2013 is set to be an important year for both the Catholic Church, which elects a new pope, and Croatia, which will become the 28th member of the European Union (EU), writes Alex Sakalis for openDemocracy. These two entities share a long history, with the former wielding significant, yet often ignored, influence on political life in the latter.
One of the possibly unintended consequences of Benedict’s announcement that he is to step down as Pope - something unprecedented in the modern era - is that it might set in motion a dynamic that creates renewed opportunities for ecumenical dialogue by offering a new perspective on the role and place of the papacy, writes long time observer Dr Stephen Brown. He offers an assessment of both the plusses and minuses of the pontiff's period in office from the perspective of inter-Christian relations.
Life in the European Union is one of continuing political negotiation. No political realist is surprised that national leaders constantly seek to protect and advance the interests of their country, says social theologian Dr Graeme Smith. The European Union is the place of permanent dialogue between different interests, and more substantially different political cultures, interestingly mirroring some different Protestant and Catholic instincts. Meanwhile, ecumenical lessons can help us to see why it's negotiation all the way, in a positive sense.
Israeli politicians should forsake their land-grab policies and in the process help sow the seeds of hope and peace for two peoples who vie for legitimacy and rights over the same small parcel of land, says Dr Harry Hagopian, regional experts and Ekklesia associate. After all, it is axiomatic that citizenry rights are redundant unless they are vested with sovereignty, too.
In years of conflict Colombia has seen five million people displaced, 60,000 declared as “missing”, thousands killed, and a million hectares of land snatched away from the rightful owners. Dr Marcelo Schneider addresses the justice that is bound up with peace in a troubled land, and sets the scene for the work of the the Programme of Ecumenical Accompaniment in Colombia (PEAC), inspired by the WCC’s Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel.
Christianity and the Law have been in a more or less constant state of relational flux over the course of history, observes barrister Andrew Worthley, considering two of the recent European Court of Human Rights cases brought on grounds of religious discrimination. The idea that iron-clad secular law and immutable religion are on a collision course misunderstands both law and religion, as well as the nuances of history and of texts, he suggests.
Now the dust is settling a little on the Israeli election result, what are we to make of it? Regional expert and Ekklesia associate Dr Harry Hagopian provides a sober assessment, focussing especially on Yair Lapid, kingmaker and leader of Yesh Atid (There is a Future). Insofar as Israel-Palestine is concerned, Lapid should insist upon a more centrist view that would stop the unremitting colonisation of Palestinian lands and encourage saving the last gasp of the two-state solution, he suggests.
What sort of work can any academic department achieve when it is fenced into a little box with no room to manoeuvre of its own accord? Jonathan Tuckett, who is doing research in phenomenology at the University of Stirling, asks the question with regard to an appraisal of issues and dilemmas related to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and the culture of - often imprecise - measurement and categorisation increasingly imposed upon universities and colleges.
Today, there are serious fissures in our Christian faith, writes Dr Harry Hagopian. We seem to have lost the keen sense that we must be credible interpreters and loyal disciples of God's love to humankind. That, above all, is the nature of the prayer-in-action and action-in-prayer which animates the annual reminder of this continual calling: the global Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. What is required, perhaps, is a praxis not unlike that of the Early Church -- more basic, and therefore more grounded.
Christians and other small communities in the Middle East and North Africa face an uncertain and sometimes dangerous situation in which fear is understandable, acknowledges Dr Harry Hagopian. But there is still good reason to resist being overly gripped by insularity and despair, to question the agenda of hierarchs, and to try to respond positively to the grassroots change that will continue to sweep the region over the coming year and beyond.