x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

The Pope's pilgrimage to the Middle East

"It could be a purely religious trip undertaken by Pope Benedict XVI, except from what could come out of it during the Pope's stay in Jordan on his way to the Holy Land in Palestine," wrote Satea Nour Eddine in a comment piece for the Lebanese As Safir newspaper

"It could be a purely religious trip undertaken by Pope Benedict XVI, except from what could come out of it during the Pope's stay in Jordan on his way to the Holy Land in Palestine,"  wrote Satea Nour Eddine in a comment piece for the Lebanese As Safir newspaper Electing Jordan as the first leg of the Holy Father's visit to the region is by no means a random choice. The Hashemite kingdom is very distinguished by its Christian sites. Yet the Pope's stop in Jordan cannot be transient, nor  symbolic. It is his first foray into the Palestinian cause.

The Bishop of Rome is intent on sending a message to the Israelis about the sanctity of the Christian sites and will openly talk about the future of Christians in Palestine and in the Middle East. It is less likely then that the Pope would primarily  engage in preaching peace, love and coexistence. Similarly, "he will be less content in returning empty-handed from his visit to the region, hearing but promises from Israelis as did his predecessors. Otherwise, future visits of the  Pontiff to the Arab world will be no more than religious journeys." 

The Lebanese writer Hussam Aitani wrote an opinion piece for the Kuwaiti daily Al Jarida where he decried the course of events  in Yemen in the backdrop of mounting secession inclinations in the south. It is true that "dialogue is the only way to strengthen the unity of Yemen as suggested by the Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh at the end of the General People's Congress convention few days ago. The president said that the unity of Yemen as solid as mountains."

"What could have prevented the Yemeni authorities from opening this very dialogue with various political forces since the reunification of the country nineteen years ago, or after the war of 1994 following the attempt by southerners to secede?" the Aitani asked. The political outlook in Yemen only "begets" a more centralised system of governance based on  deeply-rooted tribalism. Obviously, such a system has excluded other constituents and gave rise to a small group of tribes having all of the power, spreading a general feeling of discontent and resentment. Neither federalism nor power decentralisation nor temporary settlements can bring a solution; consequently, Yemen is drifting towards the spectre of a civil war.

The London-based newspaper Al Sharq Al Awsat featured an opinion piece by Amal Moussa who wrote: "There is no doubt that the current crisis in Mauritania is open to more than one scenario, and no doubt also that the constitutional crisis has lasted more than expected, while  the  international seclusion of the country is increasing. Despite all these negative indicators, the present state of polarisation is advantageous to  Mauritanians. The heated debate marking the political scene is evidence of people's involvement in the political process which will lead to the emergence of some traditions of democratic practices in the country."

This has been even more strengthened when the opposition parties took to the streets to protest against the candidacy of General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, leader of the ruling military council. More than that, they have come together and decided to boycott the next elections. Seemingly, Mauritania is in a political crisis, yet thanks to its people's active interest as well as faith in their cause for political change the country is likely to succeed in regaining the democratic opening aborted by the advent of the military junta.

In an opinion piece in the UAE daily Al Khaleej, the columnist Khayri Mansour wrote: "When the world was busy with Aids, it was seen and felt almost like  a global war, but its parties were neither capitalism nor communism, rather Man and HIV." The writer then referred to Albert Camus's hero in La Peste (The Plague), Dr Bernard Rieux, who whole-heartedly devoted himself to cure his patients from the most fatal epidemic of the age.

"However, though the world has witnessed waves of epidemics and pandemics in the last two decades, no novelist of Camus's or Gabriel García Márquez's calibre have appeared yet to depict the human tragedy at its peak. This is because people are now more than ever preoccupied by combatting other diseases of immediate impact, namely military occupation, poverty and transnational corruption." Be it bird, swine flu, or cholera, the punch line is not that virus strains are able to transform themselves and adapt, but a matter of ethics. "Unless Man overrides his own oversized ego, he cannot win this viral war." 

* Digest compiled by Mostapha Elmouloudi melouloudi@thenational.ae MElouloudi@thenational.ae