BREXIT TO BACKSTOP – Preserving the Status Quo

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THE POLITICAL QUAGMIRE NOW CHALLENGING LEADERS OF THE  EU AND THE  UK, DEMONSTRATES THE HISTORICAL CONSEQUENCE OF CONTROLLING A COUNTRY FOR THE ECONOMIC EXPLOITATION OF THE NATIVE PEOPLE AND THEIR LAND.

The Partition of Ireland  in 1921 created the invisible border which divides rivers, fields and houses, only the road signs written in English or Gaelic remind you that it separates one nation but two countries and two cultures. An estimated 30,000 people pass through 300 crossings daily. Current negotiations threaten much more than a return to border controls and Custom checks, the pending withdrawal of the UK from the EU threatens the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 which ensured power sharing by Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  Brexit negotiators intent on securing binding agreements acceptable to all, are mindful of border sensitivities and the sectarian divisions which the Good Friday Agreement largely resolved.

The culture and ethnicity of a nation is carried in its DNA,  Ireland was ruled by England for 800 years but fiercely resisted all attempts at Anglicisation. Partition of any country is an acknowledgement of failure to reconcile irrevocable differences, the Partition of Ireland arose out of a policy of religious persecution, colonisation and land dispossession over centuries. The imposition of Protestant domination by British colonists upon a predominantly Roman Catholic population resulted in Irish resistance and eventual Civil War.  The Easter Rising of 1916 by Irish Nationalists seeking independence was violently suppressed by the British government, fomenting opposition and decades of fighting. Under Partition the island of Ireland became the Irish Free State. With 92.6% of the islands population Catholic, the mainly Protestant population of 6 northern counties chose to opt out of the Agreement as anticipated, remaining as part of the United Kingdom with England, Scotland and Wales.

The stated aim of the eventual reunification of Ireland was never achieved, leading to continued conflict. In 1948 under a new Constitution the Irish Free State was named Ireland (‘Eire’ meaning Homeland) and finally gained full independence as a sovereign State and was  accepted into the United Nations in 1955.  Under the  Belfast Agreement,the Irish and British governments agreed that the status of Northern Ireland will not change without the consent of a majority of its population. In the event of a hard Brexit polls have shown that support for Irish unity would dramatically rise creating a potential threat to the continued unity of the UK. 

In 1973, Ireland joined the European Economic Community, initially a trading forum, later to become the EU, requiring loss of sovereignty of its members. Major investment from the European Economic Community, led to the emergence of one of the world’s highest economic growth rates, the ‘ Celtic Tiger’, attracting mass immigration from Asia and Eastern Europe. The new found prosperity ended abruptly in 2008 with the collapse of the global banking system as Ireland entered a recession. Emigration soared and the unemployment rate rose from 4.2% in 2007 to 14.6% by 2012, leading to the largest banking bailout for any country in history

In Northern Island where the Protestant majority held power, catholics were disenfranchised, resulting in violent conflict from the 1970s to the 1990s.  The border region of Londonderry became the focus of ‘the Troubles’ between the Irish Republican Army (IRA) seeking unification of Ireland and the Unionists loyal to the British Crown, resulting in occupation by the  British army in an attempt to restore order.

THE BELFAST AGREEMENT signed on Good Friday of 1998 was a peace initiative which assured both Unionists and Nationalists control of limited areas of government. However breakdowns in trust involving outstanding issues, including “decommissioning” of paramilitary weapons, policing reform and the removal of British army bases continued. There has been no Northern Ireland government for the past 2 years, with policy decisions made in London.

HOW DID RELIGOUS CONTROL COME TO DIVIDE THE ISLAND OF IRELAND?

  • The island of Ireland originally comprised many small kingdoms, territories (known as túatha) governed by chieftains.  In 1169 a mercenary army of the English King Henry ll landed in Ireland at the request of the ousted Irish King of Leinster….they never left. This marked the beginning of 800 years of English military and political involvement in Ireland. The first Lord of Ireland, King John, demanded that the many Irish kings swore fealty to him, granting lands to the English military invaders.
  • By 1492 the European colonisation of America meant that Ireland now occupied a position of strategic importance. Ireland became a battleground between the Catholic and Protestant nations of Europe for control of the north Atlantic sea routes to America. King Henry VIII of England decided to bring Ireland under Crown control, proclaiming  himself King of Ireland in 1541. Along with subsequent English monarchs he granted land, titles and property rights to wealthy English absentee landlords and to Gaelic chieftains loyal to the Crown. In the reign of Elizabeth1st, the Irish aristocracy were required to pledge allegiance to the Crown. The Anglo Irish landowners who had settled in Ireland were increasingly resentful of England’s domination becoming ‘more Irish than the Irish’ and identified as Irish nationalists.
  • From the mid 16th century to the early 17th century The Irish were displaced through a policy of land confiscation and colonisation by the English Crown, known as Plantation. This involved the arrival of thousands of English and Scottish Protestants who became the ruling class. Many were absentee landlords, residing in England, whose loyalty was basically to England. Power was held by a small group of Anglo-Irish families who owned most of the farmland, with the work done by Catholic peasants. The Irish Rebellion of 1641 attempted to seize control  to  force concessions for Catholics, thousands of Protestant colonists were killed or expelled from their homes. The Rebellion failed, resulting in  the collapse of Gaelic Ireland and its incorporation within the British Empire. As retribution for the rebellion most of the remaining lands owned by Irish Catholics were confiscated and given to British settlers.
  • In 1654 the British parliament gave Oliver Cromwell, the Protestant Lord Protector of England, a free hand to banish Irish “undesirables”. Cromwell led the most brutal phase of a war in which the Irish were dehumanised by the English,  More than a half of Ireland’s pre-war population was killed or exiled as  slaves.  Catholics throughout the Irish countryside were rounded up and placed   on ships bound for the Caribbean, mainly the island of Barbados, where many died  due to harsh conditions. By 1655,  50,000 political prisoners had been forcibly shipped to Barbados and into indentured servitude.

  The annual commemoration of the Battle of the Boyne of 1690, unfathomable to most onlookers, is marked by marching bands of the Orange Order.  It remains a border flash point for religious sectarianism  between Catholics and Protestants  today, with Catholics viewing the parades as provocative. The celebration marks a point in English history when a Protestant system of monarchy was deemed to be under threat.  King James ll was the last Catholic king of England, the birth of his son assured a Catholic ascendancy. James was supported by Irish catholics seeking to reverse the land confiscations of former monarchs, sparking a revolution. James fled the country and was deposed, the Dutch Prince, William of Orange acceding to the throne. In a last effort to regain his crown, the armies of James met William at the River Boyne in Northern Ireland, where James was outnumbered and defeated. The reign of King William lll secured a Protestant monarchy and the preservation of English power in Ireland.

By the 1780s the Irish Parliament became independent but remained under the supervision of the the king and his Privy Council. Land ownership remained a central issue, some 10,000 English families owned practically all the farmland in Ireland, with absentee landlords, permanent residents of England renting land out to Irish tenant farmers, who suffered violence and eviction when they were unable to pay their rents.  The Rebellion of 1798 followed. In 1800 the Irish and the British parliaments created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Catholics however were not granted full rights until 1829.

In 1845 the catastrophe of the Great Famine struck Ireland, over a million people died of starvation, as a direct result of the English Free Trade policy. Produce of Ireland including the thousands of tons of grain that could have saved them was instead shipped out of the country to England. In addition over a million refugees fled the country, mainly to America, to avoid disease and starvation. Starving Irish people were forced to work on public projects before they could receive food donated by the English government.

Attempts to break away from Britain continued, the Home Rule Act 1914 was won but suspended with the outbreak of WW1. In 1916 the Easter Rising carried out by members of the Irish Volunteers, the socialist Irish Citizen Army was violently suppressed, turning public opinion against the British establishment. By 1917 a series of Land Acts enabled Irish peasantry to buy back their land previously confiscated by the English, by means of agreed long term loans, providing small parcels of land to grow fruit and vegetables,  This strategy of ”killing Home Rule by kindness”  ended the era of the absentee landlord.

IN THE 1919 ELECTIONS SINN FEIN, THE PARTY OF THE REBELS, WON THREE QUARTERS OF ALL SEATS IN A 32 COUNTY IRISH REPUBLIC, BEGINNING THE TRANSITION TO A FULLY INDEPENDENT STATE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

A POCKET HISTORY OF CENTRAL AMERICA FOR TRUMP

‘WE ARE HERE BECAUSE YOU WERE THERE’

As Americans currently grapple with the sense of being overwhelmed by a sea of immigrants,  the refrain “We are here because you were there” reminds us of the cause and inevitable consequence of colonisation and uninvited incursion into other lands. The safety of its citizens is the primary responsibility of every government and few would argue that this should not include the security of its borders. The question of how they are secured and why, is the factor now dividing America. 

Successful immigration is entirely dependent upon acceptance and assimilation and this takes time. Opposition to immigrants includes numbers, timing, employment prospects, ethnic differences, race and religion and political ideology.  Any of these can be used to instil fear, the threat that the host community will be overwhelmed and irrevocably changed, because social change is an inherent aspect of immigration. When viewed positively this is seen as enriching communities through diversity, with cultural traditions maintained and encouraged. In general people prefer to remain within their home countries if basic needs are met and opportunities are available. Mass migration is always triggered by a threat to survival.

It is no coincidence that many seeking refuge are coming from Central American countries, the Northern Triangle of  Guatamala, El Slavadore and Honduras, followed by Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica and Belize. These countries endured colonisation under the Spanish from the 1500s with the British and the Spanish later fighting for control until the British  turned their attention to colonisation of North America and Canada. In 1823 the United Provinces of Central America (Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador) gained independence from Mexico, each achieving independence  in the 1830s. Theodore Roosevelt in 1904 declared the U.S.’s right to exercise an “international police power” in Latin America, the US has influenced the region ever since. 

The World Bank estimates that close to 60% of people in Honduras and Gutamala live in poverty.  In 2016 alone, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) intercepted nearly 46,900 unaccompanied children and more than 70,400 family units from El Salvador.  While poverty and injustice remain the key reason to abandon homeland and family to trek across countries and sometimes continents in search of something more, a terrifying spectre of unimaginable violence is emerging as a primary cause.   Gang violence and drugs cartels control communities throughout Central America, with an estimated   65,000 active gang members supported by a network of hundreds of thousands. Salvadorian boys as young as 12 are forcibly recruited to gang membership, with girls forced into becoming sex slaves. Both genders are prostituted, their families are threatened with death if they refuse to join the gangs. Lack of a warm welcome is insufficient to deter those fleeing such horror, their primary focus is to remove their children before they are victimised.

WALLS, FENCES AND BORDER CONTROLS WILL PROVE INEFFECTUAL IN HOLDING BACK THE DESPERATE TIDE OF HUMANITY FLEEING FOR SURVIVAL UNLESS THE CAUSE IS ACKNOWLEDGED AND ADDRESSED.

  • Democracy and stability in the region have been undermined by a century of colonial rule followed by US backed military coups’ which have created vacuums of power filled by paramilitary alliances and drug cartels.
  • A Free Trade Agreement between the US, the Dominican Republic and five Central American countries restructured the regions economy, giving global multinationals increased influence over domestic trade and regulatory protections.
  • Huge trade imbalances have resulted in economic dependence upon the United States which repeatedly threatens and imposes sanctions. 
  • In 2014, the US threatened to withhold almost $300 million worth of developmental aid, unless Al Salvadore ended preference for locally sourced corn and bean seeds under its Family Agriculture Plan.

EL SALVADORE:  In 1932,  peasants rebelled  against the ruling families. The United States and Britain owned the  the majority of coffee plantations and railways controlling exports and sent naval support to quell the rebellion. Some 40,000 rebels were killed in the conflict.  In 1944, a popular bloodless revolution ousted the government, coup and counter coup followed. In the Kennedy era of 1960, the US supported a right wing coup and secretly opposed holding free elections in Nicaragua.  A US funded Civil War raged between 1980 and 1992, with the US administration training Salvadoran death squads who in 1981 went on to commit a civilian massacre in the village of El Mozote, killing at least 733 unarmed civilians including children. The UN  states 85% of civilian deaths were committed by the Salvadoran military and the death squads. Under the tariff reduction model of CAFTA-DR, all U.S. industrial and commercial goods enter El Salvador duty free, creating impossible conditions for domestic industry to compete. As of 2016, the country had a negative trade balance of $4.18 billion.

NICARAGUA:  US Marines had occupied Nicaragua to protect US interests since the country’s civil war of 1912. In 1927 a major peasant uprising led by Sandino ‘the general of the people’ was launched by landless peasants, against both the U.S. occupation and the Nicaraguan establishment.  In 1933, the U.S. Marines withdrew leaving the National Guard in charge of elections. Somoza Garcia, the head of the National Guard, murdered the opposition leader and assumed the presidency establishing a US supported dictatorship which his family controlled until 1979.  A popular uprising ‘The Sandanista Peoples Revolution’ overthrew the corrupt Samoza government which had stolen millions of dollars  given in aid for earthquake victims.  As the ‘Sandanista’s sought to establish governance, the Carter administration moved quickly to support remaining Somoza loyalists with financial and material aid. The Ronald Reagan presidency directly funded support to an anti-Sandinista group, called the Contras. When this was prohibited by Congress, Reagan continued the funding through covert arms sales.  (i.e. Iran-Contra scandal).

The Republic of Nicaragua v. The United States of America:  In 1986 the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled in favour of Nicaragua and against the United States. The ICJ held that the U.S. had violated international law by supporting the Contras in their rebellion against the Nicaraguan government and by mining mining Nicaragua’s harbours. They ordered the United States to compensate Nicaraguans for acts of terrorism committed during the Reagan administration. The United States refused to participate in the proceedings, stating that the ICJ lacked jurisdiction to hear the case after the Court had rejected their argument.  The Court found in its verdict that the United States was “in breach of its obligations under customary international law not to use force against another State”, “not to intervene in its affairs”, “not to violate its sovereignty“, “not to interrupt peaceful maritime commerce”.  Although the Court called on the United States to “cease and to refrain” from the unlawful use of force against Nicaragua under customary international law and ordered it to pay reparations, the United States refused to comply. When Nicaragua appealed to the UN in 1986, the United Nations General Assembly passed a non-binding resolution by a vote of 94-3 urging the U.S. to comply.  It did not and as a permanent member of the Security Council, the U.S. has been able to block any enforcement mechanism attempted by Nicaragua.

THE MYTH OF ‘AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM’  (THAT AMERICA IS UNIQUELY VIRTUOUS AND DESTINED AND ENTITLED  TO PLAY A PRE-EMINENT ROLE ON THE WORLD STAGE)  CAN BE LIKENED TO THE EUROPEAN  BELIEF IN COLONISATION.

EACH LED TO THE RISE OF EMPIRE, CORPORATE PLUNDERING AND MILITARY INTERVENTION IN NATION STATES.  EMPIRES ALWAYS FALL BUT AT THE POINT OF DECLINE ARE BLINDED BY THEIR CERTAINTY THAT GOD IS ON THEIR SIDE.

See :  Days of Revolt: America’s Death Squads:  https://youtu.be/TN6InTMWt7Q

See:  America The Beauitiful

 

 

 

 

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AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL?

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

THE WORDS HAVE A HOLLOW RING TODAY as the world views the horrific photograph of a little girl not yet 2, clutching her father, Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, as both were swept to their deaths in the Rio Grande in an effort to seek asylum. Their mother Tania Vanessa Avalos, 21 watched as they drowned. The family  made their way to Mexico from El Salvadore, then spent the last two months in a migrant camp waiting for an appointment to apply for asylum to enter the US. A shelter director said that only 40 to 45 asylum interviews were being conducted there each week while there are 800 to 1,700 names on the waiting list. Ramirez became frustrated by the delay and decided to attempt to swim across the river. He deposited his daughter on the far bank and went back to assist his wife to cross but the child became confused and followed her father back into the water. Both drowned in the strong undercurrents as he tried to save her.

Desperate migrants continue to heed that call to ‘enter the golden door’ only to end up incarcerated in camps or turned around. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)  is unable to process the thousands fleeing violence and economic hardship, many from Latin American countries affected by gang violence and poverty. The number of children separated from their families and held in camps at the end of 2018 was estimated at 15,000, the accurate figure today is unknown with many of the children unaccounted for.

The US government went to federal court this week to argue that it is not required to give detained migrant children toothbrushes, soap, towels, showers or an opportunity to sleep inside Border Patrol detention facilities. Government lawyers described the temporary detention facilities as “safe and sanitary” despite the deaths of at least six child migrants  since September, mostly after falling ill at detention facilities in the Rio Grande Valley.  Last month, in the largest temporary detention center in McAllen, Tex., CBP had to quarantine 32 migrants who were diagnosed with the flu, soon after a 16-year-old boy from Guatemala died. He had been diagnosed with the flu at the same overcrowded facility where dozens of migrants are held behind chain-link fences in pens, sleeping on mats on the concrete floor with aluminium foil blankets. The children complain they are unable to sleep because lights are kept on at all time.

IS AMERICA IN DENIAL? WHAT CONTRIBUTED TO THE MORAL AND SOCIAL DECLINE – COULD IT BE GREED – A RELUCTANCE TO SHARE?

Today more than 1 in 8 Americans are immigrants and almost all are descended from immigrants. Less than 2% of the population have Native American ancestors. Life expectancy in the US ranks 39th in the world at 79.5 but has been falling for the past three years due to rising suicide figures not seen since WW2.
CDC: US Suicide Rates Highest Since WWII, Native Americans Most Affected | Newsmax.com  Although the US has the largest economy in the world it does not have the highest GDP per capita, ranking 19th behind small countries like Luxembourg.  In the most recent World Happiness Report the US ranks 15th out of 30 countries scored. For the Ramirez parents and hundreds of thousands like them it still outranks the horrors of their homeland. 

 

Animated Map Shows History Of Immigration To The US- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fe79i1mu-mc

 

BLAMED, SHAMED AND SILENCED – SEXUAL ABUSE OF NUNS BY PRIESTS

1994  A VATICAN COMMISSIONED REPORT CONFIRMED SEXUAL ABUSE OF NUNS BY PRIESTS IN 22 COUNTRIES…. IT WAS COVERED UP.

Sister Maura O’Donoghue, an Irish nun and medical doctor with 45 years experience, compiled a report into nuns being sexually abused by priests. The report based upon reliable disclosure by priests, doctors and others was never released.  Sister O’Donoghue had documented that sexual abuse of nuns by priests was taking place in Botswana, Burundi, Colombia, Ghana, India, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Tonga, Uganda, the United States, Zambia, Zaire and Zimbabwe.  Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Religious Life was briefed on its content February 18th,1995 by Sister Donaghue. Details of that meeting and her report appear in the US weekly the National Catholic Reporter.

  • In the report she linked the alleged sexual abuse of nuns in Africa to the AIDS epidemic there, quoting one religious superior who was approached by priests requesting that sisters be made available for sex. When this was refused, the priests said they would have to go to local women and could get AIDS.
  • She referred to a 1988 incident in Malawi where 29 nuns in one congregation had been made pregnant by diocesan priests; when the women complained to the Archbishop, they were replaced.
  • A priest who took a nun for an abortion during which the sister died, officiated at the nun’s requiem Mass.

The report resurfaced in 2001 and was published by the Irish Times. The secretary-general of the Conference of Religious of Ireland, was bemused and said no such allegations or complaints had been received. “However, if Sister Maura O’Donoghue had evidence of the occurrence of such abusive behaviour then it was appropriate she should report it to the Vatican.”  The Vatican spokesperson, Dr Joachim Navarro-Valls, confirmed that “the problem is known about’…’but restricted to a certain geographical area”. This was understood to be Africa.

A SONG COMES TO MIND…   “ROUND, LIKE A CIRCLE IN A SPIRAL, LIKE A WHEEL WITHIN A WHEEL… NEVER ENDING OR BEGINNING ON AN EVER SPINNING WHEEL….”

In February 2019 Following a new expose’ in the Vatican women’s publication ‘Women Church World’, Pope Francis publicly acknowledged for the first time, the long history of sexual abuse of nuns by priests and clergy, saying: “It’s true,” …“There are priests and bishops who have done that.” Francis spoke about a case in which Pope Benedict dissolved an order of nuns “because a certain slavery of women had crept in, slavery to the point of sexual slavery on the part of clergy or the founder.”

Iris Wagner, a former German nun,now a theologian has spoken of her terror when a superior of the Order entered her room one night and raped her. Feeling she would not be believed she did not report this. Years later when she did tell her Superior, she was blamed and asked if she had used contraceptives. When she was later appointed to a senior position in Rome she was groomed by Herman Geissler, a priest in The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the organisation which investigates accusations of child abuse. She reported a series of sexual assaults in the confessional and when no action was taken she disclosed the story at the Rome meeting in 2018. Geissler resigned on the grounds of ill health; an investigation found that he had acted inappropriately but he was not removed from his job. On May 17th 2019 The Vatican Supreme Court announced that he had been acquitted of making sexual advances in the confessional. (The priest who raped Iris Wagner is still ordained and living in a religious community with young women.)

Dr Rocio Figueroa Alvea,  a former nun, left her Order and is now a theologian and Lecturer. At the age of 15 she  was abused by her Confessor, German Doig who, began touching her inappropriately during spiritual direction classes. Confused she felt unable to disclose the abuse. She later started a womens branch and was sent to Rome, there she met a priest to whom she was able to speak for the first time, about her ordeal. While working in the Vatican, she was asked by the Founder of her Order, Luis Fernando Figari, to help prepare the process of beatification for Doig, her former abuser, who had died in 2001. During investigations, she discovered that Doig had been a serial sexual perpetrator. She confronted Figari who told her, “You are a liar, you seduced him” .. ‘You are forbidden to speak”. She was ordered by Figari, to step down from her Vatican role due to “illness” She spoke to a cardinal she was close to, telling  him everything she had discovered. The cardinal gave her two options: either leave the community or stay and be a “silent soldier”.  Continuing her investigation she traced victims of the Founder and uncovered a network of abusers, leaders in the community. Along with other survivors, she reported this to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, to the Secretary of State and to a host of other Vatican departments but received no reply. In 2015 she published a ‘whistle blowers’ book documenting the abuse. Only then did the Vatican order investigation. In 2017 they found that Figari “sexually assaulted at least one child, manipulated, sexually abused or harmed several other young people and physically or psychologically abused dozens of others”. He denied the charges and was ordered by the Vatican to “live a life of prayer” in Rome.

When Indian Bishop Mulakkal was accused of raping a Catholic nun 13 times between 2014 and 2016, the rape was reported  to 3 bishops, a cardinal and 2 auxilliaries but no action was taken. Sister Anupama and four of her companions led protests demanding his arrest. Mulakkal, 54, a senior member of the Roman Catholic clergy and head of its Jalandhar diocese denied the charge.He is currently out on bail as the case is being heard in court. According to Sister Anupama,  the  ‘Save our Sisters’  (SOS) forum at Kochi’s Vanchi square last year has resulted in victimisation, an act of vengeance by the church. The sisters no longer feel safe.

Nuns are speaking of systemic abuse with priestly grooming tactics e.g. comments such as “I’m showing you God’s love’ as an example of clericalism laying claim to entitlement. An  immunised clergy exerting financial control and spiritual authority over dependent consecrated nuns.

FRANCIS RULES – Failing the ‘Zero Tolerance’ test

“HISTORY HAS TAUGHT US THAT THE VATICAN, WITH ITS SELF PROCLAIMED LAWS AND PROCEDURES, IS INCAPABLE OF PROTECTING INNOCENT CHILDREN FROM BEING SEXUALLY ABUSED”

In what may prove to be the final  lost opportunity to demonstrate his much vaunted ‘Zero tolerance policy’,  the new rules announced by Pope Francis to deal with sexual abuse by clergy, fall short of requiring that police be informed of any  allegation. Mitchell Garabedian, the lawyer whose efforts to expose predator priests was dramatized in the Oscar-winning movie ‘Spotlight’, has commented:   “The new Vatican laws concerning the reporting of sexual abuse, continue the secrecy which has enabled clergy sexual abuse to exist, allows the Catholic Church to continue to ineffectively self-police and basically discourages victims from just calling the police,”  Anne Barrett Doyle, a co-director of BishopAccountability.org  stated “We would have been far more impressed if this new law required church officials to report to police and prosecutors instead,”  The new law does nothing to enact zero tolerance for child sexual abuse or for cover-up.” The problem, according to advocates, is that bishops remain as the investigators when local law enforcement should be in charge of the reporting process, as they are for all other alleged crimes.

Survivors of sexual abuse demonstrate outside Castel Sant’Angelo – Rome 2019

STEPS IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION: The new law requires all Catholic priests and nuns, who have “well-founded motives to believe” that a cleric or sister has engaged in sexual abuse of a minor, sexual misconduct with an adult, possession of child pornography – or that a superior has covered up any of those crimes, must report this to their superiors. The new rules protect whistleblowers by prohibiting a requirement of secrecy for those making allegations and a no-retaliation clause protects the person reporting abuse from obligations to keep quiet.  Catholic dioceses around the world must now have a “public and accessible” system in place for reporting abuse by June 1, 2020. The metropolitan bishop has an initial 90 days to conduct an investigation, he must immediately ask permission from the Vatican to open a preliminary investigation unless the bishop finds the claim “manifestly unfounded,” and must hear back from Rome within 30 days.

Currently licensed medical professionals, law enforcement and educators are required to report child abuse to the police.  On May 9, Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna, considered the Catholic Church’s most respected abuse investigator, said “it would be a good thing” for abuse to be reported to police. “No one in the leadership is above the law,”  Yet Pope Francis chose not to enforce this. The Bill introduced two months ago by Monica Wallace, a Democrat of the New York State Assembly, would require clergy of all religions to report child abuse to law enforcement agencies. Predictably, a Buffalo Catholic bishop objected, saying such a law would create conflict for priests if they heard of an abuse allegation during confession, as priests are prevented from reporting on disclosures heard in the confessional. One more example of the safeguarding of children being subject to religious doctrine as opposed to civil law.

For decades Catholic clerical sexual abuse of the most vulnerable in society has been normalised through a culture of clerical entitlement and opportunity.  It has become apparent that abuse is institutional, exercised at every level of ministry up to and including the Vatican itself, the church has a history of protecting perpetrators and silencing victims. In the face of the global scandal of child sexual abuse by priests, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops prepared to vote on closing existing policy loopholes in 2018. The Vatican intervened, suspending the vote, stating that church leaders were not given sufficient time to vet the new policies. The new law is the  response to the international Convention earlier this year.

What is patently obvious to most people i.e. that allegations of child sexual abuse should be reported to the police and that anyone covering for or protecting a pedophile is guilty of an offence, for some reason remains unfathomable to those who govern the Catholic church. Kurt Martens, a professor of canon law of the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, called the new rules an “immense and revolutionary gift to the entire Church.”  Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago who was instrumental in stalling the vote by US bishops, excitedly states: “What’s quite extraordinary about this is that if in fact there is a mishandling by a bishop who’s responsible for an investigation, then he is liable to be investigated for any cover-up”   Most of us would expect this to be the bottom line rather than a revelation to be applauded. This is the sad indictment of a patriarchal institution which,  by design, is firmly committed to protecting itself rather than those it was meant to serve.

#Letters to Priests: The purpose of this series is to raise awareness of the institutional sexual abuse within the church and to remember the survivors and the many dedicated, courageous priests who continue to serve their communities.

See also:

Pope silences the bishops

When is a secret a secret?

CLUE: VENEZUELA HAS THE LARGEST OIL RESERVES IN THE WORLD


OVERT AND COVERT US INTERVENTION HAS TOPPLED A SERIES OF LEGITIMATE GOVERNMENTS IN THE LATIN AMERICAN REGION SINCE THE 1950s. GUATEMALA, PANAMA, NICARAGUA, HONDURAS AND EL SALVADOR HAVE ALL BEEN INVADED BY THE UNITED STATES  WHICH IRONICALLY IS NOW ‘INVADED’ BY HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DISPLACED PEOPLE FLEEING THEIR RAVAGED COUNTRIES.

The political manoeuvring by the most powerful nations on the world stage as they align with and against Venezuela should remind us of the self interest and the all too familiar strategy of divide and conquer previously witnessed in the Middle East and currently being  played out in Latin America.  Russia, China and others jostle for position to ensure their stake in that country’s natural mineral wealth and oil, as America attempts to grab the world’s greatest source of oil in its “backyard”, 

Comparison of current oil reserves

  • Venezuela –     300,878 million barrels
  • Saudi Arabia –  266,455 million barrels. …
  • Canada –         169,709 million barrels. …
  • Iran –               158,400 million barrels. …
  • Iraq –               142,503 million barrels. …
  • Kuwait –          101,500 million barrels. …
  • UA Emirates –   97,800 million barrels. …
  • Russia –            80,000 million barrels. …
  • Libya –              48,363 million barrels. …
  • United States – 39,230 million barrels.

In the idealised vision of a globalised economy all nations are able to freely negotiate their best interests in equitable markets in a spirit of mutual cooperation and respect. The reality  is that the nature of a dominating force is expansionism, the method being to apply pressure, making demands which can not be met. The aim is acquiescence, capitulation and finally submission to the greater power. Today the US increasingly imposes sanctions, the equivalent of a medieval siege, on nations who refuse to comply with their directives. The strategy is played out in the guise of negotiation through trade wars with an ever present threat of military incursion.

The sovereign nations of Latin America, formerly European colonies particularly of Spain, gained independence  in the 19th century.  They include:  Uruguay 1811, Argentina 1816, Chile 1818, Columbia 1819, Venezuela 1821, El Salvadore 1821, Honduras 1821, Nicaragua 1821, Ecuador 1822,  Bolivia 1825, Mexico 1920 and Panama in 1903.  The United States the United States  unofficially regards parts of Latin America as within its sphere of influence and increasingly used military force  to secure the success of governments sympathetic to it. By 1934, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti had all been partially occupied by US forces at some point.  US domination of Latin American countries was eventually opposed by indigenous leaders intent on loosening Washington control and achieving a fairer redistribution of the continent’s natural wealth. The U.S. turned against the regimes it helped install when they began pursuing policies counter to U.S. diplomatic and business interests

Populist movements across Latin America instigated revolutionary reforms, gaining freedom from successive military dictatorships.

  •  In 1948 Dictator Marcos Perez Jiminez overthrew the democratically elected Venezuelan government in a  coup d’etat, ten years of military government followed. In 1950, when the global economy was struggling to recover from World War II, oil-rich Venezuela was the world’s fourth-wealthiest country.  The Venezuelan economy flourished as the American oil industry, supported by the government, exploited the vast oil resources.  Perez personally received a portion of the profits from oil companies, Mobil, Exon and others along with the  ‘Legion of Merit’ from President Nixon  in 1954 for services rendered.1958 a further coup de’tat with Oil and steel nationalized in 1973.
  • 1983/4 Falling global oil prices generated unrest and cuts in welfare spending. 1989  Carlos Andres Perez, elected President, launched an austerity programme  with an IMF loan. Riots, martial law and a general strike followed with hundreds killed in street fighting. Perez impeached on corruption charges 1993-1995.
  • 1998 Hugo Chávez was elected President of Venezuela by a landslide on a manifesto of land and wealth redistribution. The South American country began to reassert sovereignty over its oil reserves, challenging U.S. economic interests . The Chávez administration overturned the privatisation of the state-owned oil company, eventually doubling the country’s GDP. The oil revenues were used to fund social programs aimed at fostering human development in areas such as health, education, employment, housing, technology, culture and pensions and land redistribution. Chavez extended power and communal authority to the indigenous, mestizos and Afro-Venezuelans, living in shacks in the barrios.

Unprecedented Socialist achievements  brought social justice and pride to millions of people. However land reforms and redistribution of wealth posed a threat to the wealthy and challenged  US expansionist plans for Latin America.  In eight years, Chavez won eight elections and referendums: a world record, he was electorally the most popular politician in the world. Venezuela’s democratic record and human rights legislation,  food programmes, healthcare initiatives, poverty reduction and a national literacy programme went largely unreported in the West due to a campaign of media lies and distortion.

Venezuelan President-Elect Hugo Chavez, left, shakes hands with former President Jimmy Carter in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Dec. 7, 1998. Six years after leading a bloody coup attempt, Chavez rode a wave of fierce public discontent to win Venezuela’s presidency by the largest margin in 40 years. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Former President Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Centre is a respected monitor of elections around the world stated: “Of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored…I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.”  By way of contrast, said Carter, the US election system, with its emphasis on campaign money, “is one of the worst”.

 In 200l Chávez became highly critical of the Bush administration and U.S economic foreign policy with regard to Iraq, Haiti, Kosovo and the Free Trade Area of the Americas, and other areas.

  • Reports of failed assassination attempts and a 2002 Washington-backed coup to overthrow President Hugo Chávez resulted in mass demonstration by hundreds of thousands from the barrios insisting the army remained loyal to Chavez who was returned to power. 
  • Following his re-election in 2006, Chavez nationalised oil, steel, cement and banking assets. Economic sanctions quickly followed leaving Venezuela struggling to secure enough investment and technical expertise to unlock valuable resources.
  • In 2011 Chavaz repatriated around 160 tonnes of Venezuelan assets in gold from banks in the United States and Europe.

When the Venezuelan government announced that the nation’s oil reserves had surpassed that of the previous world leader, Saudi Arabia, American sanctions were immediately increased. A former adviser to the U.S. Departments of State, Energy and Defense described the significant shift as ‘irrelevant’ explaining:   “ So long as there’s no capital flowing into the upstream in Venezuela, especially capital by the companies that have the technology to develop the heavy oil reserves it will remain irrelevant’

The void left by the death of Hugo Chavaz in 2013 could not be filled. His successor Nicolas Meduro has presided over Venezuela as the global slide in the price of oil caused hyper inflation in a society that imports almost all its food. Venezuela’s access to the US-dominated international financial system was blocked. The collapse of oil prices since 2014 and Washington’s “sanctions” against Venezuela, have caused the loss of at least $6 billion in Venezuela’s revenue since 2017, including  $2 billion worth of imported medicines.  In 2018, Maduro was re-elected President despite a tactical boycott by the opposition winning 67.84 per cent of the vote.  In January 2019 President Trump unexpectedly placed further economic oil sanctions on Venezuela aimed at toppling President Nicolás Maduro, exports plunged and banking froze. It was announced that $7 Billion in assets was immediately blocked with a further export loss of  $11 billion anticipated over the coming year. The further sanctions made it virtually impossible for the Venezuela government to take the measures necessary to eliminate hyperinflation or recover from a deep depression. Such measures would include debt restructuring, and creating a new exchange rate system  in which the currency would normally be pegged to the dollar.

Both Chavaz and Meduro have been criticised for their lack of foresight in prioritising social welfare programmes while  neglecting to diversify the economy which could not be sustained when oil prices fell. Crippling sanctions and the Moduro government ‘s failure to manage the economy along with accusations of corruption and human rights abuses have led to the disintegration of Venezuela. In 2018, the UN indicated that between 2015 and 2017, 3.7 million in the Venezuelan population were undernourished. In 2016, maternal mortality rose 65 percent and infant mortality rose 30 percent in just one year.  In the face of a massive exodus of 3.4 million Venezuelans the Maduro government fearful of strings attached to international Aid programmes has denied the humanitarian crisis and is largely to blame for the lack of a coordinated international response.

By recognizing the self appointed Juan Guaido, the National Assembly leader, as the legitimate president of Venezuela, the Trump administration acknowledged a parallel government. This support comes with strings, a broader trade agreement and specific benefits for American oil companies like Chevron and Halliburton, already located in Venezuela. 

President Meduros’ request to the Bank of England January 2019 to withdraw $1.2 billion of Venezuelas gold reserves  held by the bank was denied. This follows lobbying  by  U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton  to help cut off the regime from its overseas assets.  U.S. officials confirmed this is an attempt to steer Venezuela’s  overseas assets to Guaido to help bolster his chances of effectively taking control of the government. Cynthia Arnson, director of the Latin America program at the Wilson Center commented:  “The Trump administration is looking to absolutely cripple the Venezuelan economy in the hopes that the level of pain will lead to cracks in the armed forces or otherwise result in regime change,”   Should this occur this  will be “the 68th overthrow of a sovereign government by the United States, most of them democracies”.(John Pilger)

AS THE WORLD OBSERVES AMERICA’S OUTRAGE AT THE POSSIBILITY THAT RUSSIA ATTEMPTED TO INFLUENCE THE 2016 US  ELECTION PROCESS, THE HYPOCRISY OF US MEDDLING APPEARS LOST ON THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.

 

 

 

Metaphysics of the Arrest and Trial of Jesus Christ

The trial of Jesus is the most documented  ever made. According to our beliefs  it remains as an intriguing historical episode or the major event which shaped world history.  In metaphysical terms it is a perfect demonstration of the Law of Cycles and the way in which energy manifests in accordance with individual and collective behaviour and beliefs, influenced by celestial coordinates which include both astronomical and astrological factors.  

Jesus attracted large crowds wherever he went, the Sanhedrin, a political religious hierarchy of the day,  jealously guarded its power. Perceiving  him to be a threat to their own authority they conspired to kill him. Caiaphas the High Priest negotiated with Judas Iscariot, the disciple of Jesus who betrayed him.

  • The arrest of Jesus occurred around 12 midnight in the garden of Gethsemane. This corresponds astrologically to the line of Capricorn relating to right use of power, in the negative aspect it manifests as power abuse.

There were six parts to Jesus’ trial, three in a religious Jewish court charged with blasphemy and three under Roman Civil Law, accused of Treason. The trial continued throughout the night manifesting the negative aspect of the astrological coordinates.

  • The 1 o clock line of Aquarius signifies Freedom, the message Jesus brought to free the masses.  In its negative application it relates to enslavement and control.
  • The 2 o clock line of Pisces denotes polarity of consciousness, spirit and matter, the physical and the spiritual aspects of mankind, Jesus is viewed as the Master or Saviour of the Piscean Age. In negative expression the energy manifests as duality and deceit.
  • The 3 o clock line of Libra manifests positively as balance and harmony and in its highest expression as Christ consciousness. In the negative, it represents anti Christ. 

As Palestine was under Roman occupation the Jewish religious Council of the Sanhedrin had no authority to sentence a man to death and were required to bring the most serious charges to the Roman Governor. Blasphemy did not incur the death penalty under Roman law and so an accusation of Treason was brought by the chief Priest.

  • The 4 o clock line of Taurus relates to obedience of spiritual law in its higher form and in the lower, to antipathy, rebellion, recalcitrance. 
  • The 5 o clock line of Gemini corresponds to clarity and truthful communication in its higher expression and to obfuscation, miscommunication, lies and deceit in the negative.
  • The 6 o clock line of Cancer relates to family and to clarity of spiritual perception as its higher expression and to deception, psychic manipulation and self delusion in the negative.

The religious trials were illegal according to strict Jewish law which stated:

  • No trial was to be held during feast time: This trial was held during the annual Feast of the Passover.
  • No trial was to be held at night: This trial was held before dawn.
  • The accused was to be given counsel or representation: Jesus had none.
  • The accused was not to be asked self incriminating questions: Jesus was asked if He was the Christ.
  • Each member of the court was to vote individually to convict or acquit: This did not occur as agreement could not be reached.
  • The Sanhedrin had no authority to call for execution: They called for the death penalty through the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate.
  • If the death penalty was given, a night must pass before the sentence was carried out: Jesus was put to death within hours.

Jewish religious trials: Jesus is first taken to the house of Annas the ex High Priest for preliminary examination on trumped up charges of blasphemy. Jesus is then taken before Caiaphas the high priest, (son in law of Annas) and certain members of the Sanhedrin, for further questioning. He is accused of blasphemy… claiming to be the Messiah. Found Guilty by common consent of those present he is brought before the full Council of the Sanhedrin for a formal trial, found guilty and a sentence of death sought. The Sanhedrin could not authorise capital punishment and so sent him to the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate. By 5am, the religious trials were complete and he had been brought before the Roman legislature by the Sanhedrin, falsely accused of Sedition (Treason)  trying to overthrow the government of Rome and inciting riot, a serious charge .

Roman Civil Trials: Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilate at his official residence, accused of Treason which carries a sentence of death. The Roman Governor finds no fault in him and sends Jesus to Herod Antipas the Governor of Judaea, a puppet king of the Jews who is in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover festival. Herod is under the authority of Rome, he holds a mock trial in front of a mob; when Jesus refuses to speak to him he is returned to Pilate. In the early hours of the morning Jesus comes before Pilate for the second Roman civil trial. Pilate asks him ‘Who are you, are you a King?  Jesus answered:  “My kingdom is not of this world…I  have come into the world to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.” To which Pilate made his famous response ‘What is Truth?”  Pilate finds no fault with Jesus but bows to political pressure when he is unable to placate the Sanhedrin. Pilate has Jesus flogged with 39 lashes, the soldiers mock and humiliate him, placing a cloak around his shoulders and a reed in his hand as a sceptre of authority with a crown of plaited thorns upon his head. He is then returned to Pontius Pilate for sentencing.

Pilate attempts to bargain with the crowd, offering to release a prisoner for the Feast of Passover; they call for Barrabas to be released and for Jesus to be crucified. Pilate condemns him to death under the Roman law, symbolically washing his hands, saying “I find no fault in this man.” Jesus spends the rest of the night in the Antonia Fortress, the Roman Garrison, awaiting his crucifixion.

It is stated that Jesus  spent 6 hours on the cross  Seeming contradictions are given in the gospels as to the timing of the crucifixion due to two different systems of timekeeping,Jewish and Roman. The biblical account of the crucifixion is that Jesus  was placed on the cross ‘at the third hour’ according to Jewish time, which equates to 9am Roman time.  The death of Jesus occurs ‘at the 9th hour’ Jewish time ie  3pm Roman time.

‘when darkness covered the whole land‘ (Matthew 27:45,Mark 15:33Luke 23:44–45) all record the three-hours of darkness during Christ’s crucifixion between the hours of 12 noon and 3pm when he took his last breath. Matthew was one of Jesus’ apostles and an eyewitness to the event. Mark was a close companion of Peter, and  also travelled with Paul, Luke, and many of the earliest Christians.  Luke was a Greek physician and historian who carefully investigated the events of Christ’s life. Luke is considered to be one of the most reliable historians of all time, his historical investigation is  based on direct and indirect eyewitness accounts

A POCKET HISTORY OF THE GOLAN HEIGHTS FOR TRUMP

IN FORMALLY RECOGNISING ISRAELI CONTROL OVER THE  GOLAN HEIGHTS  DONALD TRUMP HAS ACHIEVED THE IMPOSSIBLE – UNITING VIRTUALLY EVERY NATION IN THEIR OPPOSITION AND CONCERN FOR THE OUTCOME.

In the 1940s, Britain secretly advocated the creation of a Greater Syrian state that would secure Britain preferential status in military, economic and cultural matters. France and the United States opposed British hegemony in the region, which eventually led to the creation of Israel on 14 May 1948. 

  • 1948 The  First Arab–Israeli War, was fought between the newly declared State of Israel and a military coalition of 5 Arab nations which rejected the establishment of the Jewish state in Palestine. Israelis call it “the war of independence”; Arabs call it the “nakba” or the catastrophe.
  • 1956 The second Arab-Israeli war broke out when Israel, Britain and France launched a joint attack against Egypt aimed at regime change and deposing Abdul Nasser the country’s leader.
  • 1967 Israel launched preemptive attacks on Egypt, Jordan and Syria, unleashing the June War, that resulted in the Israeli occupation of what remained of historic Palestine. Israel subsequently captured and occupied the West Bank and Gaza, capturing East Jerusalem from the Jordanians and the Golan Heights from Syria. The displacement of civilian populations resulting from the war had long-term consequences, as 300,000 Palestinians fled the West Bank and about 100,000 Syrians left the Golan Heights. Israel began to settle the occupied Golan Heights almost immediately, directly flouting international law.
  • 1973 Syria tried to retake the Golan Heights during the ‘Yom Kippur ‘war.  Egyptian and Syrian armies, with advanced Soviet weapons, launched a two-front offensive on Israel, from the north and the south. Despite inflicting heavy losses on Israeli forces, the surprise assault failed. Both countries signed an armistice in 1974 and a UN observer force has been in place on the ceasefire line since.

The UN Security Council Resolution 242 passed in 1967 called on Israel to withdraw from the territories it occupied in 1967 including the Golan Heights.  UN Resolution 338 adopted on October 22, 1973 reaffirmed the 1967 Resolution. Despite international condemnation Israel continues to build settlements on all occupied land, a well recognised strategy of  ‘sovereignty by stealth’.

AS SYRIA  LIES IN RUINS AND OTHERS CONTINUE TO SHAPE ITS DESTINY  IT IS TIMELY TO CONSIDER THE UNSAVOURY HISTORY WHICH LED US TO THIS POINT.

Damascus is considered to be the oldest permanently settled city in the world today.  The importance of Syria’s strategic location is illustrated by the repeated invasion and capture by foreign dominating powers. Syria has been fought over by foreign empires including Egyptians, Hittites, Assyrians, Persians, Macedonian Greeks, Romans, Mongols, Turks, British, and French. St Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, establishing the first Christian church at Antioch in the first century. From AD 324 many Christians migrated due to the divisions occurring within various Christian sects. Following the Muslim Arab conquest of AD 635 most Syrians became Muslim and Arabic replaced Aramaic. Throughout its centuries of rule, the Muslim Ottoman Empire was comprised of groups of Orthodox, Catholic, and other Christians; Alawis, Ismailis, and other Shia Muslims. Yazidis, Kurds, Jews, and Druze lived in neighbourhoods in the various cities and towns alongside Sunni Muslim Arabs.  Non-Muslim communities adhered to their own cultural traditions dress and customs and spoke their own languages, the allegiance was to the village or city and to ethnic heritage.

THE INFLUENCE OF WESTERN POWERS IN ‘NATION BUILDING’ PAYS LITTLE HEED TO THE CULTURE AND TRADITIONS OF THE EAST AND LESS TO CONSEQUENCES.

During the First World War, Great Britain and France were at war with the Turkish Ottoman Empire, which had sided with Germany and Austria. The  notorious Sykes-Picot Agreement made between Britain and France divided the Middle East between the two colonial powers. Britain subsequently made other conflicting deals,  leaders of the Arab revolt were promised an Independent Arab State in repayment for support in overthrowing the Ottomons but Britain reneged on the agreement. In May 1919 the French and British Prime Ministers met to decide their respective claims to territories or spheres of influence in the Middle East.They decided that in return for a British guarantee of French control in Syria, the British would be given a mandate over Mosul and Palestine. 

The long promised and short lived Arab Kingdom of Syria which emerged in 1920 died at birth. France was determined to retain control and invaded, imposing regime change on the Damascus government, making Syria a de facto colony of France, supposedly under the “mandate” of the League of Nations. The terms of the mandate required France to prepare Syria for independence, but the French showed little intention. The next three years were spent conquering the country and reformulating the territory. A policy was implemented of changing the social and cultural orientation by supplanting the common language Arabic, with French and making French customs and law primary. Catholicism was promoted as a means to undermine Islam, and to favor minorities as a means to control the Muslim majority, the aim being to establish a Christian-dominated viable state.

Constitutions were proclaimed periodically, only to be revoked, and independence was promised time after time. By 1921 Syria was divided into detached administrative units. The French created a “Greater” Lebanon from two Lebanon and Beirut, to establish an anchor in an otherwise hostile area. When the division inevitably failed, the autonomies were transformed into the Mandatory Syrian Republic in 1930. In 1933 when France attempted to impose a treaty of independence heavily prejudiced in favor of France, riots and demonstrations brought the economy to a standstill.

In 1936, the Franco-Syrian Treaty of Independence was signed, due to the French fear of being outflanked by Nazi Germany, if France relinquished its colonies in the Middle East.  However lingering colonialist inclinations  led France to reconsider its promises and it refused to ratify the treaty. With the fall of France in 1940 during World War II, Syria came under the control of the Vichy government until the British and Free French invaded and occupied the country in July 1941. Syria proclaimed its independence again in 1941 but it wasn’t until 1st January 1944, that it was recognized as an independent republic. On 29th May 1945, France  bombed Damascus and tried to arrest its democratically elected leaders. When the UN officially came into existence on 24th October 1945 the Syrian Prime Minister was at the founding conference of the United Nations in San Francisco, presenting Syria’s claim for independence from the French Mandate. The French mandate for both Syria and Lebanon was legally terminated on that date and full independence attained.

The al-Assad family  has ruled Syria since Hafez al-Assad became President of Syria in 1971 and established an authoritarian government. After his death in 2000, his son Bashar Assad succeeded him… and the rest as they say is history.

See also: Jerusalem – A pocket history for Trump

CHECKLIST: SAFEGUARDING CHILDREN FROM SEXUAL ABUSE

Link

Decades of experience as a trauma therapist working with survivors of sexual abuse confirmed the  many misconceptions which exist.  In order to better protect children against sexual predators it is essential to accept that  abusers are frequently known to parents or the child. They may be a neighbour or friend or someone in a position of trust, a teacher, a doctor, or a priest.  Where accusations involve those in privileged positions of power such as politicians or celebrities, this must never cloud perception or judgement.

DISCLOSURE AT THE TIME OF THE OFFENCE IS OFTEN WRONGLY PERCEIVED AS MORE CREDIBLE THAN  THAT MADE AFTER ANY DELAY, ESPECIALLY A PROLONGED ONE. IF A DISCLOSURE IS WITHDRAWN FOR ANY REASON, CREDIBILITY IS OFTEN FURTHER DIMINISHED.

Parents often believe they would know if their child was being sexually abused as their  children would tell them. This is rarely the case. Very few children disclose sexual abuse at the time that it is occurring and for many reasons. Sexual abuse takes many forms and does not always involve acts of physical violence; when it does it is more easily  recognised by the child and  is more likely to be disclosed at the time of the offence. Abuse is often the result of patient grooming over time which may not be perceived as such by the child. Threats of consequences if the relationship is discovered i.e. prison sentences or the child being removed from the family, are frequently used to deter disclosure.

DISCLOSURE

The commonest reason for failure to disclose is that the person will not be believed. Retraction of the allegation is common and may be due to shame or feelings of guilt, reluctance to face court proceedings or fear of consequences for family relationships. An accusation can often result in the child being removed to a place of safety and the breakup of the family.

GROOMING

Sexual abuse is linked to power and control. The grooming process, deliberately confuses acceptable social boundaries encouraging a relationship of trust. There are various types of offender, they often have an ability to engage readily with children and to connect with them socially and emotionally. Conflicted feelings of guilt for having reported the abuse are common. This effect has been associated with a phenomenon known as “child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome” where the child attempts to reconcile his or her own feelings.

Vulnerable children who are shy, withdrawn, lonely or rejected by peers are particularly targeted.

  • Most sexual abuse occurs as a result of grooming over time, gaining the trust of the child to encourage ‘sexual play’. This begins as sharing time, gifts and treats. Touching is initially restricted to play fighting and non sexual touching, hugging, arm around the shoulder etc. until a relationship has been established. Touching progresses to a hand on the leg and inappropriate touching over clothes accelerating to genital touch, oral sex and masturbation. Vaginal or anal penetration may or may not occur, the damage may still be irrevocable.
  • Grooming by sexual predators aims to make the child feel special, the child may welcome time spent with the perpetrator, or even feel hurt by the perceived rejection if the abuse ends or they are replaced by another.
  • Grooming aims to create dependency: This involves isolating the child from others, the child becoming emotionally dependent on the perpetrator who gains increasing control.
  • The child’s parents are often sought out and groomed before the child is groomed. The abusers involvement in the family becomes natural and normal, lowering parental guard. In this way suspicions that might arise are dismissed or explained away,

ADULT SURVIVORS

  • Post traumatic stress is frequently associated with child sexual abuse but is often undiagnosed. Deeply buried memories never disclosed may surface decades after the occurrence. This can result in drug and alcohol dependency, emotional trauma, and mental breakdown unless therapy is sought. In favourable circumstances this leads to eventual disclosure but the account may not be believed.
  • Adults who were abused as children often report that they had no awareness that what was happening was wrong. Many only come to realise that their experience constituted abuse as they enter adulthood, and can see the relationship from a new perspective.This realisation causes them to reprocess their experiences and can result in delayed trauma, adversely affecting the ability to create lasting relationships.
  • Adult survivors of child sexual abuse may report still feeling a conflicted love for the perpetrator where a deep  bond had been established, eliciting feelings of self loathing and adding to confusion for supporters who failt to understand the complex issues.
  • Certain triggers can cause abusive memories to resurface, one being the birth of a child, memories are often ignited as the child approaches the age where the original abuse occurred.

To summarise, child sexual abuse is the most abhorrent crime because it steals the innocence of childhood, creating a tangled web of conflicted thoughts and emotions which often become the bedrock of tortured personality. It inflicts damage which is often permanent, leading those afflicted to resort to self medication through drug and alcohol abuse; many end the torment of their life through suicide. Institutionalised abuse  is  ever more apparent. The priesthood of the Catholic church, increasingly mired in controversy, illustrates the link between power and abuse. Elijah Wood is one of many celebrities who have warned of pedophile networks in Hollywood. Whatever the source, we must at all times put the person who has suffered abuse before consideration of the abuser. This begins with a non judgemental approach and a willingness to listen.

See: Celebrity Pedophilia

 

 

 

Celebrity Pedophilia

Following release of the harrowing documentary Leaving Neverland, renewed disclosures of sexual abuse by two young men who had previously defended Jackson, force us to separate the man from the music in order to further consider the links between celebrity and pedophilia.  Child molestation is the most abhorrent crime and the most difficult to prove or to accept even when the evidence is clear.  For family, friends and admirers who are deeply invested emotionally, it can prove impossible because public perception is that those who commit sexual abuse are monsters incapable of love or tenderness. Research increasingly shows that children often have no perception at the time that they are being subjected to abuse due to the grooming process. 

Acceptance of such a horrific crime is irreconcilable with the public image of a celebrity who for many, felt like a personal friend for many years. For decades Michael Jackson was not only the most famous recording star on the planet, he was a humanitarian, not just adored but worshipped by a legion of fans for who he expressed a vision of hope.  His generosity was legendary. In 2006 it was confirmed that he donated $300 million to charity, this now exceeds $500 million, he holds the Guinness world record for donating the maximum amount of money as an entertainer. The eternal Peter Pan, he named his home Neverland after the fictional island where children cease to age. As an artist he excelled, inspiring millions and providing the soundtrack to our lives through the decades. Jackson’s childhood was marred by the excessive demands of a bullying father and his own insatiable need to express his creative genius. His attempts to recreate his lost childhood by creating a fantasy world which he shared with young boys, the childhood friends he never had, were indulged by adoring fans and admirers. A unique ability to touch people and to give them a voice, jarred with behaviour which was at best strange and at worst alarming but dismissed as endearingly innocent and understandable as we collectively forgave his ‘eccentricities’.

Child sexual abuse is notoriously difficult to prove, those who testify are frequently not believed, this is compounded when the accused person is a wealthy celebrity in a privileged position with access to the best lawyers. Accusations of child abuse against Michael Jackson were repeatedly dismissed over the years as an attempt to discredit him or for financial gain. In 1993 Evan Chandler, a dentist, accused Jackson of sexually abusing his son, in January 1994 a criminal investigation was closed with a reported agreed out of court settlement of $23,000,000.  In  2004, Jackson was charged with 7 counts related to sexual abuse of a minor, the prosecution bringing 140 witness testimonies. Santa Brabara Senior Assistant District Attorney, Ron Zonen, said of pornographic material found at the ranch “A lot of this stuff was used to desensitise the children”.  A former chef at the Neverland Ranch testified that they had witnessed Jackson act inappropriately towards Macaulay Culkin, alleging that he had seen the singer with his hand down the actor’s pants. Jackson’s former personal maid also attested to witnessing inappropriate behaviour between the Home Alone actor – along with three other boys – and her employer.  Macaulay Culkin initially expressed reluctance to testify but was eventually called as a defence witness, effectively demolishing the highly-publicised trial. Jackson was found not guilty on all counts. 

Childhood perception of sexual abuse at an early age is often skewed due to the manipulation of the abuser, leading to psychological trauma which can take years of counselling to overcome.  Jason Francia, the son of Jackson’s former maid had told police in 1993 that Jackson had touched him inappropriately and testified during Jackson’s 2005 trial, that the abuse took place when he was ten years old. “I was wearing shorts… He reached on my leg and he reached up and into my privates. When the prosecution asked Francia, who was 24 by this time, whether Jackson had ever done anything to make him feel uncomfortable, he responded: “I may not have felt uncomfortable at seven years old but when I think of it now I think that’s wrong, that shouldn’t have been done. It’s taken a lot of counselling just to tell you”.  In 2005 ABC’s Martin Bashir asked Cory Feldman, an abuse survivor himself,  whether or not he had been shown inappropriate imagery by Jackson as a young teen. Feldman  responded: “If you consider it inappropriate for a man to look at a book of naked pictures with a child that’s 13 or 14 years old, then your answer would be ‘yes’.” Today, as a survivor of sexual abuse and an advocate,  he states that while he was never sexually abused by Jackson  “he  can no longer in good conscience  defend anyone who’s being accused of such horrendous things.”

Without an understanding of the complexities of pedophilia it is difficult to accept the many reasons for non disclosure and even more difficult to understand why survivors come forward often decades later, after denying abuse ever took place or even having defended their abuser. The documentary ‘Leaving Neverland’, demonstrates the complex effects of prolonged sexual abuse, the conflicted feelings which allow a survivor to develop a deep emotional bond, even a loving connection with the abuser, particularly if the abuse begins at an early age.  Now young men, accusers Wade Robson and James Safechuck, attempt to explain the grooming process which convinced each of them to believe that they were special and that the behaviour was normal, natural and loving.

Wade was 7 and Safechuck 9 when the abuse is alleged to have begun. They describe how Jackson, used his celebrity to groom each of them, taking them on tour, sharing the stage with them and starring in commercials with them, offering toys, jewellery and money while allegedly abused them sexually over a number of years. Robson says Jackson gave him the famous red jacket worn in the music video; James Safechuck’s hands tremble as he holds a 
jewellery box containing the tokens he says Jackson bought him including the ring given to him during a mock wedding ceremony.  Both state that as they grew older they were replaced by other younger boys  leaving them confused and dismayed. 

Grooming is a predetermined act and is not limited to victims.  In order to gain access to the child, perpetrators often groom parents or guardians  over a period of months before any abuse takes place, positioning themselves in the family to gain their trust. This breaks down parental natural defences, the abuser is often accepted as a part of the family network. Jackson built relationships with the families of his accusers, inviting them to share his celebrity lifestyle, becoming a trusted friend of the family. Incredibly,  like so many of the parents they allowed their sons to sleep in his bed. Wade Robson states “The most extraordinary thing in all this is that no-one denies that Jackson took little boys to his bed, night after night, for many, many years. What did his family and business associates think he was doing with these little boys behind a locked door? Did they believe he was actually a child in the body of a man and therefore somehow needed to sleep with little boys? ”

The singer always insisted that sharing his bed was an innocent act. “It’s not sexual, we’re going to sleep. I tuck them in… It’s very charming, it’s very sweet,” he said in Living With Michael Jackson, before adding: “Kids want to be loved, they want to be touched, they want to be held.” He described the act of sharing a bed as “the most loving thing to do”, and admitted to having “slept in a bed with many children”. In a newly unearthed video Jackson discusses accusations of abuse, he refers to the bible and Jesus, saying: Jesus said to love children and be like children; be youthful, be innocent,be pure and honourable…he surrounded himself with children and that’s how I was raised, to be like that and imitate that”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whatever the truth of his life, the current debate should alert us never to allow celebrity to mask concerns regarding predatory behaviour. Somewhere between the child many would claim was himself a survivor of abuse and the man he became, signs of increasing psychological disturbance mirrored in his appearance and behaviour were dismissed, overshadowed by his prodigious talent. Since the documentary aired, Michael Jackson continues to be a polarising figure; a renewed surge in demands for his music is matched by media platforms distancing themselves from his catalogue.