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The OIC is the Muslim world’s voice. Christian countries should have one too

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) bills itself as “the collective voice of the Muslim world.”

Jim Jatras

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(Strategic Culture) Founded in 1972 as the “Organisation of the Islamic Conference” and adopting its current name in 2011, the OIC joins 57 Member States in what is billed as the second-biggest intergovernmental organization after the United Nations. The OIC’s declared mission is —

‘… to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world…. The Organization has the singular honor to galvanize the Ummah [i.e., all Muslims as a community] into a unified body and have actively represented the Muslims by espousing all causes close to the hearts of over 1.5 billion Muslims of the world.

The Organization has consultative and cooperative relations with the UN and other intergovernmental organizations to protect the vital interests of the Muslims and to work for the settlement of conflicts and disputes involving Member States. In safeguarding the true values of Islam and the Muslims, the organization has taken various steps to remove misperceptions and has strongly advocated elimination of discrimination against Muslims in all forms and manifestations.’

Despite intra-Islamic conflicts – notably the Sunni-Shiite divide led by Saudi Arabia and Iran respectively – the OIC is vocal in promoting a unified Muslim perspective on issues where there is a broad consensus. For example, the OIC recently issued a strong statement denouncing U.S. President Donald Trump’s declaration that the United States considers Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital. The OIC’s information chief also took a position on the internal affairs of traditionally Christian European countries, to the effect that mass Muslim migration – what Srdja Trifkovic has called the Third Muslim Invasion – is really doing Europe a big favor. No, it’s no bother at all – we’ll just help ourselves!

Whatever one thinks of the OIC’s activities and perspectives on various issues, one should nonetheless commend Muslim countries for their activism. Keep in mind, the OIC is an official organization of governments in the Islamic world, not of religious, academic, or NGO activists, though the latter contribute to the OIC’s mission. Again, give credit where credit is due.

But where is the comparable activism by the governments of Christian countries? There is certainly an ample empirical basis for a Christian version of the OIC. Consider:

  • There are almost two and half billion Christians in the world. The number of Muslims is about 1.8 billion. Granted, the reality behind such numbers largely reflects formal identification rather than active belief and worship, but the social importance of even pro forma self-description or communal tradition should not be dismissed.
  • Approximately 120 sovereign states have a Christian majority. This compares to about 50 countries with a Muslim majority.
  • There are four countries formally called Islamic republics (Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, and Pakistan), plus approximately 20 others where Islam’s leading status is defined in law. For example, Article 2 of the Constitution of Oman states that “The religion of the State is Islam and Islamic Sharia is the basis for legislation”; Article 1 of the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia states that the kingdom “is a sovereign Arab Islamic state with Islam as its religion,” with the Sunni Wahhabist sect in practice given preeminence over the minority Shia. By contrast, because of Christianity’s inherent distinction between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Caesar, it would be hard to envision comparable “Christian states,” though the Holy See (the Vatican) is a Christian theocracy. Nor is there a Christian counterpart to Sharia as a religious basis for civil law. Nonetheless there are approximately 30 states where Christianity, or a particular Christian church, is singled out for a unique legal status or described as the traditional or leading faith. These include the Church of England, the Lutheran churches in Scandinavia, the Orthodox churches of Greece and Georgia, and the Roman Catholic Church in Argentina (Constitution, Article 2: “The Federal Government supports the Roman Catholic Apostolic religion.”), Costa Rica, Panama, Malta, Monaco, Liechtenstein, and others. For example, the Lateran Treaties regulating relations with the Vatican are affirmed in the Italian Constitution (Article 7). The Constitution of Georgia states (Article 9(1)) that “State shall recognise the outstanding role of the Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Georgia in the history of Georgia and its independence from the State.” Several other states grant de facto primacy to a church without formal legal sanction, with the primacy accorded the Russian Orthodox Church a notable example. Finally there are many secular countries where Christian morality and heritage are central to national identity and state policy. Even the United States once prided itself on calling itself a Christian nation, in substance if not in law, in the words of many prominent statesmen well into the 20th century.
  • The flags of about 20 countries include specifically Islamic symbols, either the crescent moon or the shahada statement of faith (notably on the flag of Saudi Arabia). About 30 national flags carry a depiction of the Christian cross, with an additional dozen or so if naval ensigns are counted (for example the Saint Andrew’s cross on the flags of the Russian and Belgian fleets, and the Saint George’s cross on the ensigns of India, South Africa, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Trinidad and Tobago, and others whose civil flags do not display a cross).

What would be the purpose of a Christian version of the OIC? (For purposes of discussion, let’s call it the “Organisation of Christian Cooperation,” or the OCC.) Let’s take a leaf from the OIC and paraphrase: the mission of the OCC would be to –

“… protect the vital interests of Christians and to work for the settlement of conflicts and disputes involving Member States. In safeguarding the true values of Christianity and Christians, the OCC will take various steps to remove misperceptions and strongly advocate elimination of discrimination against Christians in all forms and manifestations.”

That would be a pretty good start, wouldn’t it? We could perhaps begin inside some of the nominally Christian countries, like the United Kingdom, where a spokesman for the government of Prime Minister Theresa May recently refused to confirm that publicly affirming the divinity of Jesus Christ could not land a person in jail for “hate speech.” The notion that simple expression of Christian belief and adherence to Christian moral principles, notably in the area of sexuality, constitutes hate has become a global phenomenon. No other religion’s believers are routinely defamed in this way.

Of course, as with the OIC a prospective OCC could and should be vocal on international issues. Starting in the 1990s, it began to be apparent even in polite, secular company that persecution of Christians was rampant in some countries, and that indeed more Christians died for their faith in the 20th century alone than in all the 19 centuries preceding it.

To come to grips with anti-Christian persecution, the U.S. Congress enacted the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, which in implementation unfortunately soon veered towards promoting generic “religious liberty” and away from countering actual persecution – chiefly of Christians at the hands of communist regimes (mainly in the past) and Muslim militants (now).

Perhaps Christian persecution would be a good topic for an Organisation of Christian Cooperation to raise with the OIC, asking it as an intergovernmental organization to take forceful action to “remove misperceptions” that Islam is intolerant by insisting that all persecution of and discrimination against Christians by Muslims cease!

After all, even the Administration of President Barack Obama, who proudly declared that the U.S. was no longer “just” a Christian nation, was eventually shamed into declaring that the Islamic State was committing genocide against Christians in Iraq and Syria (though Secretary of State John Kerry took care to put Yazidis first, and then added Shia Muslims and others to avoid any appearance of caring about Christians in particular). In “safeguarding the true values of Islam and the Muslims” the OIC rarely has taken note of maltreatment of Christians. If an OCC comes into being, it must vigorously champion persecuted Christians.

Another example where Member States of a future OCC could make a positive contribution is help with postwar reconstruction in Syria, including the rebuilding of churches. The Russian government has pledged its assistance with the participation of the Orthodox Church and religious organizations. Why shouldn’t other Christian countries pitch in – not just in generic reconstruction aid but specifically to help maintain Christians in the region where Christianity was born? This kind of effort would be relevant not only in Syria but across the Middle East.

Which countries might be candidates to join a hypothetical Organisation of Christian Cooperation? Again, let’s look at the OIC, the membership of which mainly consists of countries with a Muslim majority but also includes eight countries where Muslims are a minority: Ivory Coast, Gabon, Guyana, Mozambique, Nigeria, Suriname, Togo, and Uganda. Russia and Thailand, which are majority Christian and Buddhist respectively but have significant Muslim minorities, are OIC Observers. Thus a future OCC should not only welcome all majority Christian countries – including some that may also belong to the OIC – but others where Christians are numerically or socially significant.

For example, while South Korea is only about one-third Christian, Christians form a solid majority of that country’s citizens participating in organized religious activities. About thirty countries in sub-Saharan Africa would be obvious OCC Member State candidates, as would virtually all of Latin America. China and India, where Christian minorities outnumber the total populations of many majority-Christian countries, should certainly be welcomed as Members or Observers. Paradoxically, the main reluctance is likely to be found among such historically Christian countries as Britain, France, Germany, the Low Countries, Scandinavia, and – alas! – the U.S. and Canada, where the forces of militant secularism have become increasingly intolerant of any indication of Christian public identity among officialdom.

That leaves the question of which states might take the initiative in forming an Organisation of Christian Cooperation. The Vatican would be an obvious key player but might not want to take the lead to avoid perceptions that the OCC might become a mechanism for Roman Catholic influence. The same could be said for Russia, whose leadership could be taken to be a front for Russia’s narrow state interests. But it should be noted that both the Holy See and the Kremlin have indicated their willingness to partner in defense of Europe’s historic Christian identity and social mores. What is notable is that this is state-to-state discourse, not just religious dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches.

Perhaps the most promising current trend is the revival of national traditions that incorporate Christian consciousness in Central Europe. For example, Poland’s new Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has declared: “My dream is to make [Europe] Christian again, since unfortunately, in many places, people no longer sing Christmas carols, the churches are empty and are turning into museums, and this is very sad.” Likewise, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (a Protestant in a majority Roman Catholic country) has spoken out boldly and eloquently in defense of the Christian character of his own country but of Europe as a whole, as well as of Christians persecuted in the Middle East:

‘A great many times over the course of our history we Hungarians have had to fight to remain Christian and Hungarian. For centuries we fought on our homeland’s southern borders, defending the whole of Christian Europe, while in the twentieth century we were the victims of the communist dictatorship’s persecution of Christians. … For us, therefore, it is today a cruel, absurd joke of fate for us to be once again living our lives as members of a community under siege. For wherever we may live around the world – whether we’re Roman Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Christians or Copts – we are members of a common body, and of a single, diverse and large community.

Our mission is to preserve and protect this community. … Today it is a fact that Christianity is the world’s most persecuted religion. It is a fact that 215 million Christians in 108 countries around the world are suffering some form of persecution. It is a fact that four out of every five people oppressed due to their religion are Christians. It is a fact that in Iraq in 2015 a Christian was killed every five minutes because of their religious belief. It is a fact that we see little coverage of these events in the international press, and it is also a fact that one needs a magnifying glass to find political statements condemning the persecution of Christians.

But the world’s attention needs to be drawn to the crimes that have been committed against Christians in recent years. The world should understand that in fact today’s persecutions of Christians foreshadow global processes. The world should understand that the forced expulsion of Christian communities and the tragedies of families and children living in some parts of the Middle East and Africa have a wider significance: in fact they threaten our European values. The world should understand that what is at stake today is nothing less than the future of the European way of life, and of our identity.’

As the neo-liberal international order (symbolized by twin EU and NATO bureaucratic centers in Brussels) continue their decline, a revival of the national – and dare we hope, Christian? – spirit may be possible even in Europe. Such a revival could be an important impetus to creating an Organisation of Christian Cooperation, and in turn an OCC could help encourage that revival. This is not to minimize historic animosities even among Christians. The Polish-Russian and Croatian-Serbian enmities come readily to mind.

But if Iranians and Saudis can come together when the practical needs of Muslims per se require it, can Christians do any less? Does Christianity’s Founder, Who commanded His followers to love one another, expect any less from us? Perhaps an OCC could itself become a catalyst for reconciliation among Christians as much as a voice within the global community.

We can maybe even dare to hope that the United States is not quite lost. After all, Barack Hussein Obama is out, Donald John Trump is in. He’s even told Americans it’s alright to say “Merry Christmas!” again. If an Organisation of Christian Cooperation were to be formed, Melania Trump would make a great honorary patroness!

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It’s Back to the Iran-Contra Days Under Trump

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela.

Strategic Culture Foundation

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Authored by Wayne Madsen, via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Showing that he is adopting the neoconservative playbook every day he remains in office, Donald Trump handed the neocons a major win when he appointed Iran-contra scandal felon Elliott Abrams as his special envoy on Venezuela. Abrams pleaded guilty in 1991 to two counts of withholding information on the secret sale of US weapons for cash to help illegally supply weapons to the Nicaraguan right-wing contras, who were battling against the government of President Daniel Ortega. Abrams would have headed to a federal prison, but President George H. W. Bush, an unindicted co-conspirator in the scandal, issued pardons to Abrams and his five fellow conspirators – former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, and former Central Intelligence Agency officials Alan Fiers, Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, and Clair George – on Christmas Eve 1991, during the final weeks of Bush’s lame duck administration.

Abrams escaped being charged with more serious crimes by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh because he cut a last-minute deal with federal prosecutors. Trump, who has made no secret of his disdain for cooperating federal witnesses, would have normally called Abrams a “rat,” a gangster term meaning informant. The man who helped engineer the pardons for Abrams and his five convicted friends was none other than Bush’s Attorney General, William Barr, who has just been sworn in as Trump’s Attorney General. Trump, who is always decrying the presence of the “deep state” that thwarts his very move, has become the chief guardian of that entity.

During a recent hearing of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, newly-minted congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, reminded her colleagues and the world about the sordid background of Abrams.

Omar zeroed in on Abrams’s criminal history:

“Mr. Abrams, in 1991 you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony you give today to be truthful.”

Abrams, as is the nature of neocons, refused to respond to Omar and cited her comments as “personal attacks.”

Abrams’s and his fellow criminals’ use of mercenaries and “death squads” to conduct secret wars in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala during the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s has made a re-entrance under Trump. Abrams was brought on board by neocons like National Security Adviser John Bolton, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to oversee a US military build-up in Colombia, said to be 5000 US troops, to support Venezuelan paramilitary and military efforts to topple President Nicolas Maduro. Abrams and Bolton are also believed to have retained the services of another unindicted conspirator in the Iran-contra affair, Michael Ledeen, a colleague of the disgraced and convicted former Trump National Security Adviser, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. Ledeen and Flynn co-authored a book titled, “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and its Allies.” The book contains nothing more than the standard neocon tripe one might expect from the likes of Ledeen.

An official investigation of the Iran-contra scandal by the late Republican Senator John Tower of Texas concluded that Abrams’s and Ledeen’s friend, Iranian-Jewish middleman Manucher Ghorbanifar, a long-time Mossad asset and well-known prevaricator, was extremely instrumental in establishing the back-channel arms deals with Iran. Ghorbanifar has long been on the CIA “burn list” as an untrustworthy charlatan, along with others in the Middle East of similar sketchy credentials, including the Iraq’s Ahmad Chalabi, Syria’s Farid “Frank” Ghadry, and Lebanon’s Samir “Sami” Geagea. These individuals, however, were warmly embraced by neocons like Abrams and his associates.

Abrams, whose links with Israeli intelligence has always been a point of consternation with US counter-intelligence officials, is part of an old cabal of right-wing anti-Soviet Democrats who coalesced around Senator Henry Jackson in the 1970s. Along with Abrams, this group of war hawks included Richard Perle, Frank Gaffney, William Kristol, Douglas Feith, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Abram Shulsky, and Paul Wolfowitz. Later, this group would have its fingerprints on major US foreign policy debacles, ranging from Nicaragua and Grenada to Lebanon, Iraq, and Libya. Later, in December 2000, these neocons managed to convince president-elect George W. Bush of the need to “democratize” the Middle East. That policy would later bring not democracy but disaster to the Arab Middle East and North Africa.

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela. They have old scores to settle with Nicaraguan President Ortega. The initiation of “regime change” operations in Nicaragua, supported by the CIA and the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in Miami, have been ongoing for more than a year.

The Trump administration has already achieved a regime change victory of sorts in El Salvador. Nayib Bukele, the former mayor of San Salvador, who was expelled from the formerly-ruling left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation (FMLN) party and joined the right-wing GANA party, was recently elected president of El Salvador. Bukele has quickly re-aligned his country’s policies with those of the Trump administration. Bukele has referred to President Maduro of Venezuela as a “dictator.” He has also criticized the former FMLN government’s recognition of China and severance of diplomatic ties with Taiwan. It will be interesting to see how a sycophant like Bukele will politically survive as Trump continues to call hapless asylum-seeking migrants from his country, who seek residency in the United States, “rapists, gang monsters, murderers, and drug smugglers.”

Another country heading for a US-installed “banana republic” dictator is Haiti. President Jovenal Moise has seen rioting in the streets of Port-au-Prince as the US State Department removed all “non-essential” personnel from the country. Moise, whose country has received $2 billion in oil relief from Venezuela, to help offset rising fuel prices, has continued to support the Maduro government. However, at the US-run and neo-colonial artifice, the Organization of American States (OAS), Moise’s envoys have been under tremendous pressure to cut ties with Venezuela and recognize the US puppet Juan Guaido as Venezuelan president. Moise’s refusal to do so resulted in armed gangs hitting the streets of Port-au-Prince demanding Moise’s resignation. It is the same neocon “regime change” playbook being used in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

There will be similar attempts to replace pro-Maduro governments in his remaining allies in the region. These include Suriname, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Abrams was also brought in as an adviser on Middle East policy in the George W. Bush administration. The carnage of Iraq is a stark testament to his record. In 2005, it was reported that two key Bush White House officials – Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliot Abrams – gave a “wink and a nod” for the assassinations by Israeli-paid operatives of three key Lebanese political figures seeking a rapprochement with Syria and Lebanese Hezbollah – Member of Parliament Elie Hobeika, former Lebanese Communist Party chief George Hawi, and former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

In 2008, a United Nations panel headed by former Canadian prosecutor Daniel Bellemare later concluded Hariri was assassinated by a “criminal network” and not by either Syrian and Lebanese intelligence or Lebanese Hezbollah as proffered by Abrams and his friends in Washington.

Representative Omar was spot on in questioning why Abrams, whose name is as disgraced as his two fellow conspirators – Oliver North and John Poindexter – whose criminal convictions were overturned on appeal, is working for the Trump administration on Venezuela. The answer is that the neocons, who can sense, like raptors, Trump’s political weakness, have filled the vacuum left by top-level vacancies in the administration.

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Putin: If mid-range missiles deployed in Europe, Russia will station arms to strike decision centers

Putin: If US deploys mid-range missiles in Europe, Russia will be forced to respond.

RT

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Via RT…


If the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Moscow will respond by stationing weapons aimed not only against missiles themselves, but also at command and control centers, from which a launch order would come.

The warning came from President Vladimir Putin, who announced Russia’s planned actions after the US withdraws from the INF Treaty – a Cold War-era agreement between Washington and Moscow which banned both sides form having ground-based cruise and ballistic missiles and developing relevant technology.

The US is set to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty in six months, which opens the possibility of once again deploying these missiles in Europe. Russia would see that as a major threat and respond with its own deployments, Putin said.

Intermediate-range missiles were banned and removed from Europe because they would leave a very short window of opportunity for the other side to decide whether to fire in retaliation after detecting a launch – mere minutes. This poses the threat of an accidental nuclear exchange triggered by a false launch warning, with the officer in charge having no time to double check.

“Russia will be forced to create and deploy weapon systems, which can be used not only against the territories from which this direct threat would be projected, but also against those territories where decision centers are located, from which an order to use those weapons against us may come.” The Russian president, who was delivering a keynote address to the Russian parliament on Wednesday, did not elaborate on whether any counter-deployment would only target US command-and-control sites in Europe or would also include targets on American soil.

He did say the Russian weapon system in terms of flight times and other specifications would “correspond” to those targeting Russia.

“We know how to do it and we will implement those plans without a delay once the relevant threats against us materialize,”he said.

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Labour MP split is a cheap and final ploy to derail BREXIT (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 179.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss a small group of UK Labour MPs decision to quit the party and sit as Independent MPs in the house of commons.

Their excuse for leaving Labour was directed at leader Jeremy Corbyn for presiding over an “institutionally anti-Semitic” party. The real reason they are leaving Labour is because they are staunch remain MPs and are hoping to derail Brexit.

The seven Labour MPs quitting the party to become ‘The Independent Group’, are Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey.

RT reports that Luciana Berger, the MP for Liverpool Wavertree took to the stage first, to claim that she could not stay in the party any more because it had become “institutionally anti-Semitic.”

Chuka Umunna, MP for Streatham, a prominent ‘People’s Vote’ advocate appealed to all MPs, not just Labour, to join their group, as the current parties are part of the problem, not the solution.

He argued that “It is time we dumped this country’s old fashioned politics.” Umunna claimed the UK needed a political party “fit for the hear and now” and the “first step in leaving the tribal politics behind.”

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Via RT

Twitter has been rocked by the sudden departure of seven Labour MPs to form their own Independent Group, with party supporters feverishly debating whether the move is better for the party, or a wake-up call to Jeremy Corbyn.

Former shadow cabinet minister Chuka Umunna along with MPs Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey have all jumped ship in the biggest Labour Party split since 1981, when the so-called “gang of four” left to form the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

In a press conference, Umunna stated that the established parties “cannot be the change because they have become the problem” arguing that it is “time we dumped this country’s old-fashioned politics.”

Jewish MP Luciana Berger said she was “embarrassed and ashamed” at what the Labour Party had become and criticized her former party for becoming “sickeningly institutionally racist.”

“I am leaving behind a culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation. I look forward to a future serving with colleagues who respect each other,” she added.

Reaction to the news online has been a mixture of shock and dismay, to outright derision. Some Labour supporters were quick to delight in the departures, suggesting the party will be stronger without detractors undermining it from within.

Others though said it was time for Jeremy Corbyn to take the criticism seriously.

Meanwhile, some Twitter users commented on Young Labour’s somewhat barbed response to the situation.

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