Hannah Beech of The New York Times reports on radical religious-nationalist movements in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, two Buddhist-majority nations where militant strains of Buddhism are taking hold. Politically powerful monks warn that Buddhist populations are under siege, inspiring Buddhist mobs to attack Muslim minority populations. Beech writes, “As the tectonic plates of Buddhism and Islam collide, a portion of Buddhists are abandoning the peaceful tenets of their religion.”
For The New York Times, Sam Kestenbaum profiles Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson, with a focus on the mystical text that inspired her performance at the recent debate and fueled her career as a celebrity spiritual guide. Kestenbaum writes, “She was, in fact, drawing directly from a homegrown American holy book called ‘A Course in Miracles,’ a curious New York scripture that arose during the heady metaphysical counterculture of the 1960s.” While some have dismissed her theology as shallow, others embrace her self-help ethos.
For The New York Times, Courtney E. Martin writes about “Civic Saturdays,” gatherings that feature fellowship, poetry, and readings and are designed to encourage greater civic engagement across political lines. The brainchild of Eric Liu and Jena Cane, this civic analogue to church has hosted meetings across the nation and includes a free “Civic Seminary” funded by grants from the Einhorn Charitable Trust and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Martin writes, “The heart of the service is the sermon, designed to get congregants thinking beyond the day’s headlines to deeper themes of their democracy.”
The Boston Globe’s Zoe Greenberg and Danny McDonald report on a march in Boston that included about 1,000 Jewish activists and others protesting immigrant detention centers. Many protesters wore Jewish prayer shawls and head coverings and were part of a nationwide push of young Jews advocating for immigrant rights across the country. Greenberg and McDonald write, “Stosh Cotler, the CEO of Bend the Arc, a national group of progressive Jews, said Jewish activists draw on a long history of migration, asylum-seeking, and detention when they fight for migrants’ rights today.”
For Wired, Amanda Schaffer reports on the battle inside Brooklyn’s Hasidic Jewish community, where misinformation about vaccines spread through a tight-knit parents network and contributed to a measles outbreak in New York City. The piece focuses on an Orthodox nurse’s efforts to educate parents about vaccine safety, as well as one woman’s campaign to spread fears of vaccines through conference calls and a popular handbook. Schaffer writes, “Roughly 40,000 copies of the pamphlet appeared in kosher grocery stores and by apartment doors in Williamsburg and Borough Park, as well as in ultra-Orthodox communities in upstate New York and New Jersey.”
The Global Refugee Crisis Hit a Record High. The U.S. Welcome for the Persecuted Is at a Record Low.posted on June 25, 2019
For Christianity Today, Griffin Paul Jackson reports on new data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that showed the number of displaced people last year reached an historic high of 70.8 million worldwide. Advocates say those fleeing religious persecution are at risk, noting the Trump Administration reduced the number of spots for asylum seekers by more than half, a departure from decades-long policy. Jackson writes, “The number of Christians welcomed to the U.S. from countries with the worst records of religious persecution has dropped by 70 percent, and the number of Muslims coming from such countries is down 90.7 percent.”
Religion News Service’s Jack Jenkins reports on a forum on poverty that drew former Vice President Joe Biden and several other high-profile Democratic presidential candidates to Washington, D.C. Jenkins writes, “Attendees at the gathering of religious progressives peppered the onetime Delaware senator with questions about how he would address issues impacting the poor, including whether he would campaign in the South — a region that faces some of the largest issues of poverty.” Organized by the Poor People’s Campaign, the Poor People’s Moral Action Congress featured remarks by other White House hopefuls including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Sen. Kamala Harris.
For The Washington Post, Jamie Aten interviews documentary director Brian Ivie, whose new film reflects on the massacre of nine black church members by a white supremacist in Charleston, S.C. Produced by Academy Award-winning actress Viola Davis and NBA star Steph Curry, “Emanuel” was released to mark the fourth anniversary of the 2015 murders at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Aten writes, “The new documentary does not explicitly address gun violence or gun policy, but the powerful stories told by the survivors allow viewers to consider the implications and draw their own conclusions.”
The New York Times’ Elizabeth Dias writes about one family’s search for justice after reporting a sexual abuse allegation against a children’s minister at the Village Church, a popular Dallas-area megachurch affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. The case is part of a reckoning happening in evangelical churches as hundreds of clergy sex abuse cases come to light. Dias writes, “The S.B.C. has resisted calls for reforms for years, but addressing the issue of sexual abuse will be a major focus this week at the convention’s annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.”
For The Washington Post, Sarah Stankorb writes of the growing focus on sexual abuses cases inside Protestant churches. She writes, “Much of the credit for this quickening churn goes to a circle of bloggers – dozens of armchair investigative journalists who have been outing abuse, one case and one congregation at a time, for over a decade now, bolstering their posts with court records, police reports, video clips of pastors’ sermons, and emails, often provided to them by survivors.” So far, most of these Protestant watchdog bloggers are from white, conservative churches, highlighting a divide between black and white evangelical women.