This update is about three of the most important events of the year 2013, there has been others equally important ones, but there is no more space for them in this piece. 2013 has been a very unusual year, what happened then, was very often dangerous, and very weird. I have decided to talk about only three events which I think had a great impact on many people all over the world, the election of pope Francis as the last heir to the St. Peter throne, the second story is about the non-ending mayhem in the Middle East, the ongoing slaughter in Syria Egypt and Iraq. The third is about the death and burial of Nelson Mandela. I was hoping that I would be able to say something about some major crises which griped this country during the year, the first was the exposure of America’s secret surveillance machinery and the backlash it created, and finally the failure of congress to reach an agreement about next year’s budget which resulted in the shutdown of the federal government for 18 days and threatened default and a failure of the country to pay its bills, but it was impossible, the space in this site for an update is limited to around 1,400 words.
On the 13th of march 2013, Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires was elected pope, it was three weeks after the resignation of his predecessor Pope Benedict XV1, who was the first pope to resign in six hundred years. Pope Francis was born in December 17, 1936 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the son of Italian parents, he worked briefly as a chemical technician before entering the seminary. He was ordained a priest in 1969. In 1998 He became the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he was created a Cardinal in 2001. Pope Francis has been noted for his humility, his concern for the poor, and his commitment to dialogue as a way to build bridges between people of all backgrounds, beliefs, and faith, and in the nine months in office, he has placed himself at the very center of the central conversation of our time about wealth, fairness and justice, transparency, modernity, globalization, the role of women, the nature of marriage, the temptations of power. We live in an age of disruption, the new pope’s voice suggests that the culture of the temporary is a road to ruin, almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them as though all this were someone else’s responsibility, the culture of prosperity deadens us. And this is sure to become one of a great many from a man who is being watched closely within his church and from far beyond.
The second big story of 2013 was the non-ending mayhem which has been consuming the Middle East in a terrible wave of violence and destruction which has reached absolutely shocking levels in practically every country in that very unhappy region, the situation in the middle east three years after what was hoped to be a spring has turned into a dangerous very violent situation and is getting worse by the hour, which might easily spread outside its current geographic confines, it looks very much like Europe of 1914. But today I am going to talk very briefly about the situation in Egypt, Syria and Iraq.
Egypt six months after the military coup which toppled the reasonably democratically elected Mohammed Mursi who belonged to the very powerful Muslim Brotherhood, is still in the throes of a terribly nasty struggle with the brotherhood who vowed to continue their opposition to the political structure the military has created until their man is restored to his what they call his rightful position which the new regime refuses to grant which was followed by a very malicious crackdown on them Last week it was declared a terrorist group. In the past six months, more than 1,000 pro-Mursi protesters have been killed in clashes with security forces, and thousands of Brotherhood supporters have been arrested, including the majority of its leadership. A court will hear a case to disband the Brotherhood's political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), on 15 February. On December 33, there have been deadly clashes between police and Muslim Brotherhood supporters across Egypt. The carnage is unending, and the future is very gloomy and is impossible to predict.
I am coming back again to Syria today because it was one of last year’s most significant highlights, Syria could have been the flash point to some very serious international commotion when the Americans were talking about getting there with their military to teach the Syrian government a lesson in response to their chemical weapons attack against their own people, but the Americans found not very late the imprudence of the idea and backed out. The Syrian conflict has been growing in intensity and scope for more than two years, It is estimated that more than a 100,000 are already dead, with at least two millions displaced, and the conflict grinds on with a terrible daily unbelievable loss of life and fortune with no end in sight, the Assad regime is badly weakened, but its opposition is fractured, their competing groups have begun targeting each other, neither camp appears close to victory. Many more people will die before the fighting ebbs. And then the peace is likely to be anything but a sham, as endless scores, ancient and new, are settled with blood.
The last member in this tragic assembly is Iraq, which was for the whole year a source of shocking stories of violence and death and destruction. 6,000 people were killed since April, and more than 450 in December alone, during the closing days of the year, this unfortunate country came very near to a civil war when prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite who was in power for the last six years, who was accused by the other major Muslim sect in the country the Sunnis, of marginalizing them and disregarding their legitimate rights and who accuse him of having delivered Iraq to the Tehran mullahs on a golden platter, the Sunnis were demonstrating their grievances by siting in huge protest camps in their areas, but ignored by the prime minister, when he suddenly ordered his forces to dismantle the biggest one, which was in the Anbar province, on Monday 30th, the army did, but after a very nasty fight which was followed by a huge explosion in all the Sunni areas, mainly in Anbar province, an immense desert which was impossible to control even by the Americans, and on the first day of the new year when I am trying to finish this piece the fighting is still raging on with absolutely no end in sight.
On the occasion of the death and burial of Nelson Mandela, on Dec. 5, 2013 Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa said; our country has lost its greatest son, our nation has lost a father, but Nelson Mandela was not only a son and a father to a whole nation, he was one of modern history’s greatest heroes whose life inspired great hopes and dreams of freedom liberty, and human rights to millions of people all over the world.
Nelson Mandela was born on July 1918, in a small village in the Transkei, the agricultural region in the eastern cape province, he belonged to one of south Africa’s most prominent tribes, the Xhosa he was a brilliant student, he entered a mission school at age 7, at age 19 he left home to Johannesburg where he worked first in a mine, then he became a Clark in a law firm while taking courses to complete university finishing with a degree in law. Mandela could have become a very successful lawyer, but he was driven into a very active participation in the black rights movement because of the racial injustice in his country where a small minority of white people ruled over the vast black majority. In 1944 he formed with some his colleagues the youth league of the African national congress, which [the NAC] was by the mid-1950s leading the struggle against apartheid, with boycotts, and protests against the apartheid system with our hero at the vanguard of it which finally led to his imprisonment in June 1964 in the Robben Island prison outside cape town to leave it on Feb. 1990 to be elected four years later as the President of a United Multiethnic, Democratic South Africa, the rest of this incredible story is history.
Sunday January 4, 2014