Thought-provoking stories at the intersection of faith and critical global challenges, found in our bi-monthly Global Briefings

 


Wrestling with roots of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict 

For a dive beneath the escalating Palestine-Israel conflict into root causes, see this Associated Press explainer and a brief history in this VOX video. MCC has been present in the land since 1949, and this 15-page MCC Frequently Asked Questions booklet has sections including recent history and what the Bible says about Palestine and Israel. To go in-depth, see Inhabiting the Land, a short book by Alain Epp Weaver, who worked with MCC in Palestine for over a decade. The question of how to describe the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is crucial and contested. The UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice consider the occupation a serious violation of human rights and international law. Yet violations are often not criticized by the U.S., which blocks UN Security Council statements on Israel in ways similar to China on Xinjiang and Syria. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu of South Africa recently declared a moral responsibility to intervene with the European Union, United Kingdom, and USA, “all of which have consistently provided military support and diplomatic cover for Israel’s violations of international law.” 2021 reports from two leading human rights organizations, Human Rights Watch and the Israeli agency B'tselem, contend that Israel’s discriminatory policies have crossed a threshold that meets the United Nations definition of apartheid. It is also important to recognize the alarming rise in antisemitism in the world, noted in January by the UN Secretary General. The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism provides guidelines to identify and oppose antisemitism while protecting free expression and supporting justice for the Palestinian people and lasting peace for all. Finally, a glimmer of light amid the inter-communal violence, a Times of Israel article about Jews and Palestinians pushing back peacefully.   

(Recommended reading from our May 2021 Global Briefing)

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The problem is not government but bad government 

Israeli historian and bestselling author Yuval Noah Harari writes in Financial Times of startling technological and scientific progress (such as the COVID-19 vaccine) during the pandemic. But he contends that “science cannot replace politics,” citing examples of bad political decisions and mismanagement and three lessons for the future. Similarly, Yascha Mounk of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change argues that “populism has proven lethal” and “the longer the pandemic has dragged on, the more the quality of governance has turned out to matter.” One proposal for a better kind of politics comes from two authors at Foreign Affairs magazine. While rivalry today between powerful nations often results in multi-lateral paralysis, they argue for “microlaterialism.” Why not let small countries take the lead in international relations? “Drawing on smaller nations’ particular strengths – Scandinavian countries’ long history of conflict mediation, for instance, or Jordan’s experience dealing with extremist groups – allows for a productive division of labor that combines deep expertise with the kinds of resources that larger, more influential countries bring to the table.” They cite Estonia on digital governance and Costa Rica on conservation. 

(Recommended reading from our May 2021 Global Briefing)

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Myanmar military rule: Unprecedented resistance, but in danger of being normalized

The military junta’s February 2021 overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Myanmar, also known as Burma, was followed by intense repression (see “what is happening on the ground” here). But resistance has been unprecedented, widely supported, spearheaded by brave youth (with women and girls central to the movement), and one that Myanmar journalist Zwe Mahn says could remake future society for the better. Indeed, writes Thant Myint-U, author of The Hidden History of Burma, “Over recent months, a new generation of leaders have come to the fore and many have rejected the ethno-nationalism at the heart of Myanmar politics, seeking fresh alliances across racial, ethnic and religious divides.” Yet the economic and health care system has collapsed and 3.4 million people may face hunger in coming months. While Mahn writes that the “battle is lopsided,” yet “with action from international community is winnable,” in “No One Is Saving Myanmar,” Atlantic writer Timothy McLaughlin writes that foreign governments and “organizations such as the UN have been left looking ineffectual and paralyzed by inaction.” Two authors from the Center for Strategic and International Studies write that “[The military] has set the country down a violent path toward either revolution, repression, or collapse. The people of Myanmar have overwhelmingly chosen resistance.” Alarmingly, Myanmar is already fading from global headlines, and former UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee warns that “there is a dangerous sense that the coup is becoming normalized, even accepted, as the new status quo.” We have seen this happen between the two Koreas over 70 years of division, over ten years of civil war in Syria, and recently between China mainland and Hong Kong: division or absorption by violence is viewed first as unacceptable, then tragic, then inevitable, then normal. Where are the international leaders with sufficient courage and influence to declare otherwise, and act accordingly? 

(Recommended reading from our May 2021 Global Briefing)

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How is the January 6, 2021 mob attack on the U.S. Capitol an opportunity to learn from other contexts?  

Two authors who worked on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda draw parallels to Rwanda where, through hate speech and disinformation, “the seeds of genocide were planted by the media in the years leading up to the explosion of violence.” Public speech has consequences in mobilizing fear and anger, they say, and early warning signs must be taken seriously. Another parallel is South Korea, where in 2017 a crowd of supporters of President Park Geun-hye stormed the presidential grounds after she was removed from office. Since then, while contentious, there have been attempts to address a “cozy relationship between large corporations and the government” and certain media groups which “increasingly resembled an entrenched disinformation campaign.” Misinformation, Disinformation, Fake News: Why Do We Care? from the Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations is an in-depth resource which explains the differences between disinformation, misinformation, and malinformation, which collectively pose a global challenge of “information disorder.” It includes biblical commentary and a “What can I do?” section including how to create a list of trusted sources. Also see Social-Media Algorithms Rule How We See the World for exactly how Facebook and Twitter pose a danger. 

(Recommended reading from our March 2021 Global Briefing)

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What the COVID vaccine tells us about holding together innovation and ethics 

From the COVID vaccine to the internet, artificial limbs to satellites, many of the biggest technological breakthroughs in recent history have not sprung from the private sector, but from collaboration between federal governments, business, and science. One economics correspondent writes that while free market economies can make huge contributions, they come up short in solving enormous problems. And How Science Beat the Virus (and What It Lost in the Process) discusses both the contribution and the “all-too human frailties of the scientific enterprise.” Big global challenges like climate change, too, will depend on public-private partnerships. Yet these authors overlook the critical role of ethical knowledge from civil society, as seen in Reading While Black author and Anglican priest Esau Mccaulley’s writing of Martin Luther King, Jr. going beyond preaching for justice to work for policy change to address structural disempowerment. The warning, given the problem of vaccine inequality: technological innovation also needs moral imagination.

(Recommended reading from our March 2021 Global Briefing)

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Will the poorest be trampled in the vaccine stampede?
Rich nations representing just 14 percent of the world’s population have bought up 53 percent of all the most promising vaccines so far. Facing the problem of “vaccine nationalism,” growing numbers of charities and churches contend there is a moral responsibility for vaccines to be shared far and wide, to the neediest first, and there is a campaign for a People’s Vaccine. “No one should be blocked from getting a life-saving vaccine because of the country they live in or the amount of money in their pocket,” says one leader. “But unless something changes dramatically, billions of people around the world will not receive a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 for years to come.” See an in-depth analysis of the problem, a country-by-country chart of the vaccine supply problem, and Scientific American on how to distribute a COVID vaccine ethically.

(Recommended reading from our January 2021 Global Briefing)

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Winning the war on false and divisive information
An anti-fake news initiative launched by Finland’s government is aimed at teaching residents, students, journalists and politicians how to counter false information designed to sow division. To prepare citizens of all ages for the complex digital landscape of today, says one expert, “The first line of defense is the kindergarten teacher.” What Finland is learning may be crucial for all of us. 

(Recommended reading from our January 2021 Global Briefing)

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“Neighbors without borders”
Read about Pope Francis’ new encyclical, where he warns that the world is fast losing its sense of the oneness of the human family. In a post-pandemic world, the pope says the Good Samaritan story should move us to action as “neighbors without borders,” each day deciding “whether to be Good Samaritans or indifferent bystanders.” The pope calls for a better kind of politics across the world that confronts narrow nationalism, digital misinformation, the corrosion of civility, and favoring the rich and powerful: “The decision to include or exclude those lying wounded along the roadside can serve as a criterion for judging every economic, political, social and religious project.”  

(Recommended reading from our January 2021 Global Briefing)

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