The Horn of Africa needs help, said Pope Benedict xvi on Sunday. An “international mobilization” to assist people will be required to avert a true “humanitarian disaster,” he said. Drought and floods are ravaging Ethiopia and Somalia, and “countless people are fleeing,” he warned.
He then called on people to give their “solidarity” to those suffering, along with “tangible support.”
The pope’s plea made headlines around the world. The famine is certainly severe, ravaging both Muslims in Somalia and Christians in Ethiopia. But sadly, famines are all too common in Africa. Is there another reason the pope is focused on this particular region?
The Horn of Africa is located at one of the most strategic commercial gateways in the world, especially for Europe. It is located at the mouth of the Red Sea, which leads to the Suez Canal. It is almost within spitting distance of the Persian Gulf and the richest oil fields in the world. It is home to both French and U.S. military bases.
And it is increasingly a battleground between competing religions.
The most recent evidence of a clash of religions is in Ethiopian neighbor South Sudan. On July 9, South Sudan, in which Christianity has far more influence than in the Muslim north, finally attained independence. At the independence celebrations, the Vatican was quick to congratulate the world’s newest country, saying it would give due consideration to any request from the new government and that it hoped the liberated peoples would enjoy a journey of peace, freedom and development.
Yet South Sudan’s “autonomy” did not come cheap. Years of sectarian warfare have left over 2 million people dead and 4 million displaced. But now the South has its own country. And the West has, in return for all its aid and political support, a greater claim to the oil. Watch for Europeans to attempt to virtually recolonize South Sudan in an attempt to get their hands on the country’s resources.
In Ethiopia, religious tension is growing too, and has surprised many. Ethiopia is predominantly Christian. Christians outnumber Muslims 2 to 1. Yet even here, they were under attack earlier this year. Rioting Muslims burned 69 churches in addition to Christian homes and other buildings in a weeklong uprising in March. Now in a backlash, the government is cracking down on Islamists. More than 570 Islamists have been rounded up and sentenced to jail terms of up to 18 years. An additional 107 are charged with terrorism for their roles in attacking Christians.
Ethiopia is sending a message that radical Islam will not be tolerated. However, as happened in Egypt, and more recently in Syria, the government crackdown may actually empower those being targeted.
In Somalia the clash of religions is evident in a different form. There is still persecution of the tiny Christian minority and clashes with the Ethiopian military. But the biggest clash with the West is via piracy. Over the past few years, pirates have not only been kidnapping and demanding ransom, but also targeting commercial shipping operators—holding crew and cargo until extortion money is paid.
Somalia has the longest coastline in Africa, offering safe harbors to untold numbers of pirates and providing a measure of security against Western navies. But how many hijacked oil supertankers will be taken before Western patience runs thin?
Now with widespread drought and famine ravaging the region, what effect do you think that will have?
Just look at what happened in Tunisia. It didn’t take long for that food crisis to topple a regime. In times of dramatic upheaval, people often look to the vocal radicals for solutions. Extremists will be empowered.
That is bad news for Ethiopia. Islamic fundamentalists stand to make huge gains. Could the Ethiopian government be overthrown? Could a civil war result?
Displaced, hungry, angry people will not be a good thing for the Western-backed transitional government in Somalia either. It is already only clinging to power through foreign military intervention. Somalia is a hotbed of activity for al Qaeda and like-minded groups. Without food and jobs, more young people will see piracy as a way out. Will those same young men also see war, or the local warlord, as a viable alternative?
No wonder the pope is so concerned about the Horn of Africa. It could be set to become a lot more hostile to European interests. And because of its strategic location, it could be dangerously hostile.
On May 5, Gerald Flurry warned that “something has changed” in Ethiopia. For centuries Christians and Muslims have coexisted in this country, but Bible prophecy shows that Islamists are going to take over. “An Islamic takeover of … Ethiopia is imminent,” he said.