An extraordinarily demanding agenda will face the leaders of the G20, the world’s richest and most powerful nations, when they meet in Hamburg, Germany in early July. The global response to the crisis of forced migration belongs right at the top of their agenda. And the G20 leaders should take some lessons from the example of world religious communities, both in their common concern for refugees and in their practical commitment to action that will move us beyond the current grievously inadequate global response to the crisis.
There’s a palpable sense of urgency as leaders of the world’s largest economies prepare to meet in Hamburg, Germany early next month for the G20.
Mental health is something of a frontier zone in public health in many world regions. I have heard people scoff at Western preoccupations with the topic as a luxury of indulged societies. But mental health is a universal challenge, accounting for an estimated six to seven percent of the global burden of disease. It causes untold suffering, with effects that ricochet across societies. Stigma and discrimination accentuate the problems, arising both from lack of understanding and the grip of ancient beliefs and taboos.
Every five minutes a child somewhere dies a violent death. Speaker after speaker cited this and other horrifying figures relentlessly during a three day event organized by the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC) in Panama City last week. The sobering realities of violence take many forms: child marriage, child soldiers, bullying, abuse, gang pressures, female genital cutting (FGM/C), sexual exploitation and trafficking, and on and on. Even listening to the litany is painful.
Katherine Marshall recently spoke with John Allen Jr. of Crux ahead of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom campaign, an annual push to raise awareness of and increase appreciation for religious liberty around the world. During the interview, they touched on the diversity of definitions and understandings of religious freedom that exist. Conversation then turned to the timely issue of proselytism, and particularly, ethical concerns about any conditionality in humanitarian situations. Katherine also spoke about perceptions of the religious dimensions of conflict with Boko Haram in Nigeria and highlighted the key roles that faith actors played during the Ebola crisis in West Africa.
A family member asked in some bewilderment why on earth I posted a photo on Facebook showing an officer of the Fairfax County Police Department looking intently at a figure holding a Hindu holy book. The answer? I was fascinated by an event where I was speaking earlier this week: the 11th Annual Inter-Agency Chaplains Conference at Fort McNair in Washington DC. It brought together a mix of military chaplains from each of the military branches as well as public safety chaplains (police, fire, EMS) and other civilian chaplains from around the National Capital Region and beyond. My photo showed an opening Hindu prayer.
John Key resigned last December as New Zealand’s well respected prime minister from 2008-16. He is now exploring new roles, outside of politics. Among his post politics activities, he serves as a patron of the many philanthropic activities of the estimable Dr. Haruhisa Handa. In that capacity Key spent three days in Cambodia in late April, visiting various projects in the cities of Phnom Penh and Battambang. We spoke there about his impressions and how he sees his new roles and priorities.