Friday, 23 October 2020

Israel and Sudan agree to normalize relations

As reported by Ron Kampeas of Jewish Telegraphic Agency, October 23, 2020 (link in original):

WASHINGTON — Sudan will become the third Arab country in the past two months to normalize ties with Israel, continuing the trend of Arab states’ willingness to advance ties with the Jewish state even without a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

President Donald Trump announced the agreement on Friday. According to a joint statement released by Israel, Sudan and the U.S., the two countries will “end the state of belligerence between their nations.”

The statement also noted that the countries will “begin economic and trade relations, with an initial focus on agriculture.” In the coming weeks, the statement says, they will meet to discuss “agriculture technology, aviation, migration issues and other areas.”

“The Arab-Israeli conflict is moving towards an end,” said Brian Hook, the top State Department official who helped broker the deal, on Friday at an Oval Office presentation.

Sudan has been ruled by a Sovereignty Council, led by military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and prime minister Abdalla Hamdok, since a military coup last year deposed longtime Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who was subsequently convicted of corruption. He presided over the country during the Darfur ethnic conflict, which involved what the International Criminal Court has deemed war crimes by the Sudanese government.

Earlier in the day, Trump informed Congress of his intent to remove Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, which reportedly is part of the agreement.

Sudan will get new leadership in 2022, when the state’s agreed-upon transition period ends. The north African country’s state religion was Islam until earlier this year.

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have in recent weeks launched fast tracks to open up diplomatic affairs, trade and tourism with Israel, but Sudan is especially significant because it is by far the largest of the three countries, in land mass and in population. It is also symbolically significant because its capital, Khartoum, is where the Arab League met in 1967 after the Six-Day War and issued its “three no’s” to reject any engagement with Israel whatsoever and to continue the state of war.

Like the UAE and Bahrain, Sudan has not been in a war with Israel and has over the years enjoyed a degree of secret ties with the country. In 1984, the Sudanese authorities assisted in an airlift of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. Sudan’s leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in February met openly with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Uganda.

There are also thousands of refugees from Sudan’s military conflicts living in Israel.

Trump also said at the Oval Office event on Friday that the process of solidifying the deals with the UAE and Bahrain “is moving along.” He said he is in talks with the United Arab Emirates to sell the country advanced F-35 stealth combat jets.

Israel objects to the sale, as do Democrats in Congress.

Bahrain signed a number of cooperative agreements with Israel this week and the UAE and Israel agreeing to travel between the countries without a pre-arranged visa. A government-linked Bahraini institute on Thursday signed an agreement with the U.S. State Department to combat anti-Semitism and delegitimization of Israel.
Go here for the statement issued by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

40 years ago: Queen Elizabeth II visits Pope John Paul II

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith... I Timothy 4:1a

On October 16, 1555, erstwhile Church of England Bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley became two of the most Protestant martyrs of the Reformation in England when they were burned at the stake in Oxford, England as heretics for refusing to accept Roman Catholic doctrine, particularly transubstantiation. As the flames rose around them, Mr. Latimer reportedly said, "Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as shall never be put out." That candle has been put out, evidence of which was an event that occurred the day after the 425th anniversary of the martyrdom of Messrs. Latimer and Ridley.

On October 17, 1980, another step was taken along the road to uniting all denominations under the banner of a false Christianity, as Queen Elizabeth II became the first British monarch to make a state visit to the Vatican, where she and Prince Philip were received by Pope John Paul II. As reported by BBC News, October 17, 1980:

The Queen has made history after becoming the first British monarch to make a state visit to the Vatican.

Pope welcomed Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh, for what was described as a "warm and relaxed" encounter.

The Queen, dressed in a long black taffeta gown in line with Vatican protocol, arrived with the Duke at the Vatican in the rain at 1100 local time and took the lift up to the second floor.

Trumpets sounded and the royal procession moved slowly along the corridor into the Clementine Hall.

The Queen and the Duke were welcomed by John Paul II at the door of his private library.

The Queen then opened her speech with assurances of sincere friendship and good will.

She invited the Pope to her country in two years' time, but made clear this would not be a state visit but one "to the Roman Catholic community in Great Britain where some four million of my people are members of the Roman Catholic Church.

"We support the growing movement of unity between the Christian Churches throughout the world and we pray that your Holiness's visit to Britain may enable us all to see more clearly those truths which both unite and divide us in a new and constructive light."

In reply the Pope welcomed the opportunity of the forthcoming pastoral visit to the UK.

He said: "I render homage to the Christian history of your people, as well as to their cultural achievements.

"The ideals of freedom and democracy, anchored in your past remain challenges for every generation of upright citizens in your land."

They then held private talks and the Pope presented the Queen with a facsimile of the manuscript of Dante's Divine Comedy with its illustration of the Order of the Garter in the time of Edward IV.

In return she offered a book about Windsor Castle by St John Hope and two signed photographs.

After the talks, the Queen and Prince Philip walked out into the Clementine Hall and they went on to meet the Pope's Secretary of State, Cardinal Casaroli, at the home of the British Minister to the Holy See, Mark Heath.

As reported by BBC News:

The Queen's visit was seen as a big step towards forging relations with the Church Of England and the Roman Catholics.

In 1982 John Paul II was welcomed by Her Majesty two years later at Buckingham Palace during a historic visit to Great Britain.

The Queen visited the Vatican again in 2000 to mark the 20th anniversary of their first meeting.

The Pope reinforced their close ties over the years when he said: "Relations between the United Kingdom and the Holy See have not always been untroubled; long years of common inheritance were followed by the sad years of division.

"But in recent years there has emerged between us a cordiality more in keeping with the harmony of earlier times and more genuinely expressive of our common spiritual roots."

The Pope died at 2137 (1937 GMT) on Saturday 2 April 2005 after he failed to recover from a throat operation.

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Black sodomite becomes United Church of Canada leader

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. II Timothy 3:5

Politically correct racial category? Check. Alphabet pervert? Check. Social gospel? Check. Well, then, this person meets the qualifications to lead the United Church of Canada in its continuing march into oblivion. As reported by John Longhurst of the Winnipeg Free Press, October 10, 2020:

As the first Black and openly LGBTTQ+ person to be appointed general secretary of the United Church of Canada, Michael Blair knows he is travelling a new path.

"My appointment sends a message," he said, noting he is not the first Black person to hold a leadership role in the church.

That message goes out to members of the church who are persons of colour, showing they are welcome as leaders and giving them "something to celebrate," he said.

At the same time, his appointment challenges all members of the church to "think through what it means to be an anti-racist institution" at this important moment in history, and "how to live into that reality," he said.

As a gay man, it tells all Canadians "the United Church is a unique kind of faith community," one where "sexual identity is not a barrier to ministry and leadership," he added.

Being the only Black and LGBTTQ+ person to lead a major Christian denomination may also "create spaces where conversation can happen" with other church groups, he said.

He acknowledges there is a bit of loneliness in that space, and there will be a focus on him as only leader of a major denomination in Canada who is Black and gay. At the same time, he hopes "it can be a prophetic call to others."

Blair, 64, was born in Jamaica. A father of two adult sons, he was ordained as a minister in Toronto in 1986 by the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec. When he came out as gay in 2001, he was asked to leave that denomination and began working for various United Church-supported organizations in the city.

Through those experiences, he became more intrigued by the United Church and, in 2008, took his first staff position with the denomination.

Over his time as a staff member, he was asked to lead number of different national programs. As a result, "I come into role with a strong understanding of the church," he said.

As he begins his new role, Blair is excited about the future of the 95-year-old denomination.

"We are on the cusp of repositioning ourselves to engage people of faith and society as a whole," he said, noting the denomination made a number of structural changes two years ago that "puts us in a framework to experiment and try new things."

This included setting up a separate corporation to help congregations deal with issues related to the management and sale of churches.

Called the United Property Resource Corporation and backed with a $20 million line of credit from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, it will provide local churches with professional real estate development and management expertise as they seek to convert their buildings for other community uses such as affordable housing.

While some have viewed all the buildings owned by the United Church as a liability, Blair sees them "as a gift. But we need the expertise and skills to utilize them."

Noting the United Church has committed to building 600 affordable housing units by 2025 and 5,000 affordable units by 2035, his dream is to see under-utilized church buildings being used to meet important needs in cities and towns across the country.

"We can engage communities through our property," he said, noting "we have many buildings that are bigger than we need. We need to re-imagine how we can use those spaces."

Another exciting program, he said, is The Edge, which aims to support innovation, pilot new programs, fund new initiatives and create a learning network for faith communities across the church.

"It was set up to think through new mission opportunities," Blair said of how it will support new ideas that "are outside the box. We want to find new ways of doing mission and ministry."

All of this is being done at a time when the denomination is getting smaller—it has just under 400,000 members now, down from over one million in the 1960s.

"The reality is we are declining in numbers," Blair said. "We can’t fudge that."

But, he quickly added, "numbers are not the only thing to measure. It’s harder to measure things like community connectivity, faithfulness, relationships, and nurturing faith formation. There is lots of energy in the church for that."

His goal is to "turn around the narrative of decline," telling stories that show how the church is making a difference in Canada and around the world through things like helping refugees, responding to the Beirut explosion disaster, addressing global hunger through its membership in the Winnipeg-based Canadian Foodgrains Bank, and playing a leadership role in advocating for a guaranteed basic income in Canada.

"We need Canadians to understand we are making a difference," he said. "But we need to do better at telling that story, sharing those stories of impact. We can’t just have stories of decline, decline, decline."

He hopes the new initiatives and ongoing programs will capture the interest of Canadians who will want to become part of the church.

"The United Church of Canada shares the values of Canadians in so many ways," he said. "It’s just a matter of figuring out how to tell stories of those values and invite Canadians to be part of our work."

That’s a challenge, he admits, given the declining state of religiosity in Canada. "Time will tell if we are successful," he said.
I have to chuckle at Mr. Blair's desire to "reimagine" how to use the church's buildings. The United Church is in a death spiral where the number of empty buildings is increasing because the number of people in the buildings is decreasing along with the amount of money coming in to pay for the buildings.

Mr. Blair is unusual in admitting that the United Church has been numerically declining, but this blogger predicts that continuing to promote the same "values of Canadians" that the United Church supposedly shares will be about as effective in reversing its decline as the promotion of "wokeness" has been for professional sports.

See also my posts:

Calgary Herald blasts United Church of Canada for advocating a boycott of Israel (May 15, 2012)

Canadian Senators warn United Church of Canada over proposed boycott of Israeli goods (July 6, 2012)

A secular columnist accurately assesses Canada's declining liberal churches (July 30, 2012)

United Church of Canada elects its first openly sodomite moderator (August 16, 2012)

50 years ago: United Church of Canada unveils Sunday School curriculum denying the truth of the Bible (August 1, 2014)

80 years ago: United Church of Canada ordains Canada's first female minister (November 7, 2016)

Amalgamation of congregations in Edmonton provides more evidence of the continuing decline of the United Church of Canada (January 31, 2017)

30 years ago: New Ager Matthew Fox delivers keynote lecture at Queen's Theological School (October 11, 2017)

50 years ago: United Church in Calgary experiments with modern music (June 15, 2018)

Mainline church leaders 50 years ago advocated methods used by "evangelical" churches today (November 6, 2018)

Atheist minister with United Church of Canada keeps her job after an agreement in lieu of a heresy trial (November 16, 2018)

50 years ago: Canadian Anglican traditionalists oppose union with United Church of Canada (June 21, 2019)

Friday, 9 October 2020

40 years ago: Pope John Paul II meets the Dalai Lama

On October 9, 1980, Pope John Paul II held a private audience with the Dalai Lama at the Vatican. While this blogger is unaware of what was said, it can be reasonably inferred that the audience was one of the events leading up to the World Day of Prayer for Peace, which took place in Assisi, Italy on October 27, 1986, under the leadership of Pope John Paul II, with the Dalai Lama as his right-hand man.

See my post 25 years ago: Representatives of 12 religions join Pope John Paul II at World Day of Prayer for Peace (October 26, 2011).