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Journey Into America: the challenge of Islam

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Rarely have I read a book that is as timely, informative and engaging as Journey into America: the Challenge of Islam by Dr. Akbar Ahmed, considered one of the foremost Islamic scholars in the world.

Beginning in 2008, he and his young research team set out across America, visiting at least 75 cities and 100 mosques as they talked to thousands of American Muslims, and interviewed non-Muslims on their views of Islam.

It was an anthropological study, so the data is reported in dozens of fascinating stories that underline the key findings. Dr. Ahmed and two members of his young research team are the lead guests this week on Interfaith Voices. (The show will be posted by Friday, August 13).

A major theme running throughout the book is relevant for those of all faiths, including Catholics.

Dr. Ahmed and his team sought to understand how Muslims see themselves as part of America, and how non-Muslim Americans see Islam. So they asked the pivotal question: What does it mean to be an American? They asked that question across the country, and developed a typology of “American identities:”

    July heat is dangerous, deadly for undocumented immigrants

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    July was the second-deadliest month on record for undocumented workers crossing from Mexico into southern Arizona by foot, with 59 bodies ending up at the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office.

    The Arizona Daily Star reported Tuesday that the busy month filled the medical examiner's two refrigerated storage spaces, prompting officials to put a 55-foot refrigerated trailer in service to house additional bodies. The month's total of those who perished ranks second only to the 69 deaths recorded by the office in July 2005.

    "I hope that people - no matter which side of the immigration debate they are on - agree that individuals dying in our community is an absolute tragedy and that something needs to be done about it," Kat Rodriguez of the Coalición de Derechos Humanos told the Star.

    Nuns in India Speak Out

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    At a time when nuns in the United States are overly cautious about every action or statement that might anger or challenge the Vatican, they might observe recent and courageous statements by nuns from the Archdiocese of Delhi, India.
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    In a report in the Union of Catholic Asian News, women religious in India called the recent Vatican document equating women’s ordination with the sexual abuse of children “derogatory” and “shocking.”

    Sister Mary Scaria, who is with the archdiocese’s commission for justice and peace, said that it is “nothing but an expression of male chauvinism.” Sister Shalini D’Souza called the document “derogatory,” and affirmed that she would like to see women ordained in the Roman Catholic Church.

    Moreover, these nuns felt that the abuse of children in church settings would decrease if women were to be ordained priests.

    Ah! It’s wonderful to feel fresh breezes once again, like the years of “open windows” after Vatican II.

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    New evangelization needed?

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    I have to agree with English Bishop Kieran Conry, who recently questioned Pope Benedict's creation of a new evangelization council because it seems to imply that secularization--rather than the church's own failures--is at the heart of declining numbers of Catholics in Europe and elsewhere.

    "My own personal opinion — I would stress that this is a personal opinion — is that I am not entirely convinced by this secularization argument. It suggests that the church's problems are external, in other words society has gone wrong, but the church is fine," he told the BBC on Sunday.

    Evangelization, or spreading the Good News, is the whole point of the church, he said, but the church isn't doing it very well. It needs "to become a little more tolerant, accessible, welcoming, compassionate. All the things that, for many people, it is not."

    The story was reported by the Catholic Herald in London.

    Uranium plant employees in Superman's hometown on strike

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    The New York Times reported Sunday that an Illinois town that houses a major U.S. nuclear processing facility connected to the cancer deaths of 42 employees is experiencing a labor dispute regarding health benefits for retirees.

    According to the report Metropolis, Ill. -- named for the fictitious hometown of the comic-book character Superman and home of the plant -- has been roiled after Honeywell, the plant operator, locked out its 220 union employees.

    The plant is responsible for converting milled uranium into uranium hexafluoride for nuclear reactors.

    From the story:

    "We deal with hydrofluoric acid," said Darrell Lillie, president of United Steelworkers Local 7-669, which represents the union workers. "We make fluorine. This is bad stuff. The least we feel like we could have is good medical benefits when we retire."

    Madison Diocese offers birth control insurance, but warns employees not to use it

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    A state law is forcing the Madison Catholic Diocese this month to begin offering its employees insurance coverage for birth control.

    However, a diocesan spokesman said employees will be warned against using the benefit and that open defiance of Catholic teaching on the issue could ultimately lead to termination.

    St. Mary's Hospital in Madison has notified employees that it, too, soon will be required for the first time to cover contraception.

    Both entities sought to get around the mandate by becoming self-insured, but the costs proved prohibitive.

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    In This Issue

    July 17-30, 2015

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