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LGBT ban: Slovenian PM backs Hungary

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Slovenia — Another political leader from central Europe is supporting Hungary’s dedication to traditional family values.

Slovenian prime minister Janez Janša, 62, backed his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban, 58, last week after the latter faced heavy criticism from fellow EU leaders regarding a law that bans LGBT promotion in school education material and TV content for people under 18.

During a joint press conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Janša emphasized the importance of respecting the differences and national sovereignty of each member state.

“There are differences that need to be taken into account and respected and I think there’s a clear division between national and European competences,” he said.

Insisting that perception of European values differs from member state to member state, Janša added:

“If you now judge a person based on imaginary European values which everyone perceives differently, and dual standards are used, then I think that this is the fastest road to collapse.”

Hungary’s controversial law was passed at the Hungarian National Assembly on June 15, with 157 votes to one. It generated heated debate at the EU summit two weeks ago, with a number of prominent EU leaders expressing their disapproval.

This included European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who qualified the Hungarian bill as “a shame” and said that it “goes against all the fundamental values of the European Union.” This opinion was also expressed by German Chancellor, Angela Merkel who said in a statement to the Bundestag: “I believe this law is wrong. It is incompatible with my idea of politics.”

The mid-June debate took an even more controversial turn when Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands stated: “It’s my intention on this point to bring Hungary to its knees.” He even went as far as to suggest that Hungary should either “accept LGBT rights” or “leave the EU.”

His sentiments were echoed by a former president of the Council of the European Union, Portuguese prime minister Antonio Costa, who said: “It’s not acceptable that those who don’t accept EU values are part of the European Union.”

Emmanuel Macron took a more cautious approach to the question, stating: “We now have democratically elected leaders supported by their people who are taking decisions which are against the fundamental values of Europe. This is no simple issue.”

In response to Rutte’s suggestion that Hungary should leave the EU, the French president added: “When you have an issue with a member state, you solve it by maintaining contact. If you exclude someone as soon as there is a problem you will lead people (…) to think that their values are closer to the values of conservative Russia What a regression!”

Last week, Poland seemed to be the only EU member state to back Hungary. The nation’s education minister, Przemysław Czarnek, told Polish conservative magazine Sieci on Monday that “we should copy these regulations on Polish soil in their entirety!” But with Slovenia assuming the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union last Thursday, Hungary may have found a significant new ally.

Beginning his presidency of the Council, the Slovenian prime minister expressed his concerns for the stability of the Union over issues such as these, echoing president Macron’s statement on the danger of excluding member states from the political arena. In doing so, Janša made an obvious reference to Brexit.

“If the debate on the future of the European Union excludes people in advance, then I think that the European Union will indeed continue to shrink,” he said.

In 2015, Slovenia went back and forth over the question of so-called LGBT rights. A law legalizing same-sex “marriage” and adoption by homosexual couples was passed in March of that year. It was overturned following a popular referendum which took place that December.

A bill was eventually passed in 2016 allowing civil unions, granting all privileges of marriage to same-sex couples with the exception of joint adoption. A petition for a second referendum was launched, but this time it was not allowed to go ahead, and the bill eventually passed into law.

The will of the Slovenian people, clearly expressed in the December 2015 referendum, echoes that of many other central European nations on LGBT issues, including same-sex “marriage” and adoption by same-sex couples. These nations include Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia, and Lithuania.

In addition to their take on LGBT issues, these countries share strong historical and cultural similarities. All are currently EU member states, all were once part of the Soviet Bloc, and many are historically Christian nations that witnessed a strong resurgence of Christian and conservative values in their social and political life following the fall of the Soviet Union. This phenomenon can also be observed in Russia.

This shared identity has created a rift between western EU member states and the rest of the EU which French president Macron described as a new “East-West divide” at the EU summit.

In a gesture of solidarity towards Hungary and Poland, Slovenian Prime Minister Janša insisted on the value of central and eastern European countries for the EU, stating: “The EU without central Europe is not a European union – it will be just a shell and we should all be aware of it.”

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Myanmar: Catholic priest, catechist abducted by armed group

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An armed resistance group opposed to Myanmar’s military junta in the western state of Chin has seized a Catholic priest and a catechist travelling with him.

Members of the Chinland Defence Force (CDF) seized Father Noel Hrang Tin Thang along with a catechist while they were travelling from Surkhua town to Chin state capital, Hakha on July 26, UCA News reported. Both belong to Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Surkhua in Hakha Diocese.

Bishop’s appeal
Local Bishop Lucius Hre Kung of Hakha has called for their release, expressing concern for their safety and well-being nearly a week after their abduction.

“I call on the concerned leaders of the CDF to immediately release the pair,” Bishop Hre Kung said in a letter released on August 1. Local Catholics have also expressed concern and said prayers for the immediate release of the cleric and the catechist.

Father Tin Thang has been helping numerous of displaced people including the elderly, women and children who took refuge in the parish following clashes in early June, according to sources.

Allegations
Following the letter of Bishop Hre Kung, the CDF said the priest and catechist were in good health.

The group accused the priest of giving information to the military junta, getting medical support from the junta and urging locals to receive the junta’s support. The group said it had warned the clergy not to contact the military’s security force, and they had to arrest Father Tin Thang as he failed to comply. “We will release them only after our demands of transferring the priest from Surkhua to Hakha and signing letters of recommendation from two church leaders are fulfilled,” the group said.

However, according to the Italian news agency, AGI, the priest and the catechist were arrested in Hakha while buying medicines for the people of Surkhua. The local community denies Father Tin Thang had any involvement with the security force.

Father Paul Thla Kio, a priest of Hakha Diocese told the Vatican’s Fides news agency that the CDF has seen Father Tin Thang having contacts with a general of the army. Father Thla Kio explained that the general, who is a Catholic and attends Masses, often went to the priests’ residence. In fact, Father Tin Thang asked the general to avoid violence.

Civil resistance groups
The ousting of Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her elected government by the military on February 1, has thrown the nation into chaos with nationwide protests, strikes and a civil disobedience movement, demanding the restoration of the government and the release of their leader. There have been no signs of a letup in the bloody crackdown by Myanmar’s military on its opponents in a bid to consolidate its hold on power. The offensive has re-ignited the military’s old conflicts with some of the armed ethnic organizations as well as numerous independent civil resistance groups.

The CDF is one of these civil resistance groups fighting the military. Using homemade weapons, the CDF has inflicted heavy casualties among junta forces in a conflict that erupted in Chin state in May. Clashes are still raging and more than 18,000 people have been displaced in Chin state and neighboring Magway and Sagaing divisions, according to a United Nations report on July 30. During the conflict, priests have been targeted, with the military arresting eight priests from Chin and Kachin states and Mandalay division in May and June.

Ethnic Christians
Christians are a minority in the predominantly Buddhist country, accounting for 6.2 percent of its 54 million population. Myanmar Catholics represent about 1.5 percent of the population.

Areas occupied by the Kachin, Chin, Karen and Kayah ethnic groups, who have been facing oppression and persecution at the hands of the military for decades, are largely Christian.

Thousands of innocent civilians in have been displaced by the conflict. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Myanmar, over 220,000 people have been displaced by conflicts and insecurity since the coup.

Myanmar’s complex crises
The serious political, socio-economic, human rights and humanitarian crises generated by the coup, have been exacerbated by a raging third wave of Covid-19 infections, with an acute shortage of oxygen and near absence of the most basic healthcare.

Myanmar’s military ruler Min Aung Hlaing marked 6 months since the coup on Sunday by taking on a new title as prime minister of a newly formed caretaker government. The military-backed State Administration Council (SAC) that was formed after the Feb. 1 coup, has now been reformed as a caretaker government. The junta leader promised fresh multi-party elections in 2 years, saying he will cooperate with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on finding a political solution to the country.

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Israeli Archaeologists Find 3,100-Year-Old Alphabetic Inscription

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The ancient inscription was found inside a storage pit at Khirbat er-Ra‘I, an archaeological site some 3 km northwest of Tel Lachish in Israel.

It was written in ink on a jug, a small personal pottery vessel that holds approximately one liter, and may well have contained oil, perfume, or medicine.

It contains the letters yod (broken at the top), resh, bet, ayin, and lamed, and remnants of other letters.

“The name ‘Jerubbaal’ is familiar from Biblical tradition in the Book of Judges as an alternative name for the judge Gideon ben Yoash,” said Professor Yossef Garfinkel from the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University and Dr. Saar Ganor from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“In Biblical tradition, he is then remembered as triumphing over the Midianites, who used to cross over the Jordan to plunder agricultural crops.”

“According to the Bible, Gideon organized a small army of 300 soldiers and attacked the Midianites by night near Ma‘ayan Harod.”

“In view of the geographical distance between the Shephelah and the Jezreel Valley, this inscription may refer to another Jerubbaal and not the Gideon of Biblical tradition, although the possibility cannot be ruled out that the jug belonged to the judge Gideon.”

“In any case, the name Jerubbaal was evidently in common usage at the time of the Biblical Judges.”

Inscriptions from the period of the Judges are extremely rare and almost unparalleled in Israeli archaeology.

“As we know, there is considerable debate as to whether Biblical tradition reflects reality and whether it is faithful to historical memories from the days of the Judges and the days of David,” the archaeologists said.

“The name ‘Jerubbaal’ only appears in the Bible in the period of the Judges, yet now it was also discovered in an archaeological context, in a stratum dating from this period.”

“In a similar manner, the name ‘Ishbaal,’ which is only mentioned in the Bible during the monarchy of King David, was found in strata dated to that period at the site of Khirbat Qeiyafa.”

“The fact that identical names are mentioned in the Bible and also found in inscriptions recovered from archaeological excavations shows that memories were preserved and passed down through the generations.”

 

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