ASU Prof: Kenyan invasion will prolong crisis in Somalia

November 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Kenyan invasion of Somalia that started in October 2011 has sparked debate over whether the invasion will sooth the humanitarian crisis in Somalia and defeat al-Shabaab.

Abdullahi Gallab a professor at ASU who specializes in Islamist movements in Africa and the Middle East said that constant intervention from outside countries has prolonged the crisis in Somalia.

The crisis started when civil war erupted against Mohamed Said Barre, the harsh dictator that led Somalia’s last central government. Somalia has not had a functional government for about 20 years and severe famine over the past two years has added to the country’s problems.

In addition, regional tensions have fueled Somalia’s internal conflict.

The Ethiopians and the Kenyans see a strong Somalia has a threat, Gallab said because traditionally Somalia has had a claim on the Ogaden, a region in Ethiopia and a claim on the northern part of Kenya. Evey strong Somalia government has promised the Somali people that these regions would be returned to Somali rule.

Due to these traditional tensions bordering countries have looked for reasons to intervene in Somalia. When terrorism becomes an issue the Americans also have gotten involved.

“The Ethiopians would like to intervene. The Saudis would like to intervene. The Kenyans would like to intervene. The Sudanese would like to intervene. The Eritreans would like to intervene. The Americans would like to intervene. That is one of the main problems of the issue of Somalia. Had they left the Somalis alone to handle the situation, I think it would have been easier than this situation in which everybody is trying to have a piece out of Somalia,” Gallab said.

The Ethiopian intervention sparked the creation of al-Shabaab.   When the Islamic Courts Union looked like they were on the verge of truly stabilizing the country the Ethiopians invaded Somalia and claimed the Islamic Courts Union was a terrorist organization. In reality the Islamic Courts Union was a group of scholars that began to govern the country out of necessity, Gallab said.

The al-Shabaab, once associated with the Islamic Courts Union, gained autonomy when they began to fight the Ethiopian intervention in Ethiopia, Gallab said. Al-Shabaab saw themselves as fundamentalist freedom fighters. But they have worsened the situation by preventing international aid from reaching people in need and by driving people away from their land. They have also enforced a severe form of Sharia law where they rule. In one case they stoned a 13-year-old girl to death in a soccer field for adultery,  Christian Science Monitor reported in 2010 .

Kenyans invaded Somalia in October 2011 to try to create some kind of buffer zone between Somalia and Kenya.

The Americans joined the fight flying drones from Ethiopia to bomb Kenyan and Somali border in October. ABC reported the Obama administration admitted to using the drones in late October as part of counter terrorism efforts. PressTV reported the American drones killed 36 people on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011.

But Gallab said he doubts the Kenyan invasion will be successful because of al-Shabaab’s terrorist tactics.

“They know how to hit and run and melt within the population easily to sustain a guerrilla fight,” he said. He also suspects they will try to terrorize and destabilize Kenya internally.

Even if the Kenyans had some measure of success al-Shabaab could reemerge later, he said. Gallab said he sees the Kenyan invasion as just a continuation of violence in the region.

Any lasting solution needs to involve the Somali people, he said.

“I think it is time for the international community, including the Americans themselves, just to keep away from Somalia and try to help the Somalis to work out their own solution,” Gallab said.

Scholars inside Somalia think that Kenya’s government has the right to protect it’s people against terrorist attacks, reported.  It also reported the people in Somalia hope that the invasion will bring an end to al-Shabaab.

Female priest finds home in Tempe independent church

December 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

Accepting or denying homosexuals as members is a highly polarized issue churches across America but it also touches the lives on individuals in a profound way.

Sue Ringler worked as an outreach coordinate in a Roman Catholic Church in the Valley from 1986 – 2004. During this time she helped the church accept  that girls as alter servers . She also advocated for lay people to have a more involved role in defining the church.

“I am a real big believer in trying to change things from within,” Ringler said.

Equality was always one her priorities during this time and she felt like she was making a real difference.

“It looked like in the 80’s and 90’s we started making headway,” Ringler said.

But when the pedophile crisis broke in 2002 the culture in the church became intolerable.

Even though priests across the country were accused of sexually abusing children in the church for many years, the lay people Ringler’s church were receiving safe environment training to prevent abuse from happening.

Ringler stood up in a church meeting and asked “Why do we have to take these classes when none of us have been accused of this?”

Despite her protests, she found mainly of the changes for equality she had fought for vanishing.

“It wasn’t even not progressing anymore it was starting to go backwards,” Ringler said.

At that point, Ringler’s son told her he was homosexual. Ringler described this encounter in an interview in September 2010.

She refused to work for an institution that maintained her son had a “disorder.” After leaving the Roman Catholic Church, Ringler eventually found Guardian Angels Catholic Community a church part of the Ecumenical Catholic Community in Tempe.

At first Ringler said attending the church was difficult to adjust to.

“Seeing a woman serving at the alter is kinda an earthshaking experience,” Ringler said.

But on June 24, 2007 she was ordained a priest in the church her self.

Global citizens select politics over religion as root of conflict

December 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

A recent Gallup poll, surveyed people in 55 countries around the world about what primarily divided  Muslim countries and Western countries.

The majority of people surveyed who were ready to engage with Western Countries, like the U.S. believed the misunderstanding between countries came from political rather than religious differences.

Individuals in Europe and North Africa were the most likely to view the conflict as stemming from political problems and most likely to believe that conflict was avoidable.  Citizens of the African Sub-Sahara were the most likely to believe the conflict was based on  religion and unavoidable.

There are students at Arizona State University who agree passionately the conflict is based solely on politics.  The President for  Students for Justice in Palestine, Oday Shahin didn’t find the Gallup poll surprising.

“The Gallup poll is a big obvious fact to most Middle Easterners,” Shahin said in an email.

“The Afghanis, Iraqis and Palestinians and even Central, and South Americans who hold “anti-American” sentiment as reported when in reality its Anti-imperialist feelings because of the the American foreign policy put in place in those regions.” Shahin said.

These views are particularly relevant as nuclear disarmament talks with Iran ended Tuesday Dec. 7, 2010 without a clear solution. Just days after it was reported Iran has begun mining uranium.

Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin reported Wednesday Dec. 8, 2010 in her blog “Right Turn” that a high ranking U.S. adviser said the recent talks with Iran achieved little.

“When we keep offering to talk, it makes us look reasonable and when the talks go nowhere, we are better positioned to say, well, we tried… now more pressure.”

It will be interesting to see the form that pressure will take.

Zombies past and present

October 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

Zombies may not seem like a religious topic, but the idea draws on spiritual traditions of the Island of Haiti. According to folklore, Voodoo priests from Haiti would create Zombies. The original word for this is Zombi or “Spirit of the Dead.”

The priests would use coup-padre a poisonous powder from the porcupine fish to “eliminate” members of the community who were no longer welcome.

Once the powder was swallowed the person would appear to die. All their bodily functions would slow down and the community would bury the body. After the drug had worn off, the priests would dig them up.

The zombies would completely lose their memory in the process. All of their personality traits and memories would be erased and a empty shell of a human would be left behind.

For more details on this fun folklore and the symbolism of Zombies check out the University of Michigan’s website .

If you are into making a political statement with zombies…

you missed your chance.

Headless dolls were strewn along the sidewalk at Arizona state capital on Saturday, Oct. 21, at a Halloween themed zombie walk and protest. Protesters wanted to highlight that Gov. Jan Brewer lied about the number of people who have been beheaded by the border, according to Uriel Garcia’s article for The State Press, ASU’s daily newspaper.

I would like to be there in full costume! Happy Halloween!

There is still hope for you!

If you missed it or you are not politically inclined to leave a headless doll for Brewer, there is still hope for you to eat people! (Or celebrate the tradition of consuming the living, either way)

2nd Annual Community Zombie Walk

  • where – Heritage Square
  • when- Fri. Oct. 29
  • time-6 p.m.

Arizona representative references Christianity during debate

October 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

Trent Fanks brought some highly loaded and  spiritual comments to a debate on the ASU West Campus Monday.   Franks is seeking his fifth term in office as the District 2 U.S. Representative for Arizona.

Franks expressed his support for SB 1070, Arizona controversial immigration legislation because he said it reflected the same policy that was evident in federal law. But then he threw in this statement which seemed mildly out of place.

“We need to treat everyone as if they were God’s children because they are,” Franks said. “The one essential element in the United State is that belief.”

I don’t understand how this has any bearing on the discussion at all. I also don’t understand how being the children of God can be a building block for our country if not everyone in the country subscribes to this truth.

I think this is an example of religion finding it’s way into mainstream politics.

Franks worked for Focuse on the Family a highly politically active and conservative organization. This is something that he is very proud of and you can find details about it in his bio.

I have no opinion on the senate race becuase I can’t vote in the State of Arizona. I also have no feeling about Franks’ ability to govern.

However I think his statement is an example of how religion gets pulled into politics and twisted to fit the moment.  Viewing oneself  as child of God is a personal choice. While being  an undocumented immigrant is a matter of fact and the two things have no bearing on one another.

His challengers democrat John Thrasher and libertarian Powell Gammill also made some strong and at times somewhat shocking statements.

Thrasher accused Franks of improperly serving American women and veterans.

Gammill also made outrageous statements like, “If you are a young person at ASU you have no economic future.”

But neither of them approached the issue of faith.

Describe faith in six words

October 22, 2010 § 1 Comment

Describe your faith in six words is a challenge that can be reductionist but it can also be fun and challenging.

It is the current trend on religious blogs including Killing the Buddha and

On one side of the argument it is reminiscent of the predictions in Fahrenheit 451 that we would take great works of literature down to a single sentence.

But on the other side of the argument digital story telling calls us to brevity and high impact sentences.

These are some of the best on the above blogs.

Why take chances? Google Pascal’s Wager.

By linking to the information this one challenges you to search for yourself. Basically Pascal’s Wager states that while you cannot prove God’s existence it’s better to operate under the assumption that he does.

Universal oneness: everything else is metaphor.

I found this poetic. While it shows up in several religions and movements it reminded me of Hinduism. The universe and all that is it is merely different manifestations of  Brahman. To transcend beyond reincarnation is to join the Brahman.

Born Catholic. Bred Catholic. Became Catholic.

Although catchy I think this is a lot more negative than it appears.  I don’t think the faith you are raised in should completely define the faith you still subscribe to. I think searching beyond what you were taught as a child shows maturity and a deeper understanding.

These are some of the responses I received when I put out the call on Facebook to describe faith in six words.

Love God, and neighbor as yourself” Chris Ludington

Reason, Questioning, Balance, Practice, Order, Piety.” Dustin DeLaGarza.

Accepting that there is something more,” Kyle Patton

“Belief without proof, reason, or logic,” Kalli Kemling

This is mine.

In suffering comes faith or despair

Please contribute your own description!

Study Supports Faith Based Dorm on Campus

October 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

A scientific study supports a correlation between spirituality and the health and engagement  of students.

The study  demonstrates the practicality of the new Methodist Church dormitory planned to open in August 2011 on the ASU Tempe campus.

The study, which was called, Exploring the Relationships between Spirituality, Liberal Learning, and College Student Engagementt took a sample of 149,801 random freshmen and senior college students.  There were 461 colleges in the sample and 29 of those colleges were “faith based”

The study found that students who are involving in faith-based activities were also more likely to take part in a greater variety of extracurricular activities.  These students were also less likely to spend time “partying.”

An interesting exception to this rule was varsity athletes. This group was the least likely to engage in religion, according to the study.

However, there are many organizations that promote faith and athletics. Jcsuperstars highlights some of the best christian athletes in the world.

The culture on campus also matters more in the realm of spirituality than it does in many other areas, according to the study.

“Students who view the out-of-class climate as supportive of their social and nonacademic needs report greater gains in all of the out-comes,” including spirituality, according to the study.

This rather vague statement alludes to the idea of a residential college where students of similar interests can foster relationship and encourage one another in any given area i.e. studying nursing, community service.

In addition the study reported students at a faith-based colleges were more likely to participate in religious activity. They were also less likely to have many conversations with people of a diverse background.

In this instance I think this would be evident to the average critical thinker. You are going to find more Catholics at a Catholic University.

At ASU this obviously would not be an issue for those who may choose to live in the new faith-based dorms.

The authors pointed out the main debate at hand is whether or not the environment on any campus could be made more hospitable to faith based institutions on Campus.

I think supporting  a new Methodist dormitory is one of the ways ASU can foster the benefits that his study suggests are possible through a spiritual community.

ASU isn’t going to pay for the new dorms in anyway because it is a State Institution

There are already many residential communities on Campus, most notably Barrett, The Honors College.

A new faith dorm located on University Drive would certainly add new dimension to student life on campus and new options for students.