Amid Divisions over Jerusalem, Korean Nuclear Programme, General Assembly Hears Defence of Diplomacy, Dialogue to End Crisis, Put World on Sustainable Path
Secretary-General, Other Leaders Raise Alarm about Climate Change, Terrorism, Warning Safety of Millions Dependent on Robust Action, Funding
Convening for its seventy-second session amid a multilateral system overwhelmed by crises, the General Assembly heard world leaders defend diplomacy and dialogue while expressing a strong will to galvanize support to confront climate threats, resolve languishing conflicts and build a sturdy path towards sustainable development for all.
Along with a series of high-level events on some of those pressing matters, the Assembly convened in December a rare emergency meeting on the status of Jerusalem, during which it decided to ask nations not to establish diplomatic missions in the historic city of Jerusalem, as delegates had warned that the recent decision by the United States to do so risked igniting a religious war across the already turbulent Middle East and even beyond.
The Assembly declared “null and void” any actions intended to alter Jerusalem’s character, status or demographic composition, by the terms of the draft resolution “Status of Jerusalem”, adopted by a recorded vote of 128 in favour to 9 against (Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Togo, United States), with 35 abstentions. The Assembly also demanded that they comply with all relevant Security Council resolutions and work to reverse the “negative trends” imperilling a two‑State resolution of the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict.
Addressing the general debate for the first time since taking office, Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized that conflict was spreading, inequality growing and the climate changing while people around the world were hurting and angry. “We are a world in pieces,” he said. “Trust within and among countries is being driven down by those who demonize and divide.”
Furthermore, global anxieties about nuclear weapons were at their highest in decades, he went on to say. Condemning missile tests carried out by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he urged that country to comply with Security Council resolutions and stressed “we must not sleepwalk our way into war.”
Raising a range of critical concerns, he said more must be done to address the threat of terrorism by examining the roots of radicalization, including high levels of youth unemployment. Political solutions were needed in South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and beyond. On climate change dangers, he said “science is unassailable” and it was time to act. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development served as a blueprint to solve challenges, including inequality in a world where eight men still held the same wealth as half of humanity.
Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia) said that in recent years, some 65 million people had been forced to flee their homes. In conflict, civilians rather than armed soldiers paid the heaviest price. And still, too much time and money was being spent reacting to conflicts and not enough on prevention.
The United Nations was not made for diplomats or dignitaries — it was made for people, he said. Indeed, the Organization would be tested by how it addressed the plight of millions. “We cannot turn this into an exercise of bureaucracy,” he said, adding that the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change could not be met without adequate financing. “We cannot sit and wait patiently for trillions of dollars to materialize.”
During six days of debate during which world leaders criticized both the United Nations and one another, some expressed concern over allegations levied against their countries. Many called for United Nations reform, stressed that climate change must be attributed to nations emitting dangerous levels of pollution and urged rich countries to help build a fairer world order. Meanwhile, in his first speech to the Assembly, the President of the United States struck a notably different tone compared to recent years.
President Donald J. Trump of the United States warned that if forced to defend itself or its allies against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, his country would have “no choice but to totally destroy North Korea”. He condemned that country’s reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, saying that those weapons now threatened the entire world. President Trump also said it was “far past time” to address the threat posed by Iran, which continued to fund terrorism, support the Syrian regime and finance Yemen’s civil war. “We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities,” Mr. Trump said, characterizing the Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme as “an embarrassment”. The United States would no longer enter deals from which it received nothing, he explained, pledging to always “put America first”.
Ri Yong Ho, Foreign Minister of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said that his country had a right to defend itself as outlined in the United Nations Charter. “The possession of nuclear deterrence by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a righteous self-defensive measure” intended to establish a balance of power with the United States, he explained, emphasizing that the United States would now “think twice” before launching a military provocation.
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran said it would be a pity if the Joint Plan of Action was destroyed by “rogue newcomers to the world of politics”. Iran would not be the first to violate the pact, he declared, adding that his country would nevertheless “respond decisively and resolutely to its violation”. By violating the agreement, the new United States Administration would only destroy its credibility and undermine international confidence.
Against that backdrop, some Heads of State defended diplomacy and multilateralism, with Foreign Minister Margot Wallström of Sweden saying the world was facing a critical and opportune time to come together. Unless countries grasped that chance, they would “face the consequences”. It was simple. “Going it alone” was not an option. “This is the moment for multilateralism, not unilateralism”. President Emmanuel Macron of France, while respectfully noting the decision of the United States to pull out from the Paris Agreement, emphasized that the accord was “not up for renegotiation”. Taking it apart would demolish the existing pact between States — and between generations, he added.
In similar vein, several Caribbean delegations described the death and destruction wrought by the 2017 hurricane season. Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda said that half of his two-island nation had been completely “decimated” by Hurricane Irma. Two category 5 hurricanes hitting the Caribbean in just 12 days could no longer be dismissed as “vagaries of the weather”, he said. Echoing that sentiment, Deputy Prime Minister Louis Straker of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines said that any attempt to disavow the Paris Agreement was an “act of hostility” and an insult to the intelligence of the peoples of island States.
President Evo Morales Ayma of Bolivia stressed that inequality — whether spurred by the destruction of the environment, greed, inequality — was immoral. President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria added that many of the globe’s woes stemmed from widening inequalities between rich and poor countries that were also “underlining root causes of competition for resources, and anger leading to spiralling instability”. Urging wealthy countries to carry their share of the burden, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey called on the European Union to make good on its pledge to help his country feed, shelter and care for three million Syria refugees.
On the question of Palestine, President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi of Egypt stressed that “it is time to permanently overcome the barrier of hatred”. While peace would eliminate one of the main pretexts used by terrorists in the Middle East, responsibility must be shared widely. “We in the Muslim world need to face our reality and work together to rectify misconstrued notions which have become an ideological pretext for terrorism,” he said.
The General Assembly also held several high-level events during that week. On 26 September and amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula, ministers and representatives of 46 Member States, delegations, United Nations system and civil society took the floor to commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Many called for firm political will to advance towards the total elimination of all nuclear weapons. “The only world that is safe from the use of nuclear weapons is a world that is completely free of nuclear weapons,” said Secretary‑General Guterres.
On 27 September, the Assembly endorsed the “political declaration on the implementation of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons”. Member States agreed to address factors that increased people’s vulnerability to trafficking, including poverty, unemployment, conflict and gender discrimination. “It is so important to hear the voice of survivors,” emphasized Grizelda Grootboom, a civil society representative from South Africa, as she described her emotional personal experience working in brothels and as a drug trafficker for her pimps. Secretary-General Guterres said tens of millions of people around the world were victims and that countless businesses in both the global North and South benefited from that misery.
As the main part of the session got under way, speakers continued to call for unity even as rifts between nations widened on several critical issues. Debate emerged during the Assembly’s second plenary meeting, with countries divided on whether to include a new agenda item on the concept of the “responsibility to protect”. Concerns about selectivity and double standards emerged as the Assembly considered the report of the Human Rights Council, Security Council reform and its own revitalization. While delegates welcomed historic indictments by the International Criminal Court and other judicial bodies, the latter part of the session was dominated by the United States’ decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and by expanding political and humanitarian crises in the region.
Intense debate in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) spanned a range of pressing issues, from divergent views over the newly adopted Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to alarmed calls for action to address the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s testing activities. That crisis should serve as a “wake-up call” for Member States, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu, said, with delegates agreeing that it illustrated the importance of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and its verification regime. Overcoming the languishing impasse in the disarmament machinery was also discussed, with representatives stressing that political will was the key to advancing gains. Towards that end, the Committee approved 58 draft resolutions and decisions on a broad range of concerns, from addressing chemical weapon threats to reigning in the illicit arms trade, including new texts on the role of science and technology in disarmament efforts and on further practical measures to prevent an arms race in outer space.
Underscoring sluggishness in global economic growth, the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) focused on bolstering efforts to implement the ambitious 2030 Agenda. With development hampered by weak investment, low productivity, economic uncertainty and climate change, delegates noted that the international community had fallen behind in eradicating poverty, hunger and malnutrition. In tackling slow growth, they highlighted the need to reverse a decline in development financing, especially for least developed countries, tackle unsustainable debt, open up trade and reform the international financial system. Speakers also stressed the importance of South-South cooperation and innovative financing with outside partners, including the private sector. Pointing to the devastating effects of climate patterns, they urged financial institutions to make recovery financing accessible for middle-income countries. Addressing those and other vital concerns in meeting development goals, the Committee sent 41 resolutions to the General Assembly for adoption.
Pakistan Christian sentenced to death for WhatsApp ‘blasphemy’, despite gaps in police case
Six days after a Pakistani Christian was sentenced to death for blasphemy, the young man’s lawyer says there was insufficient evidence against his client and that the police failed to investigate the matter properly.
Nadeem Masih, 24, from the Yaqoobabad area of the religiously conservative city of Gujrat, in Punjab Province, was judged to have sent four messages via WhatsApp to his Muslim friend which defamed Islam’s prophet, Muhammad. On 14 September, he was fined the equivalent of around $3000 and sentenced to death.
But his lawyer, Riaz Anjum, says there are still unanswered questions from the trial, which was conducted in the prison where Masih was being held, for security reasons – in case of a mob gathering if he was transported elsewhere. According to the first information report (FIR) provided by the police to the court, the first blasphemous text was sent on 23 June 2016, but the complaint by his friend, whom Masih has known since childhood, wasn’t lodged for another 17 days.
“No-one has seen Masih sending messages; hence, it is only hearsay, which is not admissible evidence.”
“Messages were sent over a period of time and it took 17 days to lodge the first information report with the police,” Anjum told World Watch Monitor. “If there was provocation, then the response should have been immediate and Yasir Bashir [the complainant] would have gone to the police much earlier.
“During the entire trial, we did not see that Masih wanted to incite his friends over religious differences. If that were the case, then he should have sent these messages to all his friends. So there remains a need to check what really made this happen.”
Anjum also accused the police of failing to properly investigate whether the messages were indeed sent by Nadeem Masih, or whether someone else could have sent them from his phone.
Masih was known to have been having a relationship with a woman, Nargis Bibi, who had converted to Christianity six months before the accusations were lodged, and Anjum says the police failed to properly investigate whether she could have sent the messages.
“No-one has seen Masih sending messages; hence, it is only hearsay, which is not admissible evidence against Masih,” he said. “… It is quite possible that Nargis would have sent those messages, as she was in an illicit relation with him and was always close to him. However, the court could not find any proof of this and rejected the claim.”
Masih’s family had asked whether Nargis Bibi would be willing to appear as a witness in court, but she refused.
Another factor in the case was the relationship between Nadeem Masih, his friend, Yasir Bashir, and the other complainant, Muhammad Akram. Local sources told World Watch Monitor, on the condition of anonymity, that the three had been running a small business together, selling alcohol (the sale and purchase of which is only allowed for non-Muslims in Pakistan, and only once they have obtained a special permit).
During the trial, Bashir witnessed before the court that he had had a close relationship with Masih for several years and that they had never before had any problems.
Local sources told World Watch Monitor that a few days before the case was filed, the three friends had started doing business separately and developed a rivalry. They said Masih had even tried to lodge a police complaint of his own against his friend, Yasir Bashir, accusing him of illegally selling alcohol.
Nadeem Masih was initially accused on 10 July 2016, after which his family fled their homesfor fear of repercussions, as local Muslims clamoured for his arrest.
“The situation remained tense even afterwards, so the police administration decided to conduct the entire trial in the prison,” Anjum told World Watch Monitor.
After his arrest, one of Masih’s brothers, Faryad, expressed disbelief that a family friend had lodged an accusation against his brother.
“Yasir has been our friend for more than 15 years,” he said. “He worked as a painter with my [other] brother, Shahbaz.”
Masih’s arrest came during a spike in blasphemy cases against Christians. In May 2016, a young Pakistani Christian woman was accused of blasphemy for allegedly using an advertising banner bearing the name of Prophet Muhammad as a floor covering. The accusation, which was later withdrawn, came just a few weeks after another Christian was accused of blasphemy in a village 100 kilometres away.
In June 2016, 10 Christian families fled their village after a man from a Christian community was accused of sending a blasphemous message on Facebook Messenger. Also in June 2016, a court jailed two Pakistani Christians (also from Gujrat) for six years for calling a Christian leader a “prophet”. And in the district of Gujranwala, 50 kilometres from Gujrat, an anti-terrorism court sentenced a school principal to death for blasphemy. The man had initially sought police protection, after alleging he was the victim of blackmail and extortion. Instead, he was charged with blasphemy by the police, after the men he had accused levelled charges against him.
Blasphemy in Pakistan
More than 30 years have passed since Pakistan’s President, Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq – during military rule in 1986 – decided that the death penalty was the appropriate punishment for blasphemy against Sunni Islam. This blasphemy law was empowered by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1991.
Today, Pakistan remains the world’s most determined anti-blasphemy state. Christians make up only about 4 per cent of the country’s overwhelmingly Muslim population, but about half of blasphemy charges are against Christians. The cases of two Christian females, Aasiya Noreen (better known as Asia Bibi), who is still on death row, and teenager Rimsha Masih, on whom evidence was planted by an imam, both hit the world headlines.
Dr Mario Silva, a former member of the Canadian Parliament and Executive Director of the International Forum for Rights and Security (IFFRAS), spoke yesterday at the UN Office in Geneva on the issue.
“Since 1987 to 2017, 222 cases under the blasphemy law have been registered against Christians,” he said. “We have to call the governments in Europe, the United States and Canada to ask what they are doing by maintaining a relationship with Pakistan. Why are you not speaking up with authorities regarding minority rights particularly with the persecution of Christians in that country? The countries must speak up against it… The [Pakistan] authorities do nothing about it and the Government has refused to change the law.”
Muslim Migrant Stabs Woman For Reading A Bible Inside Austrian Migrant Center
With the continued migrant invasion into Europe, violent crimes and acts of terror are becoming daily news stories. Muslim migrants in refugee centers across Europe have demonstrated an inability to assimilate into Western culture, carrying out uncivilized acts against the civilized world.
A 50 year old Christian woman was stabbed by an asylum seeker from Afghanistan inside a migrant center in Austria for reading a Bible.
The woman was only saved by her winter coat when she was attacked with a knife in the accommodation in Timelkam in Voecklamarkt in Upper Austria.
Her alleged attacker is a 22-year-old man from Afghanistan who had taken offence to the fact that the woman had been invited by Christian residents of the property to discuss the bible.
When he found out what she was doing, he stormed into the kitchen where the woman was standing and tried to plunge the knife into her upper body.
Luckily her thick winter coat protected her from serious injury, but she did injure her ear when she fell backwards from the force of the man’s violent blows.
The Christmas tree is said to have originated in Germany with the decoration of pine trees with fancy ornaments. However, there are alternate theories that suggest otherwise. In fact, there are many legends about the Christmas tree that led to the widespread belief that the Christmas tree is an essential part of the Christmas season and its celebration.
There is the legend of St. Boniface, an English monk, who is said to have saved a child from being sacrificed by pagans. When they were gathered around an oak tree to sacrifice the child, the Saint flattened the tree with one blow of his fist. A small fir sprang up in its place and St. Boniface told the pagans that it was the “tree of life,” and represented the life of Christ.
Another legend traces the story of the church reformer Martin Luther. It tells of his journey through a forest on Christmas Eve, as he was amazed by the glistering of the many stars that shone through the evergreen trees. He cut down one of the trees and took it home.
The truth is that the Christmas tree tradition has been around long before the Germans, St. Boniface and Martin Luther. The Nordic pagans and the Celtic Druids revered the evergreen tree as a symbol of everlasting life and hope for the return of spring. While other plants and trees died, the evergreen trees remained alive continually; hence, they were revered as manifestations of deity.
As a symbol of prosperity, the Druids decorated the evergreen outdoors. It was the Scandinavian pagans who were the pioneers in bringing the decorated trees indoors; and the Saxons, a Germanic pagan tribe, who were the first to use candles to illuminate the tree.
In addition to these pagan rituals, the tree is also linked to the celebration of the Winter Solstice. Pagans would celebrate the Winter Solstice, and as a part of that celebration, they would decorate trees. This celebration represented the end of the long, dark winter days and the beginning of the spring and its connection to life. The triumph over the winter darkness was the reason for the celebration.
There are many other theories about the origin of the Christmas tree. Researchers have failed to accurately pinpoint a single origin, but it is correct to state that it evolved from pagan traditions. Understanding how the tree was used in the past will shed light on its meaning in the Christmas celebration. Many Christians unwittingly partake in tree decorating without knowing the cryptic meanings behind the adoration/decorating of a tree.
The fact that the evergreen tree was considered in pagan religions to symbolize everlasting life, robs us of the reality of Jesus’ supreme sacrifice that enables us to have true eternal life. The evergreen tree is believed by some pagans to hold continual life, and as such, is commonly used in pagan worship and celebrations.
I often wonder, do believing Christians really know what they are doing when they place a Christmas tree in their home?
Do they really believe that the decking of a tree has something to do with the birth of Christ?
In Jeremiah 10:2-8 we read,
Thus says the Lord: ‘Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven. For the customs of the peoples are futile; for one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple. They are upright, like a palm tree, and they cannot speak; they must be carried, because they cannot go by themselves. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, nor can they do any good.’ Inasmuch as there is none like You O Lord (You are great, and your name is great in might) who would not fear You, O King of the nations? For this is your rightful due. For among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like you. But they are altogether dull-hearted and foolish; a wooden idol is a worthless doctrine.”
Those are the words of the Lord from your Bible. Why do so many Christians overlook this very important chapter in the Bible and do precisely what God warns us not to do? It is certain that God condemns such practices and warns His people not to adopt these pagan ways; yet many people who consider themselves Christians, do exactly that.
Here is something that all Christians should consider. If God was against the cutting down of trees, bringing them into our homes and decorating them way back then, and He is the same yesterday, today and forever; do we honestly believe He changed His mind and is now somehow happy with it ?
Pakistan threatens to DESTROY India with NUCLEAR bomb
The world is obsessed with Israel’s nuclear capability, when in fact, the real threat is from the Muslim world.
If you recall, Muslims demanded an Islamic State in India. Their unending violence led to the successful movement to the partition of India and independence from Britain. It was proclaimed that “the future constitution of Pakistan would not be modeled entirely on a European pattern, but on the ideology and democratic faith of Islam.” And now we have a failed Islamic State whose main export is jihad terror.
Tensions have been heightened since an attack on an Indian military base in Kashmir earlier this month, which left 18 soldiers dead.
Both countries claim Kashmir in full, but rule separate parts – and have fought three wars over Kashmir since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.
Responding to India’s latest strikes, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said: “We will destroy India if it dares to impose war on us.
“Pakistan army is fully prepared to answer any misadventure of India. We have not made atomic device to display in a showcase. If a such a situation arises we will use it and eliminate India.”
Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said: “Pakistan nuclear weapons are entangled in a history of tension, and while they are not a threat to the United States directly, we work with Pakistan to ensure stability.”
China, a traditional Pakistani ally, has also called for dialogue between the two nations.
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