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Katherinemarshall

April 14, 2014

Caring for "Our Kids" Is a Faith Challenge

Katherine Marshall

Robert Putnam, the Harvard professor renowned for his challenging analysis of social trends, lectured Thursday night at Washington's Kennedy Center to an audience that included two Catholic cardinals and a motley group of very religious and distinctly non-religious people. He presented slides showing graph after graph that looked like gaping sharks' jaws. Again and again the lines that show trends in America between rich and poor open wider and wider. The gaps get larger. That's true for education, nutrition, participation in sports, and...

Katherinemarshall

March 27, 2014

TB: Out From the Shadows

Katherine Marshall

Tuberculosis (TB) is often remembered through long-dead artists and poets who left moving testimonies of the suffering it caused. Scriptures of various religions cite TB because it was a constant reality in societies everywhere. But today TB is so rare in wealthier societies today, the result of better sanitation and better drugs, that it is almost forgotten: Even medical schools long treated TB as a disease of the past. But the stark reality is that TB is very much with us. It is one of the "big three" infectious diseases that are the...

Thomasfarr_rfp

March 22, 2014

Introducing Cornerstone

Thomas Farr

Why, you might ask, another blog on religious freedom?

Well, actually, so far as we know there are no other blogs devoted exclusively to the meaning and value of religious freedom.

That deficiency is, to put it mildly, quite odd in light of the global crisis that attends this fundamental and universal right.

Katherinemarshall

February 21, 2014

The Challenge of Resilience in Bangladesh: Negotiating Faith, Politics, and Development

Katherine Marshall

Contemporary Bangladesh has for some time been held up as a hopeful example of human development and democratic progress in a Muslim society. Remarkable transformations in women’s social and economic roles, rising school enrollments, and improved health service delivery since independence (that came only in 1971) owe much to a creative, engaged, and robust civil society.

Katherinemarshall

February 6, 2014

Family Planning and Serving Families in Kibera

Katherine Marshall

As you walk through Kibera (taking note of friendly warnings to watch for thieves and for the flying toilets -- plastic bags that double for more sophisticated facilities) it does not take long to grasp how much people want health care. Located in central Nairobi in Kenya, Kibera is said to be Africa's largest contiguous slum. But, though many families have been there for generations, there are no government-run clinics (or schools, for that matter) in this "irregular" settlement. The crude signs everywhere that advertise medicines, male...

Katherinemarshall

January 6, 2014

A Conversation With Sister Carol Keehan About Health Care Challenges

Katherine Marshall

Catholic nuns know lots about Health care. They founded hospitals all over the United States and ran them with love and grit. Sister Carol Keehan is president and chief executive officer of The Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA) that supports the roughly 630 Catholic hospitals that operate today in the US. With over 40 years as a nurse and administrator behind her, she is a passionate advocate for decent Health care. She knows the issues for the Affordable Health Care Act inside out, but in a series of lengthy...

Katherinemarshall

November 24, 2013

Global Dialogue: Probing the Possibilities

Katherine Marshall

The Hilton Stadtpark hotel, in Vienna, Austria, was buzzing with interfaith dialogue for a full week from November 18. The year-old KAICIID -- King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue - held a global forum, followed immediately by the Global Assembly of Religions for Peace, the ninth in a series of such events over its 43-year history. Each meeting gathered hundreds of people, from far corners of the world, and costs were clearly well in the millions of dollars. Many basked in the chance to...

Katherinemarshall

November 18, 2013

The Touchy Topic of Religion: Afghanistan's Future

Katherine Marshall

Georgetown University hosted two star-studded events last week: one the award of the 10th Opus Prize, a million dollars plus two $75,000 awards to other finalists, the other a meeting on Afghan women and U.S. responsibilities and opportunities. Sakena Yacoobi won the Opus prize, in recognition of her stunningly courageous work in Afghanistan to support women and girls. The separate event on Friday celebrated Afghan women's progress. Secretary of State John Kerry, his predecessor Hillary Rodham Clinton, and former First Lady Laura Bush shared...

Katherinemarshall

October 30, 2013

Courage to Hope: Praying for Peace in Rome

Katherine Marshall

Wars of religion fill history books. Even today, when religious institutions rarely feature as diplomacy's leading players, religious teachings are invoked time and time again to justify or explain violence and war. Yet wise leaders and observers, coming from an extraordinary range of traditions, argue passionately that the true essence, the core, of their faith is to make and build peace. The debates matter, deeply. However complex the causal linkages, religious actors and leaders are central figures in many world conflicts. Understanding...

Katherinemarshall

October 25, 2013

Devotion and Service: Liberation Theology, Indonesian Style

Katherine Marshall

We arrived at the pesantran in the late afternoon. A rather unruly group of boys greeted the visitors, leading us through a maze of buildings, to a house where the headmistress and her staff were waiting. In short order we were introduced to the school and guided through the premises. As the sun began to set the excitement built, as it was Ramadan, the fasting season, and the moment to break the day's fast was approaching. A group of laughing girls crowded around the women among our group. Food appeared and with prayers we shared in the...

Katherinemarshall

August 27, 2013

Burundi's Great Mother: Maggie Barankitse

Katherine Marshall

There's so much bad news from around the world this month that it's important to remember the less reported work of heroes. One is a remarkable woman working in Burundi: Marguerite Barankitse.

Katherinemarshall

August 20, 2013

Interfaith Ideals in Action: A Habitat for Humanity Pilot Venture

Katherine Marshall

Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) has a remarkable track record in translating ideals into action. Millions of people have come to understand and value service to their community through the lived experience of volunteering on Habitat builds. In the United States, over a million volunteers a year come to Habitat, which is an essential community development organization all over the country (as well as in the world).

Katherinemarshall

July 23, 2013

Inspiring Muslim Women: Khadiga and Edna at Work

Katherine Marshall

Khadiga Hussein is one determined lady. Her cause is peace -- an end to violence of all kinds, national and domestic, communal and individual. She founded and has led the Sudanese Mothers for Peace and Development movement for 25 years. Now she's itching to find new ways to make her point and achieve her ends.

Katherinemarshall

July 9, 2013

Mandela and Gandhi: Calling for a Coalition of Conscience

Katherine Marshall

It was an odd parable, said to be part of an African country's tradition. Two men were sleeping out in the bush. One woke up in the pitch black, hearing a noise. "What's up? Are you all right," he asked his companion. "Be quiet," the companion answered, "the hyena is eating my leg."

Katherinemarshall

June 17, 2013

Reflecting on Al Andalus: Living Legacies and the Power of Myth

Katherine Marshall

Version française

There's wonderful power in an ideal. My childhood visions of Camelot, where gallant knights fought for justice, "July and August cannot be too hot", and rain "never falls till after sundown", still evoke dreamy smiles. Al Andalus is another mystical world, a place where Christians, Muslims, and Jews lived in harmony, taking learning and the arts to new heights. Camelot and Al Andalus both have historical roots, Camelot in medieval Britain and Al Andalus in eight centuries on the Iberian Peninsula before Ferdinand and...

Katherinemarshall

June 15, 2013

Bewitched Children? A Problem Churches Should Tackle

Katherine Marshall

The occasional horror story seeps out, but the fact that significant numbers of children are abused and die because people believe they are bewitched or possessed by evil spirits is not well-known or documented. But when and where this occurs, it's among the most horrific of the dark sides of human behavior. And, though the numbers are very elusive, it seems that the practice is increasing (there are likely many tens of thousands of children involved). And it seems that today many of those accused of being witches are children, while in the...

Thomasfarr_rfp

June 13, 2013

Congressional Testimony: Examining the Government’s Record on Implementing the International Religious Freedom Act

Thomas Farr

Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project, presented testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security. Watch his testimony beginning at minute 22.

Written testimony

Katherinemarshall

June 7, 2013

A Fes Aperitif: Searching for Balance

Katherine Marshall

The Fes Festival of World Sacred Music was born with an idealistic hypothesis: the diversity and wonder of music from different faiths and cultures can break through barriers of intolerance and misunderstanding and create harmony among very different people. Another core belief is that the world and especially the phenomena we call globalization are badly in need of spiritual succor.

Katherinemarshall

May 29, 2013

New Roles for Religious Leaders: Moving on Governance and Corrupt Practices

Katherine Marshall

Leadership transitions can breathe fresh life into stalled institutions and debates. Both Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby are raising new hopes as they bust stereotypes and staid expectations. A topic that they and their counterparts in leadership positions, formal and informal, should address with energy and new ideas is public integrity. That includes most visibly and prominently the struggle to combat corruption.

Katherinemarshall

May 22, 2013

Sin, Corruption and What Religions Can Do About It

Katherine Marshall

There's plenty of sin in the air these days: sins of commission, sins of omission, all seven of the original deadly sins (to remind, wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony). Actually Mahatma Gandhi's 1926 seven social sins are also very present:

1. Wealth without work
2. Pleasure without conscience
3. Knowledge without character
4. Commerce without morality
5. Science without humanity
6. Religion without sacrifice, and
7. Politics without principle

Katherinemarshall

April 23, 2013

Faith and Trafficking in Cambodia

Katherine Marshall

Religious beliefs and institutions play significant and at times paradoxical roles in contemporary global efforts to combat human trafficking. In Cambodia a remarkable array of faith actors shape the way that policymakers engage on this important human rights topic. There’s much to be learned from the experience.

Katherinemarshall

April 5, 2013

Millennium Development Goals: 1,000 Days to Go

Katherine Marshall

Just 50 years ago, at the height of the civil rights struggle, Martin Luther King Jr. was in a Birmingham jail. A group of moderate clergymen published a letter arguing that King's tactics were "unwise and untimely" in trying to force change before the time was right. It was, they suggested, inevitable that African-Americans would "eventually" gain their rights. The implication was to stick to moderation and "due deliberate speed."

Casanova

April 2, 2013

The Church in the World: Secular Morality and the Challenge of Gender

José Casanova

This commentary is adapted from a Berkley Center Lecture delivered at Georgetown University on November 5, 2012.

The unexpected election of Pope Francis has brought a surprising sense of renewal and hope to the Catholic Church. His every gesture and word has found a positive reception among the faithful and the world at large. Most encouraging and welcome has been the change in tone from an inward and institutionally self-absorbed preoccupation to one of concern and service for every person, with a preferential option for the poor and needy,...

Katherinemarshall

March 20, 2013

Confronting Tensions, Real and Imagined, and Realizing Potentials

Katherine Marshall

This post was originally published in the Women's Liberty Bell blog.

Over my lifetime (certainly not just my career) the causes of social justice and our responsibilities to act to serve them have taken on growing importance for me. More and more, I see relationships between women and men as vital. Now a visiting professor at Georgetown University and leader of the World Faiths Development Dialogue, a tiny but dynamic NGO, the bulk of my working life was spent at the World Bank, always in front line operations centered on on Africa, Latin...

Katherinemarshall

March 19, 2013

Amazing Grace

Katherine Marshall

Each March 7, a special pilgrimage takes place in Alabama, retracing the steps of the great 1961 civil rights march. It keeps alive the memory of the courageous people who stood up and stood together for what they believed, and for what they knew was right. Around my dinner table two weeks ago, Burns Strider, a veteran of the pilgrimage (and of Capitol Hill politics), and Rabbi David Saperstein, who went this year for the first time, entranced us with the story of a remarkable moment they had witnessed days earlier.

Katherinemarshall

March 8, 2013

A Religious Take on International Women's Day

Katherine Marshall

I sense a new tone of determination, sometimes an edge, in the annual outpourings of wishes and hopes that have come to mark March 8, International Women's Day. The occasion's socialist origins have rather receded in the mists of time and today this event is plainly about us, in the here and now. In the Facebook era, the day (and month, also, in theory dedicated to women's causes) offer both a chance to celebrate progress (with shades of Mother's Day) and to lament how far there is to go. There's an energy that's well reflected in the 2013...

Katherinemarshall

March 4, 2013

Engaging Faith in the Global Water Challenge

Katherine Marshall

This post was originally published in The Broker Online's Prioritizing Water blog.

Few would contest the bald assertion that water (and hopefully its less discussed companion sanitation) must come at the top of any priority list for post 2015 development goals. Life itself depends on water: health, food, power, and even something as seemingly distant as mining, need reliable water. And with growing populations and rising demand for water, the prospect of water-related conflicts looms ever larger if water is not better used and the roots of...

Katherinemarshall

February 6, 2013

Ban Female Genital Mutilation

Katherine Marshall

The United Nations General Assembly last December 20 passed, by consensus, a resolution whose final section "calls upon States, the United Nations system, civil society and all stakeholders to continue to observe 6 February as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation and to use the day to enhance awareness raising campaigns and to take concrete actions against female genital mutilations." This resolution was a hard won victory after years of advocacy by an international coalition, the Ban FGM Campaign. Their...

Katherinemarshall

February 1, 2013

Hillary Clinton's Message: Lead With Values

Katherine Marshall

Hillary Rodham Clinton bids farewell today to the State Department, where she has served with a stunning mix of skill and will. Yesterday, at a valedictory speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, she painted a panorama of a world that is complex, shifting, dangerous, and difficult. But the conclusion was upbeat and optimistic. The United States, she said, is the indispensable but not the perfect nation. Those who see America in decline are simply dead wrong: the best lies ahead. We make mistakes but we learn (though sometimes it takes...

Katherinemarshall

January 21, 2013

MLK, Jr And Why Child Vaccination Is a Moral Issue

Katherine Marshall

"There is an amazing democracy about death", observed Martin Luther King, Jr, in his eulogy for three little girls who died in the Birmingham Alabama, September 1963 church bombing. His words resonate powerfully today: an agony of mourning for children whose lives were cut short brutally and a compelling call to action against violence. His appeal goes beyond the vicious violence of bombs and guns, as King speaks to the cruelty of systems that are profoundly unequal.

Katherinemarshall

December 23, 2012

Religious Leaders Itching For A Fight On Guns

Katherine Marshall

"We will do all that is in our power..." Those words were repeated again and again December 21 at the Washington National Cathedral as a diverse group of respected religious leaders shivered in the beautiful gardens on a chilly morning, calling Americans to action in response to the Newtown tragedy. The voices and the metaphors they used were different but the ideas they expressed were strikingly similar and familiar: we MUST act to enact gun control, we have a sacred duty to protect our children, we must confront and change the culture of...

Katherinemarshall

November 21, 2012

Let the Sun Shine in

Katherine Marshall

Sunlight is a widely used metaphor that highlights the great benefits of opening up information to open scrutiny. But for all its powerful energy and capacity to "disinfect," sunlight can do harm if the information it illuminates is ill-used. With powerful new information tools unfolding each day that shed light in dark crevices everywhere, we need to be aware of benefits and risks and act to use sunlight as a force for good.

Katherinemarshall

October 25, 2012

Energy for All: A Challenge of Faith

Katherine Marshall

A baby is born in the middle of the night in a small rural clinic. The midwife's work is lit by a rusty kerosene lamp that belches fumes but gives the light she needs. The baby's first breath takes in the fumes. But there is a better way: the electricity that we take for granted is for many a miracle that can transform lives. Yet some 1.3 billion people do not have access to electricity today. They spend long night hours in the dark, rely on primitive smoky stoves and walk miles to gather wood for fuel. Children cannot do their homework,...

Katherinemarshall

September 28, 2012

Sex Trafficking: President Obama's Challenge Of Faith

Katherine Marshall

President Obama's speech September 25 at the Clinton Global Initiative focused squarely on human trafficking, a complex phenomenon that he called by the name it truly deserves: slavery. It is, he said, "barbaric, and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world."'

Katherinemarshall

September 26, 2012

From Sarajevo, a Compelling and Spiritual Call For Peace

Katherine Marshall

Religious conflict dominates the news today but there's an important and very different story of determined work by religious leaders from all over the world for peace and justice.

Katherinemarshall

August 21, 2012

A Soccer Match Against Cluster Munitions and Landmines

Katherine Marshall

The London Olympics were in full swing on Aug. 5, but in Battambang, Cambodia, on the other side of the world, the Oslo Cup pitted four soccer (or football, as it's called in Cambodia) teams against each other. The winners? Team Landmine and Cluster Munitions Survivors. It was an awesome match, worthy of the Olympic ideals of excellence, respect and friendship. The match finished in drenching rain, stretching into overtime. Among the heroes was one young man who used his head instead of the arms he had lost in a landmine accident to shoot a...

Katherinemarshall

August 20, 2012

From Nunzilla to 'You Go Girl': A Tale of Sisters

Katherine Marshall

"Pueden aplastar algunas flores, pero no pueden detener la primavera."

Katherinemarshall

August 13, 2012

Olympic Values for the 21st Century

Katherine Marshall

Critics rightly point to large gaps between Olympic ideals and Olympic realities. A global enterprise at the intersection of sports, business, and world politics, the Olympic movement succeeds spectacularly in pulling off the Games every two years. Along the way, the International Olympic Committee, its national offshoots, and diverse sporting federations profess that the underlying purpose is to advance the core Olympic values of excellence, friendship, and respect.

Katherinemarshall

August 8, 2012

Faith Alive in Phnom Penh

Katherine Marshall

Aug. 1 was a special day in Phnom Penh (the capital of Cambodia), the start of Choul Vassa. Buddhist monks dedicate themselves for three months (during the rainy season) to their Buddhist practice, retreating to the pagodas. By tradition people visit the pagodas (also called wats) on this day with offerings for the monks, seeking their blessings. This year the festival came the day before high school exams and hordes of young people crowded the Somrong An Deth Pagoda outside Phnom Penh, as laughing monks poured pitchers of water on their...

Katherinemarshall

July 28, 2012

Faith at the International AIDS Conference

Katherine Marshall

In the nave of the Washington National Cathedral on July 21, people from around the world gathered to remember the dark early days of the HIV and AIDS pandemic, to call for stiffer resolve and bolder action today, and to evoke the hope that there will be an end to this terrible plague.

Katherinemarshall

July 5, 2012

Realizing Olympic Values

Katherine Marshall

As the 2012 Summer Olympic Games open in London on July 27 to wondrous fanfare, billions of people will be riveted for weeks on the unfolding Olympic and Paralympic athletic competitions. Values, ethics, and belief aren't likely to feature as such in the headlines (except perhaps when a kerfuffle around drugs or money surfaces).

Katherinemarshall

June 27, 2012

Rio +20: Point of No Return?

Katherine Marshall

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (aka Rio+20) is concluded in Rio de Janeiro amidst commentary that ranged from utter despair to very tempered hope. Those who see an existential threat to the survival of the planet and mankind describe the hard won consensus agreements that emerged as pathetically limp. Earth and mankind are at a point of no return when the accelerating pace of climate change becomes irreversible. Point of no return conveys the idea well: it's when an exploratory airplane no longer has enough fuel to...

Katherinemarshall

June 15, 2012

A Sama'a Concert: Music for the Soul in Fes, Morocco

Katherine Marshall

Two storks perch high on the castle ramparts, watching intently, it seems. Thousands of swallows spin in long arcs through the air, darting in and out of their nests in the walls. Thirty musicians, men dressed (most of them) in white robes and turbans, carrying lutes, violins, drums, and other instruments, shuffle onto the stage that is centered on the arches of the ancient city gate. The restive audience breathes a sigh of relief: the concert's delayed start is over. The show begins.

Katherinemarshall

June 12, 2012

A Crisis of Finance, or a Crisis of Civilization?

Katherine Marshall

The discussion on Tuesday marked the final session of the Fes Forum for 2012 (excepting an informal session on operational experience on June 13) and it began to the strains of the heavenly harp.

Katherinemarshall

June 11, 2012

Blessed Buzzwords: Defining Ethical Business

Katherine Marshall

The focus for the Forum’s third day was on private enterprise and its role in recreating wonder in the world. Is there indeed spirituality in the enterprise of business? Is there a business and enterprise in spirituality? The discussion’s central thrust, though, was an exploration of the ethics and the challenges that both business leaders and the broader world of private enterprise face on a daily basis. In addition, it explored how the Festival’s theme of giving a soul to globalization applies to the world of business, where, at least on...

Katherinemarshall

June 10, 2012

Is the Arab Spring the Spring or the Winter of Islamism?

Katherine Marshall

The tone and topic shifted sharply on the Forum’s second day, from poetry and the meaning of life to today’s political dramas and challenges. That the flame of the Arab Spring was lit in the Maghreb is part of history. But how far can we draw conclusions about a history that is unfolding at this very moment? Moderated by Abdou Hafidi, the discussion was fast-paced and passionate, ranging from Morocco to France, Syria to the United States. It covered raw party politics, religion, social forces, and culture. Three themes came up often: (a) a...

Katherinemarshall

June 9, 2012

Verse Versus Violence in Evaluating Poetic Power

Katherine Marshall

If we do not know where we have been, how can we see the way forward? That wisdom from the opening of the Fes Forum yesterday explains this Forum’s tradition to distill briefly each day the prior day’s discussions. These summaries, initially at least in English, are available online or by email. They reflect our hope through the Forum to enrich our dialogue and understanding, day by day and year by year.

Katherinemarshall

June 9, 2012

Réenchanter le Monde - Forum Fès: Reflections from Katherine Marshall (in French)

Katherine Marshall

Réflexions de Katherine Marshall du Forum Fès, 9 juin – 12 juin

Katherinemarshall

May 13, 2012

Rosalina Velasquez: A Mayan Visionary For Peace, Mother Earth and Motherhood

Katherine Marshall

It takes only an instant to recognize in Rosalina Tuyuc Velasquez a force to be reckoned with. Small in stature, she stands tall. There's a warm twinkle in her eye when she feels the energy of a fellow soul but there's also a determined glint that speaks to steely purpose. Rosalina was taking on Japan last week, as winner of the prestigious Niwano Peace Prize, sometimes called the "spiritual Nobel." (I chair the selection committee.) She was making history, as the first indigenous religious leader to receive this award.

Katherinemarshall

May 2, 2012

Bishops and Extractive Industries: A Human Face of Mining

Katherine Marshall

In far flung corners of the world, religious leaders are protesting against mining companies and projects. What are their complaints? In Guatemala, they argue that gold mining poisons the water table, in Chad that painfully negotiated revenues that promised to ease the pain of poverty are nowhere in sight, in Ecuador that oil drilling devastates the landscape, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Nigeria that mining feeds devastating conflicts, in Ghana that mining in forest reserves threatens animal and plant species, in India...

Katherinemarshall

April 23, 2012

Global Engagement Summit Brings Together Students Determined to Change the World

Katherine Marshall

In our cynical times, it is gratifying and invigorating to be with young people whose sights are truly fixed on translating ideals into action. One example is the Global Engagement Summit, a Northwestern University student run enterprise. It has a seven year track record of supporting students in their determination to bring about change and to do it with skill and an ethical foundation.

Katherinemarshall

March 22, 2012

World Water Day: A Call to Faith

Katherine Marshall

March 22 is World Water Day, and today events the world over focus on water's importance, for life in every form, and for the human spirit.

Katherinemarshall

March 10, 2012

3/11 Japanese Earthquake - The Untold Stories of Spiritual Response

Katherine Marshall

The huge earthquake that struck northeast Japan on March 11, 2011 tested a nation and its faith. On this first anniversary we pause to remember that day, with prayer and reflection on what it means. Without warning, on a cold sunny day, an entire region was shaken by one of five most powerful earthquakes ever recorded; then the unimaginable power of a tsunami swept away everything in its path. The prolonged horror of the Fukushima nuclear disaster closed off vast areas and called reliance on nuclear power into question. 3/11 rammed home...

Katherinemarshall

February 14, 2012

Common Ground for the Common Good: Revitalizing the United Nations

Katherine Marshall

This is a speech given by Katherine Marshall at the Celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week at the United Nations General Assembly on February 7, 2012.

Katherinemarshall

February 11, 2012

Harmony Among Religions At The United Nations?

Katherine Marshall

The United Nations General Assembly began on February 11 to debate Syria's prolonged and bitter tragedy of killing, after the Security Council, next door, failed miserably to find enough agreement among the world's dominant nations to act. United Nations idealists believe that the General Assembly, as a body representing all the world's nations, has the responsibility and the capacity to protect the vulnerable. Sadly such idealism is generally in scant supply these day and so these General Assembly debates have an aura of symbolism as the...

Katherinemarshall

February 3, 2012

Women At Risk In An Unequal World

Katherine Marshall


Two horrific news stories this week shine a spotlight on how far we are from the ideals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the "golden rule" that we treat others as we would have them treat us. The BBC reported from Kabul, Afghanistan that a woman was arrested two days earlier for allegedly strangling her daughter-in-law for giving birth to a third daughter. The murdered woman's husband, a member of a local militia, suspected of involvement, had fled. The baby girl, who is now 2 months old, was not hurt. And in Canada, a man,...

Katherinemarshall

December 29, 2011

'The Common Welfare Is Our Business' - Study Shows Link Between Belief and Giving

Katherine Marshall

Marley's ghost, in Charles Dickens' great moral parable, The Christmas Carol, reflected in anguish on what, beyond the grave, he finally understood to have been his core moral obligation in life: "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

Katherinemarshall

December 22, 2011

Clash of Civilizations or Hope For Harmony?

Katherine Marshall

From December 11 to 13, the fourth annual Alliance of Civilizations Forum took place in Doha, Qatar, a splendiferous gathering at Doha's spanking new convention center, occasion for the opening of Katara, Qatar's huge and gorgeous cultural "village." Over 2000 people from all over the world attended: heads of state, diplomats, non-governmental organizations, business leaders, artists, young people and religious leaders. Banners everywhere proclaimed the theme: "Intercultural dialogue to boost development." So what was it all about?

Katherinemarshall

December 6, 2011

AIDS: From Judgment to Hope

Katherine Marshall

World AIDS Day on December 1 was marked with an inspiring flood of articles, reports, demonstrations, speeches, services, and much more. The overall tone was worried optimism. The optimism is because, finally, after years of extraordinary effort, we can see tangible progress in saving lives and slowing the ravages of this terrible global pandemic, that 30 years ago was just a blip on scientific radar screens. There is plenty to worry about, however, perhaps most of all the evidence of faltering political will that shows unmistakable signs of...

Katherinemarshall

November 29, 2011

10 Faith-Inspired Ideas To Save Mothers' Lives

Katherine Marshall

About 40 women, somewhere in the world, die in pregnancy every hour, 343 thousand a year by current (admittedly rough) estimates. It's a tragic reality but one we can do something about. We know the causes well and meaningful action can reduce mortality (and lifelong injury to mother and child) swiftly and dramatically. There is a huge range in rates of maternal mortality (calculated as annual estimated deaths per 100,000 live births), from the worst places -- 1575 in Afghanistan and 1570 in the Central African Republic -- to 3.9 in Italy...

Katherinemarshall

November 17, 2011

Family Watch International Mangles Families and Rights

Katherine Marshall

A Scandinavian colleague recently asked me to explain Family Watch International (FWI) and what kind of American ethos and ethics it represents. The name of this organization, she said, surfaced often at a recent United Nations meeting on HIV/AIDS. FWI had, she was told, invited representatives of small nations (who often feel neglected in international gatherings where the voices of larger nations carry further) to discuss their common commitment to families. On this basis, FWI "briefed" them on the evils of U.N. "human rights talk" and...

Katherinemarshall

November 8, 2011

The Modest Heroine of the 2011 Opus Prize: Lyn Lusi

Katherine Marshall

As Lyn Lusi accepted the $1 million Opus Prize on Wednesday night at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, she threw down a gauntlet. Churches must take on the challenge of changing relationships between men and women, everywhere in the world.

Katherinemarshall

October 7, 2011

Hallelujah! The Nobel Prize Committee Blesses Feisty, Spiritual Women

Katherine Marshall

Hallelujah to the Nobel Peace Committee! By honoring three brave, determined women - Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakul Karman, they shine light on true heroines of our time. This prize of prizes points to two realities that politicians, academics, and media have long downplayed. Women and those they care for suffer disproportionately in war and conflict. But they are also at the forefront of work for peace. Women tend to be shoved to the sidelines when it comes to negotiations and treaties,barely visible in photos of the...

Katherinemarshall

October 5, 2011

Healing Memories: An Exchange With Peacemaker Mohamed Sahnoun

Katherine Marshall

Venerable Algerian and United Nations diplomat Mohamed Sahnoun worries that neither world leaders nor the United Nations and national governments are facing up to the unprecedented problems the world confronts. What is sorely needed, he argues passionately, is a new, integrated, and bold approach that he terms "human security." In a series of recent interviews, he reflected on what that means in practice, what he hopes will come next, and why spirituality, which underpins an ethical approach, belongs at the heart of global efforts. In the...

Thomasfarr_rfp

September 23, 2011

Preventing Another Attack: International Religious Freedom

Thomas Farr

This blog post originally appeared in The Public Discourse, an online publication arm of the Witherspoon Institute.

What if Osama Bin Laden had been raised in a Saudi Arabia that allowed for religious freedom? What if, instead of being steeped exclusively in the toxic teachings of Wahhabism and Sayyid Qutb, he had been exposed to other forms of Islam, to critics of Islam, to other forms of religious belief, and to liberal religion-based arguments about justice and the common good?

Katherinemarshall

September 17, 2011

A Pilgrimage for Peace From Munich to Sarajevo

Katherine Marshall

Central Munich is sparkling, meticulously clean. A lively city life, well-used historic buildings, many churches and well-stocked shops symbolize what peace, culture and prosperity together can bring. It is worth remembering that it was not always so. Munich was shattered by World War II, many of its historic buildings and churches bombed (most were rebuilt as they once were). Hitler started his political career there, and the Dachau concentration camp is nearby. I recall a far more subdued, pained city when my family lived there in the...

Katherinemarshall

September 13, 2011

Praying for Peace with the Community of Sant'Egidio

Katherine Marshall

For 25 years, the Community of Sant'Egidio, a lay Catholic group inspired by the ideals of true friendship with the poor, has organized an annual gathering of religious and lay leaders from all corners of the world. Peace is the theme always, and the event has the character of a pilgrimage, as it takes place each year in a different city. This year it is in Munich, and this sparkling city in southern Germany is witnessing a colorful array of visitors that represents a living pageant of world religious history. Catholic and Orthodox leaders...

Katherinemarshall

September 5, 2011

Pilgrimage to Albert Schweitzer's Lambarene

Katherine Marshall

It takes more than four hours by car from Gabon's capital, Libreville, to reach the Albert Schweitzer Hospital near Lambarene, but each day earlier this month people came from far and wide to visit. The hospital complex itself dates to the mid 1920s and the original buildings now house a museum, preserving the hospital, its equipment, and the Schweitzers' living quarters. There's a pelican and some antelope (Schweitzer loved animals), and the Oguooe river flows lazily by, seemingly eternal.

Katherinemarshall

August 8, 2011

The Niwano Peace Prize Goes to Sulak Sivaraksa

Katherine Marshall

Loving kindness, compassion, and above all self-awareness: Thai Buddhist leader Sulak Sivaraksa always returns to those themes when he speaks. But there's a steely determination behind his gentle facade and admonitions to pay attention to one's breathing as a first step to self mastery. Sulak accepted the Niwano Peace Prize in Kyoto, Japan, on July 23 in a ceremony that highlighted his life's work, marked over many decades by the courage, determination, imagination, and the inspiration that are the anchors of his Buddhist faith. It was a...

Katherinemarshall

July 21, 2011

Blessed Be the Peacemakers: Mourning Dekha Ibrahim Abdi

Katherine Marshall

A remarkable Kenyan woman died on July 14, after a car accident that also killed her husband. She was much beloved and admired, in Kenya and around the world, because she fought fearlessly for peace. Her hallmarks were her skill in bringing the core values of her Muslim faith into her peacebuilding work and her belief in the potential of community spirit to transcend even brutal histories and deep divisions.

Katherinemarshall

July 14, 2011

Seeking Enlightenment From Spirits and Forests in Japan

Katherine Marshall

The shrines at Kumano are among Japan's holiest places. Located in the mountains about 75 miles south of Osaka, Kumano Hongu, the main shrine (of three that make up Kumano), is indeed a magical place, full of history and legend. An ancient pilgrimage site with more than a thousand years of history, today it is a contemporary refuge, far from the noise and bustle of urban life.

Katherinemarshall

July 8, 2011

Families, Planning, and Faith

Katherine Marshall

Balandou, five years ago. A small village in Guinea, 14 hours by bush taxi from the capital. My daughter was serving as a Peace Corps teacher and I was a fascinated visitor. We emerged from her hut early one morning to see groups of women, dressed in white, walking by. They were going, we heard, to bury two women who had died overnight. Why did they die? The cause? No answer, but death in childbirth seemed the most likely explanation. Muslim tradition calls for swift burial. In a village like Balandou the community mourns a young woman's...

Katherinemarshall

June 30, 2011

Religion and National Identity in 2011

Katherine Marshall

The principality of Liechtenstein, with its small population (35,000) and its gift of great wealth, is an exemplar and a supporter of the idea of self determination.

Katherinemarshall

June 30, 2011

The Conflicted Role of Religion in the 'Rights' of Children

Katherine Marshall

The Convention on the Rights of the Child has been ratified by all world nations EXCEPT Somalia and ... the United States. The United States signed the treaty but ratification prospects are dim, in part because of the concerns of religious conservatives. These center on the possible overriding of American laws by international ones, questions about whether the Convention might challenge homeschooling and the paramount rights of parents versus their children.

Katherinemarshall

June 11, 2011

Fes Festival Part Four: Seeking Sacred Wisdom, Grappling with Governance and Democracy

Katherine Marshall

The musical feast at the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, in hundreds of events over 10 days, is about the beauty and spirituality of sacred music, but it also drums in a constant a message of the joys of diversity.

Katherinemarshall

June 10, 2011

Fes Festival Part Three: A Spiritual Take on The Palestine-Israel Conflict and The Arab Spring

Katherine Marshall

The Fes Festival faced pouring rain early this week but that did not dampen the spirits of the tens of thousands of people who mill around this beautiful old city in search of beauty and the inspiration that comes from a rich menu of sacred music. In a world where interfaith dialogue rarely makes headlines and provokes not a few cynical asides, it is heartening to see both large audiences and a forest of cameras and recorders at the Festival's "idea" segment, the Fes Forum. Why? The notion of linking the world's cultural diversity and its...

Katherinemarshall

June 9, 2011

Fes Festival Part Two: Finding a Soul for Globalization

Katherine Marshall

The theme of the five day Fes Forum (an integral part of the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music held annually in Fes, Morocco) is "A Soul for Globalization. And the theme this year is wisdom or, as the official title puts it, wisdoms. As a comoderator of the Forum since it was created in 2001, it is my task and our tradition to distill briefly each day over the five days of discussion the highlights of the the previous session. Thus our hope is that we will build our understanding day by day and year by year. That is at least a piece of...

Katherinemarshall

June 8, 2011

Fes Festival Part One: Sacred Music Sparks Dialogue

Katherine Marshall

The Fes Festival of World Sacred Music is in full swing in Morocco. Launched after the first Gulf War, this renowned musical event is now in its 17th year and, despite the troubles of our times, draws a large audience from around the world.

Katherinemarshall

May 24, 2011

Pastor of Second Chances

Katherine Marshall

Father Greg Boyle moves swiftly around the headquarters of Homeboy Industries in central Los Angeles, looking a bit like Santa Claus, with twinkling eyes, a nice bushy beard, and a modestly comfortable middle. His birthday was May 19 and crowds of people pressed to hug him. A 57 year old Jesuit priest, he is the founder and president of an organization with an improbable name and a remarkable mission: to give hope to people our society seems to have given up as lost. The people who work with him call him a saint; even more, they see him as a...

Katherinemarshall

May 11, 2011

Setting the World on Fire

Katherine Marshall

Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, chose an inspirational challenge to open his homily at the wedding of William and Kate last month: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” His message was that marriage is an extraordinary chance for two people to help each other to be far more than could ever be alone. He touched a deep chord of what families are about and why they are the bedrock of our society.

Katherinemarshall

April 29, 2011

Understanding ‘The Least Among Us’

Katherine Marshall

The “hunger fast” inspired by Tony Hall, David Beckman, and others, in a passionate call for a “moral budget,” came to an end on Easter Sunday, highlighting its initial tie to the spirit and tradition of self-denial of Lent. Last week a small group met at the Buxton Initiative, which promotes interfaith dialogue and understanding, to reflect on what lay behind the fast, what it had achieved, and what comes next.

Katherinemarshall

April 19, 2011

Child Spacing Provides Common Ground for Discussion

Katherine Marshall

Call it family planning or women’s rights or reverence for life, it’s a minefield today in American politics. But even this dangerous territory can boast at least a few safe hillocks. One is child spacing. Pretty much everyone, from the Koran to Dr. Spock, agrees that leaving about three years between babies is generally a good idea. Indeed, extensive research drives the point home: measures as far removed as children’s health and likelihood of survival, school performance and future earning capacity are all enhanced if parents are able to...

Katherinemarshall

March 31, 2011

A Hunger to Serve the Poor

Katherine Marshall

Tony Hall is a remarkable man. He represented Ohio in the House of Representatives for 20 years, and later served as the US ambassador to the several organizations based in Rome that are dedicated to producing and distributing food (among them the United Nations’ World Food Program). Today he heads the Alliance to End Hunger. He is a wonderful role model, that brave voice of conscience that we need today more than ever to point to what is right. He speaks out constantly, with hard truths, but also with great hope. He delivers a core message...

Katherinemarshall

March 14, 2011

100 Years of International Women's Day Doesn't Mean Women Have Achieved Equality

Katherine Marshall

On March 19, 1911, the first international celebration dedicated to women’s work and roles took place. Thus 2011 marks the centenary of International Women’s Day. Some places devote a month to events, and March 8, the current “official” women’s day, is a public holiday in some 28 countries. But amid this year’s celebrations of courage and compassion and of progress towards women’s rights, there’s a parallel commentary: baby, you’ve still got a long way to go to full equality.

Katherinemarshall

March 9, 2011

Switzerland, Beyond the Minaret Ban

Katherine Marshall

In November, 2009, peace-loving Switzerland shocked itself and the world when over 57 percent of its voters supported a referendum to ban construction of new minarets. The government had opposed the proposition on the grounds that it was unconstitutional, contravening Switzerland's commitment to religious freedom. In the expectation that the measure would fail and fearing that a "positive" campaign would fuel fear, the government did not actively campaign against it. In Switzerland's unique democracy, the citizens' vote meant that the...

Katherinemarshall

February 28, 2011

Immigration reform: the view from the faith side

Katherine Marshall

The irony is familiar but still troubling: America, a nation proudly built by and for immigrants, today has a badly broken immigration system. But the debate about how to fix it has been fractious and unproductive. We seem to be stalled. At Georgetown's Berkley Center, a group of scholars and activists last week explored how religious leaders and communities see the issue and what they are doing about it.

Katherinemarshall

February 14, 2011

Evangelicals and Islam

Katherine Marshall

A group of American Christians, most of them evangelicals, met for four days last weekend with a distinguished group of Moroccans at Eastern Mennonite University, concluding with a public session Monday at Georgetown University's Berkley Center. To an outsider, the point of the conclave was not easy to fathom. It opened with a showing of a terrifying film about nuclear threats: Countdown to Zero, and concluded with heartfelt statements of shared interests and values. What was it all about? Why did Morocco's busy ambassador to the United...

Katherinemarshall

February 8, 2011

Morocco, it's complicated

Katherine Marshall

The rapid-fire events in Tunisia and Egypt have caught people everywhere by surprise. That's especially true in the neighborhood (North Africa and the Middle East). As I headed for Morocco for a weekend conference, I hoped to emerge with a far clearer understanding, both of what sparked these popular upheavals now, and what might lie ahead. What I found were people torn between a euphoric hope, especially at the unleashing of freedom of speech, and uncertainty laced with fear for the future. It's very complicated and the tale is far from...

Katherinemarshall

January 24, 2011

South Africa's inspiring constitution

Katherine Marshall

National pride is palpable in South Africa but so are the stunning challenges that face what is in many respects a new nation, reborn with the death knell to Apartheid in 1994. Nowhere are the roots of both more evident than on Constitution Hill in Johannesburg. There sits a unique South African institution, its Constitutional Court, with 11 judges who can (and do) instruct political leaders on constitutional principles and uphold South Africa's young constitution, that took effect in 1997.

Katherinemarshall

January 17, 2011

Feminist Muslims? The view from Bangladesh

Katherine Marshall

The great majority of Bangladesh's 160 million citizens are Muslims, making it one of the world's largest Muslim communities. Bengali Islam is distinctive, shaped by a long history in which adherents of different religions lived side by side. A Muslim family prayed five times a day, but also went to the Hindu temple. Bengali Islam was seen as tolerant, infused with the poetry and language of love of the Sufi traditions. Bengali women rarely wore head coverings. People speak, with pride, about traditions where neighbors not only respected...

Katherinemarshall

January 10, 2011

A stink over sanitation

Katherine Marshall

The headline in Sunday's Metro section of a leading Bangladesh newspaper, the independent, caught my eye: "Washroom woes: for a city of 14 million, Dhaka has only 100 public toilets - and most of them raise a stink." The story highlights one of the least talked about challenges of poverty: horrible sanitation. Both the problem and talking about it matter, because sanitation and health are tightly linked. Even more, it takes little imagination to appreciate that a meaningful understanding of human dignity can't ignore the need for safe and...

Katherinemarshall

January 3, 2011

American values, seen from abroad

Katherine Marshall

David Brooks does a great service with his annual Sidney Awards: his selection of what he considers the best magazine articles from the past year. Two of his choices--Lawrence Rosen's provocative piece on corruption and Tyler Cowan's piece on inequality (both published in the American Interest)--are worthy winners. Both writers highlight how different understandings about fairness and ethics are fundamental to what may be the most crucial issues in international politics. To make progress on both topics we need to understand their...

Katherinemarshall

December 21, 2010

Portugal in Africa

Katherine Marshall

Relationships between Africa and Europe are complicated, witness the tense standoff now unfolding in Cote d'Ivoire. Even decades after independence, even with a history often marked by bitter conflicts, links among nations that were part of colonial empires remain surprisingly strong. Religion is one of the reasons why.

Katherinemarshall

December 13, 2010

Nobel inspiration: Albert Schweitzer

Katherine Marshall

While I was sorting old books from my father's library, a yellowed envelope tumbled out. It was a letter I had written when I was about 11 years old, addressed to Dr. Albert Schweitzer. I was ready then and there to join him. The letter (never mailed) brought back the fascination and inspiration that his biography had evoked.

Katherinemarshall

December 6, 2010

In Trinidad and Tobago, youth and faith join hands to fight homophobia

Katherine Marshall

Trinidad and Tobago hardly seems a likely battleground for America's culture wars. But recent months have seen a drama there involving visits by American pastors with an anti-gay agenda, a response by locally based rights groups, and engagement of international organizations, especially UNAIDS, which coordinates international responses to HIV/AIDS. At a United Nations training session in Turin, Italy, last month, the Trinidad and Tobago story was presented as a case study of challenges and tentative success. In this case, an intelligent...

Katherinemarshall

November 29, 2010

Faith and Development: Exploring the Link

Katherine Marshall

The trains run exactly on time in Switzerland, and when it snowed in Bern last week the streets were plowed instantly. The cows trek down from their summer pastures to winter stables on a well established timetable. So it should come as no surprise that Switzerland's international development programs are run with meticulous care. What's perhaps somewhat more surprising is that Switzerland has been one of the leaders globally in a thoughtful and probing approach to the question of why religion matters when it comes to fighting poverty.

Katherinemarshall

November 20, 2010

In Malawi, defending the orphans

Katherine Marshall

The woman from Malawi stepped gingerly towards the barrier at the top of the Empire State Building to peek at New York City spread out below. She commented that the tallest building in her community was two stories high. The worlds of skyscraper New York and rural Malawi could not be much further apart.

Katherinemarshall

November 15, 2010

In Norway, taking religion seriously

Katherine Marshall

When pitfalls of the modern godless secular state are decried, Norway is often invoked as an example. So Norwegians took note when the minister of development and the environment, Eric Solheim, published an op ed in a leading newspaper with the headline "Norway takes God seriously." And the next day he spoke at the opening of a conference on religion and development in Oslo. His message? It's obvious that religion is hugely important in the contemporary world and especially in the poorest countries, so it's time for serious reflection about...

Katherinemarshall

November 8, 2010

Holy healers and the polio campaign

Katherine Marshall

Polio, that long dreaded disease, is almost but not quite eradicated. The global polio eradication campaign (a joint effort of the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the Rotary Foundation) was launched in 1988, with the target of ending polio by the year 2000. It has achieved remarkable success: by 1994, polio was officially declared eliminated in all the Americas. But now, in 2010, polio is still a threat in eight countries, and the campaign's hopes for defeating polio by 2012 hang on success there. What does it take to wipe out an...

Katherinemarshall

November 1, 2010

In aid of Moroccan women

Katherine Marshall

Aicha Ech-Channa sat six feet away from the Moroccan Ambassador to the United States last Friday in a Georgetown University lecture room. She jabbed her verbal sword at a host of social prejudices. Hunching her shoulders, she depicted the posture of shame of an unmarried mother who loves her child but has no way to care for him. She grabbed a scarf to cover her head and face to convey the fear a young girl feels, left alone in the world and beleaguered by problems. Aicha was talking last week about her beloved country, Morocco, but the...

Katherinemarshall

October 26, 2010

Roads from Rome

Katherine Marshall

There was such a flurry of activity in Rome last week that it seemed as if the Eternal City was, once again, the center of the world. Bishops from all over the Middle East met in conclave, new cardinals were proclaimed and new saints were canonized. With a candlelight march, the Community of Sant'Egidio commemorated the dark day in 1943 when Rome's Jewish community was deported to concentration camps.

Katherinemarshall

October 12, 2010

Recipe for Peace: Dialogue

Katherine Marshall

Dialogue, especially interfaith dialogue, gets a bad rap these days, but a pugnacious Italian historian and peacemaker, Andrea Riccardi, is not about to let such denigration stand. Looking already to the tenth anniversary of September 11th next year, he argues that the lesson we must learn, yet again, is that war achieves nothing and that tenacious dialogue is the path to peace.

Katherinemarshall

October 4, 2010

Bankers and prophets: reflecting on the Jubilee campaign

Katherine Marshall

In Biblical Israel, as in many agrarian societies, a family or community hit by a catastrophe like bad rains or illness would borrow to make it through, then find themselves forced to sell land because they could not repay the loans; many ended as de facto slaves with nothing to live on but their labor. Biblical teachings called for a periodic cleansing of the slates, a rebalancing, with forgiveness of debts every seven years. The Book of Leviticus called for a "Sabbath of Sabbaths" after 49 years, when all debts were forgiven and land was...

Katherinemarshall

September 27, 2010

Restoring ethics in India

Katherine Marshall

Delhi is buzzing these days about the construction delays and shoddy work that have put the Commonwealth Games at risk. The blame goes squarely to corruption and inefficiency. There are plenty of other sad sagas in India across many fields: the spectacular corruption of the flagship software firm Satyam and the fact that one in four public school teachers fails to show up every day, for example. What will it take to change direction, to restore a sense of decency, an ethical compass?

Katherinemarshall

September 24, 2010

India's spiritual entrepreneurs

Katherine Marshall

When British businessmen and civil servants arrived in India in the 19th Century, they were flummoxed by the extraordinary diversity of the religious landscape. It still exists today. Fakirs, swamis, mullahs, imams, monks, nuns, dadis, and brothers are everywhere. When new religious movements emerge in India, they mobilize millions, not thousands, of devoted followers. This rich mixture, one person suggested at a meeting in Delhi on religion and global civil society last weekend, is so endemic that it's even in the curry.

Thomasfarr_rfp

September 24, 2010

Killing the Extremist Idea that Threatens America: Counter Fear with Freedom

Thomas Farr

In the second installment of a blog post in The Public Discourse, Thomas Farr argues that we must oppose violent extremists in part by promoting freedom of religion, both at home and abroad. Part one is available here.

Thomasfarr_rfp

September 22, 2010

Killing the Extremist Idea that Threatens America: The Misalliance of Muslims and Secularists

Thomas Farr

This blog post originally appeared in The Public Discourse, an online blog arm of the Witherspoon Institute, on September 22, 2010. The second installment of this blog post is available here.

Katherinemarshall

September 14, 2010

Millennium Development Goals: time to get serious

Katherine Marshall

Amid U.S. election fever, wacky pastors, and assorted other events, it's easy to miss the momentous opening of the U.N. Summit on the Millennium Development Goals. It happens on September 20 in New York, as about 150 heads of state and others converge on the United Nations for the annual shebang of the General Assembly. New York is always a chaotic scene when the General Assembly meets. But there's a special challenge for 2010.

Kesslermichael

September 11, 2010

Keeping the Real Threat in View

Michael Kessler

So Terry Jones won't "today, not ever" burn a Quran. I guess the media can now move on to sensationalizing some other previous unknown willing to say ludicrous things and get us all talking about it for a week.

Katherinemarshall

September 8, 2010

Decent work for Labor Day

Katherine Marshall

Jobs and spirituality rarely occur in the same phrase, yet few states are as soul-destroying as unemployment and for many of us, our work vocation is central to life's purpose and direction. Thus the notion of "decent work," a central mantra of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), has both practical and strongly ethical dimensions. ILO's definition is, after all, an international standard that is supposed to reflect our common ideal.

Katherinemarshall

August 30, 2010

Political Lessons from a Buddhist Monk

Katherine Marshall

Washingtonians will remember this ferocious August for its unusual and disconcerting heat - a merciless string of 90-plus degree days - and an intemperate, nasty, heated public discourse. Meanwhile, human crises of biblical proportions are unfolding across the world: stunning floods in Pakistan, a molasses-pace rebuilding in Haiti, heartbreaking conflict in central Africa, droughts in parts of Asia. We badly need to bring down the temperature and refocus the agenda.

Katherinemarshall

August 23, 2010

Religious Literacy Crucial to Understand Pakistan Flood Response, Mosque Debate

Katherine Marshall

There's a Ghanaian proverb that goes, roughly: "Plenty of meat and fish does not spoil the soup." The saying suggests that diversity and robust faith can thrive, all mixed together. Looking at the debates swirling about during these dog days of summer in America, it's worth asking whether such a commitment to energetic religious diversity, a covenant that is an integral part of America's heritage, is alive and well today.

Katherinemarshall

August 16, 2010

Malaysia's Cool Imam

Katherine Marshall

When South Africa was emerging from the dark shadows of the apartheid era, Malaysia was one place it looked for successful examples of how to address the difficult legacy of racial inequality. Malaysia's Malay citizens (about 60 percent of the total) lagged behind other groups and helping them to "catch up" was a deliberate government policy.

Katherinemarshall

August 9, 2010

Orphan Debates

Katherine Marshall

There are few sadder fates than to be a child abandoned in Cambodia. Every day newspapers carry stories about trafficked children, harsh child labor, and abused children. Last week alone one report reminded readers where they could drop off unwanted babies (after a story of an abandoned baby), another recounted graphic details of the death of a woman after a a botched abortion, there were ongoing trials of pedophiles, and girls were rescued from brothels. Child mortality is still very high.

Katherinemarshall

August 2, 2010

Closure for Cambodia

Katherine Marshall

Phnom Penh was hot, noisy, and bustling last week. Cars, motorcycles, and the ubiquitous tuk tuks (motorcycle taxis) raced through the city with perpetual near collisions. Markets were full. Children were everywhere. There were clouds gathering, but the coming storms of the rainy season held off.

Kesslermichael

July 28, 2010

What would George Washington say about Islam in USA?

Michael Kessler

With all the loud clamoring about the proposed Islamic Center to be built near Ground Zero, reasonable voices are hard to discern. One thing is clear: this is not a debate about religious freedom. A mosque by peaceful Muslims of good will, unrelated to perpetrating the 9/11 attacks has every right to exist anywhere on these shores. It is the worst form of religious intolerance--and very un-American--to think that one form of religion has limits on where and when it may be practiced.

Katherinemarshall

July 26, 2010

Bringing Faith into the TB Fight

Katherine Marshall

The body of Simon Bolivar, father of the Latin American revolutions, was exhumed last week in Venezuela. Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president, is pursuing a hunch that Bolivar died of some nefarious violent act, and not, as the official story holds, of tuberculosis.

Katherinemarshall

July 19, 2010

The Imam and the Pastor

Katherine Marshall

The unlikely and inspiring Nigerian duo Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye were in Switzerland last week at the Caux Forum for Human Security. Their partnership is unlikely because they were militia leaders on opposite sides of the conflict in northern Nigeria and lost not only friends but parts of their own bodies as combatants (James wears his artificial arm proudly). It is inspiring because they are powerful exemplars of the possibility of reconciliation.

Katherinemarshall

July 12, 2010

Religion's Invisible Women

Katherine Marshall

Dekha Ibrahim Abdi, a courageous woman from the arid north of Kenya, devotes her life to building peace. She compares this work to an egg. "An egg is delicate and fragile. But if given the right conditions, it gives life." Likewise, the potential for peace is fragile, and it needs careful nurturing if that potential is to be fulfilled.

Katherinemarshall

June 29, 2010

Holy boldness of women

Katherine Marshall

"Women are the boldest and most unmanageable of revolutionaries," Sister Joan Chittister said last week.

Kesslermichael

June 28, 2010

Religious freedom to exclude

Michael Kessler

The Supreme Court handed down its long-awaited opinion in Christian Legal Society Chapter of the University of California, Hastings College of Law v. Martinez (CLS). The decision may go largely unnoticed since it arrived on the first day of future Justice Kagan's confirmation hearings and, McDonald v. Chicago, another decision released the same day, is gaining much more attention after it extended the Second Amendment to limit state gun control laws. Yet the CLS decision hits all the fault lines of the clash between non-discrimination...

Katherinemarshall

June 20, 2010

New beginnings in Egypt?

Katherine Marshall

Two hands cradling a tender young plant provided the visual image for an ambitious conference last week in Alexandria, Egypt. The image aptly illustrated the underlying question: have the new beginnings that President Obama promised one year ago, in his speech to the world's Muslim communities at Cairo University, taken root? Not surprisingly, those of us who attended the conference heard a wide range of answers.

Katherinemarshall

June 14, 2010

Soccer and the soul

Katherine Marshall

South Africa already was at fever pitch when I visited 10 days ago, more than a week before the 2010 World Cup began. It reminded me of the extraordinary spirit of South Africa in June 1995 when the Springboks won the rugby World Cup and the country went wild. The tension leading up to the match and the outburst of excitement when their team won against all odds were unforgettable.

Kesslermichael

June 11, 2010

The dignity of pedestrians

Michael Kessler

Law is supposed to protect the life, liberty, and property of citizens. That's part of its moral purpose--regulating conduct so that the dignity of citizens is not assaulted and harmed by others' inattention, wrecklessness, or aggression. Yet at a concrete and local level, we can see how the laws designed to protect pedestrians are terribly broken and point to the failure of the government to achieve a basic, moral goal of its existence.

Katherinemarshall

June 7, 2010

Hope for Guinea

Katherine Marshall

These are exciting but tense times in the West African nation of Guinea. A presidential election is fast approaching, on June 27, with legislative contests to follow six months later. The elections are playing out against a 50-plus-year history of dictatorship, a current military regime that came to power in a coup d'état, and memories of horrific violence last September when over 150 people died in clashes and many women were raped in broad daylight.

Thomasfarr_rfp

June 7, 2010

National security without religious liberty?

Thomas Farr

In a previous post, I voiced the fear that the Obama administration was placing U.S. international religious freedom (IRF) policy on the back burner, subordinating it to other less compelling administration priorities, or clearing the deck for initiatives that might be complicated by a robust defense of religious liberty abroad (such as outreach to Muslim majority countries or promoting international gay rights).

Katherinemarshall

June 1, 2010

Redeeming religious laughter

Katherine Marshall

One of South Africa's leading papers, The Mail & Guardian, announced last Friday that it had underestimated "the depth of anger ignited' by a cartoon it published earlier. It depicted the Prophet Muhammad lying on a psychiatrist's couch, with a thought bubble over his head that said, 'Other prophets have followers with a sense of humor!' The weekly said it regretted "the sense of injury it caused many Muslims." The cartoon was by Jonathan Shapiro, known as Zapiro, whose sharp satiric pen has gouged many a politician.

Kesslermichael

May 28, 2010

An oil-driven Memorial Day

Michael Kessler

Memorial Day 2010 will go down in history as all about oil. As the economic near-collapse of the past two years appears, finally, to be subsiding, we are measuring recovery in terms of the increased number of travelers this Memorial Day Holiday. At the same time, we sit by our live visuals of the 5,000 foot deep underwater top kill experiment to see if BP can stop the gush of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It is worth taking a moment to memorialize just who is responsible for all of this mess.

Katherinemarshall

May 26, 2010

Mission Improbable: Priests on Wall Street

Katherine Marshall

What's a nice Irish American priest like Séamus Finn doing on The Daily Show? The answer is not what you might think: he's squirming to avoid nasty questions and jokes about abuse scandals. The show's producers caught Séamus Finn and some colleagues in New York's Financial District as he pressed a cause that has been his job and passion for over 20 years: banking and financial sector reform and social justice.

Katherinemarshall

May 24, 2010

Religion's glorious complexity

Katherine Marshall

My grandmother, a very wise woman, gave me a piece of advice that sticks in my mind to this day: "A gingerbread he went to Rome, a gingerbread he came home." She was urging that, going into any new adventure or faced with any new idea, I should not be stuffy and stuck in the outlines of the way I understood things, because if I did, I would miss the chance to learn and change. Doing things that way, I might just as well stay home.

Katherinemarshall

May 17, 2010

Gentle economics

Katherine Marshall

Ela Bhatt began her career as a labor organizer, a métier that lends itself more to conflict than to peace. She does not have any formal religious affiliation. And yet last week in Japan she was awarded the Niwano Peace Prize, which highlights the positive roles that faith and religion play in world affairs. (I am a member of the selection committee.)

Katherinemarshall

May 10, 2010

Students on a mission

Katherine Marshall

In airports nowadays it's quite common to see groups of people, young and old, heading overseas as part of a church group. They are part of a large, totally decentralized American engagement with other parts of the world: short mission trips to dig wells and build stoves and help orphans and engage in other good works.

Thomasfarr_rfp

May 6, 2010

Obama at the crossroads on religious liberty

Thomas Farr

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (IRF) has come down hard on the Obama administration for its failure to promote international religious liberty. "U.S. foreign policy on religious freedom," said Commission chairman Leonard Leo, "is missing the mark."

Katherinemarshall

May 3, 2010

Côte d'Ivoire in Crisis

Katherine Marshall

A cycle of disappointment has taken hold in the Côte d'Ivoire. Month after month of behind-the-scenes discussions raise hopes; too often they are dashed even before the ink on peace agreements has time to dry. Optimism and commitment wither in the face of continual failure.

Katherinemarshall

April 28, 2010

From Fes with Love: Bridging Cultural Divides with Music, Art, and Dialogue

Katherine Marshall

At sundown, the barn swallows twirl in loping circles around the ancient walls of Fes, darting in and out of holes in the earthen walls where they build their nests. At the foot of the walls, people gather in the glorious light of early evening, strolling and chatting. It's a peaceful and inspiring scene that evokes the magic of Fes. One of the world's most ancient cities, probably the largest and most authentic living medieval town that still lives today, Fes proudly savors an extraordinary array of culture, crafts, and spiritual gifts....

Kesslermichael

April 28, 2010

Cross purposes

Michael Kessler

The cross in the desert can stay.

Or, more precisely, the federal government can go ahead with a land transfer with a VFW chapter to allow the cross to stay on formerly federal land in the Mojave National Preserve. In a narrow--and technical--decision, the Court decided 5-4 that the land transfer Congress mandated was permissible and the injunction that the lower court had issued was improperly decided. Does it tell us anything about the establishment clause? Not much.

Katherinemarshall

April 25, 2010

Good News on Mothers

Katherine Marshall

Perhaps nowhere is the challenge of poverty as stark as in the bald numbers about maternal mortality. In the poorest parts of the world, the risk that a woman will die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth is about one in six; in much of Europe it is one in 30,000.

Kesslermichael

April 24, 2010

National day of prayer w/ caution

Michael Kessler

Advocates of religious freedom should be skeptical of Judge Crabb's ruling that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. If you are rightfully concerned about preventing "establishments of religion," attacking this particular statute was not, in my estimation, the one to worry about. That said, if you're religious and want prayer recognized nationally, having the government do it is a really bad idea.

Katherinemarshall

April 19, 2010

Religious wildfires

Katherine Marshall

Don't blame Nigeria's violent conflicts on religion, Nigeria's acting president, Goodluck Jonathan, argued forcefully during a far-ranging discussion last Monday at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. The brutal conflict that took place near the city of Jos last month (where as many as 500 people died) reflects tensions between longtime residents and recent settlers, plus economic misery, not a clash between Christianity and Islam.

Kesslermichael

April 16, 2010

National day of prayer confusion

Michael Kessler

The 59th National Day of Prayer is scheduled for May 6. It is supposed to be a day of unity for citizens to come together in reflection. Instead, our deep-seated confusions about the proper boundaries between religious practice and governmental power have turned the official recognition into a huge wedge issue. Good intentions on every side have led to corrupted outcomes. And now a federal judge says it is unconstitutional.

Katherinemarshall

April 12, 2010

Vertigo times

Katherine Marshall

The hot spots this week are Kyrgyzstan and Bangkok, but every day brings new reports of riots and unrest somewhere in the world. America has rarely seemed as unsettled as it is today. Angry "tea parties" inspire similarly angry "coffee parties". I was invited recently to a "green tea party" to protest inaction on climate change. Some Catholic Church leaders seem like deer caught in the headlights as they stare into the public furor inspired by their reaction to the abuse scandals. There's turbulence everywhere you look.

Kesslermichael

April 9, 2010

The religious neutrality of Justice John Paul Stevens

Michael Kessler

Justice John Paul Stevens has announced his intention to retire this summer, ending the teasing speculation of the past few weeks. Lapsed-Republican traitor to some (he was appointed by President Ford in 1975) and unflappable liberal lion to others, the jurisprudence of Justice Stevens has always been hard to predict or categorize. More consistent is his record on religious freedom issues, characterized by a deep concern for government neutrality so that the religious lives of citizens can flourish without governmental intrusion.

Katherinemarshall

April 5, 2010

Corruption: myths and solutions

Katherine Marshall

Confronting corruption is not a good path to popularity. Sparks flew between Kabul and Washington last week as Hamid Karzai shot back against U.S. officials who admonished him to get serious in that department. A large donor gathering in New York looking to build a new Haiti rarely strayed far from the corruption sore spot. Daily jabs are traded in the District of Columbia about scandals, old and new.

Kesslermichael

April 2, 2010

No Sabbath rest for job weary?

Michael Kessler

With the economic downturn and massive job losses, it seems many Americans have no sympathy for employees requesting religious accommodations for Sabbath observance. Comments on a recent news story about an EEOC lawsuit against Lowe's for failing to allow a Baptist to not work on Sundays almost all tilt toward hostility to the man's religious beliefs. Hard times seem to make for hardened hearts.

Thomasfarr_rfp

March 30, 2010

Religious freedom needs an advocate

Thomas Farr

On March 30 a diverse group of scholars, policy thinkers, and religious freedom activists told President Obama that his administration was missing an enormous opportunity -- for the nation and the world -- by failing to advance international religious freedom in American foreign policy.

Katherinemarshall

March 29, 2010

Faith vs. Fear in America

Katherine Marshall

Stephen Heinz, President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, is passionate about democracy. For him, it is about far more than voting and congressional battles. It is a way of life, a set of fundamental values, a will that leads to courage, reason, compassion and the common good. America has no right to impose its democracy on others but it has a responsibility to live its values and to share them. He terms his deep belief a civic faith.

Katherinemarshall

March 22, 2010

Heroines against gendercide

Katherine Marshall

Two statues of women dominate the central square of Hopkins, a small town in Belize. One celebrates Martina Vicente, a true matriarch figure (a sign says 85% of the town's population claim her as their ancestress). The other is of Marcella Lewis, poet, musician, writer and patroness of the town but also of the Garifuna community, a proud and distinctive ethnic group now concentrated in Central America. "She lived to love and she loved to live," says the inscription; legend has it that her spiritual force shaped all who met her.

Katherinemarshall

March 22, 2010

On World Water Day, Fighting the Battle for Clean Water

Katherine Marshall

In Japan, each day brings new death tolls from the horrific earthquake and tsunami. Each death is counted because each person matters. The rough estimates are that the toll will be around 20,000, but scrupulous attention is paid to verifying the numbers. This reflects the Japanese culture: each death is mourned, each life celebrated.

Kesslermichael

March 20, 2010

Silencing student religious beliefs

Michael Kessler

Imagine you are 18 years old and worked hard to be the best student in your class. You are the valedictorian and are invited to give a brief speech at graduation. You want to thank those important to your successful journey, including mentioning the importance of your religious belief to your academic success. And the principal tells you that you are not permitted to do so.

Thomasfarr_rfp

March 9, 2010

Obama sidelining religious freedom?

Thomas Farr

President Obama has on several occasions articulated his commitment to international religious freedom. Unfortunately, his State Department appears to be on a course that will seriously downgrade the nation's international religious freedom policy.

Katherinemarshall

March 8, 2010

Women's Day

Katherine Marshall

A hundred years ago a feisty group of women met in Copenhagen and voted unanimously to launch an International Women's Day on March 8. The idea took. Today, some 15 countries celebrate it as a national holiday, and thousands of events worldwide put women's issues in the spotlight. Women are, after all, half the population, so the day has mutated into a month of events

Katherinemarshall

March 1, 2010

The real angel investors

Katherine Marshall

Jane, a Kenyan woman, showed off her brand new house to Jacqueline Novogratz, founder of the Acumen Fund, which had financed the housing development. She was justifiably proud. Starting with nothing, Jane worked and saved for years to escape the Mathere Valley slum community where she used to live. Jane exuberantly demonstrated the wonders of her toilet.

For Novogratz this was a truly a spiritual moment. My curiosity piqued by the association between sanitation and spirituality, we spoke about how religion ties into Acumen's work.

Thomasfarr_rfp

March 1, 2010

Proselytism and Religious Identity Theft

Thomas Farr

Do religious individuals and groups possess a right to share their beliefs with others in the hope that those beliefs will be embraced? For many, including most Muslims and Christians, religion represents an objective and universal Truth, one that comprehends the temporal good and the eternal destiny of all persons. For those who believe they have access to such a Truth, the desire to offer it to others is both natural and rational. After all, if the claims of Islam are true, should we not all want to be Muslim? If the claims of Christianity...

Kesslermichael

February 26, 2010

Establishment Clause doesn't limit foreign policy

Michael Kessler

Does the Establishment Clause prevent the President from using or aiding religion as part of foreign policy? Absolutely not, so long as it is not action upon U.S. citizens.

Katherinemarshall

February 22, 2010

Faith-based Conversion

Katherine Marshall

Whether it's rebuilding Haiti or debating about America's health care or immigration reform, it's just plain silly to leave out the religious actors. They are advocates, doers and thinkers who have vast knowledge and experience. But plenty of thoughtful citizens prefer to relegate religion to the margins.

Kesslermichael

February 10, 2010

The dignity of snow shovelers

Michael Kessler

The Washington D.C.-area "Snowmaggeddon" of 2010--unplowed streets and undelivered goods--has probably revealed to many just how reliant the professional classes are on all the people who work hard to keep the region's streets maintained, stores stocked, and the other necessities of life humming along. Hopefully the dignity of labor won't be forgotten when the snow melts and life returns to normal.

Katherinemarshall

February 8, 2010

Faith Inaction

Katherine Marshall

Last week's National Prayer Breakfast cast a spotlight on the gaps between what people of faith say (and pray) and what they actually do. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both discussed the puzzle of how religion can be such a uniting force, but also such a divisive one.

Katherinemarshall

January 31, 2010

The activist Buddhist

Katherine Marshall

Sulak Sivaraksa exudes a rare blend of calm and passion for action. Carrying a tall gnarled staff, dressed in a baggy outfit, and with an everpresent cloth bag stuffed with copies of his books, he's a presence wherever he goes. He prides himself on the many labels people attach to him: intellectual, troublemaker, jailbird, engaged Buddhist, spiritual leader. He carries them all with a smile, wise words, and a barb or two.

Katherinemarshall

January 25, 2010

Environmentalists as missionaries

Katherine Marshall

A monkey, so goes an ancient eastern parable, passed by a stream and saw a fish in the water. Assuming that it must be struggling for breath, he "rescued" it. On dry land, the fish flopped about as the monkey rejoiced in its liberation. But the fish soon died. The monkey was sad that his rescue had come too late.

Katherinemarshall

January 25, 2010

A Parable for Environmentalists

Katherine Marshall

A monkey, so goes an ancient eastern parable, passed by a stream and saw a fish in the water. Assuming that it must be struggling for breath, he "rescued" it. On dry land, the fish flopped about as the monkey rejoiced in its liberation. But the fish soon died. The monkey was sad that his rescue had come too late.


Kesslermichael

January 20, 2010

Holy wars and weapons

Michael Kessler

As ABC News first reported, Trijicon, a Michigan company, has been supplying rifle scopes to the U.S. military with serial numbers containing scriptural citations. (Thursday, the company decided to stop doing that and to help erase the existing cites.) Was it a stupid practice? Probably. Unconstitutional? Not likely. More interesting to me is how responses to story reflect some fundamental divides among Christians about how they reconcile their religious convictions with military action.

Katherinemarshall

January 19, 2010

One Haitian Tragedy

Katherine Marshall

Zilda Arns Neumann, sometimes called Brazil's Mother Teresa, was among those who died tragically during Haiti's earthquake. She was in Port-au-Prince to share lessons from the enormous church-based child health program she established in Brazil.

Banchoffthomas

January 18, 2010

Faith, Values and the World Economic Forum

Thomas Banchoff

Religious leaders lead the faithful. But what do they have to say to others? Not much in a world where religion is a private matter and politics is secular.

Katherinemarshall

January 10, 2010

Pentecostalism, African style

Katherine Marshall

Africa, with its complex mosaic of countries and communities, is in the throes of religious revolution. Some trends are troubling--witness the Nigerian Muslim who tried to blow up a plane and the move to make homosexuality a capital offense in Uganda. Yet other trends may offer hope.

Katherinemarshall

January 4, 2010

Charity and justice for all

Katherine Marshall

The dust has yet to settle on the scramble for charitable gifts at the end of 2009. In the last few weeks, a combination of extraordinary need and new outreach technologies produced an extraordinary flood of appeals. Up to 60 percent of charitable gifts generally come in the last days of the year.

Katherinemarshall

December 21, 2009

Nopenhagen: Not There Yet

Katherine Marshall

I'm dreading my son Patrick's caustic comments about Copenhagen when he gets home from college for Christmas break. As he predicted, the older generations have tied themselves in knots. Despite multiple all-nighters, passionate speeches, and huge efforts by an extraordinary and creative array of groups (prominently including religious leaders), Constipagen's modest "deal" falls far short of pretty modest expectations. There's an agreement, but it's not unanimous, it's not binding, and it's limited in scope. For young people of Patrick's...

Kesslermichael

December 17, 2009

No room in health reform for Mary?

Michael Kessler

Chuck Norris thinks Obamacare could morph into first-century "Herodcare." Norris thinks a democratic Congress seems hell-bent on slipping in funding to kill all the unborn to save money for health reform. He asks of Jesus' mother Mary: "what if that young, poor and uninsured teenage woman had been provided the federal funds (via Obamacare) and facilities (via Planned Parenthood, etc.) to avoid the ridicule, ostracizing, persecution and possible stoning because of her out-of-wedlock pregnancy?" What if, indeed?

Katherinemarshall

December 14, 2009

Greed (not America) gets the blame

Katherine Marshall

Greed was the villain at the once-every-five-years Parliament of the World's Religions that wound up last week in Melbourne's cavernous new convention center. More than 6,000 people attended.

Kesslermichael

December 8, 2009

Best and worst of humanity on Bravo

Michael Kessler

By now everyone knows the pathetic story of Tareq and Michaele Salahi's successful crash of last week's White House state dinner. Trying to land a spot on Bravo network's upcoming Real Housewives of DC, they apparently believed attendance at this diplomatic affair would ensure the world knew they were major players in the DC scene. Instead, most everyone thinks they're a joke. But don't blame Bravo. They are merely documenting the best--and worst--of human achievement.

Katherinemarshall

December 7, 2009

Kaleidoscope of Religions

Katherine Marshall

Every five years a gathering known as the Parliament of the World's Religions draws people from all over the world. It's happening now, this time in Melbourne, Australia. For seven days, a jam-packed schedule of events ranges from the ultimate and urgent to the personal and pragmatic. There's culture, politics, meditation, exhibitions, bells and, yes, some whistles. Monks mingle with Catholic priests, Hindu swamis with Zoroastrians and Sikhs. Atheists and pagans have their place. Just walking through the crowd gives a vivid portrait of...

Katherinemarshall

November 30, 2009

Going glocal: a World Bank parable

Katherine Marshall

Believe it or not, the term 'glocalization' has entered the vocabulary enough to appear in a slew of places, even in book titles. However clumsy the term, it refers to an important and complex challenge. Globalization is upon us, changing lives in countless ways but it's local events, those close to home, that we feel most directly. And it is where most people can truly make a difference. "Think global, act local" is a watchword in fields as diverse as community activism, business strategy, church outreach, and policies to address climate...

Kesslermichael

November 25, 2009

Jefferson's Thanksgiving wish

Michael Kessler

Happy Thanksgiving. Simple words that conjure images of national traditions like pumpkin pie and roasted turkey, and family and friends gathered in holiday cheer. Central to that tradition is the presidential proclamation for a National Day of Thanksgiving.

Katherinemarshall

November 23, 2009

Faith and Development

Katherine Marshall

As Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams occupies a unique position in the religious world, with the potential to bridge religious and secular. As leader of Britain's established religion, he engages constantly with political leaders. So the title of his recent speech in London jumped out at me: "Relating Intelligently to Religion". Heaven knows, surely that's what we need.

Kesslermichael

November 20, 2009

McDonnell's reaction to Robertson's hate

Michael Kessler

A friend's Facebook link took me to a CNN article that I thought would infuriate me. The headline was "McDonnell won't disavow Robertson's Islam remarks." What CNN failed to articulate was, to my surprise, that Virginia Governor-elect McDonnell sounded more Madisonian than Robertsonian.

Katherinemarshall

November 16, 2009

Faith and Farming

Katherine Marshall

We're seeing many calls to conscience these days. Nibbling breakfast, I clicked on a video where Jacques Diouf, head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, calls on people everywhere to sign an appeal to the World Food Summit that begins November 16 in Rome. He counts aloud to six, then reminds us that in that time a child has died. Karen Armstrong launched a Charter of Compassion on November 12 in Washington. Its aim is a groundswell of citizen action to live the golden rule - to treat others as you would have them treat...

Katherinemarshall

November 9, 2009

And the Opus goes to...

Katherine Marshall

Aicha Ech Channa, a gutsy Moroccan woman, has worked for five decades with young unmarried mothers, who stand at the very bottom of the social heap in her country. Even if their pregnancy resulted from rape, they are condemned as prostitutes and thrown out by their families, and their babies are stigmatized as bastards.

Kesslermichael

November 6, 2009

Marriage and discrimination

Michael Kessler

This week, Keith Bardwell quit his post as Justice of the Peace for the Eighth Ward of Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana. This would hardly be noteworthy except that Bardwell refused to marry couples from different races. Outrageous. But did Maine just sanction discrimination of a different sort?

Kesslermichael

October 30, 2009

John Brown's disobedience

Michael Kessler

150 years ago--in October 1859--John Brown led a raid on a U.S. armory in Harper's Ferry, Virginia. He hoped to gather arms and lead an army to fight slaveholders. Instead, he was quickly stopped and hanged for his lawless actions. Is he a hero, a martyr, or a criminal?

Katherinemarshall

October 26, 2009

A Religious View of Development

Katherine Marshall

As a development practitioner who also teaches about development, I have tended to take the term for granted. But it's far from simple to define. Universities, non-profit agencies, and churches call fund-raising people "development officers" and the word crops up with other meanings in virtually every discipline.

Kesslermichael

October 23, 2009

Unveiling anonymous comments

Michael Kessler

Columnists and bloggers toil to put words and thoughts in good order. We deliver our pieces (often late!) to anxious editors with our name and reputation on the line. And then we watch helplessly while anonymous commenters hijack threads and launch screed upon hateful screed in every direction.

Katherinemarshall

October 19, 2009

A Billion Hungry People

Katherine Marshall

On October 16, as millions of people were riveted to video of a runaway balloon thought to be carrying a 6-year-old boy named Falcon, a statistic was released on a problem that affects millions of children around the world: hunger. A billion people today are chronically hungry or malnourished, more than ever before in human history.

Katherinemarshall

October 13, 2009

Finding Community in Diversity

Katherine Marshall

Last Friday evening, in the quiet sanctuary of an old Catholic church in Brooklyn, a group gathered to talk about a community that works globally for peace and social justice, the Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio. To understand this group, you have to explore the interwoven notions that they see as their special mark: prayer, friendship, and community.

Kesslermichael

October 9, 2009

Obama's Noble Alternative

Michael Kessler

I wish this year's Nobel Peace Prize had gone to the people of Iran who vigorously protested an oppressive regime. Instead, President Obama got it for noble aspirations and well-directed first steps. I wish he had declined the prize, but what should he do now?

Katherinemarshall

October 4, 2009

"God Gulf" Hurts Women

Katherine Marshall

The "God Gulf," title of a chapter in Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's book, "Half the Sky," describes one of the more contentious issues in American foreign policy, one where religion plays a profound role. The divide is around family planning, but it relates directly to broader questions of women's roles and the power they hold to direct their own lives. As Kristof and WuDunn put it, "secular liberals and conservative Christians regularly square off. Each side has the best of intentions, yet each is deeply suspicious of the other - and...

Kesslermichael

October 1, 2009

Bono's Prophetic Rock Concert

Michael Kessler

U2's 360 tour came to the DC region Tuesday--complete with a 164-foot tall spaceship stage and glitzy light show. The tunes were smooth and sexy; the stage was spectacular--even carnivalesque. But what stole the show was Bono's prophetic message about human dignity and rights.

Katherinemarshall

September 28, 2009

Roots of Prejudice

Katherine Marshall

Newsweek has some edgy covers these days. How about, "The Case for Killing Granny"? Sure catches the eye. But "Is your Baby Racist?" on September 14, with an adorable little face staring innocently out, is equally disturbing.

Kesslermichael

September 24, 2009

Remembering September 11 Every Day

Michael Kessler

"9/11 changed everything." It's a common trope, but it is not clear that our personal and social lives were significantly transformed by September 11.

This may be a sign, among other things, of human stubbornness, or indifference, or perhaps our ability to recover.

Katherinemarshall

September 20, 2009

Keeping Poverty on the Global Agenda

Katherine Marshall

It's the season of large international meetings. The General Assembly of the United Nations is in full swing in New York, the G20 is about to meet in Pittsburgh, and the ritual gathering of financial souls, the IMF and World Bank annual meeting, takes place in Istanbul in early October. So what's on the global agenda? And what grabs the most attention?

Katherinemarshall

September 14, 2009

Interfaith Call for World Peace

Katherine Marshall

Two contrasting images hovered over the September 6-8 "Prayer for Peace" in Cracow, Poland. The first was the benevolent visage of Pope John Paul II, with his Cracow roots, and the memory of the exuberant role he played in Poland's transformation and, after 1989, throughout the world. Recollections of the horrors that happened not far away, at Auschwitz and Birkenau, and during the conflagration of World War II conveyed very different images and feelings. The prayers were both for a hopeful future and a commemoration of the 70th anniversary...

Kesslermichael

September 10, 2009

Muslims on the Mall

Michael Kessler

Critics of a New Jersey mosque's plans to hold a prayer event on the National Mall are wrong in their views of religious liberty.

The Star-Ledger reported last week that a mosque in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Dar-ul-Islam, will spearhead a national prayer gathering for September 25 in Washington, D.C., "that organizers are billing as the first event of its kind--organized prayer for tens of thousands of Muslims outside the U.S. Capitol building."

Katherinemarshall

September 7, 2009

Blessing Work

Katherine Marshall

Labor Day evokes images of politics and picnics, summer's end and a fresh school year. But this celebration of work and workers has important spiritual dimensions. First celebrated in the late nineteenth century (1882), when active labor disputes were the stuff of constant tension, Labor Day gradually came to be celebrated as a national holiday in all fifty states. And by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday before Labor Day was declared Labor Sunday, dedicated to the spiritual and educational...

Thomasfarr_rfp

September 3, 2009

Still No Obama Nominee for Religious Freedom Ambassador

Thomas Farr

This blog post originally appeared in the American Principles Project blog on September 3, 2009.

Despite Barak Obama's conspicuous references to religious freedom in his Cairo speech and during the U.S.-China strategic talks, the President has not yet announced a nominee for the post of Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom (IRF), a position established by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act.

Katherinemarshall

August 31, 2009

Need Plus Greed

Katherine Marshall

"Don't give money to the beggar with a baby," a colleague cautioned me in Phnom Penh. "They rent them for around a dollar a day." I heard about little boys and girls with shocking injuries, about traffic in young housemaids, six and seven years old. The bar scene where anything is accepted. Families that sell their daughters so they can buy food or pay for an urgent operation.

These and countless other heart-rending stories I heard this summer, in several countries, reflect the dark recesses of the human condition. These are ancient abuses,...

Kesslermichael

August 28, 2009

Big City Neighbors Stop Attacker

Michael Kessler

My friends back home in Indiana often ask how I can stand living in the big, anonymous city, where no one pays attention to others or helps anyone else. They couldn't be more wrong about the city. When bad things happen, the neighbors in my community show the basic instinct towards compassion and protecting the dignity of others that I saw in my small town neighbors.

Katherinemarshall

August 24, 2009

Starting Over in Cambodia

Katherine Marshall

Everyone in Cambodia has an extraordinary story of personal or family survival. Almost the entire population was displaced, often fleeing again and again, during the genocidal era of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, from 1975 to 1979. Most people lost everything they had. About two million people died. Schools were closed and destroyed, and anyone with an education was targeted. It is only in the past 10 to 15 years that it has been possible to talk of hope.

Katherinemarshall

August 16, 2009

Interfaith Health-Care Reform

Katherine Marshall

Hospital waiting rooms are glum places pretty much everywhere. People, sick or injured, wait and wait and wait. Nowhere are the huge gaps between rich and poor so graphically in evidence. That's the essence of the American health reform challenge, however deeply it gets submerged in the passionate debates now raging: to bridge those gaps so that the misery of illness is not compounded by inability to pay.

Kesslermichael

August 13, 2009

Sarah Palin's "Death Panel" Lies

Michael Kessler

The devil may be the father of lies, but the "death panel" deception has Sarah Palin for a nursemaid.

Instead of engaging in honest and rigorous debate about the thicket of economic and policy issues related to health-care reform, the conversation has been stuck on so-called death panels and the fear of government bureaucrats saving money by letting grandma die. There are too many legitimate concerns about reform proposals floating around to let Palin's blatant falsehoods mire down the conversation. They should be condemned universally.

Katherinemarshall

August 10, 2009

Confronting Religionophobia

Katherine Marshall

"If you are not at the table, you end up on the menu." The issue? Whether mainstream development specialists take faith-inspired work seriously and, more importantly, truly engage with and support it. Currently the answer is no, or very patchily. Why? Think "religionophobia."

The issue came up again and again at three different gatherings this summer: a meeting on service delivery and faith in Accra in early July, organized by the World Bank and the World Faiths Development Dialogue; a U.N. agency meeting in New York last week organized by...

Katherinemarshall

August 3, 2009

Wilde Journey

Katherine Marshall

A dear friend set me on an unlikely journey last week when she told me that Oscar Wilde's work De Profundis had moved her, as no other, to understand what Christianity really meant. Oscar Wilde? Cynic and rebel against Victorian conventional thought? Famous for comments like "I can resist everything except temptation," "the only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it," and "I sometimes think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability"?

Katherinemarshall

July 27, 2009

Human-land Security

Katherine Marshall

The Swiss village of Caux has become a watchword for reconciliation across the fiercest kinds of bitterness and hatred. It was at Caux that French and German leaders warily came together after World War II and emerged with a sense that human beings, not monsters, were their neighbors. Today, Pakistanis and Indians, Israelis and Palestinians, Sudanese and warring groups from many parts of Africa and Asia come to the Mountain House in Caux, perched high above Lake Geneva, searching for a similar understanding.

Kesslermichael

July 23, 2009

A Faithful Way to Reform Health Care

Michael Kessler

Last Friday, Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) revealed his strategy to obstruct health care reform, saying "if we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him."

For shame. The nation doesn't need a Waterloo defeat. DeMint would better serve Americans if instead he worked with Obama in a modern-day, health care reform version of the Council of Nicaea.

Katherinemarshall

July 20, 2009

Alliances for Health

Katherine Marshall

A story. In 1854, a baby girl was very sick with diarrhea. Her mother washed the diapers and threw the waste water into a cesspit under a house in their Soho neighborhood. Within weeks a cholera epidemic had killed some 700 people in the neighborhood. Thousands more were sick.

Kesslermichael

July 16, 2009

What's in Sotomayor's Heart?

Michael Kessler

The confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor have so far reminded me of God's admonition in I Samuel that no one can see into the heart of humans but God.

The story goes that God sent Samuel to Bethlehem to look among the sons of Jesse for the newly-anointed King of Israel and Samuel understandably looked for the son who appeared most strong and formidable. When it is revealed that the youngest (and "ruddy") David is the chosen one, God tells Samuel: "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have...

Katherinemarshall

July 13, 2009

Saving a Drowning Girl

Katherine Marshall

As the G8 meeting took place in Italy last week, three different voices spoke up on the same subject: the wide gap between promises made to address poverty and the realities on the ground. It's worth pausing to reflect on what these thoughtful people said.

Kesslermichael

July 10, 2009

A Slave to Principle

Michael Kessler

Only U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa saw the problem with a plaque honoring the slaves who helped build the U.S. Capitol.

King, a Republican, was the only House member to vote against House Resolution 135, "directing the Architect of the Capitol to place a marker in Emancipation Hall in the Capitol Visitor Center which acknowledges the role that slave labor played in the construction of the United States Capitol." He said he was standing firm on his principles to preserve the "Judeo-Christian" heritage from being "held hostage" by the liberals...

Katherinemarshall

July 6, 2009

Health Care Reform, African Style

Katherine Marshall

"Obama Fever Grips Accra" reads the banner headline of Ghana's Daily Graphic. President Obama arrives here July 10 for his first African visit as president. U.S. Air Force planes crisscross the airport and the streets are loaded with Obama memorabilia.

Kesslermichael

July 1, 2009

Revolutionary Freedom of Religion

Michael Kessler

Independence Day is a good opportunity to take a moment to ponder how some of our forebears envisioned religious freedom--one of our most fundamental liberties.

There are many well-known examples of the Founders urging toleration about religious diversity. They argued for government restraint so that religion may thrive, particularly James Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments and Thomas Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia and letter to the Danbury Baptist Association. These are worthy essays which we...

Katherinemarshall

June 29, 2009

Spiritual Counsel to the G8

Katherine Marshall

The annual ritual of the G8 Summit is upon us. There are plenty about other Gs (groups) - the G2 (U.S. and China), the G20 and the G77. Cynics speak of a G1, suggesting that the United States rules the roost. But the G8 is still the pinnacle of the world's powerful and rich. So these meetings are a magnet for those who would like to sit at the table and shape the world's agenda.

Kesslermichael

June 24, 2009

The Private Affair of Mark Sanford

Michael Kessler

"I've let down a lot of people, that's the bottom line," declared South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford on Wednesday. Thus ended the fun media game, "Where in the World is Mark Sanford?" He was in Argentina, with his lover, over Father's Day, without having any contact with his wife and four children.

There was a time--the Clinton years--when such an admission would incite a political witchhunt. Indeed, then-Congressman Sanford called vocally for Clinton to step down, "The issue of [Clinton] lying is probably the biggest harm, if you will,...

Katherinemarshall

June 20, 2009

Fathers and Families

Katherine Marshall

Here's a topic that deserves center stage this Father's Day: family planning. It's an improbable but vital issue for Father's Day for two reasons: It's more often linked to women than to men, and it's shrouded in tensions, many with religious overtones.

Kesslermichael

June 18, 2009

PBS: Public Broadcasting is Secular

Michael Kessler

I grew up watching PBS--especially the Victory Garden, This Old House, Julia Child, and the many ethnographic, travel, and nature programs. The antenna on my parent's house, set in the middle of Indiana's farm fields, picked up Chicago's WTTW. It was my Window to the World which offered me a view of life far beyond the short 70 miles I had ever ventured from my house.

Katherinemarshall

June 16, 2009

Faith-Based Competition

Katherine Marshall

The meeting room at the Washington office of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life was packed last Wednesday to hear from Joshua DuBois, head of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Kesslermichael

June 12, 2009

Fair Faith-Based Partnerships

Michael Kessler

It was refreshing to hear Joshua DuBois repeat the words "responsible partnerships" in describing President Obama's vision for the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Katherinemarshall

June 9, 2009

Hearing Muslim Voices

Katherine Marshall

We often bemoan the fact that we Americans have, to put it charitably, large gaps in our understanding of Islam as a religion and of the endlessly complex Muslim world.

Ignorance contributes to the global tensions that some call the "clash of civilizations". It makes it harder to deal with the day-to-day challenges of international interactions as well as with conflicts and hot spots. After 9/11 there was a blizzard of talks, books, and articles, the most intensive public education effort in recent memory, but, depressingly, polls suggest...

Katherinemarshall

June 8, 2009

Sweet Echos from Cairo

Katherine Marshall

Vienna has a lovely tradition: once each year the Vienna Philharmonic plays at Schonbrun, the grand palace complex that was a model for Versailles. It's a free outdoor concert and everyone comes. On June 4, Daniel Barenboim conducted and over 120,000 people, including Austria's president, reveled in beautiful music and fireworks.

Katherinemarshall

June 8, 2009

Sweet Echoes from Cairo

Katherine Marshall

Vienna has a lovely tradition: once each year the Vienna Philharmonic plays at Schonbrun, the grand palace complex that was a model for Versailles. It's a free outdoor concert and everyone comes. On June 4, Daniel Barenboim conducted and over 120,000 people, including Austria's president, reveled in beautiful music and fireworks.

Kesslermichael

June 4, 2009

A Wing and a Prayer

Michael Kessler

Who is responsible for the crash of Air France Flight 447 on Sunday?

Now with confirmation that the Brazilian military has found the wreckage field, the sad recovery efforts will begin to determine a physical cause. The search will focus on the flight data and cockpit voice recorders which will help piece together why this reliably safe aircraft vanished into the water. Remote-controlled submersibles will descend into thousands of feet of water but questions will remain for months or years.

Kesslermichael

May 27, 2009

Sotomayor and Religious Freedom

Michael Kessler

And so the circus begins.

Sonia Sotomayor was nominated by President Obama to fill the vacancy created by Justice David Souter's impending retirement. She would become the sixth Catholic on the Court. What does her nomination mean for religious freedom?

Even before the nomination, attack ads were ready to roll, with charges that she was a "liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important than the law as written." Others contend that her record "raises serious questions about the...

Katherinemarshall

May 26, 2009

"Good News" Or Something Else?

Katherine Marshall

The recent flare-up over whether American soldiers should be free to distribute bibles in Afghanistan highlights a simmering debate that comes to a boil every once in a while. It's not about whether people should be free to practice their faith, but how and when they should be free to share it. This knotty issue comes pretty high on the agenda for the new President's Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Council which is shaping the new administration's approaches to public funding for faith-inspired organizations.

Kesslermichael

May 20, 2009

Save Daniel Hauser

Michael Kessler

Colleen Hauser's 13-year-old son Daniel drew a lucky card from the cancer deck. He was diagnosed with Stage II Hodgkin's lymphoma. Five-year survival rates are upwards of 95%. Treatment with basic chemotherapeutic regimens have made this disease highly treatable and survivable. While scary, his prognosis would be highly favorable if he received the standard treatments.

Katherinemarshall

May 18, 2009

End Game in Sri Lanka

Katherine Marshall

One of the world's longest running and nastiest wars, in Sri Lanka, may be near an end. Sri Lankan government troops have cornered remnants of a force called terrorists by some, nationalist guerrillas by others: the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE. Over 70,000 people have died in a conflict that has raged, off and on, since 1983. Peace would indeed be a blessing.

Kesslermichael

May 15, 2009

6 Questions for S. Court Nominee

Michael Kessler

President Obama will soon announce his nominee for the next Supreme Court justice. We should pay close attention to how this new justice conceives of Constitutional protections for fundamental rights, especially religious liberty.

The President's criteria involve a refreshing mix of principled legal analysis and personal moral characteristics. In announcing Justice Souter's retirement, President Obama said: "I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for...

Katherinemarshall

May 11, 2009

Mothers Need More Than A Day

Katherine Marshall

Mother's Day sees outpourings of affection, funny stories, floral tributes on the Google home page, and a blizzard of phone calls and emails. There's something wonderfully universal in the sentiments, the ritual but warm tributes and the somewhat sheepish acknowledgment of the vital role that mothers play. They keep daily life together, serving up Cheerios and bandaging skinned knees, at the same time that they convey the basic values that guide our lives. Mothers like Ann Dunham Soetoro, who yanked Barack Obama out of bed at 4 a.m. to do...

Kesslermichael

May 7, 2009

Souter and McConnell: Protecting Religious Freedom

Michael Kessler

The Federal Judiciary is losing two big defenders of religious freedom.

Last week, Justice David Souter surprised few in announcing that he would prefer to not undergo another "intellectual lobotomy" and return next fall to the Supreme Court for another term, preferring instead to retire to his beloved New Hampshire.

Then on Tuesday, Judge Michael McConnell, a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals judge, announced he was stepping down after seven years to return to academic teaching and scholarship at Stanford.

In different ways, both judges left...

Katherinemarshall

May 4, 2009

Modern Witch Hunts

Katherine Marshall

Years ago, while traveling with my children in Africa, I heard about a Catholic charity that ran a home for witches. That sounded mysterious and interesting, so we stopped for an afternoon to visit. It was a rough compound where perhaps a hundred rather forlorn old women sat on the dirt floor staring into space or working with spindles and looms, mumbling to themselves. A few old men, too, sat with vacant stares.

Kesslermichael

May 1, 2009

Religious Exemptions for Same-Sex Unions

Michael Kessler

Miss California heroically pushes back a cultural Armageddon.

I thought that would be the headline after the Miss USA pageant. In fact, the pageant was just one of several same-sex-related events this past month that must have made social conservatives think the apocalypse was hurtling towards them.

First, there was the Iowa Supreme court's landmark ruling on April 3, which held that the state's equal protection clause required the state to treat all citizens equally in applying for licenses to wed--both heterosexual and homosexual...

Katherinemarshall

April 24, 2009

Pakistan's Quicksand

Katherine Marshall

The video shows the brutal beating of a young girl, well covered in her burka and red trousers, screaming and struggling as she is held down by a man and a woman. The scene symbolizes the tensions tearing Pakistan apart and it raises a host of questions. Is this what Sharia law is about? What does this primitive justice by bearded Taliban leaders portend for Pakistan? For south Asia? What's caused the Swat Valley, a region celebrated for peace, civility, and beauty, to change so rapidly? And what can be done about it?

Kesslermichael

April 23, 2009

Pulling Back the Curtain on Obama's Georgetown Stage

Michael Kessler

Three more feet of blue curtain and no one would have noticed.

Last week, Georgetown offered the stage of Gaston Hall to President Obama. The University hosts visiting heads of state innumerable times throughout the year. Policymakers of many political stripes offer speeches across the spectrum of viewpoints. Their visits enrich the academic conversations on campus and spark many debates about policy and ideas for weeks afterwards. This contributes vitally to achieving the core of any academic institution's mission.

Katherinemarshall

April 20, 2009

Crisis and Opportunity in Darfur

Katherine Marshall

It's hard to find any silver linings in the dark gathering clouds in Darfur. It's the time of year that many parts of Africa call the "hungry season" or the "soudure" (a joint whose parts are welded together and thus is liable to break). The rains are about to begin, and with them comes planting season. Mud roads and tracks become impassable. Food from last harvest is gone and the new harvest is months off.

Kesslermichael

April 16, 2009

Confronting the Taliban Thugs

Michael Kessler

President Obama heralded an encouraging new tone when he told Turkey's Parliament on Monday that the United States "is not and will never be at war with Islam...America's relationship with the Muslim community, the Muslim world, cannot and will not just be based upon opposition to terrorism...We seek broader engagement based upon mutual interest and mutual respect."

Katherinemarshall

April 15, 2009

Faith-Based Diplomacy

Katherine Marshall

How can the United States harness the extraordinary organizational capacity of global religions and turn them into a force for peace and welfare? That's a question the Obama administration should confront early on. The faith factor can and should be a critical part of America's public diplomacy--and not a piece apart but integrally linked to the core question of how the "smart" new diplomacy needs to unfold.

Katherinemarshall

April 8, 2009

Weak Economy Crippling the Poor

Katherine Marshall

First the steep jump in food prices, then in gas prices, now a world-wide credit crunch: for the world's poor, these three shocks have dealt a crippling blow. Yet at the London meetings of the G20 last week, there was barely a nod to this harsh reality. Instead, the focus was on stimulus and bailouts, certainly not meeting the promises of the year 2000 Millennium Summit, to end hunger and halve poverty by 2015.

Kesslermichael

April 2, 2009

Obama's Faith-Based Opportunity

Michael Kessler

Perhaps lost in the swirl of reporting about the financial meltdown, there has been little news about the newly-renamed Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Other than appointing the talented Joshua DuBois (Obama's campaign faith adviser) as the new director, whatever is happening has largely been out of the public eye. This is a significant mistake.

Katherinemarshall

March 28, 2009

Wrong Message From the Pope

Katherine Marshall

The cartoonists had a field day with the Pope's trip to Africa earlier this month. One cartoon showed Pope Benedict on a charger attacking a giant killer condom with his staff. Another had a large condom as the banana peel on his elegant Italian shoe. And a London Times cartoon showing the Pope with a large condom hat pierced by a hatpin drew an angry response from Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor. The Washington Post got heat for its March 21 cartoon showing the Pope in an AIDS ward blessing the sick because they did not use condoms.

Kesslermichael

March 27, 2009

Free Market's "Invisible Hand" Not a Fist

Michael Kessler

Amid the global financial meltdown, the old debate about how much governments should regulate markets is back in the news. Is greed good because it creates value through competition, or should governments regulate markets in order to curtail greedy tendencies?

On the one side are unyielding defenders of market mechanisms. In spite of the problems created by over-leveraged banks, risky mortgages, and dissolving, unregulated funds that have decimated retirement accounts, some financial gurus and economists tell us that re-regulating the...

Katherinemarshall

March 24, 2009

Unkind Cuts

Katherine Marshall

Gender, sexuality, and religion have plenty of third rails - topics where passions run high and thoughtful dialogue seems a forlorn hope. Female genital cutting, also referred to as mutilation or female circumcision, is one. Between 100 and 140 million girls and women have had this "procedure"; about 3 million girls each year are cut.

Kesslermichael

March 17, 2009

The Court's Monumental Error

Michael Kessler

In the recent Supreme Court ruling on Pleasant Grove City, Utah v. Summum, Justice Scalia concurred with words of reassurance: "The city can safely exhale. Its residents and visitors can now return to enjoying Pioneer Park's wishing well, its historic granary -- and, yes, even its Ten Commandments monument -- without fear that they are complicit in an establishment of religion."

Should we yet breathe easily?

Katherinemarshall

March 16, 2009

Limbaugh, the Vatican and a Woman's Place

Katherine Marshall

The Vatican seems to be going through some tough waters; last weekend's article in the Vatican paper, Osservatore Romano, honoring International Women's Day is a vivid example. The headline: "The washing machine and the emancipation of women: put in the powder, close the lid and relax".

Katherinemarshall

March 10, 2009

Getting Religion on Women's Rights

Katherine Marshall

Women lead church attendance in many if not most societies. They affirm strongly in polls that faith is deeply important to them. Women faith leaders are more visible and vocal. Calls for social justice resonate. And yet there's a shroud of discomfort around issues of women's rights when religion comes into the picture.

Katherinemarshall

February 24, 2009

Nobel Prize for Hope

Katherine Marshall

The Niwano Peace Prize isn't nearly as well known as its Nobel counterpart, but the work of its recipients is just ast important and meaningful, as exemplified by this year's winner, Rev. Canon Gideon Byamugisha, an Anglican priest in Uganda.

Katherinemarshall

February 18, 2009

Turning Love into Policy

Katherine Marshall

Depending on who you listen to, the Common Word is an extraordinary opportunity, a watershed event that promises to counter threats of a "clash of civilizations," or yet another interfaith dialogue in which narrow groups argue about the meaning of life and how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Katherinemarshall

February 10, 2009

World Hunger-A Gut Check

Katherine Marshall

Last weekend I dined on gruel. The meal was part of an annual conference on international development, where a random draw determines whether you have a grand meal or a miserable repast that is the lot the world's poor.

Katherinemarshall

February 2, 2009

In God's Image

Katherine Marshall

Poverty statistics can be numbing. We scrabble for tangible images to translate sterile estimates of poverty's effects -- hungry, homeless, jobless - into terms people can grasp: daily deaths from AIDS are equivalent to x number of 747s crashing, avoidable deaths in childbirth to hurricanes. But it's still pretty abstract.

Katherinemarshall

January 27, 2009

Obama, Muslims, and A New Way Forward

Katherine Marshall

Washington is still basking in the euphoria of the inaugural week. It's one of those times engraved on memories, young and old: "Where were you when Barack Obama was sworn in?" There are millions of stories, Facebook photos, emails of congratulations from every corner of the world.

Katherinemarshall

January 1, 2009

A More Civil Discourse: Idealistic Pragmatism

Katherine Marshall

Political discourse these days seems more fitted to Halloween than All Saints Day. Angels and devils, witches and shamans. Rancid prose. We all wonder and worry at the nastiness that shows up in political campaign ads, the polarized news outlets, and beyond.

Katherinemarshall

December 31, 2008

Clash of Civilizations?

Katherine Marshall

As the new year dawns, India is massing troops near its border with Pakistan after the Mumbai tragedy, and Israel is wreaking havoc in Gaza to stop the rocket attacks from its hostile neighbor. Just days ago, the political scientist Sam Huntington died, bringing his controversial theory of "the clash of civilizations" back into the public consciousness.

Katherinemarshall

December 13, 2008

Accentuating the Positive

Katherine Marshall

Journalists rarely pursue stories of interfaith dialogue with much enthusiasm. A yawn is the more common reaction. And in the circles of those who work to promote such dialogue, the foibles of journalists are the topic of much grumbling: No matter how noble the objective, no matter how significant the interfaith breakthrough, there is barely a mention in the press.

Katherinemarshall

December 4, 2008

Blair Aces His Israel-Palestine Presentation

Katherine Marshall

This is grading season in universities so I was interested to hear a respected colleague suggest that Tony Blair's speech to a packed Council on Foreign Relations meeting merited an A. That's impressive considering the topic was the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Katherinemarshall

December 1, 2008

Blessed Peacemakers

Katherine Marshall

There's a long line of people and organizations impatient to meet America's President-elect and to place their issues high on his agenda. The Community of Sant'Egidio is right there, pressing for early meetings with Barack Obama's new foreign policy and national security teams.

Katherinemarshall

November 21, 2008

Greed, Poverty and the Global Economic Crisis

Katherine Marshall

Markets, economics, and economists may still command some respect in Washington but as many eminent religious leaders met in Cyprus November 16-18, few if any had a good word to say about them. Relentlessly, the world's economic system was described as valueless, harsh, erratic, and arbitrary, serving only the interests of the rich and driving the poor into deeper misery.

Katherinemarshall

November 19, 2008

Sky-High Expectations

Katherine Marshall

After the euphoria that greeted America's presidential election, I was a bit taken aback to discern a tremor of concern rippling through a group of religious leaders from every corner of the world gathered in Cyprus this week. Their worry: expectations are so high that Barack Obama simply cannot meet them. As I pushed back against that assumption, I could see that our historic election has raised not just expectations for what the United States will do, but what people hope and expect from their own governments.

Katherinemarshall

November 14, 2008

A Different Kind of Islam

Katherine Marshall

Diana Eck, Harvard scholar, has documented the stunning religious change that America is experiencing. I glimpsed a piece of it last Saturday night.

Katherinemarshall

November 10, 2008

Fighting Corruption: The Missing Link

Katherine Marshall

Around the world, religious leaders have often been at the forefront of fighting corruption, but you would never know that from looking around the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) held recently in Athens.

Katherinemarshall

November 7, 2008

A New Dawn

Katherine Marshall

Messages from all corners of the world are flooding in, expressing wonder, joy, and hearty congratulations.

Katherinemarshall

November 4, 2008

World Holding Its Breath

Katherine Marshall

The long road to the U.S. presidential election has gripped people all over the world. Millions have followed the horse race minute by minute, puzzled over the gaffes and slogans, and figuratively scratched their heads. This campaign has challenged the deeply held image of a racist America.

Katherinemarshall

October 20, 2008

Interfaith Blues

Katherine Marshall

The scene was a muggy hotel conference room in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, last week. The topic was grand: "Building Peace, Cooperation, and Harmony through Interfaith Dialogue." The audience was a somber group of Buddhist, Muslim, and Christian leaders, government officials, students and a smattering of international speakers. The tone was utterly serious - no backslapping or chitchat. The organizer was a small new group called the Asian Faiths Development Dialogue.

Katherinemarshall

October 17, 2008

Salt of the Earth

Katherine Marshall

Jesuit schools around the world have educated an amazing array of world leaders and citizens and are renowned for their excellence and discipline. That is true of places like Georgetown University--but also, around the world, in very poor communities "where the asphalt ends."

Katherinemarshall

October 6, 2008

The Financial Tsunami Drowning Poverty Agenda

Katherine Marshall

The most shocking comment for me in last week's Vice Presidential debate was Joe Biden's rather casual suggestion that foreign assistance would be the first budget item to cut in the face of the current financial meltdown. Sadly, there has been no storm of protest, scarcely a whimper from secular or religious leaders. It was another sign that global poverty is plummeting to the bottom of the developed world's agenda once again.

Katherinemarshall

September 30, 2008

Comments on the World Conference on Religions for Peace

Katherine Marshall

WCRP (the World Conference on Religions for Peace, known more commonly as Religions for Peace) is the world's largest interfaith organization, and it is increasingly engaged in mobilizing religious communities in support of the Millennium Development Goals. Thus during what has become an annual stocktaking of progress towards the MDGs that is integrally part of the annual United Nations General Assembly meetings, WCRP organized a series of events to advance the cause. The centerpiece was a half day meeting on September 24, aimed to bring...

Katherinemarshall

September 19, 2008

Faith to the Fore on Malaria

Katherine Marshall

There's a sharp new focus in international circles on an ancient plague: malaria. Despite huge advances made against the disease, hundreds of millions of cases occur each year and a million people die, most of them children in Africa. Most worrying, in some regions, the disease seems to be making a comeback.

Katherinemarshall

September 12, 2008

Woman and Palin Appeal

Katherine Marshall

A fat envelope from my son's school this week had a slim letter with a reproachful tone and a bunch of remedial forms: I had missed a critical meeting about the college application process. I missed the meeting because I was in Chicago for a meeting of a task force on religion and public life.

Katherinemarshall

September 10, 2008

Trash Talk in Ghana

Katherine Marshall

Pretty much any public matter can be linked to faith - if you don't think so, take a look at Ghana's interfaith initiative against garbage. Recently its leaders got together in Accra to take stock of their somewhat improbable project - an effort they call their "Crusade against Filth".

Kesslermichael

September 8, 2008

Obama's Community Organizing: The Thousand Points of Light?

Michael Kessler

Barack Obama's years of service as a community organizer were disparaged during last week's Republican National Convention. Of course, the job description for a community organizer might be unknown to many Americans. But it's surprising to hear Republicans--members of the party that espouses non-governmental solutions to social problems--ridiculing a man's privately funded community work. I thought that community work like Obama's was the GOP's solution to our social ills?

Katherinemarshall

September 1, 2008

Echoes of Bhutan

Katherine Marshall

In the midst of the gripping political dramas dominating our news cycle, images of Bhutan (where I was earlier this month) color my processing of the news. Bhutan is about as far as you can get from contemporary American life - a small Himalayan kingdom where ferocious deities are part of daily life and serfdom is a living memory (it was abolished in 1956). Nevertheless, parallels there are.

Katherinemarshall

August 29, 2008

Addressing Different Perceptions of African Realities: Accra Dialogue among the World Council of Churches, the IMF, and the World Bank

Katherine Marshall

Summary Outcome

Teams from the World Council of Churches (WCC), the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) met for two days in Accra Ghana to address core issues of strategies towards development and poverty alleviation. The meeting was under discussion for several years and represented a continuation of a dialogue process initiated in 2002 . The meeting was deemed a success by all, challenging preconceived ideas and opening the path to continuing exchange. The core idea behind the Ghana event - that dialogue about development...

Katherinemarshall

August 22, 2008

Measuring Happiness in Bhutan

Katherine Marshall

Out of the small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan came a concept that has enthralled the international development community: Gross National Happiness. GNH offers up a different way to measure a country's well-being, based on the common welfare and infused with a good dose of spirituality--in contrast to the materialism represented by the Gross National Product (GNP). In a time dominated by anxiety about recession, climate change and spiraling energy and food prices, GNH seems to offer a respite, an alternative vision.

Katherinemarshall

August 16, 2008

All India Convention on Anti-Corruption- Keynote Address

Katherine Marshall

Your work in the coming days to promote integrity, honesty, and efficiency in the public and private sectors is a critical part of the fight against poverty. This is very much a global effort and it involves all sectors of societies, all countries, and many different kinds of intellectual approaches. You will be touching on many different dimensions here. I am sorry that I cannot be with you in person to learn from you all, but am honored to share my reflections with you and I look forward to learning of your work over the next days and your...

Katherinemarshall

August 8, 2008

Temple of Conflict

Katherine Marshall

Far away on a remote border between Cambodia and Thailand, an international conflict is brewing. The United Nations Security Council has been notified. Newspapers in Thailand and Cambodia report on hourly developments and, at least in Cambodia, the Ministry of Education warned students to remain calm in the face of nationalist fervor, recalling past violence triggered by similar disputes.

Katherinemarshall

July 30, 2008

Digging Deep to Make Peace

Katherine Marshall

Tolstoy wrote that every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. The same could be said about the ethnic and religious conflicts that cause so much strife in the world--in Burundi, Sri Lanka, the Ivory Coast and the Middle East. Memories run deep, and anyone who attempts to mediate finds bitterness, conflicting narratives and wounded people. Efforts to find common threads that could lead to solutions can be slow, fitful, and full of pain.

Katherinemarshall

July 16, 2008

UN Interagency Consultations, Religion and the work of the UN

Katherine Marshall

Last week (July 9, 2008), I attended (on behalf of the World Bank) a long planned interagency meeting in New York, organized and hosted by UNFPA. The meeting was described as a UN Interagency Consultation on Engagement with Faith Groups. Brady Walkinshaw and Marisa Van Saanen also participated. There were two particularly interesting conclusions: first, that the topic of religion as an ingredient in public affairs is emerging across many agencies, and many are seeking strategic directions in response. And second, the Bank emerges as a leader...

Katherinemarshall

July 7, 2008

Warmth Over Warming

Katherine Marshall

Global warming makes strange bedfellows.

That’s the basic explanation of why Richard Cizik, a prominent evangelical pastor, could be found for two days last month closeted at the World Bank and on Capitol Hill with a group of other evangelicals and a delegation of Moroccan Muslims, led by their ambassador to the U.S., Aziz Mekouar.

Katherinemarshall

July 4, 2008

A Religious G8

Katherine Marshall

World leaders are heading for Japan for the annual ritual known as the Group of Eight meeting. Last week a different group of leaders met, also in Japan, also to take stock of the leading issues that face the world.

They were religious leaders, and their gathering took place in two Japanese cities with spiritual roots, Osaka and Kyoto. The meeting is part of a tradition, now three years old, of a religious summit on the eve of the grand G8 summit.

Religious leaders don’t make policy, but they wield tremendous influence on billions of...

Katherinemarshall

June 30, 2008

A New Kind of Missionary

Katherine Marshall

Planting churches in The Hague?

I admit I was a bit baffled to hear a Nigerian pastor discussing this subject at a conference in the rather staid and orderly capital of the Netherlands. But meeting Dele Olowu in person, I came away with new respect for the phenomenon that some call the “reverse missionary movement”—Africans bringing religion to Europe. He upsets plenty of notions about religion and proselytizing, which he calls planting churches.

Katherinemarshall

June 25, 2008

Climate change meeting with religious and civic leaders from Morocco

Katherine Marshall

Background

The Bank responded to a request from both the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and the Moroccan government to host an event on June 19. The Bank was invited largely to offer technical expertise on climate change strategy, but also because of our long-standing commitment to development faith partnerships. What made this event unusual was the effort to address underlying issues of West/Muslim work tensions generally and Christian/Muslim more specifically by means of a dialogue about an issues of patent common concern,...

Katherinemarshall

June 12, 2008

"Getting It" On Religion

Katherine Marshall

The blitz of publicity around the launch of the new Tony Blair Faith Foundation hammered home one core theme: Religion matters. Public policy makers and intelligent citizens should give it due attention.

Katherinemarshall

June 6, 2008

Union pour la Méditerranée in Fes, Fes Festival of Global Sacred Music

Katherine Marshall

I participated as a panelist (theme, cultural dialogue and media roles) in a large international conference in Fes, Morocco that ran June 3-6. It involved a lively and sometimes quite fractious debate about the proposed new Union, and was a lead up to the planned meeting of Mediterranean heads of state in Paris on July 13. The meeting was timed to conclude just on the eve of the opening of the Fes Festival of Global Sacred Music, now in its 14th year, and a substantial draw. However, there were no formal links between the two events.

Katherinemarshall

May 27, 2008

The Great Divide

Katherine Marshall

The disconnects among different worlds come through powerfully at World Economic Forum (WEF) meetings. Bringing everyone together under one tent is a feat all by itself, but once they get there they can talk quite different languages.

Katherinemarshall

May 20, 2008

Blogging the World Economic Forum Middle East Meeting, Sharm El Sheikh

Katherine Marshall

The World Economic Forum (WEF) holds its principal, and best known, meeting at Davos each January but regional meetings in different parts of the world are taking on increasing importance. The annual Middle East meeting, which has for the past few years alternated between the Dead Sea complex in Jordan and Sharm El Sheikh, in Egypt, took place this year at Sharm El Sheikh, from May 18-20. As part of this large gathering (some 1300 participants plus staff), a series of private meetings about the state of West Islam dialogue was organized by...

Katherinemarshall

May 19, 2008

The Scent of Peace?

Katherine Marshall

The World Economic Forum on the Middle East at Sharm El Sheikh reeks of solemnity. There is a sense that the people who attend this annual business-driven meeting carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. With speeches by three heads of state (Presidents Hosni Mubarak and George W. Bush and King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud) at the opening event Sunday, with 1,500 world leaders from many different sectors, the gravity of the issues at hand seemed overwhelming.

Katherinemarshall

May 16, 2008

Faithful Stockholders

Katherine Marshall

Seamus Finn OMI is a priest with the Catholic religious order, Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He spends a good amount of his time on investment issues. He is a âœsocially responsible investingâ (SRI) consultant and a leader in a new international effort to bring different religious traditions together in using their financial muscle for worthy causes. I asked him what is most on his mind these days: Wheat subsidies? Mining ventures? Gas prices? No, he said, outrage in his voice, it's the credit crisis. The current financial meltdown...

Katherinemarshall

May 8, 2008

Food Crisis Solutions? Look to Canadians

Katherine Marshall

The global food crisis came like a tsunami, with amazing speed and stealth. Development institutions everywhere are scrambling to face the urgent problems and questions that come in its wake.

There's the immediate problem: How to find funds to buy enough food to meet steep increases in demand to feed hungry people here and now.

Katherinemarshall

May 5, 2008

A Music Festival for the Sufi Mind and Soul

Katherine Marshall

Music is a well known path for crossing wide cultural divides. Music speaks without words. It can epitomize a mood as well as a culture. And it can stir up emotions and preconceptions. There's a fascinating venture afoot in Fes, Morocco, to use those very qualities to bridge divides between the Muslim world and western cultures and faiths. The idea is that people can, through their love of music, explore new realms and appreciate the world's wonderful diversity. But even more, the hope is that with emotions roused through music and art,...

Katherinemarshall

April 26, 2008

Speaking Up for Women

Katherine Marshall

For guts combined with grace, Thoraya Obaid has few rivals. A proud Saudi Muslim, she leads what is probably the United Nations' most controversial agency, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) â“ which addresses women's reproductive health. Recently she was the speaker at the Washington National Cathedral's Sunday Forum, arguing that religious leaders must address the sorry state of women in much of the developing world.

Katherinemarshall

April 25, 2008

Blogging the Breakthrough Summit at the Washington National Cathedral

Katherine Marshall

The landmark "Breakthrough" summit at the National Cathedral had a clear goal; to bring together faith, development, and women's organizations in order to create a powerful new force for reducing poverty by improving the lives of women and girls around the world.

The event, held April 13-14, had two distinct parts. The first was a grand and moving show that drew in the crowd in both a spiritual and sensory way. In the morning a forum in the Cathedral nave featured Thoraya Obaid, who heads UNFPA and the sermon at the 11:15 service was...

Katherinemarshall

April 21, 2008

Tikkun Olam for 2008

Katherine Marshall

Sloshing through Hezekiah’s tunnel near the City of David in Jerusalem brings home what fear and faith can do. The 530-meter-long tunnel was chiseled out of rock over 2500 years ago, deep underground, by men without flashlights or scientific instruments to guide them. They knew that if they were attacked they could survive only if they were sure of their water source. To this day water flows through the tunnel from a spring to a reservoir.

Katherinemarshall

April 20, 2008

Climate Change and National Religious Coalition: Meeting at the World Bank

Katherine Marshall

This note, just for information, reports on an interesting meeting that form part both of an emerging dimension of the World Bank faith/ethics dialogue and a broader evolution of coalitions for change, especially in the US but also more broadly - that is, the growing interest of the vast community of faith institutions in climate change and their increasing activism.

Katherinemarshall

April 13, 2008

Israel Meeting on Faith and International Development, Tel Aviv University

Katherine Marshall

Because of a suggestion from James Wolfensohn while he was in Israel, I was part of an exciting workshop in Neve Ilan at the end of last month. In a nutshell, the meeting was presented as the second designed to reflect on and to revitalize both Jewish and Israeli development work, and to draw together both religious and secular experience and approaches.

Katherinemarshall

April 4, 2008

Where's the Speech on Religion?

Katherine Marshall

Avoid religion and politics at the dinner table -- so goes the conventional wisdom. Tempers will flare and appetites curdle with the passions that both topics so often arouse. But in reality we need to get the kind of dinner-table discussions going that can help overcome some deep and poorly understood prejudices about religion in American life.

Katherinemarshall

March 26, 2008

Thumbs Down on Domestic Violence

Katherine Marshall

I had blundered, bigtime.

Katherinemarshall

March 20, 2008

Food, Faith and Frustration

Katherine Marshall

You can't miss rising food prices if you do the grocery shopping or listen to the radio these days. They are causing real pain all around the world as family budgets everywhere are squeezed. There's no end in sight, though hunger is much more prominent at least in policy discussions, from Davos to U.S. political campaigns.

Katherinemarshall

March 12, 2008

Oil on the Waters

Katherine Marshall

"Come with an example of a situation where you were judged by a stereotype. Tell about how it affected you and what you tried to do to address it." A group of strangers tackled that tantalizing assignment one evening last month. We were invited to a lovely dinner at a private Washington home for an introduction to the "Public Conversations Project".

Katherinemarshall

March 2, 2008

Passionately Moderate in Doha

Katherine Marshall

Where are the passionate moderates in Islam, Madeleine Albright wanted to know. Why does all the passion seem to come from extremists? The former secretary of State was speaking at the recent U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, sponsored by the Brookings Institution. To the Islamic world, her message was that what we need now is “moderates on the march, moderates with swagger.”

Katherinemarshall

February 20, 2008

Islam, Dreams and Old Clothes

Katherine Marshall

From videos left behind by suicide bombers to movies like Syriana, Americans have become quite familiar with radicalized Muslim youth. But last week, a remarkable Egyptian evangelist, whose influence reaches across much of the Muslim world, offered a different vision: young Muslims driven by both hope and faith. At the U.S.-Islamic World Forum that just wrapped up in Doha, Amr Khaled was everywhere with his message that faith is a powerful force and motivator for young people in the Middle East, but that it doesn't have to lead to jihad.

Katherinemarshall

January 26, 2008

AIDS Wars

Katherine Marshall

I should have been prepared for the backlash! I stepped right into the middle of a heated controversy when I co-authored a report for Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs in November about the role of religious organizations in the battle against HIV/AIDS. Just last week, an angry letter from the Gerard Health Foundation in Boston to Georgetown University’s president actually called for the report’s withdrawal, with a litany of accusations. The complaint? That our report gives insufficient...

Katherinemarshall

January 11, 2008

Women's Place

Katherine Marshall

As I ventured into the hotel lobby in Jeddah earlier this week, I was not thinking about the role of women in Islam, but the issue came abruptly into the picture. In my terms I felt pretty well covered in a mid-calf dark red suit with long sleeves, but I was quickly conscious of disapproving stares from two hotel porters. One asked me what I was looking for in a way that made it clear I did not belong there. I knew that women in Saudi Arabia are required to wear the long black robes known as abayas in public places, and I was hoping to find...

Katherinemarshall

December 21, 2007

Ethics and Cotton: 13,000 people versus 13 million?

Katherine Marshall

Three Catholic bishops from three West African countries (Mali, Senegal, and Burkina Faso) crisscrossed Washington last month. Their purpose was to put a human face on Congressional deliberations about the farm bill. They trekked from office to office, all over Washington, to make the point that a very American piece of legislation, that Congress has wrangled over for months (and which is now in Conference), has profound effects that go far beyond American farmers and other Americans who are slated for support. The bill’s provisions...

Katherinemarshall

November 26, 2007

A Mostly Male Picture

Katherine Marshall

If Muslim leaders were underrepresented in Naples at the Catholic Church's International Encounter for Peace last month, it must be said that there were also remarkably few women religious leaders nominated to represent their faiths. The predominance of males reflects a power reality that deserves careful consideration. It is, after all, obvious that women are critical for all the religions, and that religion is of deep importance for many women. But what troubles me more is how few issues for women make it onto the agenda at meetings like...

Katherinemarshall

November 23, 2007

The Face of Islam

Katherine Marshall

The concludes with a striking ceremony where religious leaders sit on a platform grouped by religion, in ceremonial garb. The colors are vivid, crimson, white, black, and saffron. The symbolism is also vivid, as they light candles together for peace. This year's visual pageant showed some of the complexities of encouraging dialog among very different kinds of religions and religious organizations. The Catholic hierarchy was marked by differing colors and robes. The ranks of Orthodox recalled their ancient history with varied, yet...

Katherinemarshall

November 20, 2007

Sant'Egidio's 'Prayer for Peace'

Katherine Marshall

Forty years ago, Andrea Riccardi dedicated himself in Rome to helping his poorest neighbors. Last month in Naples, he challenged leading religious officials and members of the Catholic lay group he founded to confront terrorism and the "idealized" violence of war, as well as the "culture of contempt" that feeds them both. Speaking at the opening of this year's International Encounter for Peace, organized by the Community of Sant'Egidio, Riccardi acknowledged the difficulty in overcoming "the mist of pessimism that...

Katherinemarshall

November 20, 2007

About 'Faith in Action'

Katherine Marshall

Faith is more than beliefs. It is about right and wrong, justice and injustice -- about remaking the world. "Faith in Action" tracks the activities of people of faith across the globe and across religious traditions. It maps their engagement around critical issues, from global health to the environment -- from AIDS to zebras. It explores the struggles, alliances, and common efforts of people of faith, public and private, local and global. And it highlights how important it is for Americans to look beyond their borders and to appreciate the...

Katherinemarshall

October 4, 2007

Burmese Protests Transcend Politics

Katherine Marshall

The monk-led protests in Burma are about spiritual authority as much as they are about raw political power. They are deeply rooted in Burma’s religious culture. Nothing illustrates this so well as the chants of the protesting monks and their overturned begging bowls. Everyone in Burma understands the message: the military rulers are evil spirits who have lost their authority. The monks are chanting the Metta Sutta, a verse that embodies the Buddha’s counsel on the power and meaning of loving kindness. Part of it runs: “Let...

Katherinemarshall

September 24, 2007

Taking Stock: Faith in Interfaith?

Katherine Marshall

Katherine Marshall, a Berkley Center Senior Fellow and Director of the World Faiths Development Dialogue, attended the Monterrey Religious Encounter, September 21-24, 2007.

The Interreligious Encounter hit its full stride Sunday, with speakers and participants well into routines of speeches, panels, and the like. Overall there were three full days of events, with the closing plenary on Monday evening. The International Interreligious Encounter then concludes, and in Monterrey, the Cultural Forum shifts its focus from religion to other...

Katherinemarshall

September 23, 2007

Down to Business

Katherine Marshall

There are some 60 people that the Parliament of Religions has invited to be part of the Interreligious Encounter (40+ plus speakers plus people accompanying them). This is a truly "global" group, coming from all over the world, and from an extraordinary span of religious traditions. It includes Christian leaders, a woman who works with Muslim Sufi networks, several Jain representatives, Sikhs, from the UK and California, filmmakers, Baha'is, and a few who resist simple categories (myself among them - I introduced myself as coming from a...

Katherinemarshall

September 21, 2007

Why are all these people here?

Katherine Marshall

Interreligious gatherings have very different flavors. I have been to many in recent years and each evokes vivid yet very different memories. But all have some special, common qualities. The united presence of people from all corners of the earth, many wearing visible symbols of their faith and cultures, makes a poignant tapestry of the diversity of humanity. It is history come alive, but also today's plural reality in living color. A side product is a sea of cameras seeking to capture the color, life and diversity. Another is a vibrant feel...

Katherinemarshall

September 20, 2007

"With All Respect in Every Respect"

Katherine Marshall

That's the theme phrase for the Monterrey International Interreligious Encounter that had its formal opening last night. The event took place in Monterrey's cavernous arena, where concerts and sports events are often held; there was an eerie smell of popcorn in the air.

Katherinemarshall

September 20, 2007

Arrivals

Katherine Marshall

The streets of Monterrey were clogged this evening as Mexico's president arrived to open an 80 day named the Universal FORUM of Cultures, Monterrey 2007. The hotel lobby of the Holiday Inn swarmed with bagpipe groups in kilts, and a group that looked like medieval troubadours. I am here to participate in a first event of the Forum, which is an interfaith meeting, called the International Interreligious Encounter. A group of about 40 people from all over the world, scholars, practitioners, preachers, from a feast of different faiths, are...

Katherinemarshall

August 29, 2007

Disaster Brings Out Best in Religion

Katherine Marshall

When tragedy strikes, many look to religion to help understand what has occurred and why. The religious community offers comfort and support in times of trouble. But religion is not only about consolation. Religious institutions from time immemorial have engaged communities directly in action. After the 2004 tsunami, the Hurricane Katrina tragedy, and earthquakes in Peru, Pakistan, Iran and Japan, faith-inspired institutions were among the most active in bringing relief. The mobilization of energy and resources that we see through religious...

Katherinemarshall

May 2, 2007

Sufi Culture and Human Development

Katherine Marshall

I participated in an inaugural event in Fes, Morocco earlier this week, focused on Sufism and Human Development. Faouzi Skali, creator and founder of the Fes Festival and Forum, is the leader and inspirer. The Festival/Forum attracted much attention, despite its newness and quite recent planning - attention from media (Moroccan and foreign), attendees from several continents, and considerable engagement from different Moroccan social and political currents .

Katherinemarshall

February 16, 2007

A White House meeting on Malaria: "Controlling Malaria in Africa--The Unique Role of Faith-Based and Community NGOs," a Compassion in Action roundtable

Katherine Marshall

Marisa Van Saanen (World Bank Ethics and Values unit) and I participated in the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives round table on malaria, aimed at highlighting the vital and central role of faith-based organizations in fighting malaria. The participation of Mrs. Bush, Ambassador Randall Tobias, Georgetown University President John DeGioia, Admiral R. Timothy Ziemer, US Malaria Coordinator, and Jay Hein, Director of the White House Faith-Based office gave a clear indication of the level and focus of the meeting....

Katherinemarshall

January 28, 2007

"Council of 100" Meetings at the World Economic Forum, Davos

Katherine Marshall

The Executive Group of the Council of 100 met as part of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos; the C100, briefly, is a WEF initiative (rather atypical among WEF activities) that aims to further dialogue and understanding between "the Islamic World" and "the West". At present the group includes some 86 people, and the intent is that they be drawn from both the Islamic world and western societies, and from five major sectors: business, politics, religion, media, and civil society. The C100 meetings are thus a rare place, perhaps...

Katherinemarshall

December 17, 2006

Meetings Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development; Geneva, Switzerland, and in Cairo, Egypt: Back to Office Report

Katherine Marshall

In accordance with the TORs dated Oct. 27, 2006, I participated on behalf of the Bank, as a panelist and speaker at two events in Geneva commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development (RTD). Both events were co-sponsored by the Frederich Ebert Foundation and the UN. The first was held as a parallel event to the third session of the UN Human Rights Council and included participants from country delegations and NGOs accredited to the Council (some 70 participants). The second was a closed experts meeting...

Katherinemarshall

December 15, 2006

Netherlands Visit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Oikocredit

Katherine Marshall

Responding to a long-standing invitation from the Institute of Social Studies, based in the Hague, I visited the Netherlands this week. The trip was essentially in my "new life" as a professor, but because the World Bank and its work, and the issues of religion and development were so very central, I summarize the discussions for both Bank and Georgetown colleagues.

Katherinemarshall

December 3, 2006

"Our Common Humanity" - Special Meeting at the UN

Katherine Marshall

An "out of the box" meeting at the UN last week presented some interesting features. Its full title was "Our Common Humanity in the Information Age: Principles and Values for Development". Full information can be found at the special website.

Katherinemarshall

November 26, 2006

Istanbul: World Economic Forum Meetings in Turkey, Council of 100 Meetings

Katherine Marshall

The World Economic Forum's annual Europe regional meeting was held in Istanbul for two days earlier this week. It was (as appears to be traditional for WEF regional meetings) heavily focused on Turkey, the host country, though ostensibly it covered all Europe. I was there because the Core Group (now renamed Executive Committee) of the WEF's Council of 100 Leaders on West Islamic Dialogue met as part of the meeting. But I was also part of a panel on education challenges for Turkey, and then did a lengthy, live CNN Turkey interview (with the...

Katherinemarshall

October 7, 2006

Observations of the "Spirit of the World" Conference on Pentacostalism

Katherine Marshall

Timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Azusa Church, considered the first formally established Pentecostal Church, this conference brought together a fascinating blend of scholars and "practitioners", in this instance preachers and activists in the Pentecostal arena. Among luminaries at the meeting were Rev. Harold Caballeros (Guatemalan preacher and candidate for President), Peter Berger, David Martin, Luis Lugo, Eugene Rivers, and Jack Miles.

Katherinemarshall

October 1, 2006

UN/New York: Tripartite High Level Interfaith Meeting

Katherine Marshall

I was in New York September 19-21 for various missions, primarily to serve as moderator for a day-long launch meeting for a High Level interfaith Forum within the United Nations system. This note reports briefly on that meeting and its conclusions, with some background as the effort may not be widely known to you and other Bank colleagues. I will report separately, to those most directly concerned, on other New York meetings, which included inter alia a presentation for the UN Ethics Office staff on our work and approach to ethics, a meeting...

Katherinemarshall

September 21, 2006

The Tripartite Forum on Interfaith Cooperation and Peace: Moderator's Concluding Summary

Katherine Marshall

Today marked the formal launch of the Tripartite Interfaith Forum, and involved inspirational speeches and wise comments from global and UN leaders and the wide range of participants, from member states, from United Nations agencies, and from many Religious bodies and NGOs. My colleagues as moderators, Sister Joan Kirby and Stein Villumstad, have highlighted some key points. My summary briefly reviews what we have achieved, in the form of a stock-taking, starting from a set of fundamental questions about when, how much, why, where, who,...

Katherinemarshall

September 20, 2006

UN Ethics Office Meetings

Katherine Marshall

At the April Oxford Ethics Forum, I met Tunku Aziz who I had worked with some years ago in the context of the Asia Anti-Corruption Advisory Group. He is currently serving at the United Nations as Ethics Officer, in an assignment reporting to the Secretary General, with the objective of launching a UN ethics office and recommending a future course of action to the SG (his assignment ends in December). Mr. Aziz invited me to give a presentation to his team. After some months of trying to coordinate schedules with INT I took advantage of being...

Katherinemarshall

Religion and Poverty in Guatemala

Katherine Marshall

Last week I traveled far off the beaten track in western Guatemala. The only news of the world that registered there was the path of hurricanes heading in our direction (the area is still recovering from Hurricane Stan two years ago) and the Peruvian earthquake (the areaâs history is full of earthquakes and volcano eruptions) . But the central question on my mind was a global issue: what can religious communities do about the stark poverty that is so obvious there?

Katherinemarshall

Celebrating Respect

Katherine Marshall

Awraham Soetendorp is a household name in the Netherlands so an English language symposium to celebrate his life and mark his formal retirement as rabbi of a Reform Jewish congregation in the Hague last month was quickly over-subscribed. Those lucky enough to attend were in for an eclectic treat: wise words, history, politics, provocative suggestions, music, and theology all woven together with good humor. It was a well timed reminder, at a time when Dutch politics are often tense and polarized and many Muslim immigrants meet intolerance, of...