Thaddeus Baklinski

Countering the culture of death with classical music: one Catholic composer’s mission

Thaddeus Baklinski
Thaddeus Baklinski
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BARRY’S BAY, Ontario, October 30, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky said it first. But acclaimed Catholic composer, virtuoso pianist and dynamic performer Eric Genuis agrees: beauty – in this case the beauty of classical music – has the power to save the world.

Genuis tours internationally with soloists and orchestras to spread his message of hope and joy through his music. In his presentation he also exhorts youth, and their parents, not only to learn to appreciate the beauty of classical music, but to guard against forms of music that might be described as belonging to the culture of death.

Genuis shared his insights into the importance of music on culture during an evening of beautiful music at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy in Barry’s Bay, Ontario recently, where he and a trio (violin, cello and voice) of very young but accomplished musicians moved the audience in turns to tears and laughter.

In an interview with LifeSiteNews, Mr. Genuis stressed that although he warns about the negative influence of some kinds of music on youth, he believes exposing youth to the beauty of classical music will have more far-reaching positive results.

“Most parents are very concerned at the nature of what their children are listening to,” Genuis said, illustrating the point with his own intimate knowledge of the music industry’s preoccupation with “who’s popular, who’s edgy, who’s cool, who’s good looking, who’s cute.”

Genuis noted that Plato said, “If I was given the choice to govern a nation’s music, or govern its laws, I’d govern the music,” because Plato “knew that music was more powerful to reach the people’s hearts.”

“If Plato is right,” Genuis said, “then there is something far more powerful, far more sublime, about music than the modern world is willing to admit.”

The modern music industry, Genuis maintains, has “nothing to do with beauty, inspiration, intelligence. There’s always got to be a gimmick, and, regrettably, music has declined to ‘How are we going to sell this’ and consequently, great music never gets heard.”

Genuis is a modern rarity, a classical composer who seeks to follow in the footsteps of the greats such as Mozart, Bach, Beethoven¸ Brahms, Chopin, Handel, and Haydn.

“What I’m trying to do with my music is compose and perform music that uplifts and inspires, and, while having the same spirit as these brilliant classical composers, is composed in a way that is appropriate for modern people. So I try to make my music accessible to people who have never heard, maybe never even seen, a violin.

“Which is fine - you don’t need to know about music to be moved by music. So the purpose is not to make a cultural statement, or a political statement, but to make beauty which feeds the soul. No matter who or what you are, we all have a soul, and the music is meant to go there, and revitalize our humanity.”

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Genuis told LifeSiteNews that he loves playing in prisons because the reactions of inmates, some of whom are hardened criminals, is amazing.

“These men who are killers and rapists, they cry at the concerts. They come in thinking it’s going to be something boring - they all come in with ‘attitudes’ - and then, after the third song, they’re weeping.

“And I think to myself, these guys have maybe never experienced beauty in their entire lives, and there is something about the music that is touching them, in a way that hope hasn’t touched them in a long time.”

Genuis believes that reform of prisoners will only be achieved through touching their humanity by inspiring them with beauty.

“If you really want reform in prisons, give them a violin - talking is not going to do it - teach them to create beauty, empower them with beauty,” Genuis said.

He remarked that he had received a letter from a maximum security prison in which the warden said that after the concert the prisoners’ behavior and attitude “had markedly improved.”

Genuis said, “the warden made it very clear that these guys will never see the light of day again, and yet why was their behavior improved? Because they were moved, for a minute, they were given beauty, they were given back their humanity.”

“So that’s what I’m trying to do,” Genuis concluded. “In the midst of a world where there is a lot of ugliness, a lot of distortion, a lot of ‘sex sells’ mentality, I’m trying to give people real beauty. Something that will move them in a mysterious way that is far deeper than modern ‘hype’.

Information about Eric Genuis, including his tour schedule, is available on his website.

 


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African researchers warn early sexual activity increases risk of cancers

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

A report on rising cancer rates in Africa delivered at a conference in Namibia last week warned that oral contraceptives and engaging in sexual activity from a young age lead to an increased risk of breast and reproductive system cancers.

Researchers presented the "2014 Integrated Africa Cancer Fact Sheet & Summary Score Card" during the 8th Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer in Africa (SCCA) conference, held in Windhoek, Namibia from July 20 to 22, noted that cancer is a growing health problem in many developing countries and that breast and cervical cancer are the most common forms affecting African women.

The report said that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) play a major role in reproductive system cancers and that young girls who engage in sexual activity risk getting, among other STDs, the human papilloma virus (HPV), some strains of which are linked to cervical cancer.

The report said although HPV infections are common in healthy women, they are usually fought off by the body’s immune system, with no discernible symptoms or health consequences.

The Cancer Association of South Africa points out that of the scores of HPV types, 14 of the more than 40 sexually transmitted varieties are considered "high risk" for causing serious illness, while two, HPV-16 and HPV-18, are linked to cervical cancer.

“Long-term use of oral contraceptives is also associated with increased risk [of cancer], and women living with HIV-AIDS are at increased risk of cervical cancer,” the report said.

Dr. Thandeka Mazibuko, a South African oncologist, told the conference attendees that when an 18-year-old is diagnosed with cervical cancer, “this means sex is an important activity in her life and she indulged from a young age.”

Mazibuko said the standard treatment for cancer of the cervix is seven weeks of radiation therapy.

“After the treatment they cannot have sex with their husbands or partners. They cannot bear children because everything has been closed up. Some may still have the womb but radiation makes them infertile,” Mazibuko said, according to a report in The Namibian.

Statistics from the Cancer Association of Namibia show that cases of cervical cancer have risen from 129 in 2005 to 266 in 2012.

The SCCA Conference theme was, "Moving forward to end Cervical Cancer by 2030: Universal Access to Cervical Cancer Prevention."

In his keynote address, host and Namibian President Hifikepunye Lucas Pohamba urged African countries to help each other to expand and modernize health care delivery in the continent.

"Within the context of the post-2015 Development Agenda and sustainable development goals, the provision of adequate health care to African women and children must be re-emphasized," said the president, according to AllAfrica.

The Namibian leader urged mothers to breastfeed their children for at least six months as a measure to prevent breast cancer.


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Allow ‘lethal injection’ for poor to save on palliative care: Lithuanian health minister

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By Hilary White

Euthanasia is a solution for terminally ill poor people who cannot afford palliative care and who do not want to “see their families agonize” over their suffering, Lithuania’s health minister said last week.

In an interview on national television, Minister Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė added that the Belgian law on child euthanasia ought to be “taken into account” as well. 

Šalaševičiūtė told TV3 News that Lithuania, a country whose population is 77 percent Catholic, is not a welfare state and cannot guarantee quality palliative care for all those in need of it. The solution, therefore, would be “lethal injection.”

“It is time to think through euthanasia in these patients and allow them to make a decision: to live or die,” she said.

Direct euthanasia remains illegal in the Balkan state, but activists tried to bring it to the table in 2012. A motion to drop the planned bill was passed in the Parliament in March that year in a vote of 75 to 14. Since then the country has undergone a change in government in which the far-left Social Democrats have formed the largest voting bloc.

Šalaševičiūtė is a member of Parliament for the Social Democrats, the party originally established in the late 19th century – re-formed in the late 1980s – from Marxist principles and now affiliated with the international Party of European Socialists and Socialist International.

Fr. Andrius Narbekovas, a prominent priest, lecturer, physician, bioethicist, and member of the government’s bioethics committee, called the suggestion “satanic,” according to Delfi.lt. He issued a statement saying it is the purpose of the Ministry of Health to “protect the health and life, instead of looking for ways to take away life.”

“We understand that people who are sick are in need of funds. But a society that declares itself democratic, should very clearly understand that we have to take care of the sick, not kill them,” he said.


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Islamists in Mosul mark Christian homes with an Arabic "N" for Nazarene.
Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D.

We must open wide our doors to Iraq’s Christians

Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D.
By Gualberto Garcia Jones J.D.

On July 18, the largest Christian community in Iraq, the Chaldean Catholics of Mosul, were given a grotesque ultimatum: leave your ancestral home, convert to Islam, or die.

All but forgotten by the 1.2 billion Catholics of the world, these last Christians who still speak Jesus’ native tongue of Aramaic and live in the land of Abraham and Jonah are being wiped out before our very eyes.

As a way of issuing a thinly-veiled threat, reminiscent of the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the Arabic letter “N” (for Nazarean) has been painted on the outside of the homes of all known Christians in Mosul.

These threats, issued by the fanatical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) known for its bloodthirsty rampage of executions, have been taken very seriously by the several hundred thousand Christians in Mosul who have left with little more than the clothes they were wearing. 

At least most of these Christians were able to flee and find temporary protection among the Kurds in their semi-autonomous region.  However the Kurds do not have the resources to defend or shelter the Chaldean Christians for much longer.

On Monday, during an interview on Fox News, Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, who recently joined with 54 other members of the House of Representatives in a letter to President Obama asking him to act to protect these communities, stated that while Iraqi President Maliki had sent military flights to Mosul to evacuate Shiite Muslims, the US has done nothing to protect the Chaldean Christians.  Rep. Wolf also stated emphatically that President Obama has done “almost nothing” about the genocide taking place.

The silence from the White House is deafening.  But the lack of leadership from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in America has been shocking as well.

Nevertheless, the plight of these Iraqi Christians is beginning to be taken seriously.   This is due in large part to the heroic efforts of local Iraqi religious leaders like Chaldean Patriarch Sako, who has gone on a whirlwind tour of the world to alert us all of the plight of these Iraqi Christians.  In a statement demonstrating his character, he told the Christians of Iraq last week, “We are your shepherds, and with our full responsibility towards you we will stay with you to the end, will not leave you, whatever the sacrifices.”

Before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was launched there were approximately 1.5 to 2 million Christians living in Iraq.  Today, there are believed to be less than 200,000.  The numbers speak for themselves.

Now that the world is beginning to be aware of the genocide in Northern Iraq, many of us ask ourselves: what can we do?  As citizens and as Christians blessed to live in nations with relative peace and security, what can we do?

The answer is quite simple and unexpected.  Demand that our government and church pull its head out of the sand and follow France. Yes, France.  

Yesterday, in a heroic gesture of Christian solidarity that would make Joan of Arc proud, the government of France opened wide its doors to the persecuted Iraqi Christians.  

”France is outraged by these abuses that it condemns with the utmost firmness," Laurent Fabius, France's foreign minister, and Bernard Cazeneuve, France's interior minister, said in a joint statement on Monday.

"The ultimatum given to these communities in Mosul by ISIS is the latest tragic example of the terrible threat that jihadist groups in Iraq, but also in Syria and elsewhere, pose to these populations that are historically an integral part of this region," they added. "We are ready, if they wish, to facilitate their asylum on our soil.  We are in constant contact with local and national authorities to ensure everything is done to protect them.”

The French statement drives home three crucial elements that every government, especially the United States, should communicate immediately:

  1. Recognize the genocide and name the perpetrators and victims.

  2. Officially condemn what is happening in the strongest terms.

  3. Offer a solution that includes cooperation with local authorities but which leads by making solid commitments such as offering asylum or other forms of protection.

With regard to the Church, we should look to the Chaldean Patriarch and the Iraqi bishops who shared their expectations explicitly in an open letter to “all people of conscience in Iraq and around the world” to take “practical actions to assure our people, not merely expressions of condemnation.”  Noticeably, the last section of the letter from the Iraqi bishops, before a final prayer to God, is an expression of thanks to the Kurdish government, which has welcomed them not just with “expressions” of goodwill but, like France, with a sacrificial hospitality.

On Friday, July 25, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did issue a statement, but unfortunately it lacked much in terms of leadership or solutions.  We should encourage our bishops to do better than that, be bolder and stronger for our persecuted brothers and sisters, name names and offer concrete sacrificial aid. In a word, be more like the French.

In 1553, Rome welcomed the Chaldean church into the fold of the Catholic Church.  Nearly 500 years later, Catholic Americans must find ways to welcome these persecuted people into our country, into our churches, and into our own homes if need be.

I say, I am with you St. Joan of Arc.   I am with you, France.  I am with you, Chaldeans!

Gualberto Garcia Jones is the Executive Director of the International Human Rights Group, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, that seeks to advance the fundamental rights to life, the natural family, and religious liberty through international law and international relations. 


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