Iraq, and the warning from Jewish history

Hakham Ezra Dangoor, chief rabbi of Baghdad, pictured with his family in 1910. (Jewish News) What do these three news items have in common? 1) The beautiful synagogue in Akra in Iraqi Kurdistan is crumbling to the point of collapse, as Iraq’s famous Jewish families (Sassoon, Saatchi, Gubbay, etc.) are written out of Iraqi history. 2) Thirty six Iraqi Christian churches were destroyed by Islamic State in 2014, but thousands of Christians cannot return from internal exile. Their homes are now occupied by Muslim Arabs, and their former communities are controlled by opposing Arab and Kurdish militias who each claim territory in the plain of Nineveh. 3) August 3rd marks the fourth anniversary of Islamic…

The lingering legacy of Ebola in Sierra Leone

As the deadly disease appears in Congo, Sierra Leone is still counting the cost of its 2014 epidemic. Freetown, Sierra Leone, 2015. Image: Simon Davis/DFID, CC BY 2.0. During the day, the streets of the Kissi district of eastern Freetown are perpetually crowded with pedestrians, as if a concert or soccer game has just finished. On either side of the road, in every available space, there are makeshift stalls selling mangos, grilled chicken feet, SIM cards, and second-hand clothes. There is a ceaseless soundtrack of trucks, animals, people and radios. The air is heavy with pollution from ancient taxis, and rubbish is heaped in rancid piles. It is hard to imagine these streets empty and silent….

Our selective outrage about Gaza

Events in Israel tend to mobilise otherwise dormant keyboard warriors. This week, social media has heaved with indignation at the plight of Palestinian protesters. Yet, the same critics of the State of Israel are strangely silent about the slaughter of far greater numbers of people in places like Sudan. Could it be that the Darfuris are the wrong type of Muslims? Or, like European Jewry in the 1930s, is the Sudanese cause simply less fashionable than the Palestinian one? When I give talks about our work with Sudanese refugees, someone invariably asks what I’m doing about “all the dead Palestinian children.” The fact that a far higher proportion of children have been killed by the…

Catholics in the firing line in Cameroon, as Mass Exodus continues

  Archbishop Samuel Kleda By: Rebecca Tinsley As Cameroon marks its national day on 20 May, violence continues to escalate, literally putting Catholics in the firing line. Last week, the president of the Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Samuel Kleda, escaped what local media describes as an assassination attempt. Shots were fired at his residence after he criticised Cameroon’s leader, Paul Biya, for his failure to broker genuine dialogue between the country’s rival Anglophone groups and the Francophone-dominated government. The attack comes after two years of increasing conflict which has prompted an estimated 160,000 English-speaking Cameroonians to flee to neighbouring Nigeria for safety, according to the UN. There are multiple verifiable reports that Cameroonian security forces have…

Viewpoint: Why you cannot trust politicians with global justice

The British Parliament is considering a move that may put justice within reach of persecuted minorities such as Christians in the Middle East. Lord Alton has introduced a bill that would require the British government to ask the High Court to decide whether or not genocide and mass atrocities are taking place. His private members’ bill is significant because it recognises that politicians are swayed by Britain’s trade links and other relationships with regimes perpetrating atrocities against their own people. In the years since the Holocaust, diplomats have shied away from labelling genocide by its rightful name. Under international law (the 1948 Genocide Convention, and the 2005 Responsibility to Protect doctrine), once we recognise genocide…

Christians in Sudan face ethnic cleansing, and the US and UK are rewarding it

The US government is reported to be on the verge of dropping Sudan from its State Sponsors of Terror list, despite the regime’s systematic bombardment of its own Christian civilians. The controversial move follows the lifting of sanctions against Khartoum in September. Andreea Campeanu/DECSudan’s government continues with the gradual confiscation of properties belonging to church leaders Washington has improved its relations with Sudan under pressure from Saudi Arabia. There are currently thousands of Sudanese soldiers fighting Saudi’s war in Yemen, of whom 400 have been killed. In the same year Sudanese forces were deployed in Yemen, Saudi and Qatar gave the deeply indebted Khartoum regime $2.2 billion. Yet, despite US overtures to Sudan, its president, Field Marshall Bashir, asked for President Putin’s protection…

Violence in Cameroon prompts action in Portsmouth Diocese and beyond

  Requiem Masses will be held across English-speaking Cameroon today (Saturday) for protesters killed at the end of September. A Catholic diocese in the UK is highlighting continuing human rights violations in the West African country. As many as 30 unarmed civilians were shot by Cameroon’s security forces while demonstrating against their exclusion from power in the Francophone-dominated nation. The crackdown follows a year of strikes by lawyers, teachers and businesses. The government’s response has been criticised in a declaration by the Bamenda Provincial Episcopal Conference. The bishops have condemned the “barbarism” of the Cameroonian regime’s disproportionate reaction to largely peaceful demonstrations, suggesting it is “a subtle call for ethnic cleansing.” Both Amnesty International and…

The Toxic Politics of Nigeria: As Africa’s biggest country awaits news of its absent president, corruption and terrorism take their toll

Rebecca Tinsley “Congratulations to our governor on his first year in office,” reads the vast hording by the main Abuja-Jos road. A chubby-cheeked man with perfect teeth beams down on passing motorists. You don’t need to read the small print to know the poster was paid for by the businessmen who bankrolled the successful candidate. Fifty miles later another benevolent ruler favors travellers with his cherubic grim. “My heart goes out to all the people of south Kadema,” reads the inscription. Meanwhile, his grateful voters carefully negotiate the atrocious highway between Nigeria’s capital and Jos, a city of nearly a million. Every few miles a barricade, manned by police or soldiers, stops motorists. They are…

Thank Goodness a White Man Was Tortured

The moment Phil Cox crossed the border from Chad into Sudan, there was a price on the British journalist’s head. Cox’s mission was to investigate the Khartoum regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons against its own civilians in Darfur. His hazardous journey was prompted by an Amnesty report on more than 30 chemical attacks in the Jebel Marra region of Darfur, where the Islamist Sudanese regime has been ethnically cleansing its non-Arab minority since 2003. Cox knew it would be futile applying for a visa, so he slipped into Darfur illegally. Along the way he was betrayed, and thousands of Sudanese soldiers were mobilized to prevent him unveiling the truth about the regime’s use of…

THE MYTH OF HAPPY FAMILIES

  Mary was so embarrassed she couldn’t bear to meet the nurse’s eyes. She knew the health worker would be disappointed that her star student had ignored all she had learnt about HIV at the village clinic. But Mary had no choice: her husband, who is HIV+, insisted on having unprotected intercourse. To refuse him was to risk losing her three young children. Like millions of women in the developing world, tradition dictates that Mary has no right to the babies to whom she gave birth. In order to stay with her children, she must obey her husband for fear he will throw her out. Given Mary’s dilemma, it is hardly a mystery that HIV…