African widows often face considerable disadvantage relative to married women in their first union. How much so depends on the society they live in, with pronounced hardship in some contexts, yet benefits to widows in others. In the absence of effective policies, their situation is likely to depend heavily on the social-cultural norms applying to women following widowhood. In a recent paper, Annamaria Milazzo and I investigate this issue by comparing the well-being (as measured by BMI and rates of underweight) of young (15-49) Nigerian widows and non-widows across Christian and Muslim groups using the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) of 2008 and 2013.
“Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.” – Albert Einstein
When I present lectures on sociological theories, I often see in my students’ bored facial expressions indicating a total lack of interest in the subject. But, when I move the lecture to issues related to education, social class, or global stratification, I can see a few faces turning into a full attention mode, but still not all the students are with me. However, there is one topic that will cause the entire class to lay down their e-devices and start to listen to every word: that is the topic of LOVE. Love strikes me as a neglected force that, once released, could bring about international stability and boost economic development.
Love emerges in my lectures for its role in interpersonal relations in socialization and development. I begin my lecture with a discussion about the role of family in social development and then move towards marriage and, more broadly, love. The topic family frequently triggers strong emotional reactions among students. As classroom discussions reveal many have experienced some family difficulty or problems. And then comes the topic of love: each time when I talk about love, I can see melting facial expressions in each of my students. The purpose of the lecture is not only focused on romantic teenage love based on hormones and erotic attraction. In the Bible, in the Gospel of John, Chapter 15:13 “The Greatest Social Worker Ever” says, “Greater love has no one than this – that someone lay down his life for his friends.” I always substantiate this quote with a compelling story about the Polish Franciscan Maximilian Kolbe who volunteered to die by starvation in place of a stranger in the Nazis’ death camp of Auschwitz. Pope John Paul II declared him "The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century." All of sudden, gender, complexion or ethnicity no longer matter. Neither does religion, age or sexual orientation. When I see students’ reaction to my lecture on love in everyday life, I get chills down my spine and goose bumps all over my body.
Watching the reactions of my students, I have become deeply convinced that love is not only a universal force for good, but one that also brings to the human heart hope and peace for a better tomorrow. When humans are in love, they can selflessly endure more- since love, like ray of hope, stimulates them to persevere. Hopefulness too, encourages us to explore, build, innovate and thrive, but it all starts with love.
Liberal constitutionalists like me tend to dismiss religious fundamentalists of different stripes as a wild bunch better avoided than understood. The attitude also arises from intellectual confidence: that liberal constitutionalism solved the problem of religious differences by banishing religion to the private sphere, and by making the commitment required of citizens only one to a slender constitutional framework within which citizens of different persuasions can pursue their ideas of how life ought to be lived. Yet, in the world we live in today the untrammeled spread of hate and medieval violence in the name of a Deity is brain-freezing and, sadly, shows no sign of abating. Therefore, it is pertinent to ask: Why is this happening? What can be done about it?
I have just read a deeply wise and elegantly written contribution to the search for understanding. It is Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Sacks is a British religious leader of global renown both for his teachings and his erudition. In what follows I discuss the core ideas in the book, at least the ones that spoke to me.
It has been a fascinating time to be in the United States and watch as the media and American public were transfixed by Catholic Pope Francis’ whirlwind three city sojourn to Washington DC, New York City and finally Philadelphia.
It was a trip of firsts. Pope Francis became the first Pope to address a joint session of the US Congress and then a day later marking another first in addressing the UN General Assembly just before member states unanimously adopted Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It was fitting and profound to have the Pope frame the global goals’ agenda with his remarks, since in many ways his recently released encyclical, Laudato Si, embodies the integrated and indivisible nature of the sustainable development agenda.
It puts both environmental protection and social inclusion as part and parcel to ending poverty and extending dignity instead of being an add-on or at worst an afterthought.
"The cure for a failed democracy is more democracy [...] dictatorship disguised in religion is the worst kind of dictatorship."
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
New Platforms, New Public Opinion?
"With the continued growth of new communication media and technologies, the public opinion and research sector is abuzz with equal doses of optimism and skepticism for its future. In a world of falling response rates and increasing costs for phone and face-to-face surveys, does this new frontier ask us to merely measure the chatter on Twitter and Facebook or does it reframe the definition of public opinion itself? This is among the many questions challenging the Digital Team here at InterMedia." READ MORE
DFID Research for Development
The engagement of women's movements with religion: legal reform in Anambra state, Nigeria
"Campaigning by the women's movement in Anambra State was instrumental to the introduction of a new law in 2005 designed to prevent the maltreatment of widows. Religion is often implicated in gender inequality and discrimination against women, but religious leaders and organizations played key roles in this campaign. The case study enabled the researchers to address the questions of when, why and how religious actors facilitate rather than obstruct legal reform intended to realize women's rights." READ MORE
I do not have to be Indian to feel the sense of sorrow and unfathomable injustice as this month the world remembers the Mumbai attacks of a year ago. Many times we seem to have shaken our pitiful heads and said “never again” after a grand scale terror attack, but still man continues to kill man for an increasingly bizarre list of reasons. Political pressure, ignorance, social emasculation, brainwashing and drug addiction are amongst the culprits.
In the year since Mumbai, across the region we have seen murderers in Pakistan turn on their own people – with a recent gruesome blast in a Peshawar market killing over 100, mainly women and children, with no real explanation that I could fathom. Again, I do not have to be Pakistani to feel a sense of sorrow.
I think it is safe to say that on average religious faith plays a bigger role in public life in most developing countries than in the West or in places like China and Russia. In these latter societies, secular humanism appears to reign supreme.