In one weekend, the swastika appeared in public places in three U.S. cities — Houston, Chicago, and New York. The sight was so offensive, average New Yorkers pulled out hand sanitizer and tissues to wipe the graffiti from the walls of the subway where it had been scrawled.
“Within about two minutes, all the Nazi symbolism was gone,” one subway rider who was there said. He added, “Everyone kind of just did their jobs of being decent human beings.”
Popular films like American Sniper reduce places like Iraq to dusty war zones, devoid of any culture or history. Fears and anxiety manifest themselves in Islamophobic actions such as burning mosques or even attacking people physically.
At the heart of such fear is ignorance. A December 2015 poll found that a majority of Americans (52 percent) do not understand Islam. In this same poll, 36 percent also said that they wanted to know more about the religion. Interestingly, those under 30 years were 46 percent more likely to have a favorable view of Islam.
The move has been in the works since 2012, when the Norwegian Parliament approved the change. It comes just as Germany and other Protestant nations prepare to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation later this year.
Secularism has been on the rise in Western Europe since the 1960s, with church attendance declining and strict laws on public displays of religion in nations such as France. But the past decade has seen the rise of anti-secular groups and politicians in England, Germany and France.
Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election has few parallels in the history of contemporary politics in the Western world.
But the closest one is familiar to me: Silvio Berlusconi, the media tycoon who was elected prime minister of Italy — my homeland — for the first time on March 27, 1994 and who served four stints as prime minister until 2011.
A population exchange with Turkey after World War I brought in over a million ethnic Greeks as refugees. When the new migration crisis began last year, there was empathy for the new arrivals, with many Greeks recalling what their grandparents went through.
But even given that proud history, academics and volunteers fear that the warm welcome of the last year could wear thin, when the refugees start to integrate in a nation that has long resisted a multifaith identity.
Even by this pope’s standards it was a bold move.
Francis, the spiritual leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics across the globe, this week traveled to Sweden, one of the most secularized countries in Europe, to take part in events marking 500 years since Martin Luther kickstarted the Protestant Reformation.
The strongest earthquake to strike Italy in more than three decades claimed no lives, but struck at the heart of the country’s vast religious and cultural heritage.
The Oct. 30 quake, which measured 6.6 magnitude according to the U.S. Geological Survey, was stronger than the one that killed almost 300 people on Aug. 24, and it struck a region already shaken by tremors last week.
The exhibit is not intended as commentary on today’s politics, its organizers said. Work started on the project six years ago, before sharp rises in Islamophobic rhetoric and violence in the U.S. and Europe, and before Muslim immigration and culture became a flashpoint in American and European politics.
But the Smithsonian is not sorry for the timing, and hopes the exhibit can help quell fears of Islam and its followers.
“Contaminated by the monstrous and rooted ‘certitude’ that in this catastrophic and absurd world there exists a people chosen by God … the Jews endlessly scratch their own wound to keep it bleeding, to make it incurable, and they show it to the world as if it were a banner,” read Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, at a Georgetown University conference Feb. 29 on anti-Semitism in Europe.
“Now, if I told you that these were the words of a Hamas leader, or any number of Middle Eastern political officials, or movement leaders, you wouldn’t be very surprised,” he said.
“But these were the words of Jose Saramago, the Nobel Prize-winning author, as published in 2002 in El Pais, the paper of record of Spain.”
The pope’s teachings and his deeds have inspired people to put aside their differences and to work together for a common good. We hope that this momentum will carry over to the debates on immigration. We must work together push back against the hateful anti-immigrant messaging coming from some of our elected officials and candidates for office, and draw on the moral high ground we find in our faith and Scriptures. Including Matthew 25.
Beyond the need for broad-based legislative reform, ordinary people and communities of faith in the United States can also make a difference on an individual and family level. Just as the pope has called on European Catholic churches to “welcome the stranger” in their own parishes and homes, American churches, synagogues, mosques, and even individual homes should take up that challenge as well. It’s time for people in the United States and Europe to learn what it really means to welcome the stranger.
VATICAN CITY — Gains in Asia and Africa are making up for losses in Europe among the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, according to Vatican statistics released Monday, signaling a shift of the church’s center of gravity toward the Global South that was heralded by the election of the first Latin American pope.
Data published in the 2013 Statistical Yearbook of the Church also show that while the number of priests in the Americas and in Europe is declining compared to the overall Catholic population, those losses were offset by increasing ranks of permanent deacons.
There are now about 41,000 permanent deacons worldwide, a 40 percent increase over the past decade. The vast majority of them — 97.4 percent — live in the Americas or in Europe.
DUBLIN, Ireland — Ruth Bowie was in the throes of grief when she found out she would never know her unborn child. At the 12-week mark, a pregnancy scan showed the baby had anencephaly, a fatal condition in which a portion of the brain and skull never form.
Bowie, 34, a pediatric nurse, knew the implications of the birth defect even before the doctor explained. But the life-changing news didn’t stop there.
“The doctors said we will continue to look after you, or else you can choose to travel,” she recalled.
Put another way, if she and her husband wanted to seek an abortion, they would have to travel to England to end the pregnancy.
Paul Krugman looks at the European financial crisis and sees Apocalypse Fairly Soon.
Suddenly, it has become easy to see how the euro — that grand, flawed experiment in monetary union without political union — could come apart at the seams. We’re not talking about a distant prospect, either. Things could fall apart with stunning speed, in a matter of months, not years. And the costs — both economic and, arguably even more important, political — could be huge.
In his inaugural address today, new French President Francois Hollande called for a European pact for growth to balance out German-driven austerity measures.
"I will propose to our partners a pact that will tie the necessary reduction of our public debt to the indispensable stimulation of our economies."
But, according to Spiegel Online,
Europeans hoping that mounting international opposition will make [Chancellor Merkel] drop her austerity plan to save the euro -- a policy that is causing so much pain in ailing economies like Greece and Spain -- are likely to be disappointed, say analysts in Germany.
Similar to many of my Western counterparts, my first thoughts when I first heard about the attacks in Norway went to extreme Islamic terrorism. I had heard about the growing tensions in Scandinavia because of the increasing Muslim population and cultural shifts arising as a result. Thus, when I heard through a friend that a Norwegian school had been attacked, I assumed the attack to be a response from a Muslim terrorist group. I asked if it was al Qaeda or such other organization. My friend responded, "Probably." Thus, you can imagine my surprise when I saw the picture of the suspect who appeared very Scandinavian with fair skin and complexion.
According to the New York Times, the attacks in Oslo killed at least 92 people and the orchestrator left behind "a detailed manifesto outlining preparations and calling for Christian war to defend Europe against the threat of Muslim domination." If I had read that statement out of context, I would think one was talking about the Christian Crusades of the 12th century.
Two weeks ago, McDonald's shareholders voted down a shareholder resolution asking the corporation to study how its advertising to children contributes to widespread childhood obesity. The resolution was sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, along with a Catholic hospital network and other institutional investors.