Free At Last

The continuing saga of the Bulgarian nurses in Libya is finally at an end. Through a deal brokered by the EU with the help of Qatar, the nurses and their Palestinian doctor colleague have flown to Bulgaria. They were released under a 1984 prisoner exchange agreement

The Bulgarian president and prime minister both met the plane as it landed. The former hostages (let’s call it like it is) were travelling with the wife of the French President and the European Union foreign affairs commissioner. They were immediately officially pardoned by the president, who has even gone one step further and is putting them up at the presidential residence. This includes the doctor, who was granted Bulgarian citizenship last month.

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Libya agreed to release them after the EU agreed to take care of all of Libya’s HIV children in European hospitals for the rest of their lives. The Libyans were also offered normalised relations with the EU. I’d say they managed to pull of a good deal. Find some Christians who have come to your country to help people, arrest them on ludicrous charges, see that they get sentenced to death, and it is amazing how much leverage you can have.

While we rejoice in their freedom, let us not forget that there are other Christians imprisoned, killed, and otherwise persecuted for their faith by Islamic (and other anti-Christian) regimes around the world.

Ransomed

The Bulgarians nurses I wrote about in May have had their death sentences commuted. They have not been freed, but rather merely given life imprisonment for crimes which research has shown the could not have committed.

They have been convicted of intentionally infecting 438 children in Libya with HIV. Even though the accusation is ludicrous, foreign experts with no vested interest in covering up the problem of AIDS in a Muslim country have determined that the infections started before the Bulgarians even arrived in Libya. They made confessions, but these were aided by the usual Libyan methods of torture.

In the end, it wasn’t just all of the foreign pressure from the civilised world that worked. It was the blood money that was raised. More than £200 million of it to be paid to the families. There were sweeteners for the Libyan government like all of their debt to Bulgaria written off. You know a country is in pretty bad shape when they are in debt to Bulgaria.

Now the pressure should not be let up until they are released.

The Living and the Dead

Dr David Holford has linked to an article from Hot Air about Christianity rebounding in Europe and in his adopted country of Sweden in particular. Most of it is not happening in the Church of Sweden. Why?

Hedvig Eleonara [parish church] has three full-time salaried priests and gets over $2 million each year though a state levy. Annika Sandström, head of its governing board, says she doesn’t believe in God and took the post “on the one condition that no one expects me to go each Sunday.”

Russian Civilisation?

If you were thinking that human rights are a reality in post-Communist Russia, you would be very mistaken. The former KGB officer serving president may claim to be a devout believer, but with another KGB agent leading the Holy Synod in which at least another two members were also KGB agents, perhaps its not surprising that things haven’t changed much in Holy Mother Russia.

When a Chechen meat wholesaler named Zaur Talkhigov helped the security services to negotiate the release of hostages in the Moscow theatre siege, he was arrested for terrorism and sent to Siberia. Investigating his case is one of the reasons investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya was murdered. As reported in The Sunday Times:

Talkhigov is now in a cramped cell with 18 inmates sharing one lavatory in Komi, a remote and forbidding region that became infamous under Stalin for its many forced-labour camps. In winter, temperatures drop to -30C. In summer, the cell is a stifling 30C plus.

He is allowed out of his cell for just an hour a day and permitted to wash once a month. The food consists of buckwheat porridge, rancid fishbone soup and the occasional plate of boiled meat.

His mother Tamara can visit him only once a year, for three days. The return train journey to the prison from her home in Chechnya takes 84 hours.

“Conditions in the prison where I am now are relatively good,” said Talkhigov. “In Moscow I was held in a cell so cramped that we took it in turns to sleep. Tuberculosis was rampant. In another prison, where I was held in solitary confinement, two guards came into my cell shortly after I arrived and beat me all over my body with their truncheons as their way of welcoming me. I’ve been under constant psychological pressure.”

Yet this is a country that wants to be treated as an equal with the G7 nations. Putin has cooled relations with the US over NATO missile defence systems in free nations that have aligned themselves with the West, rather than their previous compulsory alliance with Russian under the Warsaw Pact.

In terms of law and justice, Russia still has a long way to go to be considered a civilised nation. The other question is whether the Church in Russia is going to be an agent of reform or of collusion.

The Cost of an Education

Apparently getting a university education may contribute to the end of British civilisation as we know it. According to Melanie McDonaghan writing in the The Times, 40% of women graduates do not have a baby by age 35. If the Government succeeds in its goal of getting 50% of the population through university, this only asking for trouble, especially with more women than men now attending university.

A simple mathematics exercise indicates that with 60% of graduates being women (based on the current ratio of intake), 24% of women of childbearing age will be childless. If this is all childlessness by choice, it does not take into account the surge of barrenness that will result from the chlamydia epidemic, which the Health Protection Agency showed has infected 12% of young women 16 to 19 as of last year.

Britain’s birthrate is 1.87 children per couple. This is not a replacement rate and will place a huge tax burden on the tiny workforce to support the pensions of an ageing population that is living longer. However, compared to the rest of Europe this is almost a population boom. The average across the Continent is 1.37 children per couple.

Biblically, children are a blessing and barrenness is a curse. Post-Christian Europe may deny it, but it can’t avoid the consequences.

Clothes Police

If you’ve heard of the clothes police, but never thought this referred to an actual law enforcement body, you may soon be wrong. It may soon refer to any constabulary in Scotland.

Under proposed Scottish legislation, unlicensed kilt wearers could face a £5,000 fine and six months in jail. Don’t worry about wearing the wrong tartan. It all has to do with the sporran – the pouch worn over the unmentionables due to the lack of pockets in a kilt.

Sporrans are traditionally made from leather or fur. Applicants for a license had better know the provenance of their sporran. The animal providing the materials must have been killed lawfully. That means it if it is made from badger, otter, deer, or a number of other animals, it must have been made before 1994.  It’s always a good idea to keep those receipts.

If you can’t prove how old it is (or that it is disgracefully made from non-traditional materials), not only will you have a criminal record and possibly a cellmate, but you will also have your sporran confiscated.

This crazy legislation is not entirely from the deranged collective mind of the Scottish government. It has been proposed to conform to the rest of the European Union.

I’m Back

I am sorry, Gentle Reader, if I left you in a lurch, wondering where I might have been these past few days. I awoke this morning 4:45 BST+1 in Isigny-sur-Mer, Calvados, Basse Normandie and over 600 miles and 15 hours later arrived back in the Shire. I drove all but the last sixty miles and the 30 miles of sea between Dunkerque and Dover.

Last Saturday we hired a seven-seater and picked up my parents, who were already in the UK. We had reserved a five-seater that can be turned into a cramped seven-seater (a Vauxhall Zafira), but when we got to the car hire place they had upgraded us to a comfy true seven (a Chrysler Voyager). We spent the night near the Channel coast and took the ferry on Sunday morning.

We wanted to take my parents (and especially my dad) to see the D-Day sights in Normandy. We had seen them last summer and since then had planned to go back with my parents. We went to the same campground where we stayed for a fortnight last summer. Last year we had originally intended to stay for one night and just never left. It must be the best campground in Europe. It was good last year, before the owner made significant upgrades (like adding a covering and heating to the swimming pool)  over the winter.  He plans even more improvement for next year.

If you are going to France on holiday, you must go to Isigny and stay at Camping Le Fanal – whether as a tent camper (as we were last year) or in one of the chalets or mobile homes. It is family oriented, friendly, and extremely clean. I know this sounds like an advertisement, but we absolutely love it. There is so much of Europe to see, but we just would just hate to miss Normandy.

The owner remembered us from last year. We had booked accommodation that he thought was too small for all of us, and it was a very light week (our half-term was the week after a French holiday week and just before the northern Europeans start coming in), so he upgraded it.

The week before half-term was filled with beautiful weather.  Last week was a bit more turbulent. We had lots of rain. It would rain as we were driving to a place we wanted to see. As soon as we would get there, the rain would stop. As soon as we got back in the car, it would start again.

The only time it didn’t was when we travelled to Saint-Malo so I my father could preach there one night. It rained while we were trying to get our bags into the hotel. After that, any time we were out of the hotel, it was dry. When we left Saint-Malo it rained until we got to Dol, where I wanted to see the cathedral dedicated to our father among the Welsh saints, Samson, who was ordained to the episcopate by St Dyfrig. It stopped while I got out, then started again when I got in the car. It rained all the way to Mont Saint-Michel, then stopped the whole time we were there. As soon as we started to get in the car – you guessed it – it started tipping down.

If I don’t stop now this will turn into a disjointed, but complete, travelogue of how I spent my spring vacation.  As it is, I’ll re-visit a few experiences over the next few days. For now I should get to sleep.