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FInancial crisis boosts European suicide rates, especially in Greece, Ireland

(Suicide hotline sign at telephone booth near Beachy Head, the chalk cliffs near Eastbourne, a leading UK suicide spot, 29 January 2009/Les Chatfield)

Suicides rates rose sharply in Europe in 2007 to 2009 as the financial crisis drove unemployment up and squeezed incomes, with the worst hit countries like Greece and Ireland seeing the most dramatic increases, researchers said on Friday. Rates of road deaths in the region fell during the same period, possibly because higher numbers of jobless people led to lower car use, according to an initial analysis of data from 10 European Union (EU) countries.

“Even though we’re starting to see signs of a financial recovery, what we’re now also seeing is a human crisis. There’s likely to be a long tail of human suffering following the downturn,” said David Stuckler, a sociologist at Britain’s Cambridge University, who worked on the analysis.

Stuckler said he feared the social and health costs of the recent global economic downturn would turn out to be high. “We can already see that the countries facing the most severe financial reversals of fortune, such as Greece and Ireland, had greater rises in suicides,” he said. “And suicides are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of mental health problems. Suicide itself is a relatively rare event, but wherever you see a rise in suicides there is also a rise in failed suicide attempts and in new cases of depression.”

Analyzing data available so far, Stuckler and colleagues found that suicide rates were up 17 percent in Greece and 13 percent in Ireland. Unemployment increased by 2.6 percentage points — a 35 percent relative increase — between 2007 and 2009 across the EU as a whole, they said.

Pope urges help for traditional families crumbling in secularised Europe

(Pope Benedict XVI arrives to lead a solemn mass in Zagreb June 5, 2011. The Pope is on a two-day visit to Croatia/Alessandro Bianchi)

Pope Benedict warned on Sunday that the traditional family in Europe was disintegrating under the weight of secularization and called for laws to help couples cope with the costs of having and educating children. On the second day of his trip to Croatia, a bastion of Roman Catholicism in the Balkans, the pope said an open-air mass for hundreds of thousands of people and hammered home one of the major themes of his papacy.

“Unfortunately, we are forced to acknowledge the spread of a secularization which leads to the exclusion of God from life and the increasing disintegration of the family, especially in Europe,” he said in his sermon on the edge of the capital.

Referendum in Catholic Malta backs introduction of divorce

(Valletta skyline, 27 October 2005/Brian Gotts)

Staunchly Catholic Malta approved the introduction of divorce, backing the move by a small majority in a referendum. “The referendum outcome is not the one I wished for, but the will of the majority will be respected and parliament will enact legislation for the introduction of divorce,” Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said in a video statement on Sunday. The vote was seen as a test of the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in a country where 72 percent of people say they go to Mass on Sundays and nearly all marriages are held at the altar. The Mediterranean island of 400,000 people is the only country in Europe not to allow divorce. Early results from Saturday’s referendum showed a majority backing divorce of between 52 percent and 54 percent. The Divorce Movement declared victory and the anti-divorce movement conceded. Opposition leader Joseph Muscat had said changing the law was a vote for modernity and a chance for those with broken marriages to start afresh. Gonzi had said divorce offered “no solutions” and called for better preparation before weddings so that the “value of an indissoluble marriage is bequeathed to the young.” Divorce legislation was proposed in July last year by Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, a member of Gonzi’s own parliamentary group. It provides for people to become eligible for divorce after four years of separation.

– by Christopher Scicluna in Valletta

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Will Pew Muslim birth rate study finally silence the “Eurabia” claim?

paris prayers

(Photo: Muslims who could not fit into a small Paris mosque pray in the street, a practice the French far-right has compared to the Nazi occupation, December 17, 2010/Charles Platiau)

One of the most wrong-headed arguments in the debate about Muslims in Europe is the shrill “Eurabia” claim that high birth rates and immigration will make Muslims the majority on the continent within a few decades. Based on sleight-of-hand statistics, this scaremongering (as The Economist called it back in 2006) paints a picture of a triumphant Islam dominating a Europe that has lost its Christian roots and is blind to its looming cultural demise.

The Egyptian-born British writer Bat Ye’or popularised the term with her 2005 book “Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis” and this argument has become the background music to much exaggerated talk about Muslims in Europe. Some examples from recent weeks can be found here, here and here.

Pope Benedict decries growing Christianophobia in Europe

creche (Photo: Pope Benedict XVI blesses a nativity scene at the Vatican December 15, 2010/Tony Gentile)

Pope Benedict voiced the Catholic Church’s deep concern over “hostility and prejudice” against Christianity in Europe on Thursday, saying creeping secularism was just as bad as religious fanaticism. In the message for the Roman Catholic Church’s World Day of Peace, marked on Jan. 1, he also reiterated recent condemnations of lack of religious freedom in countries in the Middle East where Christians are a minority, such as Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

He said Christians were the most persecuted religious group in the world and that it was “unacceptable” that in some places they had to risk their lives to practise their faith. But he reserved his strongest words for Europe, where the Church says it is under assault by some national governments and European institutions over issues such as gay marriage, abortion and the use of Christian religious symbols in public places.

“I also express my hope that in the West, and especially in Europe, there will be an end to hostility and prejudice against Christians because they are resolved to orient their lives in a way consistent with the values and principles expressed in the Gospel,” he said in the message.  “May Europe rather be reconciled to its own Christian roots, which are fundamental for understanding its past, present and future role in history.”

Pope puts his stamp on Catholic Church future with new cardinals

consistory 1 (Photo: Pope Benedict leads the consistory in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican November 20, 2010/Tony Gentile)

Pope Benedict installed 24 new Roman Catholic cardinals from around the world on Saturday in his latest batch of appointments that could include his successor as leader of the 1.2 billion member church.

Twenty of the new cardinals are under 80 and thus eligible under church rules to take part in the conclave that chooses a successor after the death or resignation of the current pope.

The new cardinals include Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C., who, as a senior figure in the American capital, will likely play a leading role in the U.S. church’s response to the sexual abuse scandal.

The slow death of multiculturalism in Europe

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Ibrahim Kalin is senior advisor to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. This article first appeared in Today’s Zaman in Istanbul and is reprinted with its permission.

multiculti europeBy Ibrahim Kalin

Has multiculturalism run its course in Europe? If one takes a picture of certain European countries today and freezes it, that would be the logical conclusion.

The European right is thriving on anti-immigrant attitudes and is likely to continue to reap the benefits in the short term. But there are forces that are sure to keep multiculturalism alive whether we like it or not.

Austrian far-right surges in Vienna vote

vienna elexAustria’s resurgent far-right party won over a quarter of the vote in Vienna’s provincial election as voters took their discontent to the ballot box, reflecting a wider European trend as voters concerned about the economic crisis and integration of Muslims turn to rightist parties. (Photo: Heinz-Christian Strache, top candidate of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), October 10, 2010/Leonhard Foeger)

Vienna’s Social Democrats under Michael Häupl, mayor since 1994, won 44.1 percent, losing their absolute majority while Heinz-Christian Strache’s far-right Freedom Party scooped up 27.1 percent, up from 15 percent in 2005. All the other main parties lost ground. The results suggest Freedom, which has called for a ban on mosques with minarets and on Islamic face veils, is returning to its strength of the late 1990s.

Analysts say that if the centrist parties keep losing support, they might start catering more to far-right concerns on social policy, mulling for example a ban on Islamic face veils in public and stricter limits on immigration.

from The Great Debate:

Islamophobia and a German central banker

How do you reconcile the traditions of many Muslim immigrants with the freedoms and values of 21st century Western Europe?

It's a question that has led to periodic outbursts of vigorous debate from France to Holland and Switzerland. In Germany, the discussion has been relatively subdued. Until now.

Why? A passage in a book considered so unsettling that its author, Thilo Sarrazin, was forced to resign from the board of Germany's central bank this month, provides part of the answer.

Low support for radicalism among European Muslims — Pew report

london mosqueSupport for radical Islamist groups is low among European Muslims and some leading groups with overseas roots are now cooperating with local governments and encouraging Muslims to vote, according to a new report. (Photo: A minaret in East London, August 11, 2006/Toby Melville)

European groups linked to wider Islamist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-i-Islami now focus more on conditions for Muslims in Europe than their original ideologies from Egypt and Pakistan, according to the report by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The report also cited tensions between “jihadists” and peaceful Islamists in Europe, saying some groups linked to the Muslim Brotherhood were working with police to counter militants.