The Economist has a couple of interesting stories this week on the continuing plight of Christians in the Middle East. First, from the magazine’s valuable religion blog, Erasmus, is this story about the continued disappearance of two bishops in Syria. One hundred days ago, Islamists in the Syrian opposition kidnapped the two clerics, one from the Greek Orthodox and the other from the Syriac Orthodox Church. Their whereabouts have not been revealed; some reports say they have already been murdered, though that is very unclear. A Jesuit priest from Italy, who has been working in Syria for 20 years, has also gone missing recently. Meanwhile, the magazine reports that a court in Trabzon, Turkey, has agreed with Turkey’s ruling AKP party that the Byzantine Church of the Holy Wisdom (above) in that city should be reconverted to a mosque. The church had been converted to a mosque after the Ottoman conquest in the 15th Century; in the 20th Century, under the Kemalist regime, it became a museum. Turkey’s tiny Greek Orthodox population worries that another Byzantine church by the same name, Istanbul’s famous Hagia Sophia, may be next.
Some interesting law & religion stories from around the web this week:
- A ruling by the Third Circuit increased the chances that the Supreme Court will need to settle whether secular, for-profit corporations must provide contraceptive coverage to employees despite the owners’ religious objections
- A Bangladesh court declared the country’s main Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, illegal as a violation of the country’s secular constitution. The ruling effectively bans the party from a general election due early next year
- Several controversies have arisen in France involving strict church-state separation and Muslims
- Christian activists have called upon Britain’s most senior policeman to issue guidance to all officers about the public’s freedom of speech, following an incident where a street preacher was held for almost seven hours and fingerprinted for delivering sermons that refer to the traditional Christian view of homosexuality
- A Saudi website editor has been sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes for founding an internet forum that violates basic Islamic values and propagates liberal thought
- Egyptian authorities gave a strong indication this past week that security forces are preparing a strike against the Muslim Brotherhood, claiming they pose a threat to national security
- The New York Times considers Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood
- On Monday, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law a measure directing state officials to regulate abortion clinics based on the same standards as those used for outpatient surgical centers
- Hundreds of Buddhists demonstrated in Nepal’s capital on Tuesday to protest local authorities’ denial of permission to build a shrine
- The New Orleans city council has ended a ban on disseminating “any social, political, or religious message between the hours of sunset and sunrise” on Bourbon Street
This July Macmillan published Religion and Public Diplomacy edited by Philip Seib. The publisher’s description follows.
Mixing religion and public diplomacy can produce volatile results, but in a world in which the dissemination and influence of religious beliefs are enhanced by new communications technologies, religion is a factor in many foreign policy issues and must be addressed. Faith is such a powerful part of so many people’s lives that it should be incorporated in public diplomacy efforts if they are to have meaningful resonance among the publics they are trying to reach. This book addresses key issues of faith in an increasingly connected and religious world and provides a better understanding of the role religion plays in public diplomacy.