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A brief history of not drawing Muhammad

17 February 2015 | Philip Harvey

Second Council of NiceaWhy ban an image of Muhammad? Why is he an image-free zone? The answer is not primarily political or artistic but theological. The clue is in a statute of a meeting of bishops called the Second Council of Nicea. This may seem obscure and unimportant, but the bishops weren't obscure and the issue was whether or not humans can make an image of God. The outcome was decisive in the history of world art.

ISIS not the only enemy for Iraqi Kurds

10 February 2015 | Vanessa Powell

VillagersIn Northern Iraq, foreign owned oil companies have been moving in. As locals are turfed from their land to make way for oil production, they must fight for their rights and their environment. They say poisonous gases are causing crop failure. Australians bear some of the responsibility.

Pope's Romero move could heal Latin American divisions

09 February 2015 | Antonio Castillo

Oscar RomeroForces inside the Vatican stalled and blocked it for 20 years. But earlier this month, Pope Francis issued the declaration that Salvadorian Archbishop Oscar Romero was murdered 'in hatred of the faith' and not for political reasons. He is no longer officially suspected of being a Marxist sympathiser. In fact liberation theology itself has been undergoing a quiet rehabilitation during Francis' pontificate.

We are all bigots

18 January 2015 | Justin Glyn

Nous Sommes Tous Charlie bannerAccording to large sections of the media, 'we' are all Charlie now. While it is absolutely right that we stand with the victims and their families in grief and outrage at the terrible acts that took place in Paris earlier this month, predictably we have been told that we should, as a corollary, also defend people’s rights to say what they like, no matter how hurtful it may be. 

Seeking asylum in the Promised Land

02 December 2014 | Nikolas Feith Tan

Star of DavidIsrael is one of the world's developed countries that is attempting to deter asylum seekers from accessing the protection that international refugee law entitles them to. Yet Israel is a state with refugeehood in its roots. Israeli refugee advocates have encouraged a change of policy on the basis of Jewish exile in Egypt as recorded in the Torah. 

Putting Putin's record into perspective

16 November 2014 | Justin Glyn

Vladimir PutinAmid talk of whether Vladimir Putin would leave the G20 early and numerous reports of frosty encounters between him and other summit leaders, Western media coverage has portrayed him as an erratic and dangerous dictator whose rule damages the once-great country he leads. But it would be foolish to pretend that the West did not take advantage of the weakness of the former Soviet states in the 1990s. Russia was looted of its assets, many of which found their way abroad.

West Africa needs more international help to defeat Ebola

09 November 2014 | Robert Vitillo

St. Joseph Catholic Hospital de Monrovia (Liberia) in July before it was closed.There is a general sense of psychological trauma and anger among the people, and a fear of social unrest and a return to civil war. In the communities in which quarantine has been imposed, people do not have access to food, clean water, and other necessities. The countries are depending on increased international assistance will prevent further spread of the virus and a reduction of irrational fear, stigma, and discrimination in local communities.

Nation building by force in Ukraine and the Middle East

27 October 2014 | Justin Glyn

Refugees fleeing KobaniSyria and Ukraine are just the latest in the roll of civil wars where ossified Cold War rivalries exacerbate conflicts and prevent the forging of a just peace which is in all parties’ interests. Current insurgencies grew out of disenfranchisement. But the relevant powers have declined to involve United Nations to act as independent broker, knowing that each party has the support of a permanent member of the Security Council, whose veto will hamstring any proposed action by the others.

Where it all went wrong for Islam

14 October 2014 | Tim Mayfield

Muslim at prayerActor Ben Affleck was only partly right in his recent take-down of conservative US pundits Bill Maher and Sam Harris for their perceived 'Islamaphobia'. The reality is that there is a battle for the heart and soul of Islam that has been playing out around the globe since the 60s and 70s. It is therefore only natural that an ideology that rejects the failed colonial paradigm of nation-states and instead promotes the grand vision of a resurrected caliphate is compelling to many.

Hong Kong not in the mood for love

02 October 2014 | Antonio Castillo

Over the last 20 years, every time the people of Hong Kong have heard some 'menacing' messages from Beijing, they have responded and become politically active. The menacing message this time is the one I heard two years ago in the office of Leung Kwok-hung – better known as 'Long hair' – in the Legislative Council offices far from the epicentre of the protests: 'Beijing won’t honour its pledge’.

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