1. Unsung heroes in Africa
Jenny Trinitapoli and Alexander Weinreb think the standard narrative about the reduction of AIDS in Africa is wrong. I don’t think we should underestimate the positive impact PEPFAR and other Western efforts have made, but I’m sympathetic to the argument that local heroes deserve the bulk of the credit:
Most of the measured improvements in AIDS in Africa are actually the result of cumulative, widespread behavior change that has led to a reduction in new HIV infections. In other words, the standard narrative is wrong. The narrative is wrong because it ignores local African responses to AIDS and characterizes religion and religious leaders as part of the problem. We have systematically studied the role of religious leaders in sub-Saharan Africa for about a decade. As a single class of people, local religious leaders sit at the very top of our list of who should receive credit for the behavior changes that have curbed the spread of HIV in Africa.
2. The danger of faith-based humanitarianism
Ziya Meral (@Ziya_Meral), a Turkish researcher based in London whose work focuses on religion, politics, and human rights in the Middle East, writes about the largely positive rise of faith-based humanitarianism, while noting one common way it can get its proponents into trouble:
When faith-based humanitarianism slips into working only for their own brethren and into the narrative of “the world is against us,” it fuels dangerous misperceptions and prejudices. This does not help the suffering of their co-religionists in the long run, and empties their humanitarianism by reducing it to partisanship carried on the global stage. The solution to this vulnerability of faith-based initiatives does not lie in secular humanism, but in faith traditions themselves.
3. Science and doxology
Anyone who has met Jimmy Lin (@cjimmylin) knows what a brilliant guy he is, and that his vision for finding cures for rare diseases is, well, contagious. The BioLogos Foundation published an interview in which he discusses his work with the Rare Genomics Institute. It also includes part of an earlier interview, where he draws upon J.I. Packer’s line that “Theology is for doxology”:
That’s not just true for theology, it’s for everything: biology is for doxology; chemistry is for doxology. That’s when I started to think, I should consider myself, first and foremost, as a person who praises God in what I do. And then no longer make “Christian” the adjective, right? “Doxologist” is the noun. But then what kind of doxologist am I? So I call myself a medical and scientist doxologist. I would call someone, for example, in the marketplace, a business doxologist. Or, someone who does art, an artistic doxologist. To really have the noun as our identity, and then our vocation as just a descriptor of how we do that.
4. Justice and the future of Guatemala
Over the past two weeks, Guatemala’s former dictator Rios Montt has been standing trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. Because of widespread impunity in the country, nailing the dictator was seen by most as a nearly impossible task. In a New York Times op-ed, political science professor Anita Isaacs (@AnitaIsaacs) writes about the significance of the trial for Guatemala’s indigenous people:
Convicting Mr. Ríos Montt is not about sending one person to jail. Survivors are adamant that justice will not bring back their loved ones and that it can never be commensurate with the brutal massacres described in court… Those implicated in wartime atrocities hope the trial will satisfy victims’ demands for retribution. Survivors, however, see the trial as opening up the floodgates of justice. They have a long list of perpetrators they want to see punished next. Nor is the right to try perpetrators for war crimes the only right demanded by indigenous Guatemalans. Having mobilized for over a decade to bring Mr. Ríos Montt to justice, they take enormous pride in making the trial happen. They are emerging more confident and resolved to continue fighting to claim all the political, social and economic rights they are owed as Guatemalan citizens. The contours of Guatemala’s democratic future are up for grabs, and the stakes have never been higher. While a failure to convict could be the greatest blow to the rule of law since the genocide itself, success has also never been so close within Guatemala’s reach.