Millions around the world will be praying for the relatives of the victims; those of you who have been receiving our publications for many years know that I love to provide background information to such events, so that we can pray on both a strategic and a personal level. I had, in fact, been planning to send out a release requesting prayer for Catalonia, even before the deadly street attacks on the 17th August.
Most of the millions of tourists who visit Barcelona are entirely unaware of the history’s tumultuous past. To take up its story in the 1930’s, Catalonia found itself caught up in an unprecedented experiment in anarchism, which George Orwell recorded in glowing colours, having gone to Spain to take part. There was no way that General Franco was going to allow it to succeed, of course, and there blood shed ensued as the Fascists descended on Barcelona, causing half a million people to flee the wrath of Franco by heading northwards as refugees into France. But in Catalonia the experiment was over.*
Apart from a few basic dates, little appears to be being taught in Spanish schools today about the terrible civil war in the late 1930s that effectively marked the lead up to the Second World War. Few know about the gunshots in La Rambla, that marked the onset of hostilities in 1936, which witnessed terrible atrocities on both sides, including the loss of 1300 lives when Guernica in the Basque country was bombed. Eighty years on from the Guernica bombing and Spain is still struggling to honour the memory of those terrible years.
Much of what many people know about the Spanish Civil War is gleaned from the writings of either George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia or from Earnest Hemmingway’s For whom the bell tolls.
Arriving in Barcelona at Christmas time in 1936, Orwell was intoxicated to discover a city gripped with idealistic fervour, where many of the bosses were in hiding, leaving workers to organise their own factories and daily life, and the red and black flags of the Anarchists flying everywhere.
Intoxicated by these achievements, loudspeakers on Las Rambla “bellowed revolutionary songs all day and far into the night”. Orwell himself signed up to fight with a militia of the Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification (POUM). His subsequent disillusionment, occasioned by the infighting between the fiercely independent leftist factions that had been formed to oppose Franco, provided the background for works such as 1984 and Animal Farm.
Knowing nothing about the history of the nation he had arrived in, however, Orwell saw matters through a very narrow and exceedingly partisan prism, lending his support for the anarchist movement, without any apparent concern for the wanton destruction that also occurred. He later admitted that he did not understand the wider forces that were at work.
We reported four years ago in First impressions of the island on the iron hand with which Franco ruled Majorca, as elsewhere, as he sought to suppress the Catalan language, summarily executing those accused of opposing his regime. Mussolini likewise used the island as his base from which to launch brutal bombing raids on Barcelona. The Luftwaffe, with its Condor Legion of flagship Stuka dive bombers, was also heavily involved in gaining the experience of bombing civilian populations that would shortly be unleashed right across Europe.
In a sense, both Spain and Italy have been seeking ever since to recover from the years of being in the grip of brutal dictators.
My concern now is that the forces at work then may be transforming themselves into new shapes and dangers today. Of the ultra-popular art-loving liberal ‘bohemian’ culture there is no need to say anything more here, but it would surely be naive to suppose that the strong forces urging Catalans to distance themselves from the rest of Spain are entirely cohesive. Factor into that the number of jihadists who have based themselves in Catalonia, and I would suggest that the history of the region is sounding a warning that it would be good to pray – especially with a Referendum for Independence scheduled for 1st October – which the Castilian government is implacably resolved to oppose at all costs.**
May this recent atrocity in Barcelona lessen the animosity between Spain and Catalonia. I don’t know if it is significant but Paris, London and Berlin have all been capital cities, as Barcelona is of Catalonia. Ought we to be praying then especially for other capitals, Lisbon, Rome, Viena and all the others?
Catalonia is an economically prosperous region, and like the rest of Spain, increasingly secularist. It does however, have, the highest percentage of the nations’ evangelical churches. May the Lord pour out His spirit in Catalonia.
But let’s remember too the enormous threat posed to the West by thousands of battle hardened veterans, or young people indoctrinated in the jihadist teachings of the Caliphate, who are streaming into Europe and being urged to take revenge on the West for the destruction of Mosul and Raqqa.
As Jean-Paul Laborde the head of the United Nations Security Council’s counterterrorism agency warned in Le Figaro, “Battle-hardened IS fighters who have slipped through the net pose the biggest security threat to Europe. They are determined, experienced and highly dangerous. They know how to handle weapons and explosives and are well versed in guerrilla warfare.
“Some of the jihadists engineers and technicians with the skills to carry out hacking attacks on our basic infrastructure,” such as public transport or defence systems. These jihadists have nothing left to lose and do not fear death.”
The Spanish security agencies have been on high terror alert for the past few years and have scored some notable success. They are doing a vital work, and may the Lord’s leading continue to be with them, but let’s pray still more for the power of God to break thorough in saving power. When I was in Majorca recently my constant prayer was ‘Raise up a people for Your own possession.’ Let’s extend that prayer to pray for the Catalonia, and indeed the whole of Spain.
I also learnt in Majorca that the number of priests and nuns who were massacred in Spain between 1936 and 1939 is thought to be nearly seven thousand.
Persecution had begun in Spain as early as in 1931 when the Republican Constitution approved a circular letter that was sent to every school in Spain instructing them to remove all religious symbols from the school. Politically correct Britain and other European nations beware!
Historians affirm that in all some 8,000 Spaniards were slain “out of hatred for the faith”, including 3,000 monks and 296 nuns, including those who were enclosed and those who were serving in homes for the elderly, orphanages, hospitals and schools.
See also: Vatican news
The shadows of anarchy from the far left, and of the repression of the Fascist far right are not far away away in Europe. Now, when austerity is leaving so many desperate in Spain, it is time to pray for the unifying power of the love of God to touch both Spain and Catalonia.
- Many of these refugees them suffered in the grimmest of conditions all over France until they were finally able to return at the end of the Second World War. Their presence ultimately lent a strongly Iberian feel to this region.
The Spanish border used to encroach much further into France than it does today, and Catalonia still has six provinces on the French side. Catalan, like Spanish, is a romance language – along with Italian Portuguese, Romanian, Swiss Romansch and Provencal, but it is less nasal than Spanish and sounds quite different. Many people in this part of France look more to Barcelona as their capital than to Paris. They have their own TV channels and even a senior school in Perpignan.
All town names are in both French and Catalan, but whereas there is a longing south of the border for a greater independence, most French Catalans are perfectly happy to be French, and to live ‘between’ the two nation states, even though they proudly fly the Catalan flag (bold red and yellow stripes) from city monuments.
** Concerning referendums themselves, you might find it interesting to revisit what we wrote on background thoughts for praying about referendums when debate over the Scottish referendum, was at its height.)
We mentioned there how the French-speaking province of Quebec came within just one per cent of achieving independence from Canada as recently as in 1995.