NCR Today

'Hope&Joy' in South Africa: New things, old things and things that are the same


The new business center of Johannesburg is in Sandton, north of the city. New office high-rises dot the horizon and the convention center and underground shopping center at Nelson Mandela Square is world-class and impressive.

One night last week, after speaking to a group of academics at St. Augustine College, we had to cross the city to get home. We were stopped by police at a check point so they could verify the driver's license. Often, I am told, the police ask for money when they stop people. It's illegal but it happens anyway. There are cameras on the roads and highways to check for road or speed violations (just like home) as well as unregistered vehicles. I am not sure how offenders are tracked down.

There are several major shopping malls here. I had to replace the adapter cord for my laptop one morning and our driver (we employ two local young men who have now been with us for years) took me to a nearby mall, where I found what I needed with no trouble.

Coptic Christians in Egypt


About 30 Coptic Christians in Egypt were killed in clashes that involved both the Egyptian military and radical Muslims Oct. 9. This week on Interfaith Voices, I interviewed Thomas Farr, the Director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University, about the plight of the Copts, who comprise about 10 percent of the Egyptian population.

According to Farr, this dispute is about far more than the Copts themselves. It involves the very future of religious freedom and democracy in Egypt.

Farr points out that the Copts, an ancient group that traces its lineage back to the apostolic age, are part of the large community of Eastern Orthodox churches, although a few Copts are Catholic.

In recent years, they have been seeking to repair or rebuild old churches, something requires political permission in Egypt. That was the focus of their peaceful demonstration when they were attacked by the Egyptian military, which used heavy vehicles to run some of them over.

The creeping loss of our liberties


Over a week ago, the CIA, under orders by President Obama assassinated Anwar Awlaki, a leader of the group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, in Yemen. While this would have been newsworthy on its own, the fact is that we have been killing other terrorists in northwestern Pakistan, for example, with the same drone attacks that killed Awlaki. However, what made Awlaki's assassination even bigger news was that he was a U.S. citizen who, for part of his life, was raised in this country.

As I mentioned in my last blog, I am currently teaching a freshman seminar at my campus, UC Santa Barbara, on Contemporary Political Issues in Historical Perspective. I raised the question to my students as to whether they felt that the killing of a U.S. citizen despite the fact that he was accused of being a terrorist was justified legally or whether Awlaki's rights as a U.S. citizen were violated and that he was denied due process of law.

After 140 years, African-American priest leads Josephites


From The Republic:

It took 140 years for a religious community devoted to serving African-American Catholics to name a black priest as its leader.

He is the Rev. William Norvel, 76, a native of Mississippi, who was contemplating retirement before being chosen the 13th superior general of the Josephite Priests and Brothers. "It is about time," Deacon Al Turner, director of the Office of Black Catholics for the Washington Archdiocese, told Hamil R. Harris of The Washington Post.

On this day: Miracle of the Sun


On this day, in 1917, the visionaries at Fatima, Lucia Santos, age 10, Blessed Francisco Marto, age 9, and Blessed Jacinta Marto, age 7, said they saw Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. They had seen an angel in 1916, and on May 13th, 1917, they saw a Lady. She appeared to them again in June, July, August, and September. She told the children she would identify herself in October, and that a miracle would occur. The children reported the prediction, and thousands of people were on hand on October 13th.

Morning Briefing


'Hope&Joy' in South Africa: How things change


What is different in Johannesburg from my last visit? The airport renovations are complete, since they were initiated for the soccer World Cup held last year. It was so much faster getting through immigration and customs! You can still see signs and banners about the World Cup as you leave the airport, and a statue as well.

Workers still have to travel an hour or more to and from work, and many walk long distances. Four years ago, many women walked along the side roads carrying things on their heads. So far, I have only seen one woman do this. Maybe I have to get out more.

Catholic Workers protest nukes and drones in Nevada


Last weekend, a national gathering of Catholic Workers in Las Vegas, Nevada concluded with a demonstration protesting nuclear weapons and drones.

About 100 people held an interfaith liturgy at the entrance to Nevada’s nuclear testing grounds on Sunday. After the prayers, the group walked towards the Nevada National Security Site, formerly known as the Nevada Test site. Thirty-seven men and 22 women crossed the white line delineating one of the test site’s boundaries and were promptly arrested by Nye County sheriffs.

Upon release, many of the activists went to nearby Creech Air Force base where 18 were arrested by Clark County police. Those arrested at the Nevada site received citations and were released, but at the Creech site the activists were charged with jaywalking, unlawful assembly. Most of those were given court dates of Dec. 5

Andrew Greeley: The Lion in Winter


On Oct 7 the PBS program Religion and Ethics featured a segment on Fr. Andrew Greeley. It marked the first time he has made a public appearance, I believe, since he suffered a traumatic brain injury in November 2008.

The film includes remarks by his niece, Eileen Durkin, and his longtime friend, Fr. John Cusick, some clips of Greeley commenting on church problems in the old days, and poignant shots of Greeley, assisted by Cusick and surrounded by his relatives, saying Mass at the home of Eileen.

See the video below:

Dysfunctional groups


I picked up a free book at a community center, Spycatcher, and read it on the bus from Chicago to St. Louis. It was written by Peter Wright, former assistant director of MI5, back in 1987, and I was expecting a good thriller.

What I got was a close description of group dysfunction dating back to the '30s and stretching across the "free" world, England, France, the U.S., Australia, Canada -- everybody, it seems but the KGB in the Soviet Union who had planted spies and spy equipment everywhere. And of course we don't have an insider to tell us about KGB failures and dysfunction.

It's not Peter Wright's point that MI5 needed better group dynamics. He's got a spy story to tell. But I found it a tough slog. It's a story of little accountability, little follow-through, little investigation -- an old boys' club where some of the boys were working for the other side.


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In This Issue

July 14-27, 2017