By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – – Billionaire bigot Donald Trump’s tiff with Pope Francis continued on Thursday, …
The Pontiff’s visit to the U.S. presents some difficulties for Catholic GOP Presidential Candidates.
The pontiff will likely get rock star treatment, but he may pay a price for his unorthodox approach to Cuba, inequality and climate change
By Arijeta Lajka
June 18, 2015 | 8:25 am
Pope Francis made an appeal to the public on Wednesday, saying that “people and institutions” who close their doors to asylum seekers should ask God for forgiveness, with the spiritual leader addressing the matter as European leaders scramble to provide solutions for the migrant crisis.
The pope’s comments come amid the dire migrant situation across Europe as a record number of migrants are fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and strife in Africa and heading over to Europe. The pope urged nations not to close their doors on migrants, and for governments to unite together and combat forced migrations.
“I invite you all to ask forgiveness for the persons and the institutions who close the door to these people who are seeking a family, who are seeking to be protected,” the pope said. “These brothers and sisters of ours are seeking refuge far from their lands, they are seeking a home where they can live without fear.”
The pope voiced his perspective after a string of deadly migrant boat accidents have caught global attention in recent months, as asylum seekers fleeing conflict, unemployment, oppression, and civil unrest cross into Europe — largely from the Middle East and parts of Africa — at record rates. As of June 8, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) estimates that the number of migrants arriving to Europe has already surpassed 100,000 in 2015. Meanwhile, the death toll of individuals attempting to reach Europe hit 1,800 people in just the first five months of the year.
Pope Francis’ plea for countries not to shut out migrants comes just one day after European Union (EU) leaders failed to reach an agreement regarding an emergency plan to redistribute 40,000 new migrants who have flowed into Italy and Greece this year. According to EU policy, refugees are supposed to register and seek asylum in the first EU country they reach, with Italy and Greece bearing much of this burden. However, migrants are often simply trying to pass through these countries without registering, as they attempt to move north to look for better employment opportunities in other parts of Europe.
This issue came to a head on Tuesday when migrants trying to make their way out of Italy clashed with police at the French border. For five days, dozens of migrants camped out on the Italian side of the border in hopes of moving further north and crossing into France. The scene grew chaotic as French authorities denied entry to the migrants — mostly from Sudan and Eritrea — and forcibly removed them from the border.
Amid the migrant crisis, leaders across Europe are grappling with how to handle the upheaval, with countries considering efforts ranging from shifts in border control methods to new legislation to even building physical obstacles. As seen in Tuesday’s clashes, France has moved towards stricter border control, along with Austria and Switzerland. France and Switzerland have stopped allowing migrants entry from Italy.
After landing in France, many migrants with pending asylum applications have resorted to temporarily living in dismantled slums and tents. Earlier this month, the French evicted nearly 400 migrants from the crowded camps. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced on Wednesday that France will crackdown on smuggler networks and create 11,000 places for migrants and housing in an attempt “to provide long-term solutions.”
Related: Tucked Beneath a Paris Nightclub, Migrants in a Tent City Try to Survive
While the EU has failed to carry out its plan to distribute asylum seekers equally across its 28 member states, Hungary — another prominent passing point for migrants — announced plans to tighten up on border control. This year alone, more than 53,000 people have requested asylum in Hungary. With the country looking for options to keep migrants from crossing over into its territory, a Hungarian official announced on Wednesday that the country is considering to build a fence along the Serbian border in order to halt the influx of migrants.
“The pressure of migration which presents serious difficulties for Europe affects Hungary the most among EU member countries,” Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said. “Hungary cannot allow itself to wait any longer. Naturally, we hope there will be a joint European solution.”
The foreign minister claims the fence would not interfere with any legal issues, since Serbia is considered an EU candidate. Szijjarto said the government would classify EU members or candidates — like Serbia — as “safe countries,” requiring them to take responsibility for the migrants that have reached their borders who are attempting to cross into Hungary. Meanwhile, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban remarked that the EU proposal to distribute migrants “borders on insanity,” Reuters reported. Officials said that they will block the flow of migrants coming into Hungary from safe countries.
“The Hungarian government is committed to defending Hungary and defending the Hungarian people from the immigration pressure,” Szijjarto said, mentioning that Greece and Bulgaria have constructed fences along their borders with Turkey to halt migrants from moving through.
The UNHCR emphasized that walls and fences would only put migrants in the hands of smugglers.
“We are against walls and fences. Erecting a fence on the Serbian border could be a barrier to the right to seek asylum in Hungary — and the right to seek asylum is an inalienable right,” Kitty McKinsey, a spokesperson for UNHCR in Central Europe, told VICE News. “When countries introduce barriers like fences, this may lead refugees and asylum seekers to undertake more dangerous crossings and place refugees at the mercy of smugglers.”
While Hungary and France are working to restrain migrants from moving in, one nation expected to take legislative action on the migrant issue this week is Macedonia. After enduring immense criticism for its treatment of migrants and for putting them at risk of being robbed, kidnapped, and killed as a result of unsafe routes taken to avoid encounters with authorities, Macedonia is expected to pass a bill that will grant migrants three days to safely move through the country, Balkan Insight reported.
“The current situation and circumstances demand an emergency session,” Macedonia’s parliament speaker Trajko Veljanoski announced on Wednesday.
Related: ‘The European Asylum System Is Dysfunctional’: UNHCR Speaks to VICE News About the Migrant Crisis
The bill, expected to get parliament approval on Thursday, is aiming to divert migrants away from unsafe routes, such as the railway tracks that start in Greece before extending through Macedonia and on to Serbia. Dozens have died while walking along these tracks after being hit by passing trains.
Authorities are currently launching an investigation in Macedonia regarding a report that surfaced earlier this month alleging that gangs were kidnapping migrants, many of who are fleeing conflict in Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen. In addition, migrants that were held in camps in the country’s capital Skopje were reduced to severely crowded rooms that were in scant and unsanitary conditions. Police spokesperson Ivo Kotevski said Macedonia is struggling to deal with the migrant crisis, noting that around 8,500 migrants entered Macedonia from Greece in one week alone in order to pass through Serbia, Hungary to ultimately reach Western Europe.
Around 2,000 migrants have died or went missing en route to Europe this year. After the EU ministers failed on Tuesday to agree on the plan to share the placement of 40,000 new migrants in Italy and Greece, the leaders are set to discuss the plan when they meet in Brussels later this month, and revisit the issue again when they meet in July.
This Creative Commons-licensed piece originated with Climate News Network.
LONDON—Pope Francis has challenged climate change deniers by declaring that the destruction of the ecosystem is a moral issue that has to be tackled, or there will be grave consequences for us all.
Pointing to human activity as the main cause for the increasing concentrations of climate-warming greenhouse gases, he praises ecological movements—and, in exceptionally strong language, rounds on those who are obstructing progress in the fight against climate change.
“The attitudes that stand in the way of a solution, even among believers, range from negation of the problem to indifference, to convenient resignation or to blind faith in technical solutions,” the Pope says.
Meant for everyone
His message is contained in an encyclical, a document on Catholic teaching that is traditionally addressed to bishops. But, in this case, he says his words are aimed not only at an estimated 1.2 billion Catholics around the world—they are meant for everyone.
“Faced with the global deterioration of the environment, I want to address every person who inhabits the planet,” the Pope says.
The encyclical—entitled Laudato Si, or Be Praised, and nearly 200 pages long—is the first such document issued by the Vatican dealing specifically with the environment.
It was due to have been released tomorrow, but parts of a draft appeared early in the Italian magazine, L’Espresso—much to the annoyance of Vatican officials.
“Humanity is called to take note of the need
for changes in lifestyle and changes in methods
of production and consumption
to combat this warming”
Unlike many of his predecessors, Pope Francis has shown a desire, since he became pontiff in 2013, to enter into debate about economic and environmental matters, as well as spiritual issues.
“If we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us – never forget that,” he told a gathering in St. Peter’s Square, Rome, earlier this year.
The Pope says in the draft of the encyclical that the poor are trapped by environmental and financial degradation, and that the world’s resources cannot continue to be looted by humankind.
“Humanity is called to take note of the need for changes in lifestyle and changes in methods of production and consumption to combat this warming, or at least the human causes that produce and accentuate it,” he says.
The impact of the Pope’s message is likely to be considerable. Although the number of church-going Catholics has dropped in Europe and many other parts of the industrialised world, the influence of the church is growing in many areas, particularly in Africa.
The encyclical is also likely to give added momentum to the need for a climate agreement at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris at the end of the year.
John Grim, who lectures in world religions at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University in the US, says the Pope’s teachings give a significant moral voice to climate change issues.
He says: “What we have lacked in many settings is the moral voice of religious leadership informing congregations, denominations and different religions of the depth of the science and the impact on human communities of widespread climate change.”
The encyclical is likely to attract criticism from sceptics seeking to deny that there is any such thing as climate change, and who in the past have accused the Pope of straying into areas he knows little about.
Conservatives in the US have branded the Pope’s repeated warnings about growing inequality as the talk of a communist and a Marxist.
In September, Pope Francis is due to go to New York to address the United Nations, and will also speak to the US Congress in Washington.
Vatican officials say the pontiff will continue to speak out on issues linked to poverty and climate change.
The Dalai Lama identified himself as a Marxist on Tuesday while addressing capitalism, discrimination and violence at a lecture on world peace in Kolkata, India. This is not the first time that the 14th Dalai Lama has spoken about his political leaning – in 2011 he said: “I consider myself a Marxist…but not a Leninist” when speaking at a conference in Minneapolis.
“We must have a human approach. As far as socioeconomic theory, I am Marxist,” he said to the audience on Tuesday, at the lecture entitled ‘A Human Approach to World Peace’ which was organized by Presidency University.
The Tibetan spiritual leader partly blamed capitalism for inequality and said he regarded Marxism as the answer: “In capitalist countries, there is an increasing gap between the rich and the poor. In Marxism, there is emphasis on equal distribution,” he said, adding that “many Marxist leaders are now capitalists in their thinking”.
He said that he regarded economic and social inequality in India as the reason for ongoing discrimination against women and low social castes, calling on the world’s youth to take the 21st century from a century of violence to a “century of peace”.
“I will not see this in my lifetime but we must start working on it. Those below thirty are the generation of the 21st century. You have to stop violence with your will, vision and wisdom,” adding that nuclear weapons should be banned.
The Dalai Lama’s sentiments are not shared by the Pope Francis, however, who has repeatedly dismissed suggestions that he is a communist. Earlier this week, the Pope again defended his economic and social ideologies by saying they are rooted in the Christian faith, not Marxism.
“As we can see, this concern for the poor is in the gospel, it is within the tradition of the church, it is not an invention of communism and it must not be turned into some ideology, as has sometimes happened before in the course of history,” he said in an interview taken from This Economy Kills, a book of his teachings set for release in Italian this week.
One critic, American radio host Rush Lambaugh, has referred to the Pope’s views on poverty and growing inequality as “pure Marxism”.
There are currently rumours circulating that the Dalai Lama will be making an appearance at the UK’s Glastonbury Festival in June 2015. Despite an announcement being made on his official site in early January 2015 announcing his attendance, the post was quickly deleted and the organisers have refused to comment.
Abbott wishes the old pope Benedict the German was still here. Latinos are far too progressive.