Feb 21 2017
February 21, 2017
After three months of negotiations, Vatican-mediated peace talks between the two factions battling for political control of Venezuela have ceased. From October to December, the Vatican-brokered peace talks between the opposing parties, but at the end of January, the opposition coalition rejected further mediation and instead planned to begin direct negotiations. This intervention was one in a long history of Vatican involvement in world affairs, especially in Latin America. Most recently, Pope Francis assisted in the reopening of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.
Feb 21 2017
February 21, 2017
On January 27, President Donald Trump issued an executive order barring immigration of nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and refugees from Syria permanently. National and international protests have erupted in objection to what critics are calling a “Muslim ban,” and foreign governments, including affected nations Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and Yemen as well as U.S. allies Great Britain, France, Germany, Turkey, Australia, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia have spoken out against the order. Despite a number of legal challenges to the order, the White House has defended its actions as a matter of national security and has received support from European political leaders such as Nigel Farage and Geert Wilders.
Feb 16 2017
Alicia Kiley February 16, 2017
Today my host babbo, an Italian word for father, and I went to San Miniato al Monte, just on the other side of the Arno from where we live. The church is famous for its sweeping views over the city and because, under Michelangelo’s suggestion, it was used as a fortress during the siege of Florence in 1530. From the church, which sits high on one of Florence's surrounding hills, you can see the city fan out, radiating from the Duomo at the center. Since I had only known my host father for two days, I was too embarrassed to embrace my inner American tourist and take as many pictures as possible, and I left with no pictures from the experience; however, you can see the view here.
Feb 15 2017
Tevin Simard February 15, 2017
Shortly after arriving in Brazil, one of the first questions Brazilians asked me was “What is your sign?” I made a crumpled face, because although I recognized the words they said, I did not know what they meant. I eliminated the possibility of it relating to my zodiac sign; why would someone that I just met ask me that? Yet, that is exactly what the question was referring to. Initially I thought that it was a joke. However, as it continued to happen repeatedly, I realized that Brazilians love talking about this topic.
Feb 14 2017
Briseida Valencia Soto February 14, 2017
Love, or more specifically, relationships are embedded within Mexican culture. Being of Mexican descent and traveling to Mexico often I was aware of this before I arrived in Mexico City. I knew that not being in a relationship in Mexico labels you as “strange” and “incapable of being loved,” while in America “being single” represents liberty and independence. Moreover I knew that to understand Mexican culture it is necessary to understand the weight we put on love. This concept springs from the old-fashioned and slightly conservative idea of romance that still prevails in Mexico—comparatively the U.S. believes in a more progressive idea of love, self-love, and sexual independence. This is not to say that relationships aren’t important in American culture, but, from my experience, one’s education and career seem to weigh more than love in American culture, as contrasted to Mexican culture.
Feb 10 2017
Madeline Budman February 10, 2017
This semester, I am living and studying in Jerusalem, a city whose religiosity needs no explanation. Jerusalem is among the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities; it was founded by biblical Israelites in roughly 2,800 BCE. The holy city holds special importance for all three Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—and there is no doubt that the city’s culture and history are among the richest in the world. However, before I moved into my apartment at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, I spent several days in another unexpected “holy” city in Israel: Tel Aviv.
Feb 9 2017
Dan Zager February 9, 2017
When I arrived in Cuba, the first aspect of the country that struck me was its patriotism. Images of Fidel Castro, Ché Guevara, and other revolutionary heroes watch over many parts of the city of Havana. Billboards on the highway and on businesses read “Viva Fidel,” “Todos somos Fidel” (We are all Fidel) and variations of “Celebrando 58 años de la Revolución” (celebrating 58 years of the Revolution). In downtown Havana, streets are named after various heroes, and statues are arranged all over the city. La Plaza de la Revolución has building-sized portraits of Castro and Guevara. A statue memorializing Calixto García, a leader of the Cuban War of Independence (what people in the United States call the Spanish-American War), has etched on the side a quote that stuck with me: “Morir por la patria es vivir” (To die for the homeland is to live).
Feb 8 2017
Katherine Marshall February 8, 2017
“There are more people in slavery today than at any time in human history.” Thus reads a declaration signed in Istanbul on February 7 by two of the world’s foremost religious leaders: Bartholomew, Archbishop of New-Rome and Patriarch of Constantinople, and Justin, Archbishop of Canterbury. They committed themselves, within the communities of both the Orthodox and Anglican churches and beyond, to educate, raise awareness, and take action to work and pray to end this “scourge against humanity.” They established a joint task force to make concrete recommendations because action was a central theme of the day.
Feb 6 2017
Samuel Boyne February 6, 2017
When one searches “Japanese religion” in a search engine, the resulting images reveal the perceptions of what religion in Japan means. These images that reveal iconic red Shinto gates, or torii, weathered Buddha statues, and ceremonial processions at picturesque temples and shrines, are instantly recognizable as fundamental embodiments of Japanese religion. However, religion, which is defined as a certain fundamental set of beliefs and customs generally agreed upon by a group, goes far beyond archetypal structures or rituals. How do Japanese people practice or not engage in religion, and how does religion influence Japanese society compared to the Western world? The concept of religion was not an established idea in Japan until the nineteenth century, when the opening of Japan to the Western world during the Meiji period necessitated a counterbalance to the influx of Western religious concepts. As such, the practice of religion in Japan takes form in a rather different way than what is common in many other countries.
Feb 3 2017
Beatriz Perret Gentil February 3, 2017
I recently celebrated Chinese New Year in Hong Kong! Also known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, this festivity is the biggest in China and neighboring countries. It starts on the first new moon after January 21 and lasts 15 days, culminating with the Lantern Festival.