WorldWatch Extras for January/February 2016
Jesus told us to watch the world around us. Here are some brief news items and trends that could have prophetic significance.
We take Jesus’ admonition to “watch” (Luke 21:36) very seriously. Discern magazine regularly reports on world news and trends. We did not have room for all these news items in our January/February 2016 issue, so we are publishing these significant quotes, trends and stats here for our readers to consider.
Watch the Middle East
“The Islamic State may well be the richest terrorist group ever.”
—Hisham Melhem, columnist for Al Arabiya. He also wrote, “Many experts believe the group is more than capable of financing itself through taxes and extortion, through which it takes in more than $1 million per day, as well as oil revenues” (Foreign Affairs).
Militant attacks in the Sinai (the peninsula controlled by Egypt that borders Israel) rose to more than 350 in 2015, 10 times more than 2012. Deaths from counterterrorism operations rose from 12 in 2012 to over 3,000 (The Economist).
U.S. rank among countries with the most pro-ISIS tweets. Saudi Arabia is first, then Syria and Iraq, according to the Brookings Institution (The Week).
Brexit: Will Britain Leave the EU?
British voters will probably be asked this question in the fall of 2016:
“Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union, or leave the European Union?”
British public opinion about staying in or getting out has fluctuated widely over the years since a previous referendum in 1975. Using the possibility of an exit as a bargaining chip in negotiating for changes in the EU could backfire, and events between now and the vote could have an unexpected impact.
In a special report on “The Reluctant European,” the Economist magazine wrote: “Everybody understands that Brexit would inflict grave damage on the EU (though some reckon that the damage to Britain would be greater still). … Yet it is also clear that there are limits to the concessions other countries are willing to make to persuade it to stay.”
For background on Britain’s future in Europe in the light of biblical prophecy, see “The Eurozone: Doomed to Complete Political Integration?”
Watch threats to human existence
“A relatively small-scale nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan, involving about a hundred weapons, could cause a global ‘nuclear winter’ and kill more than a billion people.”
—Eric Schlosser, in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. His latest book is Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety.
He also listed many current nuclear dangers and questioned the effectiveness of mutually assured destruction as a deterrent today: “That nuclear deterrence has worked in the past offers no guarantee it will work a year, a month, even a day from now. Unlike the ideologies prevalent during the Cold War, today’s religious extremism often champions the mass killing of nonbelievers, the destruction of culturally significant buildings, and a glorious martyrdom on behalf of the cause. For such adversaries, the logic of nuclear deterrence may well be meaningless.”
Watch moral trends
U.S. Less Religious, but More Spiritual?
While traditional forms of religious observance are declining, the U.S. population may be described as becoming more “spiritual” in certain ways. Today 59 percent of adults say they feel a deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being at least once a week, up 7 percentage points since 2007. And 46 percent say they feel a deep sense of wonder about the universe on a weekly basis, also up sharply since 2007 (Pew Research Center).
Percentage of Americans who say “Christian churches are part of the problem when it comes to racism.” Millennials (ages 18 to 31) are most likely to agree (46 percent). However, 73 percent of all Americans agree that “Christian churches play an important role in racial reconciliation” (Barna.org).
Chlamydia cases in the U.S. in 2014, the highest ever for any sexually transmitted disease. Syphilis increased by 15 percent; and gonorrhea, by 27.5 percent (The Week).
Losing the War on Drugs
“A drug-free world—we can do it!” That was the slogan of the last UN General Assembly special session on drugs in 1998. But as they prepare for another special session in 2016, the casualty list is growing. “Cannabis and cocaine consumption have risen by half, opiate use has nearly trebled, and a bewildering number of synthetic drugs are getting people high in new and dangerous ways” (The Economist).
Watch the ride of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse
Coywolves Spreading Into Cities
Purebred coyotes never spread east of the U.S. prairies, and eastern wolves were killed off years ago. But now an interbred animal some are calling a “coywolf” (mostly coyote, but with an average of a quarter wolf and a 10th dog DNA) is spreading into cities like Boston, Washington and New York. Perhaps the dog DNA has made them more tolerant of people and noise, and the interbreeding has broadened the animals’ diet, allowing them to adapt to urban living (The Economist).
Number of schools and universities destroyed by Boko Haram in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger (Christian Science Monitor).
Number of countries that have built border fortifications since the end of World War II. Of these, 25 were started in the past 15 years (Christian Science Monitor).