Unlike the US, with its "In God We Trust" engravings on coins and in courtrooms, its Washington prayer breakfasts and various other religious ceremonies in public life, most countries in Europe pretty much keep religious rituals outside the rituals of government.
This seems consistent with recent survey findings that show Europeans less religiously observant than Americans and uneasy about a US foreign policy that they see as driven by a sort of messianic zeal that is dangerous precisely because its inspiration is a matter of faith.
It may come as something of a surprise, then, that added to all the other divisions bedeviling what is called the European project are disputes over whether God and Christianity ought to be inserted into the draft of the European constitution, from which both are now excluded.
The difference of view has to do with the constitution that will eventually be adopted to govern the EU after it expands from its current 15 members to 25 members next spring. For more than a year, a 105-member committee, under the direction of the former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing, worked on a draft to be adopted, or not adopted, by the member nations.
In truth, the lengthy draft, which was completed and presented to members early last month, is a verbose document devoted mostly to determining new bureaucratic arrangements, like the number of commissioners on the governing body and their nationalities.
The document's preamble, which is not a masterpiece of European literature, is intended to enumerate the values adhered to by all the component parts of the EU, and it is over those first few paragraphs of the constitution that the debate on God and religion has centered.
As it now reads, the key sentence of the preamble is the one that defines Europe as a "civilization" whose inhabitants "have gradually developed the values underlying humanism: equality of persons, freedom, respect for reason." The only mention of religion at all in the preamble comes in the next sentence, which mentions the "cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe," an inheritance that has led to "the central role of the human person and his or her inviolable and inalienable rights."
Even that ever-so-brief recognition of the religious heritage of Europe was a last minute addition inserted by the drafters after they decided to delete an earlier specific reference to Christianity. That was part of a larger compromise in which the drafters also dropped mentions of Greco-Roman civilization and the Enlightenment as aspects of the common European heritage, phrases that suggest the secular philosophical foundations of European civilization. But the attempt to leave out both the Enlightenment and Christianity left many members of the various national delegations unsatisfied.
"It wasn't a problem-solving approach," Leszek Jesien, a Polish expert on the EU said. "It was an approach that put a certain fog on the issues.
"Personally, I'm not convinced that the religious tradition need be put into the preamble, but I don't see, if a large number of people want it, why it shouldn't be there. It's a matter of finding a bridge between the two sides."
What are the two sides? In one camp are the mostly Catholic countries, Ireland, Spain, Italy and Poland, which, urged on by the Vatican, have been most active in demanding a more emphatic recognition of Europe's religious roots.
They are joined by other countries, including Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Malta and Lithuania, all due to enter the EU next May, which support a Christian or a Judeo-Christian reference in the preamble.
"Either Europe is Christian or it is not Europe," was the bold formulation in a headline in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, a few weeks ago.
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
PLAYING THE VICTIM? A Chinese spokesman sent a statement to Australian media saying that Beijing had ‘irrefutable’ evidence of Canberra’s widescale espionage Australia yesterday unveiled the “largest-ever” boost in cybersecurity spending, days after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke out about a wave of state-sponsored attacks suspected to have been carried out by China. Morrison and government officials said the country would spend an additional A$1.35 billion (US$928 million) on cybersecurity, about a 10 percent hike, taking the budget for the next decade to A$15 billion. The largest chunk of the new money would help create 500 jobs within the Australian Signals Directorate, the government’s communications intelligence agency. Morrison on June 19 said that a “state-based actor” was targeting a host of
The Philippine army chief yesterday expressed outrage over the fatal police shooting of four soldiers, including two officers, and demanded justice, as both sides provided contrasting accounts of the killings. Philippine Secretary of the Interior and Local Government Eduardo Ano, a retired military chief of staff who now oversees the national police, ordered that the police involved in Monday’s violence in Jolo in Sulu Province be disarmed and restricted for investigation. Police said the soldiers were killed in a “misencounter” with a group of police officers. The army said that the two officers and two enlisted men were on a mission against