French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that Europe should welcome refugees because it is a European tradition and honor.
PARIS (Sputnik) — Europe should greet migrants, because it is a part of its traditions and a matter of honor, Macron said Friday.
“We talked about the migrant crisis. It is not a concern of several countries, it is our common challenge… And it demands our common decision,” Macron said after his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of the EU leaders’ summit in Brussels.
The French president added that the migrant crisis was a long-term challenge.
“We must welcome refugees because it is our tradition and our honor. The refugees are not just any migrants, not economic migrants. They are people who are fleeing their country for freedom because of the war or the political situation,” Macron stressed.
Since 2015, Europe has been experiencing the worst migration crisis in its history, struggling to accommodate hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants fleeing hostilities in the Middle Eastern and North African countries. According to the latest data of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), updated earlier in the day, 2,108 migrants died in the Mediterranean while trying to cross the sea since January 2017, most of whom were en route to Italy. The number of migrants that had crossed the Mediterranean Sea to enter the European Union in 2017 is almost 84,000 people.
People-smugglers bring the migrants to the NGOs’ ships, which then reach Italian seaports. Another legal enquiry has been opened about the mafia’s economic interests in managing the migrants after their arrival.
One cannot compare the migrants to the Jews fleeing Nazism. Pope Francis, for example, recently compared the migrants’ centers to Nazi “concentration camps”. Where are the gas chambers, medical “experiments,” crematoria, slave labor, forced marches and firing squads? These comparisons are spread by the media for a precise reason: shutting down the debate.
By 2065, it is expected that 14.4 million migrants will arrive. Added to the more than five million immigrants currently in Italy, 37% of the population is expected to be foreigners: more than one out of every three inhabitants.
First, it was the Hungarian route. Then it was the Balkan route. Now Italy is the epicenter of this demographic earthquake, and it has become Europe’s soft underbelly as hundreds of thousands of migrants arrive.
With nearly 10,000 arrivals in one recent three-day period, the number of migrants in 2017 exceeded 60,000 — 48% more than the same period last year, when they were 40,000. Over Easter weekend a record 8,000 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean and brought to Italy. And that is just the tip of the iceberg: during the summer, the number of arrivals from Libya will only increase.
A wooden boat carrying migrants waits to be escorted to the Topaz Responder vessel, as members of the Migrant Offshore Aid Station make a rescue at sea on November 21, 2016 in Pozzollo, Italy. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
A replacement of population is under way in Italy. But if you open the mainstream newspapers, you barely find these figures. No television station has dedicated any time to what is happening. No criticism is allowed. The invasion is considered a done deal.
In 2016, 176,554 migrants landed in Italy — an eight-fold increase since 2014. In 2015, there were 103,792. In 2014, there were 66,066. In 2013, there were just 22,118. In the last four years, 427,000 migrants reached Italy. In only the first five months of this year, 2017, Italy received 10% of the total number of migrants of the last four years.
There are days when the Italian navy and coast guard rescue 1,700 migrants in 24 hours. The country is exhausted. There are Italian villages where one-tenth of the population is already made up of new migrants. We are talking about small towns of 220 residents and 40 migrants.
One of the major aspects of this demographic revolution is that it is taking place in a country which is dramatically aging. According with a new report from the Italian Office of Statistics, Italy’s population will fall to 53.7 million in half a century — a loss of seven million people. Italy, which has one of the world’s lowest fertility rates, will lose between 600,000 to 800,000 citizens every year. Immigrants will number more than 14 million, about one-fourth of the total population. But in the most pessimistic scenario, the Italian population could drop to 46 million, a loss of 14 million people.
In 2050, a third of Italy’s population will be made up of foreigners, according to a UN report, “Replacement Migration: Is It a Solution to Decline and Aging Populations“, which designs a cultural melting-pot that could explode in cultural and social tensions. The level of arrivals will fall from 300,000 to 270,000 individuals per year by 2065; during the same period, it is expected that 14.4 million people will arrive. Added to the more than five million immigrants currently in Italy, 37% of the population is expected to be foreigners: more than one out of every three inhabitants.
In addition, the humanitarian-aid system has been hit by new scandals. “The investigative hypothesis to be verified is that subjects linked to ISIS act as logistical support to migration flows”, was a warning just delivered in front of the Schengen Committee, to the Italian anti-mafia and counterterrorism prosecutor, Franco Roberti. There are now judges investigating the connection between the migrants’ smugglers in North Africa and the Italian NGOs rescuing them in the Mediterranean. People-smugglers bring the migrants to the NGOs’ ships, which then reach Italian seaports. Another legal enquiry has been opened about the mafia’s economic interests in managing the migrants after their arrival.
Only 2.65 percent of those migrants who arrived in Italy were granted asylum as genuine refugees, according to the United Nations. The other people are apparently not fleeing wars and genocide. Yet, despite all this evidence, one cannot compare the migrants to the Jews fleeing Nazism. Pope Francis, for example, recently compared the migrants’ centers to Nazi “concentration camps“. One wonders where are the gas chambers, medical “experiments,” crematoria, slave labor, forced marches and firing squads. Italian newspapers are now running articles about the “Mediterranean Holocaust“, comparing the migrants dead by trying to reach the southern of Italy to the Jews gassed in Auschwitz. Another journalist, Gad Lerner, to support the migrants, described their condition with the same word coined by the Nazis against the Jews: untermensch, inferior human beings. These comparisons are spread by the media for a precise reason: shutting down the debate…
image edited by Web Investigator – From The Song of Los (1795) by William Blake. Courtesy Library of Congress
The most avid believers in artificial intelligence are aggressively secular – yet their language is eerily religious. Why?
by Beth Singler is a research associate at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, and an associate fellow at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, both at the University of Cambridge. Her first book, The Indigo Children: New Age Experimentation with Self and Science, is forthcoming.
My stomach sank the moment the young man stood up. I’d observed him from afar during the coffee breaks, and I knew the word ‘Theologian’ was scrawled on the delegate badge pinned to his lapel, as if he’d been a last-minute addition the conference. He cleared his throat and asked the panel on stage how they’d solve the problem of selecting which moral codes we ought to program into artificially intelligent machines (AI). ‘For example, masturbation is against my religious beliefs,’ he said. ‘So I wonder how we’d go about choosing which of our morals are important?’
The audience of philosophers, technologists, ‘transhumanists’ and AI fans erupted into laughter. Many of them were well-acquainted with the so-called ‘alignment problem’, the knotty philosophical question of how we should bring the goals and objectives of our AI creations into harmony with human values. But the notion that religion might have something to add to the debate seemed risible to them. ‘Obviously we don’t want the AI to be a terrorist,’ a panellist later remarked. Whatever we get our AI to align with, it should be ‘nothing religious’.
At the same event, in New York, I introduced myself to a grey-haired computer scientist by saying that I was a researcher at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion at the University of Cambridge. His immediate response: ‘Those two things can’t go together.’ The religious reaction to AI was about as relevant as the religious response to renewable energy, he said – that is, not at all. It was only later that it occurred to me that many of President Donald Trump’s evangelical Christian supporters give lie to his claim. Some have very distinct views on the ‘distractions’ of renewable energy, on climate change, and on how God has willed this planet and all its resources to us to use exactly as we wish.
The odd thing about the anti-clericalism in the AI community is that religious language runs wild in its ranks, and in how the media reports on it. There are AI ‘oracles’ and technology ‘evangelists’ of a future that’s yet to come, plus plenty of loose talk about angels, gods and the apocalypse. Ray Kurzweil, an executive at Google, is regularly anointed a ‘prophet’ by the media – sometimes as a prophet of a coming wave of ‘superintelligence’ (a sapience surpassing any human’s capability); sometimes as a ‘prophet of doom’ (thanks to his pronouncements about the dire prospects for humanity); and often as a soothsayer of the ‘singularity’ (when humans will merge with machines, and as a consequence live forever). The tech folk who also invoke these metaphors and tropes operate in overtly and almost exclusively secular spaces, where rationality is routinely pitched against religion. But believers in a ‘transhuman’ future – in which AI will allow us to transcend the human condition once and for all – draw constantly on prophetic and end-of-days narratives to understand what they’re striving for…
Cult or religion? Image edited by Web Investigator
Cults are exploitative, weird groups with strange beliefs and practices, right? So what about regular religions then?
Tara Isabella Burton writes about religion, culture and place, and her work has appeared in National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic, among others. She is a Clarendon Scholar at Trinity College, Oxford, working on a doctorate in theology, and recently completed her first novel.
Cults, generally speaking, are a lot like pornography: you know them when you see them. It would be hard to avoid the label on encountering (as I did, carrying out field work last year) 20 people toiling unpaid on a Christian farming compound in rural Wisconsin – people who venerated their leader as the closest thing to God’s representative on Earth. Of course, they argued vehemently that they were not a cult. Ditto for the 2,000-member church I visited outside Nashville, whose parishioners had been convinced by an ostensibly Christian diet programme to sell their houses and move to the ‘one square mile’ of the New Jerusalem promised by their charismatic church leader. Here they could eat – and live – in accordance with God and their leader’s commands. It’s easy enough, as an outsider, to say, instinctively: yes, this is a cult.
Less easy, though, is identifying why. Knee-jerk reactions make for poor sociology, and delineating what, exactly, makes a cult (as opposed to a ‘proper’ religious movement) often comes down to judgment calls based on perceived legitimacy. Prod that perception of legitimacy, however, and you find value judgments based on age, tradition or ‘respectability’ (that nice middle-class couple down the street, say, as opposed to Tom Cruise jumping up and down on a couch). At the same time, the markers of cultism as applied more theoretically – a single charismatic leader, an insular structure, seeming religious ecstasy, a financial burden on members – can also be applied to any number of new or burgeoning religious movements that we don’t call cults.
Often (just as with pornography), what we choose to see as a cult tells us as much about ourselves as about what we’re looking at.
Historically, our obsession with cults seems to thrive in periods of wider religious uncertainty, with ‘anti-cult’ activism in the United States peaking in the 1960s and ’70s, when the US religious landscape was growing more diverse, and the sway of traditional institutions of religious power was eroding. This period, dubbed by the economic historian Robert Fogel as the ‘Fourth Great Awakening’, saw interest in personal spiritual and religious practice spike alongside a decline in mainline Protestantism, giving rise to numerous new movements. Some of these were Christian in nature, for example the ‘Jesus Movement’; others were heavily influenced by the pop-cultural ubiquity of pseudo-Eastern and New Age thought: the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (aka the Hare Krishna), modern Wicca, Scientology. Plenty of these movements were associated with young people – especially young counter-cultural people with suspicious politics – adding a particular political tenor to the discourse surrounding them.
Against these there sprang a network of ‘anti-cult’ movements uniting former members of sects, their families and other objectors. Institutions such as the Cult Awareness Network (CAN) formed in 1978 after the poison fruit-drink (urban legend says Kool-Aid) suicides of Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple. The anti-cult networks believed that cults brainwashed their members (the idea of mind control, as scholars such as Margaret Singer point out, originated in media coverage of torture techniques supposedly used by North Korea during the Korean War). To counter brainwashing, activists controversially abducted and forcibly ‘deprogrammed’ members who’d fallen under a cult’s sway. CAN itself was co-founded by a professional deprogrammer, Ted Patrick, who later faced scrutiny for accepting $27,000 from the concerned parents of a woman involved in Leftist politics to, essentially, handcuff her to a bed for two weeks.
But that wasn’t all. An equal and no less fervent network of what became known as counter-cult activists emerged among Christians who opposed cults on theological grounds, and who were as worried about the state of adherent’s souls as of their psyches. The Baptist pastor Walter Ralston Martin was sufficiently disturbed by the proliferation of religious pluralism in the US to write The Kingdom of the Cults (1965), which delineated in detail the theologies of those religious movements Martin identified as toxic, and provided Biblical avenues for the enterprising mainstream Christian minister to oppose them. With more than half a million copies sold, it was one of the top-selling spiritual books of the era.
Writing the history of cults in the US, therefore, is also writing the history of a discourse of fear: of the unknown, of the decline in mainstream institutions, of change…