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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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But nones aren’t inheriting the Earth just yet. In many parts of the world—sub-Saharan Africa in particular—religion is growing so fast that nones’ share of the global population will actually shrink in 25 years as the world turns into what one researcher has described as “the secularizing West and the rapidly growing rest.” (The other highly secular part of the world is China, where the Cultural Revolution tamped down religion for decades, while in some former Communist countries, religion is on the increase.)
And even in the secularizing West, the rash of “religious freedom bills”—which essentially decriminalize discrimination—are the latest front in a faith-tinged culture war in the United States that shows no signs of abetting anytime soon.
Within the ranks of the unaffiliated, divisions run deep. Some are avowed atheists. Others are agnostic. And many more simply don’t care to state a preference. Organized around skepticism toward organizations and united by a common belief that they do not believe, nones as a group are just as internally complex as many religions. And as with religions, these internal contradictions could keep new followers away.
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For decades, the cultural gap between Southern cities and cities on the East and West Coasts has been narrowing to the point where the cultural riches of a place like Oxford, Miss. — with its literary scene and high end regional cuisine — are almost taken for granted.
But commerce and the Internet have pushed global sophistication into new frontiers. In Starkville, Miss., an unassuming college town that Oxford sophisticates deride with the ironic nickname “StarkVegas,” a coffee bar called Nine-twentynine serves an affogato prepared with espresso from Intelligentsia, the vaunted artisanal coffee brand.
With these cultural markers have come expressions of unblushing liberalism that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. In January, Bernie Sanders drew thousands to a rally in Birmingham, Ala. Last June, after the Supreme Court affirmed the right to same-sex marriage, the city government in Knoxville, Tenn., lit up a bridge in rainbow colors.
The result has been a kind of overlapping series of secessions, with states trying to safeguard themselves from national cultural trends and federal mandates, and cities increasingly trying to carve out their own places within the states.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Globalization History Psychology Religion & Culture Rural/Town Life Urban/City Life and Issues * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation now puts the annual number of tourists making a journey to destination sites holy to their religion at 330 million — that is nearly one-third of all “leisure” travel worldwide. Big business for airlines, for those providing accommodation, and for travel companies.
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has just published a Special Report in its magazine. Take that massive number: 100 million are in India — visiting shrines, bathing in the Ganges. Muslims are expected to make a Hajj to Mecca at least once in their lifetime. The annual figure is over 3 million — of whom around 25,000 travel from Britain.
For Christians, at least 20 million visit Our Lady of Guadeloupe in Mexico City: however, as the population of Greater Mexico City is over 21 million, we can take it that most have not too far to travel.
In Europe, says ABTA, over 5 million visit the Vatican, 4 million go to Fatima in Portugal (on a hillside north of Lisbon) and the same number to Lourdes in France. Such visits are, for many, travel companies report, part of a general holiday break — Fatima has good beaches and hotels nearby.
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On Monday April 11 at 6 p.m. the Diocese will host an event at the Cathedral in Charleston where a number of honored guests from Africa and South America will speak about their work. A soup reception will follow. All are encouraged to join us for this unprecedented gathering.
• Bishop Rob Martin, Diocese of Marsabit, Anglican Church of Kenya
• Rose Kanyunyuzi, head of the Go Project in Uganda
• Bishop Joseph Abura, Diocese of Karamoja, Anglican Church of Uganda
• The Rev. Raymond Bukenya, the Diocese of Karamoja, Anglican Church of Uganda
• Bishop George Kasangaki, Diocese of Masindi-Kitara, Anglican Church of Uganda
• The Rev. Paul Ssembiro, recent past Provincial Coordinator for Mission and Evangelism in Uganda, and the present Country Team Leader of African Enterprises
• Bishop Elias Chakupewa, Diocese of Tabora, Anglican Church of Tanzania
• Bishop Raphael Samuel is the Bishop of Boliva
• The Rev. Geison Vasconcellos, Diocese of Recife, Brazil
Read it all.
Your Graces, dear brothers in Christ
As we enter Passiontide, with less than two weeks until Easter, I wanted to write to wish you all a celebration of Holy Week and the day of Resurrection that is all-consuming in its joy and power. Uniquely, we proclaim a saviour who has overcome death, having lived fully through every experience and temptation of life, and having himself died.
Our great enemy, who tells us that all things end in pointlessness, is defeated by the empty tomb, and with all Christians around the world, we should celebrate without limit.
On Easter day, at Canterbury Cathedral, full of the memories of our Meeting in January, I shall be praying for you and rejoicing in your fellowship in the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ.
Since that Meeting, there have been numerous developments. First, we should be aware of the great rejoicing and thankfulness that the outcome of the Meeting gave to many Christians around the world. We have all received numerous comments of thankfulness that the Anglican Communion, deeply divided in many areas, managed in the part of its leadership which is the Primates’ Meeting, to vote unanimously, amongst those present, to walk together. As you will remember, at that crucial moment, we undertook to seek personally to ensure that what we voted, was put into practise.
Since that time, as I undertook to you, I have followed through by changing the representation of those bodies where I have the ability to make a decision, so as to put into effect the agreement we reached amongst ourselves.
We must, of course, remember that as in the early Church, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, there is never an end to these issues. So long as the Church is made up of human beings, it will be made up of sinners. In consequence, we will take decisions and say things that are inappropriate or wrong. The strength of the East African revival was not that it produced sinless people but that it taught sinners to walk in the light. That meant that they were to confess their sins, repent and acknowledge them.
At Lambeth 1998, Resolution III point 6, as well as affirming “the enhanced responsibility here in offering guidance on doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters” of the Primates’ Meeting, also said that the responsibility of the Primates’ Meeting “should be exercised in sensitive consultation with the relevant provinces and with the ACC or in cases of emergency the Executive of the ACC, and that while not interfering with the juridical authority of the provinces, the exercise of these responsibilities by the Primates’ Meeting should carry moral authority calling for ready acceptance through the Communion”.
There are numerous other examples indicating that we should work closely together.
In all cases, back as far as 1857, it is well recognised that there is no single body within the Anglican Communion that has juridical authority over individual provinces. We are autonomous but interdependent.
For these reasons, I hope and pray that every province that is able will be present in Lusaka. The decisions we took in January can only have effect if they gain general ownership amongst the Communion, taking in laity, priests and bishops. Even if a province is not able to be present, I urge you to pray fervently for the outcome of the ACC. We will need to elect a new Chairman, and such a position should be someone, who, speaking the truth in love, seeks to unite the Communion in truth-filled service to Jesus Christ, and not to uphold any particular group at the expense of the Common Good, so long as we are within acceptable limits of diversity.
The ACC is the only body in which laity and clergy, other than bishops, are represented, and is thus of a special importance. It will discuss many matters, including those that we raised in January at Canterbury. These will include our evangelism and witness, the impact of climate change, our response to the great global refugee crisis, our support for those caught in conflict, and above all persecution.
Only those who are present will be able to make their voice heard and their votes effective. I therefore urge you to make every effort to join us in Lusaka, so that, in the presence of the risen Christ, we may continue our often painful, but ever hopeful journey in his service.
This brings my love, respect and commitment to service in the name of Christ our peace, Christ our saviour and Christ our truth.
+ Justin Cantaur
The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Primary Source -- Statements & Letters: Primates Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Consultative Council Anglican Primates Primates Gathering in Canterbury January 2016 Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Kenya Episcopal Church (TEC) Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Culture-Watch Globalization Marriage & Family Religion & Culture * Theology Anthropology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
If we ask what is driving this assault on the free exercise of religious conviction, the answer is that it is in large part driven by a human rights agenda which sees religion and human rights as antithetical not simply on specific issues, but across the board. As the legal scholar Louis Herkin puts it: ‘The human rights ideology is a fully secular and rational ideology whose very promise of success as a universal ideology depends on its secularity and rationality.’
In addition, there is also deep seated fear about religiously inspired violence. The growing threat of terrorist activity driven by an Islamist ideology has led many governments across the world, including the government in this country, to conclude that religion can be dangerous and that the best way to counteract this danger is seek to suppress the dissemination of ‘extremist’ religious ideas.
What this combination of a secular rights ideology and fear of Islamic terrorism is in danger of leading to, if indeed it has not led to it already, is the undermining of the very rights that human rights advocates and Western governments say that they support.
Read it all (emphasis mine).
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK Europe * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Secularism * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
The ultimate sin today, [Andy] Crouch argues, is to criticize a group, especially on moral grounds. Talk of good and bad has to defer to talk about respect and recognition. Crouch writes, “Talk of right and wrong is troubling when it is accompanied by seeming indifference to the experience of shame that accompanies judgments of ‘immorality.’”
He notes that this shame culture is different from the traditional shame cultures, the ones in Asia, for example. In traditional shame cultures the opposite of shame was honor or “face” — being known as a dignified and upstanding citizen. In the new shame culture, the opposite of shame is celebrity — to be attention-grabbing and aggressively unique on some media platform.
On the positive side, this new shame culture might rebind the social and communal fabric. It might reverse, a bit, the individualistic, atomizing thrust of the past 50 years.
On the other hand, everybody is perpetually insecure in a moral system based on inclusion and exclusion. There are no permanent standards, just the shifting judgment of the crowd. It is a culture of oversensitivity, overreaction and frequent moral panics, during which everybody feels compelled to go along.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Globalization History Psychology * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
...we are “To Make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age.”’
That was the T-shirt version, and it has stuck! I am more convinced now than ever, however inadequately we have received, embodied and conveyed it, that this was a vision from the Lord. I have also come to accept that what takes a year or two for a new rector to establish in a parish takes five years for a bishop to achieve in a diocese. It is only in recent years have I noticed rectors reciting this statement in a way that rolls naturally off of their tongues.
Now in this ninth year as your bishop I remain unswervingly committed to our calling. I see also the need to doggedly keep it before us. Frankly, this vision is like a railroad track—that is, it has two rails. One rail is a local focus and the other is more global.
So let me elaborate afresh: To Make Biblical Anglicans will mean two things:
• To help every congregation to engage every generation with the Good News of Jesus Christ
• To help shape emerging Anglicanism in the 21st Century
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Globalization * South Carolina * Theology
A massive leak of top-secret Islamic State documents has exposed details of the terrorist network’s global recruitment programme.
Security services were last night examining files alleged to contain names, addresses and family contacts of 22,000 jihadist fighters, including at least a dozen British recruits.
The leak was hailed as a severe setback for Isis, providing vital intelligence on the war effort in Syria and Iraq. Will Geddes, managing director of International Corporate Protection, a threat management company, said that the leak, if verified, would be a blow to the group. “They will be in massive crisis mode, worried about what is in there, who is in there and how it will disrupt their activities,” he said.
Read it all (requires subscription) or Christian Today covers the story here (open access) and the original report from Sky is here
The coalition has managed to push IS out of the Iraqi cities of Tikrit and Ramadi, as well as an ever-increasing stretch of Syrian-Turkish borderland.
Enemies of the "caliphate", backed by (mostly) US fighter jets, are now bivouacked 50km (30 miles) from the IS "capital" of Raqqa, in northern Syria.
Yet IS' hold on its most valuable strategic terrain, the areas seized either in or before 2014, is still uncontested.
It is entrenched in Mosul and Raqqa and the Sunni Arab tribal heartland of the Euphrates river valley, which stretches from eastern Syria to western Iraq.
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Jewish students will turn their backs on leading universities en masse as they react to growing campus antisemitism, it has been claimed.
Jews disproportionately attend a small number of universities, which they have nicknamed “Jewnis”. The University of Manchester was once one of the most favoured but lost its place to Leeds, Birmingham and Nottingham after pro-Palestinian motions by its student union. These included twinning with An-Najah University in the West Bank.
Bristol has rapidly grown in popularity among Jews. Cambridge and Oxford also have significant numbers, as do University College London, King’s College London and LSE.
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This is all happening at a time, where across the Western world we are seeing the rise of a harder left and a harder right. This comes as a shock for since the fall of the Berlin Wall, with Bill Clinton and Tony Blair moving politics into the center, it seemed that such ideology had had its day. Yet ideology is back. What I find fascinating though is behind this move to further edges of the right and left is a common thread. Both espouse a kind of anti-institutional impulse which seeks to remove the restraints on the individual will. Both seek to either return to an idealized past or a utopian future through the hand of a kind of a benevolent, paternal entity be it government, tech companies, or the global financial market. Both end up ignoring, or bypassing the mediating institutions such as family, neighborhood, community organizations or church. Thus, creating the contemporary, atomized, and commitment phobic self, dizzy with choice. There is a significant and growing missional opportunity here for the church to inhabit and rehabilitate this ignored space....
Moore: What are a few goals you would like your readers to walk away with from having read Disappearing Church?
Sayers: There is no going back. We will most likely live the entirety of our lives in an increasingly diverse, contested, globalized, and divided world. As William Davidow and Moises Naim have shown, this world will also be a fragile one. Thus such a moment will be served by a church that is relevant by being resilient. With change and chaos as the norm, a nostalgic desire to return to halcyon days is deeply tempting. Instead of wanting to return to the past, we must learn from the past. Two thousand years of Church history have shown us that again and again, even as large portions of the Church compromise with the spirit of the day. Creative minorities, who engaged new landscapes with creativity alongside biblical orthodoxy and faithfulness, flourish, bring good news and live as ambassadors of the kingdom. This can and will again happen in our day. If in some tiny way Disappearing Church can contribute to that renaissance I will be deeply grateful to Him.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Globalization Religion & Culture * Theology
It was a running-away-from-home nightmare for the age of global terrorism. Marilyn Nevalainen, a pregnant teenager, decided to follow her boyfriend last year when he set out to wage jihad, leaving the lakes and forests of southwest Sweden for life under the Islamic State in the desert heat of Iraq.
Apparently lacking any clear idea of what she was getting herself into, she ended up with militants near Mosul, with a new baby to care for and her boyfriend dead on an Iraqi battlefield.
Remarkably, Ms. Nevalainen, now 16, and her infant son made it out alive. Much remains unknown about how she turned up two weeks ago in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, and she has not spoken publicly beyond a brief television interview in which she contended that she had followed her boyfriend without knowing “what ISIS means, what Islam is, nothing.” She is now back in Sweden.
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Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, has been awarded the Templeton prize.
Sacks, 67, has written more than two dozen books targeted at bringing spiritual insight to the public. He has spent decades revitalizing Britain’s Jewry during his tenure as chief rabbi from 1991 to 2013.
Sacks has been an outspoken advocate of religious and social tolerance throughout his career. His most recent book, “Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence,” argues that violence in the name of God is the exact opposite of what any deity would expect of followers....
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The Anglican Communion has appointed former BBC journalist Adrian Butcher as its new director for communications. He will take up the post immediately after Easter.
Adrian brings a wealth of journalism experience to the role. He began his career in newspapers before joining the BBC in 1990 as a producer in its national radio newsroom where he wrote and edited news summaries and bulletins across the range of radio networks. He also worked on television, as a producer on the One and the Six o'clock news bulletins, and for the BBC World Service and at the parliamentary unit in Westminster.
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Ultimately, Rafi’s life was transformed because his eldest brother, Akhtar, pinched pennies and sent Rafi to the best public school in the family’s home province, Balochistan. Rafi had an outstanding mind and rocketed to the top of his class. But he also fell under the spell of political Islam. A charismatic Islamic studies teacher turned Rafi into a Taliban sympathizer who despised the West.
“I subscribed to conspiracy theories that 9/11 was done by the Americans themselves, that there were 4,000 Jews who were absent from work that day,” Rafi recalls. “I thought the Taliban were freedom fighters.”
I’ve often written about education as an antidote to extremism. But in Pakistan, it was high school that radicalized Rafi. “Education can be a problem,” Rafi says dryly.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Education Globalization Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary Asia Pakistan * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
We’ve been at the heart of the ‘Aiming for A’ engagement initiative, which successfully filed shareholder resolutions at the BP and Shell AGMs last year. These companies were keen to work with us and our partners, and recommended that shareholders approve the resolutions. The companies are now legally required to step up their reporting of their strategic response to the challenges – and opportunities – posed to their businesses by climate change. This was an excellent example of what investors and companies can achieve when they work together. On the back of similar engagement, Aiming for A has filed more resolutions in the UK mining sector for this year’s AGMs which have been received by the companies in the same spirit.
Sadly, not all companies are responding constructively to the urgent need to mitigate climate change. We’ve been working with the New York State pension fund in the US to file a resolution at ExxonMobil in the United States. Rather than working with us to provide the reporting that institutional investors require, Exxon have gone to the US regulator – the Securities and Exchange Commission – to try to get the resolution struck off so that shareholders do not get the opportunity vote on it at Exxon’s AGM later this year. This week New York State have written to the SEC to ask them to deny this request, and to make sure that shareholders can indicate to Exxon’s board their desire for fuller reporting on the implications of climate change policy.
We are extremely disappointed that even after the Paris climate change agreement ExxonMobil has contested the relevance of the resolution we have co-filed.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Stock Market Energy, Natural Resources Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
More than a year of U.S.-led airstrikes and financial sanctions haven’t stopped Islamic State from ordering supplies for its fighters, importing food for its subjects or making quick profits in currency arbitrage.
This is because of men such as Abu Omar, one of the militant group’s de facto bankers. The Iraqi businessman is part of a network of financiers stretching across northern and central Iraq who for decades have provided money transfers and trade finance for the many local merchants who shun conventional banks.
When Islamic State seized control of the region in 2014, the world’s wealthiest terror group made him an offer he decided not to refuse: You can keep your business if you also handle our money.
“I don’t ask questions,” said Abu Omar, whose money-exchange offices in the Iraqi cities of Mosul, Sulimaniyah, Erbil and Hit charge as much as 10% to transfer cash in and out of militant territory—twice normal rates. “Islamic State is good for business.”
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Canada’s spy agencies have tracked 180 Canadians who are engaged with terrorist organizations abroad, while another 60 have returned home.
The latest figures mark a significant increase from the findings of the 2014 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Can-ada, which identified about 130 people involved in terror-related activities overseas, including 30 taking an active role with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and the Nusra Front in Syria.
“The total number of people overseas involved in threat-re-lated activities – and I’m not just talking about Iraq and Syria – is probably around 180,” Canadian Security Intelligence Service director Michel Coulombe told The Globe and Mail after testifying before the House of Commons public safety committee. “In Iraq and Syria, we are probably talking close to 100.”
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Nearly 90 years ago, a missionary wrote a song meant to galvanize the Western church and draw hundreds of missionaries to China. This Sunday, more than 4,100 churches around the world will sing “Facing a Task Unfinished” with a modern twist.
In 1920, Frank Houghton traveled east with China Inland Mission. Nearly a decade later, the missions agency issued a call for 200 “men and women who know and love the Lord Jesus Christ” to minister to the country then torn apart by civil war.
Aided by Houghton’s song, the ministry got its 200 missionaries. And by 2015, the number of Christians in China grew to somewhere between 67 million and 106 million.
China Inland Mission became OMF International, which celebrated its 150th anniversary last year. As part of the commemoration, OMF asked Keith and Kristyn Getty to update the hymn.
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The world wasn't prepared for Zika to fly across continents in the span of a few months. In 2015, when the virus began rapidly spreading across the Americas, health workers were surprised, and researchers were caught flat-footed when it came time to provide information to protecting the public's health.
Scientists misjudged Zika virus as a minor and trivial ailment when it was discovered in 1947, says Dr. Ken Stuart, the founder and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Seattle. That oversight is one reason for the dearth of medical knowledge around the virus.
But it didn't have to be that way, he says. Stuart spoke with NPR's Ari Shapiro on why the Zika outbreak has unfolded the way it did and how things could have gone better. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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Why is the Middle East in flames and Russia on the rampage? In both Europe and the Middle East, it is common to hear the blame placed on Barack Obama. The US president, it is charged, is a weak and disengaged leader who has allowed international events to get out of control. Many Americans — both liberals and conservatives — make the same accusation. Sarah Palin, darling of the American right, has called Mr Obama “capitulator-in-chief”. Roger Cohen, a New York Times columnist, has blamed Syria’s agony on the “fecklessness and purposelessness” of the Obama administration.
Those who yearn for a more muscular US foreign policy often assume that Mr Obama will prove to be an aberration — and that the next president will “put America back in the game”. But that could well be a misreading of the underlying direction of US politics and foreign policy. The current frontrunners in the presidential election campaign — Donald Trump on the Republican side and Bernie Sanders for the Democrats — have embraced ideas that are isolationist, in all but name. If those ideas prevail, they would make Mr Obama look like a super-engaged internationalist.
Even if Mr Trump and Mr Sanders never get close to the White House, the popularity of their campaigns, and their influence on the more mainstream candidates, suggests that there is now a strong constituency in the US for a retreat from globalism: repudiating international military and economic commitments.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General Office of the President * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Harvard Divinity School senior lecturer Diane Moore has modest goals for her upcoming online course, “World Religions Through Their Scripture.” She merely wants to increase religious understanding, open up crucial dialogues, and change the world — or at least to create a MOOC that will examine religion in a uniquely enlightening way.
The course, which launches this spring, will bring together Harvard’s leading scholars in the world’s major religions: Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. As a HarvardX MOOC (massive open online course), it was designed to attract an international, multicultural audience.
Moore, a senior lecturer on religious studies and education, a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of World Religions, and director of the Religious Literacy Project, has long been an advocate of “religious literacy,” meaning an understanding of how religion works in its cultural and political contexts. Thus her goal is not to champion one religion over another, but to heighten the study of religion itself. And it’s not often that scholars of each leading religion interact in the real world, much less online.
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In the meeting of the 38 Anglican-aligned national churches worldwide at Canterbury Cathedral last month, the confab condemned the Episcopal Church — as it is called in the States — but also made explicit statements about respecting the rights of homosexuals worldwide.
“What we got actually was a classic Anglican compromise. Anglicans are good at that,” says Elliott. “There [are] very strong statements about the civil rights of homosexual people and I think there is a door opened now to say to, for example, Anglicans in Uganda: Listen, church support of government policies that criminalize homosexuality and make it punishable both by imprisonment and in some cases the death penalty, that’s offside. Similarly, to the Episcopal Church, marrying same-sex couples, that’s offside.”
Canadians need to understand, he says, that priorities for people in other places are very different and progress on gay rights has come with incredible speed to parts of the Western world.
“I never imagined in my lifetime that gay people would be allowed to marry in Canada and it’s now been over 10 years that we’ve been allowed to marry, nor that the church would be seriously talking about this,” he says. “It’s light years ahead.”
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal - Anglican: Primary Source -- Statements & Letters: Primates Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Primates Primates Gathering in Canterbury January 2016 Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Canada Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Globalization * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
We toiling workers can allow ourselves a wry smile. For most of the last eight years the owners of wealth and inflated assets have had things their own way, while the real economy has been left behind.
The tables are finally turning. The world may look absolutely ghastly if your metric is the stock market, but it is much the same or slightly better if you are at the coal face.
The MSCI index of world equities has fallen almost 20pc since its all-time high in May of 2015, implying a $14 trillion loss of paper wealth. Yet the world economy has carried on at more or less the same anemic pace, and the OECD's global leading indicators show no sign that it is suddenly rolling over now.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Credit Markets Currency Markets Euro European Central Bank Housing/Real Estate Market Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market Personal Finance Stock Market The U.S. Government Federal Reserve Energy, Natural Resources Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Asia China Europe * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Those of us writing here at Providence share a common conviction about politics, namely that we should take human beings and human communities as they are and not how we would wish them to be. Human beings are broken creatures who are often driven by fear and greed. In political community, these propensities only become magnified and more volatile. This realism means that when we face problems such as aggressive nations and terrorism, we do so with sobriety that in order to stop certain people or groups from carrying out their harmful designs we must sometimes use military force. No amount of rational discussion or incentives will deter them from seeking to harm the innocent. Christians however bring to this sober realism the commitment to love their neighbors. To protect the innocent from the aggressor and to punish the aggressor is an act of love, not purely national interest or strategic benefit. This is what separates those who are realists from Christian realists.
As of late, I reckon, this take on politics has fallen on hard times. It’s hard to hold Christianity and realism together. We have Ted Cruz and Donald Trump preaching indiscriminate bombing campaigns to the applause of many. Bernie Sanders thinks that the Middle East is not a problem for Americans and that we should just let Syria burn. Most Christian voices in America are focused on the immigration crisis, with remarkably few Christians talking about intervention in Syria to protect the Syrian people and stabilize the situation. Marco Rubio has been one of the more nuanced and realistic candidates, and still his discussion of issues tends toward a more thoroughgoing realism than a Christian realism.
Into this current vacuum steps the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, to deliver what might be one of the most rousing calls to a truly Christian realistic approach to the current civil war in Syria and the rise of Islamic radicalism in recent memory. The Archbishop delivered the brief speech at the General Synod of the Church of England at Westminster on November 24th. It should be noted that the Archbishop delivered this speech in a resolution that was unanimously approved by the Synod on the current immigration crisis in Europe, primarily calling for protecting immigrants and welcoming a portion to the UK.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK Middle East Syria * Theology Pastoral Theology
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Psychology * Economics, Politics Economy Politics in General Office of the President * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
How Emanuel AME Church reacted to the 90 seconds of terror that unfolded within its walls last year has some people mentioning the Charleston congregation in the same breath as the pope and others who have sought world peace.
The church on Monday joined Pope Francis as a nominee for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize, an honor that typically picks from hundreds of disparate political, religious and cultural pioneers who have helped civilizations in all corners of the globe cope with strife.
Inspired by the response to the mass shooting that befell the church and claimed nine parishioners’ lives on June 17, a group of Chicago-area political leaders led the Nobel effort and others, including U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., joined in. Though they announced the push months ago, the officials said they had followed through with the nomination by Monday’s deadline.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Globalization Race/Race Relations Religion & Culture Urban/City Life and Issues Violence * South Carolina * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
I write this article after having completed the first week of the Institute. If possible, it has already exceeded my expectations. Several things have especially stood out to me this first week.
First, the Beauty of Christ’s Global Body. Upon meeting my fellow participants the first day, I was surprised to discover that we had many mutual friends from places like India, South Sudan, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, etc. This was especially surprising in light of the fact that as a young priest I haven’t lived very long, haven’t traveled very far, and haven’t had a whole lot of life experience. In short, this instant connectedness was not about me but was simply a beautiful testament to how Christ’s body has grown—from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth—and to how the spiritual unity we have in Christ is being made visible by advances in modern technology.
Stemming from this unity, the fellowship has been both rich and challenging. With regards to the richness, one cannot hear eyewitness stories of martyrdom and persecution without being touched in the deep places of one’s soul and inspired to follow Christ more faithfully in one’s own walk (Heb. 11). Many of the participants have tread the path of persecution, and as a Westerner, their stories put my own ministry challenges in healthy and humbling perspective.
On the other hand, the diversity of the fellowship has challenged us to wrestle honestly with the unique cultural lenses we bring to ministry. Whether we’re asking questions after a lecture, breaking down a passage of scripture in a small-group preaching exercise, or analyzing a case study from mission field, it has been eye-opening to see just how pervasively our cultures influence our perspectives. Fortunately, as we wrestle honestly with these issues, our blinders begin to fall away, and we are able to more clearly see the pure and undiluted Gospel, in all of its glory.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture * South Carolina * Theology Christology Ecclesiology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
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In the past migrating religious groups either merged into their host societies or else pickled the culture of the old country in aspic. Thanks to technology, today’s roaming worshippers have no such dilemma; a Nigerian or Brazilian in transit can adapt while maintaining contact with home. Globally dispersed Pentecostal churches meet both those needs. An outlying branch of the RCCG can offer job advice and a way to keep links with home. Global charismatic movements act as transmission belts along which ideas and worship styles can travel quickly. “A hymn can be composed in one continent and sung in another a few days later,” says Allan Anderson of Birmingham University.
Like water, charismatic religion takes the path of least resistance. Philip Jenkins, a scholar of global Christianity, cites several little-noticed examples. Dubai is now a bastion of Pentecostal-style worship, among migrants; the Muslim authorities do not mind as long as local Emiratis are not proselytised. Thanks to a shared language, Brazilian neo-Pentecostal churches do well in Angola and Mozambique. And though Filipino Christianity is almost entirely Catholic, the export variety, adapted to the diaspora’s needs, is intensely charismatic, offering a combination of mysticism and practical advice. One movement, El Shaddai, claims 8m members across the world. Worshippers at its Manila base wave their passports in the air as they pray for successful travels.
Politically, too, Pentecostal churches tend to be pragmatic rather than consistently conservative. Brazil’s globally successful Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) initially resisted the rise of the centre-left Workers’ Party, but went on to back its presidential candidates, including Dilma Rousseff, the incumbent.
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The Anglican Leadership Institute is an outgrowth of the Mere Anglicanism Conference that has been held in Charleston, SC for several years.
Bishop Mark Lawrence, in his 2014 Convention Address, called for the creation of a leadership training initiative that would bring future leaders in the Anglican Communion to South Carolina for periods of study, teaching, reflection and nurture.
The South Carolina Session was created in response to this call, offering men and women with a proven track of ministry a chance to spend a month in community under the guidance of expert leaders who have exercised faithful and effective ministry in their own contexts.
(The Anglican Leadership Institute Meets at the "Castle" in Sullivan's Island, SC.)
You can read more about the program here.
When he was an undergraduate at Cambridge, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was cox of a Trinity College rowing eight. Perhaps coincidentally, rowing metaphors flowed in September when he announced that he had invited all 37 global Anglican primates to Canterbury for a conference starting on January 11th, in what some see as a last-ditch attempt to save the Anglican Communion. One aide suggested that bishops should not spend so much time “trying to placate people and keep them in the boat, without ever getting the oars out and starting to row”. Frustrated that bickering is keeping Anglicans from their primary mission, the archbishop will need all his powers as a cox to head off a collision, or even the sinking of the global Anglican boat.
The problem is a row between liberals, mainly North American, who want the church to allow same-sex marriage, and conservatives, who think it must not. Some leaders from each side are not on speaking terms. Archbishop Welby is said to want a looser affiliation, so that both groups can keep relations with Canterbury and continue to call themselves Anglican but not have to deal with each other. He has no “papal” powers to kick out any provinces; previous attempts to discipline those who defy traditional Anglican teaching have been stopped from below. The archbishop is “not so much trying to get closer unity”, says one informed cleric; “he is trying to prevent greater disunity.”
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Many Christians around the world are celebrating Epiphany and Theophany – the day when the Three Kings of Orient arrived in Bethlehem to present Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh; and the celebration of the Baptism of Christ by John in the Jordan River – while others are preparing to celebrate Christmas.
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I know, you forgot, or you are not sure. But here is a great (and amazingly timely) topic and a chance to visit one of America's great cities for worship and spiritual nourishment at the start of the year--KSH.
One of the greatest challenges for Christians at the dawn of the 21st century is the power and influence of Islam. As the world’s two great missionary religions, Christianity and Islam are often at odds with one another, and the tension can at times feel palpable. How are we as Christians to respond to the threat and challenge of this growing and energetic religion? What should be the Church’s reaction in light of the Lord’s Great Commission to make disciples of all men? What does the Apostle Paul mean when he reminds believers that “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds”? Join us this year at Mere Anglicanism as we explore “The Cross and the Crescent: The Gospel and the Challenge of Islam.”
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In 2015, a sense of unease and foreboding seemed to settle on all the world’s major power centres. From Beijing to Washington, Berlin to Brasília, Moscow to Tokyo — governments, media and citizens were jumpy and embattled.
This kind of globalised anxiety is unusual. For the past 30 years and more, there has been at least one world power that was bullishly optimistic. In the late 1980s the Japanese were still enjoying a decades-long boom — and confidently buying up assets all over the world. In the 1990s America basked in victory in the cold war and a long economic expansion. In the early 2000s the EU was in a buoyant mood, launching a single currency and nearly doubling its membership. And for most of the past decade, the growing political and economic power of China has inspired respect all over the world.
Yet at the moment all the big players seem uncertain — even fearful. The only partial exception that I came across this year was India, where the business and political elite still seemed buoyed by the reformist zeal of prime minister Narendra Modi.
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Today religion is solid and that hybridity is lost. We are divided into mutually exclusive cultural zones. In Istanbul, as we near the new year, different neighbourhoods have adopted visibly different attitudes towards Christmas. As one drives from one area to another it is easy to tell which municipalities are run by the CHP, the main opposition party, and which by the AK party, the government. The glittery decorations and lights are almost always in the CHP areas. The only exception are the shopping malls, of which Istanbul has too many. Inside these are gigantic Christmas trees; and, in front of those trees, nowadays, angry protesters.
“We are not obeying a toy-distributing Santa, we are the followers of Prophet Mohammad,” reads one of the signs held by protesters. Another displays a verse from the Koran, plucked out of context and deployed for particular political ends. The protesters claim they are delivering God’s words to the ignorant.
Early in the year the Saadet (Felicity) party — a religious-based political party — called Santa Claus “a sinister and dirty project”, adding that “western colonialism tries to invade culturally what it cannot invade militarily.”
Through articles and distorted images, Santa Claus is vilified in Islamist newspapers. The situation is highly ironic given that the original St Nicholas was born in the town of Patara in Turkey in 260AD and to this day is regarded as part of Turkish history and culture.
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Of all the mysteries of the incarnation, its simplicity is the one that is born in/on me afresh each year. In its simplicity is its power and its challenge to us in these times of war and suffering, of multitudes on desolate roads seeking refuge. Caught between the Devil and the Sea, the desperate and hungry, make their way through unimaginable peril. Palestine was very much like that. It was not a place of safety, but of danger, and like those millions today, Jesus himself was carried by anxious parents to the safety of another land.
In memorable words at the Inauguration of the General Synod of the Church of England, the Preacher to the Papal Household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa said: “In many parts of the world, people are killed and churches burned not because they are Catholic, or Anglican, or Pentecostal, but because they are Christians. In their eyes, we are already one! Let us be one also in our eyes and in the eyes of God.”
Amidst the terrors of Paris, of Bujumbura, of Iraq and Syria, and amidst the fear which we so often allow to dominate, we are called back to the simplicity of the Incarnation. Jesus identified himself completely with the poorest and the most broken of the Earth. Those who are lost in our world today seek the simplicity and beauty of that gift, which as we identify together unites us in adoration of the God who gave his only son.
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Christians around the world today find themselves in contexts that are very different from those of 40 years ago. Since 1970, many societies have experienced dramatic social upheavals and severe environmental catastrophes, yet the period from 1970 to 2010 was also a time of great technological advancement and increased connections between people around the world. Such changes challenge Christians to think differently about the people among whom they live and work, the ways in which they interact with them, and the potential for future cooperation.
Christianity in its Global Context, 1970–2020: Society, Religion, and Mission, a report produced in 2013 by researchers at the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, Massachusetts, offers a timely overview of the changing demographics of Christianity and Christians’ activities over the past 40 years while looking forward to the next ten. If current trends continue, what will be the state of the world in 2020? Who will be the neighbors of Christians, and what issues will they be facing together? Here we summarize the key findings from the full report, which is available for PDF download at http://www.globalchristianity.org/globalcontext.
Christianity in its Global Context presents global data on the demographics of world religions, providing evidence for the continued resurgence of religion into the twenty-first century.
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The Islamic State in October released a video that is a stomach-wrenching glimpse of the worst kind of religious repression. Three Syrian Christian men, one a doctor, are made to kneel in the desert in orange jumpsuits and state their religion. Behind each is an executioner who then uses a handgun to fire a bullet into the back of each Christian’s head.
Some Christian leaders in America want President Obama to declare that a genocide is underway against Christians in the Middle East. I don’t think I’d call it a genocide, but it is absolutely the religious version of an ethnic cleansing.
In 1910, Christians made up 14 percent of the population of the Middle East. Today they are about 4 percent, the result of emigration, lower birthrates — and religious repression that threatens the viability of Christianity in much of the region where it was born.
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Tragically, present policy does not take into account the uniquely precarious situation of displaced Christians. Instead of receiving priority treatment, Christians are profoundly disadvantaged. For instance, the State Department has accepted refugees primarily from lists prepared by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees, which oversees the large camps to which refugees have flocked, and where they are registered. Yet endangered Christians do not dare enter those camps.
George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote in the Telegraph in Britain in September that a similar protocol in the U.K. “inadvertently discriminates against the very Christian communities most victimised by the inhuman butchers of the so-called Islamic State. Christians are not to be found in the UN camps, because they have been attacked and targeted by Islamists and driven from them.”
U.S. missteps and missed opportunities in the region contributed to the crises that disproportionately affected Christians. America’s policy should immediately be amended to include these refugees at the top of the list. Opening America’s doors to them first is the right thing to do.
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[The data in the economic background paints]...a very murky picture. This is the first time the Fed has ever embarked on tightening cycle when the ISM gauge of manufacturing is below the boom-bust line of 50. Nominal GDP growth in the US has been trending down from 5pc in mid-2014 to barely 3pc.
Danny Blanchflower, a Dartmouth professor and a former UK rate-setter, said the US labour market is not as tight as it looks. Inflation is nowhere near its 2pc target and the world economy is still gasping for air. He sees a 50/50 chance that the Fed will have to pirouette and go back to the drawing board.
“All it will take is one shock,” said Lars Christensen, from Markets and Money Advisory. “It is really weird that they are raising rates at all. Capacity utilization in industry has been falling for five months.”
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Hiltz also said that after his meeting with Welby, he came away “encouraged by his [Welby’s] clarity in terms of what the Primates’ Meeting is and what it’s not.”
The Primates’ Meeting “is not a decision-making body—it’s a body for people that come together to pray and discuss and discern and offer some guidance. We don’t make resolutions,” Hiltz said.
Since it was announced that Archbishop Foley Beach, the leader of the breakaway Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), would be present for the first part of the meeting, Hiltz said there has been concern in some quarters over whether or not attempts will be made to confront The Episcopal Church (TEC) over its decision this year to allow same-sex marriages. But Hiltz said Welby was quite clear that the meeting would not exclude any of the primates of churches that are members of the Anglican Communion.
“His principle is one of full inclusion of all the primates. I think he will encourage, and if need be, challenge, the primates to uphold that principle,” Hiltz said.
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Prof Percy critiques Archbishop Welby’s decision to invite Archbishop Foley Beach of the breakaway Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) to attend the Primates’ meeting, without consulting the official Episcopal Churches in the USA and Canada, and suggests:
‘So the Archbishop of Canterbury could begin proceedings in January by offering an apology to American and Canadian Anglicans for his intemperate gestures towards ACNA, and his lack of consultation, which has undermined them. He should further apologise for dealing in territories and spheres of authority that are simply not his to meddle with.’He also warns against using the widespread belief that the Anglican churches of the global south now form the majority and are the only ones growing numerically to cede ‘more moral ground…to African churches…than might be judicious’ in divisive debates over sexual ethics.
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Fifty years after the first major Catholic document rejecting anti-Semitism, the Vatican released a new document on Thursday reiterating that Catholics shouldn’t try to convert Jews and calling for a joint effort in the fight against religious discrimination.
Jewish leaders on hand for the Thursday presentation largely welcomed the document, although one complained that it doesn’t go far enough in recognizing the centrality of the land of Israel for Judaism.
Called “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable,” the document is a theological reflection that builds on five decades of interreligious dialogue that began with Nostra Aetate, a 1,600-word declaration from 1965 that helped reshape Catholic-Jewish relations.
The new document underlines the importance of Catholic-Jewish relations, calling the bond unique “in spite of the historical breach and the painful conflicts arising from it.”
Among other points, it plays down, though it does not reject entirely, missionary efforts directed at Jews.
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Speaking as the Church of England's lead on the environment, Bishop Nicholas has welcomed today's agreement at the UN Climate Change Summit in Paris. After two weeks of talks, participants have committed to hold the increase in global temperatures to 'well below' 2-degrees above pre-industrial levels, alongside clear rules on transparency and reviews of carbon emissions every five years.
Speaking about the COP21 agreement, Bishop Nick Holtam, said, "is good to have an ambitious agreement about the aspiration. What matters now is that governments actually deliver a low carbon future - the transparency of accountability and process of review will be what ensures that happens. This looks like real progress - there is now a much more positive spirit about what now needs to happen than after Copenhagen six years ago, but we are still at an early stage on the journey."
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Nearly 200 delegates from nations around the world on Saturday approved a framework to contain carbon emissions, in a move being hailed as a groundbreaking accord that requires the world's economies to take concrete steps to regulate gases linked to global warming.
After two weeks of marathon negotiations conducted in the shadow of the Paris terrorist attacks which shocked the world, national representatives appeared put a stamp of approval on a blueprint that commits signatories to curbing climate-altering greenhouse gases.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius hailed the "historic" measure for transforming the world's fossil fuel-driven economy within decades and turn the tide on global warming.
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As American intelligence agencies grapple with the expansion of the Islamic State beyond its headquarters in Syria, the Pentagon has proposed a new plan to the White House to build up a string of military bases in Africa, Southwest Asia and the Middle East.
The bases could be used for collecting intelligence and carrying out strikes against the terrorist group’s far-flung affiliates.
The growth of the Islamic State’s franchises — at least eight militant groups have pledged loyalty to the network’s leaders so far — has forced a debate within the Obama administration about how to distinguish between the affiliates that pose the most immediate threat to the United States and Europe and others that are more regionally focused. The regional groups, some officials say, may have opportunistically adopted the Islamic State’s brand to bolster their local clout and global stature.
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The young southern California parents who killed 14 people in a workplace rampage last week had both been "radicalized" into following an extreme form of Islam, an FBI official said Monday.
"As the investigation has progressed, we have learned and believe that both subjects were radicalized and had been for quite some time," David Bowdich, the FBI's assistant director in charge of the Los Angeles office, told reporters.
He added, "The question we're trying to get at is how did that happen, and by whom, and where did that happen. And I will tell you right now we don't know those answers at this point."
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What do American Muslims believe?
Our 2011 survey of Muslim Americans found that roughly half of U.S. Muslims (48%) say their own religious leaders have not done enough to speak out against Islamic extremists.
Living in a religiously pluralistic society, Muslim Americans are more likely than Muslims in many other nations to have many non-Muslim friends. Only about half (48%) of U.S. Muslims say all or most of their close friends are also Muslims, compared with a global median of 95% in the 39 countries we surveyed.
Roughly seven-in-ten U.S. Muslims (69%) say religion is very important in their lives. Virtually all (96%) say they believe in God, nearly two-thirds (65%) report praying at least daily and nearly half (47%) say they attend religious services at least weekly. By all of these traditional measures, Muslims in the U.S. are roughly as religious as U.S. Christians, although they are less religious than Muslims in many other nations.
When it comes to political and social views, Muslims are far more likely to identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party (70%) than the Republican Party (11%) and to say they prefer a bigger government providing more services (68%) over a smaller government providing fewer services (21%).
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Syed Rizwan Farook was looking for a woman. A few years ago, not long out of college, he went online to find a match. He was slim, dark-eyed, 6 feet tall and living with a parent in Riverside, his dating profiles explained.
He was Chicago-born, with Pakistani roots. He didn't drink or smoke. He avoided TV and movies, preferring instead to tinker with old cars, work out and memorize the Quran. He had a $49,000-a-year government job as a health inspector and wanted a young wife who shared his Sunni Muslim faith.
"Someone who takes her religion very seriously and is always trying to improve her religion and encouraging others to do the same using hikmah (wisdom) and not harshness," he wrote on BestMuslim.com, one of several dating and matrimonial sites he used.
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“I felt like I was betraying God and Christianity,” said Alex, who spoke on the condition that she be identified only by a pseudonym she uses online. “But I also felt excited because I had made a lot of new friends.”
Even though the Islamic State’s ideology is explicitly at odds with the West, the group is making a relentless effort to recruit Westerners into its ranks, eager to exploit them for their outsize propaganda value. Through January this year, at least 100 Americans were thought to have traveled to join jihadists in Syria and Iraq, among nearly 4,000 Westerners who had done so.
The reach of the Islamic State’s recruiting effort has been multiplied by an enormous cadre of operators on social media. The terrorist group itself maintains a 24-hour online operation, and its effectiveness is vastly extended by larger rings of sympathetic volunteers and fans who pass on its messages and viewpoint, reeling in potential recruits, analysts say.
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Dec. 7 marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most pivotal documents in the Catholic Church’s 2,000-year history: Dignitatis Humanae, or “On the Dignity of the Human Person.” Issued at the close of the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the work stated the church’s belief “that the human person has a right to religious freedom.”
This declaration was at once revolutionary and reaffirming of Catholic tradition—and its significance has only increased as attacks on religious freedom have proliferated in the intervening years.
In many ways, the Catholic Church’s affirmation of religious liberty echoes the American tradition of religious freedom, articulated so forcefully in the writings of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson and given constitutional enumeration in the First Amendment.
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Police and intelligence agencies have an enormously difficult job because radicalization pathways to violence are not always straightforward. Sometimes an individual on the periphery of an investigation, who is assessed as low risk, rapidly becomes a threat. Similarly, an individual considered very dangerous may never act or may disengage from extremism. As the 2009 investigation of al Qaeda operative and New Yorker Najibullah Zazi demonstrated, the manpower needed for physical surveillance of even a single individual requires dozens of agents and hundreds of man-hours, and that doesn’t include the analytic team required to evaluate electronic communications such as email, chat, tweets and phone data.
In the past, Western intelligence organizations intercepted communications that allowed security agencies to move against al Qaeda or ISIS operatives, often before they could strike. Now end-to-end encrypted communications apps like “Telegram” have become standard operating procedure among terrorists. So intercepting and deciphering communications is far more difficult, even for organizations as sophisticated as the National Security Agency or the FBI.
There is no doubt that al Qaeda and its remnants as well as Islamic State have the intention and capability to strike the United States using Western operatives. What happened in Paris can happen here. A false sense of security will be deadly. The U.S. must mobilize at home and lead abroad to defeat this increasing threat.
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At least 200 churches or places of worship are attacked every single day, a vice-president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, said this week, at a high-level meeting in Brussels investigating the persecution of Christians.
Mr Tajani, an Italian MEP in the Parliament’s European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) group, said on Tuesday that “every day, in every region of our planet, we register new cases of systematic violence and persecution against Christians. No other religious community is faced with such hatred, violence, and aggression as is the Christian community.”
A report prepared by the Parliament’s research unit highlighted the “paradoxical aspect of contemporary Christianity” in that, while Christians were in a majority across the world, they were in a minority in places of conflict.
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The profiles of the suspects behind the Paris terrorist attacks reflect a pattern often seen among perpetrators of previous atrocities—a group of guys who turned from drugs and petty crime to terrorism. What’s new is the potency of the movement that mobilized them.
To many in the West, Islamic State represents a medieval-style death cult. To its sympathizers, estimated to number in the thousands or even tens of thousands in Europe, its radical message of reviving the Sunni Muslim caliphate is strengthened by the fact that it already rules over territory.
Scott Atran, a Franco-American academic who has interviewed hundreds of radical Islamists over years, likens the rise and allure of Islamic State to the ascendancy of the Bolsheviks in czarist Russia and the National Socialist Party in Weimar Germany.
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Britain on Wednesday night opted to join a U.S.-led bombing campaign against Islamic State targets in Syria, with Parliament endorsing a push by Prime Minister David Cameron following a raucous debate marked by accusations that revived the ghosts of Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war.
The vote put an end to an awkward year in the close military alliance between the United States and Britain, during which the Britons joined the Americans in bombing the Islamic State in Iraq but drew a line at the Syrian border. The British government had reasoned last fall that — unlike in Iraq — the Syrian government had not invited Western intervention.
But after the Islamic State claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks last month that killed 130 people in Paris, Cameron vowed to expand his country’s military contribution to operations in both of the terrorist group’s main sanctuaries.
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After walking more than 200 miles in 14 days from London to Paris to highlight the need for a fair, ambitious and binding climate change deal at the UN climate talks, over 30 pilgrims are returning from Paris on the Eurostar in just a couple of hours. It has been quite a journey, both individually and for the group as a whole.
The pilgrimage began with a wonderful service at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, where more than 150 people came to show their support, including the Bishop of Salisbury and Church of England’s lead bishop on the environment, Bishop Nicholas Holtam, and Bishop John Sherrington from the Catholic Diocese of Westminster.
Later that morning we were joined by 150 primary school children from Archbishop Sumner School, who sang and played instruments to welcome the pilgrims as they walked through Kennington. There was even a steel band! It was especially moving since many of the pilgrims were walking for the futures of their own grandchildren.
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KOJA, Nigeria—This was a small town on the docks where steamships stopped when a traveling young nut merchant named Ahmed Musa settled here in the 1940s. He didn’t even lock his doors at night.
Now Lokoja is the fastest-growing city on Earth. His roof looks out over shanties and suburban estates tangling along the Niger River stretch where, a century ago, a British writer gazed across the water and coined the name Nigeria. Lokoja’s metropolitan population of 473,000 is set to rise 78% in the next 10 years, the United Nations projects, quicker than every other sizable town in the world.
The biggest human increase in modern history is under way in Africa. On every other continent, growth rates are slowing toward a standstill for the first time in centuries, and the day is in sight when the world’s human population levels out.
But not here—not yet.
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Hunger and food insecurity are so widespread in the United States they add $160 billion to national health care spending, according to a Christian advocacy group.
The Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, said on Monday (Nov. 23) that hunger was a key factor in the U.S. having the worst infant mortality rate among developed countries.
“It is like a massive terrorist attack,” he said at the presentation of the group’s annual Hunger Report. “All the things that we do that allow the infant mortality rate to be so high — that is in effect killing a hundred thousand babies in communities across this country a year.”
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“If ISIS is allowed to define the terms of this engagement then they’ve pretty much won the battle. We have to understand them and meet them where they’re coming from but not capitulate, not really surrender to the terror they’re trying to spread, because that’s the victory they are looking for,” says Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance.
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Boko Haram has become the most deadly terrorist group in the world, killing more people in terrorist attacks in 2014 than ISIS, according to the 2015 Global Terrorism Index.
The GTI attributed more than 6,644 deaths to Boko Haram in 2014, with most attacks occurring in northeastern Nigeria. ISIS killed 6,073 in terrorist attacks in the same year, according to the report.
The GTI noted a 317 percent increase of terrorism deaths in Nigeria, the largest increase ever recorded by any country, where newly elected president Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to contain Boko Haram by the end of 2015.
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In the five months since the horrific shooting at Emanuel AME Church left her mother dead, Nadine Collier hasn’t watched the news much, not given what’s on there so often.
But she heard about the shooting at a Paris concert hall. The nightmarish thoughts returned, fresh reminders of the loss of her mother, 70-year-old Ethel Lance.
“When I heard about it, I just prayed,” Collier said. “But I don’t want to be remembering back. I don’t ever want to go back.”
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Most importantly, we shouldn’t allow our domestic controversy over refugees to cloud the larger issue of what is driving the refugee crisis in the first place—a death cult with aspirations of regional or global dominance. Christian communities that have been in the Middle East since literally the Book of Acts are in danger of extinction, as are those who are in need of hearing the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.
We cannot love our neighbors at the same we’re standing aside and watching them be slaughtered. The Bible grants the state the power and mandate to use force to protect the innocent. That means both engaging ISIS with a strong military response and doing what is in our power to shield the innocent from terror. Anything less is not a sufficiently Christian response.
We cannot forget our brothers and sisters in peril. And we cannot seal ourselves off from our mission field. An entire generation of those fleeing genocide will be asking whether there is an alternative to the toxic religion they’ve seen.
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France, Russia and the U.S. moved beyond talk of cooperation and into the far more difficult realm of action, as the “grand and single coalition” French President François Hollande called for to combat Islamic State began coming into view.
President Barack Obama said Wednesday that if Russia shifts its military strategy in Syria to focus on Islamic State, the U.S. would welcome cooperation with Moscow on an intensified military campaign. He said he conveyed that message to Russian President Vladimir Putin in a meeting in Turkey earlier this week.
“That is something that we very much want to see,” Mr. Obama said while in the Philippines for a summit of Asian nations.
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Nods and exhalations of “uh-huh” from the crowd give the brief sense of a revival meeting, making it easy to forget that Hayhoe is, first and foremost, a scientist. The 43-year-old Ph.D. made her name building localized statistical models (“downscaling,” in the argot of her field), which governments from California to Massachusetts use to prepare for a future onslaught of drought, or unprecedented rainfall. She currently heads up the Climate Science Center of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, and has contributed to reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Later this month, she’ll appear at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris on behalf of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a 46-year-old organization devoted to promoting a healthier, safer planet.
But here in the beating heart of Christian America, she’s an apostle of her discipline, faced with a daunting challenge. Of all U.S. religious groups, white evangelical Protestants are least likely to believe in human-caused planetary warming: Only 11 per cent accept the idea, compared to 46 per cent of the broader U.S. population. Yet no movement punches further above its political weight, bringing cash and votes to Republicans who voice their doubts and fears in Washington. If you belong to the 97 per cent of climate scientists who regard global warming as real, man-made and potentially catastrophic, this deep fracture in U.S. politics is an enormous problem.
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“In the face of this brutality, the human family, all people of faith and of good will, must stand together to recommit to respecting and caring for one another, to protecting one another, and to preventing such violence."
“We cannot and do not accept that such a terrorist atrocity can ever be justified in the name of God or of any religion. Violence in the name of religion is violence against religion. We condemn, reject and denounce it. Let us confront it by holding firm to and upholding the democratic, intercultural and human rights values that this terrorism seeks to attack.”
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The Ecumenical Patriarch His All Holiness Bartholomew has called for urgent action for climate justice ahead of the UN summit on climate change in Paris in December.
In a lecture held at Lambeth Palace as part of a two day visit, the 'green patriarch' spoke of the ethical and honourable obligation ahead of COP21:
"It is not too late to act, but we cannot afford to wait. We all agree on the necessity to protect the planet's natural resources …. and we are all in this together." The Patriarch urged cities, governments and individuals to voice opinions, make decisions and act to drive a new environmental ethos.
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A friend of mine, happily married for many years, likes to tell a story. Over a 30th-anniversary dinner, and after a little too much wine, he said, “I love you, sweetheart. I’ve never been unfaithful, and I never will be.” He repeated that line a couple more times during the evening—until his wife put down her fork and said with all the warmth of a glacier, “Are you seeing someone else?”
The lesson of the tale: Even when done innocently, emphasizing one’s fidelity a little too often and earnestly can yield unwelcome results. Such may be the case in Rome, where more than 250 Catholic bishops from around the world have gathered in a three-week synod, ending Oct. 25, to discuss “the vocation and mission of the family in the contemporary world.”
Synods, from the Greek synodos for meeting or assembly, are purely advisory. They offer counsel to the pope on matters he chooses. As the Catholic Church’s supreme pastor, he can listen to their advice, ignore them or do something in between. But it is a rare bishop of Rome who would disregard the consensus of his brothers, so synods carry collegial weight.
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Reflecting on the geographical make-up of the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop explained that the average Anglican today is “an African woman in her thirties, living in sub-Saharan Africa on less than four dollars a day.”
By comparison Anglicans in the global north have become “the exception”, he said, adding: “On the whole we are, to use Pope Francis’ phrase, a poor church with the poor.”
Asked about the challenges facing such a diverse Communion in the 21st century, the Archbishop highlighted the way that technology has intensified global awareness of diversity.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, explained how Anglican churches are “deeply involved” in reconciliation work in conflict zones around the world, during an interview at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.
The Archbishop also said the mainstreams of all faiths must “challenge and subvert” radicalisation and religiously-motived violence within their traditions.
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We are all apologists now, and we stand at the dawn of the grand age of human apologetics, or so some are saying because our wired world and our global era are a time when expressing, presenting, sharing, defending and selling ourselves have become a staple of everyday life for countless millions of people around the world, both Christians and others. The age of the Internet, it is said, is the age of the self and the selfie. The world is full of people full of themselves. In such an age, “I post, therefore I am.” To put the point more plainly, human interconnectedness in the global era has been raised to a truly global level, with unprecedented speed and on an unprecedented scale. Everyone is now everywhere, and everyone can communicate with everyone else from anywhere and at any time, instantly and cheaply. Communication through the social media in the age of email, text messages, cell phones, tweets and Skype is no longer from “the few to the many,” as in the age of the book, the newspaper and television, but from “the many to the many” and all the time.--Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion (Downer's Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2015), pp. 15-16
One of the effects of this level of globalization is plain. Active and interactive communication is the order of the day. From the shortest texts and tweets to the humblest website, to the angriest blog, to the most visited social networks, the daily communications of the wired world attest that everyone is now in the business of relentless self-promotion—presenting themselves, explaining themselves, defending themselves, selling themselves or sharing their inner thoughts and emotions as never before in human history. That is why it can be said that we are in the grand secular age of apologetics. The whole world has taken up apologetics without ever using or knowing the idea as Christians understand it. We are all apologists now, if only on behalf of “the Daily Me” or “the Tweeted Update” that we post for our virtual friends and our cyber community. The great goals of life, we are told, are to gain the widest possible public attention and to reach as many people in the world with our products—and always, our leading product is Us.
We who are followers of Jesus stand as witnesses to the truth and meaning of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus as a central matter of our calling. We are spokespersons for our Lord, and advocacy is in our genes. Ours is the apologetic faith par excellence.
Regardless of the new media, many of us have yet to rise to the challenge of a way of apologetics that is as profound as the good news we announce, as deep as the human heart, as subtle as the human mind, as powerful and flexible as the range of people and issues that we meet every day in our extraordinary world in which ‘everyone is now everywhere’.”
The Church Commissioners for England has announced that it has signed the PRI Montreal Pledge, an initiative that commits signatories to measuring and publicly disclosing the carbon footprint of their equity portfolio each year.
The Pledge was launched last year in Montreal during the annual conference of the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), which the Commissioners signed up to in 2010, and is also supported by the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI). It aims to attract commitment from portfolios totalling US$3 trillion in time for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 21) in December 2015. At present, nearly 100 organisations representing over US$8 trillion have signed the pledge.
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The Fifth Anglican South to South Conference scheduled to begin today in Tunisia has been cancelled. On 10 Oct 2015 organizers of the meeting called by the Archbishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Most Rev. Mouneer Anis, stated the meeting organized round the theme of “How Africa shaped our Christian mind” that was set to begin on 12 Oct would not take place. A statement explaining the reasons for the cancellation and the date and place of the next gathering would be released shortly, organizers said.
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Wall Street’s biggest banks are beginning to build their defences against downturns, signalling an end to the steady thinning of reserves that has helped boost profits in the past five years.
Tapping into reserves set aside for bad loans has become a reliable source of income for the banks in the post-crisis environment, allowing them to offset the effects of weak demand and ultra-low interest rates. Regulators let lenders dip into reserves in this way if they can argue that an improving outlook makes losses less likely.
But the practice is expected to have a limited impact on the banks’ third-quarter profits, which begin to be presented this week, because reserves have been run down about as far as they can go.
While some banks with plump cushions of reserves could still make net reductions, others are at an “inflection point,” said Jennifer Thompson, an analyst at Portales Partners in New York. Lenders with big exposures to energy could see “dramatic” increases in reserves, she said, while related sectors such as materials, commodities and industrials also look vulnerable to rises.
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A video of a “moving and beautiful” ceremony of a deaf couple who wed in Limerick city last weekend is touching the hearts of thousands of people online.
The wedding of Tara Long, 26, from Kileely in Limerick, and Timmy Doona, from Killorglin in Kerry, who are both deaf, left the congregation in tears of joy in St John’s Cathedral in Limerick on Saturday last.
A video of part of the ceremony – where the bride surprised her husband-to-be with a special song performed in sign language – has been posted online by Tara’s brother and has now counted more than 6,000 views to date on YouTube.
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the other thing that John was concerned about was to banish apathy from the hearts of those to whom he ministered. Starting with his own congregation at All Souls, Langham Place in London and extending to all the congregations to whom he ministered quite literally all around the world.
Banishing apathy, what did that mean in positive terms? It meant that John summoned us to learn our faith and not be sloppy in terms of our doctrine, and equally not to be sloppy and casual in terms of our service of the Lord whom we love and honour as our Saviour.
John himself as we all know was, well, I call him a 15-talent man of God. 10 the number in our Lord’s parable really doesn’t seem enough. John Stott one sometimes felt could do anything and everything in ministry. He had all the gifts that make up a teacher and a carer and a unifier. He lived in a way which displayed the freedom of self-discipline. I am thinking there of the kind of freedom which in a different department of life a solo pianist or violinist will display. He or she has accepted the self-discipline of learning to master the instrument. Now he or she is able, if one may put it this way, to relax with the instrument and with the sort of inner ease to make it sound and sing out all the music that is there in the notes and which as a soloist the musician wants to convey.
Well, that is a picture an illustration of what I mean by freedom with self-discipline at its heart and you saw that in John as a preacher and teacher and influence in the church. And the self-discipline that lay at the heart of it was a discipline of constant Bible study, constant prayer, constant self-watch and constant refusal to go wild - John never went wild. John observed his own discipline so that he might always be at his best for ministry. And well we know, all of us I am sure, know something about the quality of that ministry, marked as it always was by love and wisdom in whatever form the situation demanded.
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As an ecologist - I studied Ecological Science at university - I take an interest in the evidence about climate change. Overwhelmingly it shows that we are seeing major climatic effects from increased carbon in the atmosphere and these effects will increase unless something major is done. Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si wrote, ‘A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system’. I hope that his important contribution to the current debate will make more people wake up.
Many have already. They see daily the devastating effects of climate change in terms of increased sea levels, major weather events, flooding and drought. A defence strategist told me recently about the impact that climate change is having, and he predicted will increasingly have, in fostering future wars and world tensions. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, picked this up as a theme in his speech during the debate about the environment at the General Synod in July, saying, ‘Climate change is both a driver of conflict and a victim of conflict’. No wonder the military are taking it seriously.
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In a landmark ruling, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg on Monday declared the Safe Harbor data-sharing deal as invalid.
The agreement, signed in 2000 between Brussels and Washington, enables companies and international networks to easily transfer personal data to the United States without having to seek prior approval, a potentially lengthy and costly process.
"The Court of Justice declares that the (European) Commission's US Safe Harbour Decision is invalid," it said in a decision on a case brought against Facebook by Austrian law student Max Schrems.
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The World Bank has said that for the first time less than 10% of the world's population will be living in extreme poverty by the end of 2015.
The bank said it was using a new income figure of $1.90 per day to define extreme poverty, up from $1.25.
It forecasts the proportion of the world's population in this category to fall from 12.8% in 2012 to 9.6%.
However, it said the "growing concentration of global poverty in sub-Saharan Africa is of great concern".
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Both Kunduz and Russia’s bombing are symptoms of the same phenomenon: the vacuum created by Barack Obama’s attempt to stand back from the wars of the Muslim world. America’s president told the UN General Assembly this week that his country had learned it “cannot by itself impose stability on a foreign land”; others, Iran and Russia included, should help in Syria. Mr Obama is not entirely wrong. But his proposition hides many dangers: that America throws up its hands; that regional powers, sensing American disengagement, will be sucked into a free-for-all; and that Russia’s intervention will make a bloody war bloodier still. Unless Mr Obama changes course, expect more deaths, refugees and extremism.
Having seen the mess that George W. Bush made of his “war on terror”, especially in Iraq, Mr Obama is understandably wary. American intervention can indeed make a bad situation worse, as odious leaders are replaced by chaos and endless war saps America’s strength and standing. But America’s absence can make things even more grim. At some point, extremism will fester and force the superpower to intervene anyway.
That is the story in the Middle East. In Iraq Mr Obama withdrew troops in 2011. In Syria he did not act to stop Mr Assad from wholesale killing, even after he used poison gas. But when IS jihadists emerged from the chaos, declared a caliphate in swathes of Iraq and Syria, and began to cut off the heads of their Western prisoners, Mr Obama felt obliged to step back in—desultorily.
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(Warning--very disturbing content-KSH).
He was our man in Africa.
Hissene Habre, who ruled Chad in the 1980s, was a U.S. ally in good standing even as his government killed tens of thousands of people and filled prisons with enemies who were starved, beaten and tortured.
Last week he finally had to face victims of those times in court. There was frozen silence as former prisoners testified for the first time against the man who was feted at the White House in 1987 by President Reagan and was armed and supported in a covert CIA operation to fight Libya's Col. Moammar Kadafi.
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As a Western European I have seen the dramatic drop in the influence of organized religion in society. Having spent part of my childhood in Spain, churches on Sunday were packed and priests and nuns in habits prominent features of the social landscape. Even though to a lesser extent, this was also the case in secular France. Today churches across Western Europe are empty, the average age in many congregations is well over 60, while priests need to be recruited from Latin America, Africa and Asia as their numbers among Western Europeans have dwindled dramatically – a sort-of “reverse missionary” phenomenon. Thus, even though many Western Europeans like Pope Francis, there seems very little chance that they will return in droves to church. Western Europe would seem to have entered a post-religion era.
From a Western European prism it could be assumed that this would be a global trend. The assumption however could not have been more wrong. Religion is clearly a case where Western Europe is definitely the abnorm and not the norm. In the post-Cold War era, with the collapse of Marxist-Leninist ideologies, it is (to me, anyway) quite astonishing the degree to which religion has “returned” as a major driving force and prominent feature of the 21st century.
In speaking of Europe, I have stressed Western Europe, as this would not be true in Eastern Europe where the Orthodox Churches have seen a considerable revival. In post-Soviet Russia an estimated 47% of the population (67 million) are practicing. Similarly one could not claim, by any means, that “the West” has entered a post-religion era given the overwhelming importance and prominence of religion in the US.
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Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Budweiser, three of the largest World Cup sponsors, are demanding that Sepp Blatter step down immediately from his presidency of Fifa, a week after he personally became the subject of a criminal investigation into a corruption scandal that has engulfed the organisation.
Visa, another important sponsor, also joined the call for Mr Blatter to fall on his sword. But the defiant head of Fifa pushed back in a statement through his lawyer, refusing to heed the companies whose deals with Fifa contributed to more than $1.6bn in sponsorship revenue for the body between 2011-14, according to consultancy IEG.
The demands from Coke, McDonald’s and Budweiser’s owner Anheuser-Busch InBev are the strongest yet. All three have urged Fifa to make swift progress in cleaning itself up but to date they had not called outright for Mr Blatter’s resignation.
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“As of now, the GAFCON primates have said that if the Anglican Church of Canada and the U.S. is at the table for the January meeting, they will not attend,” said the Rev. Paul Stephens, rector at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Tupelo, “And that’s unfortunate.”
Stephens said that worldwide, the Anglican Communion is connected, but not obligated. The Anglican church was spread through British colonization. Wherever there was a British colony, there is now an Anglican church. Globally, 38 Anglican provinces make up the Anglican Communion, the centerpiece of which is the Church of England.
“In terms of authority, the Archbishop of Canterbury isn’t like the Pope. He doesn’t have the jurisdiction to ‘make’ me do anything, though if he did I would almost certainly acquiesce,” Stephens said. “Anglican provinces have autonomy, and make their own rulings within themselves that don’t have bearing on the others. However, there’s a saying that goes something like, ‘If someone sneezes at an Episcopal church in Corinth, someone at an Episcopal church in Bay St. Louis will say “Bless you.”’”
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The roads that wind north from Lagos, Nigeria, toward the headquarters of the Winners’ Chapel mega-church are lined with unusual testaments to Nigerians’ religious fervor.
There’s the Amazing Grace Hair Salon and the No King But God Driving School, My God Is Able Furniture Makers and God’s Grace Multipurpose Hall. And wedged between these omnipotently styled businesses are the churches themselves, hundreds of them, carrying on tenaciously in a sweltering tin shack or a room balanced atop a gas station, in the parking lot of a half-finished shopping mall or perched on stilts above Lagos’s thick, viscous lagoon.
But even in a country so devout, Canaanland stands out. The headquarters of one of the most powerful churches in Africa rambles out across 10,500 acres and includes not only a massive church – the 50,000 seat Faith Tabernacle – but a fully stocked company town complete with schools and a university, a bottled water processing plant, restaurants, shops, and residential neighborhoods. Every weekend, hundreds of bus loads of Nigerians, regally coiffed in vividly patterned, tailor-made suits and dresses, pour through its gates for Sunday service.
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Islamic State combatants have shown themselves to be resilient, and the group is adept at attracting adherents through social media.
At least eight Islamic State branches in the Middle East and Afghanistan have cropped up in recent years or have redefined themselves as allies, such as the Boko Haram insurgency group in Nigeria.
At the same time, international efforts to combat the Islamic State’s online propaganda messaging has been an abysmal failure, according to a recent State Department assessment.
So far, the Islamic State’s violent narrative — promulgated through thousands of messages each day — has effectively “trumped” the efforts of some of the world’s richest and most technologically advanced nations, the State Department assessment said.
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It is this fantasy of living in an endlessly adjustable world, in which every physical boundary can be renegotiated, that shapes the opening reflections of the encyclical and pervades a great deal of its argument. The paradox, noted by a good many other commentators, is that our supposed “materialism” is actually a deeply anti-material thing. The plain thereness of the physical world we inhabit tells us from our first emergence into consciousness that our will is not the foundation of everything—and so its proper working is essentially about creative adjustment to an agenda set not by our fantasy but by the qualities and complexities of what we encounter. The material world tells us that to be human is to be in dialogue with what is other: what is physically other, what is humanly other in the solid three-dimensionality of other persons, ultimately what is divinely other. And in a world created by the God Christians believe in, this otherness is always communicating: meaning arises in this encounter, it is not devised by our ingenuity. Hence the pope’s significant and powerful appeal to be aware of the incalculable impact of the loss of biodiversity: it is not only a loss of resource but a diminution of meaning. “Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us” (33).
The argument of these opening sections of Laudato si’ repeatedly points us back to a fundamental lesson: We as human beings are not the source of meaning or value; if we believe we are, we exchange the real world for a virtual one, a world in which—to echo Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty—the only question is who is to be master. A culture in which managing limits is an embarrassing and unwelcome imperative is a culture that has lost touch with the very idea of a world, let alone a created world (i.e., one in which a creative intelligence communicates with us and leads us into meanings and visions we could not have generated ourselves). The discussion in Chapter III of the obsessive pursuit of novelty in our lives draws out very effectively how the multiplication of pure consumer choice produces not greater diversity or liberty but a sense of endless repetition of the same and a lack of hope in the future. Once again, the underlying issue is the loss of meaning. It is fully in keeping with this general perspective that what Pope Francis has to say about the rights and dignities of the unborn (120) is seamlessly connected with the dangers of a culture of “disposability” in which the solid presence of those others who do not instantly appear to contribute to our narrowly conceived well-being can so readily be forgotten.
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The US State Department is seeking a counter-narrative to the propaganda being spread by ISIL, and it is reportedly turning to some of America’s preeminent storytellers for help. According to The Daily Beast, executives from both HBO and Snapchat are part of a team of filmmakers and social media specialists that’s brainstorming how to hamper the effectiveness of ISIL’s messaging.
Citing unnamed industry and government sources, The Daily Beast reports that HBO and Snapchat representatives were invited to Sunnylands, a California retreat known for hosting important government figures, in June to meet with State Department officials on how best to counter the ISIL narrative, which has lured young men from the Middle East, Europe, and even the United States, to join its violent ranks. Mark Boal, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Zero Dark Thirty, is reportedly part of the team assisting the State Department.
Neither HBO nor Snapchat have responded to requests for comment. The State Department, in a statement to Quartz, neither confirmed nor denied the Daily Beast report but noted that film “is an especially powerful medium for building cross-cultural understanding” of world issues.
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The new Global Goals have emerged from an international three year process of listening. The UK government, led by the Prime Minister, played a really key role.
There is huge ambition here. According to the UN document: “Never before have world leaders pledged common action and endeavour across such a broad and universal policy agenda”. And again, “We can be the first generation to succeed in ending poverty just as we may be the last to have a chance of saving the planet”.
The goals are more comprehensive this time. There are 17 goals and 169 targets. They are therefore less catchy but much more realistic. They recognize that all kinds of things are interconnected in tackling poverty. They are also goals for every country not simply for the developing world. The British government has promised to implement them alongside governments in Africa and Asia. There is a much stronger emphasis on building strong, honest, robust governments and institutions as well as on aid and generosity. There is a strong slogan which focuses on helping the weakest so that no-one is left behind.
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American families are under assault from an Islamic extremist group that is quietly turning young minds against their parents, against their religious faith, and against their country.
The group, the self-proclaimed Islamic State in occupied sections of Syria and Iraq, is using social media and the worldwide reach of the Internet in a sophisticated recruitment campaign that is making families feel helpless to stop a slow-motion kidnapping of their children.
So far this year, 58 Americans – more than half under 25 – have been arrested for attempting to travel to Syria or for plotting violence in the US. That is more than twice the number of similar arrests for the entire year in 2014, and more than twice the number for all of 2013, as well.
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Vladimir Putin certainly knows how to steal a show. The Russian president will speak today at the UN General Assembly for the first time in a decade. The rapid build-up of Russian military force in Syria in recent weeks has turned Mr Putin into the centre of attention in New York, as rivals and allies both speculate about his intentions.
To his delight, he has managed to put the US on the back-foot. After a year of trying to freeze out Mr Putin over his military intervention in Ukraine, US President Barack Obama has decided he has little choice but to meet the Russian leader to discuss Syria.
The Russian intervention in Syria — in support of the isolated regime of President Bashar al-Assad — has come at a time when Washington’s own strategy for resolving the conflict is in tatters. The US-trained force of Syrian fighters numbers in the dozens, not the planned thousands, while air strikes have had only a limited impact on the Syrian operations of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as Isis.
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Nearly 30,000 foreign recruits have now poured into Syria, many to join the Islamic State, a doubling of volunteers in just the past 12 months and stark evidence that an international effort to tighten borders, share intelligence and enforce antiterrorism laws is not diminishing the ranks of new militant fighters.
Among those who have entered or tried to enter the conflict in Iraq or Syria are more than 250 Americans, up from about 100 a year ago, according to intelligence and law enforcement officials.
President Obama will take stock of the international campaign to counter the Islamic State at the United Nations on Tuesday, a public accounting that comes as American intelligence analysts have been preparing a confidential assessment that concludes that nearly 30,000 foreign fighters have traveled to Iraq and Syria from more than 100 countries since 2011. A year ago, the same officials estimated that flow to be about 15,000 combatants from 80 countries, mostly to join the Islamic State.
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Since the financial crisis of 2007-08, which Western leader could boast of spreading ownership in any important way? In the U.S. and Britain, the percentage of citizens owning stocks or houses is well down from the late 1980s. In Britain, the average age for buying a first home is now 31 (and many more people than before depend on “the bank of Mom and Dad” to help them do so). In the mid-’80s, it was 27. My own children, who started work in London in the last two years, earn a little less, in real terms, than I did when I began in 1979, yet house prices are 15 times higher. We have become a society of “have lesses,” if not yet of “have nots.”
In a few lines of work, earnings have shot forward. In 1982, only seven U.K. financial executives were receiving six-figure salaries. Today, tens of thousands are (an enormous increase, even allowing for inflation). The situation is very different for the middle-ranking civil servant, attorney, doctor, teacher or small-business owner. Many middle-class families now depend absolutely on the income of both parents in a way that was unusual even as late as the 1980s.
In Britain and the U.S., we are learning all over again that it is not the natural condition of the human race for children to be better off than their parents. Such a regression, in societies that assume constant progress, is striking. Imagine the panic if the same thing happened to life expectancy.
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First, it must be stated that a true “right of the environment” does exist, for two reasons. First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Man, for all his remarkable gifts, which “are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology” (Laudato Si’, 81), is at the same time a part of these spheres. He possesses a body shaped by physical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favorable. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity.
Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures. We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it. In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good (cf. ibid.).
The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged, either because they are differently abled (handicapped), or because they lack adequate information and technical expertise, or are incapable of decisive political action.
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