WorldWatch | Europe
1 | Germany 2 | France
Anti-Islam: Still growing
Anti-Islamic rhetoric has been getting tougher in recent months across Europe, especially in Germany. This is a profound trend to track because of its potential to erupt into yet another repetition of history: a religion-driven conflict between Catholic Europe and Muslims.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sparked anger on February 27 by suggesting that Turks resist assimilation and learn Turkish, not German, as their first language. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle’s terse rejoinder was decidedly anti-multiculturalist: “Children growing up in Germany must learn German first.”
On March 4, new German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told journalists: “That Islam is part of Germany is a fact that cannot be proven by history.” The next day he continued, “Successful integration requires two things: knowledge of the social reality in Germany—where about 4 million Muslims live—and a clear awareness of the Western Christian origin of our culture.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s sister party, the Christian Social Union, will resist immigration “until the last bullet” in order to protect Germany’s welfare system, csu Chairman Horst Seehofer said on March 9. Opposition politician Ulrich Kaspari took such offense to the remark that he reported Seehofer to the police for inciting hatred, accusing him of borrowing the phrase from the Nazis.
Seehofer also spoke out against Erdogan’s earlier comments, saying, “A country that disregards the human rights of women as much as Turkey does, that on its own territory renders life difficult for Christians, from such a prime minister we do not need lessons about how to deal with religious minorities in our countries.”
Seehofer also called for new laws to force immigrants to learn German and better integrate into German culture.
He did not have to wait long. The German parliament passed a law on March 17 mandating that foreigners complete an integration course—including a language test—before they get permanent residency. It also determined that forcing someone into marriage—a practice not uncommon among more extreme Muslims—will be punishable by up to five years in prison.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble also joined in the immigrant bashing, saying in an interview published by the Guardian March 18 that Germany took on too many immigrants from Turkey during the 1960s.
Last year, German Banker Thilo Sarrazin stirred the controversy by publishing a bestselling book claiming that Muslims and their failure to assimilate was the cause of many of the nation’s problems. Since then, Chancellor Merkel has declared that multiculturalism doesn’t work, and Germany has grown far more astringent in how it talks about immigrants and even its own national identity.
The same trend can be seen in France. Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Front, is the most popular candidate for France’s 2012 presidential election race, an Internet poll found on March 6. Twenty-three percent would support Le Pen, according to the poll conducted by the Harris Institute and published by Le Parisien. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry each would receive 21 percent of the vote.
Anti-Islamism is a major reason for the National Front’s success, and Sarkozy wants to make it a core issue for his party too. Even before the poll was published, Sarkozy announced that he planned to hold a public debate on the role of Islam in French society. But Le Pen’s popularity shows that many in France want more.
In December, Le Pen said Muslims worshiping openly in the street represent an “occupation of territory.” Polls suggest Le Pen’s approach should resonate with voters. Forty-two percent say they see Islam as an internal threat.
A January poll conducted by ifop found that two thirds of French and Germans believe that the integration of Muslims into their society has been a failure.
Almost perfectly timed to heighten these fears, French Muslims asked if they could use France’s empty Catholic churches for their Friday prayers. Islamic group Banlieuses Respect made the request so they would not have to pray in the street. Naturally, the Catholics were not happy about the proposal.
Biblical prophecy is clear: Another Catholic-Muslim crusade is coming, deadlier than any before. Many underestimate Europe’s ability to confront this issue, but the signs are growing that it will in fact stand up forcibly to the growing tide of Islam.
3 | Italy
Crucifixes in public schools? Absolutely.
It is acceptable to display crucifixes in Italian public school classrooms, the European Court of Human Rights decided on March 18. The case divided Europe’s Catholic-leaning countries from the more secular ones, and the reversal of the original decision has given Rome cause to celebrate. “The popular sentiment in Europe has won today,” said Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. The France-based court said its ruling applies only to Italian public schools and doesn’t require other countries to allow crucifixes in their schools. But the verdict will affect any of the 47 Council of Europe member countries if citizens in these nations use the decision as an argument in national courts, or if governments use the ruling to justify altering their legislation on religious symbols. The Vatican embraced the ruling, saying it illustrates that crucifixes are not a tool of indoctrination but rather “an expression of the cultural and religious identity of traditionally Christian countries.” The ruling is a sign that Europe is kicking against multiculturalism and becoming ripe for a Catholic revitalization.
Out of office, still in favor
German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg resigned on March 1 after admitting to incorrectly sourcing parts of his doctoral thesis. The subsequent outpouring of support for him, however, shows that his political career may not be over. “Guttenberg is venerated as a martyr,” quipped Welt Online. Bild-Zeitung devoted its whole front page and three pages inside to Guttenberg in its March 1 edition. Over half a million people “liked” the “We Want Guttenberg Back” Facebook page. Guttenberg is still a man to watch.
Attacking the City of London
The European Parliament voted by an overwhelming majority on March 8 to impose a financial transaction tax—a so-called Tobin Tax—on every single trade conducted by European banks. When implemented, the effect of this tax on the UK will be massively disproportionate, given that around 80 percent of all European hedge fund transactions take place in London. One estimate calculated that under this proposal, without burden-sharing arrangements, of the annual €200 billion the tax will direct into EU coffers, the UK would send up to €180 billion!
During the debate on the tax, Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, told the Parliament, “The biggest foreign exchange market in the world and the biggest financial sector in the world is in London. … I would say that there is aplotafoot to stop the Anglo-Saxons going on doing all of their business. … If we continue down this route, Britain will lose its biggest single industry!”
In an interview with this magazine last December, the president of the Campaign for an Independent Britain, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, said the tipping point for Britain’s relationship with the EU will come only when the business community has finally had enough. Will this latest attack on London’s financial center provide that trigger?
Bible prophecy speaks of a “raiser of taxes” hailing from a great northern power, in fact the seventh and final resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire (Daniel 11:20). We have consistently drawn attention to the EU being the fulfillment of that prophecy. The imposition of this latest tax impost is consistent with yet another aspect of the great prophecies of Daniel and Revelation relating to this beastly power. Bible prophecy also foretells that there is a time coming soon when no man will be able to buy or sell without the EU’s permission (Revelation 13:16-17). We have warned of this time for over 70 years. This vote by the European Parliament appears to have brought that day one step closer.
4 | Portugal
Save the eurozone
Eurozone nations were forced to surrender more of their sovereignty when their leaders met in Brussels in March. They were negotiating over German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s proposed “pact for competitiveness” plan to save the euro from further crisis. The leaders agreed to closely harmonize their budgetary, tax and social policies to prevent further euro crises, though the details on how to do so weren’t agreed on, and the pact provides no means for its enforcement. Eurozone nations also agreed to expand the temporary euro rescue fund for countries facing economic crisis and agreed to the foundation of the permanent Euro Stability Mechanism, which in 2013 will replace the European Financial Stability Fund in bailing out eurozone nations. The fact that the pact is watered down will give Germany another chance to enforce greater demands on the rest of the eurozone, as it won’t completely solve the euro crisis. The pact is just one more step toward a German-led pan-European government.
Highlighting the fact that the euro is headed for more trouble, Portuguese Prime Minister José Sócrates resigned on March 23 after parliament rejected his austerity package. “The defeat is likely to trigger a bailout similar to the rescue packages Greece and the Republic of Ireland had to accept last year,” the bbc reported. Unless another coalition is agreed, Portugal faces another election and more uncertainty. Moody’s cut the country’s debt rating on March 15 and the nation was forced to pay higher rates on a debt auction the next day. Moody’s also downgraded Greek debt to junk status on March 7, meaning that it deems lending to Greece more risky than lending to Egypt, and just as risky as lending to Angola or Mongolia. Spain too suffered as Moody’s cut its credit rating to Aa2 on March 10.
WorldWatch | Middle East
1 | Tunisia
After a break, Islamists return
Tunisia continues to seethe. Its new prime minister, Mohamed Ghannouchi, was targeted by protesters for being too close to the former government, and he resigned on February 27. A new commission, charged with reforming the government and transitioning the country to a democracy, was created February 18. Its first meeting, on March 17, turned into a session of accusations and insults.
An Islamist group that had been outlawed by Tunisia’s ousted regime, Ennahda, was legalized by the nation’s interim authorities on March 1. Ennahda was founded in 1981 by Tunisia’s Rached Ghannouchi. In 1989, after an Islamist-backed coalition won 17 percent of the vote, Tunisia’s recently toppled Zine El Abidine Ben Ali banned the Islamist movement. In the following years, around 30,000 activists and sympathizers were arrested and many, including Ghannouchi, went into exile. On January 30, two weeks after Ben Ali’s regime was toppled, Ghannouchi returned to his homeland after 22 years and was welcomed by hundreds of thousands of Tunisians. Only one month after Ghannouchi’s triumphant return, Tunisia’s interim government granted Ennahda legitimacy, and the outfit is now poised to join the government.
2 | Egypt
A huge Brotherhood victory
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood announced on February 21 the formation of its Freedom and Justice Party, which will participate in future elections. Meanwhile, hundreds of Islamists threw stones at Mohamed ElBaradei on March 19 as the secular contender for the Egyptian presidency attempted to vote in a referendum on constitutional amendments. The referendum concerned a package of constitutional changes intended to accelerate Egypt’s upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections; ElBaradei was an outspoken opponent of the planned amendments, saying that, after years of repression, Egypt’s burgeoning political parties should be given ample time to organize and prepare for upcoming elections. The well-organized Muslim Brotherhood, on the other hand, was the country’s primary advocate of the proposed changes, and stood to gain the most from them. The referendum’s results overwhelmingly favored the rapid election process, with 77.2 percent of Egyptians voting for the amendments. This was a massive victory for the Muslim Brotherhood.
3 | Yemen
Another anti-terror ally to fall?
In Yemen, another long-standing Middle Eastern government—a key American ally in the fight against al Qaeda—looks ready to fall. As revolutionary forces have swept the region in recent months, pressure on Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s government intensified, with thousands marching to demand his resignation. Sheikh Abdul Majid al-Zindani, a controversial cleric with alleged ties to al Qaeda, joined the crowds, leading them in prayer and telling them to stick to their demands. Violence increased until, on March 18, it exploded in what some called the “Friday massacre.” Snipers opened fire on antigovernment protesters, killing about 50 unarmed people and wounding over 200. This show of force inspired high-level defections among Saleh’s ruling party, and a number of military leaders switched their allegiance to back the revolution, including three of the country’s five military zone commanders. Saleh was virtually Yemen’s only restraint against both al Qaeda and the Shiite revolt. When he is gone, both of these movements are almost certain to expand, even flourish. And evidence shows that both have been aided, encouraged and underwritten by Iran.
4 | Ethiopia 5 | Somalia
Wars and rumors of wars
Heavy fighting has been raging on the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. As the Iranian-backed al-Shabaab terrorist militia tries to overthrow Somalia’s weak transitional government, Ethiopian troops have crossed the Somali border to fight against the Islamic extremists. A leading al-Shabaab official made a call at a gathering on March 3 urging Muslims in both Kenya and Ethiopia to rise up against their governments. Anti-Christian violence has erupted in Ethiopia; over 4,000 Christians were displaced as a result of Muslim attacks that began the day before the al-Shabaab official issued his directive. Fifty-nine churches and at least 28 homes have been burned. What is now basically a Somali civil war could soon escalate into an interstate war between an Islamist-controlled Somalia and Ethiopia. Iran’s support of the al-Shabaab terrorist militia is part of its plan to have a strong presence at the southern entrance to the Red Sea in order to control the flow of oil into the Mediterranean Sea.
6 | Afghanistan 7 | Bangladesh 8 | The Maldives 9 | Sri Lanka 10 | Pakistan 11 | Nepal 12 | Bhutan
Cooperating in South Asia
Beijing is prepared to bolster its cooperation and exchanges with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (saarc), Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said on March 1. saarc includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Since 2005, when China became a saarc observer, it has labored to increase its cooperation with the bloc. These warming ties provide evidence of a congealing Asian power, which the Trumpet has long prophesied.
Yuan to get rid of your dollars?
Beijing aims to permit all exporters and importers to conduct their cross-border business in China’s yuan currency by the end of this year, the nation’s central bank announced March 2. The move will help China achieve its goal of increasing the international role of its currency, and is another indication that the end of U.S. dollar domination in international transactions gets nearer all the time.
13 | India 14 | Russia
Asia weighs in on Libya
Beijing called on all parties to bring an immediate halt to attacks on Libya, and demanded respect of the nation’s sovereignty, in a statement by China’s Foreign Ministry on March 22. Chinese policymakers said they are “against excessive use of military force and the exacerbation of the humanitarian crisis and even greater casualties among civilians.” India’s minister of finance also spoke out against the West’s interference, saying that no foreign nation should meddle with Libya’s internal affairs.
Meanwhile, on March 21, the West’s military involvement in Libya prompted a rare public clash between Russia’s two leading men, as President Dmitry Medvedev criticized Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for calling the measures “reminiscent of a medieval call for a crusade.” Medvedev said it was “unacceptable to use phrases that in effect lead to conflict between civilizations, such as ‘crusades.’” It is becoming more obvious that the end of Moscow’s diarchy is approaching, and Putin will likely soon take up the official reigns of Russian leadership once again.
WorldWatch | Asia
15 | China
The prize: Latin America’s oil
China is positioning itself to supply its ever growing oil thirst with Latin American oil—at the expense of the United States.
The Chinese this year have secured an oil supply of nearly 600,000 barrels per day from Latin America and are set to purchase far more in the near future. According to the Energy Tribune, the Chinese secured deals throughout Latin America in 2010 worth at least $65 billion in stakes of projects that could eventually produce over 1.3 million barrels of crude oil a day.
Most of China’s Latin American oil investments have been with Venezuela—a country that currently supplies the U.S. with 10 percent of its oil imports.
The anti-American Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has never been happy at the fact that he has to sell his oil to the U.S. in order to keep his country’s economy afloat. He would love to redirect oil exports toward China if the opportunity arose.
The Chinese are planning a Venezuelan oil refinery with a 200,000-barrel-per-day capacity and have rented a 5 million-barrel storage facility in the Caribbean. China must now secure an economical way to ship this oil to its own shores. Venezuela has no Pacific coastline, and a trans-oceanic oil barge is too large to fit through the Panama Canal. These two facts make it hard to inexpensively ship Venezuelan crude to China.
The president of Colombia, however, announced in early February that the Chinese plan to build a 138-mile-long railway across his country. The completion of this railroad could transform Latin American oil politics overnight, making China a prime recipient of this oil.
America is walking blindly into a situation where 10 percent of its oil imports could be redirected to Asia due to a lack of influence over the Panama Canal and Colombia’s railways.
The Internet’s most dominant language?
The statistics are in: The Chinese language is positioned to surpass English as the most prevalent language on the World Wide Web. In 2010, China added 36 million Internet users, bringing the total number of Chinese people online to 450 million, according to China’s State Council Information Office. That’s over a third of China’s population, and 140 million more people than even live in the U.S. And the number is still climbing. English is still more widely spoken than Chinese globally, and the bulk of web pages are currently published in the English language, but with Internet use in China increasing so rapidly, Chinese will most likely become the most prevalent language on the Internet within five years.
WorldWatch | Latin America and Africa
1 | Nigeria
Giving Germany a foothold
The Nigerian Defense Ministry has pledged its determination to renew military ties with Germany. According to a Nigerian news article published February 20, Defense Minister Prince Adetokunbo Kayode confirmed his determination to renew his country’s partnership with the German Technical Adviser Group (g-tag).
g-tag is an elite group of German soldiers working to train Nigerian military personnel in various technical fields. It has successfully installed a workshop in Nigeria’s Mogadishu Barrack, where military officers are given mechanical and electrical course work designed to enhance their operational efficiency in peacekeeping, law enforcement and national defense.
Foreign affairs analysts rank Nigeria as one of Africa’s three most geopolitically important nations. As Egypt’s fate determines the stability of Northern Africa, and South Africa’s fate determines the stability of sub-Saharan Africa, so Nigeria’s fate determines the stability of the oil-rich nations surrounding the Gulf of Guinea.
This fact is not lost on Germany’s political leaders—who have taken great pains to develop bilateral relations with Nigeria through arms exports and military training programs. Expect German military involvement on the African continent to increase in the months to come.
2 | Mercosur
‘Restrictive and anti-American’
EU trade with Latin America set a new record in 2010. A report published in early March by the Latin Business Chronicle revealed that trade between the two regions jumped a full 31 percent last year to reach $236.9 billion. Meanwhile, a WikiLeak reveals that the U.S. now considers the Latin American Mercosur trade bloc an “anti-American” organization. “Mercosur gradually has transformed from an imperfect customs union to a more restrictive and anti-American organization,” stated a cable summarizing the conclusions of a meeting of U.S. ambassadors in 2007. Expect the relationship between the U.S. and its Latin American neighbors to grow colder as regional leaders embrace trade partners in Europe. As the Plain Truth magazine predicted in July 1965, “Flowing across the Atlantic to feed the hungry furnaces of the Ruhr and the other industrial complexes of Europe will come the rich mineral wealth of Latin America.”
3 | South Africa
Defend yourself? How dare you.
A leading South African university has severed all ties with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University as part of a growing campaign to isolate Israel for its defensive attacks on Gaza. The Congress of South African Trade Unions praised the University of Johannesburg for being the first to sever such ties. The 25-year relationship between the two universities officially ended on April 1. A close relationship once existed between Israel and South Africa, but this relationship is swiftly coming to an end.
4 | Zimbabwe
Want nukes? Look no further.
During an official visit to Tehran in March, the foreign minister of Zimbabwe pledged his country’s willingness to sell uranium to Iran. “Zimbabwe holds rich resources, but the problem we face is lack of budget, finance and required technical equipment to take the very rich resources out and use them,” Simbarashe Mumbengegwi told the Iranian isna news agency on March 3. An intelligence report released in February claimed Iran was endeavoring to expand its covert global search for uranium to Zimbabwe. It looks like Zimbabwe is willing to oblige in return for Iranian money and technical assistance.
WorldWatch | Anglo-America
Aboard the Titanic, arguing over the bar tab
A special index designed by the U.S. Labor Department reveals that the cost of living for Americans hit a record high in February. America’s attempts to print its way out of recession have only driven up both inflation and unemployment. Meanwhile, the U.S. government this year racked up its largest February deficit in history: $223 billion. Republicans are pushing to cut $50 billion from the yearly budget, while Democrats say they can accept no more than $6 billion. Just February’s deficit was more than four times larger than the most “extreme” proposed yearly cuts.
Britons: At least let us vote on it!
Over 20,000 people in Britain have signed an initiative calling for a referendum on whether their country should remain in the European Union. Signers of the People’s Pledge promise to vote only for a candidate “who publicly promises to support a binding referendum on our EU membership and to vote for it in the House of Commons.” A survey conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion suggests that such a referendum would pull Britain out of Europe. Forty-eight percent of Britons would vote to leave the EU, versus only 27 percent to stay in.
From nursery to gutter
Britain’s schools are giving 5-year-old children perverse sexual material as part of their sexual education, the Christian Institute exposed on March 9. Books recommended by county councils for children as young as 5 contain explicit descriptions and cartoon pictures of sexual acts. One book recommended by a council for those over age 7 calls homosexuality natural and normal.
The Reformation in reverse
Around 600 Anglicans began the process of converting to Catholicism on March 9 (Ash Wednesday). “When they become Catholic at Easter, then they can receive holy communion in the Catholic Church,” a spokesman for the Catholic bishops’ conference explained. “There is a gap of few weeks where they prepare.” These new converts, which include around 20 priests, will join the Ordinariate set up for them by the pope. This group is set to swell beyond 600, with many planning on joining in a second wave of converts. The Ordinariate’s leader, Keith Newton, wants to actively expand the branch by seeking to convert new members. This is a small part of a movement that will eventually see the Church of England engulfed entirely by Rome.
The other city-killing quake
It’s easy to forget in the wake of the horrific quake that struck Japan on March 11, but just 17 days earlier, a temblor leveled parts of the second-largest city in New Zealand.
“It is just a scene of utter devastation,” said Prime Minister John Key after viewing the aftermath of the 6.3-magnitude earthquake that hit Christchurch on February 22. At least 166 people were killed and hundreds of buildings destroyed. “We may well be witnessing New Zealand’s darkest day.”
Located just 3 miles from city center at a depth of only 2.5 miles, the quake wrought extreme damage. It was the second quake in five months, but the previous 7.1 magnitude quake caused less damage because it was located much deeper.
Christchurch’s central business district is expected to remain cordoned off for several months. Just assessing the damage to homes is expected to take four months. The cost of rebuilding the city has been put at as high as us$14.8 billion.
It is not pure circumstance that New Zealand has been subject to great catastrophe over recent months. God declares of the Anglo-Saxon nations that we are like sheep that have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6). Out of an overwhelming love for these people, the Eternal God simply reproves them by increasing the punishment on them for breaking His law. Much of that punishment comes in the form of so-called natural catastrophes. God will continue to bring such penalties on His people to draw their attention to the reality that they are out of step with His will. And He will do this till repentance occurs and they turn to Him for help.
In all this, the great mercy of an all-wise, all-loving God is summed up in His plea to His people: “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11).