Category : Foreign Relations

(PRC) How religious restrictions around the world have changed over a decade

Pew Research Center just published its 10th annual report analyzing restrictions on religion (by both governments and individuals or groups in society) around the world. This year’s report differs from past reports because it focuses on changes that have occurred over the course of a decade, covering 2007 to 2017, rather than emphasizing year-to-year variations. Another new approach this year involves splitting each of two broad types of religious restrictions – government restrictions and social hostilities – into four subcategories. This provides a clearer picture of the specific types of religious restrictions that people face – and how they are changing over time.

Here are key findings from the report:

1Government restrictions on religion have increased globally between 2007 and 2017 in all four categories studied: favoritism of religious groups, general laws and policies restricting religious freedom, harassment of religious groups, and limits on religious activity. The most common types of restrictions globally have consistently been the first two. Governments often enshrine favoritism toward a certain religious group or groups in their constitutions or basic laws. And general laws and policies restricting religious freedom can cover a wide range of restrictions, including a requirement that religious groups register in order to operate. But one of the more striking increases involved the category of government limits on religious activities, which can include limits or requirements on religious dress. The global mean score in this category rose by about 44% between 2007 and 2017.

2Social hostilities involving religion have increased in a few categories, but levels of interreligious tension and violence, also known as sectarian or communal violence, have declined globally. In 2007, 91 countries experienced some level of violence due to tensions between religious groups, such as conflict between Hindus and Muslims in India, but by 2017 that number dropped to 57 countries. However, harassment by individuals and social groups, religious violence by organized groups, and hostilities related to religious norms (for example, harassment of women for violating dress codes) have all been on the rise.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Telegraph) Tim Stanley–The West owes Iraq’s persecuted minorities a lot more than just talk

I’m here to interview Christians but I’m also invited to meet the pope of the Yazidis, an ancient native religion, and I’m never one to turn down a pope, so off we go. The venerable Sheikh Baba is in his Eighties, tired, and his son and brother take over the meeting. Conversation – as with all Iraqis – is robust.

“The situation is very bad,” says the Sheikh’s son, and the West offers only “talk”. That’s not entirely fair – some money has been spent by the US – but this is a community in crisis. Daesh killed thousands of Yazidi men and raped the women. When the Jihadists disappeared, they took 3,000 girls with them. Where are they? The Yazidis “are now in camps and [suffer] psychologically and materially. No jobs. We want our people to return to their land.”

He doesn’t think much of its chances in Europe, either. The more Islamists who move there, he says, the more children they have, the less Christian the West will be. The Sheikh’s family are perplexed that we haven’t figured this out yet. There are good and bad Muslims, adds one man, and who can forget what Christians did to the Jews in Germany? But the West “must say the reality”, which is that Daesh was Islamic.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Middle East, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence

(FA) Dani Rodrik–Globalization’s Wrong Turn And How It Hurt America

Today’s woes have their roots in the 1990s, when policymakers set the world on its current, hyperglobalist path, requiring domestic economies to be put in the service of the world economy instead of the other way around. In trade, the transformation was signaled by the creation of the World Trade Organization, in 1995. The WTO not only made it harder for countries to shield themselves from international competition but also reached into policy areas that international trade rules had not previously touched: agriculture, services, intellectual property, industrial policy, and health and sanitary regulations. Even more ambitious regional trade deals, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, took off around the same time.

In finance, the change was marked by a fundamental shift in governments’ attitudes away from managing capital flows and toward liberalization. Pushed by the United States and global organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, countries freed up vast quantities of short-term finance to slosh across borders in search of higher returns.

At the time, these changes seemed to be based on sound economics. Openness to trade would lead economies to allocate their resources to where they would be the most productive. Capital would flow from the countries where it was plentiful to the countries where it was needed. More trade and freer finance would unleash private investment and fuel global economic growth. But these new arrangements came with risks that the hyperglobalists did not foresee, although economic theory could have predicted the downside to globalization just as well as it did the upside.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, History, Politics in General

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) Bp Philip Mounstephen calls for sanctions on countries which persecute Christians

The Bishop of Truro Philip Mounstephen has finally published his independent report on persecuted Christians across the world, and it doesn’t disappoint. The review was commissioned by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt last December, and launched in January, and the intervening six months have been worth the wait, not least for its impeccable justification:

..this particular focus is justified because Christian persecution, like no other, is a global phenomenon. And it is so precisely because the Christian faith is a truly global phenomenon. Thus Christian persecution is not limited to one context or challenge. It is a single global phenomenon with multiple drivers and as such it deserves special attention. More specifically it is certainly not limited to Islamic-majority contexts. So this review is not a stalking horse for the Islamophobic far-right, and nor does it give the Islamophobic right a stick to beat Islam with. To focus on one causative factor alone is to be wilfully blind to many others.

..Because the Christian faith is perhaps the one truly global faith it has become a bellwether for repression more generally. If Christians are being discriminated against in one context or another you can be confident other minorities are too. So renewing a focus on Christian persecution is actually a way of expressing our concern for all minorities who find themselves under pressure. And ignoring Christian persecution might well mean we’re ignoring other forms of repression as well.

Bishop Philip not only calls for the UK to impose sanctions upon countries that persecute Christians, but also for the adoption of a specific definition of anti-Christian discrimination and persecution. Since the Government has refused to adopt a specific definition of Islamophobia, and the definition of Antisemitism is not without contention, it will be interesting to see how anti-Christian discrimination (which some call ‘Christophobia‘) is actually finally defined.

Significantly, Bishop Philip affirms the view expressed by the Rev’d Jonathan Aitken last December in his Christmas sermon to the Foreign Office, of an essential lack of religious literacy among FCO staff.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NYT) Squalid Conditions at Border Detention Centers, Government Report Finds

Overcrowded, squalid conditions are more widespread at migrant centers along the southern border than initially revealed, the Department of Homeland Security’s independent watchdog said Tuesday. Its report describes standing-room-only cells, children without showers and hot meals, and detainees clamoring desperately for release.

The findings by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General were released as House Democrats detailed their own findings at migrant holding centers and pressed the agency to answer for the mistreatment not only of migrants but also of their own colleagues, who have been threatened on social media.

In June, inspectors from the department visited five facilities in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, and found children had few spare clothes and no laundry facilities. Many migrants were given only wet wipes to clean themselves and bologna sandwiches to eat, causing constipation and other health problems, according to the report. Children at two of the five facilities in the area were not given hot meals until inspectors arrived.

Overcrowding was so severe that when the agency’s internal inspectors visited some of the facilities, migrants banged on cells and pressed notes to windows begging for help.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Theology

(CT) Evangelicals Can Help at the Border. They Just Can’t Do It Alone.

Leaders like San Antonio pastor Max Lucado have urged Christians to pray and act. “This is a mess. A humanitarian, heartbreaking mess. As we are wondering what can be done, let’s do what we are called to do,” he wrote in a lament for CT. “Let’s pray. Let’s lament. Let’s groan.” (You can read a collection of six Christian leaders’ prayers for the border here.)

Grief over the conditions at the border has compelled many evangelical Christians to act, but they prefer to work directly with evangelical mercy ministries.

However, in these moments when the law stands between Christians and acts of mercy—like not being able to drop off donations at a detention center—they can be uncomfortable with idea of supporting government aid or state humanitarian efforts, said Kathryn Freeman, director of public policy for the Texas Baptists’ Christian Life Commission.

“Even for Christians who tend to be leery of government intervention,” Freeman said, to get the diapers and wipes to the children in custody, “the reality is that Congress has to take that up and do it.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Health & Medicine, Immigration, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Theology

(NAE) Inhumane Conditions for Migrant Children Are Unacceptable

In the letter, evangelical leaders ask the administration and Congress to:

  • Immediately appropriate adequate funding and deploy appropriately trained staff to care for children and families who are held in temporary processing facilities and in facilities for unaccompanied children;
  • Respect and enforce the protections of U.S. asylum laws, ensuring that no one with a credible fear of torture or persecution “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” is returned to their country of origin or forced to remain in unsafe third countries, and that all asylum seekers are afforded due process and treated humanely throughout the process;
  • Minimize the use of detention, especially the detention of children, and utilize effective alternatives to detention to ensure that those with pending asylum cases show up for court; except in cases when there is a valid reason to suspect that an individual presents a threat to public safety, families should be allowed to rely upon sponsoring relatives and friends throughout the U.S., or upon the assistance of local churches and non-profit
    organizations, rather than being detained at taxpayer expense;

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Health & Medicine, Immigration, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT) As Trade War With U.S. Grinds On, Chinese Tourists Stay Away

A new battlefront has opened in the trade war between the United States and China: the $1.6 trillion American travel industry.

A Los Angeles hotel long popular with Chinese travelers saw a 23 percent decline in visits last year and another 10 percent so far this year. In New York City, spending by Chinese tourists, who spend nearly twice as much as other foreign visitors, fell 12 percent in the first quarter. And in San Francisco, busloads of Chinese tourists were once a mainstay of one fine jewelry business; over the last few years, the buses stopped coming.

Figures from the Commerce Department’s National Travel and Tourism Office show a sharp decline in the number of tourists from China last year.

Industry professionals worry that the drop-off is picking up speed this year, affecting not just airlines, hotels and restaurants, but also retailers and attractions like amusement parks and casinos.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General, Travel

(NYT) Trade War Starts Changing Manufacturers in Hard-to-Reverse Ways

…evidence is mounting that the conflict has taken an economic toll. The Commerce Department said Thursday that trade — both imports and exports — slumped in April, and data released earlier this week showed a sharp slowdown in manufacturing, amplifying a recent trend. The bond market in recent days has been sending signals that the trade war could be a threat to growth in the United States and globally. The impact could deepen if Mr. Trump follows through on his promise, made Thursday, to impose new tariffs on imports from Mexico.

And as the conflict drags on, there are signs it is beginning to reshape the global economy in more fundamental ways.

“There’s definitely lasting damage that has been done,” said Mary Lovely, a Syracuse University economist and senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “It’s not going to mean the end of the world tomorrow, but it’s death by a thousand cuts. How competitive is America going to be in 10 or 15 years?”

Tariffs have not yet compelled businesses to return large-scale production to the United States, where labor and other costs tend to be much higher than in China and other overseas manufacturing hubs.

But trade tensions are accelerating a corporate trend of shifting supply chains away from China. In a recent survey of more than 200 corporate executives by the consulting firm Bain, 42 percent said they expected to get materials from a different region in the next year, and 25 percent said they were redirecting investments out of China.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(Sunday [London] Times] Niall Ferguson–the world cannot afford another Thirty Years’ War: History suggests the US-China conflict will need a Westphalian resolution

The end of the Thirty Years’ War was not brought about by one treaty, but by several, of which the most important were signed at Münster and Osnabrück in October 1648. It is these treaties that historians refer to as the Peace of Westphalia. Contrary to legend, they did not make peace, as France and Spain kept fighting for 11 more years. And they certainly did not establish a world order based on modern states.

What the Westphalian settlement did was to establish power-sharing arrangements between the emperor and the German princes, as well as between the rival religious groups, on the basis of limited and conditional rights. The peace as a whole was underpinned by mutual guarantees, as opposed to the third-party guarantees that had been the norm before.

The Cold War ended when one side folded. That will not happen in our time. The democratic and authoritarian powers can fight for three or 30 years; neither side will win a definitive victory. Sooner or later there will have to be a compromise — in particular, a self-restraining commitment not to take full advantage of modern technology to hollow out each other’s sovereignty.

Our destination is 1648, not 1989 — a Cyber-Westphalia, not the fall of the Great Firewall of China. If we have the option to get there in three years, rather than in 30, we should take it.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., China, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(WSJ) David Molton–My Jewish Family’s American Life Almost Wasn’t–They were turned away 80 years ago but made their way to the U.S. eventually

Left alone with three children, my grandmother formed a plan to reunite the family. She spent much of her dwindling savings on a voyage to Cuba aboard the St. Louis. The ship was filled with hundreds of Jews with similar stories. In what should have served as a warning of trouble ahead, the passengers were required to purchase return tickets.

As the ship neared Havana in May 1939, the Cuban government announced it wouldn’t honor the Cuban landing permits sold to passengers by a corrupt Cuban minister. Most passengers weren’t concerned, since they held immigration quota numbers committing the U.S. to grant them entry when their turn came over the next few years. They assumed Washington would move up the timetable and let them enter right away.

Yet the St. Louis was anchored in Havana harbor from May 27 to June 2. A representative from the Joint Distribution Committee, a Jewish relief group, negotiated with the Cuban government to allow the passengers to disembark. Dinghies carried separated family members, including my grandfather, for temporary reunions. President Franklin D. Roosevelt remained silent, and the negotiations failed.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Cuba, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Germany, Immigration, Judaism, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Atlantic) The Impossible Future of Christians in the Middle East

The call came in 2014, shortly after Easter. Four years earlier, Catrin Almako’s family had applied for special visas to the United States. Catrin’s husband, Evan, had cut hair for the U.S. military during the early years of its occupation of Iraq. Now a staffer from the International Organization for Migration was on the phone. “Are you ready?” he asked. The family had been assigned a departure date just a few weeks away.

“I was so confused,” Catrin told me recently. During the years they had waited for their visas, Catrin and Evan had debated whether they actually wanted to leave Iraq. Both of them had grown up in Karamles, a small town in the historic heart of Iraqi Christianity, the Nineveh Plain. Evan owned a barbershop near a church. Catrin loved her kitchen, where she spent her days making pastries filled with nuts and dates. Their families lived there: her five siblings and aging parents, his two brothers.

But they also lived amid constant danger. “Everybody who was working with the United States military—they get killed,” Catrin said. Evan had been injured by an explosion near a U.S. Army base in Mosul in 2004. Catrin worried about him driving back and forth to the base along highways that cross some of the most contested land in Iraq. Even after he stopped working for the military, they feared he might be a victim of violence. That fear was compounded by their faith: During the war years, insurgents consistently targeted Christian towns and churches in a campaign of terror.

The Almakos had watched neighbors and friends wrestle with the same question: stay, or go? Now more and more Christians in the region were deciding to leave. The graph of the religion’s decline in the Middle East has in recent years transformed from a steady downward slope into a cliff. The numbers in Iraq are especially stark: Before the American invasion, as many as 1.4 million Christians lived in the country. Today, fewer than 250,000 remain—an 80 percent drop in less than two decades.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Middle East, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(FA) Daniel W. Drezner–This Time Is Different: Why U.S. Foreign Policy Will Never Recover

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a foreign policy community in possession of great power must be in want of peace of mind. Climate change, the Middle East, terrorism, trade, nonproliferation—there is never a shortage of issues and areas for those who work in international relations to fret about. If you were to flip through the back issues of Foreign Affairs, you would find very few essays proclaiming that policymakers had permanently sorted out a problem. Even after the Cold War ended peacefully, these pages were full of heated debate about civilizations clashing.

It is therefore all too easy to dismiss the current angst over U.S. President Donald Trump as the latest hymn from the Church of Perpetual Worry. This is hardly the first time observers have questioned the viability of a U.S.-led global order. The peril to the West was never greater than when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik—until U.S. President Richard Nixon ended the Bretton Woods system. The oil shocks of the 1970s posed a grave threat to the liberal international order—but then came the explosion of the U.S. budget and trade deficits in the 1980s. The perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks seemed like an existential threat to the system—until the 2008 financial crisis. Now there is Trump. It is worth asking, then, whether the current fretting is anything new. For decades, the sky has refused to fall.

But this time really is different. Just when many of the sources of American power are ebbing, many of the guardrails that have kept U.S. foreign policy on track have been worn down. It is tempting to pin this degradation on Trump and his retrograde foreign policy views, but the erosion predated him by a good long while. Shifts in the way Americans debate and conduct foreign policy will make it much more difficult to right the ship in the near future. Foreign policy discourse was the last preserve of bipartisanship, but political polarization has irradiated that marketplace of ideas. Although future presidents will try to restore the classical version of U.S. foreign policy, in all likelihood, it cannot be revived.

The American foundations undergirding the liberal international order are in grave danger, and it is no longer possible to take the pillars of that order for granted. Think of the current moment as a game of Jenga in which multiple pieces have been removed but the tower still stands. As a result, some observers have concluded that the structure remains sturdy. But in fact, it is lacking many important parts and, on closer inspection, is teetering ever so slightly. Like a Jenga tower, the order will continue to stand upright—right until the moment it collapses. Every effort should be made to preserve the liberal international order, but it is also time to start thinking about what might come after its end.

The gravity of the problem is dawning on some members of the foreign policy community. Progressives are debating among themselves whether and how they should promote liberal values abroad if they should return to power. Conservatives are agonizing over whether the populist moment represents a permanent shift in the way they should think about U.S. foreign policy. Neither camp is really grappling with the end of equilibrium, however.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Politics in General

(PD) Lyman Stone–What Makes People Have Babies? The Link Between Cultural Values and Fertility Rates

Over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, something remarkable happened: people started having fewer children. Way fewer. In country after country, fertility rates fell from four to eight children per woman to less than three, and in many cases less than two.

What caused this decline in fertility? Did changes in child mortality and life expectancy cause parents to desire fewer conceptions? Did increased return to human capital change the optimal child-rearing strategy? Was the decline caused by increasing exposure to the toxic chemical mix of industrialization?

The above explanations, and many others, have been proposed at various times by biologists, economists, and sociologists. But a growing body of economic research is offering a decidedly anthropological explanation for fertility: it’s about culture. People have the children they have not simply due to their individual pursuit of happiness, economic returns, or mere biology, but because of how cultural and values systems shape their behaviors.

It’s easy to spot culture-fertility linkages “in the wild.” For example, in ethnically Chinese populations around the world, birth rates spike in lucky Zodiac years, like the Dragon year. Births fall sharply around major holidays in virtually all countries. In America, they also fall sharply on unlucky days like April 1 or Friday the 13th. I’ve catalogued these and many more cultural-fertility interactions elsewhere.

But can cultural factors explain big changes in fertility? Sure, maybe a change in cultural values can nudge when a couple has a baby by a little bit here or there, or maybe we can change the pace of change in birth rates a bit. But could an arbitrary shock to social values really trigger an epochal shift in demographics like that observed during the so-called “demographic transition?” New research by Brian Beach and W. Walker Hanlon says yes.

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Theology

(Christian Today) On what should have been Brexit weekend, churches and cathedrals open their doors for prayer and dialogue

The first weekend after the UK was supposed to leave the European Union, churches and cathedrals are offering spaces for conversation and prayer on Brexit.

Many churches across the country are holding prayer vigils this weekend on what should have marked the start of a new post-Brexit era for the UK.

But after another week of votes and debates failed to break the deadlock on Brexit, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are inviting people to come together in dialogue and prayer as part of five days of prayer for the nation and its future relationship with the European Union.

Cathedrals across England have answered that call. On Friday, Leicester Cathedral hosted a prayer vigil led by the Bishop of Loughborough, Guli Francis-Dehqani, Chair of the European Council of Churches, while Wakefield Cathedral has been inviting members of the public to come and write down their prayers for peace and for each other on prayer cards.

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Posted in Church of England, England / UK, Foreign Relations, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Tablet) Jesuit Refugee Service has accused the Home Office of demonstrating a “shocking illiteracy of Christianity” in its recent Action

Sarah Teather, Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in the UK said: “This is a particularly outrageous example of the reckless and facetious approach of the Home Office to determining life and death asylum cases – they appear willing to distort any aspect of reality in order to turn down a claim.

“This case demonstrates the shocking illiteracy of Christianity within the Home Office. But the distortion of logic and reckless approach to asylum seeker’s lives is a common feature. Here at JRS, we routinely encounter cases where asylum has been refused on spurious grounds. Some of these cases require more legal knowledge to recognise than this bizarre misquoting of the Bible.

“As this instance gains public attention, we need to remember it reflects a systematic problem and a deeper mindset of disbelief within the Home Office, and is not just an anomaly that can be explained away.”

Mr Stevens said that the Home Office subsequently agreed to withdraw their refusal and to reconsider the man’s asylum application. He later released details of a second case, in which a Christian woman who fled Iran fearing execution had her asylum claim rejected because the Home Office considered her belief in Jesus to be “half-hearted”.

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Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(New Statesman) Rowan Williams–Brexit shows Britain is no longer able to imagine a “common good”

Democracy rests on a presupposition that is not often made explicit. Popular consent implies that everyone’s view and interest, without restriction, is worth taking into account in the running of a society – which is why the principle on which democracy rests is the same principle that affirms the rights of minorities and the need to continue testing the strength of popular consent. Any search for a permanent resolution of social issues that is declared to be beyond argument or challenge is a move away from the fundamental principle.

In other words, two salient aspects of a consistent democracy are that we go on arguing, and that our freedom to do so is protected. The law defends us from coercion and forcible silencing. Without these, we have naked populism, a reversion to the situation where the powerful (in numbers, wealth or status) determine what is “right”. Genuine politics gives way to suppressed or threatened violence.

In genuine politics – if there is no overwhelming consensus, and if the people who disagree with us are not going to oblige us by simply going away, and if coercion is not an option because of our legal settlement – we are committed to argument and negotiation. And this entails a readiness to suspend belief in the unqualified rightness of our own interests and to try to imagine a state of affairs emerging that could be manageable both for us and for those who do not share our ideas or priorities.

So to find ourselves – as we now regularly do – in a situation where opposing groups each regard the other’s agenda as the worst outcome imaginable is a dire situation for democracy. Not because it is not nice to be so rude to each other, but because it indicates a disturbing loss of any sense that there might be common goals that we can only discover through a process of argument and scrutiny; a loss of any willingness to think around the corners of the definitions we started with.

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Posted in --Rowan Williams, Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Theology

(C of E) Response to Home Office letter regarding Iranian asylum seeker from Bp Paul Butler

“I am extremely concerned that a Government department could determine the future of another human being based on such a profound misunderstanding of the texts and practices of faith communities. To use extracts from the Book of Revelation to argue that Christianity is a violent religion is like arguing that a Government report on the impact of Climate Change is advocating drought and flooding.

“It is good that the Home Office has recognised that this decision is inconsistent with its policies and that its staff need better training, but the fact that these comments were made at all suggests that the problem goes deeper than a lack of religious literacy among individual civil servants and indicates that the management structures and ethos of the Home Office, when dealing with cases with a religious dimension, need serious overhaul.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Foreign Relations, Iran, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

(Christian Today) Churches are playing a ‘key role’ in the fight against human trafficking

Churches and faith groups are making an important contribution to efforts to eliminate the global scourge of human trafficking, a UN human rights committee has heard.

Jack Palmer-White, the Anglican Communion’s Permanent Representative to the UN, outlined the many anti-trafficking initiatives being led by churches in a submission to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) this week.

The CEDAW is considering submissions on the issue of human trafficking as it prepares to make a ‘general recommendation’ to UN member states.

In his report, Mr Palmer-White asked that the general recommendation ‘reflects the key role that churches and other faith actors can, and do, play in the fight against trafficking of women and girls in the context of global migration’.

Examples of anti-trafficking work detailed in the report include a partnership between the US Embassy to Ghana and the Diocese of Accra which has led to the creation of a community shelter called Hope Village that rehabilitates rescued children, while holding the government of Ghana to account on its progress in eliminating trafficking.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Ghana, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence, Women

(FA) Richard Haass–How a World Order Ends, And What Comes in Its Wake

A stable world order is a rare thing. When one does arise, it tends to come after a great convulsion that creates both the conditions and the desire for something new. It requires a stable distribution of power and broad acceptance of the rules that govern the conduct of international relations. It also needs skillful statecraft, since an order is made, not born. And no matter how ripe the starting conditions or strong the initial desire, maintaining it demands creative diplomacy, functioning institutions, and effective action to adjust it when circumstances change and buttress it when challenges come.

Eventually, inevitably, even the best-managed order comes to an end. The balance of power underpinning it becomes imbalanced. The institutions supporting it fail to adapt to new conditions. Some countries fall, and others rise, the result of changing capacities, faltering wills, and growing ambitions. Those responsible for upholding the order make mistakes both in what they choose to do and in what they choose not to do.

But if the end of every order is inevitable, the timing and the manner of its ending are not. Nor is what comes in its wake. Orders tend to expire in a prolonged deterioration rather than a sudden collapse. And just as maintaining the order depends on effective statecraft and effective action, good policy and proactive diplomacy can help determine how that deterioration unfolds and what it brings. Yet for that to happen, something else must come first: recognition that the old order is never coming back and that efforts to resurrect it will be in vain. As with any ending, acceptance must come before one can move on.

In the search for parallels to today’s world, scholars and practitioners have looked as far afield as ancient Greece

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Theology

(The Conversation) Katie Gaddini+Linda Woodhead–Brexit shines light on Church of England rift between leadership and Anglican majority

In sharp contrast to the evangelicals, other Anglican voters in England cited immigration as a major issue persuading them to vote Leave, as they wanted to preserve England’s cultural-ethnic identity. Most important of all, however was their concern about excessive EU interference.

For now, the archbishops and and like-minded bishops are in power at the top of the Church of England, but without the support of most grassroots Anglicans. Their stance on Brexit makes this very plain. Traditionally the Church of England has been “the Tory party at prayer” and, in terms of votes cast, it still is.

But the “old guard” of mainline Anglicans is slowly dying out and the new breed of enthusiastic, charismatic-evangelical clergy are having more success in winning over some young people. Supporters of their approach – like the archbishops – say that speaking in tongues and other charismatic practices are the best way to revive the dying Church of England. Opponents say that they are likely to drive out the last remaining Anglicans and alienate their children. Either way, it will affect the political complexion of England as a whole.

Read it all.(Please however note that the authors sadly repeat the completely fallacious idea that 81% of evangelicals voted for Trump. For why this statistic is just wrong see here,there, and here among many places).

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Europe, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

C of E General Synod to debate call for reconciliation for divided nation

The UK’s political leaders should draw on “Christian hope and reconciliation” to help steer the country through a time of seemingly “entrenched and intractable” divisions, according to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

The call comes in the text of a special motion on the state of the nation, tabled by the two archbishops, to be debated by the Church of England’s General Synod, which meets in London next month.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Described as Defeated, Islamic State Punches Back With Guerrilla Tactics

For three years, terrorists controlled a huge stretch of territory in Iraq and Syria. They ran their own state, collecting tens of millions of dollars in taxes and using the proceeds to fix potholes, issue birth certificates, finance attacks and recruit followers from around the world.

All but 1 percent of that territory is now gone, which has prompted the White House to describe the Islamic State as “wiped out,” “absolutely obliterated” and “in its final throes.” But to suggest that ISIS was defeated, as President Trump did when he announced plans to pull out American troops from Syria, is to ignore the lessons of recent history.

The group has been declared vanquished before, only to prove politicians wrong and to rise stronger than before.

The attack last week by a suicide bomber outside a shawarma restaurant in the Syrian city of Manbij, which killed at least 15 people including four Americans, is one example of how the group still remains a serious, violent threat.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iraq, Middle East, Military / Armed Forces, Syria, Terrorism, Violence

(Church Times) ‘Put aside differences’ to find a way through on Brexit, Bishop Lowson tells politicians

Politicians need to put aside their personal differences to find a way through on Brexit, the Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Revd Christopher Lowson, said on Wednesday.

Speaking after the defeat of the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement, Bishop Lowson said: “The need is for us as a nation, and especially in the Commons, is to listen to the people and to find a way forward that most can agree on.”

He went on: “We need to put aside our personal differences to find this way. Whether we have a general election or a second referendum is a question for the politicians.

“But I think there needs to be some kind of discovery process so the Commons can work out what they find acceptable — taking the temperature of what is possible. There has to be some give and take, though.

“As a nation, we have been through some fairly significant challenges over the centuries and we have found a way through them. As Christians, we believe that God will find a way forward.”

Bishop Lowson was one of four bishops to vote against the Prime Minister’s deal in the House of Lords, along with the Bishops of London, Durham, and Birmingham.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(AI) Damir Marusic reviews Robert Kagan’s New book ‘The Jungle Grows back’–The Illiberal Challenge: Making Up Monsters to Destroy

The Jungle Grows Back immediately distinguishes itself from the pack by taking direct aim at the key piety that ties the standard narrative together: the idea of progress. “Unlike other cultures, which view history as a continuous cycle of growth and decay, or as stasis,” Kagan writes, “we view history as having a direction and a purpose. . . . we have come to believe that, while there may be occasional bumps and detours on the road, progress is inevitable.”

This is all a myth, he unequivocally states. The world as we know it, the international system as it is currently constructed, is a mere contingency—an historical aberration.

We have witnessed amazing progress over the past seven decades, and not just technological progress but also human progress. Yet this progress was not the culmination of anything. It was not the product of evolution, of expanding knowledge, of technological advances, the spread of commerce, and least of all of any change in the basic nature of human beings. It has been the product of a unique set of circumstances contingent on a particular set of historical outcomes, including on the battlefield, that could have turned out differently.

In other words, the liberal world order is a happy accident, the result of the liberal side triumphing in the Great Power struggle of the nuclear age. It didn’t have to work out that way. And it is precisely because of this contingency that we must prize the achievement highly. Don’t be complacent, Kagan is arguing, for it could all disappear in a heartbeat. The United States must therefore return to an expansive leadership role, one perhaps even more ambitious than the one it undertook in 1945. The rest of the book is largely Kagan making that case, and suggesting how such a newly expansive role might be shaped.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History

(Christian Post) Fulani Militia “bigger threat than Boko Haram” – Archbishop Kwashi

The Bishop of Jos, Anglican Communion and in-coming General Secretary , Global Anglican Future Conference, GAFCON, the most Rev Benjamin Argak Kwashi, has described the Islamic Fulani cattle herdsmen militias who have ravaged towns and villages, killing mostly women and children, in the predominantly Christians central region of Nigeria, as “a bigger threat” than Boko Haram Islamic terrorist Jihadi sect.

“Boko Haram operates in the northeast and scantily moves into other areas, but the Fulani herdsmen are widespread. They’re everywhere now. So the Fulani are a bigger threat,” Kwashi said.

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Posted in Church of Nigeria, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Nigeria, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(PBS Newshour) The week in Washington DC–Mark Shields and Michael Gerson on [Defense Secretary Jim] Mattis’ resignation, congressional stalemate

Mark Shields: And, you know, the week was — the trauma of the week was Secretary Mattis, and there’s no question about it. That was the monumental event.

And I would say that there was alarm after the president’s appearance at Helsinki with Mr. Putin. I think there was alarm after the firing of FBI Director Comey.

But there was panic, bipartisan, nonpartisan panic, in this city, and I think in the country and in the world, when Jim Mattis, General Jim Mattis, left as secretary of defense.

I mean, he was seen, and I think rightfully so, as the thoughtful, well-read, well-prepared, country-before-self leader who believed in reciprocal burdens and benefits to the United States with other countries, and was fighting that cause, and had some influence on Donald Trump, but left on his own terms….

Judy Woodruff: Sober note at the end of a week, I think, like no other.

Mark Shields: Like no other week.

Judy Woodruff: Like no other week that I remember in Washington, and I have been here for 40 years.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump

(WSJ) President Trump’s Foreign-Policy Upheaval Puts U.S. Allies on Edge

Abrupt plans for U.S. troop pullouts from Syria and Afghanistan and the departure of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis are raising fresh concerns among U.S. allies and adversaries alike about a new phase of volatility in Washington’s military posture and foreign policy.

Mr. Mattis, a former four-star Marine general who has been one of President Trump’s most prominent cabinet members since his inauguration nearly two years ago, was regarded by many U.S. allies as a steadying influence, offering a sense of continuity even as Mr. Trump broke with longtime allies on issues as diverse as tariffs and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Governments across Asia offered muted response to the developments while Europeans were more outspoken regarding both Mr. Mattis and Mr. Trump’s troop plans. Senior French and German officials rejected Mr. Trump’s assertion earlier in the week that Islamic State had been defeated and Israeli officials expressed anxiety about regional stability.

Even Russia, which many observers see as benefiting from Mr. Trump’s moves, reacted cautiously.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump

(NYT Op-Ed) Can the U.S. Stop China From Controlling the Next Internet Age?

Also this week in the White House, a round-table was held to debate topics like artificial intelligence, 5G wireless and quantum computing, with top tech executive such as Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Sundar Pichai of Google, Safra Catz of Oracle and Steve Mollenkopf of Qualcomm in attendance. It was called a “listening session,” and it was reported that President Trump “popped” in, at a time when these issues need far more sustained attention from the top than that.

Which is why it came as no surprise when The New York Times reported that Mr. Trump was not briefed about the planned arrest of Ms. Meng, even though it took place at the same time he was having dinner with China’s president, Xi Jinping, in an attempt to find a truce in the trade war.

From where I sit, the sentiment in Silicon Valley seems to be: Good for the government for being tough on Chinese companies when they break the rules — that rule-breaking having been a longtime complaint of companies like Cisco and Apple. Vigilance is key, of course, but everyone would feel a lot more confident if the government was also focused on investing more in American innovation and if the crackdown looked less chaotic.

Which is why you can imagine a big American tech executive being detained over unspecified charges while on a trip to Beijing. And our government should, too.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Science & Technology

(Economist) Chip wars: China, America and silicon supremacy

Although the chip battle may have pre-dated Mr Trump, his presidency has intensified it. He has made a national champion of Qualcomm, blocking a bid for it from a Singaporean firm for fear of Chinese competition. Earlier this year an export ban on selling American chips and software to zte, a Chinese telecoms firm in breach of sanctions, brought it to the brink of bankruptcy within days. Startled by the looming harm, and (he says) swayed by appeals from Mr Xi, Mr Trump swiftly backtracked.

Two things have changed. First, America has realised that its edge in technology gives it power over China. It has imposed export controls that affect on Fujian Jinhua, another Chinese firm accused of stealing secrets, and the White House is mulling broader bans on emerging technologies. Second, China’s incentives to become self-reliant in semiconductors have rocketed. After zte, Mr Xi talked up core technologies. Its tech giants are on board: Alibaba, Baidu and Huawei are ploughing money into making chips. And China has showed that it can hinder American firms. Earlier this year Qualcomm abandoned a bid for nxp, a Dutch firm, after foot-dragging by Chinese regulators.

Neither country’s interests are about to change. America has legitimate concerns about the national-security implications of being dependent on Chinese chips and vulnerable to Chinese hacking. China’s pretensions to being a superpower will look hollow as long as America can throttle its firms at will. China is destined to try to catch up; America is determined to stay ahead.

The hard question is over the lengths to which America should go.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Science & Technology