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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

No Santa Claus,Bosnia;Danish cartoon terror;Durban III boycott;Greece-China;EU-Russia energy?;Rep Davis,Bill Clinton;New Year Resolutions,Eternal Life

The Islamic Community of Bosnia-Herzegovina has issued a fatwa that states Santa Claus "is neither known or recognized in the Bosniak tradition". Bosniaks (Muslims) are one of the three peoples in that country, the other two being Serbs and Croats, who are Christians. But the fatwa, issued ahead of this year's holidays, meant that no Santa Claus, or its local equivalent, Father Frost, can be seen anywhere in the capital city of Sarajevo, including in kindergartens. The situation was the same in previous years. The Islamic Community said that "there is an attempt to trick Bosniak children with this Christian symbol presented as a neutral character". However, the city administration of Sarajevo will go ahead with its New Year's program for children, that will also feature Santa Claus, but the event will be organized indoors.

The Danish intelligence agency PET said Wednesday it had arrested four men suspected of preparing a massacre at a newspaper which published caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. A spokeswoman for Swedish intelligence agency Saepo said a fifth man had been arrested in Sweden in connection with the same plot against the Copenhagen-based Jyllands-Posten daily. "These arrests have successfully stopped an imminent terror attack, where several of the suspects ... were going to force their way into the (building which houses the Jyllands-Posten) in Copenhagen and kill as many people as possible," PET head Jacob Scharf said in a statement. The four men arrested in Denmark were a 44-year-old Tunisian, a 29-year-old Swede born in Lebanon, a 30-year-old Swede and a 26-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker. The first three men all lived in Sweden and travelled to Denmark overnight, the PET statement said. According to PET, the man arrested in Stockholm was a 37-year-old Swede of Tunisian background. Scharf said several of the suspects could be described "as militant Islamists with connections to international terror networks." "The arrests underscore the serious terror threat against Denmark and especially against institutions and people connected to the cartoon case," he added. Saepo spokeswoman Katarina Sevcik said "the arrested people have up to now no known connection to the events of December 11." On that day, a man blew himself up near a busy shopping street in central Stockholm, killing only himself in Sweden's first suicide bombing. Jyllands-Posten published a dozen cartoons in 2005 of the Prophet Mohammed that triggereed violent and sometimes deadly protests around the world.

The U.N. General Assembly decided last Friday to hold a high-level meeting to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Durban conference against racism in September 2011. Israel and Canada announced they would boycott the event. The Durban process is monitoring the progress of the goals set forth in the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. It is regarded by Israel and other countries as a political tool for unjust criticism against it and a showcase of anti-Semitism. The 2001 Durban conference concluded that Zionism is a form of racism. In the 2009 Durban follow-up conference, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a key speaker. Several countries, including the United States and Germany, boycotted that conference. The Israeli Foreign Ministry issued an official statement condemning the decision to hold the conference next year... Voting in favor of the resolution were 104 countries. Twenty-two countries, among them the United States, the U.K., and Australia, voted against it. To read more about the Durban conference on wikipedia, please click here.

Acceleration and further promotion of bilateral cooperation between Greece and China, focusing on the exchange know-how in the shipping sector, were the main points of recent seminars organised at the initiative of the maritime affairs, islands & fisheries ministry. The signing of a Greece-China cooperation memorandum last June led to the seminars, which were held with the participation of senior executives of leading Chinese shipping companies, and which featured lectures by academicians and senior shipping sector executives. A series of visits to the Piraeus Port Authority S.A., adjacent shipyards, the Merchant Marine Academy and shipping companies' headquarters was also included in the itinerary. Meanwhile, in a report from Beijing, the largest news agency in China and one of the largest in the world, Xinhua, on Saturday inaugurated a new on-line multimedia applications platform, featuring financial news items and economic data about the Far East economic powerhouse.

Cooperation in the energy sector between Europe and countries in the Russian sphere of influence is growing but not in a dominant way, a regional analyst said. Europe and its allies in the United States are keen to monitor developments in the Eastern European and Central Asian energy sector. Conflicts between Russia and Georgia in 2008 disrupted the flow of oil through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and acrimony between Kiev and Moscow has created problems for natural gas deliveries. "(Western allies), as well as Russia, are interested in Caspian energy sources but do not demonstrate the same clear intention to dominate in the region," Marcel de Haas, senior research fellow on security policy at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael, told the Azeri news agency. He said energy resources play "a great role" in Western policies in the region. The European Union should integrate its polices in the region but the foreign policy doctrine of Russia defines much of the area as its zone of influence. "This policy is definite today, which we have seen in events in Georgia and Ukraine," he said.

Rep. Danny Davis, a Democrat from Illinois and mayoral candidate in Chicago has a message for former President Bill Clinton: Butt out. Davis, a onetime ally of Clinton's, issued a strongly worded statement Tuesday, in which the Chicago Democrat said he is "seriously concerned and disturbed" by the news Clinton plans to throw his weight behind ex-Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and make a campaign stop in the Windy City next month. "The African American community has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with the Clintons, however it appears as though some of that relationship maybe fractured and perhaps even broken should former President Clinton come to town and participate overtly in efforts to thwart the legitimate political aspirations of Chicago's Black community," Davis said in the statement. The pushback from a prominent member of the black community echoes that which greeted Clinton in 2008 as he campaigned on behalf of his wife, a presidential candidate at the time battling then-Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. Clinton - long a popular figure in the black community - saw his approval numbers sink among that demographic as he took sharp aim at Obama and questioned the freshman senator's competancy to sit in the Oval Office, sometimes in terms conceived as particularly harsh. Clinton's office has not responded to Davis' comments. The former president's windy city appearance, announced last week by Emanuel's campaign, would be his first campaign stop since the November midterm elections. Emanuel served in the Clinton White House for five years before serving as an Illinois congressman and Obama's top aide, a post he left earlier this year to run for mayor. The Chicago Board of Elections ruled Thursday that he is in fact a Chicago resident, and therefore his name may remain on the ballot for the February 22 election. According to a recent poll, Emanuel is garnering close to 44 percent of support from likely Chicago voters while Davis is far back at 7 percent.

A familiar practice for the New Year is to make resolutions that affect our lives. Usually they involve losing weight, exercising more, and eating more healthily. These are very positive ways to help prolong life. And they are necessary because, as we learn from Scripture, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and it is up to us as individuals to take care of the precious life we have received from our Creator. However, there is one thing that I believe we should consider other than our usual resolutions this New Year. We should attempt to really understand that our life on this earth is temporary, and no matter how much we try, we will eventually cease to exist on this earth. As we read in the book of Job, “For we were born but yesterday…Our days on earth are as transient as a shadow.” To make the best use of this fleeting life, we should always remember two important things: First, compared to eternity, life on this earth is extremely brief. Second, earth is only a temporary residence for us. We won’t be here long, therefore we must try not to get too attached. As King David prayed in Psalm 39: “Lord help me to realize how brief my time on earth will be. Help me to know that I am for but a moment more.” In the Bible, life on earth is repeatedly compared to living temporarily in a foreign country. There are constant references to God’s people as: foreigner, alien, stranger, visitor and traveler. We live here now, but we are not permanent residents. We are just passing through. And at some unknown time, our life here will come to an end. King David said, “I am but a foreigner here on earth,” And the apostle Peter explained, “If you call God your Father, live your time as temporary residents on earth.” God also warns us to not get too attached to the things around us because they too are temporary. We are reminded in 1 Corinthians: “Those in frequent contact with the things of the world should make good use of them without becoming attached to them, for this world and all it contains will pass away.” Compared to earlier times in history, the job of life has never been easier for much of the Western world. We have machines to do most everything for us. We make very little, we buy most everything we need, ready to use. We are constantly entertained, amused, and catered to. And with all these fascinating attractions, and enjoyable experiences avail-able today, it is so easy to forget that the pursuit of happiness is not what this life is all about. The pursuit of happiness is not what this life is all about. We must be ever mindful that this life is a test, a preparation and temporary assignment. When we grasp that, then the appeal of our material possessions and entertainments will loose their luster. We must remember that we are preparing for something better. As St. Paul wrote in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians: “The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we cannot see now will last forever.” The fact that earth is not our final destination explains why as followers of Christ, we experience rejection, sorrow, pain and difficulties in this world. It also explains why some of our prayers may seem unanswered or some circumstances seem unfair. This place and our circumstance in it is not the end of our story. The reason that we are not ever completely happy here is because we are not supposed to be! ( that is why there is never enough money, or fame, or drink or food, or success or fun.) Earth is not our final home; we were created for something so much better. Our next life, with our Lord is where we will be truly fulfilled. Truly joyful. Truly loved. Truly peaceful. As C.S. Lewis wrote: All that is not eternal is eternally useless. Our main focus in this life should not be on material prosperity or popular success as the world defines it. The abundant life has nothing to do with material abundance. And faithfulness to God does not necessarily guarantee success in our earthly career. We should not focus so intently on goals, which in the end are temporary. In other words, goals without spiritual, eternal value. The heroes of our faith, in other words the saints and martyrs, provide us all the examples and answers for life lived with an eye toward eternity. St. Paul was faithful to Christ, but ended up in prison. St. John the Forerunner was faithful, but was eventually beheaded. All of the Apostles except for St. John the Theologian were martyred. And millions of faithful Saints of our Church were martyred, their lives ended with no personal fortune left behind. But the end of life (on earth) is not the end! In God’s eyes the Saints are not those who achieve prosperity, success and power in life. We have countless stories of holy men and women of wealth who sold and gave everything away to the poor, or to build hospitals, or monasteries. Our own St. Anthony is one of those saints who gave away all he had, to help those in need. In God’s eyes the Saints are those who treat this life as a temporary assignment and serve Him faithfully, expecting their promised reward in heaven. Our time on earth is not the complete story of our lives. We must wait until we arrive in heaven for the completion of the chapters. It takes dedication and faith to live on earth as a foreigner. It is not easy. When life gets tough, when we’re overwhelmed with doubt, when we wonder if living a life for Christ is worth the effort, we must remember that we are not home yet. And at death we won’t be leaving home, but instead we will be going home. To our eternal home with God. So this year as we all ponder and make our New Year’s Resolutions, let us think about the permanent eternal life rather than this temporary one. Amen.