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Revisiting the Cultural Values of the EU’s Founding Fathers

Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.

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If the religious and Christian substratum of this continent is marginalized in its role as inspiration of ethical and social efficacy, we would be negating not only the past heritage of Europe but a future worthy of European man—and by that I mean every European Man, be he a believer or a non believer.”–John-Paul II to the European Parliament on 11 October 1988.

In the perilous and turbulent times in which we live, on both sides of the Atlantic, perhaps the time is ripe to revisit the origins of the European Union, its ideals and its vision, as expressed by its founding fathers.

There is a fashionable popular notion, both in and out of academia, that the polity that constitutes the EU was conceived by its founding fathers as a very lose trading confederation for the sole purpose of avoiding a third world war and insure material progress and prosperity to the continent of Europe. It was, in other words a mere project for peace and prosperity requiring little surrender of nationalism and sovereignty but later it was misguidedly transformed into a mega-nation and the quest for political military power to better be able to confront other economic-military giants such as the US, China, Russia, India. Nothing wrong with the hope and the quest for perpetual peace and prosperity brought about by a robust economy, which in some way has been partly fulfilled. But the question arises: is this narrative tenable?

Perhaps the best way to answer this thorny issue of the original identity of the EU is by focusing on the thought of four of the EU founding fathers, namely French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman, West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, Italian Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi, and Jean Monnet. We shall endeavor to determine if the above described rather mercantile notion is tenable or if, to the contrary, those founding fathers, all endowed with great political realism and vision, wished to give a soul to Europe by which to reclaim its heritage and recognize itself. This article is a schematic outline of the issue as developed over a decade and then published in three books on the EU: A New Europe in Search of its Soul (2005), Europe Beyond the Euro (2012, available for free in Ovi magazine bookstore) and Europa: an Idea and a Journey (2012).

As we examine the lives of those three founding EU fathers, let us keep in mind the rich symbolism of the simple historical fact that in 1951, before beginning the delicate negotiations leading to the adoption of the Treaty of Paris, those founding fathers met in a Benedictine monastery on the Rhine for meditation and prayer. St. Benedict, who established the first monastery in Western Europe at Monte Cassino, is in fact the patron saint of the whole continent of Europe. It was Schuman who once quipped “I never feel so European as when I enter a cathedral.”

But before we get ahead of ourselves let’s back pedal to 1940 when Schuman was arrested for acts of resistance and protestation at Nazi methods. He was interrogated by the Gestapo. Thanks to an honorable German he was saved from being sent to Dachau. Transferred as a personal prisoner of the vicious Nazi Gauleiter Joseph Buerckel, he escaped in 1942 and joined the French Resistance. After the war Schuman rose to great prominence. He was Minister of Finance, then briefly Prime Minister from 1947–1948 becoming Foreign Minister in the latter year. On May 9, 1950, seeking to remove the main causes of post-war Franco-German tension and adopting a scheme of Jean Monnet, Schuman invited the Germans to jointly manage their coal and steel industries. This formed the basis of the European Coal and Steel Community, which eventually evolved into the European Union. This became known as the Schuman Declaration, and to this day May 9 is designated Europe Day.

Schuman later served as Minister of Justice and first President of the European Parliamentary Assembly which bestowed on him by acclamation the title ‘Father of Europe’. The other who received the same honor was Jean Monnet. Celibate, modest and un-ostentatious, Schuman was an intensely religious man and was strongly influenced by the writings of Pope Pius XII, St. Thomas Aquinas and Jacques Maritain. He is presently a candidate for canonization or elevation to sainthood; a move beyond his striking personal qualities.

His vision for a united Europe was rooted not only in his experiences of two horrific world wars but in his faith and the social teaching of the Catholic Church. The new community was intended to be built on co-operation rather than cut-throat capitalistic entrepreneurial competition; one of the aims of the much-derided Common Agricultural Policy was to help the poorest agricultural workers in Europe; the key concepts from Catholic teaching of solidarity and subsidiarity are also written into European structures. Of course things often have not worked well: but much of this has been to do with rivalry among European nation states, the persistence of an ugly xenophobic type of super-nationalism misguidedly parading as patriotism. It was this kind of rivalry that Schuman and the other founding fathers of the new Europe wanted to eliminate.

In the 92 years since Italy had became united, it had had for Premiers one Protestant, one Jew, several agnostics and several Freemasons, but never a practicing Catholic, until Alcide de Gasperi took office. Not until the birth (in 1910) of the political party now led by Alcide de Gasperi were Catholics of modern Italy free to participate in politics. This was due mainly to the estrangement between the newly formed Italy and the Vatican which felt that the new polity had usurped its temporal holdings in central Italy. At the end of World War I however, a scholarly Sicilian priest named Luigi Sturzo persuaded Pope Benedict XV to let him form a political party of Catholic laymen. Don Luigi promised his followers that he would resolutely avoid church control, and he kept his promise. Don Luigi Sturzo’s creation, the Popular Party, set out to bring Christian morality and principles into distinctly non-Christian Italian politics—”a center party of Christian inspiration and oriented toward the left,” he called it. In some way Don Sturzo can also be considered a founding father of the EU. Among his early and most promising recruits was a somber man named Alcide de Gasperi.

Like Schuman, De Gasperi came from a border region between Italy and Austria that experienced particularly acute suffering during the wars in Europe. This experience marked him for life, and his suffering helped him to form the conviction that: ‘the lesson that all Europeans can learn from their tumultuous past is that the future will not be built through force, nor through a desire to conquer, but by the patient application of the democratic method, the constructive spirit of agreement, and by respect for freedom.

His commitment to Europe was also rooted in his deep faith and guiding principles. A committed Christian, he opposed all forms of totalitarianism. As Chairman of the parliamentary group of the Italian People’s Party, he opposed the rise of the fascist party. In 1927 he was imprisoned for his participation in the Aventin movement. Sentenced to four years in jail, he was released after sixteen months when the Church intervened, but was then forced to withdraw from political life for fifteen years, and worked as a junior employee in the Vatican library. But from 1943 he was to occupy various ministerial positions, and continued to oppose unceasingly the powerful Italian Communist Party.

De Gasperi responded immediately to Schuman’s call, and worked closely with the latter and with Konrad Adenauer. The key to Adenauer’s conception of Christian democracy was the belief that democracy must be based on a “weltanschauung” – a worldview – that provides a complete account of the universe, man, and politics. Adenauer realized that part of the appeal of totalitarianism was the promise of a complete worldview, in contrast to democracy which was seen as a formal procedure that was neutral about outcomes or that simply managed the clash of competing interests. While communism and fascism offered complete worldviews, they were based on “atheistic materialism” which Adenauer steadfastly opposed for reducing the individual to a mere automaton of the state. As he saw it, politics was the struggle between competing weltanschauungen; and democracy could be firmly established in Germany only by possessing a worldview that could compete successfully with Marxism and Nazism. What it needed was a spiritual worldview to replace atheistic materialism and to prevent its own degeneration into egoistic materialism and social Darwinism a la Ayn Rand. That materialism often wears the dress of populism and parades as the champion of the poor and the oppressed.

Fortunately, Adenauer argued, Western democracy had such a universal worldview in Christianity and more particularly in Catholicism. The etymology of the very word Catholic conveys universality. What is striking about Adenauer’s position is that he viewed the formation of the Christian Democratic Union in 1945 as a non-denominational party open to all people, while insisting on a platform that stated: “The Christian foundation of the Democratic Union is the absolutely necessary and decisive factor. We want to replace the materialistic ideology of National Socialism with a Christian view of the world…Only Christian precepts guarantee justice, order, moderation, the dignity and liberty of the individual and thus true and genuine democracy…We regard the lofty view that Christianity takes of human dignity, of the value of each single man, as the foundation and directive of our work in the political, economic, and cultural life of our people.” The puzzling feature of this statement is its mixture of non-denominationalism and explicit Christian foundations. The puzzle is deepened when we learn that Adenauer himself was a devout Catholic and former member of the Catholic Center Party – the party that was created in the 1870’s during Bismarck’s kulturkampf (culture war) against Catholicism and that continued through the Weimar Republic which the Center Party strongly supported. Moreover, Adenauer was deeply influenced by the social teachings of the Catholic Church expressed in papal encyclicals, especially Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum and Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno, which he read and studied while under Nazi house arrest in 1933. Adenauer discovered in them a “comprehensive and coherent program inspired by belief in an order willed by God which was perfectly practical in terms of modern society.”

To resolve the puzzle in Adenauer’s position, one must see that his affirmation of a Christian Democratic Union that was nondenominational – open to Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and secular people alike – was possible because it offered a moral vision to all people: the belief in the innate dignity of every human being as the basis of democratic equality and freedom, and the grounding of this principle on faith in God and the Western heritage of Christianity. Adenauer believed that all people could rally around this conception of human dignity and could accept its democratic implications as a common basis for sacred and secular outlooks. Nor was this hope confined to Adenauer. It became the crucial article of faith in modern Christianity, a faith that was more and more explicitly articulated by political leaders, churches and theologians in the course of the twentieth century. The crucial insight is that Christianity and liberal democracy are two sides of the same coin – the sacred and secular sides of a common conception of human dignity that is in principle accessible, via universal reason, to believers as well as nonbelievers, even if its ultimate source and foundation happens to be Christian.

When we look at the history of European unity it is essential to remember what most of Europe looked like in the late 1940s. The Christian churches in Europe, and our Roman Catholic Church in particular as the largest church in Europe, was deeply engaged in relief efforts all over the continent – much of contemporary witness on behalf of the poorest people in the world, and on behalf of refugees, has its roots in the post-war years. It is also true that the depth of horror at the evil of war which is now a part of Catholic identity gets much of its inspiration from these years.

In addition, of course, there was the fear – indeed the expectation – that it was all going to start again, at least from March 1948. Europe was rapidly divided down the middle, an ‘iron curtain from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic’, as Churchill memorably put it. This fear led quickly to the formation of a military alliance, NATO, and to the further development of fearsome and immoral weapons of mass destruction, the fear also engendered a determination to secure democratic structures in the countries not occupied by the Soviet Union during the war, and a resolve that the western European democratic countries should co-operate and work together, and not get caught up once again in historical rivalries.

Unfortunately wars are always bound up with economic rivalry, and many historians see this as the heart of the problem between France and Germany. This was centered on what you need to make weapons of war – steel, and the coal you need to make steel. This was mined and made in an area over which the two countries had fought for a century, the Ruhr/Rhineland and Alsace-Lorraine. While much of this was devastated in the war, it needed to be reconstructed: would the rivalry resume? During the war some French politicians and statesmen had urged the creation of an enlarged state of Lorraine, distinct from Germany (and France).

Enter Jean Monet known as the ‘Father of Europe’ and declared the first (and only) ‘honorary citizen of Europe’ in 1976 (three years before his death at the age of 90), Jean Monnet was one of the most exceptional men of the 20th century. He was never an elected a politician – rather he was a fixer behind the scenes, an administrator – indeed this role has sometimes created a negative view of him. Monnet’s career shows how people behind the scenes often get things done. There is a lot more about Monnet’s life, but what is important is this: his experience of trying to solve enormous problems in enabling his country to fight a modern war showed him that what was necessary above all was the closest co-operation and integration of decision-making between allies.

Important to remember that Schuman was from Lorraine, the province constantly passed back and forth between France and Germany from 1870 to 1945. French by descent, he did not become a Frenchman until the end of the Great War, at the age of 32 – he had been a conscript in the German army. This man went on to become Foreign Minister and Prime Minister of France, and he understood the coal and steel which were produced in Lorraine and which had made it so desirable to both nations.

Adenauer, the post-war first leader of the of the new Federal Republic, was from the Rhineland – like Schuman, he had lived all his life in the shadow of Franco-German conflict. These two men, from neighboring areas which produced the same raw materials, were crucial in the rebuilding of post war Europe. Those economic considerations have given the false impression that they were uppermost on the mind of those four founding fathers. But that could be misleading.

Another thing these men shared was loyalty and commitment to the teaching of the Catholic Church which they considered universal and acceptable by reason, even by non-believers. They were well versed in philosophy. They were men who in the midst of war and conflict had tried in the 30s to pursue the Church’s vision, as enunciated by Pope Pius XI and others, of how society should be ordered. An example of how this became clear after the war is the place of trade unions in most mainland European states, reflecting Catholic teaching since Pope Leo XIII in the 1890s. Alcide De Gasperi was part of the same Christian Democrat tradition, encapsulated in the aspirations of Italy’s 1947 republican constitution (although Italian he was a German speaker and had grown up in the Austrian part of Italy).

Part of the answer these serious Catholic politicians had to the menace of Communism after the war, which was particularly real in France and Italy, was to stress the need for co-operation in society, and of good welfare policies funded by taxation, in line with Catholic social teaching; in effect a mitigation of what a savage kind of hear-less capitalism bent on the accumulation of wealth, often accompanied by the exploitation of workers.

The first big fruit of this common view was the Schuman plan (named after him but essentially conceived by Monnet) in 1950. The reason we mark Europe Day each year on 9 May, is that it was on this day that it all began – France and Germany set up a joint ‘High Authority’ to run the base materials of their economies, the production, pricing and selling of coal and steel. They surrendered sovereignty and unbridled nationalism voluntarily in order to work together – the European Coal and Steel Community set up by 1952 and including Italy, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg was the fruit of this plan and vision. The subsequent development of the ECSC into the EEC by the time of the Treaty of Rome in 1958 is well documented.

We need to remember that the original vision aiming at a political union and common defense, faded so that the EEC began by being primarily economic – why is that? Because of national pride, the turbulence in France in the late1950s, and fear of any armed alliance involving Germany. So, it is not correct to say that the union was conceived as mere trading alliance with no political underpinning. The contrary is true, people all over Europe understood that they needed to give up a measure of what they prized most highly – independence and sovereignty, to find a new way of working together in solidarity and in the interests of peace and stability.

In the difficult times the EU is currently undergoing when we hear much talk on the economy by bankers, economists and bureaucrats, while precious little is mentioned on cultural identity, when the center does not seem to hold very well, and the cart seems to have been placed before the horse, it is perhaps high time to return back to the future and ponder deeply the vision and the dream of the founding fathers of the EU, not to speak of its poets and philosophers, to determine if indeed such a union is worth preserving and fighting and even dying for, since not by bread alone does man live.

The above depiction of the major EU founding fathers may conjure up visions of the Holy Roman Empire of Charlemagne where the boundaries between the sacred and the secular are blurred. Confusion abounds on this issue of the Christian roots of Europe. But one thing is sure: the warning of the former Pope John Paul II to the European Parliament on the 11th of October 1988 remains valid. These are the prophetic words uttered at the time: “If the religious and Christian substratum of this continent is marginalized in its role as inspiration of ethical and social efficacy, we would be negating not only the past heritage of Europe but a future worthy of European man—and by that I mean every European Man, be he a believer or a non believer.”

That is a powerful warning which, unfortunately, was mostly ignored by the Constitutional Convention which produced the so called Treaty of Lisbon (i.e., the EU Constitution). In it the Christian heritage of Europe is hardly mentioned and is reduced to a banal statement such as “spiritual leanings.” It is almost as if one ought to be ashamed of such a heritage or at the very least one ought to hide it under a bushel. The constitution in fact, reads like a banal commercial document and lacks inspiration and a call to ideals beyond mere political or crassly economic considerations. As Jefferson aptly warned the US at the beginning of its political life: those who sacrifice freedom for economic advantages, end up losing both.

The question arises: are we currently witnessing the dissolution of a polity built on fragile foundations or a mere economic crisis? Some sustain that the crisis will be eventually resolved and the EU will go on to fulfill its political destiny as a powerful confederation of nations. But the issue goes deeper than that: it is an issue that has to do with the very values and the cultural identity of such a union. In other words, we need to determine if a Christian Democratic political approach conforms to the cultural identity of Europe.

In the first place it should be reiterated that Christian democracy is not a nostalgic throw back to the medieval Holy Roman Empire intolerant of all religions outside of Christianity. Far from it. The key to the conception of Christian democracy as held and practiced by Schuman, Adenauer and De Gasperi, and Monet, four important founding fathers of the EU, was the belief that democracy must be based on a “weltanschauung” – a worldview – that provides a complete account of the universe, man, and politics. Their vision was not merely economic and political but philosophical.

These founding fathers were acutely aware that part of the appeal of totalitarianism, be of the right or of the left, was the promise of a complete worldview, in contrast to democracy which was seen as a formal procedure that was neutral about outcomes or that simply managed the clash of competing interests. Moreover, while communism and fascism offered complete totalitarian worldviews, in some way competing with religion as ideologies, they were often based on “atheistic materialism” which the founding fathers steadfastly opposed for reducing the individual to a mere automaton or clog in the machinery of the state. As they saw it, politics was the struggle between competing weltanschauungs; and democracy could be firmly established in a post-war Europe only by possessing a worldview that could compete successfully with Marxism and Fascism of whatever stripe. What this democracy needed was a spiritual worldview to replace atheistic materialism and to prevent its own degeneration into egoistic hedonistic materialism or a return to a rabid xenophobic form of nationalism. Exactly what we see flourishing all over the EU nowadays.

The founding fathers argued that Western democracy possessed a worldview and it was called Christianity. What is striking about this position is that it views the formation of the Christian Democratic Unions of post-war Europe as non-denominational parties open to all people, while insisting on a platform that stated the following: “The Christian foundation of the Democratic Union is the absolutely necessary and decisive factor. We want to replace the materialistic ideology of National Socialism with a Christian view of the world. Only Christian precepts guarantee justice, order, moderation, the dignity and liberty of the individual and thus true and genuine democracy. We regard the lofty view that Christianity takes of human dignity, of the value of each single man, as the foundation and directive of our work in the political, economic, and cultural life of our people.”

The last inquiry here is this: how would non-Christians react to the notion of a Christian Europe? Especially those non-Christians, the Moslems for example, living and working in Europe. And, are we to exclude from the union non-Christian nations such as Turkey for example? How would the founding fathers reply to such a question? They would probably answer that a Christian Europe does not mean a Europe for Christians. It does not mean an official endorsement of, or call for, evangelization. That is certainly not the role of the European Union. But it would mean a Europe that does not deny its Christian inheritance and the richness that public debate can gain from engagement with Christian teachings. Which is to say, the voice of Christianity should not be eliminated from the public agora and it should have an equal right to be heard there with all the other voices of the polis.

There is something ironic in observing that some of those most opposed to any reference to religion or Christianity in the draft Constitution were at the forefront of opposition to Turkish membership in the Union. The founding fathers would probably consider it an insult to Christianity and its teaching of grace and tolerance to claim that there is no place in Europe for a non-Christian country or worse, for non-Christian individuals. Why would anyone within a polity that respects free speech and genuine democracy fear the recognition and acknowledgment of the dominant culture (i.e., Christianity) as an empirical historical fact? Is it not a shortsighted social and political strategy for a body politic to be based on the rejection of one’s history and heritage? Can such a polity survive for very long? What we are witnessing today does not leave much room for optimism. But history will eventually render a final verdict based on the success or failure of the Union. Meanwhile John-Paul’s prophesy remains as an ominous warning. Let those who have ears, let them hear.

N.B. The article above appeared originally in Ovi Magazine on July 15 2011. It was relevant then, it is even more relevant today six years later.

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

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New Social Compact

World history From Alfa to Omega Or The human tragedy

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The Beginning

While reading the Bible the first thing that strikes the eye is a holistic image of a human being. At first, according to the Book of Genesis, God created man on the last day of the creation in his own image and likeness and let them have domination on an entire world. But although outwardly a human being has divine qualities their nature and essence is not ideal. Moreover at the end of each day of creation it is said: “God saw that it was good” but the same conclusion was not made at the end of the sixth day. Probably God was in doubt. God created man endowed with reason and free will and is immediately convinced that his created being is imperfect hence the man and the woman does not obey the will of God and sinned. And in order to put a man to the true path Adam and Eve were punished and were sent forth from the Garden of Eden. And God told the first woman “great will be your pain in childbirth, still your desire will be for your husband, but he will be your master”. These means that from the beginning God created man and woman equal and the consequence of the first sin became ruling.

In turn God said to Adam: “the Earth is cursed on your account; in pain you will get your food from it at all your life”.

Secondly, Cain killed his brother Abel.  And the Lord said to Cain: “you are cursed from the earth. No longer will the earth give you her fruit as the reward of your work, you will be a wanderer in flight over the earth”.

And later when humanity has multiplied the Lord saw that the sin of men was great on the earth, and that all the thoughts of their heart were evil and the Lord had sorrow because he had made men on the earth, and grief was in his heart”. And the Lord said to himself: “I will take away creatures, whom I have made from the face of the earth, even man and beast  and that which goes on the earth and every bird of the air for I have sorrow for having made them”.

Thirdly, God made up his mind due to and granted people one more chance again. The Lord said to Noah: “The end of flesh has come; the earth is full of their violent doings”.  The destruction came on every living thing moving on the Earth, birds and cattle and beasts and everything which went on the earth and every man”. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark were kept from death.  And when the waters were away the “Lord said in his heart: “I will not again put curse on the earth because of men for the thoughts of men’s heart are evil from their earliest days; never again will I send destruction on all living things as I have done”.

The fourth, God said that the men of Sodom and Gomorrah were evil and sinned a lot. Thus he decided to destroy these cities and told Abraham about it. When Abram said to God “Will you let destruction come on the righteous with the sinners?”  And the Lord said that if by chance there are even ten righteous men within the cities, he will have mercy on the towns for their sakes.

In the book of John it is written, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.  I won’t dare to talk about the Word, but I can briefly touch upon some of its manifestations – the speech and the especially significant part of the speech—the “word”: It can be stated that words are condensations of human mind, with the help of which meaningful speech is formed. In other words, things and phenomena – utterly everything is expressed through words. Every time when we narrate or write a word, a thing or phenomena emerges within us. That is why it is said that every word is a whole word. By the way, the possibility to create words is God’s gift to humans. “And out of the ground the Lord formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them; and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof”. Combining the words we express a complete thought, and combining separate thoughts we get, for example, a story. To write the World history many ideas formed from different words are needed that can become a thick book or a multi-volume work. But if this is the only way of writing history. The reader may himself connect, combine words, make them vivid, as much as he is familiar with words.

Reader create yourself, you are able to do more than I did.

And Here’s the Whole Story

Sinning, fratricide, genocide, theft, robbery, greed, deceit, crime, treachery, betrayal, selfishness, philandering, homosexuality, child abuse, harlotry, drug abuse, ebriosity, self-seeking, violence, authority, ambition, avarice, greediness, vanity, ostentation, adulation, servility, self exaltation, materialism, bribery, racketeering, corruption, dictatorship, tyranny, slavery, peonage, avidity, murder, state, World War, oligarchy, banditry, terrorism, the mafia

The End

After reading these words, new words are coined within us and the list of them gradually increases and everyone of it visualizes a human vice which gives birth to a vile deeds and acts. As these deeds and acts are vast, the words visualizing them are vast. But the question is not limited to the words. The words are gathered, combined and linked, and turn into ideas, thoughts, images and then outgrow into a story.

The story lines up human villainous blemishes and inhuman deeds.  At first there was a sinful person. Probably he was lazy, nefarious one who had stolen the food from his brother or neighbor at the dawn of the story. Then appeared the other, relying on his strength, seized others food. Thus loot rises which becomes the lifestyle of others. Human story is a story of deeds of human faults. On the core of the blemish lies the biggest sin – delusion to enjoy the life at any rate, to serve everything to satisfy this delusion. Not to work as much as possible, to eat delicious foods and drink, to have sex, to keep servants, to achieve power at any cost, at least over a child, over people, over a state, over the world, over the nature to be able to give orders, as Nazar the Brave  said “Now stand there, punks!”.

A state is created that should become their defender, to ensure their safety. But, instead, the state becomes a tool in the hands of the authorities for advanced and vast stealing. It is just to the point to remember the story of Alexander the Great. A pirate was brought to him for punishment. Alexander asked him: “Are you a pirate? Do you rob people?”. The latter replied: “Yes, My Lord, I rob people with my little boat to meet the needs of my family and I am called a pirate. But if an entire nation is robbed with thousands of ships and people they are called a Great Leader or a Great Ruler”.

A new era of war between states begins and is going on up to present. What is war if not a legalized robbery and a legalized murder? Wars have never ended with victory, because the victorious state had been defeated in the next war, and on the other hand, the both sides – the victorious and the defeated states – had only victims, one more, the other less. The theft was dilapidated in a short time. Thus the result of wars has always been blood and destruction, the human suffering. Has the Europeans realized that they had destroyed the creation of God when conquering America? Has the Turk realized that he has not only destroyed chapels built by others but he has stopped the building of the new ones. Of course not. And the victorious war is presented as a heroism, protection of Motherland, the nation safety, the base for a brilliant future, a pompous words are woven to glorify the victims, slogans “no one is forgotten nothing is forgotten”, unknown soldiers are praised, monuments are build, even Medal of Honors are rewarded posthumous. It is apparent, that all this is directed to the alive that are prepared for the next wars. But the reality is that the rulers has nourished their ambition and urge for power, provide their entertainment and pleasure, enjoying life in their own way. The losers had partially revoked from their amusement and pleasure, filled with revenge and got ready for the next war.

By the way as to the revenge; in ancient times blood revenge was very common when in case of a murder, the relative of the victim,  to uphold the honor of his family, was obliged to kill either the murderer or his close relative. The latter should treat likewise and thus endlessly. In the course the civilization of the society, realizing the dangerous effects of this phenomenon, the state assumes the responsibility to punish the murderer and gradually the blood revenge is being forced out from the civilized societies. But the States moved this phenomenon of revenge to international relations.

It is not arbitrary that great tragedians Aeschylus , Sophocles , Euripides , Shakespeare  and other geniuses see the tragedy of a person as well as of a society in human poor-spirited blemishes. Dante , describing the hell in his “Divine Comedy”, had probably suffered a lot finding appropriate punishment for each vice and placing human soles in a hell and had to describe the hell as giant abyss which is divided into several circles of suffering. Balzac in his “Human Tragedy” has not suffered less describing the human vice. Pavstos Buzand  uses such words as hatred, jaundice, malice, rancor, villainy, conspiracy and so on in describing the human ghastly taints and deeds. More horrifying is the description of Movses Khorenatsi  – ignorance, whoredom, stupidity, self-conceit, gold lover, insincere, vainglorious, vanity, rigmarole, indolence, arrogance, peroration, ebriosity, swank, authorities steeling with thieves, grafter, stingy and greedy, abductor and so on. Movses Khorenatsi the cause of the tragic situation of Armenia of his times considered the inhumane vice and deeds of humans. Hardly a nation is found that does not agree with Movses Khorenatsi’s “Lament”. But if Movses Khorenatsi is mourning the Armenian condition, Grigor Narekatsi  in the poem “Book of Lamentations” is mourning for the world generally, for human condition laden with sins. He is sure that if we put human vices on one of the pan of the scale and on the other – the Mount Ararat, the mountain will be lighter. As to enumerating the words describing the human blemish used by Narekatsi, means to do Sisyphean work. Since the world has currently become a big market and everything has become a matter of trade, and consumer philosophy prevails; when every single day the advertisements tell us what we do need, and the criteria of human, social and spiritual values is money, the inhumane vices and deeds of a man has become more vivid and advancing.

The story has not changed because the man himself has not changed but has accumulated and multiplied his blemishes and vices in the course of time. The man keeps on finding the causes of his inhumane blemishes outside of himself, blames the devil, but there is no devil, we are the devils, it is inside of us, it is our freedom of choice of free will given to us by God, which is generally wicked. The man keeps on justifying even the largest sin with the divine power of reason not only before the others but also before his own conscience, tries to justify his the most villainous deed before others. It is more vividly described in the Bible, when after committing the first sin the God asked Adam why he ate that apple, he answered: “This woman, whom you gave to be with me, she gave me the fruit of the tree and I took it”.  So Adam first blamed the God then Eve but not himself. When the God gave the same question to Eve, she replied, “I was tricked by the deceit of the snake and I took it”.  As we see Eve was more humble, she blamed only the wisest snake. It is noteworthy that there is no devil in this case. It is not accidentally said that a good deed has thousands of parents, and the evil is an orphan. Everyone is to be blamed but the sinner himself.

When you learn the modern scientific understanding of the Universe, you see a great explosion, millions of temperatures, collision of stars, collapse, black hollow which absorbs everything, and suddenly you imagine a trivial, lost corner of the Universe, where reason was shaped, birds are singing, the river is flowing, the trees cast a shadow and in this boundless divine surroundings people instead of enjoying the life, they struggle with each other and do everything to destroy the life on our Earth.

A question rises. Where are the human generous impulses and inclinations that we see around us? Have they vanished? Of course not. They do exist and proceed with the existence. Let`s talk about the self-sacrifice; for instance, heroes of the war are ready to give their lives for the sake of their battle friend, for their Motherland sacrificing themselves and the future of their children. But such generous, eminent and stately actions get lost, dissolved in the horrors of war, whether the war is won or not. The Don Quixotes exist nowadays and probably thanks to them that the world has not been finally and totally destroyed.

And at last a prominent question; all the children are wonderful, where do the villains appear from? Let us find the answer to this question.

When I decided to give an ostentatious title to this little essay and wrote it on computer, a black square appeared, and it seemed to me that I am starting to understand the meaning of the K. Malevich “Black Square”. It is known from physics that the absolute black body absorbs all the energy. The same happens in the course of human history when human vices and repulsive actions absorb the positive actions and lofty intentions, and the spirit plunges into the darkness. This process is very similar to the astrophysical “black hole” which devours all the material in the sphere of its influence, and as much it devours, there’s nothing that can get out of it, even a small spark of light.

Human history, too, absorbs everything humane and is apparently like a “black hole” but from which, unlike the black one, blood is poured out of it

We all have to look way out of that predicament. We may burn a lamp of hope and try to stay a man, much better Human.

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Elpidophoros sees his future in GOA. Or not?

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Archbishop Demetrios’ possible retirement has been discussed more and more often, and not only in the media but also in Orthodox forums and blogs, which highlights the importance of this event and the difficulties the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America will soon face. However, the accents drastically differ from those in official statements and open letters.

The GOA issues are much more complicated as Demetrios is not the root cause of the crisis. The point is that even after at the moment of its birth the Archdiocese wasn’t independent enough, and now it’s even less so. Each of its Dioceses is subject to Constantinople, each of its bishops is controlled directly – so nothing really depends on the Archbishop in these circumstances. In spite of this, the GOA Primate’s retirement is inevitable.

In this situation many see Bursa Metropolitan Elpidophoros Lambriniadis as Demetrios’ successor, though opinions vary. His supporters say that his appointment is a chance to increase the GOA’s self-sufficiency and make it more modern and open. Opponents consider this Constantinople’s trick to impose dictatorship and dispel all hopes for independence in the guise of liberalism and an effective crisis manager. There are even those who believe Elpidophoros will become an American Patriarch…

It’s hard to say if these conjectures are based on reliable information. Either can’t we say with certainty that Elpidophoros is involved in disseminating these gossips, but they obviously play into his hands. Metropolitan of Bursa is not only an ambitious person but also a pragmatic one, and his program is not of that great significance in this context. By the way, he may become the one to bring the LGBTQ issues to the GOARCH agenda. Recently, along with some largest benefactors to the GOA, even Metropolitan Kallistos Ware of Diokleia has paid notice to them in his essay for the Wheel.

However, for such an ambitious person as Elpodophoros, the American Archdiocese is unlikely a primary career interest. The Metropolitan likely sees the GOA as a platform to return to the Patriarchal elections in Turkey. Although this fact fills the Archdiocese’s members with indignation, but today the GOA is just an interim stage in a race for the Patriarch See in Istanbul, on the outskirts of Europe. It will be so until the Archdiocese’s benefactors and hierarchs become concerned not with the figure of Demetrios but with internal reforms and the revision of relations with Constantinople. Or – until the See indeed moves to the US. Up to this moment anyone can promise to the GOA laity anything in blogs and on the sidelines – this is a free country.

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Rohingya Crisis Needs World’s Support

MD Staff

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Rohingya women with kids are walking to the camp with relief food at Camp Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. © Tanvir Murad Topu/World Bank

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres came to Bangladesh to see firsthand the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis.

Before they left, they urged the world not to turn a blind eye to the plight of Rohingya refugees fleeing their homes in neighboring Myanmar.

Over 700,000 Rohingya have taken shelter in Cox’s Bazar in southeastern Bangladesh since August 2017. Many now fear that their shanty homes – made of bamboos and plastic sheets, perched on deforested hills – could crumble under the heavy rains of the monsoon season.

But the flow of refugees has not stopped. As Kim and Guterres visited Cox’s Bazar under gray skies, more people arrived with stories of hardship and brutality.

“I have worked in some of the poorest countries in the world, but the experience here has been deeply troubling,” Kim said. “I have been deeply moved by the courage and the dignity of the Rohingya people, and appalled by their stories of what they had to endure: rape, torture, killing, burning of homes. As the UN Secretary-General said, the Rohingya are one of the most discriminated against and vulnerable communities on Earth. ”

The Government of Bangladesh has done the world a great service by keeping its borders open and supporting the refugees, Kim said. But the responsibility should not be Bangladesh’s alone.

The number of refugees in Cox’s Bazar— one of the poorest districts in Bangladesh—is now more than twice that of the local population.

Despite its own challenges, Bangladesh has been drawing from its own resources to respond to the crisis. Among other measures, the country has allocated 5,000 acres of land for temporary shelters, provided food relief, deployed mobile medical teams, and carried out large-scale immunization campaigns.  Bangladesh has built 13 access roads to the temporary and registered camps and established water points and sanitation facilities.

With the monsoon rains continuing, the government has relocated 30,000 people to safer ground while preparing to move other vulnerable people, with support from UN agencies and non-governmental organizations

As the needs continue to grow, the World Bank Group announced last week up to $480 million in grant-based support to Bangladesh for health, education, sanitation, disaster preparedness, and other services for the refugees until they can return home safely, voluntarily, and with dignity. This financing will also help build the country’s capacity to deal with the crisis. The World Bank’s ongoing programs also will support the people in Cox’s Bazar.

But the UN Secretary-General said more funds are urgently needed as a key $950 million humanitarian aid plan is just over a quarter funded.

Prior to visiting Cox’s Bazar, Kim and Guterres met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to express their gratitude to the people and government of Bangladesh.

“The government’s relief effort, along with those of domestic and international relief agencies, has saved thousands of lives,” Kim said. “We look forward to continuing to work with the government to create and maintain dignifying living conditions for the Rohingya people. We’ve come to an agreement that we will build some more permanent structures and provide more services—the kinds of basic things that everyone needs, such as health care and education.”

Kim explained that support for the Rohingya is one of several areas where the Bank Group is working closely with Bangladesh.

“With respect to the government of Bangladesh, we believe so strongly in the direction they are going – for issues quite separate from the Rohingya – that we provided over $3 billion of low interest, long maturity loans this year for Bangladesh’s development priorities,” Kim said.

He added that this is the highest level of financing the World Bank has ever provided to Bangladesh from the International Development Association—the Bank’s fund for the poorest countries. IFC, the World Bank Group’s private sector arm, also committed more than $420 million [AC1] [DLB2] of financing to private companies in Bangladesh this year.

“We consider Bangladesh an important partner in reducing global poverty, and we’re committed to helping Bangladesh achieve its aspiration of becoming an upper-middle income country,” Kim said.

The joint World Bank-UN visit to the refugee camp signals a closer working relationship with the United Nations to address fragility, conflict, violence, and forced displacement—situations that can last a decade or more, requiring more resources than humanitarian aid alone can provide.

Kim, Guterres, and Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, all described the current level of cooperation between the World Bank and UN agencies as unprecedented.

“We have been working very closely with our UN partners to bring humanitarian response and development together,” Kim said. “The refugee situation around the world is everybody’s problem. It’s not just a problem for host countries, or just a problem for the refugees—this is everybody’s problem. What I saw today was heart-breaking and appalling. On the other hand, I was deeply inspired by the courage and dignity of the people who were kind enough to speak with us.”

“The work is not done; it’s just getting started,” Kim concluded. “At the World Bank Group, we are committed to doing more to make sure that the Rohingya, and all of us, can see justice. We are all Rohingyas.”

World Bank

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