This week bloggers explore a theme that links principles of Catholic social thought to wider geopolitical analysis. The idea that the world is confronting a “clash of civilizations” (most famously advanced in 1993 by Samuel Huntington) may be the most influential concept in contemporary international relations: an idea reviled and lambasted by some, implicitly or explicitly embraced by others. Even 22 years later talk of this cultural and religious clash permeates much discussion of current world events, and especially conflict. We encourage a debate about the idea: both its contemporary relevance, its impact on policy thinking and action, and what better notions might replace it.
Does religious liberty encourage or curb faith-based terrorism? Like the wider literature on liberty and domestic violence, a theoretical case can be made to support either position. On the one hand, some authoritarian leaders contend that effectively averting terrorism may require their governments to limit or suspend freedoms like religious liberty in the name of national security. This logic rests on the assumption that liberalism shackles governments from using all of the weapons in their arsenal to optimize their counterterrorism strategies. In countries where this thinking prevails, the result is a perceived zero-sum game: Religious restrictions, as morally problematic as they might be, are seen as necessary to curtail religious violence.
Rev. Gwynne Guibord founded and directs the Guibord Center in Los Angeles. It draws on the inspiration of her twenty years of working with leaders of the many faith practices and traditions that live side by side in Southern California. The aim is “To bring people together to challenge assumptions, unleash the Holy, and affirm the faith that transforms the world.” Interreligious dialogue is thus a central challenge as the center addresses the issues facing the community and the nation. Domestic violence has emerged as a live topic, and the Guibord Center has organized several events to address the issue. This exchange with Katherine Marshall took place in Atlanta on February 9, 2015, on the margins of the Carter Center Human Rights Defenders Forum. The discussion served as an introduction to the short and powerful video on violence against women that was screened as part of the forum. Rev. Guibord stresses the vital importance of healing in the effort to combat domestic violence and of engaging men in a positive and truly spiritual way.
The lives of college students in Hong Kong are very different from those of their American counterparts. For example, at Georgetown, my experience has been that students approach their academics very passively. Students tend to skip class often and procrastination is endemic. However, this is not the same in Hong Kong. Most students here at the Chinese University of Hong Kong deeply value their educations; almost every student I have spoken to here values their education at CUHK more than extracurriculars, social life, or relationships. Since the first day I arrived at the University I noticed the same trend; study spaces are at maximum occupancy every hour of the day. Students frantically prepare for exams and homework weeks before the assignments are due. Even with such efficient time management, students here seem to never run out of work to do. There are always endless amounts of revision to be done before a test, and the fact that the courses at the school are graded on a curve doesn't help to stifle competition amongst students. This type of pressure on students creates excellent graduates at the University; however it does come with consequences. Students often complain about the pressures of school and family expectations. Just last semester, an engineering student committed suicide on campus due to the pressures of his academic program at CUHK. Academics is engulfing here compared with student life in the United States. University here is almost entirely about academic rigor whereas in the United States, it is about learning to balance education and personal responsibilities.
Maria Bobenrieth, executive director of Women Win, says sports can help adolescent girls learn skills and gain confidence to achieve their rights. She discusses the challenges of working in religiously conservative communities and the strategies for getting young women involved in athletics around the world.
“Remember me, but ah! forget my fate,” sings Dido, queen of Carthage, as she slowly succumbs to her suicide. The final scene in Henry Purcell’s English opera Dido and Aeneas brings me to tears every time. Incapable of living without her lover Aeneas, who is leaving Carthage, Dido kills herself. However, when I saw Dido and Aeneas at the Opera di Firenze this month, I felt sad not just for Dido, but opera itself, which like Dido is slowly slipping away from its audiences.
Assisting Yahad-in-Unum in Moldova and Romania over Spring Break was unlike anything I have ever done.
The cultural differences that result from a different system of values can be seen on a variety of scales. For example, Senegal, nicknamed the country of teranga, is famous for its hospitality. They’re extremely proud of it, even naming their national soccer team les Lions de la Teranga. The importance of family is evident when you learn that everything you buy is meant to be shared, so you should buy a few more snacks than you would eat on your own. The respect for community and neighbors manifests itself in the style of eating meals, communally out of one large bowl because you never know when people might stop by and join in. These values have stood in stark contrast to my American values, such as independence and productivity. However, despite many differences, one thing that we can agree on in principle is democracy.
Last week saw the fourth and final lecture by senior World Bank officials at Georgetown this semester. Chief Economist Kaushik Basu pursued his earlier reflections on the intellectual challenges that lie ahead for development institutions and practitioners. He focused on forces for change outside purely economic factors, including "mindsets" and law and governance. The challenge put to our bloggers was to reflect on the new elements that need to be taken into account when reflecting on non-economic dimensions of development thinking and practice. They considered how ethical human behavior and a moral culture, in line with the teachings of Catholic social thought, can promote just development.
Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro, president and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, discusses how partnerships with religious communities and medical staff can facilitate productive conversations on sensitive issues like HIV/AIDS, female genital mutilation, and child marriage in a way that ultimately empowers women.