How to talk to kids about religion: Spiritual multiculturalism is absolutely essential

Lisa Miller on the need for spiritual multiculturalism:

If a spiritual compass, commitment to family, and spiritual community as a sustaining source of love are must haves for children’s life journey, then spiritual multilingualism is their passport. Having our own spirituality and sense of community, whatever that may be, is important to a child. But you want your child to be able to see the sacred in others. Spiritual multilingualism enables us to cross familiar borders and embrace the essence of spirituality in its many cultural narratives.

Children come to understand that diverse spiritual traditions share common themes and often have parallel ideas and observances: the rhythm of the seasons, the birth of a baby, ceremonies of commitment, or rituals around death and mourning. Having your own spiritual or religious orientation but being able to hear and understand others doesn’t only make it easier to engage with other people; it also enhances your own access to sacred experience by making these universal inner connections available to you wherever we go. A child who is conversant in the “many names, many faces” of spiritual practice can find the sacred in others— engage more meaningfully with other people in our diverse global culture.

“The biggest mistake people make when first beginning to look at unfamiliar perspectives is immediately to make comparisons between the familiar and the unfamiliar,” writes Buddhist feminist theologian and author Rita Gross. “The power of the comparative lens comes not from making positive and negative comparisons; rather, it comes from seeing each perspective clearly, in its own right. In other words, one gets a deeper understanding of one’s own perspective by understanding how others understand their own perspective.”

In childhood, natural spirituality of the heart very quickly attaches to the names, stories, and rules to which our children gain daily exposure. Starting as early as age four and certainly by age seven, children absorb the language and customs of thought used to express spirituality in their family or spiritual community. Research shows that for children these names are prioritized as spiritually “more real.” A team of Harvard psychologists led by professor Mahzarin Banaji, investigated whether very young children, ages four to six, already had in- group versus outgroup—my God is better than your God— perceptions around the names of the higher power. The team found in controlled experiments, a child as young as age six will rate “God” as named by her faith as more omniscient than “God” as named by another geographically remote unfamiliar faith. No matter what we may think about religion, we want to be sure children are open to other possibilities. You want your kid to be as open minded as possible. As parents, we want to act early, deliberately, and swiftly. We do not want a child to build tribal superiority, which has nothing to do with a clear and open pipeline for natural spirituality. Theology competition is a misguided form of implicit socialization that ultimately distorts access to transcendent love in all three forms of self, other, and higher power.

The early mental packaging of a child’s natural spirituality makes imperative— read urgent— that our children become, in essence, spiritually multilingual and multicultural from an early age if we genuinely want them to have respect and appreciation for natural spirituality in other people and cultures. This “many faces, many names” perspective is the opposite of religious chauvinism and all other “isms.” Offer your child a window into the religions of other families and peoples. As ambassadors, offer the opportunity to feel transcendence in many places and ways.

How to talk to kids about religion: Spiritual multiculturalism is absolutely essential –

Formerly stateless Yukon man celebrates hard-fought Canadian citizenship

Nice to see a successful resolution to a case like this:

A decision by his anarchist First Nation father and Caucasian mother not to register his birth out of fear he’d end up in a residential school started a life-long bureaucratic tussle.

With no birth certificate, he couldn’t get identification, a legitimate job or even medical care.

But a team effort of citizen advocates, a pro bono lawyer, friends and family members, brought together by media attention, altered his plight.

Finally a Canadian, McGlaughlin said he can apply for a Social Insurance Number, health-care card, driver’s licence, marriage certificate, then travel to British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest to see the spirit bear and California’s redwood forests — a dream of one of his sons.

“All my life, yeah, dogs have had more rights,” said McGlaughlin. “They (governments) enact more laws pertaining to dogs and cats than they do to help stateless people. I’ve always said I should just go buy a dog tag and wear it around my neck, and there. There’s my ID. I’m Fido.”

McGlaughlin doesn’t know where or when he was born, only that it was between Rosebud, S.D., and where his maternal grandparents lived in Guelph, Ont., around Jan. 19, 1954, the day he celebrates as his birthday.

Fearing the government, his parents home schooled him and moved around Canada, he said, adding he broke loose when he was 15 and worked “migrant jobs” on farms.

About 30 years ago, he hitchhiked to the Yukon, where he has lived ever since, supporting himself by hunting and fishing on aboriginal land.

The first in a series of heart attacks struck in 2010 and because he had no health-care card his medical bills rose to about $130,000, he said.

Michelle Quigg, a lawyer with the Access Pro Bono Society of British Columbia, which helps people of limited means, said she began to help out after reading a news story about McGlaughlin in which he mused about declaring refugee status.

She helped him apply for citizenship, citing a “special and unusual hardship.”

“The … hardship in Donovan’s case is that he has no documents, which is very unusual,” said Quigg. “I mean most of us have birth certificates and all kinds of official documentation that Donovan didn’t have.”

Formerly stateless Yukon man celebrates hard-fought Canadian citizenship | CTV News.

Expats Find Brazil’s Reputation For Race-Blindness Is Undone By Reality

Not really new but nevertheless good examples:

There is a joke among Brazilians that a Brazilian passport is the most coveted on the black market because no matter what your background — Asian, African or European — you can fit in here. But the reality is very different.

I’m sitting in café with two women who don’t want their names used because of the sensitivity of the topic. One is from the Caribbean; her husband is an expat executive.

“I was expecting to be the average-looking Brazilian; Brazil as you see on the media is not what I experienced when I arrived,” she tells me.

As is the case for many people from the Caribbean basin, she self-identifies as multiracial. The island where she is from has a mixture of races and ethnicities, so she was excited to move to Brazil, which has been touted as one of the most racially harmonious places in the world.

“When I arrived, I was shocked to realize there is a big difference between races and colors, and what is expected — what is your role, basically — based on your skin color,” she says.

Moving to a new country can be difficult; when you throw racial issues into the mix things can get even more complicated.

The other woman is from London, and she also relocated to Brazil because of her husband’s job. She describes herself as black.

“My skin is very dark, so going out with my children, on occasions people would say to me, ‘Are you the nanny for these children?’ And I’d have to explain to them, no, these are my children, I look after them,” she says.

A quick lesson on race and class in Brazil: The country was the last place in the Americas to give up slavery. It also imported more than 10 times as many slaves as the U.S. — some 4 million. That’s meant that more than 50 percent of the population is of African descent, but those numbers haven’t translated to opportunity.

For example, these days among the whiter, wealthier classes, it’s common to have a nanny, or baba, who is darker-skinned. The woman from London says that the babas are required to wear all white.

“I promptly stopped wearing white,” she says, because it was tiresome to have to constantly explain that her children were in fact her children, despite Brazilians’ assumptions. “I got rid of the white that’s in my wardrobe, and I do not wear white anymore.”

Expats Find Brazil’s Reputation For Race-Blindness Is Undone By Reality : Parallels : NPR.

When it comes to cyberspace, should national security trump user security? – Citizen Lab

Always valuable, the insights and activities of the Citizen Lab of UofT’s Munk Centre, with the highly pertinent, and rhetorical, question at the end:

As the Snowden document makes plain, CSE and its allies in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand knew about UC Browser’s privacy and security problems since at least 2012. But rather than disclose them to the public and notify the company (as we felt compelled to do), they sat on and exploited them.

Of course, a leaky browser application is not as critical as a fault in a pacemaker, a 747, or a nuclear enrichment facility. Or is it? Consider that in China where the browser is most popular, all network operators are required by law to retain customer data and turn it over to security agencies upon request. The Chinese regime does not look fondly on political opposition and public demonstrations, the organization of which is now almost entirely dependent on mobile devices. Each year, China executes thousands of people for crimes against the state, and sends thousands of others to re-education labour camps. Chinese dissidents with UC Browser on their mobile device have been sitting ducks for China’s targeted surveillance, for years.

Did CSE and its allies deliberate seriously about these moral tradeoffs? Hard to say, as such deliberations are classified. For what it’s worth, the White House’s Cybersecurity Coordinator, Michael Daniels, has said the United States has a “disciplined, rigorous, and high-level decision-making process for vulnerability disclosure” in which “all of the pros and cons are properly considered and weighed.” The top-secret documents, however, evince a different attitude, one full of only excitement at the discovery and the prospects for exploitation.

The case of UC Browser is one illustration of a larger public policy problem around cybersecurity. We stand at a crossroads. Down one path is a future where governments secretly stockpile information vulnerabilities as weapons, weaken encryption to make eavesdropping easier, and engineer secret “back doors” into our networks to steal info and sabotage systems. Heading down this path will turn the global information commons into an inter-state battlefield. In worst case scenarios involving the targeting of critical infrastructure, it will lead inevitably to large-scale loss of life.

There is another path we can head down, one in which the security of users, regardless of nationality or geography, is the primary concern. Going down this path would begin with the premise that cyberspace is a shared common resource requiring stewardship. It would imply a much greater role for civilian, as opposed to military, agencies. From this view, securing cyberspace would be undertaken by independent and globally distributed individuals and groups insulated from national rivalry. The core of this approach would involve the public disclosure of vulnerabilities wherever they occur in the interests of global public policy, human rights and international humanitarian law.

Are we confident our governments are on the right path?

When it comes to cyberspace, should national security trump user security? – The Globe and Mail.

Anti-Semitism in Malmö reveals flaws in Swedish immigration system

Another story on antisemitism in Malmö, exacerbated by the marginalization of Muslim immigrants and refugees:

Sweden has a generous immigration policy – last year the country of 9 million took in 85,000 refugees. According to an OECD study, that is more than twice as many immigrants per capita as any other member country. Canada, in comparison, takes a twentieth as many refugees proportionately.

In Malmö the immigrants are concentrated in one pocket of the city, Rosengaard. Unemployment in the area runs at 70 per cent, stones are thrown regularly at mail carriers and police, and 150 cars were torched during summer riots in 2013. Protests for and against Muslim immigrants are frequent and tough.

Engineer Peter Fribourg and his wife Marie, a lawyer, are what are now called ‘ethnic Swedes.’ “It’s a tough matter, you have different cultures colliding. We are not succeeding in the way we would like.”

Marie agrees, adding that Malmö meant well but was not properly prepared to help the huge influx of immigrants settle. “I was much more liberal and welcoming before … (but) there have been so many in the last few years we do not know how to deal with them. They will not assimilate.”

There have been 137 anti-Semitic incidents reported to authorities in Malmö the past two years.

The Rabbi of the Malmö synagogue, Shneur Kesselman, says he has been spat upon and cursed. Most recently, a bottle thrown from a passing car narrowly missed his head, he says.

The Rabbi of the Malmö synagogue says he has been spat upon, cursed, and was nearly hit recently by a bottle thrown from a passing car. (Karin Wells/CBC)

Some have left because they are scared. The Jewish community in Malmö has shrunk by 50 per cent to about 1,000 in the past 10 years.

“Hatred of Muslims, as bad as it is — and it’s terrible — is not challenging the Muslim minority, their safety,” Kesselman says.

“Anti-Semitism here in Malmö today is threatening the existence of a minority.”

Anti-Semitism in Malmö reveals flaws in Swedish immigration system – World – CBC News.

Salman Rushdie to Grads: Try to Be Larger Than Life

Salman Rushdie’s more interesting approach to grad speeches and the need for skepticism:

You need to have, and refine, and hone, what Ernest Hemingway said every writer needs: a really good s— detector. He said it. (Once again, good advice for writers turns out to be excellent advice for life.)

The world in which you have grown up is unusually full of crap. In the information age, the quantity of disinformation has grown exponentially. If you seek the truth, beware of what Stephen Colbert unforgettably named “truthiness” or, for those with a bit of Latin, “veritasiness.”

Maybe you’ve come across the famous saying of President Abraham Lincoln. “The internet,” Lincoln said, “is full of false quotations.” Listen to your president. Be skeptical about what you swallow. It’s good for the digestion.

I sometimes think we live in a very credulous age. People seem ready to believe almost anything. God, for example. Sorry this is the controversial bit. Sorry to the theology people over there. Shocking how many Americans swallow that old story. Maybe you will be the generation that moves past the ancient fictions. As John Lennon recommended, imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try. That’s maybe one antique truthiness which perhaps you can finally replace with the truth.

But it’s not just God. There’s also yoga, veganism, political correctness, flying saucers, Birthers, 9/11 denialists, Scientology, and, for Pete’s sake, Ayn Rand. When the Modern Library asked readers to vote for the best novels of all time, books by Ayn Rand came in at #1, 2, 7, and 8, and books by L. Ron Hubbard – I was going to say fiction by L. Ron Hubbard, rather than nonfictional religious texts, but hey, what’s the difference – came in at #3, 9, and 10.

The only real authors that made it into the top ten were Tolkien, Harper Lee and George Orwell. If that isn’t scary enough, opinion polls regularly show that the most trusted news network in the USA is Fox News. The American appetite for bad fiction seems limitless, including very bad fiction indeed masquerading as fact – Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, for example, or Hillary Clinton’s alleged Benghazi cover-up – an inexhaustible appetite for nonsense.

Maybe you will be the beady-eyed generation that starts seeing through the disinformation, the badly imagined blah, the lies. If you can do that, if you can scrape away all the layers of gibberish that are being poured daily over the wonders of the world, maybe you will be the generation that reminds itself that it is, indeed, a wonderful world, and gets rid of the various kinds of snake-oil salesmen who are selling a world they made up for their own benefit.

Salman Rushdie to Grads: Try to Be Larger Than Life | TIME.

Olivier Roy on Laicite as Ideology, the Myth of ‘National Identity’ and Racism in the French Republic

A really good interview with Olivier Roy,  Head of the Mediterranean Program at the European University Institute, on French laïcité and how it has become transformed from a judicial principle to an ideology.

Well worth reading given the parallels in Quebec and how French debates migrate across the Atlantic.

Thanks to Arun with a View for bringing this interview (and many others) to my attention:

In the beginning, the law of 1905 was simply a judicial principle, it was not understood as a set of norms and values. Why? Because at the time, the believers and non-believers shared the same values—on family, on homosexuality, morality, modesty, etc.—there was a common set of ethics, culture. As Jules Ferry said, a laic teacher was not meant to say anything which might shock a religious head of family.

What’s different today is the moral cleavage which emerged in the 1960s, that is not related to Islam but to religion in general. From the 1960s, there is a secular ethic which diverges significantly from the religious ethic – sexual freedom, gay marriage, IVF, etc.—this is why the laicite, which was a principle of neutrality turned into an ideology affirming values – under the principle of tolerance, the idea that one must accept blasphemy, homosexuality, feminism, etc., which has never been central to the Catholic Church.

There is a disconnect between the dominant culture and religion, which means that communities of faith feel themselves minorities in the contemporary western world and that’s why they ask to be protected from the majority—there are two tendencies among people of faith.

The first is “reconquer,” demanding that the state take into account Christian values, such as forbidding abortion, or if deemed impossible, requesting an exemption, such as a believer not being made to perform a gay marriage, undertake abortion, etc.—today there is a clear disassociation between secularized culture and religions, and when I say laicite has become an ideology, rather than accept this diversity, laicite is demanding that the believer share in these secular values—this is the tension.

For example, take the Charlie Hebdo affair. The slogan “Je suis Charlie” can have two meanings: one of solidarity, opposing the attacks and terrorism, but the second meaning refers to an approval of Charlie—and many believers cannot say that they approve Charlie. They condemn the killings but cannot necessarily approve of Charlie’s images—it is what the Pope said, he was very clear, when he said he was against blasphemy, not that it was a question of law, but he opposed blasphemy, especially gratuitously.

There was a very strong reaction in France among secularists who thought it scandalous that the Pope speak in this fashion. Today there is a laic intolerance. From the principle of the separation of state and religion, we have moved to the idea that everyone must share the ideals of the Republic but which are in fact very recent values and which are a consequence of profound social changes since the 1960s. Laicite no longer accepts diversity.

… It is a model which is essentially French, because even in countries which have adopted it officially, such as Mexico or Turkey. In Turkey although everyone speaks of laicite, the constitution is not secular because religion is organized by the department for religious affairs. Kemalist Turkey preserved the Department of Religious Affairs to control religion, specifically Islam—it is not laicite. Similarly in Mexico, there is a “French style” laicite, but it is clear that religion, especially Catholicism, plays a much bigger part in society than it can in France, so in all countries there is a national dimension, a historical dimension, there is a national question over the issue of religion and the state. If you take a country like Denmark where less than ten percent of people practice a religion, Danes will tell you they are Lutherans because it is the religion of the state—but they do not practice, they do not care at all. So it is an extremely secular country although officially there is no separation between state and society so each country in my view invents its compromise to manage the relations between the church, state, and society.

I do not think in particular that laicite in its current version, as an ideology, can be positive for any country, I think it has gone too far–but we can conceive of a secular constitution, in the sense of distinguishing religion and politics, which works well in a religious society. Take the example of the United States. There you have a total separation, but no president can be elected if he does not believe in God. Look at Bosnia, created specifically to be a Muslim state for the Muslims of Yugoslavia, is totally secular—which does not mean that there is a Muslim community which functions very well in laicite, which is blossoming in a secular framework. The issue is not the laicite as a constitutional principle of separation, I think this can function very well, the problem is when laicite constructs itself as an anti-religious ideology.

Olivier Roy on Laicite as Ideology, the Myth of ‘National Identity’ and Racism in the French Republic.

The Montreal would-be jihadi 10, and what comes next – Globe editorial

Reminder by The Globe editorial board and the need for de-radicalization or deprogramming initiatives, not just passport confiscation and other security measures:

Incarceration isn’t an option without clear evidence of criminal intent. The seizure of passports is a first step in isolating potential jihadis and limiting their ability to act on their beliefs, but it can’t be the last step. In some cases, the RCMP has sought peace bonds against suspects, requiring them to wear a monitoring device and limiting their social-media activity.

Yet we know from Mr. Couture-Rouleau that surveillance is no guarantee of public safety. With the 10 youths in Montreal, and others like them, the catch-and-release approach of passport confiscation is little more than a placebo – it draws attention and buys time until we come up with a better solution.

Teenagers in rebellion, many of whom are as likely to be idealists, however misguided, as aspiring holy warriors, would benefit far more from intelligent dialogue, education and a chance to change their minds. A sincere attempt at reprogramming is required – through conversations that counter the allure of ISIS with both persuasive arguments and an empathetic understanding of what it is that can drive young students to such a state. Removing a passport may be necessary. By itself, it’s insufficient.

The Montreal would-be jihadi 10, and what comes next – The Globe and Mail.

Germany adds Jews to anti-Semitism watchdog after criticism

Corrective action.

One could not imagine having a group discussing bias and prejudice against Blacks without Black representation, anti-Muslim prejudice without Muslims, nor antisemitism without any Jews.

But conversely, only having representatives from the community under threat undermines the objective of  improving wider public understanding across society and thus influencing public debate:

The German federal government announced on Thursday that its anti-Semitism committee would be adding two Jewish members to its ranks, following criticism for not having done so at its inception. A statement from the government said that Interior Minister Thomas de Maizère (CDU) had invited the psychologist Marina Chernivsky to join, as well as Andreas Nachama, director of the Topography of Terror Foundation, the organization which operates Berlin’s museum on Nazi era.

The current incarnation of the anti-Semitism commission began work in December 2014, when de Maizère called for the creation of a group of experts to “resolutely combat anti-Semitism and continue promoting the sustainability of Jewish life in Germany.” The group had its first meeting in January of the year, and to the dismay of many Jewish groups, did not have a single member with a Jewish background.

Members of the group included Klaus Holz, the secretary general of the Evangelical Academy, Patrick Siegele, who runs the Berlin branch of the Anne Frank Center, and Juliane Wetzel, a historian at the Center for Anti-Semitism Research – but none of them are actually Jewish.

The sharpest critique came from Julius Schoeps, Director of the Moses Mendelssohn Center for European Jewish Studies, who called it an “unrivaled scandal” on the part of the government.

Germany adds Jews to anti-Semitism watchdog after criticism | News | DW.DE | 21.05.2015.

Australia to Revoke Citizenship of Australian-Born Jihadis –

More the Canadian model than the UK model (given the provision would not be applied to Australians without claim to another nationality to avoid statelessness).

With, of course, the same problems with respect to security (does sending people to countries where they may be free increase or decrease security) and fairness (treating people who have committed similar crimes differently on the basis of nationality):

Australia plans to strip citizenship from Australian-born children of immigrants who become Islamic State fighters in its crackdown on homegrown jihadis, a minister said on Thursday.

The government wants to change the Citizenship Act to make fighting for Islamic State in Syria and Iraq a reason for losing citizenship, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said.

The government also wants to adopt the British legal model by revoking the citizenship of extremists who are Australian-born children of immigrants or an immigrant, forcing them to take up citizenship in the birth country of their parents, or parent, Dutton said.

Dual nationals could also lose their Australian citizenship, while Australians without claim to another nationality could not.

“The principle for us, which is very important, is that we don’t render people stateless,” Dutton told Sydney Radio 2GB.

Australia to Revoke Citizenship of Australian-Born Jihadis –


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