The recent disturbances in England show that fundamental issues concerning the legitimation of government, social justice, and societal stability need to be addressed ever more urgently, says Professor Richard Roberts. He argues that scholars of religion should not simply remain reluctant but paid tools of an industrialised system of defective socialisation that initiates students into informed passivity, but rather the source of a truly critical discourse that broadens the imagination and enhances personal agency.
What started in Tunisia simply cannot stop now in Libya, says Harry Hagopian. It should not only grow but also improve incrementally so that we all stop talking romantically about a one-season 'Arab Spring' and think more pragmatically in terms of an Arab Awakening from a long slumber - a stubborn challenge against those rulers and elites who would prefer their co-citizens to remain dormant.
The visit to Britain of Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, from the Cordoba Initiative in New York, resonates not just with our reflections on the impending tenth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, but with the continuing quest for interreligious understanding in a conflictual world, says Professor Hugh Goddard.
If we can take anything positive from the days of destruction and division in England recently, says Chris Bain, perhaps it should be a dedication to tackle fear and exclusion wherever it exists around the world, and to stand by the women and children in the poorest countries who currently stand afraid on their own.
Today Syria is a lesson about how motivated citizens can challenge governments that act violently and seem invincible, says Harry Hagopian. But we also need to be wary towards religious radicalism or fanaticism on the one hand, and military arrogance or political kleptocracy on the other, infiltrating movements for change and co-opting them in order to impose new forms of dictatorships, totalitarian control, subjugation and discrimination.
When it comes to evil, says Alison Jasper, we have a tendency to mystify it - that is reproduce unchallenging representations of it, from the monster in the movie with unclean appetites for human flesh and blood, right through to the 'monstrous perverts' of the tabloid press. Much more careful analysis and understanding is required to discover what lies behind the routine (but often imprecise) label 'evil'.
Noting that much of the critical energy and revolt arising from the six-month old 'Arab Spring' has been directed internally rather than externally, respected scholar Elizabeth Kassab, who has a particular focus on post-colonial debates on cultural malaise, looks behind the headlines and media glare to examine features of the newly emerging landscape in the Arab world. Recovering a balanced, healthy and empowering sense of self has not been and will not be an easy task, she suggests.
Dr Jorge Ramirez Reyna, president of Asociación Negra de Defensa y Promoción de Derechos Humanos (Black Association for Human Rights Defence and Promotion, ASONEDH) in Peru, reflects on the issue of racism in his country and the role of the conference on the Violence of Racism in Latin America, backed by the churches regionally and internationally, which took place in June 2011 in Managua, Nicaragua.
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.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is changing but, such change will take long years and further sacrifices, says regional expert and Ekklesia associate Dr Harry Hagopian, surveying what seems like an endless tragedy at times. However, the length of such wars also depends on the involvement of outside powers – whether regional or global – as well as people on the ground in particular settings.
On 3rd July 2015, a group of leading Catholics wrote to Iain Duncan Smith regarding his welfare reforms.We are delighted that the Minister took the time to reply to the issues raised and have published his response here.However, we believe the Minister has missed the point on the harm he is causing. We have therefore sent him the following letter in reply.