Religion and Politics

Civicness and Orthodoxy in Romanian Protests

by Lucian Turcescu

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In December 2016, Romania’s political landscape changed following the parliamentary elections. The Social Democratic Party (PSD, successor to the Romanian Communist Party) won a plurality of seats (around 44%) in both the upper and lower chambers of Parliament, but fell short of securing a simple majority. With the help of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE), on 4 January 2017 the PSD formed a government led by Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu. The PSD dominated the Romanian Parliament for much of the post-communist period, and many more of its politicians are corrupt than members of other political parties. Romania has struggled with high levels of corruption in every field of life, from the elementary school student who must bribe her teacher, to medical doctors expecting or demanding bribes, all the way to corrupt politicians embezzling large funds from the country’s budget and from the European Union (EU). After joining the EU ten years ago, Romania was asked to control its corruption, but it has remained one of the most corrupt members of the EU, alongside sister Orthodox countries like Greece and Bulgaria. Continue Reading…

“Beat her when you are alone together”: Domestic Violence in the Russian Tradition, Past and Present

by Nadieszda Kizenko

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On February 7, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law decriminalizing domestic violence. Now, the first instance of poboi—“actions which cause physical pain but do not lead to grave injury or loss of ability to work’’—will be treated as a misdemeanor rather than a criminal act. This means that the offender will incur a fine of 30,000 rubles (about $500), community service, or a fifteen-day detention. If the offender repeats the offense within a year, the second offense will be treated as a criminal act. If more than a year goes by, the slate is clean, and the repeat offense is once again a misdemeanor with no jail time.

This measure prompted a furious response, both in Russian social media and abroad, when it was first raised in the lower courts last June. It seemed as if the most vulnerable members of society were left without protection, and as if the state considered bloodying one’s wife and children somehow not serious. But the picture is more complicated than it seems. Continue Reading…

Should Middle East Religious-Minority Refugees Be Prioritized?

by Samuel Tadros

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President Trump’s executive order on refugees has been widely, and rightly, criticized on policy and moral grounds. But while criticism of the executive order is indeed proper and necessary, one aspect of the new policy, namely the prioritization of claims of religious persecution by religious minorities in refugee applications, which has received wide criticism, should in fact be hardly controversial. Critics of the measure have rejected it on both moral grounds—it discriminates based on one’s faith, as well as on practical ones—the perception of such bias towards Christians by the United States would impact the US negatively and may harm those very same Christian communities in the region, who will be viewed as Western agents. These concerns are of course hardly new. Opposition to such policies has been constantly expressed in the past by the Patriarchs and clergy of these communities who fear that an open door for their flock in the West would further contribute to the eradication of Christianity from the Middle East. As serious as these concerns may be, prioritizing religious minorities is neither discriminatory nor likely to result in worse conditions for Middle East Christians. Nor is such a measure even novel, but rather one that has been repeatedly used in the past and continues to be used by the United States in other cases. Rather, any refugee policy driven by realities on the ground has to prioritize Middle East religious minorities. Continue Reading…