FaithWorld

from Edward Hadas:

A tale of two half-centuries

The future rarely turns out as expected. Imagine, for example, two sets of economic predictions for the half-century that began in 1962. The first, the Blind Guide, is written with only the knowledge available then. The second, the Retrospective Guide, is based on what actually happened.

The biggest economic issue a half-century ago was the battle of economic systems: communism versus capitalism. The Blind Guide would have predicted a lively rivalry in 2012. True, communist countries were already falling behind economically in Europe, but political oppression would keep the system well entrenched. Besides, 50 years ago many Western experts still believed that communism’s social levelling and central planning offered poor countries the best hope of rapid economic growth.

In the retrospective volume, the future abject failure of communism has a prominent place. The decline would be slow, but the people would inevitably become increasingly disenchanted with the system’s incompetence, hypocrisy and cruelty. The will of the people ultimately prevailed.

Next comes the plight of the wretched of the earth, to use the English title of Frantz Fanon’s 1961 book on post-colonial society. Although the nascent Green Revolution in agriculture was encouraging, the blind prediction would be for another half-century of wretchedness. While the policies and practices which could eliminate abject poverty were fairly well understood, many generations would be needed to overcome the effects of colonial oppression and to spread industrial culture. In the interim, there would be social disorder, numerous wars and firmly entrenched repressive regimes.

It has not turned out that way. While the retrospective forecast calls for much shocking poverty in 2012 and some dreadful wars - Vietnam, Iran-Iraq, Congo - along the way, it also predicts tremendous improvements in living standards in most poor countries. For example, the share of global oil consumption accounted for by poor countries moved from a quarter to a half, while the proportion of young people in secondary education has more than doubled. Dictatorships have become scarcer and less secure.

German Catholic Church says most sex abuser priests psychologically normal

(Munich’s Catholic cathedral Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), 30 September 2012/Dguendel)

A German Catholic Church study showed most priests found guilty of sexually abusing minors were psychologically normal, according to survey results.

Only 12 percent of those surveyed were diagnosed as paedophiles, said the report released by Trier Bishop Stephan Ackermann, the church’s spokesman on abuse cases.

from Photographers' Blog:

Any color, as long as it’s blue

Wiesbaden, Germany

By Ralph Orlowski

It was a cold and blustery winter morning when I arrived at the warm and cozy gallery rooms of the Hesse Nassau Art Club in Wiesbaden to take pictures of the exhibition "Bourquoi". This was to be my third attempt to take photographs of viewers at the show. So far I had not been successful at finding any willing visitors. I wondered whether this could be because of the compulsory dress code. The title of the exhibition "Bourquoi" by Turkish-German artist Naneci Yurdaguel is a play on the two words ‘pourqui' -- the French word for 'why' – and “Burka”.

I took off my big awkward padded winter coat only to be handed an equally, if not more, awkward “Burka” by the gallery assistant. I was told the only way to photograph or view the exhibition was while wearing it. No exceptions – not for male visitors or even for journalists.

Finally two visitors arrived – a man and a woman who were also willing to pull over an original Kabul burka. The organizers of the exhibition had flown in about a dozen original blue Burkas from the Afghan capital. I expected the visitors to be giggling and laughing when they changed to fulfill the dress code. But everyone was surprisingly extremely quiet and respectful.

German churches and trade union both claim victory in strike case

(A sign reading ‘Arbeitsgerichte’ (Labour courts) is pictured in the late evening in Hamburg September 1, 2012. REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen)

Germany’s main churches and a union that represents their employees have both claimed victory after the Federal Labour Court issued a Solomonic decision on whether church employees are allowed to strike.

The Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches greeted the ruling as an endorsement of their system of resolving wage disputes through mediation, while the union said it confirmed church workers had the right to industrial action.

New Anglican head Welby mixes conflict resolution role with business skills

The Bishop of Durham, and the newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, smiles during a news conference at Lambeth Palace in London November 9, 2012.  REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Rowan Williams once said the next Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the fractious Anglican wing of world Christianity, needs “the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros”.

He overlooked the calm and patient negotiating skills that probably helped his successor Justin Welby clinch the job.

Chancellor Merkel urges German churches to agree on Luther anniversary

(Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at a news conference at European Union (EU) leaders summit in Brussels October 19, 2012.  REUTERS/Yves Herman)

Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germany’s Protestant and Roman Catholic churches on Monday to stress their common beliefs at ceremonies marking the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation.

Although still five years away, the date has already prompted debate between Protestants preparing major celebrations and Catholics who rue the rebellion of the German monk Martin Luther in 1517 as the start of a painful split in western Christianity.

Strong Swiss franc forces Reformed church group out of Calvin’s city Geneva

Geneva, dominated by St. Peter’s Cathedral, 6 February 2007/Tom Purves)

The Swiss city of Geneva has a long history of affording refuge to religious dissenters, most notably the 16th-century reformer John Calvin, but the strong Swiss franc currency has made it hard on his followers.

The exchange rate of the Swiss franc to other currencies has forced the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) to move its global headquarters, which has a staff of seven, to Germany from the city known as “the Protestant Rome” when Calvin ruled it as a strict theocracy.

A WCRC statement on Monday said the group, which represents about 80 million Christians in Reformed, Presbyterian and other churches around the world, would move its office to Hanover by December 2013.

German Catholics wary about major Luther festivities planned for 2017

Martin Luther, painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1529

It’s rare to be invited to an event five years off and even rarer to bicker about its details, but Germany’s Catholic Church finds itself in that delicate situation thanks to an overture from its Protestant neighbors.

German Protestants are planning jubilee celebrations in 2017 to mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s launching of the Reformation, a major event in the history of Christianity, of Europe and of the German nation, language and culture.

The Protestants have invited the Catholics to join in, a gesture in harmony with the good relations the two halves of German Christianity enjoy and the closeness many believers feel across the denominational divide.

German Jewish leader deters anti-Semitic attack with gun

(Berlin’s New Synagogue, 21 April 2010/Sarah Ewart)

A leading member of Germany’s Jewish community had to point to a gun he was carrying to ward off a young man shouting anti-Semetic abuse, the latest in a string of racist incidents in Berlin that has shocked Jews and city authorities.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany said its general secretary, Michael Kramer, had endured a barrage of threatening insults from the man after leaving a Berlin synagogue with his two daughters on Wednesday.

“The man threatened us and made clear he would have lashed out if the children had not been there,” the council quoted Kramer, 44, as saying on its website.

Top German court backs Catholic Church against religious tax opt-outs

(The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig, Germany, 18 November 2011/Templemeister)

Germany’s top administrative court agreed with Roman Catholic bishops on Wednesday that German believers who refuse to pay a special church tax could be shut out of Catholic worship.

The verdict, based on German corporate law, upheld the system by which the state collects religious taxes from registered Catholics, Protestants and Jews with their monthly returns and distributes them to the religious communities.