The social and economic crises President Assad referred to in his recent speech mask the real political crisis, says Harry Hagopian. This concerns the governance of the country, the relationship between the different members of the ruling dynasty, and the fact that the major impediment to a normalisation of the situation is the mounting anger against the two-million strong security services and police force who have been running amok and applying myriad forms of retributive action against largely unarmed demonstrators.
Pursuing the topic of the role of the university in an age of economic constraint and multiple other social and political pressures, Dr Andrew Hass from the University of Stirling proposes a fourfold way of rethinking universities and their purpose beyond the restrictive, and ultimately self-defeating, parameters set by the economic and business paradigms.
Israeli political leaders should heed opinions articulated by Jewish-American actor Leonard Nimoy and others, appreciating that a just solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is as much in their interest as it is in that of Palestinians, says Harry Hagopian. Otherwise, if a Palestinian gamble for virtual statehood is met by the usual Israeli intransigence, the outcome could become more deleterious for both peoples let alone more volatile for the Arab Spring.
Yemen has been much in the news of late – and the situation there is often portrayed rather negatively. Ekklesia’s Simon Barrow interviewed Progressio’s enterprising on-the-ground representative in Yemen, Abeer Al-Absi, to find out how she sees the situation, and to discover how the strands of hope can be threaded together. The discussion includes the role of women and the HIV-AIDS challenge.
Goshen College, a prominent Mennonite liberal arts institution, has reversed its decision to play the militaristic and nationalistic US national anthem at sports events. Andy Alexis-Baker welcomes the move, after a long process of lobbying which he and others led. Never before have so many Christians - and not just Mennonites or other Anabaptists - stated so clearly that these anthems and rituals have no place in Christian formation, he observes.
If the modern secular state has depended for its conceptualisation on the related concept of 'religion' as a private right of faith in unseen mystical powers separated from the state, then so have those modern discourses which construct “political and socio-economic forces”, and are thereby in danger of reifying them, says Timothy Fitzgerald. He assesses some key arguments in Scott M. Thomas's widely praised book The Global Resurgence of Religion and the Transformation of International Relations: The Struggle for the Soul of the Twenty-First Century.
The breadth and quality of education universities once offered is now being seriously eroded by underfunding, says Dr Andrew W. Hass from the University of Stirling. But funding is not where the deeper crisis lies, he suggests. Cutbacks are just the symptom of a greater underlying problem. The real problem is an identity crisis. What is 'the university' for?
If the motion for recognition of the Armenian Genocide was successful this year in the Israeli Knesset, despite his misgivings, Harry Hagopian - alongside scores of other Armenian and non-Armenian scholars, activists, sympathisers and grassroots - will rejoice at this moral and equitable achievement.
The Church of Scotland General Assembly agreed, under threat, to withdraw a resolution calling for a UK ban on goods from Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Paraic Reamonn says that the ethnically-defined nature of the current Israeli state, its treatment of Palestinians and what its policies are doing to the identity of Jewish people should be a matter of priority concern to Christians and others of goodwill.
The International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Jamaica symbolises the emergence of a remarkable consensus among Christian churches on issues of war, peace and justice, says Stephen Brown. Yet the task facing the ecumenical movement in the 21st century is now to work for a consensus on justice and peace that transcends cultural and religious boundaries.
In recognising the human endurance, perseverance, vision, humility, lack of bitterness and political ability that characterised Nelson Mandela, analyst and Ekklesia associate Dr Harry Hagopian looks at the response of Palestinians and others from the Middle East and North Africa region to his passing. There are uncomfortable truths to be faced in all this, he suggests.
History was made at the UN climate talks last week – not by the achievement of a breakthrough in negotiations, unfortunately, but by the unprecedented walk-out by 800 civil society groups and trade unions, says Caroline Lucas MP, assessing what has happened and what needs to happen next.