FaithWorld

from Nicholas Wapshott:

Austerity is a moral issue

Security worker opens the door of a government job center as people wait to enter in Marbella, Spain, December 2, 2011. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

In the nearly five years since the worst financial crash since the Great Depression, the remedy for the world’s economic doldrums has swung from full-on Keynesianism to unforgiving austerity and back.

The initial Keynesian response halted the collapse in economic activity. But it was soon met by borrowers’ remorse in the shape of paying down debt and raising taxes without delay. In the last year, full-throttle austerity has fallen out of favor with those charged with monitoring the world economy.

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, has been urging German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been imposing singeing public spending cuts on her neighbors, and George Osborne, Britain’s finance minister, who has been doing the same to the Brits, to ease up. The IMF is now urging fiscal measures beyond monetary easing “to nurture a sustainable recovery and restore the resilience of the global economy.”

Earlier this month, Lagarde criticized America’s automatic sequester cuts for being too deep, too soon. The United States, she said, “should consolidate less in the short term, but give … economic actors the certainty that there will be fiscal consolidation going forward.”

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 Catholic Church opens sexual abuse files, some back to end of WWII

(Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier, March 30, 2010/Johannes Eisele)

Germany’s Roman Catholic Church will open its files to independent investigators into a sexual abuse crisis, allowing a search as far back as 1945, a bishop announced on Wednesday. Nine German dioceses will open records dating back to the end of World War Two while the 18 others will do so for the period 2000 to 2010, Bishop Stephan Ackermann said in Bonn.

“We want to track down the truth that may be lying undiscovered in the files of previous decades,” said Ackermann, the spokesman on abuse issues for the bishops’ conference. The two studies will provide “not only formal statistics, but also research into the causes (of abuse),” he told journalists, “so we can better understand how this monstrous sexual abuse by clerics and church employees came about.”

The German Church, one of the worst affected in a wave of abuse revelations that swept Europe last year, will use the studies to help hitherto undiscovered victims and improve prevention of future abuse, Ackermann said.

German court fines SSPX Bishop Williamson for denying Holocaust

(Photo: Bishop Williamson leaves for London after expulsion order from Argentina, 24 Feb 2009/Enrique Marcarian)

Ultra-traditionalist Catholic bishop Richard Williamson was fined 6,500 euros Monday by a German court for publicly denying the Holocaust in 2009, a court spokesman said. British-born Williamson, 71, who belongs to a controversial Catholic splinter group, the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), was appealing a 2010 fine of 10,000 euros for telling Swedish TV that no more than 300,000 Jews perished in the Holocaust.

He also denied in the interview the existence of gas chambers at Nazi concentration camps. Holocaust denial is a hate crime in Germany. Consensus among historians is that the Nazis killed six million Jews in the Holocaust.

Daniel-in-lion’s-den moment for new Catholic archbishop of free-wheeling Berlin

(St. Hedwig's Catholic Cathedral in Berlin, 20 June 2009/Beek100)

Like Daniel in the lion’s den, Berlin’s new Catholic archbishop met the media on Tuesday to face accusations he was homophobic and far too conservative for such a prominent post in the free-wheeling German capital. Rainer Maria Woelki, a surprise choice for the high-profile post, professed respect for gays, denied membership in the staunchly conservative Opus Dei group and said he did not come to Berlin to point a censuring finger at non-Catholics.

Berlin’s gay community and liberal media reacted with dismay to his appointment last week, saying the Cologne-based prelate was “backwards-minded” and the wrong man for the job. But interest in the new prelate was so strong that the Catholic Church, a minority of about 390,000 in a 3.5 million population mostly indifferent or hostile to religion, had to switch the news conference to a larger hall at the last minute to accomodate over 100 journalists who turned out.

“We will meet with each other,” Woelki, 54, said when asked about the city’s active gay community. “I have respect and esteem for all people independent of heritage, skin colour and individual nature. I am open to all without reservations.” Describing himself simply as Catholic, he denied being a member of Opus Dei despite having done his doctorate at the group’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. That part of his biography led to media reports over the weekend calling him “reactionary.”

“If I were Pope Benedict, this is what I’d tell them in Berlin …”

(The Reichstag building, seat of the German Bundestag in Berlin, where Pope Benedict will deliver a speech on September 22. Picture taken on November 22, 2010/Pawel Kopczynski )

Have you ever wanted to write a major speech for Pope Benedict to deliver? What would you say? How much leeway would you have if you were chosen to be the papal ghostwriter?

Benedict is not about to let outsiders write the landmark speech he will deliver to the German Bundestag in Berlin during his visit to his homeland on September 22-25. But the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS), a think-tank affiliated with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), wants to test out this idea before he leaves Rome for the visit.

German minister urges local Muslims to help combat militancy

(German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich at a meeting with religious community leaders, politicians and emergency services staff on how to prevent extremism, in Berlin June 24, 2011/Odd Andersen)

Germany’s interior minister urged the local Muslim community to join government efforts to combat radicalism among young Muslims, putting a special focus on the influence of militant websites.

“We want to stand up to the radicalisation and misuse of religion together,” Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said on Friday after talks with leaders of the Muslim community and security experts on how to prevent the spread of militancy. “All citizens of this country, no matter what our political tendency or religion, must take on the fight against radicalism and terror,” he told reporters.

Erdogan urges Turks in Germany to integrate, not assimilate

erdogan 1

(Confetti is released as Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan leaves the stage following a speech to some 15,000 Turks living in Germany at an arena in Duesseldorf February 27, 2011/Wolfgang Rattay )

Turkish immigrants in Germany should integrate into society but not assimilate to the point where they abandon their native culture, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on a visit to Germany on Sunday. Speaking to some 10,000 members of Germany’s large Turkish community in the wake of last year’s heated debate over the place of foreigners in the country, Erdogan took up the theme of integration amid what he sees as persistent European xenophobia.

“You must integrate, but I am against assimilation … no one may ignore the rights of minorities,” he said, adding that individuals should have the right to practice their own faith.

Germany opens first Reform synagogue since WW2

hameln

(Hameln, 21 November 2006/Marek Nocny)

Germany opened its first new Reform synagogue since the Holocaust on Sunday, marking a major step in the revival of Reform Judaism, which traces its roots to the country. The synagogue in the northern city of Hameln was built on the foundation of its predecessor, which was destroyed by the Nazis during the “Kristallnacht” pogrom in 1938. The congregation received financial backing for the synagogue primarily from local and state government.

“It’s incredible that, after the Shoah, in Germany a synagogue could be built with money that came from German political organizations,” the congregation’s president Rachel Dohme told Reuters.  The city’s reform congregation was founded in 1997 and has some 200 members, the majority of which are from the former Soviet Union.

Reform, or liberal, Judaism was pioneered in Germany by Israel Jacobson two centuries ago.

Conservative German state bans burqas for civil servants

niqab

A French Muslim wearing a niqab veil in Nantes, April 23, 2010/Stephane Mahe

Hesse, a state run by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, on Wednesday became the first German region to ban Muslim face veils for public sector workers.

Hesse Interior Minister Boris Rhein announced it was “not acceptable” for the teacher in Frankfurt to wear a face veil because “public sector workers are obligated to have neutral religious and political views”.

The decision was prompted by a local teacher who had told her school she wanted to wear a burqa in the classroom after returning from maternity leave. She had not previously worn one.