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The visit paid by Cardinal Parolin to Moscow

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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With reference to the Third Commandment, the original text reads as follows: “Thou shalt not take the name of Yahweh (thy God) in vain (saw), because Yahweh does not let go unpunished those who use His Name in vain”.In ancient times the Name was not a simple sign. The Name indicated the Substance of the person named forever, thus identifying him/her among the Many others.

It also separated him/her from Evil or, in any case, from the Indistinct.

It is also worth noting that, apart from the Decalogue of the burning bush, Yahweh is named only in a passage of Exodus (23:1), reading as follows “Thou shalt not utter a false report” (sema saw).

False oath was evidence that you should not “swear by a false god” (see Psalm 24:4; Hosea 10). 

You should not call Him, He is always everywhere. If you call Him, it means you do not really believe in Him.

Again in the Leviticus, Yahweh stated “Thou shall not swear on my Name deceitfully”.

The Truth of the One is reflected naturally on the objective truth of the things about which men speak.

Furthermore saw is a word used by many prophets of Israel against the worship of idols.

Probably saw was originally the word used to identify the “evil magic”, which therefore had nothing to do with the evocation of God, the Lord of  Good, who drove the evil out of the Pardes, the place where, in the End Times, the “second Adam” would return to Truth and Grace.

Based on “The Golden Legend” (Legenda Aurea) by the blessed Jacobus da Varagine – a collection of the legendary lives of the greatest Saints of the medieval Church, which was to revolutionize the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola – Piero della Francesca painted the “Legend of the True Cross” in the Basilica of San Francesco in Arezzo.

According to the tradition of Jacobus da Varagine, Adam asked his son Seth to go to the Garden, the Pardes, to get the oil of mercy to pass away serenely and attain Eternal Life.

Archangel Michael gave to Seth a twig of the Tree of Life, which Solomon found again while he had to build the First Temple.

The King of Israel did not manage to use the tree, which opposed and resisted his workers.

An initiatory theme, also considering to what extent the construction of the Temple and the search for the “password” count in the “primitive scene” of modern Freemasonry.

Furthermore the wooden beam on which Jesus Christ was crucified was buried by a Jew named Judah, who was later thrown into a pit by the Mother of Constantine to make him confess.

Finally workers decided to place the wood on a river, so as to make it a walkway – another obvious symbol.

After the Battle of the Milvian Bridge against Maxentius – in which the Holy Cross appeared together with the well-known message in hoc signo vinces – Constantine sent his mother to Jerusalem to search for the True Cross.  St. Helena determined which cross was the true Cross of Christ by laying the wood on the coffin of a dead man, who was instantly brought back to life.

Here there is also the wisdom of Saint Paul, using and overthrowing the Pharisaic and later Cabbalist tradition: certainly, “cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”, but this is precisely the reason why – as Saint Paul said in his Letter to the Galatians (3:13), “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” – in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith”.

This is what St. Paul said about “wood” and its infinite paradox.

Those who walk away will move close, those who come close will be pushed away.

A paradox of Faith that is inconceivable in Islam.

That is the paradox the Islamic theological world has not solved at all, namely the relationship between Evil and Faith.

In fact, if God is the One who orders, commands and decides everything, why does He commands evil and make it win over holiness?

Once again it is Job’s problem. Satan asked: “Doth Job fear God for nought?” (Job 1:9), but Job’s rebellion – which, in fact, creates modern civilization, is targeted against an anthropomorphic God, an Entity that is the projection of our fears and universal desires.

As Psalm 126:3 reads: “The Lord has done great things for us…”, but this must not be shown and His rationale is never the same as men’s.

Therefore, in Islamic theology, there is no way out of the separation between Good and Evil – just think of the absolute uniqueness and, hence, total unknowability of Allah that creates and destroys worlds we do not even know were possible.

Hence Evil is ubiquitous and, above all, unintelligible for human beings, who always interpret it incorrectly or, anyway, in an earthly way.

We revert once again to Job, who encountered the Face of God just when he opposed Him and precisely when God was openly an enemy to him – “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5).

“Do you believe in Me because I am powerful and simply because I am?”

Here is the great theological, political and sapiential limes breaking the continuity between Islam and the other monotheistic religions.

Once again this is the deep theological sense of contemporary jihad.

I can convince God I am right – I only need to interpret His words literally.

Not even the Quran has this logic.

Furthermore, also in Islam, the primary theological problem is the link between Faith and works, as in the Reformation.

Here the link is between Iman and Islam, namely inner faith and exterior practice.

In this case, however, it is the Prophet himself who, in the struggle against the Kharijites – the usual purist sect arising after any religious reform – theorized, in the Dicta, that also a conversion for evident fear was fine.

Hence we revert to jihad, the acceptance of any form of formal adaptation to the rule of the Sacred, which is never the Sacred.

“Have you opened His chest to see whether all that He was saying was true?” asked the Prophet Muhammad ironically. In the case of contemporary jihad, based on Islamic law, it is precisely the “holy war” that creates many problems.

As in the tradition of the True Cross, jihad is a war that must brought us back to the initial peace.

In fact, according to the Quran, imbalance is the natural trait of the visible world – and this imbalance is precisely represented by war, initial and legal violence.

Hence, the true translation of God’s warning on the Sinai – probably near the current wonderful St. Catherine’s Monastery – is more or less the following: “Do not use the Name of God bending it to your will and whim.”

This does not mean never name it, as is the case with the medieval esoteric sects, or to consider it an objective presence in everyday life –  another anti-unitary heresy.

Job, however, could afford it, because he was looking for Him and loved Him, even in the fight against Him, but we certainly not.

In the transcendent original Tradition, Jehovah means “ever greater” – in fact, God is immeasurable because He always grows, while we cannot do other than stand still.

Just think about the revealing metaphor of yeast …

If we look at the traditions of monotheistic religions, born after the first rebellion of Abraham against his father’s idols, we realize that, in any case, Faiths and, above all, ethno-cultural identities must always be preserved.

Copts (10% of the Egyptian population) and, in Jordan and in the Palestinian Territories, the Syrian Christians spread across Turkey, Jordan and the Lebanon, not to mention the Syrian Orthodox Churches and the  Syrian Catholic ones, as well as Maronites, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Armenians.

Then Shiites – almost always believing in the Twelfth Imam, as in Iran – even though the Houthis in Yemen and in other Persian Gulf areas are supported by Iran, without theological preconceived ideas, in many regions of the Middle East.

There are also the Zaydis, again in Shiite areas, the Ishmaelites – linked to Agha Khan –  as well as the Druids, heirs of Pythagoras, and many others.

Without the map of the religions in the Persian Gulf, nothing can be understood about its policy.

And it is worth reiterating that the sword jihad is a substantial anomaly, which – in fact – rooted itself into the Iraqi-Syrian system when it was convenient for Saudi Arabia and its allies.

As we previously said, identity is a primary criterion.

While there are currently global authorities capable of interpreting, selecting and reforming this huge melting pot of creeds, beliefs and ideas, we certainly cannot avoid thinking of the Catholic Church and the Slavic and Greek Orthodox.

Obviously we can no longer change the past, even though those who do so  by profession are called “historians”, but today we can certainly create the  present which can build a new future.

There is no need to cry over spilled milk – as Baudelaire said, “One can only forget about time by making use of it”.

Hence currently the real challenge will be freedom of religion and freedom of belief and opinion, in a world in which finally the present is  free to build the future.

Obviously after the victory of Assad, as well as of Syrians and Russians in Syria.

Currently this is the real challenge and this holds true for Cardinal Parolin, who will pay a visit to Russia next August to speak with Patriarch Kirill and President Putin.

The correct strategic logic of Cardinal Parolin and Pope Francis is one only: to eliminate any pseudo-controversy with Islam and accept the support of Russia and its religious institutions to recreate the natural pluralistic equilibrium of Christian, Orthodox, Shiite and Sunni communities, as well as of many other faiths which, for the Church of Rome, must be rescued also – and above all – with the support of the Slavic and Greek Orthodox Church.

As early as 2013, Russia had already guaranteed its citizenship to 50,000 Christians in Qalamoun, and in August 2013 the Russian Church had donated 300,000 US dollars to the Patriarchate of Antioch.

The void left by France – ever more naively “secular” – has also left huge room for the Russian orthodoxy in the Greater Middle East.

In Syria 80% of Catholics and, however, Christians, were destroyed in their homes and in their cities.

This is the real acid test for evaluating ecumenism and, above all, the ability to defend Faith.

And today defending creeds also regards the passionate protection of the freedom of religion, the freedom from fear – which is always a bad advisor – and the freedom from the will of leaders.

No more subornation of the poor; enough with the offense to the “little ones”.

 Sinite Parvulos …

This, too, must be a point of contact between Cardinal Parolin and his Russian counterparts, including Putin.

Hence it is here – and not in the baroque issue of the Holy Sites – which we can place the new relationship – that we hope will be very effective – between the brilliant Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Patriarch Kirill but, above all, with Vladimir Vladimirovic Putin.

However, let us revert to the Holy Theology that Cardinal Parolin knows better than me and many others.

Who is holy? The answer is simple and can be found in Leviticus 17-26, “You shall be holy, because I, the Lord, am holy who make you holy”.

While interpreting the Covenant between God and men, Jesus simply highlights what the Jews believe without thinking about it: but it is Incarnation which makes the Law effective (also in the legal sense) – and once again there is a contrast with Islamic theology.

If only a cultivated and wise dialogue between the Catholic theology and the  Jewish theology could currently be achieved!

Much of the Middle East daily political problems would be solved in a moment.

The Son made flesh creates a filial relationship with the believers, namely  he keeps and pursues the “royal law” (James 2:8), which is also the “perfect law that gives freedom” (James 1:25) – hence  it is precisely Jesus who almost literarily fills the space of the future and hence the sense and meaning of the present.

Here, in a still new wisdom-based context for the two Churches, the East and the West, there will certainly be room for an initiatory and sapiential world, which has so far been able only to ensure pluralism – certainly a very noble aim which, however, from now on shall speak in re and not only about profane and pluralistic rules.

Therefore we must thank Cardinal Parolin, who will certainly be able to provide excellent theological, political and strategic substance to a relationship with the Patriarchate of Moscow that could become the true and only peace process in Syria and in the rest of the Middle East.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs "La Centrale Finanziaria Generale Spa", he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group and member of the Ayan-Holding Board. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d'Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: "A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title of "Honorable" of the Académie des Sciences de l'Institut de France

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St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2018

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2018, one of the annual international platforms that brings together political, industry and business leaders to discuss the most pressing issues affecting global economics, development and finance, will take place on May 24 to 26 in St. Petersburg.

Ahead of the forum, the official website of the President of the Russian Federation has published his welcome greetings to participants, organisers and guests. In his greetings, Putin expressed his confidence that ideas and initiatives to be developed during the forum would facilitate the recovery and growth of the world economy.

“By harnessing the wealth of scientific and technological potential which is rapidly expanding in digital and other areas today, we can improve quality of life and boost stable and harmonious development in all nations and across the world as a whole,” he stressed in his message.

“And it is crucial that we strive towards increasing mutual trust, promoting wide-ranging integration processes, realising large-scale and promising projects. Russia is always open to this kind of partnership and cooperation,” Putin said.

According to RosCongress, the event organiser, about 15,000 guests from more than 140 countries expected to participate in the forum. France, China, India and Japan as guests of the forum will have their own exhibition pavilions on site, which will house a presentation area and a business space for delegations and representatives to interact with business partners from other countries.

Delegations from Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Greece, Italy, India, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, Vietnam, USA, Canada, African countries and others will participate in various business events. BRICS member states (Brazil, India, China and South Africa) have been prominently represented there.

For foreign participants, including Africans, the forum is very useful for networking and discussing business strategies, and serves as an important study platform for deepening knowledge about the economy and possible ways of transacting business in Russia.

Series of official speeches and panel discussions will undoubtedly dominate the three-day event. The special sessions on business and investment opportunities will include the “Russia – Africa Business Dialogue” that has generated increasing interests among Russian and African businesses, international companies, African governments and institutions.

According to Anton Kobyakov, Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation and Executive Secretary of the SPIEF Organising Committee, the upcoming forum will hold two special celebrations marking the occasions related to the continent: Africa Day and the 55th anniversary of the African Union.

“Economic cooperation between Russia and Africa has been developing rapidly during recent years. We have seen a positive dynamic in trade with Ethiopia, Cameroon, Angola, Sudan, Zimbabwe and other countries”, says Kobyakov. “I strongly believe that Russian-African cooperation at SPIEF, Russia’s largest forum will stimulate trade and economic ties, as well as investment activity.”

Kobyakov further disclosed that during the event, experts will share best practices and discuss new opportunities for implementing joint projects in the BRICS countries. Sergey Katyrin, the President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation, will moderate the session.

“The paramount task for BRICS is to continue strengthening efforts aimed at solving international issues in the spirit of unity, mutual understanding and trust. The prospects for cooperation and joint efforts of the BRICS member states will be discussed at the SPIEF 2018. I am confident that this will give momentum to further development of a fruitful dialogue on key world issues,” Kobyakov says.

Over the past few years, Russian authorities have made relentless efforts toward raising Russia’s political influence and economic cooperation in some African countries. Thus, discussions at the forthcoming forum will undoubtedly focus on reviewing the past and the present as well as proposing practical and the most effective ways to facilitate investment activities and that might include promising areas such as infrastructure, energy and many other sectors in Africa.

On her part, Alexandra Arkhangelskaya, a Senior Researcher at the Institute of African Studies and a Senior Lecturer at the Moscow High School of Economics said in an interview with me that Russia and Africa needed each other – “Russia is a vast market not only for African minerals, but for various other goods and products produced by African countries.”

Currently, the signs for Russian-African relations are impressive – declarations of intentions have been made, important bilateral agreements signed – now it remains to be seen how these intentions and agreements will be implemented in practice, she pointed out in the interview.

The revival of Russia-African relations have be enhanced in all fields. Obstacles to the broadening of Russian-Africa relations have be addressed more vigorously. These include, in particular, the lack of knowledge or information in Russia about the situation in Africa, and vice versa, suggested Arkhangelskaya.

“What seems to irk the Russians, in particular, is that very few initiatives go beyond the symbolism, pomp and circumstance of high level opening moves. It is also still not clear how South Africa sees Russia’s willingness (and intention) to step up its role in Africa, especially with China becoming more visible and assertive on the continent,” said Professor Gerrit Olivier from the Department of Political Science, University of Pretoria, in South Africa.

Today, Russian influence in Africa, despite efforts towards resuscitation, remains marginal. Given its global status, Russia has to be more active in Africa, as Western Europe, the European Union, America and China are, but Russia is partially absent and playing a negligible role, according to the views of the retired  diplomat who served previously as South African Ambassador to the Russian Federation.

“Russia, of course, is not satisfied with this state of affairs. At present diplomacy dominates its approach: plethora of agreements entered into with South Africa and various other states in Africa, official visits from Moscow proliferate apace, but the outcomes remain hardly discernible,” he said.

“The Kremlin has revived its interest on the African continent and it will be realistic to expect that the spade work it is putting in now will at some stage show more tangible results,” Professor Olivier wrote in an email query from Pretoria, South Africa.

Last June 2017, the African representatives including heads of state, deputy president, ministers or their deputies, entrepreneurs and diplomats came to the St. Petersburg forum from Angola, Algeria, Burundi, Egypt, Gabon, Guinea, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

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Social protection for Filipino workers in the Russian Federation

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with Philippines’ Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Peter Cayetano

The Philippines and Russia get closer to signing an agreement that would protect Filipino workers in the Russian Federation. As the number of migrant Filipino workers increases, Moscow and Manila are busy negotiating a bilateral labour agreement that could allow thousands more overseas workers into various sectors of the Russian economy.

On May 15, formal discussions were held by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with Philippines’ Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Peter Cayetano in Moscow.

Sergey Lavrov noted: “We are interested in ensuring that Filipino workers, who work in the Russian Federation, are socially protected. Many of them were here through private companies, often without the necessary licenses.”

“All this does not provide social protection for Filipino citizens working in the Russian Federation. With the conclusion of the agreement, the beginning of preparation of which we have agreed today, we will solve these issues. We have such agreements with a number of other countries, including ASEAN member States,” he promisingly added.

Earlier, a Regional Migration Specialist at the International Labour Organisation (ILO)’s Regional Office for Asia-Pacific in Bangkok (Thailand), explained in an interview with me that a comprehensive labour agreement between Russia and the Philippines could be positive, if it established procedures and standards for the recruitment, employment and subsequent return of migrant workers.

According to the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Russia officially registered nearly 15, 000. Consequently, such an agreement (could) guarantee the labour rights of migrant workers and eliminate or limit recruitment costs. It will further provide Filipino workers with access to emerging labour market there.

The Federal Migration Service (FMS) office in Moscow has also explained that “official” Filipino workers are entering the country on tourist or business visas, assisted by middlemen and local licensed agencies that often act as migrants’ direct employers and channel them straight into labour market.

The Philippine government has been negotiating for better regulations and working conditions for its citizens for the past several years with little or no conclusive results.

In March 2012, for instance, the then Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Albert Del Rosario held an official discussion in Moscow with Minister Sergey Lavrov on the possibility of sealing a bilateral labour agreement.

Besides, a string of events and conferences over the years have highlighted renewed interests in developing the market of overseas Filipino workers, who are believed to be one of many solutions to Russia’s human resource needs.

Many experts believe that economic modernisation in Russia depends heavily on skilled foreign labour, limited to certain specific sectors like domestic work, finance, and construction.

The fact that Russia willingly entered into the negotiations implies not only that it has an urgent need for the services of foreign workers but also that it is fully aware of the benefits of such an agreement.

Experts have pointed to the Philippine government’s success in deploying its workforce abroad, in many foreign countries. About 10 percent of The Philippines’ population of 90 million people works abroad, with regular remittances accounting for up to 25 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Some estimates put the total contribution to the Philippine economy by specialists working abroad at $50 billion last year.

The Philippine Overseas Labour Office in Rome (Italy), explained to me that the Philippine government has an official policy of deploying Filipino workers only to countries that guarantee protection and promotion of their rights, welfare and interests.

Under a recently enacted law, the Philippine government banned its nationals from seeking employment in countries that do not guarantee the rights and welfare of foreign workers, or whose local labour and social legislation does not cover migrant workers.

Quite recent, the Philippines government and the Kuwaiti government signed an agreement on the recruitment, use and protection of Filipino workers after a diplomatic row over abuse and inhuman treatment of working Filipinos.

It therefore implies that The Philippines and Russian authorities have to work on effective ways to establish and improve the bilateral legal framework for mutual benefit for both countries. *This special report from Kester Kenn Klomegah, an independent researcher and policy consultant, in Moscow.

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The Russian strategy towards North Africa

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As John Mearsheimer quote “The ideal situation for any state is to experience sharp economic growth while its rivals’ economies grow slowly or hardly at all”. Russia paves the way to tighten its economic and military cooperation’s with Egypt as one of the main North African allies so far.

Russian keen interest in Africa, particularly North Africa, began in the 18th century, with benefits and incentives in the Mediterranean bowl as part of an expansion strategy that was based on economic, political and military estimation.

Africa changed between east and west in terms of alliances which helped form its, economic, cultural, political and militarily balance. Like now, after changes in the status of relationships among alliances, and after structures of the region shifted with a picture that is different to the previous one that had seen over the era of the alliances of the former Soviet Union during the Cold War, Russia is back again after the removal of the Americans. This time, Russia came to the region with the notion of regional rivalry, after a long time, which could make it a key actor until the US resets its position. Russia has put all its power and influence on playing a role in which it would take back its position in North Africa towards enlarging and deepening the economic and investment cooperation as well mutual relations that back to the 1960s.

Due to this, Russia has taken many steps that show its mutual incentive and awareness in North Africa with the main interest in Egypt. This came after the decline of Egyptian-American relations, so Russia and Egypt signed many political agreements, including one of the important agreement which is modernized Egyptian air defense system. This step is advised a Russian warning to the Americans that it is on its way to subjoin one of its significant allies in the region, which used to experienced strategic and military cooperation depend on mutual interests. American vessels used to be the first one when crossing the Suez Canal and could use its air zone in interchange for annual military aid equivalent to $1.3 billion in 2013, which America froze in protest upon the displace of the first democratic regime in Egypt that came after the January 25th Revolution and the coup d’état against legitimacy.

The objective of Russian return to the region is not incomparably limited to economic arbitrations; there are mainly arms contracts, security exchange in fighting terrorism and upgrading trade process. Other than Egypt, there are also other promising destinations which began with diplomatic visits, such as Morocco and Algeria. The significant aspect of returning of Russia to North Africa at this time is the lack of any ideological agenda in the new agreements and cooperation plans.

Currently, Russia embarks to Egypt; the foremost step reaches several targets. Basically, Egypt is seen as geo-strategic access and convenient gateway through Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa where the natural resources wealth of uranium, gold, oil and maritime exist. These natural resources might be a rational reason for future dispute between Russia and America, especially after US withdrawal from North Africa, but only after having strengthened its presence in sub-Saharan Africa and safeguards Maritime roads for Gulf oil through the region.

As long as the two superpowers competing, North Africa is the free land of future investment that requires an agreement between the Russia and America, especially as other powers, such as China, are present and access Africa from its center. China was involved and engaged in exploring and manufacturing Sudan’s oil, before the division of the state of South Sudan in 2011. Today China is growing its activities after most oil fields became part of South Sudan. In addition to the new state, China has other markets in central Africa and the east. It only collaborates and participates in economic and trade sectors and infrastructure construction in Sudan.

The Russian president Putin embark to Cairo last Monday after a concise and unpublished visit to a Russian military air base in Syria. The air base has offered the main ledge for the air campaign Russia has undertaken since September 2015 under the backing of Syrian President Basher Assad.

Egypt’s constantly close ties with Russia get back to the 1950s and 1960s when Egypt became a close Russian ally at the height of the cold war. Therefore, Egypt changed sides in the 1970s under the late President Anwar Sadat, who replaced Moscow with Washington as his country’s chief economic and military backer following the signing of a U.S.-fund peace treaty with Israel in 1979. Egypt has since become an important successor of American. aid. Under el-Sisi, Egypt has been able to sustain close relations with both Russia and the United States.

In term of Military Cooperation, Sisi and Putin also tackled about Syria and mutual rejection of U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move that has sparked protests across the region and from European capitals as well. The high-level Russian visit comes after the U.S. government in August decided to deny Egypt $95.7 million in aid and to delay another $195 million because of its full failure to make progress on human rights and democratic norms.

Russia started a military operation to back and support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in September 2015, and there are clues Moscow is keen to enlarge its military existence in the region.

To sum, Russia chose Egypt for its geopolitical and strategically partner combining three continents. Therefore, let’s see how Russia could maintain its presence in the region showing off its ability to promote economic interests, especially with African partners. So will Africa be for Russia alone?

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