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martedì 28 giugno 2011

Confessions of a Reluctant Diplomat. My Mandate as OSCE Representative on Combating Religious Intolerance and Discrimination by Massimo Introvigne

Confessions of a Reluctant Diplomat. My Mandate as OSCE Representative on Combating Religious Intolerance and Discrimination

by Massimo Introvigne
A paper presented at the Banquet for the CESNUR 2011 Conference in Danshui (Taipei), Taiwan, June 22, 2011. The opinions expressed are strictly personal, and do not necessarily represent those of OSCE or its Chairmanship

On January 5, 2011, I have taken on the role of Personal Representative of OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe)’s Chairman-in-Office on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination and intolerance against Christians and members of other religions – that makes, at least, for a long business card. I am the third such Representative after the office was established, and the first scholar – my two predecessors were politicians. Headquartered in Vienna, OSCE has 56 participating States including the U.S., Canada, all the States of Europe and these resulting from the collapse of the Soviet Union, many of which are in fact located in Asia. A number of non-participating States have signed partnership agreements, and also maintain embassies to the OSCE in Vienna. Representatives’ positions are honorary, which translated from diplomatic jargon does not mean that we only pretend to work, but means that we do not receive any monetary compensation.
Although the other parts of my mandate are also interesting – for instance, I devote a substantial portion of my time at OSCE to Roma and Sinti issues – I will focus in this speech on intolerance, discrimination and persecution against Christians, a subject of great magnitude and concern. According to the well-known religious statisticians David B. Barrett and Todd M. Johnson (see «Christianity 2011: Martyrs and the Resurgence of Religion», International Bulletin of Missionary Research, vol. 35, no. 1, January 2011: 28-29), 100,000 victims in 2010 is a reliable estimate of Christian martyrs, i.e. Christians killed for their faith (as opposed to victims of political or ethnical wars just happening to be Christian). Statistics are by definition a matter of contention, but nobody doubts that figures are horribly high, and do more than justify an energetic activity by international organizations such as OSCE in this field.
On 10 January 2011, Pope Benedict XVI delivered his annual address to the Diplomatic Corps, entirely devoted to religious liberty. Although OSCE is obviously a secular entity, I am very grateful to the Pope for having pointed out an agenda which is not aimed only at Catholics or Christians but – on the basis of the universal rights of the human person – is addressed to all people of goodwill.
In his address the Pope highlighted five risks to religious freedom. I would like to elaborate on each of them based on my own OSCE experience. The first concerns a possible confusion about what precisely is religious freedom. (Almost) no government in the world claims to be against religious freedom, but the problem is that the meaning of the expression is interpreted differently. I have heard from several diplomats that in their country there are no problems of religious freedom for Christians, since hundreds of churches are duly open every Sunday. This is a very usual confusion between freedom of religion and freedom of worship. The latter is an important part of religious freedom, but a part nonetheless. Religious liberty should also include the liberty to preach outside of the churches, to convert, to be converted without fear of reprisals, to publish books and magazines, to evangelize via radio, TV, and the Internet, to open schools, to participate without discrimination in the public conversation and in politics.
Christians have a right – not only individually, but collectively – to issue political statements, just as any other body or organization, in matters they regard as morally important without being accused of interfering or stepping outside their purely religious role. I had to defend the right of the Catholic bishops in Malta to publicly state their position on the May 28 referendum about divorce, where in the end 53% of the votes were in favor of divorce and 47% against, showing a very divided public opinion. It is part of religious liberty that the bishops, as any other citizen, have the right not only to tell Catholics that they should not divorce but also to explain and defend publicly their persuasion that divorce is socially harmless to the population in general and should not be introduced in the laws. Of course, those opposing the bishops’ position have the same right to explain and defend publicly their persuasion that the bishops are wrong.
On January 17, 2008 the Pope should have visited La Sapienza University in Rome. The fact that the visit was canceled due to the protest of a small minority of teachers and students and to the statement by the Italian government of the time that it would have been quite difficult to protect the Pope from unpleasant incidents is in itself a testament to the fact that problems of religious liberty for Christians do really exist everywhere. In the published text of his intended speech, the Pope quoted non-Catholic American philosopher «John Rawls [1921-2002] [who], while denying that comprehensive religious doctrines have the character of “public” reason, nonetheless at least sees their “non-public” reason as one which cannot simply be dismissed by those who maintain a rigidly secularized rationality». Rawls implied that the Church has no more rights than anybody else to speak in public on controversial political issues, but it is also true that it has no less rights. In fact, as Rawls summarized by the Pope went on, perhaps the Church deserves to be heard even slightly more than somebody else. At least, its «doctrines derive from a responsible and well thought-out tradition in which, over lengthy periods, satisfactory arguments have been developed in support of the doctrines concerned».
Another misconception, more frequent – as we would say in OSCE jargon, with reference to where the organization is headquartered – «west of Vienna» than «east of Vienna», is in fact to confuse religion freedom with relativism and the idea that religion is not important, a marginal component of public life. This is not a merely theoretical question. In fact, the fear that religious freedom bears with it a relativism and an underestimation of the role of religions typical of the modern West is the primary reason why countries with a strong Islamic, Hindu or Buddhist religious identity resist the application of international conventions in the area of religious freedom. They are afraid that accepting religious freedom necessarily means ceding to the relativism and indifferentism characteristic of a certain modern Western culture. They must be convinced that this is not the case.
The second risk identified in the Pope’s address on 10 January 2011, to which I now return as an «index» of the current issues in terms of religious freedom, is that of the attempt by Islamic ultra-fundamentalism, which should not, of course, be confused with Islam in general, to bring an end to the bi-millennial existence of Christian communities in the Near East and to close down missionary churches elsewhere, resorting even to terrorism. In some countries the attempt at a religious cleansing which would definitively eliminate Christians is by now all too clear. It is true that governments distance themselves from the ultra-fundamentalists. But the time of words not followed up by actions has gone. There is a need to adopt effective measures for the protection of religious minorities.
Nor is it a problem just of police, whose action in countries such as Egypt is however very important and must make a qualitative leap, despite the recent difficulties, if non-cosmetic results are to be achieved. It is also a matter of laws. In some Islamic countries if someone converts from Islam to Christianity, he or she is punished by laws against apostasy and – where these laws have been revoked following Western pressure – by norms against blasphemy, which are often just disguised laws against conversion. The Pope, explicitly naming names, stated: «Among the norms prejudicing the right of persons to religious freedom, particular mention must be made of the law against blasphemy in Pakistan: I once more encourage the leaders of that country to take the necessary steps to abrogate that law, all the more so because it is clear that it serves as a pretext for acts of injustice and violence against religious minorities».
The third risk – often little known or under-estimated – is constituted by aggressions against Christians by Hindu or Buddhist «fundamentalists», again not to be confused with Hinduism or Buddhism in general, who identify the national identity of their countries with religious identity, sometimes defended violently against Christianity. These are what the Pope calls «troubling situations, at times accompanied by acts of violence […] in south and south-east Asia, in countries which for that matter have a tradition of peaceful social relations. The particular influence of a given religion in a nation ought never to mean that citizens of another religion can be subject to discrimination in social life or, even worse, that violence against them can be tolerated».
The fourth risk is constituted by the fact that, even if many people would like to forget it, there are still Communist regimes out there. «In a number of countries», the Pope states clearly alluding to these regimes, «a constitutionally recognized right to religious freedom exists, yet the life of religious communities is in fact made difficult and at times even dangerous (cf. Dignitatis Humanae 15) because the legal or social order is inspired by philosophical and political systems which call for strict control, if not a monopoly, of the state over society». The Pope’s thoughts, there, «turn once again to the Catholic community of mainland China and its pastors, who are experiencing a time of difficulty and trial». Nor is this the only case, if we just think of the largely forgotten drama of Christians in North Korea, a country which every year wins the «Gold Medal» from the Protestant organization Open Doors as the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian.
The fifth risk is represented by what the Pope in his address to the Roman Curia on 20 December 2010, adapting an expression coined by the well-known American Jewish jurist of South African origin, Joseph Weiler, called the West’s «Christianophobia» (Weiler in fact prefers «Christophobia»). «Turning our gaze from East to West», the Pope said, «we find ourselves faced with other kinds of threats to the full exercise of religious freedom. I think in the first place of countries which accord great importance to pluralism and tolerance, but where religion is increasingly being marginalized. There is a tendency to consider religion, all religion, as something insignificant, alien or even destabilizing to modern society, and to attempt by different means to prevent it from having any influence on the life of society».
Nobody, including the Pope, suggests to compare the killing of Christians in some Asian and African countries to the marginalization of religion in Europe. There is, obviously, a substantial difference between being ridiculed and being shot. However apparently minor incidents may start a process leading to violence. I have formally protested against assaults on churches both in Spain and Italy, where as recently as June 5 a Mass celebrated by a bishop has been interrupted in Milan by gay activists protesting the Catholic Church’s attitude to homosexuals, a kind of incident which would have been inconceivable in Italy just a few years ago and which is now repeating itself all over Europe.
In 2010 the Pope went to England in order to beatify John Henry cardinal Newman (1801-1890). In one of his most famous speeches, the «Biglietto Speech» read in Rome in 1879 when he was created a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903), Newman lamented that in the United Kingdom religion was not openly persecuted but regarded as something which was not polite to mention in the company of gentlemen. «It is as impertinent, Newman said, to think about a man’s religion as about his sources of income or his management of his family». «As to Religion, he added, it is a private luxury, which a man may have if he will; but which of course he must pay for, and which he must not obtrude upon others, or indulge in to their annoyance». It is this kind of marginalization that is the new name of discrimination against Christians in Europe.
The fact that OSCE established the office of a Representative for combating (inter alia) discrimination against Christians represented in itself an achievement for the cause of fighting Christianophobia. Naturally there is no lack of difficulties and opposition, and in times of economic crisis the resources of the international organizations are severely limited.
As regards concrete action for freedom for Christians, the work of my office at OSCE is carried out through diplomatic activity with participating States, statements on specific incidents, and «country visits», sometimes carried out along with the other two Representatives, appointed respectively for combating anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. This work is limited institutionally to the OSCE participating States, but includes interesting countries. Next week I will conduct with the other two Representatives a country visit to France, meeting inter alia with the anti-cult governmental mission MIVILUDES.
On the level of raising awareness about discrimination against Christians, we can certainly do more. We are organizing an OSCE roundtable in Rome on September 12 on the theme of hate crimes against Christians. I have also suggested to the States that wish to participate the celebration of a Day of Christian Martyrs of our time, to be celebrated not – or not only – in churches, where there are already similar initiatives in place, but in schools, cities, and public institutions, because the persecution of Christians does not affect just Christians, but everyone. I suggested the date of 7 May recalling the great ecumenical event which the Blessed John Paul II (1920-2005) celebrated at the Colosseum in Rome on 7 May 2000. The proposal was endorsed by the authoritative Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica in its issue no. 3863 of June 4, 2011 (see there Luciano Larivera S.J., «Le persecuzioni dei cristiani nel mondo»). This day could be an annual opportunity for a collective examination of conscience and for an exacting approach from Europe to the problem of the protection of Christian minorities in various countries.
I keep in my computer a photograph sent to me by an Indonesian priest and later posted on the Internet. It is not a pleasant image. It shows the bodies of two of the three teenage Christian schoolgirls – Theresia, Alvita and Jarni – who were ambushed and beheaded on October 30, 2005 on their way to their Christian school in the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. The perpetrators, who were member of the local affiliate of al-Qaeda, were later identified and arrested. They received quite lenient sentences for Indonesian standards: 20 years for the chief of the commando, 17 years for the other two assassins.
It is always worth re-reading the appeal made by the Blessed John Paul II on 7 May 2000 at the Colosseum at the start of the 21st century which was then just beginning: «In the century and the millennium just begun may the memory of these brothers and sisters of ours remain always vivid. Indeed, may it grow still stronger! Let it be passed on from generation to generation». Perhaps my OSCE activity as a reluctant diplomat may not achieve much. But I like to conceive it as a tribute to the memory of Theresia, Alvita and Jarni. Indeed, let their story be told to our children in the West and to those who ignore it. Yes, let their memory be passed from generation to generation.http://www.cesnur.org/2011/dan-introvigne.html

Arriva la stangata sull’acqua aumenti del 10% in quattro anni dalla "Repubblica"

Arriva la stangata sull’acqua
aumenti del 10% in quattro anni

Approvato il bilancio della società della Regione che sarà ripubblicizzata. Conti a posto per Aqp, che però non rinuncia ad aumentare le tariffe: cresceranno del 10 per cento fino al 2014

di LELLO PARISE AQP non darà più da mangiare, ma i pugliesi continueranno a pagare cara l'acqua da bere. Fino al 2014 la tariffa crescerà di dieci punti percentuali; nel 2015 sarà ritoccata, verso l'alto, di un altro paio di punti e l'oro blu avrà il valore di 1 euro 61 centesimi al metro cubo; dovranno passare altri tre anni perché, nel 2018, il prezzo scenderà di 1 centesimo, a 1 euro e 60. Nel quartier generale di Aqp spiegano: da queste parti, "la tariffa reale media del servizio idrico integrato si trova al quarantaquattresimo posto in Italia sugli ottantotto Ato considerati". Aumenti "contenuti", dunque.

Se l'icona della corruzione è uno spiacevole ricordo, comunque "dobbiamo fare i conti con la realtà", taglia corto il governatore Nichi Vendola: "Per questo non abbasseremo le tariffe". Eppure il referendum cancella i "profitti garantiti" pari al 7 per cento, destinato a "remunerare il capitale investito" sia dagli operatori privati, sia da quelli pubblici. C'era da aspettarsi almeno lo sconto proprio di quel 7 per cento nella regione che ripubblicizza la spa  -  ancorché, come mugugnano i referendari, non eroga gratuitamente il minimo vitale (50 litri a testa)  -  e acquisisce il 100 per cento delle azioni di Via Cognetti una volta saldato il debito con la Basilicata, a cui va un assegno di 12 milioni 200mila euro per la cessione del 13 per cento. Invece, no. Vendola avverte: "Evitiamo di precipitare nei burroni della demagogia". Discorso chiuso.

I ricavi di Aqp grazie alle bollette, nel 2010 ammontano a 428 milioni. Come stanno le cose, nelle casse della società entreranno altri 59 milioni: 14 nel 2011 (442 milioni), 17 nel 2012 (459), 15 nel 2013 (474) e 13 nel 2014 (487 milioni). Non per questo, tuttavia, impazziranno i costi, che si aggireranno stabilmente intorno ai 300 milioni. Negli ultimi due anni, la politica della cinghia stretta evita sprechi per 19 milioni. In questi quattro anni dovrebbe, piuttosto, salire alle stelle il volume degli investimenti: 674 milioni. Ma raddoppierà l'indebitamento: da 219 a 402 milioni.

L'amministratore unico di Aqp Ivo Monteforte, insieme con il dg Massimiliano Bianco, allinea numeri e previsioni all'assemblea dei soci: di fronte a Vendola e all'assessore ai Lavori pubblici Fabiano Amati. Via libera al bilancio e al piano industriale. Alla fine Nichita il Rosso parla di "risultato straordinario".

Il fatturato del gruppo  -  Aqp e le controllate Potabilizzazione, Pura depurazione e Aseco (materializza fertilizzanti eco-compatibili)  -  è di 429 milioni (più 10 per cento rispetto al 2009). Triplica l'utile netto: da 12 a 37 milioni. Raggiunge quota 132 milioni il Mol (margine operativo lordo), quello che resta dei ricavi dopo le spese sostenute per mandare avanti la baracca più grande d'Europa con duemila dipendenti, ventunomila chilometri di condotte, cinque dighe, quattro impianti di potabilizzazione e centottantaquattro depuratori.

Dice Monteforte: "Il bilancio 2010 rispecchia le efficienze conseguite ed è alla base della promozione da parte di Standard & Poor's, che ci eleva al rango di investment grade". Bianco, il direttore generale, non ha dubbi: "Siamo fiduciosi per il futuro. Proseguiremo nel risanamento". A cominciare da quello delle perdite, che secondo i dati di Aqp si attesterebbero al 35 per cento (34,8, esattamente): saranno impiegati qualcosa come 115 milioni di euro per riparare reti, cambiare tubi, potenziare il telecontrollo, sostituire ulteriori 250mila contatori. Anche i morosi non avranno tregua: la prima cosa da fare sarà quella di "affidare a Equitalia il recupero dei crediti"; linea dura contro i "comportamenti opportunistici dei singoli", saranno evitati, ad esempio, "nuovi rapporti commerciali con clienti ad esposizione rilevante" nei confronti delle banche; politica della carota con amministrazioni comunali e Iacp, saranno "sensibilizzati i proprietari di immobili pubblici" perché decidano di realizzare "almeno un allaccio per ogni palazzina".

Sullo sfondo una massa, imponente, di quattrini da tirare fuori dalla tasca: 674 milioni nel prossimo quadriennio soprattutto per "incrementare la dotazione idrica pro capite" (186 milioni) e "mantenere le opere gestite", nel migliore dei modi (175 milioni). Ecco perché sarà inevitabile indebitarsi: 251 milioni quest'anno, 354 l'anno successivo, 383 nel 2013 e 402 milioni di euro nel 2014.

Cifre che mettono i brividi, ma Vendola non ha paura: "Aqp torna ad essere un fiore all'occhiello per i pugliesi e per i meridionali". E' lo stesso Aqp che con le sue riserve, come sottolinea Amati, consente all'amministrazione regionale di "liquidare" i lucani e di restituire al trasporto pubblico locale quei 12 milioni 200mila euro accantonati perché la totalità del pacchetto azionario fosse nelle mani della Puglia. Per il titolare dei Lavori pubblici, si tratta di "un fatto storico e davvero emozionante a distanza di centonove anni dal primo compleanno di Aqp, festeggiato con una sofisticata operazione di ingegneria finanziaria".http://bari.repubblica.it/cronaca/2011/06/27/news/arriva_la_stangata_sullacqua-18314895/

venerdì 24 giugno 2011

La voglia di Cambiamento a Roseto di Riccardo Di Giuseppe su qui Roseto

La voglia di Cambiamento a Roseto.

Il 30 maggio 2011, al ballottaggio per l'elezione del nuovo sindaco di Roseto, il candidato di centrodestra Enio Pavone ha battuto con 7531 voti, pari al 53,81 per cento, la sfidante di Teresa Ginoble, che si è fermata a 6464 preferenze, pari al 46,18 per cento.
Ma com'è stato possibile per il centrodestra, il quale era reduce dalla più umiliante sconfitta della storia delle elezioni amministrative a Roseto (nel corso della scorsa tornata elettorale, infatti, il centrosinistra si era aggiudicato oltre l'80% delle preferenze) recuperare tutto quello svantaggio ed espugnare Roseto, città che è stata una roccaforte della sinistra da oltre 37 anni?

Per capire come la situazione politica possa mutare così tanto da un'elezione all'altra occorre fare alcune necessarie considerazioni:

  1. L'eccessiva sicurezza del Pd rosetano e la sua insistenza nel non voler ascoltare non solo le opposizioni, ma anche le diverse anime all'interno della propria coalizione, ha causato una frattura insanabile all'interno del centrosinistra a Roseto che si è rimarginata solo in apparenza con degli accordi preelettorali di facciata ( con l'IDV al primo turno e con la sinistra radicale durante il ballottaggio);
  2. La credibilità che ha dato al centrodestra un candidato capace e stimato dall'elettorato di Roseto come Enio Pavone, la capacità del centrodestra locale di formare una coalizione coesa ed allargata;
  3. Un programma serio e realizzabile, spiegato nei particolari, il quale è stato illustrato dettagliatamente negli incontri che si sono susseguiti nelle piazze rosetane;
  4. Un gruppo di giovani militanti del centrodestra che ha lavorato bene sul territorio e che si è dato molto da fare affinchè si potesse raggiungere quest'obiettivo.

A questo proposito va detto che il gruppo di giovani facenti riferimento al centrodestra si è adoperato al massimo delle proprie capacità, sobbarcandosi il peso di una campagna elettorale che pur difficile ha dato degli ottimi risultati.

L'entusiasmo per la vittoria a Roseto, tuttavia, non deve far dimenticare alla nuova amministrazione di centrodestra di Roseto che adesso le aspetta un cammino lungo e tortuoso e che dovrà essere attenta ai problemi di Roseto ed amministrare con lungimiranza ed acume politico se vorrà conservare la fiducia del proprio elettorato.
Per concludere voglio augurare al neo sindaco Pavone ed alla sua giunta comunale un buon lavoro per i prossimi 5 anni, i quali saranno decisivi per il futuro della nostra città!