PD News – Media Monitor Reports
By Silva Sevlian
Faith-based Engagement as a Tool for Public Diplomacy
Faith Diplomacy, the use of religion to communicate with global publics and its incorporation into foreign policy, is an element of international engagement that cannot be dismissed. Mutual understanding is a key pillar of public diplomacy and religion is often the core of national identity. Post-9/11, and arguably even pre-9/11, religion finds itself at the core of some of the greatest diplomatic puzzles. It is therefore imperative that faith-based organizations and leaders are enlisted to help better engage foreign communities. This goes beyond simply facilitating interreligious dialogue and should involve engaging religious leaders in peace-keeping and peace-building efforts.
Many believe that religion and diplomacy are crucial to their shared goals of pursuing the common good. Miguel Diaz, the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican recently declared his enthusiastic support for utilizing religious agents and organizations to better address diplomatic challenges, noting that it is a central part of the U.S. mission at the Holy See. The Ambassador highlighted the fact that religion does not exist in a vacuum, but instead works as a unifier that binds people together. "Diplomatic halls today may not contain the kind of explicit religious and mythological imagery found in places like the Doge's Palace in Venice," he said. "But there is no doubt that religious ideas and actors remain indispensable tools in the pursuit of peace and justice and the good that must be commonly constructed."
With the recent popular uprisings across the Middle East, the Center for American Progress has questioned the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom’s approach to issues of religious freedom. In a recent CAP article, the author disputes U.S. CIRF’s take on religious freedom as a matter of “rights,” and argues that it does not take into account the fact that many members of the global community regard religion as an element of “identity.” Understanding the impact of religious freedom is essential in creating effective foreign policy and building diplomatic ties with other nations. In an effort to help guide the Obama administration, the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University, and the Center on Faith and International Affairs at the Institute for Global Engagement issued a joint report in 2009 on “The Future of International Religious Freedom Policy: Recommendations for the Obama Administration.”
Increasingly, religion is being incorporated into foreign policy, often to protect endangered religious communities. Following attacks on the Christian minority in Iraq earlier this year, Switzerland took on a project in the country which provided human rights officials with training in protecting minorities and religious freedom. The head of the division within the foreign ministry responsible for religion explained in an interview that Switzerland’s foreign policy, like all others, is about protecting the country’s interest and security. This includes measures that promote stability with international rules that create a safe environment to share diverse world views and religions.
Faith Diplomacy, News and New Media
In the past year, U.S. media coverage of religion doubled from the previous year, with headlines about Islam dominating reports. An estimated 40 percent of religious news in the U.S. related to Islam with domestic issues such as the proposed Quran burning and the Park51 Mosque sparking public interest. Though religion news increased two-fold, it remains an underrepresented subject, accounting for only 2 percent of domestic headlines in the past year.
Still, religious organizations are striving to appeal to a larger and younger audience by incorporating new technology in their communication plans. In an effort to reach a broader base of followers, the Russian Orthodox Church launched a YouTube channel in October 2010 with videos that deliver the words of God by the head of the church Patriarch Kirill.
The Vatican has also reached out to publics through online communities such as Facebook and Twitter, creating a venue to share information directly with its followers. A Facebook page was launched in September 2010 to promote Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to the United Kingdom and a new page was just added by the Holy See to engage the public in the beatification of Pope John Paul II this upcoming May. The Pope has also made headlines with his new book Jesus of Nazareth, where he explains biblically and theologically that the Jewish people cannot be blamed for Jesus’ death.
On Good Friday, April 22, Pope Benedict XVI will take a pivotal step toward two-way communication, when he will take advantage of the feedback allowed by social media and answer questions submitted online during a broadcast on Italian television. And he is not the first high-profile spiritual leader to take questions from the public: the Dalai Lama used Twitter last year to discuss the fate of Tibet in an effort to reach the Chinese public.
Turning to the East, many news outlets, during the wall-to-wall broadcasts of the pro-democracy movement’s progress in Egypt, shone a bright spotlight on the Muslim Brotherhood and grappled with the prospects of a new Islamic-oriented leadership in the country. At the same time, many unfamiliar with the region learned about the strong desires for democracy across the Middle East through witnessing the overwhelming dedication of the masses that banded together for a common cause – without reference to religious ideology – throughout the region.
Two major natural disasters this past year demonstrated that religious organizations are often the strongest NGO force when responding to emergency situations. An estimated $300 million of aid was delivered to Haiti by faith-based organizations along with thousands of volunteers interested in rebuilding the nation that was struck hard by the January 12, 2010 earthquake. IsraAid, an Israeli-based organization that coordinated 17 Israeli and Jewish humanitarian groups, responded to the March 11, 2011 Japanese crisis by sending rescue personnel, emergency medical officers and water pollution specialists. In addition, leaders from the Church of Latter Day Saints have been working with the Japanese government to determine the needs of the victims and have funneled U.S. donations to on-the-ground efforts for recovery.
These stories along with others collected here, demonstrate the powerful nature of religious engagement around the world and the importance of working with faith leaders and religious communities in mutually respectful ways to improve foreign relations.
This Media Monitor, which began on October 1, 2010, tracked coverage of religion as it pertains to foreign policy, new technology and public diplomacy. Headlines ranged from “The Ground-Zero Mosque” to aid diplomacy to Japan by international religious organizations in the wake of this year’s tsunami and earthquake. The Media Monitor concluded in March 2011 preceding the CPD Conference, Faith Diplomacy: Religion and Global Publics at the University of Southern California.
Faith Diplomacy Monitor: Latest News Coverage
How to be a rock star: A little faith helps
Jonathan Slye spent part of last summer at a Christian rock camp learning how to be a lead singer. But by November he had another thought: he should throw a rock show in his hometown. Slye wanted to do this as an outreach to his friends to show them Christian music could be cool and have a positive message.
Experts offer advice on best ways to help Japan
LDS Church leaders are working with local leaders to determine the needs of the Japanese and how to work best with the local governments, according to a statement released Thursday. Leaders are directing those wishing to donate to do so through the church's Humanitarian Aid Fund.
Religion, diplomacy are indispensable to each other’s goals
The Tidings Online
Religious ideas and the people who represent them are indispensable tools in the pursuit of peace, justice and the common good, said the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Miguel Diaz, in an address at The Catholic University of America.
Rethinking Our Policy on Religious Freedom
Center for American Progress
As recent events have unfolded throughout the Middle East, it is increasingly clear that an in-depth understanding of the role of religious freedom—and the cultural and political role of religion itself—is crucial to advancing American foreign policy interests especially in that region.
Hollywood Ignores East-West Exchange
New York Times
AT the Oscars last month the gap between what interests Hollywood and what the rest of the world seems to be doing was sharp and clear. Of the five nominees for the best foreign-language film, all but one, among them the winner, “In a Better World,” from Denmark, dealt in some way with relationships between the West and Islam.
Music And Muslims: The ‘Cat Stevens’ Effect
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
Mehrubon Ravshan is the Cat Stevens of Tajikistan. Ravshan is best-known for hit songs like "Az Mani" ("You Are Mine"), but now that the 30-year-old pop singer has become a more devout Muslim, he's changed his tune.
Scottish cardinal accuses UK of ‘anti-Christian foreign policy’
Catholic News Agency
The leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland has accused the U.K. of adopting an “anti-Christian foreign policy,” after the government announced it would double foreign aid to Pakistan without setting any conditions to help the Islamic country's endangered religious minorities.
America’s churches can change the world
Consider the issues that most threaten humanity's common future: global terrorism, climate change, overpopulation, and the political and social unrest caused by economic disparity. These problems transcend national boundaries and beg for international solutions. Yet political leaders have generally been unwilling or unable to find solutions.
Blog, tweet, pray: Vatican dives into social media
The Vatican will unveil the latest installment in its social media transformation next week — a Facebook page dedicated to the upcoming beatification of Pope John Paul II, officials said.
Friend the pope? John Paul II gets Facebook page
The Washington Post
The Vatican will unveil the latest installment in its social media transformation next week - a Facebook page dedicated to the upcoming beatification of Pope John Paul II, officials said.
An opening to the Arab world
The Washington Post
If America wants to strengthen its relationship with the Arab world, connecting with the next generation of Arab leaders is key. As President Obama's special representative to Muslim communities, Farah Pandith, once explained, "These youth are keen to be connected to others, to share ideas and to take part in building stronger communities."
Tony Blair’s global ‘battle of ideas’
Tony Blair's faith foundation works with universities in countries including the US, China, the UK, Canada and Sierra Leone. He also lectures at Yale. Mr Blair gave his views on university globalization to the BBC News website.
Blair’s New Mideast Mission
The Daily Beast
As the Middle East rages, Tony Blair argues that religion can help reform the region and bring about liberal democracies. He speaks to Lisa Miller about his latest diplomatic efforts—and his appearance today at Rick Warren’s church.
Religion News Coverage Doubled, Focused On Islam Controversies In 2010
Islam dominated religion news coverage in 2010, a year that also saw religion reporting double to 2 percent of all news, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
Time to walk the talk in MidEast
The end of the Mubarak regime demonstrates the falsity of commonly held stereotypes: Arabs reject democracy, Islam is incompatible with popular sovereignty, the grip of rulers of security states is unshakable.
After protests, priests fear Egyptian youths will turn away from church
Catholic News Services
The priest said he feared young people will "turn their backs on the church" and say, "You never stood with us ... you never taught us to stand up for our rights."
A stable world is in everyone’s interests
Following attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt and Christians in Iraq, a diplomat tells swissinfo.ch how Switzerland is trying to combat religiously motivated violence.
Iraqi Christians find refuge in France
Whalon says the Christian community of Iraq, which numbered about 1.2 million before the war began, now is down to about 400,000, with many moving out under the threat of death. After the attack in October, the number of people on waiting lists seeking refuge in France swelled to more than 4,000.
Italy blocks EU statement on religious persecution
The European Union failed to agree on a statement against the persecution of religious minorities on Monday after Italy objected to the omission of any reference to the protection of Christians.
Close Encounters of the Buddhist Kind
An exclusive look inside a booming multi-billion dollar, evangelical, global Thai cult.
US ambassador seeks to ‘build bridges’ with Vatican
Catholic News Agency
America’s ambassador to the Holy See says the two sides are working to rebuild trust following the leak of embarrassing diplomatic cables late last year.
Cardinal McCarrick to study at Library of Congress
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the archbishop emeritus of Washington, has been named a distinguished visiting scholar at the Library of Congress. McCarrick will study the role of religion in diplomacy and the responsibilities of religious leaders to work for peace and care for the poor.
Faith-based groups pitch in for Haiti
More than $300 million dollars and thousands of volunteers — all powered by religious faith — have poured in to earthquake-shattered Haiti to help rebuild the country and restore its spirit. Although international governmental aid is the mainstay of Haiti relief, faith-based groups offer significant muscle in funds and volunteers.
Pope’s call for Middle East to protect Christians sparks Egypt fury
Pope Benedict was tonight at the centre of a new diplomatic storm after Egypt recalled its ambassador to the Vatican in protest at the pontiff's call for Middle Eastern governments to do more to protect their Christian minorities.
Fundamentally Freund: Time for faith-based diplomacy
The Jerusalem Post
The dawn of a new calendar year may have begun, but there are few rays of sunshine on the diplomatic horizon, as pressure continues to mount on the Jewish state.
The True Nature of Faith in a Globalized World
The Japan Times
The number of people proclaiming their faith worldwide is growing. This is clearly so in the Islamic world. Whereas Europe's birthrate is stagnant, the Arab population is set to double in the coming decades, and the population will rise in many Asian Muslim-majority countries.
Pope’s Christmas message urges peace in troubled lands
In his traditional Christmas message delivered Saturday to crowds braving winter's chill, Pope Benedict XVI urged peace in the Middle East and asked for God's comfort upon beleaguered Christian communities in Iraq and elsewhere in the region.
Faith Leaders: Stop Religicide of Iraqi Christians
The Christian Post
Religious leaders across different faiths joined together with Open Doors, a ministry that serves persecuted Christians around the world, on Monday to call attention to the systematic "extermination" of Iraqi Christians.
Pope: Vatican acted slowly, late in Legion scandal
Pope Benedict XVI lamented that the Vatican acted "slowly and late" in a scandal surrounding the Legionaries of Christ, and a Vatican official called Tuesday for an investigation into who covered up for the conservative order's disgraced founder.
Sharansky: Provide housing now for Ethiopian immigrants
The Jerusalem Post
The Jewish Agency for Israel urged the government on Monday to provide adequate housing solutions prior to the expected arrival of over 7,800 Ethiopians of Jewish ancestry in the country
Go forth and blog, tweet and post, US Catholic bishops told
"If the church is not on their mobile device, it doesn't exist," he said, likening social media to a "new digital continent" waiting to be evangelized.
International campaign calls for “wave of pluralism” to break down barriers
Cision Wire (Press Release)
On the twenty first anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the respected Institute for Cultural Diplomacy invited the Chairman of Iman, the global counter-extremism foundation, to deliver a keynote speech on pluralism and the Middle East.
Islam and the West: Reaching Intercultural Understanding
The Huffington Post
The signatories below and I welcome the many initiatives that are underway among governments, in civil society, and within the religious community to expand areas of cooperation between the Muslim community and other actors. President Obama's trip to Indonesia this week is an important example of the high-level attention that must be given to these relationships.
The Wrong Way to Combat ‘Islamophobia’
The New York Times
This week, member states of the United Nations will vote on what has become an annual resolution, “On Combating Defamation of Religions,” put forward by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a group of 57 states with large Islamic populations.
Vatican hosting talks on religion in Iran
Catholic News Agency
As part of a continuing initiative aimed at improving understanding between Christians and Muslims, a Vatican delegation will be taking part in a three-day discussion on religion and society in Iran.
Stay With Obama’s Opening to Muslims
The New York Times
In his first year, President Obama made the rebuilding of America’s reputation and partnerships with the Islamic world a central theme of his presidency. His commitment to the development of trusting, respectful cooperation with the Muslim world needs to be rescued, burnished and supported.
Raul Castro, Catholic Leaders Open Cuban Seminary
The New York Times (Associated Press)
Cuban President Raul Castro joined an American archbishop and other Roman Catholic leaders Wednesday to open a national seminary on the outskirts Havana, the first religious construction on the communist-run island in more than a half century.
Vicious Anti-Gay Bill May Be Headed for Law in Uganda
A bill that not only stiffens the penalty for gay sex by imposing the death sentence in some instances but also criminalizes the discretion of people who know about a gay relationship but do not report it may be headed for law in Uganda after languishing for a year.
Cape Town opera snubs Tutu plea to cancel Israel tour
South Africa's Cape Town Opera has turned down an appeal from Nobel peace prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu to call off a tour of Israel. He said it would be as inappropriate as it had been for international firms to visit South Africa during apartheid.
Africa viewpoint: Nollywood and religion
n the BBC series of viewpoints from African journalists, Sola Odunfa considers what Nigeria's movie industry reveals about the country's spirituality.
‘In South Sudan the state is for everyone, religion for individuals’
In an interview with France24.com, a top official of the government of South Sudan insisted that an independent South would protect citizens of all faiths, as it has done since gaining autonomy in 2005.
Is Obama trying to dodge a head gear controversy in India?
Christian Science Monitor
President Obama will visit India next month. But his staff may have taken a trip to the Golden Temple off the agenda as it would involve wearing head gear, possibly furthering speculation that he is Muslim.
Google to bring Dead Sea Scrolls online
The Associated Press
The Dead Sea Scrolls, among the world's most important, mysterious and tightly restricted archaeological treasures, are about to get Googled. The technology giant and Israel announced Tuesday that they are teaming up to give researchers and the public the first comprehensive and searchable database of the scrolls - a 2,000-year-old collection of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek documents that shed light on Judaism during biblical times and the origins of Christianity.
Planned Mosque Sparks Controversy in Russia
The leaders of Moscow's 1.5 million strong Muslim community say they desperately need more places of worship. But a plan to build a new mosque has run into local opposition which is being fuelled by nationalists calling for a "clean Moscow" without Muslims and foreigners.
Pope Benedict to visit Ireland in the next two years – Vatican
A senior Vatican official said that, “There is a strong likelihood that Pope Benedict will visit Ireland in 2012 as part of the Eucharistic Congress.”
Where script meets scripture: Recent films take a leap of faith
Faith-based film fans used to be seen as a niche audience. Now, in Hollywood, they’re just seen as the audience.
Halal Campbell soup: Mm, Mm, not so good?
The Washington Post
A food fight seems to be brewing. In North America and Europe, the last few months have seen simmering disputes over halal food products, a major part of Muslim life.
The Role of Happiness in the World Religions
It's hard to deny that His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet and the world's most famous Buddhist, is the also world's foremost expert on happiness. But what about other major religious traditions? Is happiness a good thing, or bad?
Homer Simpson ‘is a true Catholic’
The long-running cartoon series explores issues such as family, community, education and religion in a way that few other popular television programmes can match, according to L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's daily broadsheet.
Obama to visit Golden Temple, college in Amritsar
The Economic Times
When US President Barack Obama lands in India next month, his itinerary will include a visit to the Golden Temple here, the holiest Sikh shrine. This is being seen as a recognition of the importance and influence of the large Sikh community in the US.
Hitchens, Blair to debate role of faith
The Globe and Mail
“We have asked Mr. Blair and Mr. Hitchens to wrestle with the more immediate question facing developed and developing nations: Is religion a force for peace or conflict in the modern world?”
Russian Orthodox Church launches YouTube channel
Russia's dominant Orthodox Church unveiled its own channel on YouTube on Monday to attract young followers to a faith which has grown increasingly powerful since the fall of communism.
Hundreds pledge support for world peace
The Times of India
"There are many disputes in the world, let's make the 21st century a century of dialogue and solve these disputes. It will help bring peace to the world," said the Dalai Lama.
Pope urges simple faith of true wisdom as he opens Synod for Middle East
The two week assembly of the synod of bishops for the Middle East opened Monday morning with an unscripted address from Pope Benedict XVI. “The Church's faith is the foundation that does not waver”, he told participants, “despite the threat of destruction”, and focusing on Mary's divine motherhood he warned against “false gods such as terrorism, drugs and capitalism which enslave mankind”.
Pope has received letter from Ahmadinejad
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has sent a letter to the pope thanking him for opposing a Florida pastor's threat to burn the Quran and calling for cooperation against secularism, the Vatican and the Iranian presidency said Saturday.
Israel lets 300 Druze clerics visit Syria for first time
Around 300 Israeli Druze are for the first time to be allowed into Syria for a religious visit after they were given permission by the interior ministry, the head of Israel's Druze community said on Thursday.
Iran president thanks Pope for condemning Koran threat
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has written to the Pope, thanking him for condemning an American pastor's threat to burn the Koran last month. In his letter, Mr Ahmadinejad also called for closer co-operation between Iran and the Vatican.
Conservatives slam Wulff for Islam remarks
Leading conservative German politicians assailed President Christian Wulff on Tuesday for comments intimating Islam had gained a status comparable to Christianity and Judaism in Germany.
Presentation of World Youth Day 2011
The Catholic Spirit
A press conference was held this morning in the Holy See Press Office to present the next World Youth Day, which is due to be held in the Spanish capital city of Madrid in August 2011.
The Profound Beauty and Striking Similarities Between Orthodox Christian and Tibetan Buddhist Art
The Huffington Post
"Embodying the Holy," a new exhibition at New York City's Rubin Museum of Art, brings to light striking similarities between Orthodox Christian icons and traditional Tibetan Buddhist painted scrolls.
Why the Mosque Melee Actually Signals a New Era of Religious Tolerance
The Huffington Post
Today's ugly Islamophobia painfully recalls the bigotries of earlier times. Now, as then, "culture wars" are energized less by what is known about the other than by what is not known or not understood.