I am among the countless women moved by the recent news deluge about flagrant predators to resurrect memories, sometimes long buried and sometimes fresh and unvarnished. For me the central question it provokes is how (not whether) we can, collectively, do better to bring about change.
Over 500,000 Rohingya Muslims have crossed the border into Bangladesh since violence erupted in Myanmar's Rakhine state in August 2017. Thousands more are arriving every day by boat and over land. Rohingya refugees and international observers claim that the Myanmar government is pursuing a brutal and unwarranted crackdown against innocent civilians in Rakhine, using counterinsurgency as a false justification for its actions. Unfortunately, this situation is precedented—the Rohingya have long suffered persecution at the hands of the Myanmar state, which denies them citizenship on account of their religion and ethnicity. They have limited access to employment, education, healthcare, and basic human rights.
For Jewish students on Georgetown’s campus, there is an elephant in the room.
The past few weeks at Georgetown, multiple swastikas have appeared on dorm room buildings, in elevators, and around campus. Even from thousands of miles away in Prague, as a Jewish Georgetown student, I’ve still viscerally felt the frustration, outrage, and heartbreak over the anti-Semitic vandalism on Georgetown’s campus.
If there is one thing that I’ve learned about traveling, it’s that no country will ever align with your expectations. Sometimes it will exceed them, seldom will it fall short of them, but most often the reality of a new culture will divert entirely from the image in your mind, like a fork in the road, or a massive U-turn sign.
Startled, I take too long to remember the translation—passport. I scramble to grab my ID for the airport employee shouting the vague directions. I become increasingly nervous when I realize the group of women in front of me are balancing a number of documents in their hands. The employee stops at their group, scans the papers, and directs them to another line. I hear a man in the adjacent queue being told he does not have the right documents to enter the country. As the employee approaches me, my anxiety peaks. Do I have the right papers? Was I supposed to bring anything specific to prove I’m a student? Will I be refused entry?
The Mapuche people are Chile’s most prominent indigenous group. The Mapuche are famous as the only group to successfully fight and halt the invasion of the Spaniards into their territory in the 1800s. “Mapuche” directly translates to "people of the earth," “mapu” meaning earth and “che” meaning people. The Mapuche person has utmost respect for the earth, nature, and for his or her community. Unfortunately, colonizers and the Chilean state have targeted these people for decades, seeking to use Mapuche land for capitalist ventures. Logging industries and the Chilean state have appropriated millions of acres of Mapuche land, leading to the deterioration of Mapuche culture, language, and livelihood.
President Paul Kagame was inaugurated into his third term as Rwandan president on August 18, 2017, just three days before I landed in Kigali. As an American raised in Hong Kong, my initial reaction upon learning that the president was elected with 98.63 percent of the vote was to suspect corruption. Furthermore, neither of the two opposition candidates amassed even a single percentage point of the vote. This suspicion of corruption was compounded by the U.S. State Department’s statement condemning the “irregularities observed during voting,” and knowledge that the Rwandan constitution was amended in 2015 to allow President Kagame to stay in power until 2034. Coincidentally, 98 percent of voters had also agreed with this constitutional revision.
“Machismo.” The word rings loud in my ears as I walk down the street each day, receiving numerous catcalls. I hear catcalls of “rubia. hermosa,” which means "beautiful blonde girl" in English. These catcalls are the soundtrack to my daily commute. Seemingly inconsequential words that shouldn’t roll off my back so easily but, after almost two months, are the unfortunate background noise that I’ve adopted here in Buenos Aires. In fact, it seems as though every man in this city has been instructed to shout at women. This includes truck drivers, construction workers, shop owners, and taxi drivers—the list goes on. Yet, interestingly enough, I have yet to see a woman reach out to a man in this way. Why are women singled out in such an obvious and consistent way? In Argentina, the concept of machismo, that men are aggressively dominant over women, is an active part of the culture that has defined gender stereotypes for centuries. Although catcalling occurs occasionally in D.C., its frequency and fortitude is much lower than in a country where this type of machismo prevails.
This summer, the Religious Freedom Research Project funded five doctoral students exploring the sources, development, and consequences of religious freedom. Through original research, they made new observations about the relationship between religious liberty and other fundamental freedoms; its importance for democracy; and/or its role in social and economic development, international diplomacy, and countering violent religious extremism. The Berkley Forum features their reports.
I absolutely hated my first day in Spain. The excitement of traveling to Europe wore off about two hours into my red eye. I realized that I didn’t feel well and I couldn’t sleep at all. I arrived to a dreary morning in Madrid. I carried ridiculously large suitcases and backpacks; the days before I left were hectic, so I was in no way prepared or packed properly. After a series of “Ls” that day, including getting stuck in pouring rain and hail as the drought in Madrid ended momentarily, I desperately needed a nap. However, I arrived at my residence only to realize that I did not have any sheets. At this moment, I was a mess and I felt unsettled. I felt as if I had no idea how I was going to live here for four months, which is not my usual attitude at all.