World Policy Journal: Winter 2011/2012


Today, Faith is a battleground that’s publicly—often violently—contested. From the Taliban to al-Qaida to the Dalai Lama, religion has become entwined with politics, culture, and security. In Latin America, women demanding their reproductive rights clash with the Catholic Church, which has allied itself with many national governments. For the first time in over 350 years, the Tibetan government-in-exile has a secular leader, one who hopes Tibet can become a new Hong Kong. At the same time, millions in China are re-discovering religion. World Policy Journal follows one Chinese student’s extraordinary measures to escape the Communist Party and attend an illegal church. In our Winter 2011/2012 issue, World Policy Journal taps religious and secular leaders, academics, and a poet to explore the dynamics of faith in the modern world.

The issue also examines how Kerala, one of the most diverse places in India, remains peaceful; why land rights create conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo; why it’s so important to inspire the public with science; why Germany needs to recognize the accomplishments of its Turkish minority. Photographer Les Stone documents how Vodou has thrived in post-quake Haiti, and editor David A. Andelman takes us across Siberia, Mongolia, and China, exploring a nation trapped between superpowers.


The Big Question

Faith plays no role more important—to believers and non-believers alike—than its ability to promote peace or spark conflict. We have asked our panel of global experts to weigh in, featuring Rev. Dr. Marcus Braybrooke, Master Jinje, Thabo Makgoba, Susan Hayward, and other leading thinkers.

Breakthroughs in Faith

Across the globe, a new form of religiosity is transforming the spiritual and secular landscape. Evangelical Christianity, Islamic fundamentalism, and many other modern religions, Olivier Roy argues, are no longer tied to a particular culture or location. This insight from one of Europe’s leading thinkers dismantles the clash of civilizations theory that has dominated political theory debate for almost two decades. Fundamentalism, he argues, is actually a product of secularization, not civilizations.

Anatomy of Islamophobia

A far-right movement is growing across Europe. Some groups are street-based and extremist, while others hold parliamentary seats. Defined by nationalism, but especially their antipathy to Islam, all have built intricate pan-European connections. World Policy Journal reveals that in Europe even anti-immigration nationalists are working across borders.

Libyan Proverbs

Drawing upon her experiences in Libya, poet and essayist Eliza Griswold provides an iambic perspective on faith.

Map Room: Mecca—A Spiritual Journey

Nearly three million people complete the hajj every year, but for those unable to take the trip, World Policy Journal maps out a modern-day pilgrimage to Mecca.



Faiths’ Fault Lines

World Policy Journal examines the forces—both religious and secular—that have opened fault lines between communities and religions. Carla Candia chronicles the challenges facing Venezuela’s Jewish community amid the determinedly anti-Zionist regime of President Hugo Chavez. John Chryssavgis, an Orthodox cleric, writes from Istanbul about the Eastern Orthodox Church and tensions with the Muslim nation that dominates its homeland. Brook Lee profiles a young Christian in Beijing, who defies the Communist Party to attend an unregistered church.

Sex and the Barrio: A Clash of Faith in Latin America

Throughout Latin America, protesters have demanded access to sexual education and safe, legal abortions. But in many countries in the region, the Catholic Church stands in the way. Anna Edgerton and Ina Sotirova compare Argentina, where the church’s influence is waning, with Nicaragua, where Catholic doctrine still dictates sexual politics. The contrast reveals a cultural transformation that is accelerating in the southern cone and floundering in Central America.

Conversation: Getting Back the High Ground

For the first time in 369 years, the Tibetan people have a secular ruler, one who sees Hong Kong as a possible model for Tibet’s coexistence with Beijing. World Policy Journal talks with Lobsang Sangay, the Kalon Tripa of the Tibetan government-in-exile, on the intersection of faith and politics.



Vodou Lives

Following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that killed 316,000 nearly two years ago, many Haitians returned to their ancestral roots in Vodou. Photographer Les Stone traveled back to the beleaguered country to document the revival of the oft-misunderstood Vodou.



Kerala: Multiple Improbabilities

Editor emeritus of World Policy Journal Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac describe the coastal enclave of Kerala and explore the sources of its strength and tranquility, despite being one of the poorest and most diverse states in India. With such heterogeneity, no one group has a dominant majority, creating incentives to work together.

Conflict in Congo

In the deadliest corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Megan Camm uncovers the root of so much violence. Like elsewhere in Africa, ethnic clashes hinge on land rights, a persistent legacy of the colonial past.

Indonesia: Telling Lies

Corruption in Indonesia has infiltrated every level of society and is undermining the ability of the world’s fourth most populous nation to build a strong economy in a competitive world. During the Suharto regime, says Nicholas Newman, the federal government had a monopoly on corruption. Now as power is de-centralized, fraud, graft, and bribery are spreading, threatening to derail the country’s impressive growth. The government needs to support its Corruption Eradication Commission and raise the legal incomes of civil servants, but until then, many international investors will take their business elsewhere.

Science’s Global Conundrums

Stephen Hawking disciple Christophe Galfard argues that researchers need to reach out to the public. Right now, rote learning in schools has sapped the excitement and wonder of science. He calls for new ways of teaching science and making the public aware of its ability to trigger amazement and awe. Good science education, he says, is about telling stories. Without these inspiring tales, the public will fear the work of scientists, which will lead to a reluctance to fund research.

Unsung Heroes

Germany first invited Turkish guest workers into its country over 50 years ago. Today, German Turks hold key positions contributing in politics, media, culture, sports, and business. Now, Deborah Steinborn says, if Germany doesn’t start treating its Turkish population better, it risks losing the country’s youngest, most ambitious talent to a resurgent Turkey.

Coda: Across the Mongolian Steppes

Sandwiched between China and Russia, Mongolia must delicately balance the needs and desires of its neighbors, while sitting astride a patrimony of coal, oil, copper, uranium, and a host of other minerals that all but defies description. Following a five-week expedition through Russia, Mongolia, and China, World Policy Journal editor David A. Andelman examines in his column how countries like Mongolia survive—even prosper—when trapped between superpowers.