Fifty Things That Caught My Eye: Ethiopia, Pope Francis to Iraq & Lent (February 22, 2021)

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An Ethiopian Orthodox Priest holds a cross during the Meskel Festival, to commemorate the discovery of the true cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified on, in Addis Ababa, in 2016. (Tiksa Negeri/Reuters)

I’ve been letting these accumulate, so if you’re looking for something to read today, here’s plenty!

1. ‘Horrible’: Witnesses recall massacre in Ethiopian holy city

For weeks, rumors circulated that something ghastly had occurred at the Church of St. Mary of Zion in late November, with estimates of several hundred people killed. But with Tigray cut off from the world and journalists blocked from entering, little could be verified as Ethiopian and allied fighters pursued the Tigray region’s fugitive leaders.

The deacon, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he remains in Axum, said he helped count the bodies — or what was left after hyenas fed. He gathered victims’ identity cards and assisted with burials in mass graves.


3. The Guardian: Fury at ‘do not resuscitate’ notices given Covid patients with learning disabilities

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Edel Harris, Mencap’s chief executive, said: “Throughout the pandemic many people with a learning disability have faced shocking discrimination and obstacles to accessing healthcare, with inappropriate Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) notices put on their files and cuts made to their social care support.

“It’s unacceptable that within a group of people hit so hard by the pandemic, and who even before Covid died on average over 20 years younger than the general population, many are left feeling scared and wondering why they have been left out.

4. Burma’s Catholic bishops call for peace and dialogue as two protestors killed

“The heartrending scenes of youth dying in the streets wound the conscience of a nation,” the bishops said in a Feb. 21 letter.

“This nation has a reputation of being called as a golden land. Let not its sacred ground be soaked in fraternal blood,” they said. “Sadness of parents burying their children has to stop. Mothers’ tears are never a blessing to any nation.”


You can still buy it at Barnes & Noble.


7. Daniel Hannan: The China genocide amendment. Trade sanctions punish the innocent — and make fortunes for oppressive regimes

At the very least, trade sanctions – including the suspension of a free trade agreement, which we might consider the softest trade sanction – push people in the targeted state towards their leaders. One reason why Communism survived in Cuba when it fell in most of the world was that American sanctions had created a siege mentality. The embargo allowed Fidel Castro to tell his countrymen that their poverty was caused, not by Marxist economics, but by the yanqui blockade.

8. Interview with a Persecuted Christian Convert from Iran

9. Alex Galitsky: Christian Heritage At Risk as U.N. Watches in Silence

10. The Sun: Ten thousand ISIS fighters poised for new wave of terror after bloodthirsty jihadis exploit Covid to rebuild

11. National Catholic Register: Pope Francis to Break New Ground in Iraq, But Is Visit Coming at the Right Time?

With the stakes so high, some fear the Pope’s visit will be primarily political, a chance to further interreligious dialogue and his “Human Fraternity” initiative, stemming from his “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” signed in Abu Dhabi in 2019, but lacking any concrete advocacy for the persecuted. The Pope, for example, will only make a fleeting visit to Mosul, missing a chance to visit the only open church in the city, and spending just a few hours in total in the Nineveh Plains region.

Interreligious dialogue is therefore seen by many Iraqi Christians as largely irrelevant and even a form of appeasement. “It is greeted with wry humor by Christians who were driven from their homes, had their churches desecrated, and their women and children sold into slavery,” said Father Kiely. “It’s seen as a Western liberal preoccupation with little understanding of the situation on the ground.” 

12. Voices of Iraqis awaiting Pope Francis: He comes to say, ‘I am with you’

Dominican Fr. Majd Kamel Makdisi: “The pope is someone who watches over his flock and has love for them. He has compassion for his wounded people. This love made the pope make the initiative to come here and take the risk. Despite his age and his health condition, he wants to come to check on his people.

He comes here to tell us: “I am with you and I am in solidarity with you. I love you despite the pandemic and everything else.”

With the hard times we are living in now there is a message of solidarity, brotherhood and love. He comes to express this message with his official and personal presence. With this, he tries to be close to everyone. He is the pope of the poor.”

13. Rocket attacks in Erbil represent latest challenge to Pope’s Iraq trip

On Monday, a rocket attack on the airport in Erbil killed a U.S. military contractor and wounded six others, including a U.S. service member. Footage by local news outlet Rudaw shared on Twitter shows that at least two rockets fell on a nearby residential area.

Responsibility for Monday’s attack was claimed by an Iraqi armed group called Guardian of Blood Brigades.

14. Marty Makary: We’ll Have Herd Immunity by April

There is reason to think the country is racing toward an extremely low level of infection. As more people have been infected, most of whom have mild or no symptoms, there are fewer Americans left to be infected. At the current trajectory, I expect Covid will be mostly gone by April, allowing Americans to resume normal life.

15. Christopher F. Rufo: Bad Education

In practical terms, it is unclear how these “antiracist” programs will translate into academic outcomes. The gap between rhetoric and reality at schools such as William Kelley is almost beyond comprehension: the vast majority of the ten- and eleven-year-olds marching for the utopia of “black communism” can barely read and write. Rather than come to terms with the pedagogical failure of Philadelphia public schools, however, educators have shifted the blame to “systemic racism” and promises of “revolution.”

That students at schools such as William Kelley could depart virtually bereft of basic literacy is a tragedy for them and a shame for the teachers and adults promising to “plant the seeds for a new world.” They have condemned their students to join the ranks of the more than half of all adult Philadelphians who are “functionally illiterate.”


17. Mary Eberstadt: Mr. President, Your Allies Are Coming for Your Fellow Catholics

Mr. President, the Catechism, for its part, also opposes sex abuse, pornography and divorce. By the standards of the SPLC, every Catholic in America who accepts the Magisterium now qualifies as part of a “hate” group. So does every Catholic monastery, convent, school and archdiocese. So do Catholic soup kitchens, old-age homes, refugee resettlement programs, adoption agencies and other charitable operations run by the Church.

Mr. President, are you on board with the SPLC’s denigrations of your fellow believers?

. . .

As the first president with a photo of Pope Francis in his office, you should be the last to ignore what that same pontiff has called “the challenge posed by legislators who, in the name of some badly interpreted principle of tolerance, end up preventing citizens from freely expressing and practicing their own religious convictions in a peaceful and legitimate way.”

18. Karl Zinsmeister: The Compound Fractures of Identity Politics

The color-transcending idealism of Martin Luther King, Jr. has given way to a prickly race consciousness, elaborate mechanisms of protection to make people feel “safe,” and government interventions that categorize people by skin tone. Relentless new concepts of collective guilt insist that “white identity is inherently racist,” as celebrated diversity trainer Robin DiAngelo puts it, and that “white people do not exist outside the system of white supremacy.” The only acceptable approach is to admit one’s deep “implicit racism” and the nation’s “systemic racism,” leading to “white deference.”

The old liberal argument was that integration of whites and blacks would erode fears and resentments, just as bigotry toward Irish and Italian citizens evaporated as they mixed into American society. Today, that approach is said to betray a genocidal desire to erase the cultures of people of color. Prescribing education, self-improvement, and upward mobility as tools of life improvement is “the racism of assimilationism,” says Ibram X. Kendi, today’s favorite woke author.

19. NYC mayoral hopefuls quiet on COVID-19 nursing home deaths

Republican mayoral hopeful Curtis Sliwa blasted what he described as the Democrats’ overwhelming cowardice. 

“You can’t be mayor of New York City and be afraid of Cuomo,” the Guardian Angels founder and radio talk-show host said. 

”They know he’s on the ropes. Show some chutzpah!” 

20. Margot Cleveland: Why The ‘Equality Act’ Democrats Want to Pass This Week Should Really Be Called The ‘Destroy Our Daughters Act’

21. Nicole Gelinas: Soaring Crime Is Killing NYC’s Subway System

22. Charles Moore: Lockdowns can destroy the lives they’re meant to protect

23. Jared Genser: How Biden Can Liberate Americans Shackled Abroad

The Biden administration should cut off aid to Egypt until it stops wrongfully imprisoning, injuring and killing U.S. citizens. As Mr. Biden tweeted from the campaign trail in July, there should be “no more blank checks for Trump’s ‘favorite dictator’ ” — a reference to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The Biden administration can go even further and punish senior officials responsible for these abuses by imposing targeted sanctions and denying visas for their family members to visit, attend school or work in America.

24. Catholic Herald: Court frees kidnapped Pakistani Christian girl

A 12-year-old Pakistani Christian girl who had been kidnapped, held in bondage, forced to convert and marry a 45-year-old man, is home after a court ruled in her favour.

Faisalabad District and Sessions Court ruled Tuesday that Farah Shaheen should be allowed to return to her father and siblings. Judge Rana Masood Akhtar declared the girl’s marriage to 45-year-old Khizar Ahmed Ali (Hayat) invalid, saying it had not been registered with the local authorities. The judge also declared inconclusive the results of court-ordered medical tests giving Ms Shaheen’s age as 16 or 17.

25. Chuck Donovan: Socialism’s Disturbing Record on Abortion

President Joe Biden has indicated non-support for “Medicare for All” plans, but not because of abortion funding. He does not object to China’s dictatorial socialist model, telling a Chinese audience in 2011, “Your policy has been one which I fully understand — I’m not second-guessing — of one child per family.”

. . .

Socialism, statism, and abortion on demand go hand in hand. Social conservatives have every reason, contra Spanberger, to make sure the “s” word is heard again and again.

26. Naomi Schaefer Riley: Did Boomers Break the Nuclear Family?

As entertaining as Boomers may be, it seems to me that Andrews is more concerned with clever quips than with any serious assessment of what the Boomer generation has done wrong.

27. Fred Saberi: In Iran, I was taught to hate Israel and Jews. Then I watched Schindler’s List.

This should be an important lesson for dictatorial regimes like Iran, North Korea and others: You cannot deny and distort history for your own purposes. You cannot promote nefarious goals such as the destruction of another nation and country by using the media and propaganda in schools and universities and infecting the minds of children and adolescents.

Look at me! Today, my respect for Israel and its legitimacy shows that you, the Islamic Republic of Iran, have utterly failed.

28. EPPC Scholars Sound Alarm on Becerra Nomination, Warn of Threats to Life, Conscience, and Religious Liberty

29. Ann Wagner, Steve Scalise: Protecting Newborns Is Common Sense. Time for Congress to Take Action.

During a recent Senate vote, 52 senators — all Republicans except for two Democrats — voted in support of the Born-Alive Act. In the plainest terms possible, this means that 48 Democrats voted to deny babies in the hands of an abortionist a legal right to medical care. That’s obscene. It’s shameful. It should be front-page news.

How extreme are Democrats in holding this radical pro-abortion view? Look at it this way: 77% of Americans support the Born-Alive Act, while only 4% of Senate Democrats voted for the bill. Democrats are wildly out of step with the views of everyday Americans.

30. Sarah Bassil: Advocating for Persecuted Christians Should Be a Non-Partisan Issue

Let us put down our party banners and unite under the common banner of our collective humanity, and protect the 340 million Christians who face persecution annually. As a nation, we must not view such a critical human issue through a partisan lens, as religious persecution is an attack on human conscience, regardless of political affiliation. The Islamic State jihadists did not ask Iraqi and Syrian Christians whom they voted for prior to carrying out acts of genocide, and neither should we ask American citizens the same when advocating for these ancient and vulnerable Christian communities.

31. School Board Mocks Parents Who Support Reopening: ‘They Want their Babysitters Back’

These are difficult times, and I’m sure it’s frustrating to deal with irate parents. But that’s the board of education’s job. Its members are supposed to be accountable to families, whose tax dollars fund the school system. And parents have every right to call for public school teachers — whose salaries are paid via funds that are forcibly extracted from citizens whether or not these citizens plan to make use of the services — to get back to the work of watching their kids.


33. John Stonestreet, Maria Baer: Redeeming Gender in an Increasingly Gender-Hostile World

The biblical vision of male and female is beautiful. Men and women were made differently but point to the same dynamic God. When God created both Adam and Eve, He said they both were created in His Image and were “very good.” It’s notable that before the author of Genesis reveals Eve’s name, he reveals she also was made in the image of God.

34. Katie Prejean McGrady: In defense of hope

As believers in a good God who abundantly provides, we wait in joyful hope. We’re invited to trust in what God has promised. And what is that promise? In what do we hope? Perhaps the hope of new opportunities or the promise of healing and peace. Maybe the hope of being together, of normalcy and routine once again.

Every Sunday we hear the priest say, in the middle of the Our Father, that we wait in joyful hope for something very specific: the coming of our savior, Jesus Christ.

35. Masterpiece Cakeshop attorney: No, religious freedom for wedding vendors isn’t harmful

36. Kay S. Hymowitz: We Didn’t Start the Fire

Generational studies are a fine genre; shared historical environments do have a great impact on our perceptions. But generations don’t always stay in their assigned lanes. Boomers did not invent their rebellion ex nihilo. Philosopher Herbert Marcuse (born in 1898), psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908), and media theorist/futurist Marshall McLuhan (1911) had a powerful influence on their thinking—and Rousseau was in the air, whether they knew it or not. Feminist boomers took cues from Simone de Beauvoir (1908), Betty Friedan (1921), and Gloria Steinem (1934). Andrews blames the boomers for the porn-a-thon that has become an accepted part of American leisure. But as she herself demonstrates, it was Justice William O. Douglas who, in 1966, opened the door to that outcome when he decided that the long-banned Fanny Hill had redeeming social value. Douglas was born in 1898.

37. Samuel J. Abrams: Married Americans Are Different

Marriage affects other views about American society in very positive ways. Consider “the American Dream”: 87 percent of married Americans believe that they are either living (46 percent) or are on the way to achieving the American Dream (41 percent). These numbers are appreciably higher than their unmarried counterparts. Just 24 percent of singles say they are living the American Dream, and only 19 percent of unmarried, partnered Americans think that they are living the American Dream. Even including respondents who describe themselves as on the way to achieving the American Dream, the numbers are still notably lower for unmarried Americans.

38. Tweet by Brad Wilcox: 


40. The New Republic: The Darker Story Just Outside the Lens of Framing Britney Spears

There is a broader, systemic issue at play. Spears isn’t an anomaly, and in actuality, conservatorship has few safeguards and checks. Legal personhood is regularly stripped from disabled people through conservatorship, and nobody blinks an eye. The biggest difference is that Spears is famous. The unusual part of the story is that people are paying attention.

41. Tevi Troy: A Radio Man and His Presidents

Presidents could love Rush Limbaugh or hate him, but they could not ignore him.

42. George Weigel: Exodus, Lent, and Becoming a True Nation

43. Father Seán Connolly: The Feast of the Holy Face and repaying our Lord’s Infinite Love

Devotion to the Holy Face is greatly needed in our times. It is a work of reparation and as Pope Blessed Pius IX said, “Reparation is a Work destined to save society.” Just about every faithful soul in the pew on Sunday knows the pain of having family members who are far from the Lord.

44. Tish Harrison Warren: Give Rest to the Weary

Jesus calls the weary to himself. He does not call the self-sufficient, nor those with the proper religious credentials or perfect, Instagram-able lives. He calls those exhausted from toil, from just getting through the day. He calls those burdened with heavy loads, those weighed down by sin and sorrow. It is these, not the confident and successful, to whom Jesus says, “Come to me.”

45. High school sweethearts, both 67, die from COVID-19 just three hours apart at separate hospitals

46. New York Times: Shlomo Hillel, Who Helped 120,000 Jews Flee Iraq, Dies at 97

47. The Station Churches of Rome on Vimeo

48. Heloise Wood: What Jane Austen can teach us about resilience

When you actually dig into the writing, you find Austen offers more unexpected consolations. Beyond their preoccupation with love and romance, there is a layer of steel and a celebration of resilience in her books that may well inspire us as we read them in these deeply uncertain and circumscribed times.

49. Dana Perino: A Lenten reflection and five ways to bring serenity and joy this season

50. Arthur C. Brooks: What You Gain When You Give Things Up

Lent lovers are not just oddballs. The happiness benefits of sacrifice are backed up by plenty of social science. In fact, examining Lent can lead us to a number of new strategies to be happier, whether we observe a religious season of sacrifice or not.

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