Thousands of Christians from across Iraq have attended the funeral of murdered Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho - as the Pope called for an end to the massacres of the beleaguered minority. The body of the Archbishop of Mosul was discovered near the northern Iraqi city on Thursday last week, almost two weeks after Islamists kidnapped the prelate, who was in poor health.
The archbishop is the highest-ranking Christian cleric to have been killed since the start of the Iraq insurgency in 2003.
Last June Fr Ragheed Ganni and three deacons were murdered in Mosul after driving home from Sunday Mass. Fr Ganni had returned to his native country from Italy after the American invasion, despite being warned of the dangers. "The situation here is worse than hell," Fr Ganni wrote to a former professor the day before he was killed.
Chaldean Catholics are the largest of Iraq's Christian denominations, among the oldest Christian communities in the world. Half of the pre-war population of 1.2 million have fled the country since the US-led invasion, finding themselves victims of Islamic extremists, kidnapping gangs and Kurdish nationalists alike.
In January Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki assured Mgr Francis Assisi Chullikatt, the Vatican's ambassador to Iraq, that the government was committed to the safety of Christians after six bomb attacks on churches on January 6.
Dr Suha Rassam, spokeswoman for charity Iraqi Christians in Need, said: "Christians will now be even more in fear of their lives from Islamic fundamentalists. The only way for the Church in the Mosul area to survive might be if it goes underground, like it did in the first and second centuries," she said. "This way, Mass and other services would be held in secret and priests go about their duties clandestinely. Over the last eight months, attacks on Christians have been escalating. This is not a situation anyone would want, but the Christian population is living each day in terror of being kidnapped or murdered. When the Church is facing persecution of this magnitude, then desperate measures might have to be taken."
As my correspondent says : "Imagine if the scenario was reversed - a small Muslim minority was being shot at by Protestant and Catholic gangs, forced to convert to Christianity, their daughters kidnapped for forced conversions and mosques blown up? We'd never hear the end of it". It's true. I seem to remember that when a Christian militia massacred Muslims thirty years ago it got, not unreasonably, quite a lot of publicity. Even massacres of Muslims that didn't happen get big air.
Here's another story that would get more publicity were the faiths and/or ethnicities the other way round, from (where else ?) Burnley.
A GANG of youths are being hunted after a series of attacks on teenagers on their way to school. Pupils at Blessed Trinity RC College's Ormerod Road site in Burnley have been assaulted in a series of unprovoked attacks. The attacks took place on Wednesday morning in Ormerod Road and Leyland Road at about 9am while pupils were walking to school. Four boys were punched in the face and a teenage boy was threatened with a weapon, forcing him to hand over his mobile phone.
Police said that the all five victims were approached and threatened separately while walking from the Burnley College area to the school.
The park outside Burnley College is where Mohammed Shafiq was killed by an Asian gang while defending his son not long ago.
The gang is said to be a group of six to seven asian and white males and police are appealing for anyone who may have seen the gang or been a victim of an attack to come forward ... The school have contacted the parents of the children attacked and have been patrolling the streets near the school with police at the beginning and end of the school day.
From the comments : "ITS AN ASIAN GANG WITH 1 WHITE LAD,MY BROTHER WAS ATTACKED BY THEM.."
Obviously different in Burnley. Round our way, all the Muslim parents send their kids to the Catholic comp, where fisting is still off the curriculum and little Pashmina is unlikely to be told "now, unroll the condom over the banana". I've often wondered how the government's gay-friendly education policies would fare at secular schools with a large number of Muslim students. Now we know.
Two primary schools have withdrawn storybooks about same sex relationships after objections from Muslim parents. Up to 90 gathered at the schools to complain about the books which are aimed at pupils as young as five. One story, titled King & King, is a fairytale about a prince who turns down three princesses before marrying one of their brothers. Another named And Tango Makes Three features two male penguins who fall in love at a New York zoo.
Bristol City Council said the two schools had been using the books to ensure they complied with gay rights laws which came into force last April. They were intended to help prevent homophobic bullying, it said. But the council has since removed the books from Easton Primary School and Bannerman Road Community School, both in Bristol. A book and DVD titled That's a Family!, which teaches children about different family set-ups including gay or lesbian parents, has also been withdrawn.
The decision was made to enable the schools to "operate safely" after parents voiced their concerns at meetings.
"Operate safely" ? What could they mean ?
(I completely support the Muslim parents. But if they'd been Christian parents, they'd have been more likely to get a visit from the police than a total victory. It's also an interesting sign of the times. How long before Christian parents choose Muslim-dominated schools to shield their kids from that kind of education ? I'm sure there's a word for that sort of status).
Kurds v Asians in Dewsbury - again.
Interesting Sunday Times pieces on manufacturing in Britain :
In the past 10 years manufacturing output has risen by 2.8% – in total, not per year.
And in Germany. How come the Germans aren't in it for the short term buck but the long haul ? It's culture, I tell you !
Last year manufacturing output grew by more than 6%. Exports rose more than 8%, making Germany the world export leader, ahead of even China, for the fifth year running, with total trade of €969 billion (£758 billion). Overall, the German economy expanded in 2007 by 2.5%, with external trade accounting for 1.4% of this growth.
In the past decade exports have been responsible for 80% of German GDP growth, in contrast to Britain, where consumer spending has easily outpaced manufacturing growth.
Germany is strongest in the emerging markets. Exports to Brazil, Russia, China and India grew by 31% in 2007 from €43 billion to €63 billion. Germany has also invested heavily overseas - its manufacturing companies account for 15% of Brazil’s economic output.
Germany’s manufacturing might is down to family-owned firms that do not subscribe to Anglo-Saxon notions of “shareholder value”. They are paternal towards their workforces, the products they make, the interests of their customers and the sustainability of their companies.
A study of more than 1,000 such firms by Bernd Venohr of the Berlin School of Economics discovered that most are among the top three world leaders in their chosen markets, from mobile-phone ring tones to steel rolling mills.
“A family-owned business can adopt a long-term approach.
They do not face short-term pressure to maximise profits. Typical for these firms are classic products that are continually being refined. I estimate they invest between two and three times as much in research and development as comparable firms in the same sector abroad,” he said.
Thomas Hune of the Federation of German Industries added: “The motor industry is a good illustration. It is comprised of thousands of small companies that are the ones developing advanced technologies.
“This is not the case in Britain, where everything is outsourced. As a result, there is no core competence. The Germans have done their homework. They are competitive, efficient, innovative and, with the label ‘made in Germany’, renowned for quality.”
And the sad story of Glasgow benefit culture. This place was once one of the workshops of the world.
A third of residents in Ruchill and Possilpark claim either incapacity benefits or severe disability allowance, three times the national average; they are also six times more likely to die from a drugs overdose.
In Parkhead and Dalmarnock, 60.7% of children are raised in unemployed households; incapacity benefit is claimed by a third of the residents, the highest proportion of any neighbourhood in Glasgow.
Other communities blighted by high rates of unemployment include Sighthill, Roystonhill and Germiston where 59.2% of children live in workless households. In the city centre, including the affluent Merchant City, the figure is about 50%.
Across the city, almost a third of the population is on sickness benefits, with almost half “economically inactive” in some areas.
The situation has been blamed on the current benefits system that allows some 70,000 British households to receive more than £25,000 a year. About 20,000 of these are claiming more than £30,000 in benefits every year.