An IARJ global conference in Cordoba, Spain, reminds our colleague Martin Davis of the creative change that lies at the core of what we think of as our religious traditions.
We live in an age when a presumed irrevocable gulf between science and religion is perpetuated in the public sphere. But new evidence is emerging that reveals a far more complex picture of the relationship between these powerful social forces. One eight-region study of Religion among Scientists in International Context found a majority of scientists consider themselves either religious or spiritual, or both, in all regions except the United States, United Kingdom and France. However, there is still a lot of work to be done to address long-held animosities. On both sides.
China finds itself in the midst of a religious revival that is reshaping the global religious landscape in profound ways in the Third Millennium of the Christian era. From confounding expectations that sometime this century Islam may become the world’s largest religion to challenging Western theories of economic growth leading to the obsolescence of faith, China is in the midst of a great awakening that is transforming what once appeared to be the most secular nation on Earth to the leading edge of Christian expansion in the 21st century.
Religion is playing a major role in response to the European economic crisis. As faith-based organizations are increasingly depended upon to meet basic needs, a new landscape of challenges and opportunities is emerging that could result in dramatic shifts in church-state relations. A key question: Can a continent, once seen by many as on an inexorable march toward secularization, create new boundaries between the religious and the secular that respond to social needs in Europe’s increasingly diverse societies?
The global refugee crisis represents a potential transformational moment in world history. Nations from Africa to Asia to Europe to North America with troubled pasts of ethnic conflict and of putting political and economic self-interest above humanitarian needs have an opportunity to write new chapters in their national stories. Religion is playing and will play a critical role.
An increasing importance of faith, an openness to alternative medicine and a lack of access to quality care are contributing to a resurgence in religious healing among Arab Muslims. The tasks that lie ahead include creating stronger, cooperative relationships among the religious and medical communities, and building health-care systems enabling citizens to receive quality medical care at a price they can afford.
How extremist organizations that preach violence have gained such a foothold in Pakistan is less a story of faith than a textbook example of the cycle of violence and conflict that erupts when governments and political interest groups use favoritism and coercion to manipulate religion to their own ends. The result is the world’s second-largest Muslim nation finds itself in its fourth decade of warfare, with a precarious democracy hanging in the balance.
At their best, faith-based organizations and religious communities have embraced Ebola victims with loving care, heedless of their own safety in treating the suffering and working with public health officials in education and prevention efforts. Still, amid the uncertainty that has gripped governments, world health officials and religious groups alike, responses have been varied over religious rituals such as Muslim and traditional African burial practices encouraging the washing of the dead, Christian practices such as exchanging hugs and handshakes and receiving communion orally and the reliance on traditional healers that provide sources of comfort and hope to believers but also pose public health risks.