I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be a speaker at the Hudson Institute’s upcoming conference, “The Islamic State’s Religious Cleansing and the Urgency of the Strategic Response,” scheduled for May 7 in New York. The conference will be lead by Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Professor Walter Russell Mead; other speakers include Kirsten Powers and Samuel Tadros. Here’s a description:
Nearly a year after the Islamic State swept through northern Iraq and enforced its convert-or-die ultimatum, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians and members of other ancient religions remain in encampments in Kurdistan and neighboring countries. They subsist on international humanitarian aid and their children lack access to education. Many are losing hope of ever returning to their homes and, with few options to resettle within the region, many are seeking to leave.
Is there any hope that these Christians and other religious minorities can remain in the Middle East?
I’ll be on the first panel, “Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity: the Islamic State’s Impact on Vulnerable Religious Minority Communities.”
For the conference schedule and information about registration, please click here.
This past February, Columbia University Press released “Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: Collaboration and Conflict in the Age of Diaspora” edited by Sander L. Gilman (Emory University). The publisher’s description follows:
Islam, Christianity, and Judaism share several common features, including their historical origins in the prophet Abraham, their belief in a single divine being, and their modern global expanse. Yet it is the seeming closeness of these “Abrahamic” religions that draws attention to the real or imagined differences between them. This volume examines Abrahamic cultures as minority groups in societies which may be majority Muslim, Christian or Jewish, or self-consciously secular. The focus is on the relationships between these religious identities in global Diaspora, where all of them are confronted with claims about national and individual difference. The case studies range from colonial Hong Kong and Victorian London to today’s San Francisco and rural India. Each study shows how complex such relationships can be and how important it is to situate them in the cultural, ethnic, and historical context of their world. The chapters explore ritual practice, conversion, colonization, immigration, and cultural representations of the differences between the Abrahamic religions. An important theme is how the complex patterns of interaction among these religions embrace collaboration as well as conflict–even in the modern Middle East. This work by authors from several academic disciplines on a topic of crucial importance will be of interest to scholars of history, theology, sociology, and cultural studies, as well as to the general reader interested in how minority groups have interacted and coexisted.
In May, Springer will release “Cultural, Religious and Political Contestations” edited by Fethi Mansouri (Deakin University). The publisher’s description follows:
This book examines the foundations of multiculturalism in the context of émigré societies and from a multi-dimensional perspective. The work considers the politics of multiculturalism and focuses on how the discourse of cultural rights and intercultural relations in western societies can and should be accounted for at a philosophical, as well as performative level. Theoretical perspectives on current debates about cultural diversity, religious minorities and minority rights emerge in this volume.
The book draws our attention to the polarised nature of contemporary multicultural debates through a well-synthesised series of empirical case studies that are grounded in solid epistemological foundations and contributed by leading experts from around the world. Readers will discover a fresh re-examination of prominent multicultural settings such as Canada and Australia but also an emphasis on less examined case studies among multicultural societies, as with New Zealand and Italy.
Authors engage critically and innovatively with the various ethical challenges and policy dilemmas surrounding the management of cultural and religious diversity in our contemporary societies. Comparative perspectives and a focus on core questions related to multiculturalism, not only at the level of practice but also from historical and philosophical perspectives, tie these chapters from different disciplines together. This work will appeal to a multi-disciplinary audience, including scholars of political philosophy, sociology, religious studies and those with an interest in migration, culture and religion in contemporary societies.
In May, the Ecclesiastical History Society will release “Christianity and Religious Plurality” edited by Charlotte Methuen (University of Glasgow), Andrew Spicer (Oxford Brookes University), and John Wolffe (The Open University). The publisher’s description follows:
This, the fifty-first volume of Studies in Church History, takes as its theme ‘Christianity and Religious Plurality’. The focus is on exploring the practical experience of Christians, who have often existed in a world of manifold belief systems and religious practices. Under the Presidency of Professor John Wolffe, the summer conference and winter volume brought together a fascinating series of lectures and communications, a selection of which are collected in this peer-reviewed volume. Three main areas of engagement emerge: contexts where Christianity was a minority faith, whether in the earliest years of the church, in the Mongol empire of the thirteenth century or under Ottoman rule in the fifteenth, or in contemporary Iraq, Egypt and Indonesia; responses to religious minorities in predominantly Christian societies, such as early-modern Malta or nineteenth- and twentieth-century London; and finally, Christian encounters with other religions in situations where no single tradition was obviously dominant. Offering an unusual perspective on Christian encounters with other faiths, this volume will appeal to students of religious studies and those interested in the cultural contexts in which Christianity has existed – and indeed continues to exist.
This Month, Oxford University Press will release “The Changing Nature of Religious Rights Under International Law” edited by Malcolm Evans (University of Bristol), Peter Petkoff (Oxford University), and Julian Rivers (University of Bristol). The publisher’s description follows:
The Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, as proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1981, is the only universal human rights instrument specifically focusing on religious intolerance and discrimination. However, recent years have seen increasing controversy surrounding this right, in both political and legal contexts. The European Court of Human Rights has experienced a vast expansion in the number of cases it has had brought before it concerning religious freedom, and politically the boundaries of the right have been much disputed. This book provides a systematic analysis of the different approaches to religious rights which exist in public international law.
The book explores how particular institutional perspectives emerge in the context of these differing approaches. It examines, and challenges, these institutional perspectives. It identifies new directions for approaching religious rights through international law by examining existing legal tools, and assesses their achievements and shortcomings. It studies religious organisations’ support for international human rights protection, as well as religious critique of international human rights and the development of an alternative religious ‘Bills of Rights’. It investigates whether expressions of members belonging to religious minorities can be considered under the minority right to culture, rather than the right to religion, and discusses the benefits and shortcomings of such a route. It analyses the reach and limits of the provisions in the 1981 Declaration, identifies ways in which the right is being eroded as a concept, and suggests new ways in which the right can be reinforced and protected.
This March, Hurst Publisher’s will release “Cycle of Fear: Syria’s Alawites in War and Peace” by Leon Goldsmith (Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman). The publisher’s description follows:
In early 2011 an elderly Alawite shaykh lamented the long history of ‘oppression and aggression’ against his people. Against such collective memories the Syrian uprising was viewed by many Alawites, and observers, as a revanchist Sunni Muslim movement and the gravest threat yet to the unorthodox Shi’ah sub-sect. This explained why the Alawites largely remained loyal to the Ba’athist regime of Bashar al-Assad.
But was Alawite history really a constant tale of oppression and the Syrian uprising of 2011 an existential threat to the Alawites? This book surveys Alawite history from the sect’s inception in Abbasid Iraq up to the start of the uprising in 2011. Goldsmith shows how Alawite identity and political behaviour have been shaped by a cycle of insecurity that has prevented the group from achieving either genuine social integration or long term security. Rather than being the gravest threat yet to the sect, the Syrian uprising, in the context of the Arab Spring, was quite possibly a historic opportunity for the Alawites finally to break free from their cycle of fear.
ISIS released its first video of mass beheadings last Saturday.
The victims of this murder were 21 Christian Egyptian men who ISIS marched onto a beach in Libya and then beheaded en masse. A CBS senior news analyst commented “They are targeting the people of the cross,” the Copts, which is an ancient Christian communion located mostly in Egypt. This isn’t much of an analytical leap, considering that ISIS named the video “A Message to the Nation of the Cross.”
France and Egypt have called for a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to deal with the “spiraling crisis of ISIS.” Meanwhile, Italy has closed its embassy in Lybia and also appealed to the United Nations as it attempts to deal with a huge influx of refugees who are fleeing Libya.
“This risk is imminent, we cannot wait any longer. Italy has national defense needs and cannot have a caliphate ruling across the shores from us,” Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti told Il Messaggero newspaper. She added that the risks of Jihadists entering Italy along with the refugees “could not be ruled out.”
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, said, “We have told Europe and the international community that we have to stop sleeping. The problems cannot all be left to us because we are the first, the closest.”
Egypt’s government has responded to the video with bombings of ISIS locations inside Lybia. Egypt has also asked for American assistance in this war.
At an academic conference a couple of years ago, a prominent scholar with impeccably elite credentials scoffed when I referred to the worldwide persecution of Christians. “Next you’ll be telling us about the persecution of the one-billion-plus Chinese,” he said. I’m sure his opinion hasn’t changed.
On February 18 at 5 p.m., CLR will co-host a panel, along with the St. John’s Catholic Law Students Association, on a very timely topic: “Threat to Justice: Middle Eastern Christians and the ISIS Crisis.”
The discussion will be moderated by CLR Director Mark Movsesian. Speakers will include Michael LaCivita (Catholic Near East Welfare Association), Edward Clancy (Aid to the Church in Need), and Mark Wasef (United for a New Egpyt).
For more information, please click here.
On February 20th, Columbia University will host “Monuments and Memory: Material Culture and the Aftermaths of Histories of Mass Violence,” a symposium that will focus on the topics of restoration, restitution, and social justice:
In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, a groundbreaking symposium will be held at Columbia University and sponsored by the Armenian Center of Columbia University, Columbia’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University and the Armenian General Benevolent Union. Peter Balakian, Donald M. Constance H. Rebar Professor of the Humanities at Colgate University, and Rachel Goshgarian, Assistant Professor of History at Lafayette College, are organizers and hosts of the event.
The symposium will be groundbreaking in its comparative analysis of Jewish monuments in eastern Europe, Muslim monuments in the Balkans, and Armenian Christian monuments in Turkey. Issues of preservation, social justice, and restitution will be discussed. The symposium will take place in Room 1501 of Columbia University’s Morningside Campus International Affairs Building, located at 420 West 118th Street, from 10 am until 6 pm with breaks for lunch and coffee. A reception will follow.
More details can be found here.
This past December, Cambridge University Press released “The Other Saudis: Shiism, Dissent and Sectarianism” by Tobias Matthiesen (University of Cambridge). The publisher’s description follows:
Toby Matthiesen traces the politics of the Shia in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia from the nineteenth century until the present day. This book outlines the difficult experiences of being Shia in a Wahhabi state, and casts new light on how the Shia have mobilised politically to change their position. Shia petitioned the rulers, joined secular opposition parties and founded Islamist movements. Most Saudi Shia opposition activists profited from an amnesty in 1993 and subsequently found a place in civil society and the public sphere. However, since 2011 a new Shia protest movement has again challenged the state. The Other Saudis shows how exclusionary state practices created an internal Other and how sectarian discrimination has strengthened Shia communal identities. The book is based on little-known Arabic sources, extensive fieldwork in Saudi Arabia and interviews with key activists. Of immense geopolitical importance, the oil-rich Eastern Province is a crucial but little known factor in regional politics and Gulf security.