Displaying items by tag: Europe
US president Joe Biden and Russia's president Vladimir Putin will hold their first summit on 16 June in Geneva, setting the stage for a new chapter in their fraught relationship. The leaders will discuss the full range of pressing issues, seeking to restore predictability and stability to the US-Russia relationship. The Kremlin said that Putin and Biden would be discussing ‘issues of strategic stability,’ as well as ‘resolving regional conflicts’ and the Covid-19 pandemic. Biden, making his first international trip as president, will go to Geneva immediately after separate summits with his key Western allies in the G7, NATO, and the EU. To prepare the ground, US secretary of state Antony Blinken and veteran Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov met last week in Reykjavik. After their meeting, a Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that repairing ties ‘will not be easy’, but he saw ‘a positive signal’.
Pro-Palestinian demonstrations across Europe have descended into orgies of anti-Semitism by anarchists, hard-left anti-Israel activists, and immigrants from Muslim countries, chanting 'Allahu Akbar'. All are opposed to Israeli action in Gaza and call for the destruction of Israel and death to Jews. This anti-Semitism is a testament to the failure of European multiculturalism which is making Jewish life in Europe increasingly unviable. On 13 May 3,500+ protesters marched across Berlin with anti-Semitic banners calling for total elimination of Israel and many similar sentiments while chanting ‘Bomb Tel Aviv!’ 1,000 police broke up the demonstrations. 93 officers were injured. Bild newspaper stated, ‘Open, disgusting hatred of Jews and Israel is also hatred of our free, tolerant democracy’. 200 highly aggressive people brandishing Palestinian and Turkish flags and shouting anti-Semitic slurs were removed from outside a synagogue in Gelsenkirchen.
Thousands of migrants have swum into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta after border controls were relaxed in Morocco. In 24 hours, 6,000 people had paddled in inflatable boats, swum with rubber rings, or walked through the shallows at low tide. 1,500 were thought to be teenagers. Spanish troops were deployed to Ceuta to patrol the border. Moroccan migrants have crossed land and sea borders to Spain by the hundreds for weeks. Adults were transferred to a football stadium and returned to Morocco, minors went to an industrial building. Spanish / Moroccan tensions are high after the leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, was admitted to a Spanish hospital without informing Morocco. The Polisario Front fights for the independence of Western Sahara and contests all Morocco's claims. Many believe lax Moroccan border control, facilitating easy access to Spain, was in retaliation for Spain treating Brahim Ghali.
The season of Ramadan, when Muslims set aside time to fast and seek God, has now ended. We can ask Father God not to let that time of intentional seeking go to waste. Pray for the Muslims who may have encountered Jesus in this season. Ask God to connect them with Christians, whether local or expatriate, that they may hear the good news of the gospel from them. Ask God to release the Holy Spirit to move powerfully amongst the ‘not yet’ believers as they return to their daily routines.
In the Netherlands, Protestants make up around 16 percent of the population. A small group of traditional Calvinists are opposed to vaccination and social distancing. Most of these believers, who live in a region known as the ‘Bible Belt’, were never vaccinated as children and are opposed to the idea of injecting sickness into a healthy body. Despite surging case numbers, they continue to attend Sunday services without face masks. But amid some of the country's highest Covid-19 infection rates, some of them are starting to shift their mindset.
Former government minister and current MP Päivi Räsänen is charged over her tweet about homosexuality, when she posted a picture of her Bible open at Romans 1:24-27 which describes homosexuality as 'shameful'. In the post she questioned the decision of the church of which she is a member to support a gay pride event. Following complaints, police questioned her and launched an investigation. This resulted in her being charged over the tweet, and also comments made on TV in 2018 and a pamphlet about marriage which she wrote in 2004. All charges are linked to 'hate speech'. Vowing to fight the charges, Ms Räsänen said, ‘I will go to court with a peaceful and brave mind, trusting that Finland is a constitutional state where the freedoms of speech and religion, which are guaranteed both in international agreements and in our constitution, are respected.’
France’s parliament has given the green light for so-called Covid ‘health passes’ which people will have to carry when attending crowded events and venues. Some MPs have said it may lead to discrimination. The law committee of the National Assembly, the lower house of France’s parliament, has approved a bill on health passes which citizens will be required to carry in order to attend gatherings of more than 1,000 people. According to this proposal, the pass will prove that a person has been vaccinated, has tested negative for Covid-19, or has recovered from the virus. See The Norwegian prime minister has said the country will bring in Covid vaccine passports, which will allow holders to attend events, before the government brings in EU-compliant certificates later that month. The certificate means Norway can open society more quickly. It can be used for public events, cruises, and package tours.
The Covid variant behind a devastating surge of infections and deaths in India has been detected in many European nations. Data obtained from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control showed that the B.1.617 variant - also known as the Indian variant because it was first detected there - has now been found in Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, and the UK. On 21 April the UK had detected 132 cases, the most of any European country. The other European countries have observed fewer than ten cases each, though this may be due to different levels of testing. See also the world article ‘India: Covid crisis’.
Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s political network is disbanded ahead of court rulings declaring it an ‘extremist’ organisation. A Moscow court is expected to ban the network’s crowdfunded work, which would put members and supporters at risk of six years in prison. Leonid Volkov, the network’s former coordinator, said that keeping the work of Navalny’s network in its current form would lead immediately to extremism charges and criminal sentences for those helping or cooperating with it. He said the breakup was a ‘punch in the gut’ after four years of hard work in very difficult circumstances: ‘The networks had victories. We cancelled corrupt public procurement orders, secured the resignation of thieves and crooks, won elections, protected parks from development projects, and helped local activists. Now there are direct orders from the Kremlin to destroy the network of offices.’ The network’s website shtab.navalny.com was still accessible on 29 April, showing dozens of locations spanning eleven time zones.
In 1915 two million Armenians lived in Turkey; today there are fewer than 60,000. Successive regimes deny that there was such a thing as an Armenian genocide. Turkey now appears intent on reigniting the hatred by helping Azerbaijan wage war on Armenia in the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, which erupted into armed conflict in late 2020. Turkish mercenaries and their Azerbaijani partners have ISIS-like behavior. They tortured beyond recognition an intellectually disabled 58-year-old Armenian woman before murdering her. Her family identified her by her clothes. When a random pedestrian was asked, ‘If you could get away with one thing, what would you do?’ She looked at the video camera and smiled saying, ‘What would I do? Behead twenty Armenians.’ 24 April was Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, marking the start of the period in which Ottoman Turks massacred 1.5 million Armenians during World War I. On 27 April that Turkey said relations with the US had sunk to a new low after Joe Biden formally acknowledged that Armenians suffered genocide 100 years ago.