“Egypt isn't a country we live in, but a country that lives within us” is a renowned saying from the late Pope Shenouda III. Following his death and questions about succession to his role, says Dr Harry Hagopian, the question now is whether Egypt will continue living within the Copts, and more pertinently how. This involves complex political, cultural, social and religious issues.
What seems to have crystallised as the key to Archbishop Rowan Williams’ recent (somewhat early) resignation from his job, and as head of the global Anglican Communion, is the issue of sexuality. But, Alison Jasper suggests, this is part of a wider matrix of power and position connected to the deployment of the discursive category ‘religion’ and to the secular state acquiring a normative status.
The region Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region - Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Morocco, Yemen and many others - is a tinderbox ready to be set ablaze, says Dr Harry Hagopian. So can the collective wisdom of the international community overcome its short-term stratagems and leap forward with political determination? Or will the haunting predictions of a well-placed Syrian activist from Homs who wryly suggested that we are in for a decade of sporadic and prolonged civil wars indeed come true? The stakes are high in Syria and beyond.
It is almost a truism to note that if the mainstream media is our only source of news regarding anything to do with religion (however that might be conceived) in the Middle East, or even the Middle East in general, we are in deep trouble, says Dr Michael Marten. Here he analyses some of the major misunderstandings, urging the BBC and others to 'up their game' and to have the courage to address difficult and contentious issues appropriately.
'Church leaders' are easily (if not inevitably) mired in politics, expectation and institutional intrigued. Those that shine through do so because of the pre-eminent qualities of love, commitment and example. This is one of the personal lesson Dr Harry Hagopian draws from the life of Pope Shenouda III, the highly respected Coptic Orthodox leader, who died recently.
The next Archbishop will be chosen by the great and the good, sprinkled with some local diocesan worthies, observes Graeme Smith. They will weigh up the diverse and competing needs of the Church of England, the Anglican Communion, the British State, and the diocese of Canterbury. They will receive submissions, take soundings and consult widely before reaching their considered opinion. But is not a less oligarchical and hierarchical way forward possible?
Tammy Semede, part of the Occupy movement, who met regularly with representatives from St Paul's prior to the recent eviction in London, reflects on the way the cathedral behaved and illustrates the disillusionment that this has caused among a good number of people who had hoped for properly Christian behaviour from a Christian institution.
While the direction of ‘impact statements’ is all about what the public is getting for its money, it says nothing about the bigger issues of impact that offend or contest common sense and sensibility and in which universities have always, in the past, taken a leading role. Dr Alison Jasper argues this point with regard to two icons of feminist religious and philosophical scholarship, Simone de Beauvoir and Mary Daly.
"Take me to your leader," are the first words of any colonising power. No wonder Occupy is so frustrating to those who would negotiate it into some sort of containable or controllable shape, says Giles Fraser, writing before the eviction of the anti-corporate greed and economic injustice encampment from outside St Paul's cathedral on 28 February 2012. The protesters removed from the steps of St Paul's could have helped the cathedral find a compelling new narrative, he has said.
Richard Dawkins' oft-publicised arguments about beliefs rest on classificatory dividing lines between ‘religion’ and ‘science’, ‘faith’ and ‘secular’ reason. In his passionate rebuttal, Dr Timothy Fitzgerald suggests that, contrary to popular perception, the armies of generalities so deployed have little meaningful content, but instead serve to legitimate rhetorical positions behind which lie the framework of liberal capitalist ideology derived from colonialism.
The Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land and the Justice and Peace Committee issued a statement about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. It is a highly significant document in the light of recent media attention to these issues, and repeated statements from Baroness Warsi and others. There are serious issues at stake here, but it is important that they are understood properly and in context so that the appropriate solidarity for all oppressed groups can be expressed.
The barbarity of the response to protest by the Syrian regime - bullets, shabihas and tanks that soon graduated to chemical weapons and TNT barrels - also weaponised an equally radical bunch of people who carry with them the cloak of religiosity although they do not care a jot about the future governance of Syria, says regional analyst Dr Harry Hagopian. So where do we go from here?