With yet another revelation of contact between the Trump administration and Russians, Americans are wondering, and I’m paraphrasing here, “What up with dat?” Again and again we have heard of communing between two entities that for generations have held each other in contempt and suspicion. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is the latest to deny, then remember that he forgot, then “oh, you mean THAT?” in response to press reports of his contacts with Russian officials, adding his name to a long list of Trump supporters and staff who apparently have Moscow on speed dial.
In the wake of Michael Flynn’s resignation from national security adviser and inconsistent timelines of the Trump team’s interaction with Russian officials, many are rightly asking questions about national security and election integrity. The administration’s reaction has been outrage over leaks within the intelligence community — even though Trump himself celebrated Wikileaks releasing the DNC’s hacked emails during the campaign season, even going as far as to egg Russia on to find Hillary Clinton’s emails. This all points to a clear lack of transparency and culture of dishonesty from the Trump administration.
Ten days before Donald Trump's inauguration, the former mayor of Hiroshima sent the president-elect a letter calling on the incoming U.S. administration to lead on nuclear non-use in Northeast Asia.
"Keenly aware that your decisions on matters related to nuclear weapons will affect everybody in the world and especially those of us living in Hiroshima, we, Hiroshima citizens and hibakusha (A-bomb survivors), expect these decisions to be wise and peaceable," Tadatoshi Akiba, Hiroshima's former mayor, wrote.
On Jan. 11 the Senate confirmation hearing for former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, for the office of Secretary of State, began, reports NPR. In his hearing Tillerson admitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he has yet to discuss with President-Elect Trump U.S. foreign policy as it regards to Russia.
He also made a statement that seemed in partial opposition to the use of sanctions against Russia and other countries, stating that they “are going to harm American businesses.” However, he relented to the idea that sanctions have the ability to be a “powerful and important tool.”
He referred to himself as “the greatest job producer that God ever created.”
I sat on the first wooden pew of the Metropolitan AME Church in Washington, D.C., on New Year’s Eve, with 500 faithful from across the country and thousands who watched online, to worship, testify, and encourage each other.
We came together in the tradition of the 1862 “watch night” service, when enslaved and free African-Americans, abolitionists, and others awaited news that the Emancipation Proclamation would become law and would free black people living in the South. We came together also in the tradition of Jesus, who told his disciples to “keep awake” while he prayed on the night before his crucifixion.
On Dec. 19 the Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov was assassinated in Ankara, Turkey, reports Reuters. The ambassador was giving a speech at an art gallery when a gunman fatally shot him. Three other people were also wounded and the gunman appears to have been killed.
“Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria!” the gunman shouted after the shooting.
On Dec. 19 the United Nations Security Council unanimously voted to send UN observers to Aleppo to oversee the evacuation of civilians, reports Al Jazeera. UN observers will travel soon to Aleppo as will personnel who can administer aid.
“For the first time in numerous attempts to get unanimity on the situation on Aleppo, all of the 15 UN Security Council members have supported this resolution to send UN monitors in Aleppo,” said journalist Mike Hanna.
Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, has come under fire for his friendship with Russian president Vladimir Putin – who is suspected of trying to tip the election to Trump – his lack of diplomatic experience, and the fact that he is a corporate bigwig who champions fossil fuels, even as the threat of global warming grows.
But Tillerson, whose nomination was announced on Dec. 13, may also face criticism from an unexpected quarter – social conservatives whose support was critical to Trump’s unexpected election last month.
On Dec. 11, a bipartisan group of senators — including Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, and Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Jack Reed — released a joint statement announcing their intent to investigate whether Russia swayed, or attempted to sway, the 2016 U.S. presidential election to elect Donald Trump.
On Dec. 12, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced his support for their efforts and stated that the Senate intelligence committee should lead the investigation, reports Politico.
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.
Several American-based religious denominations remain defiant in the face of new laws that would ban them from proselytizing in Russia.
The so-called “Yarovaya laws” make it illegal to preach, proselytize, or hand out religious materials outside of specially designated places. The laws also give the Russian government wide scope to monitor and record electronic messages and phone calls.
In the historic port city of Yalta, located on the Crimean Peninsula, I visited the site where Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin, in February of 1945, concluded negotiations ending World War II.
These leaders and their top advisers were also present at the creation of the United Nations and other instruments of international negotiation and non-military cooperation. Tragically, the creation of the “Cold War” was underway soon after.
A religious summit last held more than 1,200 years ago suddenly risks being downgraded or postponed because of Syria’s four-year civil war. This unexpected twist has come as the world’s Orthodox churches, the second-largest ecclesial family in Christianity, were supposed to be only months away from their first major council since 787.
Now it is no longer clear when or where the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, a summit first proposed at least as far back as 1961 and provisionally scheduled for May in Istanbul, will be held.
With its traditional icons and complex liturgies, Orthodox Christianity can seem like an unchanging remnant of a long-lost era. But it lives very much in today’s world and its 14 autocephalous (independent) member churches can be wrapped up in its politics and subject to its pressures.
The Syrian crisis is escalating in unnerving ways with the arrival of Russian troops and the beginning of direct Russian military intervention. What had been a local and regional humanitarian disaster now risks becoming a superpower confrontation between Russia and the United States. Undoubtedly the introduction of Russian firepower on the scene will bring more civilian suffering, dislocation, and death.
If I were looking for handles for prophetic preaching on the Syria situation, I might select the following.
In the wake of international criticism over Moscow’s role in ongoing violence in Ukraine, the U.S. on June 10 called on Pope Francis to take a stronger stance on the conflict in his meeting with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin.
“We think they could say something more about concern on territorial integrity, those type of issues,” U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Kenneth F. Hackett, told journalists in Rome ahead of Putin’s arrival.
A Russian pastor whose grandfather was killed for being a Christian toured the U.S. recently, studying church ministries and providing a rare, first-person look at Russia’s complex religious landscape after widespread persecution ended.
During Victor Ignatenkov’s youth under the Soviet regime, Christians could meet only for worship.
No Sunday school.
No midweek Bible study.
And definitely no proselytizing.
Today, Ignatenkov, 59, said he’s free to lead whatever activities he wants as pastor of the Central Baptist Church in his hometown of Smolensk — a city situated between the capitals of Russia and Ukraine — and as regional bishop for the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptist. The union is a group of evangelical Protestant churches that began emerging in Russia about 150 years ago as an alternative to the Russian Orthodox establishment.
“What did you do on your summer vacation?”
Even now students may be answering that question in essays at the start of this new school year. Maybe you wrote such a paper years ago. No matter what you did or where you went this past summer, it was almost impossible to escape the heaviness of the headlines. #BringBackOurGirls has become a distant refrain, almost forgotten beneath the crush of summer tragedies:
Thousands of children traveled alone from Central American countries to enter the U.S. as refugees. Ebola deaths spread to more West African nations killing hundreds including many health workers. The forces of ISIS, intent on carving out an Islamic caliphate, took over major Iraqi cities and beheaded a U.S. journalist in Syria. Russia usurped Crimea and threatened the rest of Ukraine. The U.N. refugee agency announced in late August that “the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people worldwide has, for the first time in the post-World War II era, exceeded 50 million people.” Gaza has been reduced to rubble while Hamas rockets still fly toward Israeli cities. Michael Brown, an eighteen-year-old African American man who might have started college this week, was shot and killed by a white police officer in the waning days of August.
After such a summer, how can we do anything but scoff at Paul’s words from Romans?
A soon-to-be college-bound Michael Brown is shot by Missouri police, reportedly while holding his hands above himself in surrender and while unarmed. The resulting protests turn violent, leading ultimately to police setting up barricades, complete with snipers, tear gas, and flash grenades. Local stores are decimated and scores are injured in the resulting tensions.
Not long ago, Eric Garner, another African-American man, died of suffocation while being submitted to a choke submission hold by a New York policeman.
Last year in North Carolina, a black man was shot 10 times by a policeman. And all of this is in the shadow the Trayvon Martin, whose tragic and unnecessary death, is still fresh in our minds and hearts.
As cited on the Economist website , it’s enough to elicit a grim question from Delores Jones-Brown, director of the John Jay College on Race, Crime and Justice. “People are asking,” she says, “Is it open season on us?”
Meanwhile, half a world away in Iraq, ISIS continues to wreak havoc, and the United States has resumed an airstrike campaign after a decade of military force trying to maintain a tentative peace in a fractured nation. Hardly a day goes by when we don’t have reports of more Israeli and Palestinian blood spilled over the historic Gaza conflict, and Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to — in the words of a recent TIME Magazine article — “create problems only he can solve.” All the while, he stokes resentments between east and west not seen since the Cold War, seeking, too, to weaken the cohesive strength of NATO and to drive a wedge between the United States and its allies in Europe.
What’s happening to us?