29 October 2014

News Reports & Analysis: The Synod for Family (2014) and its aftermath

Last Updated: October 29, 2014

Official Documents:
Synod on Family and Interfaith Marriages:

24 October 2014

Pope Francis calls for abolishing death penalty and life imprisonment

Pope Francis called for abolition of the death penalty as well as life imprisonment, and denounced what he called a "penal populism" that promises to solve society's problems by punishing crime instead of pursuing social justice. "It is impossible to imagine that states today cannot make use of another means than capital punishment to defend peoples' lives from an unjust aggressor," the pope said Oct. 23 in a meeting with representatives of the International Association of Penal Law.

22 October 2014

Four myths about slavery in the US

Four myths about slavery in the US (Raw Story, 21 October 2014)

People think they know everything about slavery in the United States, but they don’t. They think the majority of African slaves came to the American colonies, but they didn’t. They talk about 400 hundred years of slavery, but it wasn’t. They claim all Southerners owned slaves, but they didn’t. Some argue it was a long time ago, but it wasn’t.

Slavery has been in the news a lot lately. Perhaps it’s because of the increase in human trafficking on American soil or the headlines about income inequality, the mass incarceration of African Americans or discussions about reparations to the descendants of slaves. Several publications have fueled these conversations: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Case for Reparations in The Atlantic Monthly, French economist Thomas Picketty’s Capital in the Twenty First Century, historian Edward Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and The Making of American Capitalism, and law professor Bryan A. Stevenson’s Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.

21 October 2014

Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong (Dateline)

Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong (Dateline documentary)

This is what the legacy of ‘white privilege’ looks like in Bill O’Reilly’s hometown

Levittown, the Long Island community where Bill O'Reilly grew up, holds a unique place in history for two reasons: It was the original subdivision, a mass-produced town of neatly uniform, affordable Cape Cod homes that would serve as a model for postwar suburbs for decades to come.

And it was available only to whites.

The latter detail — now at the center of an epic standoff between O'Reilly and Jon Stewart over race, suburbia and the legacy of "white privilege" — wasn't an innovation specific to Levittown. Racial discrimination in housing wasn't merely commonplace in the 1940s and '50s; it was government policy. The Federal Housing Administration helped finance the construction of many suburban places like Levittown on the condition that they exclude blacks. And it underwrote mortgages to white families there with the expectation that their property values would only hold if blacks did not move in.

News Reports & Analysis: Violence against Ethnic, Religious and Caste Minorities in India

Last Updated: October 21, 2014
Selected news reports, op eds and analysis on the discrimination, coercion, and violence against ethnic, religious, and caste minorities in India:

News Reports & Analysis: Chinese Communist Crackdown on Chinese Christian Churches

Updated: October 21, 2014

Related: Chinese Communist Crackdown on Uighurs and Chinese Muslims

Selected news reports, op eds and analysis on Chinese communist authorities' crackdown on Chinese Christian churches and congregations:

20 October 2014

When Poverty Was the Enemy, Not the Poor

When Poverty Was the Enemy, Not the Poor (Yes Magazine, 9 October 2014)

It has been 50 years since America launched the War on Poverty. The Economic Opportunity Act and legislation to outlaw racial discrimination were the centerpieces of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s vision to create a Great Society. Today, rather than a war on poverty, we seem to have a war on the poor. Wealth inequality is growing. State support for education is withering. Social safety-net programs are under attack in Congress. Many Americans believe that if people are poor, it’s their own fault. The only “solution” for poverty that many people advocate is allowing companies to create jobs offering wages too low to support a family.

Although it is now widely—and inaccurately—portrayed as a costly welfare program, the War on Poverty was not a failure. If not for government anti-poverty programs since 1967, the nation’s poverty rate would have been 15 percentage points higher in 2012, according to a study published recently by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Time to Tax Carbon

Time to Tax Carbon (Harvard Magazine, September-October 2014)

Next year, representatives from nations around the world will meet in Paris to discuss a global climate-change agreement that would take effect in 2020. Central to those discussions will be setting a price on carbon and its equivalents—a figure that captures the social costs of releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The impacts of those emissions range from the health effects of burning fossil fuels, to inundation and adaptation of coastal cities threatened by rising seas, to extinction of plant and animal species as a consequence of rapidly changing environmental conditions. These costs amount to nearly $1.6 trillion annually worldwide, based on Yale scholars’ estimates of the damages at $44 per metric ton of CO2 and 2013 emissions of 36 billion metric tons.

As the no doubt fraught scientific and political discussion in the French capital nears, the work of Morris University Professor Dale Jorgenson, an economist known for his ability to marry theory and practice, is especially important. Jorgenson has studied the factors that drive economic growth, the relationship between energy and the environment, and the effects of tax policy on both. His 2013 book, Double Dividend: Environmental Taxes and Fiscal Reform in the United States, is the first to examine what would happen if revenues from a carbon tax—based on the price of carbon that will be the subject of debate in Paris—were recycled into the nation’s economy. After examining four strategies for deploying the revenue from a carbon tax, Jorgenson and coauthors Richard J. Goettle of Northeastern University, Mun S. Ho, Ph.D. ’89, a visiting fellow at Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science, and Peter J. Wilcoxen, Ph.D. ’89, of Syracuse University, found that one strategy in particular—reducing taxes on capital—leads to an increase in economic efficiency that improves economic well-being despite greater inequality, as well as a decrease in carbon emissions: the “double dividend” of the book’s title. Jorgenson has also studied economic growth, energy utilization, and environmental quality in China, the world’s largest emitter of carbon. There, and in other developing countries, he projects a triple dividend, because a carbon tax would also lead to major improvements in human health.

News Reports & Analysis: Israel's Invasion of Gaza in July 2014

Last Updated: October 20 2014
Selected news reports, op eds and analysis on Israel's invasion of Gaza in July 2014:

The Dark Side of the “Green Economy”

The Dark Side of the “Green Economy” (Yes Magazine, 23 August 2012)

Everywhere you look these days, things are turning green. In Chiapas, Mexico, indigenous farmers are being paid to protect the last vast stretch of rainforest in Mesoamerica. In the Brazilian Amazon, peasant families are given a monthly “green basket” of basic food staples to allow them to get by without cutting down trees. In Kenya, small farmers who plant climate-hardy trees and protect green zones are promised payment for their part in the fight to reduce global warming. In Mozambique, one of the world’s poorest nations, fully 19 percent of the country’s surface is leased to a British capital firm that pays families to reforest. These are a few of the keystone projects that make up what is being called “the green economy”: an emerging approach that promises to protect ­planetary ecology while boosting the economy and fighting poverty.

On its face this may sound like a good thing. Yet, during the recently concluded United Nations Rio+20 Earth Summit in Brazil, tens of thousands of people attending a nearby People’s Summit condemned such approaches to environmental management. Indeed, if social movements gathered in Rio last month had one common platform, it was “No to the green economy.”

14 October 2014

Scholars of Color Teaching Abroad as Identity Cross-Dresser

The complexity of shifting identity, depending on geographical location (teaching within the U.S. or Loyola211 teaching abroad), means that I am an identity “cross-dresser.” The fluidity of identity allows for different significations of power depending on geographical location; thus allowing me, as an international ethicist, to cross-dress and wear identity based on where my particular classroom is located. In the U.S., even though I occupy a space of power as professor, I remain the Object of the dominant gaze; yet, when my classroom is located abroad, my Latinoness is submerged as my overseas students see me as Euroamerican (and in some cases as white) - along with all the powers and privileges that comes by occupying that particular space. Identity cross-dressing, I would argue, complicates the ability for scholars of color and the students occupying classrooms abroad to effectively participate in production of theological knowledge.

To be an international cross-dresser is to recognize that I transverse between the power and privilege (or lack thereof) that comes with the identity I happen to be wearing due to geographical locations. To some degree, regardless of actual skin pigmentation or ethnic origins, we all become navy blue - the color of the cover of U.S. passports. To be navy blue signifies the global imperial might of the most privileged empire ever known to humanity. To carry this navy blue document is not only to receive the protection of empire, but also to become the global signifier of empire, even if you find yourself marginalized within the confines of empire. Those defined as nonwhite due to the domestic dominant gaze become honorary whites when teaching abroad.

13 October 2014

For interfaith families, evangelization is a two-way street

The Extraordinary Synod for the Family has begun, and like all Asian Catholics I am hoping our concerns will be adequately represented in this predominantly Western gathering.

Of the 14 couples who have been invited, there are two each from the United States and Italy, three from Africa, two from South America, and one each from Iraq, Lebanon, Australia and France. Asia is represented by a couple from the Philippines, a country that is about 82 percent Catholic, a reality so different from other Asian countries where Christians form a tiny minority — less than 1 percent in Japan and Pakistan, and 2.3 percent in India. This demographic is important because it gives rise to a challenge peculiar to most Asian countries — interfaith marriages. In some parts of India they account for more than 50 percent of the marriages celebrated in Church. The Japanese bishops have cited a figure as high as 76 percent.

While Christians have always been a minority in Asia, the increase in interfaith marriages is a recent development. Among the primary reasons for this increase are the education of women and their entry into the workforce across all economic strata. Universities and workplaces provide multi-religious spaces that offer opportunities for intimate relationships across traditional boundaries. More, women with the self-confidence that comes with their growing earning capacity are making independent decisions. Added to this is the overall distancing from religion.

09 October 2014

The Diversity of Islam (Nicholas Kristof)

The Diversity of Islam, by Nicholas Kristof (New York Times, 8 October 2014)

A few days ago, I was on a panel on Bill Maher’s television show on HBO that became a religious war. Whether or not Islam itself inspires conflict, debates about it certainly do. Our conversation degenerated into something close to a shouting match and went viral on the web. Maher and a guest, Sam Harris, argued that Islam is dangerous yet gets a pass from politically correct liberals, while the actor Ben Affleck denounced their comments as “gross” and “racist.” I sided with Affleck. After the show ended, we panelists continued to wrangle on the topic for another hour with the cameras off. Maher ignited a debate that is rippling onward, so let me offer three points of nuance.

Archbishop Julian Leow of Kuala Lumpur

Last Updated: October 9, 2014
News reports, interviews, and discussions of Archbishop Julian Leow, the 4th Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur:

07 October 2014

Fighting a quiet, nearly invisible brand of systematic racism

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva says improving race relations in the United States will require a social movement, active anti-racists and steady attention to everyday racism rather than reactions to hot incidents. Bonilla-Silva is a sociology professor at Duke University who has researched and written extensively on racial inequality, democracy and human rights. The title of his best-selling book says a lot: “Racism Without Racists: Colorblind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States.” The problem of race, he said, is not racists, but racism, not individuals doing or saying something obviously racist, but people collectively being complicit in systems that privilege one group while damaging others. Racism is more than prejudice, it’s a social system, and a very adaptable one.

Stonewalling about the Sewol

Stonewalling about the Sewol (Foreign Policy in Focus, 22 September 2014)

Six months after a ferry crash killed nearly 300 South Koreans, the Korean government continues to stymie investigations into its behavior and harass the families of victims.

Be prophets, agents of reconciliation, Asian archbishops say

Be prophets, agents of reconciliation, Asian archbishops say (Episcopal News Service, 22 September 2014)

God is calling the church in Asia to be an agent of reconciliation and a prophetic witness, three Asian Anglican archbishops told the House of Bishops, and they said the church across the world also must respond to the same call. Seoul Archbishop Paul Kim, who is also the primate of the Anglican Church in Korea, tells the Episcopal Church House of Bishops Sept. 22 that “reconciliation should be the core message of the church not just on the Korean peninsula but in the world.” The Rev. Aidan Koh, of St. James in the City in Los Angeles, translated for Kim. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service Seoul Archbishop Paul Kim, who is also the primate of the Anglican Church in Korea, tells the Episcopal Church House of Bishops Sept. 22 that “reconciliation should be the core message of the church not just on the Korean peninsula but in the world.” The Rev. Aidan Koh, of St. James in the City in Los Angeles, translated for Kim. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service “Reconciliation should be the core message of the church not just on the Korean peninsula but in the world,” said Seoul Archbishop Paul Kim, primate of the Anglican Church of Korea.

'Pacem in Terris' attracts non-Christians in Japan

Pope John XXIII’s encyclical “Pacem in Terris” (Peace on Earth) has found revival in Japan fifty years after its publication with a new translation circulated in dioceses attracting interest among non-Christians too. "The encyclical is a pillar on which to build peace in the world and is very useful in sparking reflection," Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada of Tokyo said. The Japanese Church focuses on two elements that are essential to the country’s evangelisation mission: dialogue and peace. It also brings together Christians of all denominations with members of the majority Buddhist faith and Shinto tradition.

4 teachings from Jesus that everybody gets wrong

4 teachings from Jesus that everybody gets wrong, by Amy-Jill Levine, (CNN, 21 September 2014)

Jesus’ parables – short stories with moral lessons – were likewise designed to afflict, to draw us in but leave us uncomfortable. These teachings can be read as being about divine love and salvation, sure. But, their first listeners – first century Jews in Galilee and Judea – heard much more challenging messages. Only when we hear the parables as Jesus’ own audience did can we fully experience their power and find ourselves surprised and challenged today. Here are four examples of Jesus’ teachings that everybody gets wrong

Interview 53: Archbishop Justin Welby

Interview 53: Archbishop Justin Welby (The Church of Ireland Gazette, 3 October 2014)

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, taks to Gazette editor, Canon Ian Ellis.
Date/Place of Interview: Friday 3rd October 2014/The See House, Armagh – By kind permission of the Archbishop of Armagh
Length of Interview: 21 minutes 16 seconds
The Anglican Communion, 00:00-02:22;
Anglicans/Episcopalians in North America, 02:22-04.45;
The Lambeth Conference, 04:45-05:40;
Payday lenders & Wonga, 05:40-08:33;
The Media, 08:33-10:00;
European Court of Human Rights & Human Rights issues, 10:00-13:07;
ISIL & Iraq situation, 13:07-17:10;
Northern Ireland political situation, 17:10-18:47;
Doubt in the Christian life, 18:47-end.

5 facts about the Hajj (Pew Research)

5 facts about the Hajj (Pew Research, 11 October 2014)

The annual Muslim hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca is underway, and more than a million pilgrims already have entered Saudi Arabia from abroad. Some of the key rituals involved in the pilgrimage are performed on the ninth day of the Islamic month of Dhul Hijjah, which this year falls on Oct. 14. All Muslim adults are expected to participate in the hajj, which is among the Five Pillars (core practices) of Islam, at least once in their lifetime unless they are physically or financially incapable of making the trip to Mecca. Here’s a look at some of the numbers associated with the hajj:
Link: 5 facts about the Hajj (Pew Research, 11 October 2014)

HTC onwards - and upwards: Auckland's Holy Trinity Cathedral re-opens with a new view heavenward

More than 500 Aucklanders thronged Holy Trinity Cathedral’s Evensong last night and experienced their cathedral in a way that few have done before. They came to celebrate the cathedral’s re-opening after four months' closure while the ‘bridge’ – the structure that had always separated the nave from the chancel – was removed and structural steel inserted pending the installation of a new $4.5 million organ from England. The removal of the bridge has dramatically changed the feel of the cathedral by visually tying together the older Gothic Revival-influenced chancel with the Pacific fale-style nave, and radically extending the vista from the cathedral’s doors through to the high altar, perhaps 80 metres distant.

The Outspoken Spanish Nun Who's Made Herself A Political Force

The Outspoken Spanish Nun Who's Made Herself A Political Force (NPR All Things Considered, 24 September 2014)

It's easy to find Teresa Forcades in the crowd at Barcelona's airport. She's wearing a nun's habit. Sister Forcades is Spain's most famous living nun. She's a medical doctor with a master's degree from Harvard. She's a feminist who's been reprimanded by the Vatican for supporting abortion rights. She's a Benedictine nun in a country where the Catholic Church has historically sided with fascists. And she's hugely popular. Forcades has emerged as one of the leaders of Europe's new left wing. At the height of Spain's economic crisis, she started a new political movement, Proces Constituent, which calls on the Spanish government to leave the eurozone, nationalize all banks and grant freedom to Catalonia — the wealthy, northeast region of Spain from which Forcades hails.

News Reports & Analysis: Women Priests in Hinduism

News articles, analysis and discussion of women priests in Hinduism:

Why the Right Is So Freaked Out about the Inconvenient Truths of Actual U.S. History

American’s right wing, you see, is terrified of history because it is always sentimentalizing it. Many of its arguments rely on a feeling of nostalgia for “good old days,” that appeals almost exclusively to aging whites. That means that a more accurate history, one that considers groups that are traditionally marginalized — women, people of color, Native Americans, immigrants and the poor — don’t necessarily sit that well. Their stories, the stories of the downtrodden, crush the false narrative that many conservatives like to imagine — that of a idyllic past marred by the New Deal, women’s liberation and civil rights.

In Jefferson County, Colorado, a school board recently tried to limit the historical curriculum to only events that would, “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights.” Needless to say, much of American history — the Great Depression, the Trail of Tears and the internment of Japanese-Americans — would, under those parameters, need to obfuscated. The Republic National Committee, meanwhile, has issued a statement calling the new Advanced Placement U.S. History standards ”radically revisionist.” But conservatives may want to take the plank out of their own eye before examining the speck in their neighbors. Here are the most important distortions of history the right has promoted recently.