My father-in-law is an Afghani Shi’ite who fled with his family from Bulgaria after the Wall was brought down. Even though he is now a Canadian citizen, he is proud of his birth country’s naturally organic fruit, morality of its people with their pious lifestyle. He sentimentally dismisses much of the country’s sheer poverty, lack of safety, and the fact that women rank after men, children, and donkeys. Beating women and donkeys is part of routine in that corner of the world. When I see photographs of my father-in-law’s segregated wedding ceremony and of the dusty, garbage laden streets of Kabul, I instinctively know that I would not dare to raise my family in that God forsaken place, in particularly not girls. I would perhaps take the first opportunity to pack up and leave for a better world, even at great risk to my family’s life. I have been immersed in some of the poorest places of this planet and can appreciate the privilege that my home in Vancouver provides. To be in these disaster stricken areas by choice and to having been born there are two entirely different spheres. The fact alone that I am typing this renders me as one with the world’s elite.
The Middle East has been in endless religious wars since before I was born. During the preceding 2000 years, the world was in flames almost perpetually over religious dogma of one flavor or another. A lot has been repositioned in history books in the pursuit of the one true religion, but since I have studied the civilizations for the last two decades and since my expertise lies in the economics of religion and religious fraud, I dare to make a case that ‘Jews against Jews’, ‘Christians against Christians’ or ‘Muslims against Muslims’ have been the strongest foundations for violence ever since their inception.
Despite this, I admire Pope Francis but perhaps for different reasons than most. I have studied all the popes, patriarchs, major imams, and antipopes, those that existed as well as those that were fathered by the divinely inspired. To bring it to the point: the pope is the CEO of the Catholic Church, one of the world’s largest organizations. Unlike any other before him, he seizes the Zeitgeist and emerges as the moral apostle for the disadvantaged and the environment, as if the world’s community had not already achieved leaps for environmental and humanitarian protections during the decades since the Second World War. Few can argue with his issues, because he speaks out with his authoritarian position what many have already been thinking for a long time.
But let us be frank: why should anyone listen to Pope Francis? People of reason do because listening to religious opinions is part of learning and respectful behavior. But instead of politically correct applause, Pope Francis deserves to be rebuked until such time that he indeed addresses the problems of the church with systemic pedophilia, demonstrates that the church actively engages in changing its environmental footprint, opens the world’s heritage in the secret Vatican archives for all to access, resolves its financial scandals, stops its unbearable discrimination of homosexuals, women, or female priests, abandons its meddling in individuals’ decisions about abortion, and does actually something – anything – in regard to the ongoing refugee crisis other than engaging in ‘idle chatter’, to use the pope’s own words. The church has inflicted upon humanity the unprecedented sufferings of the Middle Ages, has sanctioned enslavement of those that did not believe, carried out the deadly Inquisition, advocated centuries of thought control in favor of superstition, has upheld hatred against homosexuals for eons, and constitutes the main cause of missing 700 years of scientific and economic evolution in our civilizations with damages in the amount of giga-trillions of dollars in today’s values. This is nothing other than organized crime. Yet, the religious institution continues to enjoy freedom from taxation. Instead, it should have long been shut down and its property seized for reparations. Now, the pope advocates again ‘control’ of science and technology under the patronage of all – meaning first and foremost his. It appears paradoxical that the slayers of civilization now aspire to pose as the healers. Why should we trust his balming words?
I have never seen anyone so eager to put ‘humbleness’ into everyone’s face. He carries his own black bag, is driven in a small Fiat, and fools the press into reporting on the carefully orchestrated symbolism. Last year, the pope uttered the words ‘mi vergogno’ (I am ashamed) about the tragedies of the drowned in Lampedusa, Italy. He touts living in the guest house rather than in the papal palace. Yet, the vacant building has not been opened to house refugees, has it? In fact, the Vatican State has not accommodated 1,000 refugees, not 100, not 10, and not 1. No, it has taken in 0 – zero.
Thus, I admire the pope for his marketing skills to reposition the church by simply refocusing discussions away from problems to popular issues that occupy the minds of ordinary people, Jews, Christians, Muslims, adherents to other religions or non-believers alike – including mine. He evades the discussions about all sorts of scandals and whatever else may have caused a frightening drop in the Catholic membership. After all, he was hired to fight the slide, and Francis is doing a fabulous job at that. He is perhaps the most outstanding turn-around manager of all times. To be clear, when he says that those that had committed terrible abuse would be held accountable, he means through the process of church law. Not a single pastoral sex-offender will be voluntarily turned over to the national authorities or find its way into the offender registry. When he exclaims ‘who am I to judge’, he means that his god has already judged. Since the church will never open its doors to homosexuals, celebrations appear premature, or perhaps immature. The papal action to meet with the infamous Kentucky clerk who denied marriage licenses to same sex couples speaks louder than a thousand speeches. While the pope’s intellect is extraordinary, his actions are predictable by those that are familiar with church history and church doctrine.
In the end, words remain words, whether they come from an inspiring Obama or from a humble Francis. Actions speak louder, and this is where the world’s citizens will once again become victims of disappointed hopes.
Putting this in perspective with the current refugee crisis where hundreds of thousands are on the move from the Middle East and Africa (and from South and Middle America), the record of actions is shameful. Other than ongoing conflicts, part of this massive onslaught may be caused by systemic environmental issues; but that seems too easy an answer since these issues are not new. The real change comes from the way we communicate, providing individuals with information about how to escape their miserable circumstances in search for a better life. Without such mobile communication technology, most would perhaps stay put and wait it out in the hopes that their loved ones would not be massacred by the invading Sunni caliphate that dreams of capturing Rome (i.e. the Vatican). Thus, we live in a vastly different world from just a decade ago that reshapes itself along unexpected and uncontrollable ways, continuously surprising those that are supposed to know better and be in charge. Aside from the waves of refugees itself, one of those surprises is how we handle these migrants. In the eastern European countries and in the United States, the favoured approach appears to be to build giant walls that keep the ‘intruders’ out. Others, Germany, for example, steam ahead with pledging to take on one million of those in flight. While some are afraid of their country being subverted, others see in this an opportunity for global cooperation and a new foundation to peace by actually living together instead of remaining segregated in religiously inspired quarters of this planet. Since closed communities provide for membership income, this will remain a pipe dream as long as religious organizations exist. It is in their hypocritical interest to talk about peace among themselves while keeping their flock separate from the influence of demons, i.e. other sects.
But where is the braking point for welcoming the fleeing? Jordan and Lebanon each host roughly 2 million refugees. This amounts to almost 15% of their overall population. While they are not role models for freedom, peace, and prosperity, they contrast their Israeli neighbour: Netanyahu has touted to having taken 1,000 refugees, a generously rounded number deriving from wounded war prisoners. Real refugees? Zero. Indeed, Israel claims that it cannot take on more since its Jewish demographics would be endangered. This reminds us of the ‘Boat is Full’ policy of the Swiss authorities during the Second World War when persecuted Jews were turned away at the closed borders while their gold kept on flowing in. I am not holding my breath for the Swiss to open their gates today other than to the banks.
Mi vergogno! I am ashamed for humanity to tolerate this behavior any longer. It amounts to nothing else but hatred of all of mankind. From the Biblical story of Cain and Abel, we learn that saving one life is like saving all of humanity and Muslims proudly misquote it from the Koran as evidence for their mission of peace. Yet, the common denominator of the two zeroes is that the Vatican State and Israel are both theocracies (even though the JEWISH state is in denial of the obvious).
Americans, instead, have offered to resettle an extra 10,000 refugees next year, perhaps hoping that the crisis is over by the time that this gesture comes into effect. However, the proposed ratio to the population is worse than Israel’s grandstanding. Compared to Germany, the United States could take on 4 million and Canada could absorb another half million without significant economic negative impacts, if any. In comparison to Jordan or Lebanon, that number would exceed a combined 50 million. Instead, ordinary people seem to understand that we do ‘something’ about it, at last, but they do not seem to see through the lip-service and hidden agendas of politico-preachers who live off division and fear.
It is hilarious that The Donald trumps Hillary by touting to build higher walls and to focus on the problems at home. While promising to sack their oil, the crisis of the Middle East is not of Trump’s concern. That the war on terror ‘destabilized’ the entire region (from their self-proclaimed monarchs) is not in his vocabulary. I am ashamed, and there is little hope that anything is ever going to change since the talkers continue to hold the microphones. Meanwhile, the dishonourable management of the crisis will lead to an escalation of the ongoing war between civilizations with more blood and tsunamis of the displaced. This era will go into the history books as the third of the great world wars, all three of which were initiated within a single century. Yet, at this point, humanity perhaps has no choice but to engage militarily in order to exterminate religious extremism (until its inevitable return) and to resettle some of the refugees in their former homes. It is needless to say that such an endeavour will lead to collateral damage where the uncomfortable is terminated in the name of a war on terrorism. Since Putin has become a more willing collaborator with Assad, the politics have just become more complicated.
It seems abundantly evident that religious organizations are at the heart of the crisis that humanity is going through. Of course, there are other causes that lay in the character of humanity, but the Catholic Church is among the first of the historic and contemporary offenders. Even ten Jesuit popes will not change the nature of this disease. Instead of being infiltrated with yet another hidden agenda, the discussion should perhaps refocus on the root: regulation, taxation, and perhaps abolishment of religious organizations, global prohibition of theocracies, as well as criminalization of religious teachings to minors while retaining full religious freedom for the individual. If anything, this would appease the Middle East a couple of generations down the road and address the refugee crisis at its very seed.