Tuesday, April 10, 2018, marks the twentieth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, a key moment in the Northern Ireland peace process. This historic event was of global significance, made possible through the work of political and religious actors from Northern Ireland, Great Britain, the Republic of Ireland, and the United States. After decades of sectarian conflict, the agreement brought a peace to the region which remains to this day. However, the result of the United Kingdom’s 2016 referendum on its membership in the European Union has cast doubt over the continuation of this stability, and the force and longevity of the Good Friday Agreement. Though the United Kingdom as whole voted to leave the EU, nearly 56 percent of Northern Ireland residents voted to remain. While some argue that this stretch of peace in Northern Ireland proves the agreement is no longer necessary, some fear the possible return of a “hard border” on the island of Ireland will fracture the relationship between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. Others point to the continued self-imposed segregation between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland as indicative of an uneasy peace that could be upended without the Good Friday Agreement.
The recent Passover holiday, commemorating the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in ancient Egypt—a story that has been such an inspiration for countless struggles for freedom ever since—permeated my thoughts in late March, as I visited Rohingya refugee camps on the Bangladeshi-Myanmar border. Together with a delegation of Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, and Jewish leaders, we met in the camps with religious leaders of the community, with women who had suffered trauma, with fathers who had witnessed infant children killed, and children whose parents were slaughtered. They had arrived through their own exodus from oppression to safety.
Every three years heads of state and government from the Western Hemisphere gather to discuss common policy issues, “affirm shared values and commit to concerted actions at the national and regional level,” and address continuing and new challenges. The eighth such summit meets in Lima, Peru on April 13 and 14, focused on the topics of governance and corruption (hot issues across the hemisphere today). Georgetown University and the Berkley Center supported a meeting on the eve of the summit to explore the roles of religious actors in fighting corruption.
Reverend Robert Chase joined the Berkley Center on March 28 for a discussion about his book Beyond the Comma, which explores intersections, namely the intersection when personal realities meet global responsibilities. Rev. Chase, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, intended the book to serve as a reflection on his work for Intersections International, a multifaith organization in a Christian setting. The book’s title was inspired by a quote from Gracie Allen that had become a motto of the United Church of Christ: “Never place a period where God intended a comma.”
Saba Mahmood, professor of sociocultural anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, passed away on March 10. Dr. Mahmood’s research examined the relationship between religion, secularism, and gender in postcolonial societies. In particular, she questioned traditional liberal assumptions about the limits of ethics and politics, freedom and agency, and the dynamics between the religious and the secular. Her work often analyzed the role of gender in these discussions and the significance of religious freedom for religious minorities.
Ensconced in darkness, a figure dressed in black darted along the corridors of Saint Petersburg State University’s Faculty of International Relations. Carefully avoiding the security cameras and wearing a cap to conceal her identity, Yulia dashed around the hallways, affixing posters to announcement boards. It was March 6, 2018.
Germany is known around the world for its extravagant Christmas markets, but few know that Easter takes a close second when it comes to celebrating Christian holidays. In Bavaria, Germany’s most Catholic state, the Easter celebration spans nearly a full week. Residents of Bavaria enjoy a long weekend starting with Maundy Thursday and ending with Easter Monday. To many, though, Easter means more than just a few extra days off work.
In the 1960s, Marty served as a pastor in Lawndale, near Martin Luther King’s residence at the time. Following the events of Bloody Sunday on March 7, 1965, King and his supporters put out a call to the community to join them for a second march. That march came to be known as Turnaround Tuesday.
Earlier last semester I visited the seat of Northern Ireland’s power: the Stormont Estate. Rather than entering a place full of busy activity, as one would expect in the legislature, I encountered an eerie silence that hung over the entire compound. Hallways were empty and offices were deserted. Visitors could explore Stormont as they wished, including its surrounding woodlands and park. Despite the beauty, there was something very disconcerting about a region’s main government buildings being abandoned. It was only later that I realized Northern Ireland has not had a functioning government since early 2017, when inter-party bickering led to the collapse of the executive and subsequent dissolution of the legislature. Despite holding elections, the new legislature has been unable to form a new executive, and Stormont continues to languish.
Pope Francis has inspired both admiration and concern among Catholics and Protestants in the United States, with many religious scholars and observers struggling to predict the ultimate direction and scope of his reformist ideas.