Human Rights

Kenya's Religious Leaders Semand Government Response to Deadly Terror Attack

Government office in Mpeketoni, Kenya raided by attackers, leaving more than 60 people dead. RNS photo by Fredrick Nzwili.

Christian and Muslim leaders united Tuesday to demand government action after a deadly terror attack in Kenya’s coastal region.

On Sunday and Monday, armed gunmen stormed Mpeketoni town and nearby villages, killing more than 60 people — an attack described as the worst since the Nairobi Westgate shopping mall attack in September.

The gunmen held the town hostage for more than four hours, burning houses, hotels, and banks, and even attacking the local police station.

The Islamic militant group al-Shabaab said it executed the attack as revenge for the Kenyan army’s presence in Somalia, the killing of Muslim scholars in the coastal region and the oppression of Muslims.

The government has since said this was not an al-Shabaab attack but was carried out by a gang paid by politicians.

Boy Scouts' Gay Leader Ban Preserves Worst Stereotypes, Holder Says

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Creative Commons image by Ola Thorsen via the U.S. Department of State

Taking aim at the Boy Scouts of America’s continuing ban on gay adult leaders, Attorney General Eric Holder said the prohibition perpetuates “the worst kind of stereotypes.”

“It’s a relic of an age of prejudice and insufficient understanding,” Holder said Tuesday to Lambda Legal, an advocacy group for LGBT rights.

Referring to the group’s work a decade ago to challenge the termination of a gay assistant scoutmaster, Holder said that “too many organizations, policies, and practices that discriminate against LGBT individuals remain persistent concerns.”

“Unfortunately, the continuation of a policy that discriminates against gay adult leaders — by an iconic American institution — only preserves and perpetuates the worst kind of stereotypes,” he said.

St. Louis Archbishop Carlson Said He's Not Sure He Knew Sexual Abuse Was a Crime

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson exiting the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. By Geerlingguy (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson claimed to be uncertain that he knew sexual abuse of a child by a priest constituted a crime when he was auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, according to a deposition released Monday.

During the deposition taken last month, attorney Jeff Anderson asked Carlson whether he knew it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a child.

“I’m not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not,” Carlson replied. “I understand today it’s a crime.”

Anderson went on to ask Carlson whether he knew in 1984, when he was an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, that it was crime for a priest to engage in sex with a child.

“I’m not sure if I did or didn’t,” Carlson said.

Why I Marched on McDonald's

Rev. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, consults with Shyrl Hinnant Uzzell. RNS photo by Yonat Shimron

Recently, I marched with McDonald’s workers from three dozen cities to the company’s corporate headquarters outside of Chicago. After they refused to leave the corporate campus of the fast-food giant with its $5.6 billion in profits last year, 101 workers were arrested.

I knew I had to come when the workers invited me to share some of the lessons we have been learning in North Carolina about civil disobedience — and moral support.

I watched my new friends sit down. I watched the police gather. I prayed with the McDonald’s workers as the police looked on and then slapped plastic handcuffs on more than 100 of the workers and arrested them.

I could not help but think of the historic arc of the civil rights movement. For all the gains we have been making, the treatment of low-paid workers by some of the most profitable corporations in the world ranks high in the more significant causes of the growing inequalities in the U.S.

A New Hymn for Foster Children and Those Who Love Them

Little girl resting on her father's shoulder. Photo via Dina Uretski/Shutterstock.

Author's Note: This hymn is written with gratitude for foster parents, social workers, and others who do seek to do their best for abused and neglected children and youth. It is written as a prayer for the many children and youth who are failed by a broken system that too often ignores their cries and rights. Parts of this hymn, especially, are written as a prayer for one small boy who was our foster son for nineteenth months and is no longer in our care, but who will always be in our hearts. Sojourners' January 2014 issue had several helpful articles on foster parenting.

Lord, Hear the Cries of Children
PASSION CHORALE D (“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”)

Lord, hear the cries of children who struggle every day,
Caught up in failing systems that steal their hope away.
Some find they’re lost to violence, then lost in foster care.
They long for life’s abundance! Lord, hear their pleading prayer.

Clergy Abuse Victims Are Divided Over Pope Francis' Offer to Meet

David Clohessy is national director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Photo courtesy of David Clohessy.

Pope Francis’ announcement this week that he would meet with victims of sexual abuse by priests is dividing victim advocates, with some dismissing the move as “meaningless” and others endorsing it as a positive step, albeit taken belatedly and under pressure.

“A welcome and overdue change,” said Anne Barrett Doyle of, a prominent activist pushing the Catholic Church to overhaul its policies and practices on clergy abuse.

“Good to hear Pope Francis speak out and meet survivors,” tweeted Marie Collins, an abuse victim whom Francis named to a Vatican commission to promote reforms, on hearing that the pope compared clergy abuse to a priest celebrating a black Mass.

But others said Francis’ first-ever encounter with victims — and his pledge for “zero tolerance” for abusive clerics of any rank — was simply stagecraft aimed at distracting the public from what they say are the pope’s larger failures to address the abuse crisis.

Christian Suffering in a World of Suffering

The recent focus on the kidnapped girls in Nigeria shines a light on the suffering of women and girls all around the world.

Perhaps it is due to my ongoing fascination with Jewish and Christian apocalypses that the motif of suffering is constantly on my mind. I am always struck with John the Seer’s words of praise and encouragement in his letters to the seven churches of the Apocalypse that are patiently enduring persecution, affliction, distress, and tribulation.

It seems that from a Christian perspective, suffering is to be expected and just part of the deal of Christian membership — a real scriptural blow to prosperity gospels! Thus it should come as no surprise to us when the letter of 1 Peter 4:12-14 and 5:6-11 emphasizes the same themes of present suffering as a marker for future reward.

Lisa Sharon Harper Urges Prayer To #UpliftNigeria

On April 15th more than 300 teenage girls were abducted from the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School in northeast Nigeria. #UpliftNigeria is a social media campaign calling on people of faith to Uplift the schoolgirls, their families and the country of Nigeria in prayer. PLEASE JOIN US SAY A PRAYER AND #UPLIFTNIGERIA Stay tuned as members of the faith community share video messages and prayers. Follow us on Twitter -#UpliftNigeria Want to submit a video message? Email us at Videos should be 30 seconds to 2 minutes in length. (Webcam or Mobile Phone videos are welcomed) Or simply tweet using the hashtag #UpliftNigeria

In a Nutshell: What Is Boko Haram?

Illustration of Boko Haram. Photo courtesy of AK Rockefeller via Flickr.

Boko Haram is among the most vicious terrorist groups operating in North Africa, home to some of the worst Islamist extremists in the world.

The group is responsible for more than 4,000 deaths in 2014, according to the Nigeria Security Tracker at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The group was begun in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf, a cleric whose aim is an Islamic state in Nigeria. He was killed in 2009. The group’s current leader, Abubakar Shekau, surfaces sporadically in videotaped messages.

U.S. Doctors Killed at Afghan Hospital Run by Christian Charity

An Afghan security guard allegedly shot and killed three Americans at a hospital in Kabul on Thursday. The three killed were doctors, including a visiting father and son.

Another doctor and a U.S. nurse were wounded in the attack.

District Police Chief Hafiz Khan said a guard suddenly turned his weapon on the staff he was supposed to be protecting at Cure International Hospital and started shooting.

“Five doctors had entered the compound of the hospital and were walking toward the building when the guard opened fire on them,” said Kanishka Bektash Torkystani, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health. “Three foreign doctors were killed.”