Across the globe, it was a year of constant political, ethnic and religious clashes.
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Whenever a year kicks off with fears of nuclear war in the Middle East or end-of-the-world predictions, it is not a sign of good things to come.
So began 2012. From rumors of Iran building a nuclear bomb to supposed cataclysmic predictions by an ancient culture, it has been a wild year.
Presidential elections in multiple countries, including the United States, Mexico, Russia, France, Venezuela and Egypt, as well as leadership changes in North Korea and China, added to the year’s volatile recipe. And if those were not concerning enough, the assassination of an American ambassador in Libya on the anniversary of 9/11 and renewed violence between Israel and Hamas should have at least sounded a few warning bells.
Quite a few events throughout the year gave stark warnings that instead of being more unified, the world is becoming increasingly fragmented. Five trends are of particular note as another calendar year begins.
In June 2012, a Pew Research poll showed Americans are “more polarized along partisan lines than at any point in the past 25 years.” Six months later, during the presidential election, incumbent President Barack Obama’s victory of approximately 50.6 percent over Mitt Romney’s 47.9 percent confirmed it.
Did the nation’s divisive atmosphere dwindle after election night? Perhaps the best answer is exemplified by the fact that dissatisfied Americans from every state requested secession from the union following the vote results.
Just days after the election, on the White House’s “We the People” online platform in which citizens can file petitions to the federal government, “North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas—all states that voted for former Gov. Mitt Romney—as well as Florida each had accumulated more than 25,000 signatures, the threshold needed to trigger an official response from the Obama administration,” Yahoo! News reported. “Collectively, the secession petitions now have more than 700,000 digital signatures.”
With a Republican-majority House of Representatives, a Democrat-majority Senate, and unending challenges such as a potential “fiscal cliff,” it appears continued division in 2013 is inevitable. (Read The Real Truth article U.S. Presidential Election: Gridlock as Usual? to understand more about the implications of America’s sharp political rift.)
Across the ocean, the European Union became more entrenched in squabbles about indebted nations, unemployment, bailouts, riots and immigration issues.
“Riots have now occurred in the three of the EU’s most troubled nations—Spain, Portugal and Greece—in the wake of government budget and wage cuts at a time [of] growing economic and social turmoil in the region,” MoneyWatch reported.
Almost a quarter of the workforce in all three countries is unemployed and a total of almost 26 million people across the power bloc are out of work.
The Guardian stated, “In the case of Spain, its national integrity is threatened by the separatist demand made by the Catalan nationalists, who think the austerity policy is unfairly reducing the region’s autonomy.”
Italy, France and Belgium have also been affected.
“In central Rome, students stoned police in a protest over money-saving plans for the school system,” Reuters reported. “A few dozen protesters, hurling bottles and large firecrackers, clashed with riot police, who fired tear gas and dragged away at least one bleeding protester into a police van, a Reuters witness said.
“International rail services were disrupted by strikes in Belgium and workers in Greece, Italy and France demonstrated as part of a ‘European Day of Action and Solidarity’.
“It was the biggest Europe-wide challenge by organised labour to austerity policies that have aggravated recessions and mass unemployment in nearly three years since the start of the euro zone’s debt crisis.”
These and other aspects have seemingly forced the power bloc down a previously walked path—a two-speed Europe with greater fiscal and political integration.
A PublicServiceEurope.com article, “Fragmented EU at the crossroads between collapse and unity,” stated that German Chancellor Angela Merkel put forward “a Utopian vision of the European Commission as a government backed by an ‘upper chamber’ of member states and a more powerful European Parliament. She insisted that Germany was still ‘deeply committed to’ the European project some 22 years after reunification, adding: ‘We must be courageous and not shy away from treaty change if needed.’”
Other leaders also called for the Continent to face its financial problems in a unified way.
“EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso claimed that more integration and centralization of decision-making in Brussels, at the expense of national capitals’ sovereign power, is necessary to overcome the economic crisis,” The Associated Press reported. “He said eurozone countries should be allowed to pool their debt to protect financially weaker member states.”
While some leaders pursued greater political and fiscal unification, including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, others showed signs of wanting out.
“Well over half of British voters now want to leave the European Union, according to an opinion poll that shows anti-EU sentiment is sweeping through all three main political parties,” the Guardian reported.
This comes amid further internal fracturing within the UK. The Washington Post stated that Scotland sought to end its 300-year-old ties with England and Wales: “An independent Scotland would significantly weaken the foremost military and diplomatic ally of the United States, while creating another European mini-state unable to contribute meaningfully to global security.”
Global turmoil has led to the rise of far-left and far-right groups, which have pushed harder for extreme change to what they consider failing governmental systems.
According to The Hill, “In recent months, Greece’s economic woes have continued their downward spiral, coupled with an alarming rise in violence and political extremism, and the rhetoric has now spread into Greek diaspora communities in the United States. The movement is being led by the ultra-nationalistic, neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, which has emerged from the shadows of Greek society to win 18 seats in Parliament, and which has reportedly opened satellite offices…in New York City.”
The article added, “The worsening economic crisis in Greece has provided a fertile breeding ground for groups like Golden Dawn, whose leaders deny the Holocaust and whose members have been implicated in violence and hate crimes against immigrants, political opponents and native citizens of non-Greek origin…Groups of non-Greek ethnicity are forced to hide or disavow their own identity and culture. Meanwhile, religious groups, such as the Macedonian Orthodox Church, fare no better.”
But Greece is not the only country that has seen a rise in such groups.
“A Hungarian far-right politician urged the government to draw up lists of Jews who pose a ‘national security risk’, stirring outrage among Jewish leaders who saw echoes of fascist policies that led to the Holocaust,” Reuters reported.
“Marton Gyongyosi, a leader of Hungary’s third-strongest political party Jobbik, said the list was necessary because of heightened tensions following the brief conflict in Gaza and should include members of parliament.”
According to the media outlet, “The group gained notoriety after founding the Hungarian Guard, an unarmed vigilante group reminiscent of World War Two-era far-right groups. It entered Parliament at the 2010 elections and holds 44 of 386 seats.”
Far-right parties in Sweden, Ukraine and Russia have also garnered clout.
“Thousands of black-clad Russian nationalists have marched through central Moscow to mark a ‘National Unity Day’ holiday created by Vladimir Putin by calling for an end to his rule and expressing hostility to ethnic minorities,” The Herald stated.
“Mr Putin instituted the holiday in 2005 to replace the annual Soviet-era celebration of the Bolshevik revolution. However, civil rights activists say his own flirtation with ethnic nationalism has stoked a rise in far-right violence, and is partly to blame for the hijacking of the holiday by hardline militants.”
In addition, Germany has experienced this trend, as shown by a Times of London article.
“Chancellor Merkel is known to be worried about the potential spread of far-right views and her government is considering making another attempt to ban the National Democratic Party after a previous effort failed in 2003.”
According to a report about the topic by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, “Xenophobia was the most common prejudice, held by 25.1 per cent of the whole population, the highest since East and West Germany were reunited in 1990, and most prevalent among respondents from the East at 38.7 per cent” (ibid.).
The United States has not been immune either. The rise of extreme political agendas has seen a rebirth in fringe cultures.
“Currently, there are 1,018 known hate groups operating across the country, including neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, border vigilantes and others,” Southern Poverty Law Center reported.
“Since 2000, the number of hate groups has increased by 69 percent. This surge has been fueled by anger and fear over the nation’s ailing economy, an influx of non-white immigrants, and the diminishing white majority, as symbolized by the election of the nation’s first African-American president.”
Extremist groups that experienced a resurgence in membership include the Ku Klux Klan and New Black Panther Party.
“In Philadelphia, the New Black Panther Party was back in election news after a reporter at Philadelphia magazine snapped a picture of a uniformed member of the group in front of one polling place,” The Washington Times reported. “In 2008, members of the group were at the center of a voting-intimidation complaint filed by the George W. Bush Justice Department but later dropped by the Obama administration.”
Elsewhere in the country, a “sovereign citizen movement” is under way, as an Anti-Defamation League report showed.
“The sovereign citizen movement is an extreme anti-government movement whose members believe the government has no authority over them. It began a resurgence of activity, including criminal activity, in 2009 that has shown no signs of stopping. In 2012, the sovereign citizen movement is currently one of the most problematic domestic extremist movements in the United States.”
Nowhere was there more apparent religious division than in the Catholic Church. The year 2012 forced Catholics everywhere to contemplate what it meant to stand by their religion.
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), America’s largest organization of nuns, disputed with the Vatican over a church-issued controversial review that charged the group with promoting “radical feminism,” among other issues.
“These same conflicts are gripping the Catholic Church at large,” The New York Times stated. “Nearly 50 years after the start of Vatican II, which was intended to open the church to the modern world and respond to the ‘signs of the times,’ the church is gravely polarized between a progressive wing still eager for change and reform and a traditionalist flank focused on returning to what it sees as doctrinal fundamentals.”
The U.S. presidential election has served to further complicate the issue.
“The Catholic Church in the United States has been at odds with the Obama administration over his healthcare law, which requires private employers, including most religious private institutions, to provide workers with health insurance that covers contraceptives,” Reuters wrote.
“The Church has seen this as a threat to the freedom of religion enshrined in the U.S. constitution, a cry that was taken up by Pope Benedict this year.”
The pope has also been active in advocating for peace in the fracturing Middle East. In September, he visited Lebanon for three days to stress the need to bring “stable and lasting peace” to the region.
Elsewhere, in Nigeria, followers of Islam and professing Christianity have increasingly come to blows. The Associated Press reported, “Christians and Muslims have lived together peacefully across the country of 160 million for years, but the growing violence is creating a climate of religious distrust and local communities have lost faith in the government’s ability to protect them.”
There has also been a drastic increase in religious persecution in China and surrounding nations. One non-profit group reported a 400 percent increase in persecution of professing Christians over the last 10 years.
In addition, Sunni and Shiite Islamic sects continued to clash. Syria’s ongoing civil war can be boiled down to this bitter division, as can the majority of terrorist attacks in Iraq.
Perhaps the largest form of world fragmentation has been relationships between countries in the Eastern and Western hemispheres. Old alliances that once existed are now being disregarded and new ones created.
This has especially been illustrated during the Syrian crisis.
“Russia and China have opposed military intervention in Syria throughout 17 months of bloodshed and have vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions backed by Western and Arab states that would raise pressure on Damascus to end violence,” according to The Jerusalem Post.
While initially joining the West in favor of certain actions being taken in the region, such as deposing Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, Russia has publicly declared support of Syria and Iran in their respective conflicts—and turned its nose up at the U.S.
Russia is not alone in its support of certain countries in the region. China will not easily give up its abundance of natural resources from the Middle East or jeopardize relationships so vital to its economic well-being.
In addition, Russia and China have continued increasing their military ties.
“China has pledged to strengthen military ties with Russia during a visit by its defense minister Sergei Shoigu to Beijing,” China Daily reported.
Egypt was another example of a nation that moved farther away from the West by electing Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi.
“Islamists in the Middle East are speaking out following President Barack Obama’s re-election…” a CBSDC/AP article showed.
“The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood feels that the only foreign policy change Obama can bring is by ‘accepting the will of the Arab people.’”
“‘We must rely on ourselves and on our resources and build our country,’ Issam Al-Aryan, a top Muslim Brotherhood official, said, according to The Times of Israel. ‘In the absence of direct American influence, Egypt can affect and lead the process of building a democratic and constitutional regime that will become a dream for African and the southern hemisphere.’”
That dream, however, means making Islamic Sharia law the foundation of the country’s revamped constitution and giving the presidency more absolute power, including the ability to be exempted from any legal challenges.
The change in leadership has meant that Egypt has opted to support Palestinians over maintaining peace with Israel.
“The Muslim Brotherhood has expressed sympathy for the Palestinian population under embargo in Gaza and skepticism toward Egypt’s treaty with Israel,” The Washington Post stated. “It is also more sensitive to Egyptian public opinion—which is not terribly pro-Israel—than was Hosni Mubarak’s government. The Egypt-Israel relationship has remained generally stable since the Egyptian revolution, and Egypt has held up its end of the embargo, but analysts have worried that an Israeli assault on Gaza could change Cairo’s calculus…Egypt has already recalled its ambassador from Israel over the Gaza strikes, something it threatened to do in August over an Israeli airstrike that killed three Egyptians.”
(For more about this topic, read Mideast on the Brink – What Happens Next?)
Notice each of these five signs portrays dynamic changes between peoples of different mindsets, countries or ethnicities.
As these conflicts brew, note that they match exactly with the Bible’s description about conditions at the end of the age. One such verse is Mark 13:4, in which Jesus’ disciples asked Him about “the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled…”
His detailed answer included: “And when you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be you not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. For nation shall rise against nation…” (Mark 13:7-8).
A closer look at this passage reveals the Greek word translated “nation” is ethnos, from which comes the English word “ethnicity.” It is defined by Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament as “a multitude…associated or living together; a company, troop, swarm…a multitude of individuals of the same nature or genus…race, nation.”
Signs give warnings. They are designed to call someone’s attention to danger or a destination ahead. Mark 13:7-8 is no different. For anyone paying attention, this passage is a sign to be heeded as prophetic events ramp up worldwide.
Recall that in Mark 13:4 the disciples called it “the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled.” Throughout the rest of the chapter, as well as parallel accounts in the books of Matthew and Luke, Jesus greatly expanded on other “things” to take place as part of this comprehensive sign. Among them are:
Yet within the same warning sign Christ reveals an amazingly good “thing” that happens simultaneously.
Thayer’s defines the word translated “sign” in these passages as “a sign, prodigy, portent, i.e. an unusual occurrence, transcending the common course of nature…of signs portending remarkable events soon to happen…of miracles and wonders by which God authenticates the men sent by him, or by which men prove that the cause they are pleading is God’s.”
Understand. This sign is God’s last message to anyone willing to listen and turn to Him. Besides warning of the precipice toward which governments, systems and religions devised by men are leading, this overarching sign is also designed to declare that a new worldwide God-devised government must soon be established on Earth.
The Bible is plain about this. Old Testament prophets such as Daniel stated: “And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him” (7:27).
New Testament apostles such as Jude also wrote: “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him” (1:14-15). The Bible is brimming with bright “signs” proclaiming this soon-coming supergovernment, headed by the returning Jesus Christ Himself!
Though trends will get worse for a little while longer, they will come to a sudden halt before it is too late. Notice: “And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved [remain alive]: but for the elect’s sake, whom He has chosen, He has shortened the days” (Mark 13:20).
God promises the world will not fragment to the point of rubble. He will intervene.