Global Issues

U.S. Catholic bishops have welcomed the Obama administration’s tentative agreement aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
A large and diverse group of Christian leaders today called on lawmakers to support the recent Framework Agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.
Iranian, American; Muslim, Jew, Christian; Shiite, Sunni; Black, White. Only in relationship with the other are we free.
Photo via Fredrick Nzwili / RNS

Youth light candles at Freedom Corner to remember students killed at Garissa University College. Photo via Fredrick Nzwili / RNS

Faced with a fierce enemy driven by Muslim extremist ideology, the government has cracked down on funding for al-Shabab, the Somali group that claimed responsibility for killing 148 mostly Christian students at Garissa University College a week ago.

This week, Kenya froze the accounts of 85 groups and individuals, including bus companies and Muslim rights organizations, allegedly linked to the group. It has closed down one hotel in Eastleigh, a neighborhood in the Nairobi commonly known as Little Mogadishu because of its large concentration of ethnic Somalis.

But the freeze on Muslims for Human Rights and Haki Africa, two nongovernmental organizations, raised questions, since they are known for their work on improving the lives of Kenyans and fighting for human rights of all citizens.

“I am amazed that these human rights organizations are believed to have been supporting terror,” said Sheikh Juma Ngao, the national chairman of the Kenya Muslim National Advisory Council.

“I think the government needs to provide some evidence.”

Patience, persistence, and wisdom are now required of us all. It's a season of hope. It's time for a choice to "hope but verify."
Dawn Cherie Araujo 04-09-2015
Image via Brian A Jackson/

Image via Brian A Jackson/

There’s an old adage in journalism that if it bleeds, it leads. It sounds kind of savage and it’s often that principle people quip when complaining about excessive violence in the news. 

That criticism isn’t wrong. Just watch 10 minutes of nightly news, and you’ll probably see nothing but murders and robberies, as if that’s the only thing that happens on a daily basis.

But what I think we forget when criticizing the bleed/lead principle is the inherent value it places on human life. The way I learned it in journalism school, “if it bleeds, it leads” means that people matter. It means that the loss of human life should never be something we consider a banality and that if there’s bloodshed, we, as journalists, have an obligation to report it.

In a perfect world, that would work. (Well, actually, in a perfect world, there would be no bloodshed for journalists to report, but you know what I mean.) But the problem that Gareth Higgins identifies in “A Newsfeed of Fear” (Sojourners, May 2015) is not so much the excessive coverage of suffering, but the callous coverage of it.

Instead of promoting the sanctity of life as I think it was originally intended, media coverage of crime and violence has been twisted into a formulaic script that serves only to create the must-watch, must-read news that brings in advertising dollars. And it can be hard to stomach that much disingenuousness.

Yet the solution is not a positive-news only model. There are media outlets — largely Christian ones — trying this, but I don’t think this approach adequately addresses what’s wrong with the mainstream media. For one thing, it does nothing to fix the problem of formulaic, disingenuous stories. People can fake happiness, too, you know. Furthermore, there are times when we actually need more bad news — like, for example, when black women disappear or when migrant farmworkers are being abused.

Photo via REUTERS / Noor Khamis / RNS

A Kenya Defense Forces soldier stops a boy from moving toward Garissa on April 2, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Noor Khamis / RNS

Somalia’s al-Shabab militants shot and killed more than 147 people, wounded dozens of others and held hundreds hostage April 2 at Garissa University College in northeastern Kenya.

Five hundred of the hostages were reportedly rescued as the day went on, but it was unclear immediately whether the standoff had ended and exactly what the death and injury toll was.

The gunmen reportedly arrived at the university at 5:30 a.m., killed the guards at the gate and began shooting indiscriminately before taking hundreds of students hostage. The Kenyan military tried to end the siege and rescued hundreds of the hostages during a shootout.

Most of the hostages are believed to be Christians.

Emilie Teresa Smith 04-01-2015

Fifty years of bloody conflict, economic greed, and environmental devastation. 

There are folks who will stand up in peaceful demonstration against ISIS, and to support the ideal of Islam that it stands for peace.
Tom Gowon, 9, in a brown jacket, with his fellow refugees at Baga Sola camp, Cha

Tom Gowon, 9, in a brown jacket, with his fellow refugees at Baga Sola camp, Chad. Image via Tonny Onyulo/RNS.

Memories of Boko Haram’s murderous spree in his Nigerian hometown haunt Tom Gowon, 9, as he sits on a patch of grass at a refugee camp, sipping steaming porridge from a plastic mug.

“I was lucky because I was not killed,” said Gowon, recalling the assault on Baga, Nigeria, in early January.

“But they shot and killed my father. My mother was kidnapped by the militants.”

Children such as Gowon bear the brunt of Boko Haram’s rampage since its fighters kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls last year and conquered enough territory to declare a caliphate that covers one-fifth of Nigeria.

Where the militants have met resistance, they’ve torched villages and left piles of corpses in their wake.

“There are several camps around here housing many children who have lost their parents in attacks,” said Guy Nanhousngue, a Chadian relief worker who said children make up about half of the Nigerians coming to the Baga Sola refugee camp on the shores of Lake Chad, which separates the two countries.

“We’re registering more than 50 children every day.”

Photo via REUTERS / Siegfried Modola / RNS

A Kenyan soldier looks at a cow that is dying from hunger. Photo via REUTERS / Siegfried Modola / RNS

Drying livestock carcasses and anguished faces of hungry women and children have become a common feature here as droughts increase due to climate change.

But now, in an effort to fight hunger, the Roman Catholic Church is making 3,000 acres of church-owned land available for commercial farming.

“We want to produce food, create employment, and improve quality of life for the people,” said the Rev. Celestino Bundi, Kenya’s national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

This is the first time the church has entered into large-scale farming, though it owns massive tracts of land across the country, most of which is idle and in the hands of dioceses, parishes, missionaries, and congregations.

“We have the will and the support of the community and government,” said Bundi. 

“I think time has come for Kenya to feed herself.”

Nelson Mandela was one of the 20th century's greatest leaders, but the long walk to freedom in South Africa is far from over. 

Jerry Marter 03-04-2015

Two countries lumped together in the "axis of evil" have few similarities. 

We agonize over the hatred and blind zealotry of the terrorists. But how can we match them?
We are called to speak loving truth in the face of the hatred of ISIS, O’Reilly, and all the other murderers and false prophets who seek to confuse, divide and destroy God’s people.
William M. Welch 03-02-2015
President Barack Obama walks across the tarmac with Israeli Prime Minister Benja

President Barack Obama walks across the tarmac with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Image courtesy White House/RNS.

American Jewish leaders and activists are worried about widening political divisions between Israel and the White House, sparked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial address to Congress on Tuesday despite strident objections by President Obama.

Many are concerned about the threat to Israel from Iran’s nuclear program and the prospect of a weak deal with the United States to curb it, an issue on which Netanyahu has been an outspoken Obama critic. Even so, they believe Netanyahu’s unrestrained attacks on the White House and in-your-face visit jeopardizes the close ties Israel has long enjoyed with the United States.

“People are upset about it,” said Rob Eshman, publisher and editor in chief of the Jewish Journal, a Los Angeles-based publication and website.

“They’re obviously concerned about Iran and want a good deal and think it’s really unfortunate that Prime Minister Netanyahu is doing this — creating a conflict outside the existing conflict.”

The divisiveness among Americans mirrors that of many Israelis equally concerned the visit will plunge traditionally close relations between U.S. and Israeli leaders to an unprecedented low.

As a theologian and pastor, I want to say that ISIS is evil.
Michael Kaplan 02-27-2015
Zaid AlFares, a journalist from Raqqa city, tells about life under the Islamic S

Zaid AlFares, a journalist from Raqqa city, tells about life under the Islamic State group. Image courtesy RNS.

Hassan, a chain-smoking 20-year-old from Syria, sits in a cafe across the border from his homeland, one of thousands who escaped the clutches of the Islamic State group.

Not so long ago, he was one of their recruits, having undergone four months of religion training where he learned how to pray and read the Quran, while at the same time patrolling the rebel stronghold’s checkpoints.

“We loved them so much,” said Hassan, who was not willing to be identified by his real name for fear of retribution against family members still in Syria. “They gave us so much information and taught us very sweet things about Islam.”

But then things started to change.

As the Islamic State group grew in power, he saw more orders to target members of other widely popular Sunni rebel groups. At checkpoints, Hassan said, recruits were commanded to arrest or kill any members affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, an umbrella of rebel groups that he and his family supported.

His mother, who was growing increasingly disgruntled with the Islamic State’s strict rules, confronted him. “‘Why are you doing this?'” he said she told him. ‘”This is wrong.'”

It wasn’t long after, as intense fighting broke out with another Islamist brigade, Ahrar ash-Sham, that Hassan decided to stop fighting for the Islamic State.

Bill O’Reilly clashed with the Rev. Jim Wallis on Thursday night over O’Reilly’s use of the term “holy war” to describe the West’s battle against the Islamic State.
The only way to really beat a death cult is with a dedication to life.