EU’s hypocrisy on human rights exposed in COVID-19 vaccine scuffle

EU’s hypocrisy on human rights exposed in COVID-19 vaccine scuffle

Pandemic exposes the real defender of human rights is China: observers

By GT staff reporters
Published: Mar 25, 2021

The COVID-19 vaccine scuffle between the EU and Western pharmaceuticals is not over yet. The latest move marks Brussels’ plan to up the ante on control over the export of vaccines outside the bloc, stopping shipments to countries like the UK which have seen higher vaccination rates.

When humanity is still threatened by the pandemic that has already claimed more than 2.74 million lives and when 130 countries are still waiting for vaccines, Western countries have engaged in an “all for itself” vaccine war by slapping on export controls and even intercepting vaccines that pass by their countries, said Chinese observers.  

Yet those so-called defenders of human rights wasted no time in echoing the US’ formation of a “human rights alliance,” and wielded sanctions against China, when the latter is devoted to guaranteeing fair global distribution of vaccines. In terms of self-interest, the fact itself speaks louder than words regarding who is the real defender of human rights and who are merely using it as an excuse to achieve their own political goals. 

The European Commission set out a proposal on Wednesday that would give the bloc’s governments more powers to block vaccine exports. The proposal is mainly aimed at the UK, who has imported millions of doses from the bloc but hasn’t exported any.

The EU, which lags behind the rich countries’ club in terms of vaccine inoculation, is under pressure to boost its sluggish vaccination campaign. Such eagerness has propelled the bloc into a months-long scuffle with pharmaceuticals over supply shortages. EU leaders would discuss the export ban regime in talks on Thursday.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa receives his first dose of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The country recently received two deliveries of Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccines donated by China. Zimbabwe is one of a dozen African countries to receive Chinese-made vaccines. Photo: VCG

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa receives his first dose of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The country recently received two deliveries of Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccines donated by China. Zimbabwe is one of a dozen African countries to receive Chinese-made vaccines. Photo: VCG

“Brussels’ scrambling for vaccines has exposed their hypocrisy on human rights issues. What they really care about is the lives of Europeans, not the lives of others,” Chang Jian, director of Nankai University’s Center for the Study of Human Rights in Tianjin, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

Chang said the EU’s vaccine fight contrasts sharply with its “caring face” on the Xinjiang affairs.

Early this week, the EU imposed sanctions on China over the so-called human rights issues in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which were soon hit back at by China’s more “fierce and timely” sanctions. 

Other Western countries, such as the US, UK and Canada, soon followed suit with the EU.

It took a pandemic to rip off the US-led Western society’s “hypocritical coat” in the name of human rights, especially when those Western governments’ failed response to the pandemic has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands in their countries domestically, and their fight for vaccines has taken away chances for other developing countries to inoculate their people, Chang said, noting that pointing fingers at China’s human rights issues only exposed the true purpose of those Western countries, which is to “weaponize” human rights to serve their own political aims. 

In early March, Italy blocked a shipment of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccines destined for Australia after the drug manufacturer failed to meet its EU contract commitments. 

Later, AstraZeneca requested permission from the Italian government to export the vaccines but it was rejected by the Italian government with the European Commission supporting its decision. In a move to justify its decision, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio said that “As long as these [vaccine] delays remain, it is right for the countries of the European Union to block exports to nations that are ‘not vulnerable’.”

In February, a senior official from the Biden administration, who often criticizes other countries’ human rights issues, said that the country won’t donate coronavirus vaccines to any impoverished countries because the US purchased doses before most Americans had been vaccinated, the Politico reported. 

Some representatives pointed out at the 46th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday that the US, in pursuit of “vaccine nationalism,” has hoarded vaccines far in excess of its population during the pandemic, and refused to share them with other countries, including its allies.

“Such a disgraceful human rights record has really disqualified Western countries’ from their right to preach to other countries about this subject. Next time they plan to lash out against other countries regarding human rights violations, they should reflect upon themselves first,” Chang said. 

80.46 million people had received #COVID19 vaccination as of Mar 22. After the first vaccine was approved for emergency use in July 2020, China’s vaccination rate has accelerated. Check this graphic for more details: Infographic: Wu Tiantong/GT

80.46 million people had received COVID-19 vaccination as of Mar 22. After the first vaccine was approved for emergency use in July 2020, China’s vaccination rate has accelerated. Check this graphic for more details: Infographic: Wu Tiantong/GT
Defender of fair distribution

In contrast to the Western world, China stands up as a defender of fair global vaccine distribution. The country is providing and will offer vaccine assistance to 80 countries and three international organizations, China’s International Development Cooperation Agency said on March 19.

The pandemic will only go on longer if developing nations fail to get enough vaccines, Chen Xi, an assistant professor of public health at Yale University, told the Global Times on Thursday. “That’s why Chinese and Russian vaccines have played a key role in solving this problem.”

Even the British Ambassador to China Caroline Wilson once pointed out that China has played an important role in ensuring fair global vaccine distribution, China News Service reported. 

China’s mass vaccination campaign has entered the fast lane with daily inoculations leaping from 1 million to nearly 3 million within a week.

China is also likely to include foreigners in its vaccination process. Foreigners in Shanghai who meet the requirements will be eligible to take domestically made COVID-19 vaccines, the municipal authorities announced on Tuesday night, making Shanghai the first Chinese city to publicize an inoculation plan for foreigners. Experts also noted that it is possible more cities will follow suit.

A German expat works in a German company in Shanghai, who declined to be named, told the Global Times that his company sent an email urging the employees to take the chance and get vaccinated. “There’s no evidence showing that the quality of Chinese vaccines is inferior to European or US vaccines…Thus, I strongly recommend you to accept such a preferential offer.”

A total of 150 foreign journalists from 27 countries have voluntarily taken vaccines in China, and they are safe and gratuitous, said Hua Chunying, spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a Wednesday conference. China is doing so for the sake of their health and providing convenience for them in their daily lives in China, she noted.

Many foreign media outlets also casted doubt on China’s production capacity, asking whether China can meet the target of mass vaccinations at home while exporting vaccines to other countries and regions.

Minister of Industry and Information Technology Xiao Yaqing emphasized the stable output of China’s vaccines on Wednesday. China’s current daily output of vaccines has increased from 1.5 million doses on February 1 to the current 5 million doses. It is equivalent to more than 1.8 billion doses a year. 

The cumulative supply of domestic vaccines currently exceeds 100 million doses, the minister said.

SOURCE: GT staff reporters
MAIN IMAGE SOURCE: Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Asian American churches call for actions beyond prayer

Asian American churches call for actions beyond prayer

Nation Mar 19, 2021

Asian American Christian leaders said Thursday their congregations are saddened and outraged after a white gunman killed eight people — most of them women of Asian descent — at three Atlanta-area massage businesses. And they’re calling for action beyond prayers.

Asian Americans were already rattled by a wave of racist attacks amid the spread of the coronavirus pandemic across the United States. While the motive behind Tuesday’s rampage remains under investigation, some see it as a wake-up call to stand up against a rise in violence against the community.

The lead pastor at Korean Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, located a few miles from two of the spas that were targeted, said he will ask congregants during his Sunday sermon to “not just pray, not just worry,” because “it’s time for us to act.”

“I’m going to urge people with love and peace that we need to step up and address this issue, so that … our next generation should not be involved in tragic … violence,” the Rev. Byeong Han said. “That’s what Christians need to do.”

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry says diplomats in Atlanta have confirmed with police that four of the dead were women of Korean descent, and are working to determine their nationality.

Jane Yoon, a congregant at Korean Central Presbyterian and a 17-year-old high school junior in nearby Marietta, said she increasingly worries for her family, which is of Korean descent, and was shocked by the killings.

“I was definitely very outraged,” she said. “I was in shock at first of the news and just also how close it is to my community.”

It also hit home on a very personal level: Last week, she said, she was in a car accident and another driver punched her in the face and body before she was able to call 911. Yoon said the woman, who was arrested, did not make any racist comments during the assault, but she couldn’t help but think about rising attacks against Asian Americans.

Following that incident, she has been getting spiritual guidance and counseling from the congregation.

In the Atlanta suburb of Roswell, the Rev. Jong Kim of Grace Korean Presbyterian Church said he found a glimmer of hope in the wake of the killings after a woman reached out to donate $100 to his church “to express her feelings of sorrow to the Asian community.”

Kim spoke to several other Korean pastors in the area Thursday, and they now plan to join the group Asian Americans Advancing Justice, through which they hope to have discussions about issues of race and ethnicity and provide funeral service assistance for the victims’ families.

The Atlanta chapter of Asian Americans Advancing Justice has said that while details of the shooting are still emerging, “the broader context cannot be ignored.” The attacks, it said, “happened under the trauma of increasing violence against Asian Americans nationwide, fueled by white supremacy and systemic racism.”

Ripples from the killings have been felt well beyond Atlanta.

In Chicago, Garden City Covenant Church invited Asian Americans “in need of a community who understands your pain” to join an online meeting in which they could “share, listen, lament and pray” together.

“There were a lot of tears, and there were a lot of questions, and for many I think there is a sense also of helplessness,” said Gabriel J. Catanus, the lead pastor, who is Filipino American. The church’s diverse congregation includes about 60 percent Filipino Americans, he said, along with worshippers from Latino and other communities.

“It’s an important Biblical practice, and Christian practice, to come before God honestly and to pour one’s own heart out before God,” he said. “God can handle even the rage and the devastation that comes out of us at times.”

Catanus said he was glad to see that people are now “more awakened” to the experiences of Asian Americans. But he said much works remains to be done in faith communities and called on religious leaders to denounce anti-Asian racism from their pulpits.

“In the Christian community and in our Christian institutions, specifically, we need to confess that we have in many ways failed to lead and to teach our people,” he said. “Our discipleship has failed in many ways to address these very powerful forces that have led to violence and death.”

Kevin Park, an associate pastor at Korean Central Presbyterian Church, said not only Asian Americans but the whole country needs to speak out against the violence, racism and “more subtle marginalization” that have been suffered for generations.

“There’s opportunities among faith communities that we need to stand up together and reach out to communities that are hurting, not only Asian American communities but other communities of color,” he said.

“And I think there needs to be kind of this movement toward solidarity. … We’re all in this together.”

Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

SOURCE: Luis Andres Henao, Associated Press
Mariam Fam, Associated Press
Jessie Wardarski, Associated Press

Dallas widow pleaded for answers in husband's murder. Now she is in jail.

Dallas widow pleaded for answers in husband’s murder. Now she is in jail.

Authorities said Jennifer Faith texted the alleged gunman, whom she was having an affair with, and instructed him to destroy evidence.

Feb. 27, 2021, 12:21 AM PST
By Minyvonne Burke

A Dallas woman who publicly pleaded for answers after her husband was gunned down while walking the dog has been arrested after authorities said she instructed the alleged killer to destroy evidence.

James Faith was killed on Oct. 9 after he was shot seven times while walking in his Oak Cliff neighborhood with his wife, Jennifer Faith.

About two months after the crime, Jennifer Faith spoke with local media and demanded justice.

“We walk our dog every morning, and it’s kind of our bonding time in the morning,” she told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth. “Just the two of us.”

She said on the day her husband was killed, she heard someone running behind them. When she turned around, the person “just started shooting at him,” she said.

In another interview with WFAA, she said the gunman tackled her, beat her and taped her hands together. James Faith, an IT director with American Airlines, died at the scene

At one point in the interview with WFAA, Jennifer Faith appeared to get emotional as she described losing her husband of 15 years.

“I’m not supposed to be widowed at 48,” she said, pleading with the suspect to come forward. “I just hope that at some point maybe this person can recognize the gravity of what they’ve done and some sort of guilt enough to come forward.”

While Jennifer Faith appeared to be a grieving widow, federal authorities said she had been in communication with the alleged gunman, Darrin Lopez, with whom she was having an affair.

Lopez, 48, of Cumberland Furnace, Tennessee, was arrested by local authorities on Jan. 11 and charged with murder. Federal authorities later charged him with transporting a firearm in interstate commerce.

He is accused of arming himself with a .45-caliber handgun and driving from his home in Tennessee to the Faiths’ home in Texas on the morning of Oct. 9. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas said he “laid in wait, then shot the victim seven times” before fleeing and returning home.

The handgun was found in Lopez’s home following his arrest, according to authorities.

James Faith was dead at 49-years-old.
James Faith was dead at 49-years-old.NBC Dallas Fort Worth

Jennifer Faith was arrested at her home on Wednesday and charged with one count of destruction of an object with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release. She was booked into the Dallas County jail, records show.

In a complaint unsealed Thursday, authorities accused Jennifer Faith of sending Lopez text messages prior to their arrests instructing him “on how to respond to potential police questioning.” She also told him to remove a “T” decal off the back of his truck because witnesses reported seeing it on the day of the murder, prosecutors said.

“So I woke up in a little bit of a panic … something is eating away at me telling me you need to take the sticker out of the back window of the truck,” Jennifer Faith texted Lopez on Dec. 3, according to the complaint.

Officials said Lopez responded that he didn’t want to remove the decal all at once because his daughters “would notice that.” Days later, he allegedly told Jennifer Faith that the decal had been removed.

“Oh YAY!!! Thank you!!” she replied, according to the complaint. “I feel SOOOOOO much better.”

In another text, authorities said Jennifer Faith updated Lopez on her efforts to collect her husband’s life insurance policy.

Proscecutors also alleged that she told Lopez that she was wiping her phone clean and instructed him on how to respond to police if questioned about the nature of their relationship.

“Don’t text me Monday. I am going to factory reset my phone on Sunday night after deleting texts,” one message read, according to the complaint.

“If asked about you, you are an old friend going through a divorce. We talk every night because I am helping/giving support with the girls since you have sole custody. If it ever comes to it, I’ll answer the same way. Just so you and I have the same explanations,” she allegedly wrote in a text. “Just thinking in case they [law enforcement] pulled phone records and asked.”

The deleted messages were later recovered off of Lopez’s cellphone, according to authorities.

“Thanks to the dedication of our agents and officers, Ms. Faith could not keep law enforcement from identifying her husband’s killer,” U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah said in a statement. “Even so, we cannot allow her obstruction of justice to stand. We are determined to hold her accountable for her crime.”

Attorney information was not available for Jennifer Faith or Lopez.

SOURCE: Minyvonne Burke

Disguised Toast to take extended break from content creation

Disguised Toast to take extended break from content creation

He will still stream, but other content might be cut back.

Cale Michael
Jan 3, 2021

Popular content creator Disguised Toast has been on a grind when it comes to content creation over the last several months, both with his streams and YouTube content. But as everyone begins to set their 2021 content schedules, Toast has decided to take a step back for a bit. Sentinels STOMP the competition with TenZ and defensive tactics | VALORANT Tactics

Just a day after uploading his 10,000 IQ Among Us special, Toast announced he would be taking a break from actively creating content. 

This comes as the creator is heading back to Canada to visit family and take care of his father for an undisclosed period of time. Toast has frequently made trips like this in the past, so long-time fans shouldn’t be too surprised by this announcement. 

This doesn’t mean that there won’t be anything coming out of the top Facebook Gaming streamer, however. He did also confirm he will continue streaming to fulfill his contractual obligations while away. 

Since Among Us started blowing up last year, Toast has uploaded daily videos to his YouTube channel, sometimes even posting twice a day. And if he continues to let his editors and animators work on content in his absence, there shouldn’t be a lapse in YouTube content either.

Dozens of content creators that he collaborates with frequently and outside of his usual circle have been wishing him and his family well since his announcement. There is no clear timetable for when Toast will return to his usual content schedule.

SOURCE: Cale Michael
MAIN IMAGE SOURCE: Screengrab via Disguised Toast

2020 pop culture moments you may have forgotten

2020 pop culture moments you may have forgotten

Analysis by Lisa Respers France, CNN
Updated 2159 GMT (0559 HKT) December 31, 2020

(CNN) In many aspects, 2020 has felt like the longest year ever.

As we continue to grapple with a worldwide pandemic, it can be hard to remember that the year started with the tragedy of losing NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, in a helicopter crash that also took the lives of seven other people.It just seems like so long ago.A great deal has happened since then, so let’s take a refresher on some notable and sometimes more … interesting moments in pop culture in 2020:

Sun-kyun Lee (left) and Yeo-jeong Jo (right) appear in a scene from "Parasite."

Sun-kyun Lee (left) and Yeo-jeong Jo (right) appear in a scene from “Parasite.”

“Parasite” makes history: One of the most intriguing films of last year made history in February when it became the first non-English movie and first South Korean film to win the best picture Oscar at the Academy Awards. And it didn’t pick up just that statue — it swept the night with four wins.

Actor Steven Seagal settled some charges this year.Actor Steven Seagal settled some charges this year.

Steven Seagal runs afoul of the SEC: The action star had faced charges from the US Securities and Exchange Commission for promoting an investment in an initial coin offering conducted by Bitcoiin2Gen and not disclosing he was promised $250,000 in cash and $750,000 worth of B2G tokens for his work.The charges were settled.

Joe Exotic is one of the stars of "Tiger King." Joe Exotic is one of the stars of “Tiger King.

Attack of “Tiger King: Big cats, an unsolved mystery, a murder-for-hire plot and a zoo owner with a mullet. The Netflix docuseries “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” was a welcome addiction, and even basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal took part. Quite literally, that is, as he had a cameo in it.

Charlotte Hornets owner and former NBA star Michael Jordan is seen at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris on January 24.Charlotte Hornets owner and former NBA star Michael Jordan is seen at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris on January 24.

Michael Jordan’s “The Last Dance”: Speaking of professional basketball, in May we got to relive the glory of Jordan’s playing days in the televised docuseries “The Last Dance.” It was the Chicago Bulls icon unlike we had ever seen him.
A screen grab of the sports legend reacting to a video of former fellow player Isiah Thomas’ comments about Jordan on an iPad was quickly adapted into memes that went viral.

Kylie Jenner attends the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 9 in Beverly Hills, California. Kylie Jenner attends the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 9 in Beverly Hills, California.

Kylie Jenner has her billionaire designation stripped: There was major controversy in 2018 when Forbes magazine put Jenner on the cover of an issue with the headline “America’s Women Billionaires” and referred to the reality star and makeup mogul as “self-made.” Just two years later, the magazine published a piece declaring she was “no longer a billionaire” after it examined public records following her selling a stake in her company.

Jada Pinkett Smith and husband Will Smith shared private information on her "Red Table Talk" show. Jada Pinkett Smith and husband Will Smith shared private information on her “Red Table Talk” show.

Jada Pinkett Smith’s ‘entanglement’: Pinkett Smith brought herself to the table in July to answer speculation about her relationship with singer August Alsina. Sitting with her husband Will Smith, she confirmed her “entanglement” with the younger Alsina after he gave an interview saying that he had been involved with the actress and her husband was aware. It was a rare glimpse into the Smith marriage and also gave us a new word for a particular type of relationship.

SOURCE: Lisa Respers France

The American Cancer Society to Host Virtual Gala

The American Cancer Society to Host Virtual Gala

The event will honor Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, Chevrolet, and others for leading the fight against cancer locally while giving guests the chance to give back to the nonprofit

Emma Klug -October 20, 2020

The American Cancer Society is at risk of cutting cancer research funding by 50 percent this year — its lowest investment in this century — due to hardships brought on by the pandemic. Now, the nonprofit, which is funding nearly 20 research grants totaling $9.2 million in Michigan, is giving locals an opportunity to support its mission during these difficult times with a digital gala called the Night of Discovery.

Kicking off with a pre-show at 6:30 p.m., the Nov. 12 event will be emceed by WDIV’s Kimberly Gill and Devin Scillian and feature live entertainment, a silent auction, and a best dressed competition.

The evening will also honor “four leaders in the fight against cancer.” Honorees include Michigan State University Men’s Basketball Coach Tom Izzo, who has raised more than $1.1 million for ACS with his wife, Lupe, and the Lansing community; Chevrolet, which has raised over $13.9 million to fund breast cancer research and other initiatives; University of Michigan Women’s Softball Coach Carol Hutchins, who has raised more than $1.3 million for ACS through her softball program; and Ken and Kristen Lingenfelter, who have made a donation that will serve as a match for the gala.

tom izzo american cancer society
Michigan State University coach Tom Izzo — pictured above with his wife, Lupe, (far right) — will also be honored at the gala. // Photograph courtesy of the American Cancer Society

Night of Discovery will include opportunities to give back to the nonprofit, which has provided frontline healthcare workers with free places to stay at Hope Lodge facilities across the U.S., provided information and resources about COVID-19 to those diagnosed with cancer, and fought for policies that support cancer patients during the pandemic.

“Cancer hasn’t stopped for COVID-19, so neither can we,” says Karen Cullen, who is co-chairing the gala with her husband, Matt Cullen, the executive chairman of JACK entertainment, and Tom Shafer, president and COO of TCF Bank. “The reality is that cancer patients cannot wait for a more convenient time. They are facing unprecedented challenges when it comes to treatment, support, and services. In fact, a recent ACS study showed that 79 percent of cancer patients in active treatment report delays in care due to the pandemic. They are counting on ACS to continue its important work and ACS is counting on us to fuel that work.”

The virtual gala is open at no cost to the general public, but guests must register online to receive text and email notifications for the auction and livestream. VIP experiences are reserved for sponsors and donors.

For more information, visit

SOURCE: Emma Klug
MAIN IMAGE SOURCE: Chevrolet will be honored during the Night of Discovery gala. // Photograph courtesy of the American Cancer Society

The Movement for Black Lives Has Always Been Spiritual

The Movement for Black Lives Has Always Been Spiritual

by Lawrence Burnley, 100 Days in Appalachia
June 24, 2020

When the Rev. Al Sharpton implored white America to “get your knee off our necks” at the memorial of George Floyd, his words were carried by news outlets across the globe. Meanwhile in the U.S., the Rev. William J. Barber II has been an ever-present voice in the protests, prompting some to place him as the successor to past civil rights greats.

That people of the cloth are at the forefront of the current protests over police brutality should not be a surprise.

From the earliest times of the United States’ history, religious leaders have led the struggle for liberation and racial justice for Black Americans. As an ordained minister and a historian, I see it as a common thread running through the history of the United States, from Black resistance in the earliest periods of slavery in the antebellum South, through the civil rights movement of the 1960s and up to the Black Lives Matter movement today.

As Patrisse Cullors, one of the founders of Black Lives Matters, says: “The fight to save your life is a spiritual fight.”

Spiritual calling

For many Black religious leaders in the United States, civil rights and social justice are central to their spiritual calling. Informed by their respective faith traditions, it places religion within the Black American experience while also being informed by African culture and the traumatic experience of the Transatlantic trade of African people.

We see this in Malcolm X’s 1964 exhortation that Black Americans should form bonds with African nations and “migrate to Africa culturally, philosophically and spiritually.” Malcolm X’s desire to internationalize the struggle in the U.S. after his 1964 pilgrimage to Mecca also speaks to the role he saw Islam having in the civil rights movement.

“America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem,” he wrote in a letter during his visit to Saudi Arabia. The struggle of Black Americans informed Malcolm X’s reading of the Quran.

Similarly, the interaction between religious text and real-world struggle informed earlier Black civil rights and anti-slavery leaders. Slave revolt leader Nat Turner, for example, saw rebellion as the work of God, and drew upon biblical texts to inspire his actions.

As the historian and Turner biographer Patrick Breen noted in an article for Smithsonian Magazine, “Turner readily placed his revolt in a biblical context, comparing himself at some times to the Old Testament prophets, at another point to Jesus Christ.” In his “Confessions,” dictated to a white lawyer after his 1831 arrest, Turner quoted the Gospel of Luke and alluded to numerous other passages from the Bible.

Turner had visions he interpreted as signs from God encouraging him to revolt.


Such prophetic visions were not uncommon to early anti-slavery leaders – Sojourner Truth and Jarena Lee were both spurred to action after God revealed himself to them. Lee’s anti-slavery preaching is also an early example of the important role that Black religious female leaders would have in the civil rights struggle.

In arguing for her right to spread God’s message, Lee asked: “If the man may preach, because the Saviour died for him, why not the woman? Seeing he died for her also. Is he not a whole Saviour, instead of a half one?”

These early anti-slavery activists rejected the “otherworld” theology taught to enslaved Africans by their white captors, which sought to deflect attention away from their condition in “this world” with promises of a better afterlife.

Instead, they affirmed God’s intention for freedom and liberation in both this world and the next, identifying strongly with biblical stories of freedom, such as the exodus of the Hebrew community from Egyptian enslavement and Jesus’ proclamation to “set the oppressed free.”

Incorporating religion into the Black anti-slavery movement sowed the seeds for faith being central to the struggle for racial justice to come. As the church historian James Washington observed, the “very disorientation of their slavery and the persistent impact of systemic racism and other forms of oppression provided the opportunity – indeed the necessity – of a new religious synthesis.”

At heart, a preacher

The synthesis continued into the 20th century, with religious civil rights leaders who clearly felt compelled to make the struggle for justice central part of the role of a spiritual leader.

“In the quiet recesses of my heart, I am fundamentally a clergyman, a Baptist preacher,” the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in a 1965 article for Ebony Magazine.

Racial justice remains integral to Black Christian leadership in the 21st century. In an interview earlier this year, Rev. Barber said: “There is not some separation between Jesus and justice; to be Christian is to be concerned with what’s going on in the world.”

Recognizing the rich legacy of Black religious leadership in the struggle of racial justice in the United States in no way diminishes the role of historic and contemporary secular leadership. From W.E.B. DuBois to A. Philip Randolph, who helped organize 1963’s March on Washington, and up to the current day the civil rights movement has also benefited from those who would classify themselves as freethinkers or atheists.

But given the history of religion in the Black protest movement, it should be no surprise that the killing of George Floyd has unleashed an outpouring of activism from Black religious leaders – backed by supporters from different faith traditions.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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This article first appeared on 100 Days in Appalachia and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

MAIN IMAGE SOURCE: Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. Photo: National Park Service/Flickr

Division or Pluralism? Centering Faith and Spirituality in Diversity Efforts on College Campuses

Division or Pluralism? Centering Faith and Spirituality in Diversity Efforts on College Campuses

by Dr. Cobretti D. Williams
Friday, January 31, 2020


There is no shortage of contested issues on college campuses today. From race to equitable pay for college athletes, many of these issues are explored from different angles and are often taken up by social-justice oriented students and organizations on campus. While the efforts of social change require convergence and different groups coming together for a common cause, a constituency often left out are students and staff working in interfaith organizations and departments on campus. Eboo Patel is the founder of the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), an organization that works to promote religious pluralism and diversity in higher education. Discussing the differences that face higher education today, he says, “Though our nation is becoming more diverse in every possible way, there are too many examples of difference being divisive rather than constructively engaged. Campuses across America are facilitating positive interactions at orientation, in the classroom, and in co-curricular events that lead to lasting relationships across lines of difference.” A closer look at religious pluralism and interfaith community on campus may provide more insight for social justice initiatives than we previously thought.

At the foundational level, social justice and diversity begin with peer-to-peer interactions among college students. Colleges are becoming increasingly diverse across social identities, as such, the opportunity for meaningful connections across differences is ever-present. IFYC recently released a new report entitled “Friendships Matter” that explores the role of peer relationships in interfaith learning and development. A significant statistic within the report asserts that, among first-year college students, approximately 46 percent have five or more interworldview friendships; furthermore, this figure remains relatively unchanged after their first year of college. Though most social justice and diversity educators focus their efforts on differences in race, gender, or sexual orientation, for example, this report reveals another avenue by which institutions can strengthen conversations and find common ground among college students today.

Creating an environment where students can explore religious plurality and interfaith dialogue is important. It is also beneficial to have leaders that can guide and bridge dialogue between the different constituencies. In an article for the Association of American Colleges and Universities, Patel and other leaders of IFYC assert, “Higher education movements lack ‘legs’ if students are not committed or invested, and young interfaith leaders do not emerge unless they have civic spaces within which to develop.” Additionally, research confirms that interfaith programs share similar aims of leadership development for social change. It is clear this work happens in traditional sites of worship such as churches, temples, and monasteries, however higher education also has enough resources to produce similar opportunities for college students. Institutions like DePaul University run successful interfaith leadership programs. Whether or not institutions without religious affiliations have a desire to implement these initiatives is the question to consider.

In tandem with leadership development is civic engagement. Equipped with the awareness and tools to practice interfaith dialogue and cooperation, campuses can engage more with their surrounding communities and build partnerships across public and private spaces. This practice surfaces in a variety of ways, including service-learning and immersion projects built in collaboration within the local, national, or global communities. Furthermore, because students are engaging with interfaith worldviews, and institutions like Seattle University are structurally committed to these efforts, social justice and religious plurality are able to converge on issues involving faith in the queer community, prison reform, or racial justice. Therefore, as far as social justice in higher education is concerned, interfaith practice creates a path for colleges and universities to increase their civic education efforts, external partnerships, and community collaborations.

Despite best practices by some colleges and universities, notably those with established religious affiliations, institutional engagement with religious pluralism and interfaith dialogue still has room for improvement. In order for dialogue on social justice and diversity to broaden its impact through interfaith efforts on college campuses, institutions must reframe and consider their relationship with the topic of religion on college campuses. Though dialogue can often turn to conflict in public spheres of higher education, it is possible to reframe faith and spirituality as potential points of connection rather than a catalyst for division. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign provides a great example of this practice. Jewish and Muslim student faith groups gather for regular interfaith dialogue. Erez Cohen, the executive director of Hillel, has recently organized efforts to bridge conversations between different student faith groups, including the Muslim Student Association and the University YMCA. He says, “immersion programming is an important tool for building interfaith environments. Indeed, in the past three years Hillel has been leading interfaith trips to Israel with the goal of enhancing interfaith learning and understanding. Additionally, the University works with many ministries on our campus to create the Illinois Interfaith Conference each year. This is a unique space where students of different backgrounds and different levels of involvement can come and engage with other faiths.”

In institutions as diverse as colleges and universities, social issues are bound to become divisive; the nature of higher education brings together different opinions, perspectives, and knowledge to inform policies and practices in society. Religion is not absolved from division, but from the evidence of organizations like IFYC and interfaith organizations on college campuses, it can also serve as a point of connection. As Eboo Patel aptly put it, “As people from different backgrounds learn about one another, they grow in appreciation and are more able and willing to work across lines of difference for the common good, and gain profession competency and skills for civic leadership.”

This article is republished from HigherEdJobs® under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

SOURCE: Dr. Cobretti D. Williams

The impossibility of Indigenous religious freedom

The impossibility of Indigenous religious freedom

by Nicholas Shrubsole. Originally published on Policy Options
November 13, 2017

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) issued its ruling on the first case of Indigenous religious freedom under the modern constitutional order in Ktunaxa Nation v. British Columbia. The case focused on the development of a year-round ski resort (Jumbo Glacier) on Qat’muk, home of Kⱡawⱡa Tukⱡuⱡakʔis, the Grizzly Bear Spirit. The Ktunaxa Nation said that any disturbance of the land would drive the Grizzly Bear Spirit away, irrevocably impairing their religion, and significantly impacting the vitality and well-being of the community.

Following the 2012 approval of a master development plan for the resort by the provincial minister of forests, lands and natural resources, the Ktunaxa Nation brought the case before the BC Supreme Court (BCSC) and then the BC Court of Appeal (BCCA). The recent SCC decision exposed many of the most troubling prejudices that were bubbling beneath the surface in both the BCSC decision and BCCA decision. Ultimately, the SCC ruling affirms the superficiality of religious freedom in Canada, the impossibility of Indigenous religious freedom in Canada, and the inability of the court to recognize its own colonial and culturally located position — a position reaffirmed under the Charter.

The majority in the Ktunaxa Nation decision succinctly and crudely captured the true spirit of s. 2(a) under the Charter (freedom of conscience and religion). “Religious freedom,” as expressed by the SCC, lacks any measure of depth or recognition of the complexity of lived religious experience and it remains fixed within culturally identifiable limitations that make freedom possible for some and not for others. In the ruling of the Court, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin clarified that freedom of religion is restricted to freedom to hold and manifest beliefs (2017 SCC 54, par. 63).

Belief is, of course, one facet of religion, but not its entirety. Scholars of religion such as Jonathan Z. Smith and Donald S. Lopez (see Critical Terms for Religious Studies) have pointed to the modern Christian origins of the concept of religion and the pivotal shift that took place in the Christian world in the sixteenth century, which saw the concept move from the privileging of ritual to the privileging of internalized belief. It is this popular perception of religion that lies at the foundation of the legal discourse of religion in Canada. As Benjamin Berger reminds us in Law’s Religion: Religious Difference and the Claims of Constitutionalism, law is the product of culture and so too is its construction of religion.

Contemporary scholars of law and religion, notably Elizabeth Shakman Hurd among other contributors to Politics of Religious Freedom, have argued that belief is often prioritized at the expense of embodied and community aspects of religion. As an example, notice how “belief” does not adequately capture the description of religion offered in Article 12.1 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), cited by the Ktunaxa Nation in the Qat’muk Declaration:

Indigenous Peoples have the right to manifest, practice, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies; the right to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites; the right to the use and control of their ceremonial objects; and the right to the repatriation of their human remains.

Privileging and focusing on belief is therefore a culturally locatable act because the way in which religion is popularly understood (even by the courts) is identifiably, if only residually, Christian in nature. Legally protecting belief, rather than religion, does not adequately address the depth and complexity of religious experience. Wrestling with such matters would require the Court to engage in a self-reflective and complex investigation of the legal construction of a particular type of religion, which the SCC was unwilling to do.

Notably, the Ktunaxa Nation’s Qat’muk Declaration makes no mention of the term “belief.” The Ktunaxa were conscious to the potential for misunderstanding their religion, explaining in the Qat’muk Declaration that “Ktunaxa language does not translate well into other languages and consequently our spiritual relationship with Qat’muk may not be fully understood by others.” They go on to explain, “what we do to the earth, we do to ourselves” and “our people care for the land, the land cares for our people.” This is not worship and cannot so easily be relegated simply as belief or even practice.

For his part, Justice Michael Moldaver in his partially concurring decision was critical of what he described as the “empty” and “hollow” reading of religious freedom by the majority. Justice Moldaver asserted that “courts must be alive to the unique characteristics of each religion.” (par. 128). Justice Moldaver offered a corrective to the majority decision, clarifying that the Ktunaxa were not seeking protection for worship of the Grizzly Bear Spirit, but of the manifestation of belief through practice. While he drew important attention to the complexity and depth of religious experience, he too ultimately privileged belief, locating his partially concurring opinion in the existing cultural construction of religious freedom.

But the most glaring element of the SCC decision in Ktunaxa Nation v. British Columbia, in my view, is that Indigenous Peoples are not recognized as Indigenous Peoples under the Charter — despite the fact that they possess Aboriginal rights under s. 35 of the Constitution. The chief justice writes, “[W]ith respect to the s. 2(a) [Charter] claim, the Ktunaxa stand in the same position as non-Aboriginal litigants” (par. 58). This is not surprising as the Kelly Lake Cree Nation and Saulteau First Nation were offered a similar reminder in their s. 2(a) claim before the BCSC in 1998.

Under s.35 of the Constitution, the courts have recognized and affirmed Indigenous cultural rights and, more specifically, unique relationships between Creator, community, and the land. “Aboriginal rights” as cited in the Constitution, while fraught with problems in interpretation and application, seek to reconcile the pre-existence of Indigenous Peoples with Crown sovereignty.

In contrast, under the Charter, the courts have set aside Indigenous identities, the legacy of colonialism, and the specific contours of Indigenous religions in favour of legal universalism, where the law stands apart from culture, and treats everyone the same. Justice Moldaver, like the BCCA before him, referred to Qat’muk as public land to which all citizens have a right, rather than contested (or occupied) space in a legal framework that ideally seeks to reconcile Crown sovereignty with the continued existence of Indigenous Peoples on those territories. The relegation of Indigenous Peoples to being just another interest group helped Justice Moldaver to justify the provincial minister’s decision to approve the ski resort based on fiduciary responsibilities. Justice Moldaver did not go as far as the BCCA decision, in which Justice Richard Goepel accused the Ktunaxa Nation of seeking to impose their religion on the public, but the underlying denial of Indigenous identity and the history of colonialism remained.

If we accept the fact that the law is culturally located and that legal culture is rooted within a Euro-Canadian — possibly residually Christian — framework, then the Charter is a potential tool of assimilation.

Some early commentators suggested that the SCC should have considered UNDRIP, which Canada has endorsed, but that would assume that Indigenous Peoples are recognized as Indigenous Peoples under the Charter and they are clearly not. Neither article 12 nor article 25 of UNDRIP, relevant to the subject of Indigenous religious freedom, makes use of the word belief, as the Court did. In fact, the word belief cannot be found anywhere in UNDRIP; instead there are references to the “spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands” and “spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies.” Officially 22 years in the making, UNDRIP is a non-binding declaration constructed by representatives of Indigenous Peoples and of non-Indigenous governments from around the world. Of course, the UN Declaration does not actually matter in the context of the Charter. After all, for the SCC to recognize UNDRIP, it would have to recognize Indigenous Peoples as Indigenous Peoples under the Charter, and this is not the case.

The Supreme Court has certainly come a long way since its last ruling on Indigenous religious freedom in Jack and Charlie v. The Queen (a pre-Charter case that was ruled on by the SCC in 1985), wherein the Court explicitly decided what was and what was not Coast Salish religion. And yet, what may constitute an insurmountable bias remains. If we accept that the law is culturally located and that legal culture is rooted within a Euro-Canadian — and possibly residually Christian — framework, then the Charter is a potential tool of assimilation. Protection under s. 2(a) requires claimants to frame their religion in terms that are recognizable to the legal culture of Canada without reference to the colonial foundations of that very legal system or to the broader colonial context of Canada. This SCC decision indicates that Indigenous religious freedom, under s. 2(a), is currently an impossibility.

Photo: Shutterstock/By Globe Guide Media Inc. Mountain range and glaciers in the Purcell Mountains, near Qat’muk.

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This article first appeared on Policy Options and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

SOURCE: Nicholas Shrubsole