When governments are displaced they can persist within contemporary states as ‘religions’ that maintain their patriarchal origins and character, says Professor Naomi Goldenberg. Since women’s challenges to male domination have only met with some success in recent times within fairly contemporary forms of statecraft, if earlier states known as ‘religions’ are allowed too much authority over domains such as ‘the family’ or ‘the home,’ women will be the losers, she argues.
“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.
The managing editor of Foreign Affairs magazine recently went to Damascus, where he interviewed President Bashar al-Assad. Ekklesia associate and regional expert Dr Harry Hagopian assesses where the president stands in the tragic and bloody mess that exists in Syria at the moment, where ordinary people are caught between competing barbarisms.
Action of the World Council of Churches more than four decades ago raised the profile of environmental issues, and in the process helping to galvanise the ecological movement in communist East Germany, says Ekklesia associate Dr Stephen Brown. This became the soil for the independent ecology groups in the 1980s as one of the forms of dissent that culminated in East Germany’s 1989 peaceful revolution.