These Times

Current Events in the Light of Bible Prophecy | Vol. 28 No. 5 | Jul-Aug 2018

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LONDON VIOLENT CRIME RATE SURPASSES NYC

The city of London has recently witnessed a wave of crime that seems to be spiralling out of control. By April 22, the British capital was the scene of 60 fatal stabbings and shootings. The victims are mostly young people.

The Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick has decried the “ghastly” spike in violent crime. The police force has drafted in help from neighbouring organisations to alleviate the pressure caused by the current situation.

Some regard the ascending crime rate as the result of disillusion among the young generation. Poverty, disfunctional families, gangs and drugs are also part of the complex background of many juvenile crimes.

Nequela Whittaker, a gang leader turned youth worker blames cuts in after-school programs and social media: “Young people argue on social media over nothing”. Small boyfriend-girlfriend feuds escalate into tugs-of-war that involve many more people and result in bodily harm.

Activist Boogz from the organisation Guiding a New Generation said: “All the music that you listen to which glorifies this kind of thing, all the money that they see, all the cars that they see people driving, they are being sold a lie, they are being sold a false narrative.” “London violence: Nine more hurt in attacks around city,” BBC News, bbc.co.uk April 6, 2018. “Violent Killings Are On The Rise In London,” NPR, npr.org, April 6, 2018.

SEX WORKERS ENSLAVED BY ANCIENT CURSE

Thousands of women from the Edo State, Nigeria, travel to Europe, often through Libya, in search of a better life. However an astounding 80% of them, according to the International Organisation for Migration, are trafficked into the sex trade in European countries like Italy and Russia. Many of these hapless victims end up working for years as sex slaves. But what bind them to their desperate circumstances are not violence, intimidation and threats, as is usually the case. Instead, the shackles of their enslavement could be labelled ‘spiritual’.

Wealth (not her real name), a 23-year-old Nigerian college graduate from Benin City was first beguiled by rumours of easy money to be gained in Europe. She got in touch with a ‘madam’, who promised to get her to Italy and set her up selling African food and trinkets. But before Wealth could travel, she was forced to undergo a ceremony before a juju priest, in which she bound herself by an oath to repay the debt owed to the madam and never betray her. If she failed to do that, a terrible curse would rest on her soul, womb and whole person.

Arriving in Italy, Wealth learned that she owed her madam the equivalent of $80,000, which she would have to repay by working in the red light district. When she refused to prostitute herself, the madam locked her up and sent clients to her room. What followed were weeks and months of agony and humiliation, all the while haunted by the prospect of the curse in case she broke her promise.

But on March 9, some relief came to the victims of spiritual blackmail. King Ewuare II of Benin, who also holds absolute power over the deities and priests of juju, cast a curse of his own, thereby nullifying the oaths taken by all the victims of human trafficking. Many are grateful for this higher level of witchcraft that has “liberated” them. It is however unfortunate that witchcraft can still hold such sway on people, even in countries where the vast majority of the population professes to be either Christian or Muslim. An Ancient Curse Kept Nigerian Women Bound to Sex Slavery. Now, It’s Been Reversed,” Time, time.com, April 17, 2018.

WHO BROUGHT KIM Jong UN TO THE PEACE TABLE?

North Korea, one of the most secretive and isolated countries in the world, is known for unauthorized nuclear missile tests and repeated threats of attack on its neighbors and on the US and its territories. In January 2018, the world held its breath as North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump exchanged provocative ‘nuclear button’ messages. But recently Kim Jong-un’s rhetoric has made a dramatic U-turn.

North Korea has announced suspension of nuclear missile testing. Kim has met his South-Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, in high-level talks. Kim had been scheduled to meet Trump. But even despite Trump’s recent and abrupt halt to these plans, behind the scenes negotiations for a meeting are still reportedly taking place.

What caused this dramatic policy reversal? The man credited with brokering the rapprochement is Moon Jae-in, the South Korean President, who is also a Roman Catholic (RC). But there may be another actor at play.

On January 8, in his annual state of the world address in front of envoys from almost 200 countries, Pope Francis made headlines by calling for peace in the Korean peninsula and for talks with the Northern state. The Pope’s speech came one day ahead of the historic talks between the North and South addressing the North’s participation at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

“One of the most successful mediators in the past—though it usually keeps a low profile and brings sides to the table unofficially—has been the Vatican. The Pope has enormous respect around the world…. It is very likely that the Holy See will be held in high regard–higher than any country or institution–even by a communist, atheist dictator,” wrote Prince Michael of Liechtenstein, about calls for peace between the two Koreas.

Commenting further on the Papacy’s outsized influence in global peace, Prince Michael quoted Lord David Afton, from the UK: “The Holy See is one of the world’s most reliable ‘listening posts,’ with its worldwide presence of nuncios and links to Catholic ecclesiastical and lay organisations it has eyes and ears everywhere—also in dark and dangerous places.”

Commentators have recognised that China would play a crucial role in any solution for North Korea. Pope Francis and his diplomats have lately been quietly negotiating with the Chinese government on matters concerning the control of the country’s RC Church. Following signs of a ‘possible breakthrough’ in February 2018, only a month later Kim Jong-un made a surprise visit to Beijing, meeting President Xi Jinping.

South-Korean President Moon Jae-in, who is credited with bringing North Korea to the negotiating table, is the second RC leader of the nation. The first RC president was Kim Dae-jung, who inspired Moon’s mission for peace with North Korea. Interestingly, the Pope’s first Asian visit after becoming bishop of Rome was to South Korea in April 2014. Because of its large RC Asian population, second only to the Philippines, but also due to its strong economy and cultural soft power, the RC Church counts on South Korea to be the prime mover in the Catholic evangelization of Asia. “North Korea crisis needs low-profile mediation,” Geopolitical Intelligence Services, gisreportsonline.com, May 2, 2017; “Worries Rise as Pose and China Edge Closer to Deal on Bishops,”New York Times, nytimes.com, February 9, 2018; “The Man Who Brought Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un to the Table,” Bloomberg, bloomberg.com, April 23, 2018.

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