Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

10 Apr 2014

I am delighted by the response we are getting to our Situation Reports, which we have been publishing on the Tony Blair Faith Foundation blog. In the third of these reports, Dr Frederic Grare of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace examines events in Pakistan, and finds that religious conflict has been part of the Pakistani state since its inception.

Top Stories

The perception that conflict in the Arab world can be explained in terms of 'ancient hatreds' needs to be challenged argues Rachel Shabi in Aljazeera.

Tony Blair Faith Foundation Chief Executive Charlotte Keenan writes on the advice available to governments on dealing with religiously motivated extremism.

At the beginning of India's five-week general election the Economist comes out against the BJP's prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi.

Middle East and North Africa

Syria: A Dutch Jesuit priest who refused to leave the city of Homs so long as Christians remained has been shot dead. As the Economist comments, he had done much to bring world attention to the city's suffering. Pope Francis spoke of his "profound pain" at the murder. Also in Syria, threats to the shrine of Sayyeda Zeinab have galvanised Shia from across the region to protect it. As the New York Times recounts, the story of Zeinab's suffering has a strong resonance for many of the pilgrims.

Egypt: The Coptic Pope Tawadros recently entered the political debate in Egypt asking "How can we talk about human rights at a time like this?" Ramy Yaacoub and Basil el-Dabh ask how a Christian leader could take a position which, they argue, is antithetical to the teaching of Jesus.

Middle East:  Rachel Shabi looks at the false divisions which have been laid out across the region, stoking the perception that the narrative in the Arab world is purely of 'sectarianism', and argues that the majority seek freedom, justice and equality.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Central African Republic: With growing concern again this week for the communities affected by the conflict in the country, the photographer Siegfried Modola has captured some telling images and reflections on those held in the central prison in Bangui.

Somalia: In an entertaining interview, Stig Hansen answers questions from War on the Rocks on the current status of Al Shabaab, its changing structure and future.

Central and South Asia

Pakistan: Baloch militancy, noted in the Frederic Grare Pakistan situation report, is highlighted by Dawn as the United Baloch Party claims responsibility for a recent attack in Islamabad. Meanwhile the same paper notes the Pakistani Taliban extended their ceasefire as a good will gesture until after a group of prisoners were freed and Ejaz Haider takes a critical look at the government's negotiation tactics in Newsweek Pakistan.

India: As a five-week general election began this week, the Economist acknowledges Narendra Modi's growth record but refuses to endorse him as their favoured prime minister. In other election coverage, Reuters says the BJP is returning to its Hindu nationalist roots as Modi's chief aide Amit Shah is quoted saying voters should reject parties that put up Muslim candidates.

South East Asia

Indonesia: Early results from the Indonesian elections show that the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle was leading the unofficial vote count. Joe Cochrane takes a look at these early results and the reasoning behind the low showing in the polls of Islam-based parties ahead of the vote.

Philippines: With other groups opposed to the peace deal agreed in the Philippines between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Diplomat asks; where is the peace?

Myanmar: The United Nations has again highlighted its concerns about persecution against the Rohingya community in Myanmar's Rakhine state, including self-identification in the ongoing census.


Extremism: During another week of attacks in countries such as Pakistan and Iraq, Charlotte Keenan highlights the advice that is being given to governments around the world on how to deal with religiously motivated extremism. This week also saw the publication by the UK government of their annual report on the strategy for countering terrorism, which finds that the principal threat to the UK comes from militant Islamist terrorists and the growing danger from terrorist groups in Syria.

Religious Freedom: Also in the UK, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office released their annual report this week on Human Rights and Democracy. It says the world is beginning to take note of rising religious hostilities and there are encouraging signs of interfaith and reconciliation initiatives.


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