02 Feb Making Sense of the World in 2017
Lisa Mainwaring, Deputy Programme Director of Premier Christian Radio, talks about her struggle to make sense of what the world looks like right now, as she gets ready to launch a new panel show World Monthly, launching tonight on Premier Radio.
It has been an interesting start to the year. It feels like we are living in confusing times. Most of the focus in newsrooms in the UK has been on Donald Trump and Brexit. But one thing I have learnt from my travels, is what counts for ‘news’ very much depends on where you live in the world. Look at France. They are our neighbours – yet ask them about Trump, and if you believe La Monde or Le Figaro, most people don’t give a hoot and are just not interested in him. But here in Blighty, the man with the best comb over ever, will be providing fodder for journalists for the next four and possible eight years. My point is, that every country has its own lens – that is why it is so important to get into a habit of reading the international press, to get a feel of what is really going on in the world.
I am sure like me; you’ve been glued to your TV set since Trump was sworn in. In a matter of days since starting in office, U.S. President Donald Trump issued executive orders that advance his boldest campaign promises – which include placing curbs on immigration, directing the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and a travel and immigration ban from seven Muslim-majority countries. So far there has been little light between what Trump said on the campaign trail and what he has so far undertaken from the Oval Office. Then there is Brexit – which will rumble on many years. And with the coming Eurozone elections is the Netherlands, France, Germany and possibly a snap election in Italy – it doesn’t look like they will be much focus in Brussels on negotiating at all this year.
But away from all of that, Russia is reasserting itself on the international stage. (I still can not believe that the Soviet Union collapsed 25 years ago – I feel old). During Trump’s eighth day in office, he held his first direct talks with Russian President Vladmir Putin. During their telephone conversation, the two leaders stressed the importance of ‘restoring mutually beneficial trade and economic ties’ between their countries. They also agreed to work together on foreign policy issues, touching on the Middle East, North Korea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The last area of collaboration raised concern among members of the Ukrainian government. The prospect of warming ties between Washington and Moscow puts Kiev in a precarious position
I expect that European divisions will present a golden opportunity for the Russians – and Putin will be able to crack European unity on sanctions this year. The Trump administration may also be more amenable to easing sanctions and to some cooperation in Syria, as it tries to de-escalate the conflict with Moscow. But I imagine they’ll limits to the reconciliation.
As part of that strategy, Russia will probably continue to play spoiler and peacemaker in the Middle East to bargain with the West. While a Syrian peace settlement will remain elusive, Russia will keep close to Tehran as U.S.-Iran relations deteriorate. I expect that the Iran nuclear deal will be challenged on a number of fronts as Iran enters an election year and as Trump takes a harder line on Iran.
And Islamic State is not the only jihadist group to be concerned about. With the spotlight on Islamic State, al Qaeda has also been quietly rebuilding itself in places such as North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and the group is likely to be more active this year.
I could also talk about other problems and on-going conflicts around the world right now. There are at least a dozen deadly threats hanging over our planet. These threats are not only a nuclear war, not just terrorism or a terrorist with an atomic bomb in his hand. It is the destruction of nature and global warming as a result of insatiable consumption and profit craving. It is also the growing gap between the richest and the poorest people and countries, conflicts of civilisations and religions, and finally signs of dehumanisation and human degradation. There is less cooperation between governments that I’ve known in my life time and all kinds of actors, plus increased populism (U.S. elections, Brexit, Russia, the Philippines, referenda in the Netherlands and Italy, etc.). The world has not seen this degree of conflict with even slimmer prospects of problem solving, since after the Second World War. These threats can be realised and gradually eliminated with the concentrated forces of mankind. But a journey of a thousand miles, as Chinese say, begins with a single step. So as Christians we have an obligation to practice love, peace and compassion more broadly than our national borders. If all did this the world would be changed overnight. I keep praying for that.
You can listen to Lisa Mainwaring tonight (Thursday 2nd February), 10pm as she hosts World Monthly – a panel show on Premier Christian Radio that tries to make sense of what’s happening in the world, by focusing on some of the major international political stories that are making the headlines. It draws upon faith leaders, theologians, policy experts, and commentators, discussing issues where faith and global affairs collide. The show this month looks at what a Trump presidency means for the stability, peace and prosperity of the world – and is Trump fulfilling God’s plan?