“To be a free people in our land,” the crowd sings HaTikvah (the Israeli anthem) and waves flags in the air. I’m in Independence Park in Jerusalem, attending one of the many festivities to mark 70 years of Israeli independence. I’m joined by both secular and religious Israelis, young and old, families and friends. Some are wrapped in Israeli flags; even more are wearing blue and white. I also notice who isn’t there: Arab-Israelis and Palestinians.
The rivers of Havana run swift with the spirit of Oshun. The crashing waves of the Caribbean Sea declare the power of Yemaya. The quiet calm of white clouds rain peace upon the children of Obatala. The lightning bolts in every thunderstorm beckon the energy of Shango. The crossroads rely on the guidance of Papa Elegua. The spirit of the orishas are around us.
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.
I was once assigned a reading at Georgetown that included a few passages in French without translation. I remember laughing with my roommate about the absurdity of expecting everyone to understand the reading. My roommate gave me loose translations since she studies French. On the other hand, the students in several of my classes at the University of Costa Rica have been assigned readings entirely in English when the professors can’t find Spanish translations. The double standard is immediately apparent: students in American universities would rebel at the idea of professors assigning entire readings in another language, but here it’s taken as a regular occurrence; the students complain a bit more and are less involved in the discussion, but certainly do the readings. Since the vast majority of my homework here is in Spanish (my second language), I am grateful for anything written in English to balance it out. However, the important difference between myself and the Costa Rican students is that I chose to leave the United States and come to another country to take classes in a different language, while the Costa Rican students chose to study in their home country.
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.
“So what is like last week?” I asked my cab driver, returning to Belfast after a week of travel. “It must have been crazy with the big anniversary and all.”
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.