This week, the Church of Scotland has been discussing a specially commissioned report on Same Sex Relationships and the Ministry at its General Assembly in Edinburgh. Alison Jasper from the University of Stirling unpacks the issues, as part of the Critical Religion series.
There are plenty of grounds for a paradoxical 'pessoptimism' about developments in the Middle East and North Africa, writes Harry Hagopian. The huge Arab struggles for dignity and freedom are vital but will take a long time. History in Europe and the USA should surely teach us that revolutions are never made in one swoop, but take time and cause pain.
Whatever happens in Libya in the coming weeks, the dichotomy in western policy between armed intervention in one situation and lack of an adequate response elsewhere will continue, casting a shadow over humanitarian claims and undermining other proclaimed purposes, says Professor Paul Rogers. The damage and the lost opportunities produced will be measured for years to come. The west's military-political strategy prolongs the war in Libya and gives space to authoritarian regimes elsewhere in the region.
In his speeches at the demonstrations of the citizens’ protest movement in the Kurdish Region of northeastern Iraq, Mullah Kamaran has called for a revolution without violence—a jihad. He has urged the armed militias to put down their guns. He appealed to the demonstrators to see the soldiers as their brothers and not throw rocks or hurt them, and has twice been arrested for his stand. Peggy Gish of Christian Peacemaker Teams reports.
There are serious questions to be asked about the unity pact between the two Palestinian factions of Fatah and Hamas, says Harry Hagopian. But meanwhile the Israeli prime minister remains dwarfed by the real significance of the Arab Spring, and a huge block to progress towards a just peace for all. He is still a tactician at best, with precious little strategic foresight.
The Salafi-jihadist movement is losing its recruitment pool in the Arab world, says Murad Batal al-Shishani, an Islamic groups and terrorism issues analyst. Al-Qaida and others' latest strategies look elsewhere, and the death of Osama Bin Laden will not affect these plans.
No matter which way the winds blow in the weeks ahead, it is clear that the majority of Syrians desperately seek reform but they also fear sectarianism and foreign intervention, says Harry Hagopian. Much will depend upon how parties both inside and outside the country, including the power-brokers, choose to respond. An approach which feeds hope at the base rather than replicating top-down diplomacy is needed.
Osama Bin Laden may be dead, but if Americans and Europeans now think that they can begin to relax over the prospect of ‘international terror’, they are very mistaken, says Michael Marten. US policy in particular is catastrophically misaligned in the Middle East, Africa and South East Asia. The 'clash of civilisations' thesis is also gravely misleading, and religion (not least Islam) is not implicated in all this in the way simplistic analyses presume.
Civilian protection requires simple, straightforward dialogue and negotiation with the people who can control whether other people are safe or not. It also works, say Tim Wallis of Nonviolent Peaceforce. As soon as we bring guns, tanks and air support into the picture, we are talking about something which more often than not does not work, and often makes things worse.
The Catholic Bishop of Brentwood, in his address for the Mass for Migrants on 2 May 2011 highlights the Christian contribution to campaigns for migration justice and a Living Wage, urging all people of good will to stand in solidarity with them.
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.