It was a puzzle: intellectual discussions about theological matters rarely engaged issues centered on women, while feminist discussions skirted spiritual dimensions of women's lives. Serene Jones, President of Union Theological Seminary, found faith and feminism intertwined in her own life but sharply segregated in her professional encounters. An "aha" moment came during an encounter with Egyptian women activists (who on the surface were not especially religious). Rocky communications were explained in good measure by the fact that for the Egyptians the whole area of religion affected everything they did, while for their North American counterparts, religioius dimensions were completely absent from the conversation. Meaningful communication was impossible without appreciating how far religion and women's daily lives and thus faith and feminism were linked.
A group of Senegalese religious leaders, accompanied by a representative of the Senegalese Ministry of Health and Social Action, visited Morocco from November 16-21, 2014. The visit’s purpose was to exchange information about family health and family planning programs, and especially the involvement of religious leaders in designing, communicating about, and executing these programs. The members of the Senegalese delegation are part of a Working Group which is committed to active engagement in support of the national family planning program within the leading religious communities.
Un groupe de leaders religieux sénégalais, accompagné par un représentant du Ministère de la Santé et de l’Action Sociale au Sénégal, a visité le Maroc du 16 au 21 novembre, 2014. L’objectif de la visite était un échange d’information sur la santé de la famille et les programmes de planification familiale, et surtout l’engagement des leaders religieux dans l’élaboration et la réalisation de ces programmes. Les membres de la délégation sénégalaise font partie d’un Groupe de travail qui est engagé à soutenir le programme national de planification familiale au sein des communautés religieuses.
Faith leaders or religious institutions are often held to high standards of morals and ethics with the assumption that they operate from religious principles. Unfortunately, people often fall short of assumptions and expectations or communities shy from asking these actors to be transparent for accountability’s sake. In an environment where corruption is rampant (Transparency International (2014) scores Kenya at 25/100, ranking 145 out of 175 countries), religious leaders face similar social pressure found in other sectors of society.
November 19 is World Toilet Day: a day established last year by no less than the United Nations General Assembly. It is marked because there are few topics that are as tightly linked to human welfare and human dignity as sanitation. Poor sanitation spreads disease. Women creep out at night out of modesty and risk assault and death. The filth of flying toilets (people deposit waste in plastic bags and let fly) is a reminder of a grim face of poverty.
Ancient and modern, traditional and forward-looking, stark and ornate, spiritual and practical: Contrasting adjectives aptly describe the brand-new Ismaili Centre in Toronto. Adjacent to the Centre, its white Brazilian granite façade reflected in pools of water, is a state-of-the-art museum. Both structures highlight the diversity and depth of Islamic history and culture and offer a place that serves both the global, diverse Ismaili Muslim community and the Toronto community at large. As the Aga Khan put it during the opening ceremonies, traditional elements of Muslim architecture are given a confident, forward-looking vocabulary. Perhaps its most striking feature is light, "symbolising the spirit of enlightenment that will always be at the heart of the Centre's life." It offers an important, inspiring, and all too rare vision of Islam.
Networks of religious and faith-inspired actors are a resource that could magnify the impact of urgent responses and recovery plans in West Africa.
Standing on the shore of Bangladesh’s scenic Kaptai Lake on a wind swept afternoon, we made quite the odd couple, a lanky westerner and a Buddhist monk, both more than a little out of place in this homogenous nation of 150 million, of which roughly 90 percent are Muslim and 98 percent Bengali. We are in Rangamati in a region known as the Chittagong Hill Tracts, which forms a narrow band running along the country’s border with Myanmar. This area of low hills and sprawling forests is not only a sharp geographic contrast from the pancake flat Ganges delta; it is a cultural one as well. My companion is a member of the Chakma community, the largest of the region’s thirteen indigenous groups. This culturally, linguistically, and ethnically distinct population has long contested their inclusion in the nation of Bangladesh and fought a bloody decades-long insurgency aimed at independence.
The crisis in Iraq begs a host of questions. What does religion have to do with the conflict? Is ISIS some abhorrent and aberrant form of religion or something else? Is it a Frankenstein monster, created and imported from outside Iraq or something with roots in the country and its history? What explains the stunning violence unfolding there: religion, politics or something else? How is this spilling over and transforming the Middle East? And what do religious beliefs, institutions and leaders offer as a way forward?
Nigeria is one of the world's most religiously active and diverse countries. It was long regarded as an admirable example of a dynamic society where different faiths lived in harmony, intermarriage was common, and a robust and open marketplace of religious beliefs and institutions represented religious freedom. Today, however, one of the most extreme of the extremist movements, known as Boko Haram, threatens basic security across large areas of the north. The kidnapping of almost 300 Christian girls in April 2014 from Chibok in Borno State by Boko Haram brought world attention to a conflict that seems to divide the country sharply along religious lines: Muslim vs. Christian.