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As Boko Haram rises, Nigerian Peacemakers Respond

Following the tranquility of evening prayers, the sounds of screaming children pierced Nigeria’s Dalori village as children were burnt alive. Boko Haram had arrived and three female suicide bombers detonated their vests, killing villagers who tried to stop their attack.

At Tanenbaum, we have witnessed the rise of Boko Haram through the eyes of our Nigerian Peacemakers in Action, Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye. (Once mortal enemies, they now work together to teach warring religious youth and others to peacefully resolve conflicts.) Although ISIS dominates international headlines, Boko Haram is the world’s deadliest terrorist group – according to the 2015 Global Terrorism Index Report. In 2014, ISIS slaughtered 6,073 people, while Boko Haram was responsible for 6,644 terrorist deaths.[i]

“Boko Haram is devastating Nigeria,” noted Tanenbaum CEO Joyce Dubensky. “As thousands of families are torn apart by kidnappings, murder and fractured communities, children are being burned alive. But the victims of this local massacre are not the only ones affected. The global Muslim community, Christians and humanity at large is also suffering from these attacks.”

Peacemakers Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye of the Interfaith Mediation Centre in Nigeria, agree. Imam Ashafa notes how the media’s focus is on the atrocities committed by terrorist groups that claim the mantle of Islam. He worries that this overlooks the majority of Muslims who live peacefully and take action against terrorism. “The Muslim community is also a victim. We would never make attention-worthy headlines because the media wants to broadcast how much blood has been shed and how many have died, not how many were saved and how many fight against ISIS and Boko Haram.”[ii]

“Self-proclaimed Muslim terrorists capture the headlines, and many people incorrectly presume that terrorism and Islam are synonymous. And that leads to stereotypes, hate and alienation. This is a cycle we have to stop,” says Dubensky. “One way we can do this is through education. By sharing practical information, for example among teachers and community members, we can reduce hatred and make sure our communities become informed by facts instead of fear.”

Tanenbaum offers a range of educational curricula and other materials including its Combating Extremism resources, which help teachers and individuals address extremism constructively in classrooms and communities.

 


 

[i] The Institute for Economics and Peace. 2015 Global Terrorism Index Report. Publication. Accessed February 1, 2016. http://static.visionofhumanity.org/sites/default/files/2015 Global Terrorism Index Report.pdf.

[ii]Nigeria’s Imam and the Pastor Talk Interfaith Conflict Issues.” University of Massachusetts Boston. December 9, 2015. Accessed February 01, 2016.

Political Conventions Leave Atheists Out: News Roundup

In the news this week:  religious domain names in dispute, atheists left out at conventions, Rev. Sun Myung Moon passes, and other stories.

Centuries-old theological disputes have broken out in cyberspace as religions aim to influence the future presentation of faith on the Internet.

The forum for the rivalry is not the pulpit or church bulletin, but the website of ICANN, the corporation that oversees the Internet address system and now wants to expand it beyond the usual .com, .org or .net domains.

When ICANN began accepting applications for new names early this year, bids came for extensions such as .catholic, .islam and .bible. Not far behind were critics who challenged many applicants' right to monopolise those and other religious terms.  Reuters

This convention season has not been good for atheists.

The word "God" was reinserted in the Democratic platform after it had been removed. A plan to raise atheist billboards in the convention cities was stymied by opponents. And though there were preachers and rabbis and other religious leaders opening and closing each day of each convention, there wasn’t an avowed atheist talking up unbelief on either convention’s speaking list.

The political lockout has left many nonbelievers asking, “What political party represents me?”  CNN

New Jersey’s attorney general has assured a group of Muslim leaders that a New York City police unit that had surveilled Muslims in the Garden State is no longer operating there.

Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa had met with the Muslim leaders and police officials on Wednesday.

The New York Police Department spying operation, which has been doggedly investigated by The Associated Press, was launched in the wake of 9/11 and used race, religion and ethnicity to create a catalog of Muslim neighborhoods, businesses and mosques. The program is notorious for not having produced a single lead or case involving terrorism.  Truthdig

It's getting tougher to be a Republican in some parts of the country while also fully accepting the practice of Islam.

In Tennessee, an incumbent in the U.S. House found herself on the defensive after being called soft on Shariah law, the code that guides Muslim beliefs and actions. And the state's governor has been forced to explain why he hired a Muslim.

Lee Douglas, a dentist just south of Nashville and an anti-Shariah activist, points to the Muslim woman hired in Tennessee's economic development office as evidence of an "infiltration" of Islam in government. Douglas helped draft a resolution criticizing the governor and Islam. A version of the document has been signed by a growing list of GOP executive committees, from rural counties to the state's wealthiest.  NPR

The Rev. Sun Myung Moon — a controversial religious and political figure who founded the Unification Church, a major institution in East Asia and beyond that gained fame decades ago for its mass weddings — died early Monday in South Korea, the church said.

The Universal Peace Federation said on its website that Moon died early Monday morning of complications related to pneumonia. He was 92.  CNN