Pope Francis & Pres. Obama on epic current issues By Robele Ababya
Greetings of the Season!
The European Year 2014 is coming to a draw to usher in 2015. So I am exceedingly delighted to extend my Greetings of the Season and a Happy New Year to my readers.
I seize the moment to express my congratulations to fellow Ethiopians in Europe, U.S.A., South Africa, Australia, and of course at home who had come out to the streets repeatedly to expose gross violations of basic human rights including genocide and sellout of vital national interests of Ethiopia by the TPLF/EPRDF regime in the past 23 year and counting. With the kind of resolve on the part of democratic forces shown in 2014, there is reason to hope that the year 2015 shall bear the sweet fruit of victory of our deserved aspiration to end tyranny in our Motherland, Ethiopia.
Motivation for writing this piece
The global community faces an array of threats comprising:- climate change; weapons of mass destruction in new cold war setting; endemic corruption driven by excessive greed; abject poverty, untrustworthy state security organs withholding truth from the taxpaying public; widespread sectarian conflicts; gross violation of basic human rights perpetrated by tyrants such as the top EPRDF leaders.
The current burning issues require powerful leaders in political and moral spheres in order to avert human catastrophe. This is why I chose the title “Pope Francis & Pres. Obama on epic current issues” for this piece because President Obama in his capacity as the leader of the sole superpower (U.S.A.) and Pope Francis as head of 1.2 billion Catholics in the world meet my purpose in this writing in view of their publicly expressed stand on current issues in varying degrees captured under the following consecutive headings.
Pope Francis on human rights and faith relations
Ethiopians bitterly remember Pope Pius XI, who reigned from 1922-39, for His heinous crime of blessing Fascist Dictator Mussolini to invade Ethiopia. In sharp contrast, His Holiness Pope Francis is on a global crusade advocating that respect for human rights must be central to modern civilization. This is a welcome change to all those ancestors were victims of untold sufferings under the brutal occupation of Fascist Italy.
His Holiness (HH) Pope Francis is a progressive Pope unlike His conservative Predecessors – John Paul II and Benedict XVI – holds relatively liberal views on various sensitive social issues.
Pope Francis made a three-day visit to Turkey from 28-30 October 2014 to promote faith relations and advocacy for the respect for human dignity. In His crusade of “healing schism”, He audaciously called on all Muslim leaders in the world to condemn acts of terrorism being carried out in the name of Islam, which in fact as its name tells is a religion of peace as stated in the Quran. HH in fact called for dialogue as the best alternative to acts of destroying lives and properties leading to irreversible regional instability.
His Holiness is a champion in advancing freedom of the individuals; He is a staunch believer in holy matrimony between man and woman living in harmony raising their children as a family, which is the building block of a free and compassionate society. It is for this visibly convincing reason that I admire the Pope as a visionary progressive leader not only as spiritual Father of 1.2 million Catholics but also as a formidable advocate for the respect of human rights as central and essential foundation of modern civilization.
Healing schism: Pope in ‘silent adoration’ in Istanbul Blue Mosque
In His visit to Turkey the Pope was engaged in very busy activities. According to BBC’s Mark Lowden:-
• Pope Francis has stood in “silent adoration” in Istanbul’s Blue Mosque alongside the city’s top Muslim cleric on the second day of his Turkey visit.
• Istanbul is a city that passed from the Byzantines to the Ottomans, a place where religions, empires and cultures collided, the Pope’s message of interfaith dialogue has profound resonance, says the BBC’s Mark Lowden in Istanbul. The Pope’s visit is all about religious symbolism’. There are about 120,000 Christians in Turkey – most of the country’s 80 million citizens are Muslims.
• The Pope’s visit to Istanbul is rich in religious symbolism – the city was capital of the Byzantine Empire. At the Blue Mosque, one of the greatest masterpieces of Ottoman architecture, the Pope turned east towards Mecca, clasped his hands and paused for two minutes as the Grand Mufti of Istanbul, Rahmi Yaran, performed a Muslim prayer.
• Francis and Bartholomew have a strong personal relationship, and discussions are expected to focus on healing the schism in the Christian Church in 1054 that divided Rome and Constantinople.
• For a city that passed from the Byzantines to the Ottomans, a place where religions, empires and cultures collided, the Pope’s message of interfaith dialogue has profound resonance, says the BBC’s Mark Lowden in Istanbul.
• In Ankara on Friday, the Pope stressed this message. He also called for a renewed Middle East peace push, saying the region had “for too long been a theatre of fratricidal wars”.
• Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew I signed a pledge to support Christians in the Middle East.
• Pope Francis has urged Muslim leaders around the world to condemn terrorism carried out in the name of Islam.
• Speaking on board a flight back to Rome, the Pope said that he understood the harm caused by the stereotype that linked Islam with terrorism. He said a “global condemnation” of the violence would help the majority of Muslims dispel this stereotype. The pontiff denounced people who say that “all Muslims are terrorists”, adding that we cannot say that all Christians are fundamentalists.
• In Istanbul, Pope Francis called for an end to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. In a joint declaration, the Pope and Patriarch Bartholomew I said they could not resign themselves to a “Middle East without Christians”.
• Patriarch Bartholomew is the spiritual leader of the world’s 250 million Orthodox Christians, whose Church broke with Rome in 1054 in a schism that divided the Christian world.
• Constantinople, as the modern Turkish city of Istanbul was once known, as the center of Orthodox Christianity until the Ottoman conquest in 1453. Only around 120,000 Christians remain in Turkey, where the vast majority of the 80 million citizens are Muslims.
• In their joint declaration, the two Church leaders said: “We express our common concern for the current situation in Iraq, Syria and the whole Middle East. “Many of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted and have been forced violently from their homes. It even seems that the value of human life has been lost, that the human person no longer matters and may be sacrificed to other interests. And, tragically, all this is met by the indifference of many.”
• The violent conflict in Ukraine this year has accentuated differences between its large Orthodox and Catholic communities.
• The Pope and the patriarch said: “We pray for peace in Ukraine, a country of ancient Christian tradition, while we call upon all parties involved to pursue the path of dialogue and of respect for international law in order to bring an end to the conflict and allow all Ukrainians to live in harmony.”
• As his visit drew to a close, Pope Francis met Turkey’s chief rabbi, whose flock has diminished to just 17,000 people.
President Obama: The CIA Torture Report and other issues
I am delighted by the courageous decision of President to allow the disclosure of “The CIA Torture Report” to the sovereign American people with the right to know the activities of their national security agents – in this particular case the CIA. I am convinced that the disclosure will in the international arena considerably enhance the image of trust of the sole superpower – the U.S.A. – as well as restore worldwide recognition that the Obama Administration is serious about ensuring the supremacy of law and the inviolability of core values enshrined in the Constitution of the United States. I also highly appreciate his resolve to use his constitutional authority in issuing Executive Order that gave temporary relief to eleven million unregistered migrants in the U.S.A. that unleashed uproar of few white racists in the Republican Party.
On the other hand on a negative note I blame the President of continuing with the legacy of his predecessor George W. Bush in turning a blind eye and deaf ear to rampant violations of human rights in Ethiopia supporting the TPLF Predators of democracy in Ethiopia. Ethiopians were encouraged by the passage of HR2003 in the House of Representatives but killed in the Senate by conservative Senators. A series of demonstrations were held by Ethiopians pleading that the Obama Administration put pressure on the brutal TPLF regime by withdrawing direct budget support but to no avail. On the contrary, direct financial and political support kept flowing to prop up the genocidal TPLF regime. One would ardently hope that the President make history this time siding with the overwhelming majority of the Ethiopian people suffering under dictatorship for the last 23+ years.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) took to the Senate floor on Tuesday, December 9, 2014 in the afternoon “to in no uncertain terms condemn the CIA’s torture practices under the Bush administration, arguing that the Senate Intelligence Committee report proved that not only was torture morally objectionable but also ineffective”. The Senator went on to say that the CIA’s practices “stained our national honor”.
In closing: “Revisiting the highlights of Pope Francis’ visit to Turkey”
I was so deeply moved by the merit of the following powerful message of provided on 2014 – 12- 02 by Vatican Radio (after the Pontiff’s return to Rome) that I couldn’t resist excerpting it for ease of reference of readers:-
Quote: Pope Francis has just concluded a three-day pastoral visit to Turkey which took him to the cities of Ankara and Istanbul. It was a journey that had a strong emphasis on ecumenical relations and interfaith dialogue and saw the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I sign a joint declaration pledging to intensify their search for Christian unity and calling for a constructive dialogue with Islam. Our correspondent travelling with the Pope to Turkey was Philippa Hitchens and in an interview with Linda Bordon, she revisited some of the highlights of this papal trip.
Listen to the full interview with Vatican Radio’s correspondent Philippa Hitchens:
Pope Francis’ final engagement before he left Istanbul on Sunday was a meeting with a group of young people including many refugees from conflict zones of the Middle East and Africa. Philippa described the event as a “very poignant” visit and “personal encounter” between the refugees and the Pope that also helps to remind the international community of the huge number of refugees who have flocked to Turkey from neighboring countries, especially Syria.
Turning to the Pope’s many other engagements during this “very busy” visit, Philippa said there were many moving and significant moments. One particularly striking moment for her was the Pope’s gesture of bowing his head and asking for the blessing of the Orthodox Patriarch during a Divine Liturgy at the Patriarchal Church of St. George in Istanbul and she said this spoke volumes about the friendship between the two leaders and the ecumenical dialogue between their Churches.
“How could you not be moved by the moment that Pope Francis bowed his head and asked the Orthodox Patriarch to bless him and the patriarch planted a kiss on his head – a real symbol of the friendship between these two people and also a real symbol of the direction that their Churches are taking a slow but steady progress towards reconciliation and Christian unity between East and West. Unquote
The picture above is a moving manifestation of two Holy Men – the Pope of 2.5 billion Catholics and the Patriarch of 250 million Orthodox Tewahedo Christians in the world – conveying the message of indispensably quintessential unity and the spirit of much needed reconciliation between faiths and political foes. Ethiopia’s religious leaders should emulate the example of the Pope and the Patriarch to mobilize their flocks against the inordinate abuse of human right by the corrupt EPRDF regime.
It is my ardent wish and fervent prayer that the process of reconciliation between the leaders the split Synod of Ethiopia is expedited. There is no reason why the masses should suffer under the godless TPLF misrule in a country where a whopping 96.6% of the Ethiopian people are religious – Orthodox 43.5%, Muslim 33.9%, Protestant 18.5%, traditional 2.7%, Catholic 0.7%, other 0.6% (2007 est.).
In this regard, I applaud Archbishop Meleketsedeke, Secretary General of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Christian Synod in Exile, for His courageous and noble effort in reaching out to all Ethiopians, regardless of their creed, to unite in the struggle to end tyranny in their homeland.
1.I would like to stress that the TPLF/EPRDF is hell-bent on strengthening and refining its mainstay policy of divide-and-rule along ethnic, religious, and economic lines. The only choice for pro-democracy and pro-unity entities in the opposition camp is togetherness and more effective civil-disobedience – inundating the streets and public squares with demonstrations throughout Ethiopia until the repressive ruling Party is dethroned.
2.The tradeoff between liberty and security has been increasingly in favor of the latter at the expense of severely curtailed freedoms of poor taxpayers as in the case of Ethiopia – an ally of the U.S.A. in the fight against terrorism. It is possible that the Meles regime and its successor have collaborated in the infamous crime of rendition spearheaded by the CIA for torture; the other is the irrational invasion of Somalia by the Meles army leading to the overthrow of the Moderate Islamic Court regime thus giving rise to the Al Shaba extremists (linked to Al Qaeda) causing endless regional instability in the Horn of Africa and beyond – creating a haven for greedy tyrants with insatiable lust for power.
3.The disclosure of the CIA Torture Report is a laudable decision for restoring confidence in moral leadership of the United States. Thanks to President Obama for authorizing its disclosure and Senators McCain and Frankenstein for their statements to condemn it. The world needs governments in which leaders do not torture their citizens!
4.It is my ardently hope that President Obama would make history this time siding with the overwhelming majority of the Ethiopian people suffering under dictatorship for the last 23+ years – so that:- (a) all the tens of thousands of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience are immediately and unconditionally released from prison; (b) basic freedom of expression is allowed as a matter of natural right; and (c) an independent electoral board is established by law to oversee free, fair, transparent, and credible counting and reporting of votes cast at the polls.
5.Ethiopia’s religious leaders should emulate the example of Pope Francis and the Patriarch Bartholomew I to mobilize their flocks against the inordinate abuses of human rights by the corrupt EPRDF regime dominated by TPLF blind to the 21st century issue that “respect for human rights must be central to modern civilization”.
LONG LIVE ETHIOPIA!!!