WorldWatch

From the October 2016 Trumpet Print Edition

Pope riles many Catholics by calling Islam peaceful

Pope Francis’s comments on Islam after a brutal terrorist attack have disappointed many Catholics. After Islamic State terrorists slit the throat of a priest in his mid-80s in northern France on July 26, the pope said the world is at war. But he made clear: “I do not speak of a religious war.”

“Religions, all religions, seek peace,” Pope Francis said. “It’s others who want war.”

Instead of Islam, Francis blamed recent terrorist atrocities on capitalism: “Terrorism grows when there is no other option and as long as the world economy has at its center the god of money and not the person.”

Rather than closing its borders to protect people, the pope told an audience in Poland that Europe needed “a merciful heart” that “opens up to welcome refugees and migrants.”

The pope may head the Catholic Church, but many church members have openly disavowed his view on Islam. Just hours after the pope’s statement, the top trending hashtag on French Twitter was #PasMonPape—“not my pope.”

“I admire the pope, this is clear, but I disagree with him,” Bishop Andrea Gemma told the Italian religious news site La Fede Quotidiana. Gemma said he was “confused” and “disoriented” by the pope’s statements. “I would expect a more firm defense of Christians,” he said. “I would like a pope more energetic in defense of our principles and our faith.”

There may be an even higher-profile Catholic who disagrees with the pope: Pope Emeritus Benedict xvi.

Francis’s statements on Islam clearly do not reflect Benedict’s beliefs. Consider his Regensburg speech in 2006, the most famous of his papacy. This speech triggered protests and riots across the Muslim world. The key phrase that offended many was: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” Benedict was quoting Byzantine Emperor Manuel ii Paleologus, and he later clarified that he didn’t agree with this emperor. Still, the substance of Benedict’s speech was remarkable. Many analysts interpreted it to imply that Islam is a false faith and an irrational religion.

In this speech, Benedict was moving the Catholic Church into prime position to lead Europe’s growing right-wing movement. “Europeans fear that the Muslim immigrants will overwhelm their native culture or form an unassimilated and destabilizing mass,” Stratfor wrote at the time. “[W]ith his remarks, [Benedict] moved toward closer alignment with those who are uneasy about Europe’s Muslim community—without adopting their own, more extreme, sentiments. That move increases his political strength among these groups and could cause them to rally around the church” (Sept. 20, 2006). However, terrorist attacks in Europe slowed after that point, and Europeans’ fear of Muslim migrants receded somewhat.

Now the terror is back, and so is the fear. Benedict’s message is again resonating. “Regensburg was not so much the work of a professor or even a pope,” wrote one priest in the National Catholic Register as he watched the Islamic State’s growth in 2014. “It was the work of a prophet.”

Europe is divided and now faces a serious threat from radical Islam. A strong pushback from the Catholic Church would help solve both these problems. Only the church has an appeal wider, deeper and older than nationalism.

Pope Francis’s public view on Islam is deeply unpopular among many Catholics. The migration and terrorism crises are sure to intensify. Biblical prophecy shows that we can expect the Vatican to take a much different approach in the near future. Request our free book The Holy Roman Empire in Prophecy for proof.

The Islamic State is creating youth terrorists

Among the Islamic State’s bearded, battle-hardened men are an estimated 1,500 boys training for war, Spiegel Online reported on July 29.

According to the report, some of those child soldiers automatically joined Islamic State ranks when their parents did. Others were orphans of the war who voluntarily joined the terrorists. Others were kidnapped in the war zones of Iraq and Syria.

Those fortunate few who survive and then escape to tell about it describe military youth camps where children are beaten and drugged into submission, forced to watch beheadings, threatened with death, and then trained to be killers themselves. They practice beheadings on dolls wearing orange jumpsuits.

Islamic State child terrorists also serve as blood “donors” for injured adult militants.

The report said that when they are recruited, the stronger young campers go straight into military training. The weaker are forced to learn the Koran first. Those who are too young to read and write learn from heavily Islamicized textbooks. Children’s counting books, for example, use depictions of tanks.

The Quilliam Foundation observed that the Islamic State significantly increased its use of children in propaganda videos last year. Violent acts committed by Islamic State youth also increased as air strikes against the terrorist group increased. The foundation’s Nikita Malik explained the message that the terrorists intend to send via their militant youth camps: “No matter what you do, we are raising a radicalized generation here.”

Concessions not enough for Khamenei

The sweeping concessions the United States gave to Iran in the nuclear deal implemented on January 16 are not enough for Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei said in a speech on August 1: “I said last year that these nuclear talks will be [a] test for us, to see how the Americans will behave. Well, now we know. They give promises to our face but conspire and prevent any progress in action.” In spite of sanctions relief and numerous overtures from the U.S. in return for almost no concessions from Iran, the ayatollah claimed the deal lacks any tangible benefits, showing that Iranians “cannot speak to [Americans] on any issue as trustable counterparts. … This is why I have for years been saying that we will not negotiate with the Americans; this shows that the problems we have with them in the region, in different issues, cannot be solved with negotiations.”

Khamenei indicated that some of the regional issues about which Iran could have considered negotiating include antiterrorism cooperation against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He said that such future cooperation with the U.S. would be equivalent to taking “deadly poison.”

Khamenei made those comments in spite of a document leaked two weeks earlier that showed yet another nuclear concession made to Iran by the United States and its other negotiating partners. The Associated Press reported that “key restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program imposed under an internationally negotiated deal will start to ease years before the 15-year accord expires, advancing Tehran’s ability to build a bomb even before the end of the pact …” (July 18). The Associated Press reported that the secret document “is the only text linked to last year’s deal between Iran and six foreign powers that hasn’t been made public ….”

According to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, the contents of the document were a “matter of pride” for his nation.

Two days after Ayatollah Khamenei complained about the nuclear deal, the Wall Street Journal revealed that the Obama administration made a $400 million cash payment to Iran in January as part of a $1.7 billion settlement. The cash payment was secretive and, for legal reasons, had to be conducted in foreign currencies. The approximately 3.6 tons of cash was stacked on pallets and airlifted to Iran on an unmarked cargo plane. Analysts say the payment was actually a ransom, since it coincided with the release of four Americans detained in Tehran (article, page 1).

Yet none of these overtures has been enough for Khamenei. He demands more, and Iran’s aggressive foreign policy continues to push.

Netanyahu reaches out to Arabs

On June 27, Turkey and Israel announced they had reached a compromise and were once again ready to restore full diplomatic relations. Two weeks later, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry visited the Israeli prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem. It was the first official visit to Israel by an Egyptian foreign minister in nine years. On July 22, retired Saudi Arabian Army Gen. Anwar Eshki led a delegation of academics and businessmen to Israel for meetings.

This remarkable period highlighted a distinct trend in Israel: The government is making a noticeable effort to grow closer to some of its Arab neighbors.

Dore Gold is the director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry and is the point man leading Netanyahu’s outreach to moderate Arab states. “Twenty, 30 years ago, everyone said, ‘Solve the Palestinian issue and you’ll have peace with the Arab world,’” he said. “Increasingly we are becoming convinced it is the exact opposite. It is a different order we have to create. And that’s what we’re going to do.”

Israel has always been willing to search out friendship wherever it can get it. What is surprising this time around is that the Arab governments are willing to jeopardize their own popularity at home in order to accept Israel’s overtures. What has prompted this desperation? The fear of Iran.

And herein lies the hidden danger for Israel: Its hoped-for alliances with moderate Arab states are not based on shared values; they are motivated by fear, not a sudden change in sympathy, understanding and principle in the hearts of Arabs toward Jews.

Iran does pose the greatest threat to Israel, and Bible prophecy says that Israel will be struck down and destroyed by an enemy. But that enemy is not Iran. That enemy will actually be composed of some of the very nations with which it is currently seeking an alliance. This prophesied alliance of nations is revealed in Psalm 83:5-8 and includes Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states, as well as Turkey, Jordan and Germany. This alliance has never formed in history, but prophecy states that it will form in our time, and largely for the purpose of destroying Israel. Read more about this by requesting a free copy of our booklet The King of the South.

Violence ignites over Kashmir

As of August 23, 68 people have been killed and several thousand injured in ongoing clashes in Kashmir, the territory divided between India and Pakistan but claimed by both in its entirety.

The violence erupted on July 9 following the death of Burhan Wani, a top rebel leader in the separatist militia Hizbul Mujahideen. His death at the hands of Indian troops prompted Kashmiris to take to the streets in the largest protests in years. The protests have often become violent, causing police and paramilitary troops to enforce a strict curfew in the region.

Tom Hussain, a Pakistan affairs analyst based in Islamabad, said: “Kashmir has become a ping-pong ball in the rivalry between India and Pakistan. … If India continues to treat Kashmiri sentiment with violent disdain and Pakistan reverts to its policy of exploiting the situation, both may find that the space in between is filled by non-state actors who specialize in turning political violence into chaos.”

The Kashmir dispute dates back to 1947 when the partition of the Indian subcontinent along religious lines led to the formation of India and Pakistan.

China responds aggressively to ruling against Chinese aggression

The International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled on July 12 against China’s claims of ownership over the South China Sea, saying there is no evidence that China historically exercised exclusive control over the waters of the region. The court also accused China of acting in violation of the Philippines’ sovereign rights by building and militarizing islands off the Philippine coast and by encroaching on Manila’s exclusive economic zone.

Though the ruling was a harsh rebuke to China, it did not subdue Beijing’s behavior in the region. On the contrary, Beijing responded by further ratcheting up its aggression.

The day after the ruling, China landed aircraft for the first time on recently built airstrips on the Mischief and Subi reefs. Both reefs are well within the territorial waters of the Philippines.

The next day, July 14, Chinese coast guard ships blocked a Philippine fishing boat from approaching the Scarborough Shoal, another territory that China claims, although it is well within the Philippines’ territorial waters. The following day, tweeted images showed a flyover by a Chinese nuclear-capable bomber over the Scarborough Shoal.

Now that The Hague has ruled against it, China has few options in the South China Sea that do not involve a defiant military presence. If Beijing does not portray itself strongly, it risks losing its investment in this trade zone that sees $5.3 trillion worth of trade pass through it each year.

Russia to deploy largest warship to Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin is sending Russia’s largest warship to intervene in the Syrian civil war, according to a July 2 report by a Russian military source. The Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, a 55,000-ton vessel, will reportedly be deployed from October until January. The carrier’s 30 jet fighters and attack helicopters will be available to aid the Russian troops already in Syria.

The report says the carrier will be positioned near enough to the Syrian coastline so that deck aircraft can complete military tasks and return promptly back to the Kuznetsov.

This is being touted as Putin’s latest effort to drive the Islamic State out of Syria. Though it may hasten the caliphate’s collapse, the Kuznetsov’s arrival will likely add to tension between Washington and Moscow and further boost Russia’s power in the vital region.

Meet the UK’s new prime minister

Theresa May became Britain’s new prime minister on July 13, two days after she was elected leader of the Conservative Party, and 20 days after Britons voted to leave the European Union in a national referendum that doomed her predecessor. Prime Minister David Cameron had promised Britons the referendum while campaigning for office in 2010, and he campaigned for Britain to stay in the EU throughout 2016. British voters rejected the EU and his efforts, and he announced his resignation the day after the referendum.

May, who was Britain’s home secretary for six years, became the country’s second female prime minister. She undertook a swift and sweeping reconstruction of her cabinet, removing four senior ministers including Michael Gove, John Whittingdale and Oliver Letwin. May made six key appointments her first evening in office, including Justine Greening as secretary of state for education, Liz Truss as secretary of state for justice, and Andrea Leadsom as secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs.

Britain’s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, promoted only one woman to her cabinet; some described her as the woman who smashed the glass ceiling and pulled the ladder up after her.

By removing three key men from cabinet positions and appointing three women, May appears to be emphasizing the creation of a gender-equal cabinet.