On Wednesday, April 25, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Trump v. Hawaii case, in which the State of Hawaii is leading a challenge to an executive order preventing most people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, as well as certain visitors from North Korea and Venezuela from entering the United States. The Trump administration has argued that there are legitimate national security grounds for these restrictions, while critics argue that such widespread restrictions are religiously discriminatory (an assumption based largely on Trump’s own campaign calls for a Muslim ban). Yet, while several amicus briefs in opposition have been filed by religious groups from the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian traditions (both Catholic and Protestant), other religiously affiliated groups have filed with no position on the order.
Though the conflict in Syria has raged for over seven years, the recent alleged use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime—and the joint U.S.-French-British military response that followed—has renewed debate about what course of action should be taken to end the bloodshed. Prior to the strike conducted on April 13, Catholic scholars, priests, and Church leaders were divided as to whether the intervention by the United States and its allies was allowable under the Church’s just war tradition. Already in 2013 some argued that the use of chemical weapons represented a paradigm shift that justified intervention, while others claimed this made little difference; attacks on civilians were equally abhorrent irrespective of the weapon used, and therefore a position on intervening should already have been taken. By contrast, a recent statement released by the patriarchates of Antioch and the East for the Greek Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, and Greek-Melkite Catholic Churches said the current intervention will only make matters worse: Not only did the strikes violate international law, but they would also encourage terrorist groups to continue attacks. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s approval of the strike was met with criticism by Muslims, as Erdogan was questioned how, as a Muslim, he could support a Western nation bombing a fellow Muslim country. The lack of consensus from religious leaders provides mixed messages as to the moral and ethical implications of any decision made regarding Syria.
Understanding constructions of racial identities beyond the U.S. context is always a humbling reminder of the literal black and white lens in which I view the world as an American. The racial binary that operates within the United States is rare. Due to Western imperialism in academia, I have found that we are beginning to impose our racial discourse in contexts that have different—not necessarily better or worse—dynamics. For example, black Jordanians do not have a sense of peoplehood in the way that the black community has in the United States. There is no law in Jordan that explicitly addresses racial discrimination. While some explain that the lack of laws addressing racial discrimination is because Jordan a color-blind society, others find that this stifles conversation.
Although founded in the late eighteenth century as the headquarters for czarist Russia’s Chinese Eastern Railroad, and later serving as a refuge for White Russians fleeing the Bolsheviks, Harbin has over time become a deeply Chinese city. Since it is a unique place with religious influence from both East and West, a while ago I asked my program director about the city’s complex religious character. She arranged for me to chat with an instructor at the university with a relevant background.
"The imagined community of millions seems more real as a team of eleven named people…and the individual [a] symbol of his nation himself."
As flowers bloom, trees spring to life, and bright sun warms the air, Munich finally feels like the city I remember when I last visited three summers ago. People actually make plans that involve the outdoors, and I can’t help but notice that everyone’s attitude is a bit more cheery than a few months earlier.
Saint Petersburg, normally the city of czars, has found itself draped in a distinctive red color. May 9 is Victory Day in Russia, one of the most important national holidays. Victory Day celebrates the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in 1945, and the end of what here is known as the Great Patriotic War. The Soviet Union (USSR) suffered over 22 million casualties in total. Saint Petersburg, known at that time as Leningrad, has a particularly poignant tale of horrors: The Siege of Leningrad, which lasted from September 8, 1941 to January 27, 1945, for a total of 872 days. Encircled by hostile Nazi and Finnish armies, the city was cut off from all food supply and plunged into a deadly winter; around 650,000 Leningraders perished in 1942 alone. Most who survived this period refused to speak of it, preferring to bury their grief with their loved ones.
During spring break, I took a trip to Jerusalem. It was as bittersweet of an experience as I could have anticipated. It is a place where you can spend a week and feel like you’ve lived a lifetime. Every corner has a piece of religious history. The Holy Sepulchre, Western Wall, and Dome of the Rock are all within walking distance of one another, and seeing worshippers of different faiths within blocks of one another was incredible. It was amazing to see three religious traditions in such close proximity. But I found it impossible to separate from the experience of seeing dozens of soldiers at every corner, being profiled and having to go through extra security measures, and seeing the illegal wall in Bethlehem. These were experiences I anticipated to be difficult in theory, but of course, seeing them in person had a level of magnitude I couldn’t have expected.
“...Due to an irregular occupation of the Victoire site by a group of individuals since the 15th of March 2018, the University of Bordeaux is no longer able to ensure the sufficient security of property and persons (especially the personnel and the students) in the building in question.”
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.