France has offered to facilitate asylum for Iraqi Christians who have fled Mosul since the takeover of that city by ISIS, the jidahist group. The announcement came in a joint communiqué by Foreign Minister Laurence Fabius and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.
Granting asylum is a very imperfect solution to the crisis Mideast Christianity currently faces. Indeed, Mideast Christian leaders typically resist the “escape option,” out of concern that Christian emigration will put an end to faith communities that have endured for thousands of years. For many Mideast Christians, though, emigration may be the only option left.
Fast-tracking asylum is the least the West can do for Iraqi Christians–but it may also be, sadly, the most. France, which traditionally has seen itself as the protector of Christians, especially Catholics, in the Middle East, deserves credit for taking this step. It would be nice if the United States, which bears principal responsibility among Western countries for what has happened to Iraqi Christians, would do the same thing. (H/T: Rod Dreher).
Last month, Rutgers University published Faith, Family, and Filipino American Community Life, by Stephen M. Cherry (University of Houston-Clear Lake). The publisher’s description follows.
Stephen M. Cherry draws upon a rich set of ethnographic and survey data, collected over a six-year period, to explore the roles that Catholicism and family play in shaping Filipino American community life. From the planning and construction of community centers, to volunteering at health fairs or protesting against abortion, this book illustrates the powerful ways these forces structure and animate not only how first-generation Filipino Americans think and feel about their community, but how they are compelled to engage it over issues deemed important to the sanctity of the family.
Revealing more than intimate accounts of Filipino American lives, Cherry offers a glimpse of the often hidden but vital relationship between religion and community in the lives of new immigrants, and allows speculation on the broader impact of Filipino immigration on the nation. The Filipino American community is the second-largest immigrant community in the United States, and the Philippines is the second-largest source of Catholic immigration to this country. This ground-breaking study outlines how first-generation Filipino Americans have the potential to reshape American Catholicism and are already having an impact on American civic life through the engagement of their faith.
This month, New York University Press will publish Fire in the Canyon: Religion, Migration, and the Mexican Dream by Leah Sarat (Arizona State University). The publisher’s description follows.
The canyon in central Mexico was ablaze with torches as hundreds of people filed in. So palpable was their shared shock and grief, they later said, that neither pastor nor priest was needed. The event was a memorial service for one of their own who had died during an attempted border passage. Months later a survivor emerged from a coma to tell his story. The accident had provoked a near-death encounter with God that prompted his conversion to Pentecostalism.
Today, over half of the local residents of El Alberto, a town in central Mexico, are Pentecostal. Submitting themselves to the authority of a God for whom there are no borders, these Pentecostals today both embrace migration as their right while also praying that their “Mexican Dream”—the dream of a Mexican future with ample employment for all—will one day become a reality.
Fire in the Canyon provides one of the first in‑depth looks at the dynamic relationship between religion, migration, and ethnicity across the U.S.-Mexican border. Faced with the choice between life‑threatening danger at the border and life‑sapping poverty in Mexico, residents of El Alberto are drawing on both their religion and their indigenous heritage to demand not only the right to migrate, but also the right to stay home. If we wish to understand people’s migration decisions, Sarat argues, we must take religion seriously. It is through religion that people formulate their ideas about life, death, and the limits of government authority.
This month, Oxford University Press releases One Family Under God: Immigration Politics and Progressive Religion in America by Grace Yukich (Quinnipiac University). The publisher’s description follows.
Behind the walls of a church, Liliana and her baby eat, sleep, and wait. Outside, protestors shout ”Go back to Mexico!” and ”Tax this political church!” They demand that the U.S. government deport Liliana, which would separate her from her husband and children. Is Liliana a criminal or a hero? And why does the church protect her?
Grace Yukich draws on extensive field observation and interviews to reveal how immigration is changing religious activism in the U.S. In the face of nationwide immigration raids and public hostility toward ”illegal” immigration, the New Sanctuary Movement emerged in 2007 as a religious force seeking to humanize the image of undocumented immigrants like Liliana. Building coalitions between religious and ethnic groups that had rarely worked together in the past, activists revived and adapted ”sanctuary,” the tradition of providing shelter for fugitives in houses of worship. Through sanctuary, they called on Americans to support legislation that would keep immigrant families together. But they sought more than political change: they also pursued religious transformation, challenging the religious nationalism in America’s faith communities by portraying undocumented immigrants as fellow children of God.
Yukich shows progressive religious activists struggling with the competing goals of newly diverse coalitions, fighting to expand the meaning of ”family values” in a globalizing nation. Through these struggles, the activists both challenged the public dominance of the religious right and created conflicts that could doom their chances of impacting immigration reform.
The Contending Modernities Global Migration Working Group has issued a call for papers for a conference to take place in London in October, “The new cosmopolitanism: Global migration and the building of a common life”:
The global expansion of migration, within and between the global north and south, and the global resurgence and “publicization” of religion – have combined to bring religious and secular models of citizenship and civic education to the fore. Nonetheless, there is surprisingly little consensus among religious leaders, educators, and policy makers as to what framework might allow people from different religious and ethical backgrounds to live together tolerantly and inclusively. The lack of consensus is all the more vexing in that migration and religious revitalization today have created multicultural and multi-ethical landscapes all over the globe. The question of the place of religion in modern multicultural societies is not an academic one, then, but one of the most pressing ethical challenges of our age.
Details are here.
On March 21, the Brookings Institution will host a forum in connection with the release of a new national opinion survey on religion, values, and immigration reform. The event, in Washington, will be webcast live. Details are here.
Over the past week, I’ve written about criticism from the Catholic right of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ recent statement on religious freedom. Of course, there’s also been criticism from the Catholic left. This week, Commonweal has a negative editorial about the bishops’ statement. More in sorrow than in anger, Commonweal maintains that the statement veers into political partisanship. The bishops’ simplistic, one-sided language, the editorial complains, makes them sound more like Republican party operatives than pastors. Young people already are turning away from organized religion because it seems too political and conservative on social issues. Surely the bishops do not want to exacerbate that trend?
I wonder about this criticism. It’s true that the bishops’ statement highlights the Obama Administration’s contraceptives mandate. The mandate is the first on the list of threats to religious freedom the bishops identify, and surely served as the prime motivation for their statement. But the second item on the list is state anti-immigration laws, like the recent Alabama measure forbidding assistance to undocumented immigrants. In criticizing these laws, the bishops are hardly mouthing GOP talking points. Republican politicians often favor such measures, while the Obama Administration has filed a lawsuit challenging the Alabama law.
Even with respect to the contraceptives mandate, the bishops could be forgiven for saying that they didn’t start this fight. The bishops surely knew that objecting to the HHS mandate would have the effect of highlighting the Church’s position on contraception, and that this position is unpopular, particularly with Millennials. But what choice was there? It was the Obama Administration that issued the mandate during an election year. For that matter, it was the Obama Administration that argued this Term in Hosanna-Tabor that the religion clauses did not even apply to a church’s decision to fire a minister, a position that a unanimous Court characterized as “remarkable.” If it’s inappropriately partisan for religious organizations to respond when government takes steps like these, then religious organizations can never defend themselves in public debate. That may be a good thing from a spiritual point of view, but I don’t think it’s a result Commonweal would approve.
Posted in Commentary, Mark L. Movsesian
Tagged Barack Obama, Bishops' Conference, Catholicism, Contraception Mandate, First Amendment, Immigration, Ministerial Exception, Religion and Politics, Religion in America, Religious Exemptions, Religious Freedom, Religious Liberty
Reuters reports that Canada’s immigration ministry has decided to forbid women at naturalization ceremonies from wearing veils that cover their faces, even for religious reasons. The ban will affect Islamic veils like the niqab, which covers the face but has an opening to allow vision, and burqa, which has a mesh. The ministry argues that its decision will ensure that people who “join the Canadian family” do so “freely and openly,” but Reuters talks about a possible lawsuit by Canadians who believe the ban violates Muslims’s religious freedom. If such a case materializes, the governing precedent would likely be the Canadian Supreme Court’s 2006 Multani decision, the Sikh kirpan case, in which the court held that, under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, any restriction on religious freedom must serve an important government objective and be proportional to that objective — a test that resembles the pre-Smith Sherbert doctrine in American law.
A disturbing story about the problems of Moroccan integration in Dutch society. If the report is true that 40% of Moroccan immigrants between the ages of 12 and 24 have been arrested, fined, or charged with criminal offenses, that seems to me an extraordinarily serious situation, irrespective of the cause. Even worse, this does not seem to be a problem that will improve in the near future. The story also references the work of Dutch journalist Fleur Jurgens, who is clearly a committed opponent of Holland’s multiculturalist policies, and who has written that “Moroccan parents are to blame for the antisocial behavior of their children by teaching them at a young age to hate the Dutch and abhor their society.” According to the story, the Dutch government “now says it will abandon the long-standing model of multiculturalism that has encouraged Moroccans and other Muslim immigrants to create a parallel society within the Netherlands.” Difficult times indeed for the Netherlands.