and Turkey to work temporarily in the wildly expanding economy. The boom ended, but the workers stayed, creating an underclass of low-skilled Muslim immigrants. Photos of the original laborers show young men in suits and dress shirts—completely Westernized, it seems. Now retired, they often dress as if they had moved back to rural Morocco or Turkey. Their children and grandchildren drop out of school and commit crimes at much higher rates than the original Dutch population. Many become more religious than their grandparents; some even move to the Islamic State caliphate in Syria. Non-Western immigrants and their descendants also depend on welfare to a much greater extent than the native Dutch. They are half of all welfare recipients but only 11% of the total population. Among recent Somali refugees granted asylum, 80% are on welfare.

Holland is truly a welfare state, and the Dutch are proud of it. Over 50% of their total earnings are collected by the state, the goal being to redistribute wealth and equalize chances for everyone. It works amazingly well, producing highways, railroads, dikes and bridges, world-class schools and health care, and a cradle-to-grave social-security system. Most political discussions in today’s campaign are about the pressing question of how to preserve and expand the welfare state without going broke.

The Dutch are disciplined, hardworking, well-educated, and at the same time open-minded, tolerant and anti-authoritarian—all of this because of our Calvinist heritage. We are also the most secular people in the world. [ These two sentences CANNOT be juxtaposed! Ya think???] Lots of Dutch say they believe only in “something.” We even have a name for this postreligious religion: “Somethingism.”

This type of open and yet highly regulated society can function only if it is carried by a disciplined and well-educated citizenry with a reasonable degree of cultural homogeneity. But because of political correctness and cultural relativism, Dutch elites agreed to absorb low-educated, even illiterate, mostly Muslim migrants from collectivistic rural areas. Significant numbers of them refuse to embrace the radical, secular tolerance of their new home.

That is what the fuss is about. To put it in abstract terms: Can a welfare state become an immigration state? You know the answer: A welfare state with open borders will one day run out of money. But what moral justification is there for limiting migration in a globalized and unjust world? That’s a tough question for the politically correct mind. (Interestingly, the American Democrats’ main project is the reverse: turning an immigration state into a welfare state.) But the tensions in Dutch society aren’t only about money. We’ve had two political assassinations in the past 15 years. In May 2002, two weeks before a national election, Pim Fortuyn—the leading candidate for prime minister, a gay professor who had published a book called “Against the Islamization of Our Culture”—was killed by an animalrights activist who said he wanted to protect “vulnerable groups.” The killer, who served 12 years in prison, is now free and on welfare. The other victim was Theo van Gogh, a provocateur, filmmaker and Islam critic who was decapitated on an Amsterdam street by a radical Muslim.

These two intellectuals personified the open Dutch welfare state. They were loudmouthed and carefree children of the anti-authoritarian 1960s, unapologetic and humorous critical minds who happily provoked the sensitivities of the bourgeois establishment and as happily insulted religion in general—in particular Catholicism before they turned against Islam. They represented an extreme of the wide horizon of Dutch tolerance. Their peaceful and pacified countrymen are still recovering from the shock of their murders.

Did the Dutch really turn into xenophobes and racists? No, they are as open-minded as ever. But they have started to demand what most of their politicians (except people like Fortuyn and Mr. Wilders) until recently didn’t dare mention because it was politically incorrect: that immigrants practice tolerance, work and study hard, and teach their children to be proud and contributing members of this society. That is the least you can ask when the fruits of your labor are taxed at 50%.

This is the Netherlands in 2017. Still an impressive country, if you ask me, whatever the result of Wednesday’s election.

Mr. de Winter is a novelist and political commentator for De Telegraaf.

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