2018
August
24
Friday

For years, the roar of warplanes in Syria has heralded imminent and indiscriminate devastation for millions of civilians caught in the middle of a catastrophic civil war. Today, however, something else is also accompanying that sound – a pulse of humanity that is saving lives.

In a remarkable collaboration, two Americans and a Syrian have used the sound of jet engines, on-the-ground reports, and insight from a Syrian pilot who defected to build an early-warning system for Syrian citizens called Sentry. When a warplane takes off, Sentry estimates where it is going and when it will arrive and sets off alerts in its network. The warnings are accurate to within 30 seconds.

The story, told in Wired magazine, is a reminder of the potential that technology holds. “Ten years ago this was impossible,” said founder John Jaeger. But it is also a story of a refusal to yield to despondence. The Syrian conflict has become synonymous with a reckless hatred that staggers conscience; all three collaborators had known it personally. Yet from those tragedies came only a deeper resolve.

Shortly after Sentry launched in 2016, Mr. Jaeger was shown a video from a man standing beside his ruined home. “My family is alive because I logged in and I got this message….”

Jaeger cried. “It was the first time we actually realized what we had done.” 

Here are our five stories for today, including a look at the interplay between global power and human rights in China, overcoming a legacy of prejudice in Russia, and whether humans will embrace an evolving view of predators.   

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1. On Harvey anniversary, why some Texans say they may never return home

One year after hurricane Harvey, coastal Texas is struggling to rebuild in a way that doesn’t leave out some of those most affected.

Mark

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One year after hurricane Harvey deluged the Texas coast, Gina Rodriguez is back at work slinging ice cream and coffee in Port Aransas, but she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to afford to live in the Texas town again. She and her son have been living an hour away in Corpus Christi, displaced by flood damage wrought by the hurricane. A year on, recovery from Harvey is well underway. But while the water has long receded and the mounds of debris piles along streets from Beaumont to Rockport have been cleared, issues remain, particularly for low-income Texans like Ms. Rodriguez. In Rockport, the storm destroyed 600 apartment units where much of the low-wage workforce lived. In Port Aransas, the storm has made a preexisting shortage of low-income housing even worse. Still, many residents remain optimistic that recovery is within reach, if they give it enough time. “This place, when it really super comes back, it’s going to come back like Seabiscuit. It'll make the comeback of comebacks,” says one Rockport resident. “But it’s still baby steps.”

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On Harvey anniversary, why some Texans say they may never return home

Corpus Christi isn’t one of America’s biggest cities, but it’s bigger than a room at the Super 8 motel in Weslaco, which is why Gina Rodriguez liked it – at least at first.

In the roughly nine months she’s lived there since hurricane Harvey destroyed her home in the Gulf Coast island town of Port Aransas, however, the “small town” single mom has grown tired of it. Tired of the long commute to her job on the island. Tired of the “insane” Corpus traffic, which she compares to playing Mario Kart. Tired of not being able to see the stars at night.

She is planning to move out of Corpus soon, and she would like to move back to Port Aransas, where she would be closer to her job and where her autistic son could attend a school with the resources he needs to realize his dream of becoming a military pilot. She doesn’t think she’ll be able to move back, however.

“It’s not easy, but the displacement has seemed fair for some and unfair for most,” says Ms. Rodriguez, taking a break from her job at a coffee shop in Port Aransas.

“I understand we’re trying to get tourists and people who will pay those prices,” she adds. But in a town where about 80 percent of the businesses are restaurants and bars “they’ll need to develop something for the people serving them, because without them it’s just a huge sandbox here.”

A year on, recovery from Harvey is well underway in Texas. Seventy percent of affected Texans say their lives are largely or almost back to normal, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation/Episcopal Health Foundation survey released this week. But while the water has long receded and the mounds of debris piles along streets from Beaumont to Rockport have been cleared, issues remain, particularly for low-income Texans like Rodriguez.

Here in Texas’s central Gulf Coast, where Harvey made landfall almost exactly one year ago and where low-wage workers are vital to the tourism-based economy, the inability for those workers to live in the towns they work in could significantly hamper the region’s recovery.

Henry Gass/The Christian Science Monitor
One year after hurricane Harvey flooded downtown Rockport, Texas, some stores on Austin Street are just now starting to reopen. Others are still in the process of rebuilding.

In the Rockport area, 83 percent of the town’s businesses are open, according to Randall Freeze, the intergovernmental coordinator for the Aransas County Long Term Recovery Group. But their hours are limited because of the depleted workforce, largely a result of the lack of housing, he says. 

“Pre-storm we were a 100 percent tourism economy, and it was 100 percent impacted,” he adds. “Unfortunately [those jobs] don’t pay a lot of money, so we need to accommodate those folks and provide for that workforce.”

The Galveston lesson

In Rockport, the storm destroyed 600 apartment units where much of the low-wage workforce lived, according to Mr. Freeze, and requirements attached to federal recovery funds mean that at least 51 percent of new units built in the town have to be set aside for low-income residents.

Freeze is hoping the 600 apartment units will be rebuilt or replaced within the next 18 months.

“The biggest problem we’re dealing with is federal money,” he says. “It takes a long time for them to basically write the check.”

The situation in Port Aransas is more complicated. There was an affordable housing shortage pre-Harvey, and then the storm destroyed 85 percent of the homes on the island. Federal housing recovery dollars are mostly intended to benefit low- and moderate-income communities, but because the town is mostly short-term rentals and wealthier retirees “most of those pots [of money] aren’t available to us,” says Charles Bujan, the Port Aransas mayor.

“If you don’t have the affordable housing, it affects, number one, your workforce. That affects business, which is tourism, and [that] affects our school system,” he adds. “When your schools start dying, your city starts dying.”

Mr. Bujan hopes to have around 100 affordable units available on the island within the next year, and Texas's recent history with hurricane recovery and affordable housing means there will be a close eye on the progress that towns like Rockport and Port Aransas make over the coming years.

When hurricane Ike hit Galveston, a Texas beach town south of Houston, in 2008, it destroyed every public housing unit in the city. As of July 30, fewer than half of the 569 public units had been rebuilt, despite state and federal mandates to rebuild all of them.

“At this point in time no one wants to be Galveston, no one wants to be that area that didn’t rebuild its [affordable] housing,” says Chrishelle Palay from the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service.

'Back like Seabiscuit'

Rebuilding the tourism-reliant Coastal Bend with a depleted low-wage workforce is like driving with the handbrake on. Much like a good restaurant, the relaxing scene sold to visitors here is only possible because of the organized chaos of the low-wage workers getting everything done invisibly.

John Meara did everything he could to stay living and working in Rockport after Harvey – and even then he needed a little luck. From sleeping on a friend’s couch, to camping, to sleeping in a vacant house where he was doing part-time maintenance work, he has been able to stay in town and keep his job at the Apple Dumpling Deli.

His job at the deli is varied and hard to define, ranging from cooking and dishwashing to maintenance. He simply describes himself as “the barn boss.”

“I consider myself really fortunate,” he says, “and I had a hell of a time finding a place to live.”

Standing outside the deli earlier this week, Mr. Meara embodies the sizzling tumult of the kitchen. Sporting a sheen of sweat, he points out empty lots where buildings used to stand and businesses are in varying states of recovery. He says it’s only in the past few months that he’s stopped seeing people in tents. 

“You're always going to be somewhat limited in where you can live, but it's gotten harder,” he adds. “A lot of people I knew that worked in this business I haven't seen or heard from since.” 

Meara grew up across the Gulf in Florida and has lived in beach towns much of his life. Given that experience, he’s optimistic about the progress the town seems to be making. 

“This place, when it really super comes back, it's going to come back like Seabiscuit. It'll make the comeback of comebacks,” he adds. “But it’s still baby steps.”

Regrowing pains

Kimmi Moake’s health food store in Rockport hasn’t been able to survive the baby steps stage, and therein lies a monumental challenge for these towns. Building affordable housing is critical to getting their businesses functioning at maximum, but that is only one issue among many. 

Tourism was understandably lighter than normal this summer. That combined with 30 to 40 of her most reliable customers being displaced by Harvey has given Ms. Moake little choice but to shutter her small business at the end of the month. 

“It’s going to build back up, I just don’t want to keep waiting around for it, so I’m going to take care of myself,” she says.

“You can only imagine how difficult it is to operate on a budget with no money coming in,” she adds, “and it’s not just me that’s doing it.”

Henry Gass/The Christian Science Monitor
Kimmi Moake was able to reopen her health food store, Kimmi's Fine Foods, in Rockport, Texas, soon after hurricane Harvey. But with dozens of regular customers displaced and a slow summer tourist season, she plans to close the store at the end of the month.

Indeed, even local governments have been hurt by the slow business year. On any given day there are usually about 75,000 people in Port Aransas, says Bujan. But the permanent population is barely 5 percent of that, a population that generates an operating budget of $10 million a year. 

When you factor in the $70 million in damaged infrastructure in the town, and general damage between $500 million and $1 billion, Bujan adds, that doesn’t leave a lot of time or money to focus on building affordable housing. 

“Our business community has really suffered in terms of finding employees, and primarily because they can’t find a place to live,” he says. “This [housing] issue here is critical … [but] that’s not our only issue.”

In Rockport, Freeze is helping the county develop a long-term economic recovery amid short-term declines in tax and utility revenues.

“Someone’s not going to come here and get rich, it’s not going to be a career job here,” he says. “Hopefully as tourism expands, as we attract and bring in other industries, hopefully that will change.”

In the coffee shop in Port Aransas, Rodriguez’s son is playing on a cell phone near the gelato bar. Being able to bring her son to work is one of several reasons she has continued to work here since Harvey, despite being displaced. Being able to move here and enroll him in one of the best school districts in the country will be more difficult, however. 

Ingleside and Aransas Pass, two towns on the nearby mainland, could reap the rewards of that, she thinks. After going through what she did a year ago, including losing her home and her job on the same day, moving there doesn’t sound so bad.

“They will blossom because that’s where everyone will go to to find somewhere to live,” she says.

“Things that bothered me before [Harvey] don’t anymore,” she adds. “It gives you grace with other people.”

[Editor's note: A previous version of this story misspelled Kimmi Moake's last name in a caption.]

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2. As China detains Muslim Uyghurs, its economic clout mutes world criticism

Has China simply become too powerful for the world to protest its human rights abuses? A vast surveillance and detention campaign against a Muslim minority is putting that to the test.

Mark

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New evidence suggests that China’s crackdown in its frontier Xinjiang region, home to the Muslim Uyghur minority group, has reached unprecedented proportions. As many as 1 million people are interned and subjected to political re-education, according to recent reports, and daily life is carried out under one of the world’s most pervasive surveillance systems. Beijing insists restrictions in Xinjiang are aimed at curbing Islamic extremism, though practices as simple as wearing a veil in public or naming children Mohammed have been forbidden. But as awareness grows worldwide, will it turn to action? In a flurry of statements late last month, senior US officials including Nikki Haley and Mike Pompeo denounced the Uyghurs’ treatment. Global response, however, has been muted – including in majority-Muslim countries that have leaped to the defense of the Palestinians or the Rohingya. As China’s clout spreads worldwide, governments eager for a share of its trade and investment may be hesitant to alienate Beijing. “The reason things have gone as far as they have is that China saw no one was going to object,” says Peter Irwin, of the World Uyghur Congress.

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As China detains Muslim Uyghurs, its economic clout mutes world criticism

Eighteen months after the first reports of a major security crackdown in China’s frontier province of Xinjiang, the world is beginning to wake up to evidence that Beijing is forcing an unprecedented detention and indoctrination program on the Muslim Uyghur ethnic group.

A United Nations panel in mid-August heard what one member called “credible reports” that as many as 1 million Uyghurs are being interned and subjected to political re-education. And in a flurry of statements late last month, several senior US officials and politicians condemned China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, citing the same figures.

“It’s an attempt to brainwash an entire people because of their religious and political beliefs,” says Nicolas Bequelin, East Asia director for Amnesty International. “The policy aims to marginalize and stamp out an entire ethnic group.”

But awareness is not translating into action – not yet, at any rate.

“The world is starting to pay a little more attention to the fate of the Uyghurs,” adds Mr. Bequelin, but few governments have spoken out and none have taken any firm steps to oppose the campaign. And that may be simply because, as China’s clout spreads worldwide, countries eager for a share of its trade and investment do not dare alienate Beijing. Even governments that have previously spoken up for vulnerable Muslim populations around the world have remained silent, underscoring China’s increasingly pivotal role beyond its neighborhood.

“Governments are not willing to speak up because they would be risking too much economically,” says Peter Irwin, advocacy director for the World Uyghur Congress (WUC.)

Big Brother gets bigger

At the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva earlier this month, Vice Chair Gay McDougall said China had made Xinjiang “something resembling a massive internment camp, shrouded in secrecy, a kind of no-rights zone.” Critics fear the pervasive surveillance state erected in the region may be a testing ground for broader use elsewhere in the country.

Beijing insists that its harsh policies in the restive, mainly Muslim province are aimed at curbing Islamic extremism. Uyghur separatists have staged sporadic bomb and knife attacks, and an editorial in the Communist Party-run Global Times newspaper argued recently that Xinjiang “has avoided the fate of becoming ‘China’s Syria’ or ‘China’s Libya’ ” because of “the high intensity of regulations.”

In Geneva, Chinese delegate Hu Lianhe denied that as many as a million people were being held, but explained that “those deceived by religious extremism” were being sent to “vocational education and employment training centers.” He did not say how many such people had been sent to such centers.

But new evidence suggests that the crackdown has reached unprecedented proportions, with over 1,000 detention centers built or enlarged since early 2017. Former detainees have reported being obliged to spend their days reciting Chinese laws, watching pro-government propaganda films, swearing loyalty to Chinese President Xi Jinping, and renouncing tenets of their faith. 

Thomas Peter/Reuters
People mingle in the old town of Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 22, 2017. A UN panel in mid-July heard what one member called “credible reports” that as many as 1 million Uyghurs are being interned and subjected to political re-education.

Outside these centers, Xinjiang regulations ban “abnormal” beards and veils in public, as well as certain names, including Mohammed. Uighur areas have been flooded with police, and live under one the most sophisticated and pervasive surveillance systems in the world. CCTV cameras use facial recognition technology, and authorities are collecting and registering residents’ DNA and iris scans, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

“It is likely that experiences learned in the re-education program will inform social re-engineering practices in the rest of the country,” predicts Adrian Zenz, a Xinjiang expert at the European School of Culture and Theology in Germany. “In a more subtle and refined way they could be used against more stubborn pockets of Muslim or Christian sentiment.”

Dr. Zenz published research three months ago – based on studies of Xinjiang government procurement bids, eyewitness accounts, and interviews with officials – estimating the number of Uyghurs undergoing “transformation through education” (as Chinese officials call it) at possibly 1.1 million. That is around 10 percent of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang. 

The Chinese government has offered no legal justification for the detentions, nor is it clear whether there are any official criteria governing detainees’ release.

“The goal is to produce long-term change through intimidation in an entire ethnic and religious population,” Dr. Zenz says. “It is hard to compare it with anything else” in recent history.

US 'deeply troubled'

The Chinese campaign has caught little international attention until now, partly because before Zenz’s report most evidence was anecdotal, and from politically motivated groups like the WUC. Foreign journalists have found it almost impossible to report from Xinjiang, and Uyghur exiles are afraid to speak for fear of what might happen to relatives in China.

But last month, in connection with a State Department-organized international conference on religious freedom, US officials broke their silence with a spate of comments.

Though President Trump’s administration has shown little interest in human rights abroad, and has a history of controversial comments toward Islam, “religious issues are something that the Republican Party very easily gets behind,” says James Millward, an expert in Uyghur affairs at Georgetown University in Washington. “The US has traditionally been concerned about religious freedoms abroad.”

At the conference, Vice President Mike Pence accused Beijing of “holding … possibly millions of Uighur Muslims in so-called re-education camps, where they’re forced to undergo round-the-clock political indoctrination.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo leveled a similar accusation, and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, speaking at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, said that the Uyghurs’ “religious and ethnic identity is literally being extinguished by the Chinese government.”

The day before, a senior US diplomat had told the Congressional-Executive Commission on China that “the United States is deeply troubled by the Chinese government’s worsening crackdown” in Xinjiang and called on other countries to join in Washington’s denunciations.

“We have been quite disappointed at the lack of response,” says the WUC’s Mr. Irwin. “The reason things have gone as far as they have is that China saw no one was going to object so they pushed things further.”

European diplomats say they raised the Uyghurs’ plight at a human-rights dialogue with Chinese officials in Beijing last month, but that was as far as the issue went.

Majority-Muslim reactions

Most striking is the silence from Muslim countries and organizations that have in the past leaped to the defense of other Muslim peoples, such as the Palestinians or the Rohingya.

“Over the years there have been really muted reactions from the Middle East” to events in Xinjiang, says Dawn Murphy, an expert in China’s relations with the Middle East at the US Air War College in Alabama.

Many Arab countries, not eager to draw attention to their own human rights records, “appreciate China’s respect for the principle of non-interference in other countries’ affairs,” Professor Murphy suggests. “And looking broadly at their relations with China, they have likely decided that their economic and political interests are more important” than the Uyghurs’ human rights.

The 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has said nothing about Xinjiang since 2015, when it protested a government edict forbidding civil servants and students from observing the holy fast of Ramadan.

Closer to China, the last Malaysian government cooperated with Beijing to deport a number of Uyghur asylum-seekers. In return, says Ahmad Farouk Musa, head of the Islamic Renaissance Front think tank in Kuala Lumpur, the Chinese government appears to have paid off significant debts held by the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.

“Business speaks louder than a humanitarian crisis,” Dr. Musa says. But the new Malaysian prime minister, Mahathir bin Mohamed, has promised a more independent line towards Beijing, Musa points out. “Now we are not scared to stand up to China.”

Meanwhile the Turkish government – traditionally the region’s strongest supporter of the Uyghurs, their ethnic cousins – has been tight-lipped over the “re-education” program. The increasingly autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, turning East in his search for allies, is seeking Turkish membership in the Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and is thought unlikely to needle Beijing amid a bitter political and economic dispute with Washington.

Some activists say they still hope that as news from Xinjiang spreads, it will spur pressure on China, despite Beijing’s economic clout.

In the past, the WUC’s Mr. Irwin points out, “states did not really believe the figures we were talking about. Now that there is a firmer basis for them we hope there will be more of a reaction. The issue is filtering up the system in the US, at least.”

In November, China is due to undergo its five-yearly “periodic review” by the UN Human Rights Committee. Uyghur activists hope their nascent momentum will “push the international community to make strong statements” at that meeting, Irwin says.

“But getting governments to pass laws” to punish China, he adds ruefully, “is another story.”

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Siberian crossroads

3. Once banished by czars, a centuries-old sect finds new life in modern Russia

For Russia’s hardy Old Believers, history has not been kind, subjecting them to exile, hardship, and persecution. But there are fresh signs that they have outlived the hatred and are being welcomed back into society.

Mark
Valeriy Melnikov/Sputnik/AP
Members of the Old Believer community in the village of Tarbagatay, Russia.

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Tarbagatay, Russia, is one of the largest surviving communities of Old Believers, religious dissenters who were violently repressed and twice exiled by the czars. They finally found refuge amid the wilds of Siberia 250 years ago. They survived by keeping to themselves and stubbornly maintaining their faith – which, to an outsider, doesn’t look too different from standard Russian Orthodoxy. Seventy years of communist repression nearly finished them off, but they have been reviving their unique medieval traditions and restoring their once-shattered communities. Most Old Believers can trace their family lineage back to those Russians who rejected religious reforms in 1652. Although as much as 20 percent of Buryatia’s population is descended from the original 40,000 Old Believers who were exiled here, regularly practicing Old Believers today number barely 10,000, with just 10 working churches. The Rev. Sergei Paly, the priest at Tarbagatay’s tiny church, says there is no animosity between the Old Believers and the Russian Orthodox Church anymore. “Our goal now is to preserve what we have and who we are,” he says. “The Orthodox Church is in its place; we are in ours.”

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Once banished by czars, a centuries-old sect finds new life in modern Russia

This sprawling village, set in a green mountain valley in southern Buryatia, is an unmistakably Russian place.

It’s noticeably different from nearby communities of cattle-breeding, mostly Buddhist ethnic Buryats. Solid Siberian-style izba log houses are framed by large garden plots and dirt streets, with a small white Christian church at the center. The houses have brightly painted gables and fences, the gardens are laid out in military-straight rows, and everything looks freshly repaired.

Tarbagatay, Russia, is one of the largest surviving communities of Old Believers, religious dissenters who were violently repressed and twice exiled by the czars. They finally found refuge amid the wilds of Siberia 250 years ago. They survived by keeping to themselves, stubbornly maintaining their faith – which, to an outsider, doesn't look too different from standard Russian Orthodoxy – and working hard.

Karen Norris/Staff

Seventy years of Communist repression nearly finished them off, but since the Soviet Union’s demise they have been painstakingly reviving the unique medieval traditions of prayer, song, cuisine, dress, and handicrafts that are now protected by UNESCO as “Intangible Cultural Heritage.” They’re restoring their once-shattered communities. And they’re being welcomed back into the greater Russian community, even at the highest level; last year President Vladimir Putin paid a courtesy call to the Old Believers’ spiritual center at Rogozhskaya Zastava in Moscow, the first such gesture of reconciliation by a Russian leader in 350 years.

“My ancestors came here in the 18th century from what is now Belarus. There were only Buryats here, the climate was ferocious, and those first years must have been really hard. They were farmers, the Buryats were cattle-breeders, so they traded together and mostly got along,” says Lyubov Plastinina, head of the Center of Old Believers, a museum complex in Tarbagatay. “Our ancestors chose places between the mountains, and avoided the open steppe where the Buryats lived and raised cattle. They lived in a separate way and didn’t mix much. Our cultures were too different. But we have managed, peacefully, for 250 years now.”

Exiled by the czars

Ms. Plastinina, like most Old Believers, can trace her family lineage back to those Russians who rejected the religious reforms launched by Patriarch Nikon in 1652. The reforms were meant to modernize the rites and prayers of the Russian Orthodox Church by bringing them into line with those of the Greek Orthodox mother church. They included alterations that might seem minor to people today: substituting a three-fingered sign of the cross for the old two-fingered one; altering the way the name “Jesus” was spelled in Russian; and changes in modes of baptism, liturgical texts, and the number of hallelujahs to be chanted during services.

But thousands of Russians fiercely resisted the reforms, labeling them as the work of the Antichrist. In response, they were brutally persecuted by the czar’s secret police. Denounced as “schismatics,” their leaders were arrested, tortured, and executed, while many fled Russia altogether.

Most went to present-day Belarus and Poland, which was then run by the Catholic Grand Duchy of Lithuania. But Russia expanded westward into those territories in the next century, and the Old Believers were rounded up again, this time sent into permanent exile in distant Siberia. They were the first of many subsequent waves of Russian dissidents to suffer that fate. Some fled in different directions, and today communities of Old Believers can be found in over 20 countries.

Fred Weir
A garden grows outside a typical log 'izba' in Tarbagatay, Russia, an Old Believer village of about 5,000 people.

“Our people do well everywhere,” says Sergei Petrov, head of the Cultural Society of Old Believers in Ulan-Ude and author of a book on the sect’s history. “They form tight communities. And they prosper for two reasons: faith and hard work.”

During czarist times in Siberia, the Old Believers were mostly left to themselves. Barred from state service, they became merchants, artisans, and farmers. But the Bolshevik Revolution brought a new wave of repression. Before it, there were 81 Old Believer churches in what is the present-day territory of Buryatia. All were subsequently destroyed, while many clergy and unbending believers disappeared in successive waves of Soviet persecution. The Soviet hammer fell equally on all religions, eliminating many of the Orthodox churches and Buddhist datsans (temple complexes) as well.

Although as much as 20 percent of Buryatia’s population is descended from the original 40,000 Old Believers who were exiled here, regularly practicing Old Believers today number barely 10,000, with just 10 working churches. Most blame the Soviet era for the destruction of their historic community.

“Strong believers were rounded up, imprisoned, and shot by Soviet police,” says Mr. Petrov. “Many others just drifted away from the faith. There is a revival going on now, but it’s very slow and difficult.”

A return to Russia's fold?

The Rev. Sergei Paly is the priest at Tarbagatay’s tiny Krestovozhdvizhenskaya church, one of the first Old Believer churches to be restored after the Soviet collapse. On a typical June afternoon, he is deep in conversation with a group of Russian tourists, who are quizzing him intensely over the nuances between the Orthodox faith with which they are familiar and the beliefs and practices of Old Believers. They seem curious, even fascinated, and not the least bit unfriendly. As they file out of the little church, many place donations in the collection box.

Valeriy Melnikov/Sputnik/AP
The Rev. Sergei Paly, the priest at a tiny church in Tarbagatay, Russia, shows a religious tome.

Father Sergei, who’s been a priest for about 25 years, says there is no animosity between the churches anymore.

“We have no relations with the Orthodox Church. The people found peace and safety in Siberia, even though the ruling church continued to persecute us. We were allowed to pay our taxes and serve in the army [in pre-Bolshevik times]. That was all,” says the priest. “Our goal now is to preserve what we have and who we are. The Orthodox Church is in its place; we are in ours. I have no idea what they think of us. And that’s good. We live very well now.”

Since Mikhail Gorbachev embraced the Orthodox Church on the millennial anniversary of Christianity in Russia in 1988, the Kremlin has made serious efforts to normalize the state’s relations with religious groups. That has worked out very well for the Orthodox Church, which has seen much of the property nationalized by the Bolsheviks restored to it, and has enjoyed a massive boost in its public profile and influence. Russia’s other three constitutionally recognized “founding religions” – Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism – all enjoy some measure of official favor these days.

That is not the case for faiths that are viewed as foreign imports, such as Baptists and Jehovah’s Witnesses, who face overt hostility from the Orthodox Church and ongoing police crackdowns. The Catholic Church, which had similar problems in Russia for several years, appears to have patched up its differences in a 2016 meeting in Cuba between the Russian patriarch and the pope.

But, experts say, Old Believers are viewed as an indigenous faith, an offshoot of Russian Orthodoxy, and therefore to be embraced by political authorities.

“Putin is a pragmatic politician,” says Alexei Kombaev, a political scientist at Buryat State University in Ulan-Ude. “He accepts that religions should be allowed to develop freely, or they will go underground. By smiling upon all of them, he enhances the legitimacy of the state.”

Old Believers, famously insular and suspicious of outsiders, are increasingly willing to open up to visitors, says Plastinina. Indeed, her organization, the Center of Old Believers in Tarbagatay, is a cooperative venture between the local community and the Buryat government.

“Times are changing very fast, and we need to adapt,” she says. “When I started my higher education [in Soviet times], we were studying atheism. By the time I finished, we were studying comparative religions. The one constant thing, through all of it, is that we always believed in God and kept our faith alive.”

Karen Norris/Staff
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4. Close encounters: Are these gators lost – or just learning to get along?

Predators and humans are steadily encroaching on each other’s environments. In South Carolina, alligators are showing how predators can adapt and thrive in surprising ways. The question now is: Will humans adapt, too? 

Mark

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Residents on South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island are used to living with alligators. But this summer, the gators’ presence has become more pronounced. First they started to appear on saltwater beaches, something practically unheard of before. Then, more tragically, a woman was killed by an alligator while she was walking her dog. The attack underscores the potential for dire consequences when humans and wild predators come into conflict. And the appearance of alligators on saltwater beaches suggests that human-gator encounters may become more common. It’s a scenario that’s playing out across America, as apex predators push their way into human communities – and vice versa. Whether based on fear, competition, or resource-harvesting, manifest destiny drove apex predators deeper into the wilds. It was thought that ever-diminishing resources would thus doom many species. But it appears that a generation of ecologists may have underestimated the adaptability of some of these species. These animals have demonstrated remarkable ability to adapt to humanity’s influence on the environment. It remains to be seen whether people will be willing to adapt to accommodate them as neighbors.

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Close encounters: Are these gators lost – or just learning to get along?

For many residents and tourists, alligators have long been a part of Hilton Head Island’s charm.

The South Carolina resort town’s first developer once appeared in the Saturday Evening Post strolling alongside an alligator. (A lifesize bronze reproduction of that scene now adorns the town’s Compass Rose Park.) Today, tourists at the The Sea Pines Resort can take have their photo taken with resort mascot Albert the Alligator and numerous tour companies offer excursions to see Alligator mississippiensis in its natural freshwater habitat.

But this summer, the gators’ presence has become more pronounced. First they started to appear on saltwater beaches, something practically unheard of before. Then, more tragically, a woman was killed by an alligator on Monday while she was walking her dog near a golf-course lagoon.

Monday’s shocking incident – it has been decades since a gator killed anyone in South Carolina – underscores the potential for dire consequences when humans and wild predators come into conflict. And the appearance of alligators on saltwater beaches suggests that human-gator encounters may become more common.

That’s a scenario that’s playing out across America, as apex predators are pushing their way into human communities – and vice versa.

Experts say any peace will come from the extent to which policymakers and denizens are willing to tolerate a gradual wilding of America.

“We are now having to think about whether we can coexist with large, fierce animals, and whether we will change and modulate our behavior in a way to do that,” says Duke University wildlife biologist Andrew Read. “Some species pose challenges, and we’re going to have to dig down and figure out ways to do that.”

Richard Ellis/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom
A photograph of Hilton Head Island developer Charles Fraser walking alongside an alligator appeared in a 1962 edition of the Saturday Evening Post. A bronze statue of that scene adorns the town's Compass Rose Park.

Whether based on fear, competition, or resource-harvesting, manifest destiny drove apex predators deeper into the wilds. It was thought that ever-diminishing resources would thus doom many species. Florida panthers and bears were on the brink, and the American alligator was set to go the way of the stegosaurus by the mid-1970s. Bald eagles, too, nearly saw their reign end, victims of insecticide poisoning.

But it appears that a generation of ecologists may have underestimated the adaptability of some of these species. Yes, apex predator populations were at a near-nadir, which built assumptions about habitat and population dynamics for a generation of scientists. But now, conservation efforts combined with a decline in hunting pressure appear to have lit an ancestral beacon for growing numbers of fearsome creatures.

American alligators in saltwater were until recently thought of by ecologists as anomalies. Yet when researchers started stumbling across them crunching on crabs in salt-water estuaries, they realized that something more profound was happening.

Ecologists are also observing killer whales venturing far into freshwater creeks, sea otters moving from kelp beds to estuaries, and the Florida panther cautiously expanding its range. Wolves are descending into maritime environments and black bears becoming an urban demographic across the South. Sometimes such homecomings are intertwined, tooth and nail. Hot on the flippers of newly-arrived gray seals off Cape Cod? White sharks.

“Ecologists simply got it wrong when they didn’t expect to see alligators on the coast,” says University of Florida cultural ecologist John Richard Stepp. “The baseline was the wrong date. When you go back in archaeological data, we’ve found coastal settlements with alligator remains mixed into the middens.”

Coexisting with predators

Much like humans, the large size of these predators has given them greater habitat adaptability. In the case of gators, a form of intelligence has enabled them to make critical “metabolic tradeoffs,” says Professor Stepp, noting that salt water “may not be the very best habitat, but it works for them.”

But what is happening behaviorally is perhaps even more interesting.

North Carolina had 2,000 black bears in the early 1970s. There are now over 20,000 across the state, including several hundred living inside the city limits of Asheville, the Appalachian hippie outpost.

An ongoing bear-tagging study shows that the city bears are fatter, healthier, and have more cubs per litter than their country cousins.

“There are so many human sources of food for bears that bears are eating really well in Asheville,” says Mike Carraway, the mountain region supervisor for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. But bears also seem to be embracing courtesy. “It is as much bears learning to coexist with people as it is people learning to coexist with bears.”

SOURCE: US Geological survey
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff

As large predators expand across the continent, it will require more people to confront their primal fears.

“Wildness is something engineered into humans, but we have so little common experience with it [now] that we forget or never recognize it,...” says Georgia Tech marine biologist Mark Hay, in an email from Budapest.

There can be profound benefits. Large predators can accomplish major feats of ecological balancing, perhaps key amid climate change. Sea otters expanding into estuaries are dining on large numbers of Dungeness crabs, which allows a beneficial sea slug – a sort of estuarine vacuum cleaner – to flourish.

But conflicts are also forcing the hands of natural resource managers.

The return of the alligator has led to a large-scale commercial harvest in Louisiana. Florida added 1,313 more alligator permits in July, in addition to 5,000 usually handed out. South Carolina introduced a hunt in 2008 after years of complaints about large gators menacing people along canals, with some 5,500 hunters now harvesting up to two gators each.

But at least one gator hunter says coexisting with large, fierce predators is ultimately less about control – and more about common sense.

“There was alligators on Hilton Head before there was a house, and we encroached on their territory,” says Dennis Matherly, a retired gator hunter who has pulled gators out of the Myrtle Beach surf. “They are adapting, and they are having to adapt to us. I’ve been doing this so long I take the gator’s side. The general public more and more are raised in a Walt Disney mentality, and the real world don’t work like that. Mother Nature is not nice.”

SOURCE: US Geological survey
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff
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5. How ‘heritage players’ are helping Vietnam learn to love shooting hoops

Years ago, these athletes’ parents fled Vietnam. Now, through basketball, the sons are living out a dream and helping dissolve the bitterness of the past. 

Mark
Isabelle Taft
Horace Nguyen and fellow Vietnamese-American player Chris Dierker guide young players through a dribbling drill at the Basketball Development Centre in Da Nang, Vietnam.

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Basketball fans love Horace Nguyen, who plays for the Da Nang Dragons. But then again, they might cheer for his opponents, too. Big-business basketball is new to Vietnam, and many fans’ preferences haven’t solidified into fierce rivalries. “Even if you’re at a home game and the other team scores they’ll cheer,” Horace says. “You can see the love and joy while they’re watching. It’s super-intense, it’s nerve-wracking.” So-called heritage players like Horace are key to the quest to expand professional basketball in Vietnam, which is next door to the National Basketball Association’s second-biggest market, China. Horace’s father fled Vietnam after the war, as did many of his teammates’ families. But to their basketball-loving sons and grandsons who grew up abroad, and have now gone pro in Vietnam, the country meant opportunity, more than bittersweet memories. Even their basketball league’s existence underscores Vietnam’s dramatic changes over a single generation, from war-torn and isolated to booming and internationalized. “When I’m putting on my jersey and playing for my team, it’s also playing for the city and my family,” Horace says.

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How ‘heritage players’ are helping Vietnam learn to love shooting hoops

One day in 1980, a teenager named Nelson Nguyen left home in Da Nang, Vietnam.

He got onto a barge with hundreds of others fleeing their war-torn country, and disembarked at a Hong Kong refugee camp after three days at sea. It took two more months before he could send his parents a telegram to tell them he was alive. From Hong Kong he went to Washington, D.C., and then to southern California, where he raised a son who loved basketball.

Horace Nguyen grew up watching Kobe Bryant lead the Los Angeles Lakers to five championships. Nelson set up a hoop at home and cheered as his son played for the local rec league and travel teams, then his high school and university. As graduation approached in the spring of 2016, Horace doubted he would make a professional team – but he didn’t want to give up on his dream.

Then he heard that the Vietnam Basketball Association, the country’s first major pro league, was holding tryouts in Los Angeles ahead of its inaugural season. A few months later, Horace was flying to join the Da Nang Dragons, in a coastal city not wholly unlike L.A.: miles of palm tree-lined beaches, bright tropical sunshine, and an increasing number of sleek high-rises.

“When I came over to join the VBA, on both my mom and dad’s side [of the family] it was their first time watching basketball,” Horace said. “And now they’re in love.”

Basketball is becoming big business in Vietnam – and an experiment in building a sports culture essentially from scratch. Key to its sales pitch are so-called heritage players like Horace: a dozen VBA athletes who grew up outside Vietnam, mostly in the United States, and have at least one Vietnamese parent or grandparent. Many are children of refugees. Today, they’re often star players in a league whose existence underscores Vietnam’s transformation in a single generation, from war-torn and isolated to booming and internationalized.

Horace, who at 5'10" led the VBA in three-point field goals in 2016 and 2017, has become a familiar face of the Da Nang Dragons. (For part of the year, he plays for the Saigon Heat in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Basketball League, as well.) A fluent Vietnamese speaker, he helps local players connect with American teammates and coaches, and spends spare time with his grandparents and aunts. In Facebook posts, he writes that he’s playing “for the hometown.”

“When I’m putting on my jersey and playing for my team, it’s also playing for the city and my family,” he says.

Playing to prove

“Let’s go Warriors, let’s go!” chants a crowd wearing the Thang Long Warriors’ signature red. The Dragons have flown to Hanoi to play the Warriors, the capital city’s second team, and the gymnasium is packed. Dancers perform between quarters, and fans grasp for t-shirts hurled into the stands. When the game ends with a victory for the Warriors, 93-79, balloons rain down to the tune of DJ Khaled’s “All I Do is Win,” and fans flood the court for pictures and autographs.

All of this – a sports event as flashy entertainment from beginning to end – arrived in Vietnam with the Saigon Heat in 2011. Previous national basketball tournaments drew few spectators, and Vietnam’s soccer crowds, while often huge and energetic, are generally focused on the field.

A sports-entertainment company, the XLE Group, established the team to compete in the ASEAN Basketball League, founded in 2009, and to help lay the groundwork for the VBA. XLE Group founder Connor Nguyen, who was born in Vietnam and grew up in Kansas, says the company viewed fast-developing Vietnam as increasingly likely to embrace new entertainment trends. 

Isabelle Taft
Players in the Da Nang Dragons, a Vietnamese professional basketball team, practice shooting at the end of a workout.

“We had to attract a lot of people to come to the game and learn basketball along the way,” says Connor. Rather than recruit talent with no ties to Vietnam, they searched for heritage players, hoping potential fans would identify with them.  

Da Nang Dragons assistant coach and interpreter Nguyen Khoa Cap, who grew up playing basketball in the Mekong Delta, the rice bowl of Vietnam, says many people think of the game as a “royal sport” that requires expensive equipment to succeed. Some assume Vietnamese players were too short to be good. But the heritage players’ dynamic playing style proves that isn’t true, says Mr. Cap, who, like many Vietnamese, prefers to be referred to by his given name.

In Hanoi, as the Dragons vs. Warriors game begins, Nguyen Anh Quan’s 9-year-old son is among the young players escorting the pros onto the court. When Mr. Quan was growing up, basketball wasn’t popular, he says, but now kids learn it at school – and he and many other parents encourage them to practice, hoping it will help their children get taller.

Rules of the road

Heritage players feel cultural differences on the court and off. Because fans’ preferences haven’t yet solidified into rivalries, for example, they tend to cheer for both teams, creating what Horace calls the best atmosphere he’s ever played in.

“The fans will literally cheer about everything. Even if you’re at a home game and the other team scores they’ll cheer, or like on a dead ball where the ref called a foul already and the guy scores,” Horace says. “You can see the love and joy while they’re watching. It’s super intense, it’s nerve-wracking.”

Traffic and road rules were a shock to many foreign players: to the uninitiated, crossing the street safely amid Vietnam’s swarms of motorbikes can appear as miraculous as parting the Red Sea – and Dragons player Chris Dierker, a Michigander whose mother was born in Da Nang, crashed the first time he tried to drive one. The VBA plays other cultural differences for light-hearted laughs, inviting foreign players to eat traditional foods in a series of YouTube videos called Just Try It. They enjoy noodle dishes and sticky rice with banana, but pinch their noses as they sniff durian, reputed to be the world's smelliest fruit, and leap from their chairs when presented with a bowl of wriggling coconut larvae.

In many ways, however, life in Vietnam is similar to life in the US. When Horace was a kid, he spent family trips to Vietnam mourning the absence of McDonald’s. But the Golden Arches opened in Ho Chi Minh City in 2014. Zach Allmon, a so-called import player for the Dragons (each team is allowed one athlete with no Vietnamese heritage), says he gets questions from home about culture shock. His response? “Man, I’m sitting in Starbucks, listening to Taylor Swift on the radio, a Range Rover is driving by. I’m in southern California.”

For some parents of heritage players, however, painful family memories shadowed their sons’ decisions to come here.

Warriors guard Ryan Le’s parents were among the roughly 2 million refugees who left in the two decades after the fall of Saigon (today, Ho Chi Minh City). They spent several years in a refugee camp in Thailand, where they met, before getting paired with a Canadian sponsor. Before Mr. Le moved to Ho Chi Minh City, he’d never been to their home country. His parents weren’t happy with the idea, but to their son, Vietnam meant opportunity, not turmoil.

“I wasn’t thinking about their history at all,” he says. “I was more focused on trying to become a professional athlete.”

When Horace told his parents he wanted to try out for the VBA, they asked if he was sure. The war, he says, “was a scar to them.” Now, though, they’re glad.

“They always joke around, especially my dad,” Horace says. “‘I fled the country for the betterment of my life and my kids’ lives and now you want to go back to Vietnam to play basketball.’ ”

Inspiring the next

On a summer Saturday, Horace is at Da Nang’s Basketball Development Center, teaching 40 kids to dribble around cones he’s set up on the floor. Though the Center is independent of the VBA, the Dragons frequently help out – one of many ways the league is turning its popularity into more players.

The XLE Group aims to introduce basketball programming to 25,000 Vietnamese schools through a partnership with the National Basketball Association, says Connor. The NBA’s second-biggest market is next door, in China, and it aims to replicate that success in Southeast Asia. Jim Wong, who oversees youth programming in Asia, says the NBA hopes to reach up to 10 million Vietnamese kids in the next decade. But since the American league is still relatively little-watched here, Nguyen and Wong agree role models will most likely come from the VBA.

After the kids’ clinic, it’s time for team practice in an unairconditioned military gym a few kilometers away. “Be healthy to build and defend the fatherland,” a banner exhorts – referencing the call by Ho Chi Minh, founding father of Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party.

As the Dragons work out, three teenagers wander in through an open door. They play for their school’s basketball team, visit every new court in Da Nang, and come to the gym almost every day to watch the Dragons practice. Pham Quoc Thai, 15, wears an orange Da Nang Dragons backpack and stands with his hands on his hips as he surveys the court.

“They are professionals,” Thai says. “It’s like we’re watching the NBA.” He praises Horace’s three-pointers and team leadership before heading outside. The soccer stadium next door is full of people cheering for a match, but Thai and his friends head for the basketball court.

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The Monitor's View

How to help China’s Muslims

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One of the best opportunities for Islamic extremists to gain recruits is to point to the persecution of peaceful Muslims. A response from the religious to religious intolerance is key to countering groups like ISIS that rely on hatred toward innocent Muslims to justify their violence. Of all the assaults on Muslims around the world, the largest right now may be in China. In a charged report at the United Nations, the ruling Communist Party was accused of harsh discrimination against the Muslim Uyghur minority. As many as 1 million Uyghurs are being interned in special camps and subjected to attempts to rid them of their allegiance to Islam. It is not enough to simply denounce religious persecution. Worldwide, most people live in countries with high restrictions on religion. One of the best examples of a nation starting to overcome its faith differences is Iraq. The nation’s Sunni-Shiite divide has slowly ebbed since fighters from both brands of Islam joined the government effort to oust ISIS militants last year. Iraq’s most revered Shiite leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has reached out to minority Sunnis and invited them to join in forming a unified Iraqi identity. The world can learn from such examples as it now deals with China’s suppression of its Muslims. Most religions contain the tools of peace to curb the instruments of hate.

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How to help China’s Muslims

One of the best opportunities for Islamic extremists to gain recruits is to point to the persecution of peaceful Muslims, whether by non-Muslims or other Muslims. When Myanmar’s military forced 700,000 Rohingya Muslims out of the country a year ago, for example, Malaysia warned that Islamic State would gain supporters in Southeast Asia. The region cannot leave the Rohingya “desperate and wanting,” said one Malaysian official in a plea for compassion. 

A response from the religious to religious intolerance is key to countering groups like ISIS that rely on hatred toward innocent Muslims to justify their violence. Many Muslim leaders, including those in Saudi Arabia, have spoken out to help the Rohingya. This week, more than 130 lawmakers in five Southeast Asian nations, including largely Muslim Indonesia, demanded that Myanmar be investigated by the International Criminal Court. In June, Bangladesh – where most of the exiled Rohingya live in camps – sent evidence of Myanmar’s atrocities to the ICC.

Of all the assaults on Muslims around the world, the largest right now may be in China. In a charged report at the United Nations in mid-August, the ruling Communist Party was accused of harsh discrimination against the Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang region (see related Monitor story by Peter Ford). As many as 1 million Uyghurs are being interned in special camps and subjected to attempts to rid them of their allegiance to Islam, according to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. China has lately elevated the notion that it is strictly a Chinese nation.

Because of China’s rising clout, however, leaders in Muslim countries have been largely silent about the mass internment of an estimated 5 to 10 percent of the adult Uyghur population. One exception is Malaysia, which has so far refused a request from China to extradite 11 Uyghur men who escaped from a jail in Thailand last year. Another is a territory in Pakistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, which threatens to close its border with China unless Beijing releases some 50 Uyghur women married to men from the area.

It is not enough to simply denounce religious persecution. Worldwide, most people live in countries with high restrictions on religion. Exposure and rebuke of intolerance is not enough. As the US ambassador-at-large for religious freedom, Sam Brownback, said recently, “We must move to a place where people genuinely care and love one another no matter our differences.” Religion can unlock the “spiritual capital” of people, he said, in order to deal with issues such intolerance.

One of the best examples of a nation starting to overcome its faith differences is Iraq. The nation’s Sunni-Shiite divide has slowly ebbed since fighters from both brands of Islam joined the government effort to oust ISIS militants from Iraqi territory last year. After a recent election, political protests have revealed a cross-sectarian demand for secular governance.

Iraq’s most revered Shiite leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has reached out to minority Sunnis and invited them to join in forming a unified Iraqi identity. The cleric’s compassionate outreach is designed to isolate radicals in both camps. 

The world can learn from such examples as it now deals with China’s suppression of its Muslims. Most religions contain the tools of peace to curb the instruments of hate.

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A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

Each weekday, the Monitor includes one clearly labeled religious article offering spiritual insight on contemporary issues, including the news. The publication – in its various forms – is produced for anyone who cares about the progress of the human endeavor around the world and seeks news reported with compassion, intelligence, and an essentially constructive lens. For many, that caring has religious roots. For many, it does not. The Monitor has always embraced both audiences. The Monitor is owned by a church – The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston – whose founder was concerned with both the state of the world and the quality of available news.

What? Love your enemies?

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A hostile situation with co-workers gave way to a renewed spirit of goodwill as today’s contributor considered what Christ Jesus showed us about the power of God’s love.

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What? Love your enemies?

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Some years ago I found myself in a hostile situation with some co-workers. We had just returned to work after a strike, and there was an air of judgment and negativity toward those who had worked during the strike. Even though I hadn’t worked at that time, I was thrown into the mix because these co-workers did not like me interacting with those who had.

It seemed these angry colleagues were intentionally making my job very difficult, and then they made a false complaint about me to management. In a short period of time the managers scheduled a meeting with me. I felt overwhelmed by fearful thoughts of repercussions and maybe even losing my job.

I often find it helpful to immediately begin praying when faced with a challenge. So I considered the idea that kindness is more powerful than anger and that I needed to love my enemies. Christ Jesus provides an inspiring instruction on how broadly we are to love and how we can do that. First, he said, “Love your enemies.” Then he followed it up with, “Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

These weren’t only his words, but the way he lived his life. More than simply being nice to people, Jesus showed us what it means to let God, Love, guide our thoughts and actions. He was a peacemaker whose every thought, word, and deed conformed to the will of limitless divine Love, which the Bible makes clear we each are designed to express as God’s image and likeness.

Recognizing this as our own and everyone’s true nature helps us follow Jesus’ example of loving others and treating them fairly, handling situations with wisdom, and expressing humility in helping others. God’s love is so infinite that becoming conscious of it can bring to light a tangible sense of harmony even in the difficult situations we face.

In my case, prayerfully loving my enemies was the key to overcoming the stress of my situation at work; and I feel it helped turn anger into goodwill. My fear lifted as I realized I could trust in the power and goodness of God. And when I went to the meeting, you can imagine my elation when management praised my job performance and put to rest my co-workers’ complaints. Another valued outcome was a renewed spirit of goodwill I experienced from each of those co-workers.

In her primary work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, writes, “What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds” (p. 4). This experience set a benchmark in my life and reminds me how valuable it is to pray, and to practice the teachings of Jesus Christ. Letting God’s love lead us unfolds rich blessings that benefit us and others.

Adapted from an article originally published in the St. Helena Star, June 15, 2018.

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Viewfinder

A not-so-ancient artifact

Victoria Jones/PA/AP
Artist Banksy’s work known as ‘Peckham Rock’ is handled at the British Museum, in London on Aug. 24, 2018. The artist secretly placed the mock historical piece in a gallery at the museum in 2005, where it went unnoticed for three days. It is now returning with permission as part of Ian Hislop’s curated exhibition, ‘I object: Ian Hislop’s search for dissent.’ Featuring more than 100 pieces, the exhibition, which runs through January, examines objects that ‘challenge the official version of events and defy established narratives.’
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris and Jacob Turcotte. )
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In Our Next Issue

( August 27th, 2018 )

Thank you for joining us today. Please come back on Monday when staff writer Harry Bruinius dives into America’s unusual approach to credentials. The country has always had a flexible view of who is qualified to do what job, but now, that ethos seems to be increasingly linked to a backlash against elitism. 

Monitor Daily Podcast

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