On December 29, 2021, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate decided to establish a Russian exarchate for the entire African continent. The exarchate is to consist of two dioceses: one for northern and one for southern Africa. The title of the bishop of the northern diocese would be “of Cairo and North Africa.”
Many saw this decision as a violation of the ancient rights of the Alexandrian patriarchate. As early as in 325, at the first ecumenical council in Nicaea, which adopted the universal Christian creed, a canon of the council stated: “The ancient customs of Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis shall be maintained, according to which the bishop of Alexandria has authority over all these places, since a similar custom exists with reference to the bishop of Rome.” In other words, the Nicene council confirmed the territorial sovereignty of the Alexandrian church in the way similar to the territorial sovereignty of the church of Rome. Indeed, from the early centuries, the two churches followed the same pattern of the evolution of their administrative structures and prerogatives. Sometimes, the church of Alexandria set an example for its Roman peer. For example, the archbishops of Alexandria were called “popes” a century before the bishops of Rome adopted this title.
The relationship between faith/spirituality and domestic violence is not a simple one, but it is definitely one that should be understood with the nuance it deserves to be leveraged effectively in responding to the problem. While religious language can be used in distorted ways to justify or continue harmful attitudes and behavior, faith and spiritual living can serve as a coping mechanism and a source of healing for victims and survivors and can potentially deter abusiveness among some prospective perpetrators. Moreover, clergy have an important documented role in influencing religious communities on issues of marriage and family life.
A common reference for the scholarship that looks at faith-based interventions is the understanding that religious personnel, the discourses they use, and their responses to communities can both contribute to the continuation of the problem of domestic violence and serve as a positive influence in efforts to address the problem (Istratii and Ali, under review). While clergy are well-positioned to respond to domestic violence in religious communities, they often lack an understanding of how their own discourses and responses can unwittingly reinforce negative norms, attitudes, or situations, and how to support victims and perpetrators with awareness of safeguarding risks and due processes.
Since the eruption of hostilities in November 2020 between federal and regional forces in Tigray, Ethiopia’s northern state bordering Eritrea, two major dimensions of the crisis have been at odds with each other. There is the armed conflict and its immeasurable human cost and trauma, and there is the reporting on this conflict. I have witnessed the arguments back and forth from Ethiopians outside Ethiopia, my primary lens of observation, that focus on who is at fault, whose agenda the reporting fulfills, and scrutiny over the extent and impact of the humanitarian conditions on the ground. The story about the story has taken precedence over the undeniable fact that people are suffering and dying and side-steps the heart of the issue: we are watching a country at war with itself.
As an Ethiopian-American, I felt at times mentally and emotionally paralyzed. It is a complicated story of political fragmentation, with seemingly endless competing narratives based on scattered information. I reached a personal impasse where offering coherent interpretation and analysis felt an impossibility. The recent news of a ceasefire only offers temporary relief for the innocent and vulnerable and more fodder for conflicting narratives that prevent clear heads out of this conflict.
Over the last thirty years, Nigeria has been plagued with numerous terrorist upheavals that have sometimes bordered on the apocalypse, of which Boko Haram is one. While key attention has been paid to the killing of Christians in the Middle east and other parts of the world, very few works have examined the nature of Christian massacre in Nigeria over the last few years. The manifold mayhems perpetrated by Boko Haram are not just limited to the northeastern part of Nigeria but have global ramifications. By and large, terrorist groups like Boko Haram do not use conventional tactics except on very few occasions when they confront the Nigerian military; their tactics that are often meant to engender fear, intimidation, and death in the communities they target.
While the localized effects of devastation, dislocation, and death have been born by both Muslims and Christians, my focus in this essay will be on Christian victims of Boko Haram. Christians in the northern part of Nigeria are among the voiceless minorities who have lived in a marginalized status in the midst of an overwhelming Muslim population, especially in states that have embraced sharia law over the last twenty years. It is the voices of these victims that beckon the larger global community of Christians in particular, government and non-governmental organizations and social activists in general. Continue reading →