Christianity at risk of extinction in areas of persecution, says Warsi

November 15, 2013

 

Christianity is in danger of extinction in some countries because of persecution in areas where its followers are in the minority, a British government minister has said. Christians were being driven out of regions in countries such as Syria and Iraq, where the religion first took root, said Lady Warsi, who has responsibility for faith communities.

She raised her concerns and called on politicians in countries such as Pakistan to “set the tone” for tolerance of religious minorities. Lady Warsi told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “I’m concerned that the birthplace of Christianity, the parts of the world where Christianity first spread, is now seeing large sections of the Christian community leaving, and those that are remaining feeling persecuted.

She said 83% of countries had constitutions guaranteeing freedom of religion, but did not implement those provisions. “There’s an international consensus, in the form of a Human Rights Council resolution on the treatment of minorities and tolerance towards other faiths. But we need to build political will behind that.

Asked whether Lady Warsi’s warning of the possible extinction of some Christian communities was correct, the leader of Catholics in England and Wales, the archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, told Today: “I think in some parts of the Middle East that is probably true.

 

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/15/christianity-risk-extinction-persecution-minority-warsi

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/persecution-threatens-extinction-of-christianity-in-ancient-homelands-warns-baroness-warsi-8941249.html

Imam Tareq Oubrou: “The Hijab has become an obsession”

October 25, 2013

The imam and theologian Tareq Oubrou is interviewed by the magazine Zaman about the hijab. Known for his theological work on the jurisprudence of minorities (in the 1990s), he is now engaged in a theology of acculturation. He is discussing the status of the hijab seen by a lot of Muslims as an obligation and explores ways to change this perception.

Zaman: http://www.zamanfrance.fr/article/tareq-oubrou-personne-frustree-ne-peut-penser-religion-5752.html

Stop playing political football with black and ethnic minorities

A study carried out by cross-party organisation Operation Black Vote showed the number of black and minority ethnic (BME) voters had grown by 70% since the last election. Using the 2011 census, it calculated that in England and Wales there are168 seats where the black and ethnic minority population holds greater sway than the majority. It is a significant number that means that not only is the BME vote increasing but with this growth comes a variance in voting patterns. A growing class of educated, affluent British Asians has grown up over the past decade who are concerned about the community they live in and the current political climate.

 

For example in Bradford the Respect campaign recruited Asian women, targeted community centres, visited homes, sent campaigners who spoke Punjabi and Urdu and most importantly asked the constituents what they wanted from their representatives. This one-to-one strategy empowered a sector of the community that had for too long been marginalised and disenfranchised. Up until then, the men of the house decided which party the family as a collective would vote for. The women of Bradford seized this opportunity and quickly spread the word that there was finally a party that appreciated their involvement.

 

Let this serve as a lesson to mainstream parties: you can win the votes of the Asian women by engaging them in dialogue, by addressing their concerns and assuring them that their voices are valuable. And by Asian women I mean ALL Asian women, those who are educated, uneducated, those who work and those who are stay-at-home mums and carers. Mainstream parties also need to engage BME youth, many of whom worry about rising tuition fees, lack of employment opportunities, the glass ceilings they will encounter because of their backgrounds, racism and the discrimination they face.

 

There is a growing interest in politics within the BME communities, it is time to respect and engage with them in the most effective manner possible so our multicultural society can take the most benefits from their respective contributions.

Lawmakers ask Obama for religious diversity summit

Nearly 40 members of the U.S. House, among them Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and Muslims, sent a letter to President Obama on Wednesday (July 17) urging him to convene a “Religious Diversity Summit” and do more to fight discrimination against religious minorities.

“The targeting of religious minorities in America is reaching a crisis point and we believe your leadership is crucial to stemming this rising tide of violence,” the letter writers said.

The letter comes just ahead of the first anniversary of the Aug. 5 attack by a white supremacist on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., that killed six worshippers. Muslim advocacy groups say there has been an increase in attacks against mosques and Muslims since the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15.

All 37 signatories were Democrats, including Buddhist Hank Johnson of Georgia, Hindu Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Muslims Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Andre Carson of Indiana, and Jews Jared Polis of Colorado, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, and Henry Waxman and Alan Lowenthal, both of California.

“The terrible and very public episodes of violence this country has seen over the past several years deserve a response, and as elected leaders we have an obligation to be a part of that response,” wrote Arizona Democrat Raul M. Grijalva, one of several Christians to sign the letter.

Immigrants, growing number in Italy are Orthodox

Andrea Tornielli

5/13/2013

 

The Encyclopedia of Religion in Italy (pp. 1240, 125 euro) is a large volume created by the Turin based sociologists Massimo Introvigne and Pierluigi Zoccatelli, director and vice director of CENSUR, respectively. They found and described 836 religions present in Italy. One of the big findings that came out of the research was the significant growth of orthodox Christian immigrants, which are close to the numbers of Muslim immigrants and will likely supersede Muslim immigrants in the next few years. Vatican Insider interviewed Massimo Introvigne.

In the collective imagination, immigrants are Muslim; instead the orthodox Christian immigrant community is on the rise and will likely supersede Muslim immigrant numbers. What explains this phenomenon?

The largest Orthodox Christian community in Italy is Romanian with 163 churches – and the number continues to grow. The allowance of Romania into the European Union in 2007 has resulted in an easier immigration into Italy especially because Romanian is neo-Latin language and the children and adolescence understand Italian much quicker than other immigrants. In spite of the Italian economic crisis, that has slowed sown immigration from other countries, the social and economic situation in Romania, immigration to Italy remains alluring. The same applies, to a lesser extent to Romania, to other Eastern European countries with a majority of Orthodox. The growth of Orthodox immigrants in Italy does not derive from any specific religious reason but rather the motives of migration. At the same time, it is true that the Orthodox church – including the Romanian church – has emerged in Italy to continue relations with its faithful immigrants, such that the secularization of immigrants – that leave their homes, also happens with religion – for orthodox Christians this is relative.

The members of minor religions include 2.5% of Italians, and 7.6% of persons in Italy. Why is there a sensation, in the public opinion, that there is an invasion of other religions and in particular Islam?

With the processes that aren’t new but were increased with September 11, 2001, Europe has begun to display a fear of the “invasion of Islam” and the conquest of Italy by Muslims is no longer military – like the invasion of Vienna in 1683 – but rather through the increase in immigration. Paradoxically, this fear is reinforced by members of Islamic fundamentalism which takes credit for a renewed “conquest of Europe” through immigration and large families. This is what sociology calls “moral panic,” a phenomenon that is based on data but is amplified in the collective imagination becoming difficult to distinguish between real statistics and statistical folklore. However, the moral panic is based on real data.

In Italy, which for many years has been a land of emigration with an increased immigration, the number of immigrants and non-Catholics (in particular Muslims) did not integrate in a phased manner like in France over the course of a century, in Italy the more rapid immigration is during the span of a few decades. In 1970, Muslims in Italy numbered a few thousand, and are now – according to our Encyclopedia, others believe more – 1,475,000, including 115,000 who are Italian citizens. Such rapid growth obviously poses problems. The existence of small minorities who are seduced by the ultra-fundamentalism and terrorism is a real fact, as seen by police reports. The data tells us that Muslims are numerous but that there is no “invasion.” And, also, religious pluralism is a phenomenon which is culturally important and growing, but statistically it is still a relatively small minority, it is true that 97.5% of Italian citizens are not part of religious minorities.”

Sadiq Khan: ‘If you’re the only one fasting at Ramadan, you do stand out’

Sadiq Khan  was appointed to the Privy Council and first asked to attend cabinet meetings in June 2009, Labour’s MP for Tooting became the first Asian and first Muslim to do so. He is quoted as saying the following on the lack of diversity in government “You can get obsessed by it and people do. Just by virtue of the fact that mass immigration only happened 30/40 years ago, there are going to be lots of first-ofs” – but the lack of diversity, not just ethnically, but “the shortage of women and of people from different backgrounds” makes it hard not to feel some sense of isolation. “When you first get to No 10 and everyone else around the cabinet table is white … If during Ramadan I’m fasting, people get it, but when you’re the only one, you do sort of stand out.”

The report continues and states that balancing his faith and his role as an MP, has not always been easy. Last month, he was the subject of a fatwa calling for his death after he voted in favour of same-sex marriage. In response Khan stated that “What all minorities need to recognise is today in a pluralistic society it’s not just a question of tolerating others, you’ve got to respect others. I challenge anybody to find another country in the world which is more progressive or has laws that protect minorities more than this country. I speak to my cousins in Pakistan or India and they make the point that because [my family] aren’t well off and don’t have contacts in those countries, notwithstanding the fact that there is a Muslim majority in Pakistan, they couldn’t dream of being in the cabinet or doing the stuff that I’ve done here, and I’m a minority in the UK both religiously and ethnically and in all sorts of ways.”

Survey: Americans overstate size of religious minorities

The typical American underestimates how many Protestants there are in the U.S., and vastly overestimates the number of religious minorities such as Mormons, Muslims, and atheist/agnostics, according to a new study.

Grey Matter Research and Consulting asked 747 U.S. adults to guess what proportion of the American population belongs to each of eight major religious groups: Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, atheist/agnostic, believe in God or a higher power but have no particular religious preference, and any other religious group. The average response was that 24 percent of Americans are Catholic, 20 percent are Protestant, 19 percent are unaffiliated, 8 percent are Jewish, 9 percent are atheist or agnostic, 7 percent are Muslim, 7 percent are Mormon and 5 percent identify with all other religious groups.

Respondents were correct on Catholics — 24 percent of the country is Catholic. But according to the 2008 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 51 percent are Protestant, 12 percent are unaffiliated, 2 percent are Jewish, 4 percent are Atheist/Agnostic, less than 1 percent are Muslim, 2 percent are Mormon and 4 percent identify with all other religious groups.

MPI Report Examines the Concept of National Identity in France and Its Impact on Integration Efforts

WASHINGTON — France has long faced a contentious debate of crucial importance for immigrants and their descendents — defining what it means to “be French,” a debate that flared in its recent presidential election in which a significant percentage of voters supported a platform critical of immigration and its effects on society. Though countries with rich histories of immigration such as the United States and Canada accept “dual belonging” at least in practice, this concept has been criticized and perceived as at odds with a person’s commitment to French identity.

Recent surveys of French immigrants, however, have shown the opposite to be true. These findings demonstrate that multiple allegiances are not an impediment to integration; it is possible to “feel French” and maintain links with one’s country of origin. However, because of external perceptions, native French citizens are far less likely to accept this adoption of French identity.

In /*French National Identity and Integration: Who Belongs to the National Community*/, sociodemographer Patrick Simon examines perceptions of national identity and the rejection of plural belongings in French society, which have created conditions for the marginalization of visible minorities. Simon, Director of Research at the Institut National d’Etudes Démographiques (INED) and a researcher at the Center for European Studies at Institut d’Études Politiques (Sciences Po), draws from the 2008-09 /Trajectories and Origins/ survey of 22,000 respondents in refuting the notion that the foreign born will weaken social cohesion in France.

While France is increasingly diverse, recent identity debates show little room for inclusion of ethnic minorities. This was again evident in the 2012 presidential elections, with 18 percent of the first round vote going to Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate whose platform espouses an anti-immigration platform, and outgoing French President Nicolas Sarkozy adopting similar rhetoric in his campaign.

Simon points to the need to create a new framework for equality, which includes updating the French concept of immigrant integration. Such changes remain a challenge, as newly appointed President Francois Hollande has pledged to keep the burqa ban, enforcing the idea that aspects of minority culture are incompatible with being French.

“For a majority of immigrants, embracing one’s ethnicity as part of one’s identity and being invested in and rooted to your host country are not mutually exclusive,” said MPI President Demetrios Papademetriou. “But as we see elsewhere, full integration efforts are hampered when the majority is unwilling to accept immigrants of diverse backgrounds as equal members of society.”

/*French National Identity and Integration: Who Belongs to the National Community*/ is the latest report produced by MPI’s Transatlantic Council on Migration that examines the current political and public debates over national identity and social cohesion. The Council is a unique deliberative and advisory body that examines vital policy issues and informs migration policymaking processes across the Atlantic community. A recently released Council statement, /Rethinking National Identity in the Age of Migration/, examines the roots of society’s anxiety over immigration and outlines 10 steps for fostering greater cohesiveness.

Today’s report and the Council’s earlier research on this and other topics are available for download at: www.migrationpolicy.org/transatlantic

French advocacy group calls for increased statistics on religious minorities

July 24, 2011

 

Members of ANELD (L’Association nationale des élus locaux de la diversité), an advocacy group representing elected local officials from ethnic and religious minorities, have stated that it’s time for France to compile statistics on its ethnically diverse population. The organization deals with issues related to ethnic diversity in France, including employment, equal rights and discrimination. Ethnic statistics are forbidden by the country’s constitution and frowned upon as a way of forcing people to identify with a set ethnic group. However, critics say these numbers are necessary given the country’s increasingly diverse ethnic landscape.

It is not the first time the issue has arisen over the past decade. The controversy over ethnic statistics last surfaced in 2009, when French President Nicolas Sarkozy appointed the Committee for the Measurement of Diversity, arguing that efforts to help minorities were hampered by a lack of data, and that he wanted to find a way to “measure the diversity of society.”

 

Members of ANELD are due to meet with the French commissioner for equal opportunities, Yazid Sabeg, to discuss a possible census. They say they plan to raise the issue of discrimination as a major topic in France’s forthcoming presidential election.