100 years on, is history repeating itself?

A century ago, a crisis in eastern Europe escalated into the first world war. As a result of agreements and affiliations, what started as a regionalised dispute between the Austrian empire and Serbia quickly spread to engulf the major European powers. The Germans backed the Austrians with their dispute with Serbia. Serbia, also known as the Southern Slavs (from which came the name Yugoslavia later) was backed by Russia, its Slavic cousin.

As the conflict began to widen, Germany, believing it could quickly nullify France before turning its attention to attacking Russia, invaded Belgium in its move against France. This then involved Britain, who had a previous agreement to defend Belgium in the event of attack. And so the horrors of World War 1 began. These things have a habit of spiraling out of control once events are in play.

What is happening in Ukraine at the moment, for me, has ominously familiar overtones of the above train of events. Ukraine is a country that has increasingly faced in two directions  since the fall of the Soviet empire in 1991. To generalise, half of the country wants closer ties with the West, in the form of the EU and NATO, while the other half wants closer ties with its neighbour to the north and east, Russia. When I visited Kiev in 2011, this became quite apparent to me. The situation is complicated, since Ukraine in general, and Kiev in particular, has significant historical and cultural ties with Russia. Indeed, Kiev was the original capital of Russia, once known as Kievan Rus.

Independence Square in Kiev, September 2001, a far cry from the bloodshed and chaos of recent weeks.

Independence Square in Kiev, September 2011, a far cry from the bloodshed and chaos of recent weeks.

So the recent overthrow of the Ukrainian president Yanukovich by a popular uprising of the pro-western population is seen as a Fascist coup d’etat by the pro-Russians. And now that the Russian President Putin is aggressively mobilising troops, the situation between Ukraine and Russia is turning very ugly indeed, and has the potential to spiral further out of control just as it did in 1914.

Once again, Britain finds itself in an agreement to defend another country (for Belgium 1914 read Ukraine 2014). The Budapest Memorandum of 1994 was an agreement that Britain, the US, Russia and Ukraine signed in order to protect the territorial integrity of Ukraine in the post-Soviet period.

Only God Himself knows whether history will be repeated, but it seems clear that the potential for a major conflict is shockingly present in the events currently taking place. A former British ambassador, Sir Tony Brenton, has been quoted as saying that if Russia does indeed invade Ukraine, and if the Budapest Memorandum is legally binding, ‘then it’s very difficult to avoid the conclusion that we’re going to go to war with Russia’.

Is that really a possibility? Surely not, you’d think. Certainly you’d hope not. But as has been mentioned above, events historically have shown how easily and horrifically they can lurch out of control. Let’s hope and earnestly pray this doesn’t happen again.

On Holocaust Memorial day, a warning of rising European anti-semitism

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The undoubted rise of anti-semitism in many European cities is being partly driven by the increasing influence of aggressive and sometimes violent sections of the growing Muslim populations, according to this article on the Church And State website written by Timon Dias, and this article from the Daily Telegraph.

If it’s true that parts of modern Europe are in effect looking the other way through fear for their own safety when their fellow Jews are targeted, then we are seriously back in the 1930’s. And when politicians say “it must never happen again” referring to the Holocaust, but do nothing to prevent it happening in their own countries, then we are in a dangerous position, and Edmund Burke’s statement, “all that is required for evil to flourish in the world is for good men to do nothing,” has never been more apt.

Much is made of the alleged difference between anti-semitism and anti-zionism, as if the latter is acceptable. However, a lot of what is called anti-zionism (aka anti-Israelism) is simply the socially acceptable face of anti-semitism.

On this Holocaust Memorial Day, it’s important for us to realise what is happening in our midst so that we can actively speak out and not remain silent in the face of a repetition of history.

No continuing city

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This Scripture has struck me afresh over the last few weeks. It’s a reminder that, as believers, we are to keep an eternal focus, to realise that in this life we are building for the next, that this life is temporary and fleeting, but eternity with the Lord is forever and real. As Jesus said,

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

The text in Hebrews 13 picks up the comments made about Abraham in Hebrews 11, that he lived “looking forward to the city which has fixed and firm foundations, whose Architect and Builder is God.” (Amplified Bible), but it doesn’t leave it there. The next verses draw a very practical conclusion – because we have no continuing city here, we are to continually praise and thank God through Jesus, and to not forget to do good and to share with those in need.

I love the link between the city that God is designing and building for us to inhabit in eternity, with us actually doing good here and now. We can conclude that we are to be creative, as He is, in doing good here whilst all the time keeping our eye on the bigger picture, the grand prize of our continuing city that is to come.

Part of that “doing good” is how we build our towns and cities and societies. Jesus used an architectural picture to distinguish between a foolish man, who ignores His teachings, and a wise man, who builds his life around Jesus’ teachings. The foolish man is like someone who builds his house on the sand, and the wise man like someone who builds his house on the rock (Mat.7). The application is first to our lives, of course, but I believe it also applies to what we actually do in our lives. In other words, build wisely.

However we express our “doing good”, and it will of course vary for all of us, I believe this should reflect the inherent creativity and sustainability of God’s design in creation, and that ultimately, whatever our “doing good” is, it should benefit society in general (the people who interact with, use or experience it).

This is why, in this blog, as well as reflecting on Biblical themes, teachings and issues, I like to feature innovative and creative design and solutions that make life better. As it says at the top, it’s just a varied collection of my own personal thoughts and comments, but I hope you find it interesting and useful.

A Dangerous Deal

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Last Sunday, 24th November, the so-called P5+1 group of nations – the US, the UK, Russia, China, France and Germany – reached an agreement with Iran over Iran’s long-term plan to acquire a nuclear capability. The deal was naturally hailed as a breakthrough by those involved, but in actual fact will only lead to a more dangerous situation.

The deal provides Iran with a cessation of the punitive sanctions regime, allowing $7 billion of relief, as well as the time needed to continue to develop a nuclear bomb capability.

Although President Obama declared “Diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure” and Secretary of State John Kerry claimed it will make the region safer, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet: “What was agreed last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement, it is a historic mistake. Today the world has become a much more dangerous place, because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world.”

There’s no doubt that what has just happened is akin to the “Peace in our Time” declaration by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in 1983. I believe this deal could well parallel that declaration in 1938. The Iranian leadership (as clearly different to the majority of the Iranian people) has stated many times it is intent on destroying the Jewish nation and is clearly pursuing a nuclear capability.

This is chillingly similar to Hitler and the Nazi’s in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Hitler stated openly in print his plan to destroy the Jewish people. The political classes in the West refused to believe he mean what he had said, and instead, they pursued a policy of appeasement. It took a politician of strength and honesty to stand up and be counted. Winston Churchill spoke clearly against this policy and was berated for it at the time. History ultimately showed how prescient Churchill was. I believe Israel is blessed with a similarly bold and honest leader today, even though he is belittled as a war-monger by many sceptics.

Khamenei’s regime remains committed to wiping Israel ‘off the page of history’ because of the regime’s deranged, psychopathic hatred of Jews whom it regards as not human at all but, in Khamenei’s recent words, like ‘rabid dogs’. The fact that the US, UK and EU casually dismissed such chilling words suggests that they are similarly indifferent to what history tells us is the terrible fate that follows from such words, unless those who utter them are stopped.”

Melanie Philips

We should be under no illusion of what is happening. Once again, an enemy of the Jews threatens to destroy them and the major nations refuses to deal strongly with the threat. As Christians and believers in the God of the Bible, we need to recognise this and stand with Israel and the Jews.

“Netanyahu is in a state of shocked disbelief,” feels “misled” by Obama team. Rapidly intensifying crisis in U.S.-Israel relations developing due to disastrous Iran nuclear deal.

Joel C. Rosenberg's Blog

U.S. President Obama delivers remarks at the White House in Washington(Netanya, Israel) — I landed in Israel on Friday afternoon amidst a rapidly intensifying crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations.

The Obama administration is preparing to cut a disastrously bad nuclear bargain with Iran that relieves enormous economic pressure on Tehran without requiring the mullahs to dismantle a single centrifuge. The Israelis are stunned. Top officials feel betrayed by the White House, including by reports that the White House has secretly been easing sanctions for months. There have long been tensions between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. There have been times I have  feared a “train wreck” between the two. Hopefully, the dynamic will change for the better, and quickly. But at the moment things are going from bad to worse in a hurry here.

Please pray that the terrible deal with Iran would be derailed for a real deal that ends Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Please pray that the White House changes direction and that…

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