Help Refugees Thrive, Not Just Survive

TED Talk
October 2014


Melissa Fleming works with the UN’s High Commission on Refugees. Drawing on anecdotal stories from Syria, Sudan and Somalia, she makes the case for investing more resources in these refugee camps, specifically in the area of education.  The typical refugee is in one of these camps for 17 years.  These years are many times “lost” focusing on basic survival. Fleming says we should use this time more productively.  She believes the refugees hold the keys to peace and need to be equipped to break the cycles of violence that have produced 50 million refugees.

If you care abut refugees and their future potential, I encourage you to watch this TED Talk. You will get a few sobering statistics and be inspired concerning both the threat and possibilities present in the refugee camps. Perhaps we can dream together on ways to help the next generations.

Hedayah Helps Counteract Violent Extremism

The Washington Post
October 21, 2014

Based in the UAE, Hedayah was formed in 2011 to research and counter violent extremism.  David Ignatius describes four methods they use to do so.

  • They work within the educational systems to prevent violent extremism
  • They work to de-redicalize prisoners
  • They tell the stories of victims of terrorism as a counter-narrative
  • They use social media to monitor and combat violent extremism.

Ignatius concludes;

“Let’s be honest: It’s too late to stop the radicalization of Islamic State fighters. The battle to “degrade and ultimately destroy” those recruits, unfortunately, will now be waged with Apache gunships and drones. But maybe their younger brothers and cousins can be deterred from violent extremism by programs like the ones that Hedayah is promoting.”

The Diversity of Islam

New York Times
October 8, 2014

Nick Kristof in the Green RoomPulitzer Prize-winner Nicholas D. Kristof says,

Sure, denounce the brutality, sexism and intolerance that animate the Islamic State and constitute a significant strain within Islam. But don’t confuse that with all Islam: Heroes like Mukhtar, Malala, Dadkhah and Rehman also represent an important element.

Let’s not feed Islamophobic bigotry by highlighting only the horrors while neglecting the diversity of a religion with 1.6 billion adherents — including many who are champions of tolerance, modernity and human rights. The great divide is not between faiths, but one between intolerant zealots of any tradition and the large numbers of decent, peaceful believers likewise found in each tradition.

Good News on Religious Freedom from Indonesia

Breaking Christian News
September 29, 2014

Delegates at AM4Peace gathering in JakartaIn a time when the barbaric actions of ISIS toward minorities fill the headlines, it is good to see that Muslim and Christian religious leaders in Indonesia have agreed on the importance of religious freedom for all.  Ambassadors for Peace was started shortly after the events of September 11, 2001. They have traveled around the world promoting the “Ambassadors for Peace Resolution

 The document’s main theme is to “foster religious tolerance, the right to faith, freedom of speech, and freedom from reprisal or persecution, and open dialogue.”

If you can get past all of the Washington Times advertisements, they have a good article on the status of freedom of religion. Thomas Farr, professor at Georgetown University and author of “World of Faith and Freedom: Why International Religious Liberty is Vital to National Security,” says.

“I cannot identify a single country under this administration that has advanced religious freedom or reduced religious persecution.”

Currently, the position of Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom is vacant and has been for some time. Rabbi Saperstein has been nominated but not confirmed.  This leaves the US without a credible voice in the push for religious understanding and freedom.  Additionally, many feel this position does not have adequate access to decision makers to truly be effective.

Islamic scholars refute the ideology of ISIS

Washington Post
September 24, 2014


Over 120 Islamic scholars, many of them conservative Islamic scholars, have written an open letter to Al-Baghdadi and his ISIS followers, refuting point-by-point the ideology of the “Islamic State” and their practices. This is especially important information for those who are on a path toward radicalization.  The 18 page open letter uses respected sources from within Islam to debunk the teachings of radicalized groups like ISIS.

The Huffington Post coverage of the open letter to ISIS by Islamic scholars.

Executive Summary of open letter to ISIS by Islamic scholars.

Take a Deep Breath: ISIS and the Arab World

Thomas L. Friedman
September 16, 2014

Friedman_New-articleInlineThomas Friedman argues that the Muslim world is at a crossroads and we should be slow to intervene.

This game has reached its limit. First, because ISIS presents a challenge to Saudi Arabia. ISIS says it is the “caliphate,” the center of Islam. Saudi Arabia believes it is the center. And, second, ISIS is threatening Muslims everywhere.

This is a war about the soul of Islam and what direction they will go.  Saudi can’t continue to fund this version of Islam because they have now become a threat to too many Muslims. Yet, the Muslim world is slow to join our coalition. Why? We should figure that out before we keep arming groups.

Friedman poses some good questions that we should consider before engaging.

A Thoughtful Christian Response to IRIS by Carl Medearis

Carl Medearis
September 10, 2014

Isis fighters, pictured on a militant website verified by AP.


As the country gears up to “do-something” about ISIS, some are asking if Jesus has anything to say about responding to terrorists.  Carl Medearis notes that Jesus was Middle Eastern and understood the culture.  He knew terrorists that hated the Roman superpower and acted violently to oppose it.  How would Jesus counsel his followers to respond?  Of course, not everyone follows Jesus, so not everyone cares what his counsel might be.  Many who choose to not follow Jesus’ counsel dismiss it as naive or uninformed. But Jesus came to show us a new way to respond, a way that breaks the cycles of retribution and reconciles all things…in time. Perhaps, we are so far into this, the government needs to “wield the sword” but can we respond in a way that makes allies of the next generation instead of perpetuating this need for bombs and blood? I think Carl points out a few things that followers of Jesus need to consider.  Wouldn’t it be “good news” if we could learn to live together in peace?

Remembering What the Quakers Were Saying the Day After 9/11/2001

Friends Committee on National Legislation
September 12, 2001


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Do you remember the ire silence in the skies on September 12, 2001.  No planes were flying.  No jet streams criss-crossed the skies. America was in shock trying to figure out what happened and who was responsible. Here is what the Friends were saying then.

Our hearts go out today to the victims of Tuesday’s terrible attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the people in the four civilian aircraft. We call on Friends and others across the U.S. to offer prayers, solace, friendship, and aid to the survivors, families, and friends of the victims.

We are concerned, however, about how the U.S. government responds now. First, we are concerned that the U.S. not avenge these attacks with attacks upon other innocent people who may happen to be of the same nationality, faith, or ethnic group as the alleged perpetrators. This concern extends to protecting the safety and rights of people here at home. Many in this country of the Islamic faith or of Middle Eastern descent are worried that they may now become the unwarranted focus of suspicion in their communities or, worse, the subjects of unjust persecution.