ISIS Fighters Destroy Ancient Artefacts at Mosul Museum

The Guardian, February 26, 2015

Islamic State militants ransacked Mosul’s central museum, destroying priceless artefacts that are thousands of years old, in the group’s latest rampage which threatens to upend millennia of coexistence in the Middle East.

The destruction of statues and artefacts that date from the Assyrian and Akkadian empires, revealed in a video published by Isis on Thursday, drew ire from the international community and condemnation by activists and minorities that have been attacked by the group.

The EU’s Deal on Greece Shows that Europe Remains Wedded to the Politics of Austerity

By André Broome, EUROPP, February 23, 2015

On 20 February, Greece agreed to a four month extension of its current bailout programme, subject to the approval of reform measures proposed by the Greek government. André Broome writes that while the election of the Syriza-led coalition in Greece was initially hailed as a game-changing event that could bring an end to austerity in Europe, the negotiations between Greece and the ‘Troika’ demonstrate why a sharp turn away from austerity policies in Eurozone bailouts remains highly unlikely.

Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands by Richard Sakwa Review – an Unrivalled Account

At last, a balanced assessment of the Ukrainian conflict – the problems go far beyond Vladimir Putin

By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, February 19, 2015

When Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Ukraine’s prime minister, told a German TV station recently that the Soviet Union invaded Germany, was this just blind ignorance? Or a kind of perverted wishful thinking? If the USSR really was the aggressor in 1941, it would suit Yatsenyuk’s narrative of current geopolitics in which Russia is once again the only side that merits blame.

When Grzegorz Schetyna, Poland’s deputy foreign minister, said Ukrainians liberated Auschwitz, did he not know that the Red Army was a multinational force in which Ukrainians certainly played a role but the bulk of the troops were Russian? Or was he looking for a new way to provoke the Kremlin?

Faced with these irresponsible distortions, and they are replicated in a hundred other prejudiced comments about Russian behaviour from western politicians as well as their eastern European colleagues, it is a relief to find a book on the Ukrainian conflict that is cool, balanced, and well sourced. Richard Sakwa makes repeated criticisms of Russian tactics and strategy, but he avoids lazy Putin-bashing and locates the origins of the Ukrainian conflict in a quarter-century of mistakes since the cold war ended.

Latin America Unites Against U.S. Attack on Venezuelan Democracy

By Frederick B. Mills, Council on Hemispheric Affairs, February 9, 2015

A special commission of the two largest associations of Latin American nations, CELAC (which includes all of the Latin America and the Caribbean) and UNASUR (which represents South American countries) met today in Montevideo, Uruguay, to analyze the relationship between the United States and Venezuela as well as the situation inside Venezuela. The commission, which has been convened at the request of the President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, includes the foreign ministers Delcy Rodríguez (Venezuela), Ricardo Patiño (Ecuador), María Ángela Holguín (Colombia) and Mauro Vieira (Brazil), as well as the Secretary General of UNASUR, Ernesto Samper.

Early indications are that this broad based association is calling for the U.S. to cease interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela; for Caracas to resume a dialogue inside Venezuela; as well as for the commencement of a U.S.–Venezuela dialogue. This call is only the latest in a series of statements of solidarity with Caracas and the rejection of U.S. meddling in the internal affairs of member states issued by regional political and economic associations as well as social movements.

Philosophical Foundations of Civilizational Dialogue

The Hermeneutics of Cultural Self-Comprehension versus the Paradigm of Civilizational Conflict

A Paper presented by Dr. Hans Köchler, President of the International Progress Organization, at the Third Inter-Civilizational Dialogue, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, September 15-17, 1997

I: The Eurocentric Paradigm of Civilizational Encounters

Since the colonial era, the Western world has been used to exporting its civilization[1] through its imperial and colonial policies. All other civilizations have been measured by Western standards based on the anthropocentric and individualistic world view of the Graeco-Roman and Christian traditions and on the criteria of rationality and scientific methods defined in those traditions and supposedly refined in 18th-century Enlightenment and 20th-century rationalism. These standards center around the preeminent role of the individual versus the collective subject (in the sense of the community, whether as family or nation) and, derived from the former, around the meaning and value of democracy.

This tendency of Eurocentrism is particularly virulent in our post-colonial period – or more precisely: the period of re-colonization – of a so-called “New World Order” through which the West, on top of it the United States as its self-declared spokesperson, tries to monopolize the global discourse on democracy and human rights.[2]

World Day of Social Justice

The General Assembly proclaimed 20 February as World Day of Social Justice in 2007, inviting Member States to devote the day to promoting national activities in accordance with the objectives and goals of the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth session of the General Assembly.

Observance of World Day of Social Justice should support efforts of the international community in poverty eradication, the promotion of full employment and decent work, gender equity and access to social well-being and justice for all.

For the United Nations, the pursuit of social justice for all is at the core of its global mission to promote development and human dignity. The adoption by the International Labour Organization of the Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization is just one recent example of the UN system’s commitment to social justice. The Declaration focuses on guaranteeing fair outcomes for all through employment, social protection, social dialogue, and fundamental principles and rights at work.

2015 Theme: Ending human trafficking and forced labour

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The Uses, and Abuses, of History in the Middle East Conflict

By William Pfaff, Truthdig, February 17, 2015

Egypt has just joined the war against the Islamic State in the Levant (also known as ISIL or, in Arabic, Daesh). Its air force has attacked the jihadist army in retribution for the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christian Copts held in Libya, whom they described as “Crusaders.”

As usual, jihad polemics were ignorant. Coptic Christianity goes back to the earliest Christian conversions in Egypt, centuries before the Crusades, and its adherents are mostly members of the original population of Egypt. They were Christians long before Egypt’s incorporation into the Islamic Arab caliphates in the seventh century and after.

This is one more instance of the sheer ignorance influential in driving events in the Middle East in modern times. The United States’ invasion of Iraq under George W. Bush was conceived as a crusade by many evangelical American Protestant churches, and so seen by many others in the U.S. (At the time, President George W. Bush even called it a crusade). It has so been seen in the Islamic countries.

Among the results of America’s modern crusades has been the retaliatory murderous attacks by jihadists against the ancient Christian churches founded in Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine in Apostolic times following the death of Christ—all of them taken as agents of the modern Americans. How many American churchmen know?