Monitor Daily Podcast

April 21, 2020
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A burger served with integrity, please

David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

Our five selected stories today cover building trust with a coronavirus tracer army, a responsible path back to work in Seattle, self-expression for women in Somaliland, nature-based climate solutions, and our global points of progress

What was Shake Shack thinking?

It was among at least 75 publicly traded companies – i.e. big companies – that received up to $10 million loans from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The intent of the $349 billion program was to help keep small businesses afloat. 

But there was a loophole: A company was eligible if it employed fewer than 500 employees at any one location. The average Shake Shack outlet employs 45. Shake Shack, with nearly 8,000 total employees, got a $10 million federal loan. 

Some other large restaurant and hotel chains, energy companies, and auto dealers found the same loophole. 

In 13 days, the PPP was drained, leaving nothing for thousands of mom-and-pop businesses that also applied. And there may be another injustice. Banks, which administer the program, got larger fees on bigger loans. That’s why four actual small businesses in California, including a yogurt shop and optometrist, filed a lawsuit Monday against Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and U.S. Bancorp. They argue the banks prioritized bigger clients over them.

Congress is working on a bill to replenish the PPP funds. And Shake Shack? So far, it’s the only company that’s done the responsible thing. The company returned the $10 million, saying it had “access to capital that others do not.” 

I don’t know about you, but I like my burgers served with integrity.

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Want to end state lockdowns? Send in the coronavirus detectives.

To end the lockdown, we look at efforts in Massachusetts to build transparency and public trust by recruiting an army of COVID-19 tracers.


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Catherine Brown is not waiting for Google and Apple to solve her problem. As a Massachusetts health official, Dr. Brown is tasked with helping to create the conditions that could help ease the state’s coronavirus lockdowns. And she knows contact tracing will be an essential tool.

Google and Apple are trying to do it with technology – tracking everyone a person diagnosed with COVID-19 might have come into contact with. But Dr. Brown wants an army of virus detectives. “The personal touch still is what we believe to be the most effective way,” she says.

So that’s what Massachusetts is doing – recruiting hundreds of people to help sleuth the pathways that the coronavirus is taking through communities. Without such contact tracing – as well as better testing – states can’t reopen, health experts say.

At a time when the federal government is largely leaving states to chart their own course, Massachusetts can be a model, says Robert Bollinger at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “If strategies are shown to be effective in certain states, other states are going to adopt that.”

Want to end state lockdowns? Send in the coronavirus detectives.

Elaine Thompson/AP
Public health nurse Jennifer Morgan (right) checks in with a self-quarantined patient over the phone as University of Washington epidemiology student Erika Feutz observes at the public health agency of Seattle and King County, in Seattle Feb. 13, 2020. Before Washington state lifts its stay-at-home order, health officials in Seattle’s King County say they need more disease investigators to perform contact tracing.

As American states mull the easing of COVID-19 social restrictions, many are turning to a trusted tool for controlling infectious diseases: contact tracing.

Known as “disease detectives,” contact tracers are people who work to halt the spread of a virus. They reach out to individuals who are confirmed cases and then trace others the person came into contact with, from family members to subway riders. It’s a hands-on containment strategy that requires speed, manpower, and public trust.

South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and New Zealand are held up as examples of effective contact tracing. But their use of digital surveillance may prove hard to adopt here. Efforts to apply smartphone technology are underway – most notably a joint project by Google and Apple – but states nationwide are also scrambling to stand up armies of human COVID-19 tracers.

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

Massachusetts has been among the more aggressive states, and it is not starting from scratch. Even before COVID-19, it had a relatively robust contact tracing program. Now, with health experts saying scaled-up contact tracing must be a cornerstone of the United States pandemic response, Massachusetts offers a window into how that response is taking shape.

“This needs to be in place before the lockdown ends,” says George Rutherford, an epidemiologist at the University of California San Francisco. “Our mitigation strategy now is to keep everyone in their houses. That mitigation has to be replaced with something else.”

Building an army

Health experts worry that a piecemeal U.S. approach – some states doubling down on virus detection and others holding back – will mar a national restart. Most U.S. states are still dogged by a lack of rapid and accessible COVID-19 testing, which tracers rely on to find and map clusters.

Massachusetts has begun building a surge force of tracers with a $44 million initiative. In recent weeks, more than 300 people have been trained for a virtual call center to track residents who may be infected. The operation is run by Partners In Health, a global health nonprofit based in Boston, which plans to hire up to 1,000 people for paid and volunteer positions.  

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday that he was in talks with Partners In Health to stand up a similar force.

Before COVID-19, Massachusetts’ tracing program involved around 400 state epidemiologists and local public health nurses, who tracked cases of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. But when coronavirus cases started to surge in February, “we knew it was going to outstrip our ability to manage it,” says Catherine Brown, state epidemiologist in the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences.

Tracing has continued in Massachusetts, prioritizing health care workers and residents at care homes, jails, and prisons. Other states hit hard early on, like Washington, set similar priorities. As the pandemic intensified, Dr. Brown joined the all-out effort to trace potential spreaders.

She recalls making a call to a woman diagnosed with the coronavirus. The woman lived with two people at high risk of a severe form of COVID-19, so Dr. Brown talked her through the risks and how to isolate herself from others.

“In that small household we didn’t stop an outbreak, but we protected vulnerable individuals. Every single case has a human side,” she says.

Today, Massachusetts has the third largest number of confirmed cases. Still, Dr. Brown says the early work of tracers – at least 21,345 people were contacted in February and March – likely helped slow the rate of infections so that hospital admissions haven’t overwhelmed capacity.

John Hanna/AP
Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Lee Norman discusses the state's coronavirus pandemic at a news conference at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kansas, April 15, 2020. The department is enlisting 400 volunteers to help with contact tracing – a critical step toward safely easing stay-at-home restrictions.

Many states spend far less on public health. Alabama previously had fewer than 10 contact tracers for its nearly 5 million residents, and now has around 50 working on COVID-19, the state’s health director told the Washington Post.

“There’s a massive gulf between where we are and where we need to be in many parts of the country,” says Joshua Michaud, associate director for global health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Nationally, the number of full-time disease investigators is 2,200, according to the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO). That comes after a decade of double-digit cuts in public health spending following the 2008-09 global recession.

A recent report by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, together with ASTHO, called for the hiring of an additional 100,000 contact tracers to contain COVID-19 epidemics, at a cost of $3.6 billion in emergency federal funding. Others have called for higher numbers.

“What we’re doing right now is simply buying time,” says Robert Bollinger, a professor in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “We don’t as a country have a strong enough public health system to do contact tracing in the community.” 

Coronavirus sleuthing

Behind these estimates is a stubborn reality: Chasing down leads in a pandemic, as detectives do after an unsolved crime, is labor-intensive and expensive. Each confirmed case yields several new contacts to trace, contact, and isolate, which averages 4 hours of work per tracer. And time is against them, since symptoms can show up days after infection.

“It has to be a rapidfire process. We know that hours and days make the difference with coronavirus,” says Mr. Michaud.

One silver lining is that millions of Americans suddenly have time on their hands. States and cities are tapping medical students, school nurses, and librarians to support COVID-19 contact tracing. In San Francisco, which had 10 tracers before the pandemic, volunteers are lining up to help, says Dr. Rutherford, who is helping the city add 150 more.

Massachusetts and six other Northeastern states are working together to ease social restrictions and reopen businesses; California, Oregon, and Washington are doing the same. Testing and contract tracing are likely to inform when and how these reopenings happen.

“I think it’s going to be critical for every state that wants to get open and back to something like a new normal to put some kind of mechanism like this in place,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker told CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, referring to contact tracing.

Other U.S. states like Texas are already starting to ease controls. This piecemeal approach could raise tensions if future outbreaks in states with robust coronavirus surveillance are traced to states that aren’t doing the same. Experts point out that South Korea and Taiwan mobilized national health systems to trace and contain their pandemics – a key element of their success. That level of federal involvement has been absent in the U.S.

But states that invest in COVID-19 testing and tracing could lead others. “If strategies are shown to be effective in certain states, other states are going to adopt that,” says Dr. Bollinger. “They want to get past this phase and start opening up their schools and businesses.”

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

At Seattle farmers market, a taste of new normal – and fresh asparagus

Markets have always been as much about human connections as commerce. A reopened farmers market offers hope and a model for a responsible path forward, as we try to balance economic, health, and social needs.

Ann Scott Tyson/The Christian Science Monitor
Market regular Holly Ferguson buys cider and rhubarb from farmer Jason Devela of Rockridge Orchards and Cidery at the University District Farmers Market as it reopens on April 18 in Seattle. The market was closed for six weeks amid the COVID-19 crisis.

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The rules were a little different Saturday at one of Seattle’s beloved farmers markets. Shoppers couldn’t pick out their own produce. They waited stoically under overcast skies, 6 feet apart, in a line stretching down the block and around the corner. Hundreds signed a 14-point oath, including vows not to “chat up my favorite farmer.”

“I will offer them a smile and a wave,” it said.

But the fact that the market was open at all, for the first time in weeks, is a tentative step toward normalcy, in the first U.S. city hit hard by COVID-19. It’s a sign of how early, widespread social distancing has paid off in Washington state. And it’s a hopeful glimpse of a possible “new normal” ahead for a nation debating when and how to reopen the economy while protecting health. 

“This is a major test today,” says Sarah Schu, who works for Neighborhood Farmers Markets.

Chris Petry is selling sourdough bread made from his hard red wheat flour. “This is one of my favorite customers,” he says of Nora Lih, who confides, “I am just here to chat him up” – from 6 feet away.

“I am smiling,” Mr. Petry says from behind his mask.

At Seattle farmers market, a taste of new normal – and fresh asparagus


It’s a signature Seattle moment. 

In a downpour early Saturday morning, Holly Ferguson and other marketgoers gather in hooded rain jackets, masks, and gloves. Grasping reusable cloth shopping bags, they stand stoically under overcast skies, 6 feet apart. The line stretches down the block and around the corner. A few seagulls squawk nearby as they land, wings flapping, in the wet, empty street.

The University District Farmers Market, a vibrant and beloved outdoor produce market popular in Seattle for more than 25 years, is about to reopen for the first time in six weeks – a welcome, if tentative, step toward normalcy in the first U.S. city hit hard by COVID-19, and a hopeful glimpse ahead for the nation.

Regulars like Ms. Ferguson pushed to reopen the market, and are now determined to make it work by following a slew of new health safety measures – with about 500 people even signing a 14-point “farmers market shoppers oath,” pledging to act responsibly on Saturday.

“I’d rather do this and have it be awkward, than have everybody just rip off their masks and run around and have to quarantine again,” she says.

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

Her orange rain hat dripping, Ms. Ferguson is ebullient and undeterred. “My whole weekend changed. I get to do something I love … that I do every Saturday morning. I know there is going to be asparagus – so yay!” she says, smiling under her mask.

The market opening is a sign of how early, widespread social distancing has paid off in Seattle and Washington state. Coronavirus fatalities are rising at a slower rate than in most other states, and hospitals have not been overwhelmed. In the capital Olympia on Sunday, about 2,000 protesters opposed the emergency lockdown, but most residents accept it.

“Washingtonians are complying with our ‘stay home, stay healthy’ initiative in mass numbers,” Gov. Jay Inslee said last week. “We have bent the curve down” and must drive it lower.

A leading model projects the state can safely consider relaxing the stay home order in mid-May, shifting to a containment strategy that relies on rigorous testing and contact tracing to stamp out any new outbreaks. “Fortunately for Washington, we have ended up on the lower end of the range probably because … Washingtonians were adjusting their behavior even before the social distancing mandates came out,” says Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. IHME has used mobility data to gauge how much people are isolating themselves.

The Seattle market is also a microcosm for the “new normal” ahead as local leaders and health authorities innovate creative solutions aimed at reviving commerce and restarting the economy while also preserving health. This involves adapting transactions so goods and services can circulate while face-to-face contacts are minimized – at least for now. Then gradually, experts and officials say, increasing contacts will be allowed, starting with smaller groups and expanding from there, with the ban on large gatherings lifted last.

Ann Scott Tyson/The Christian Science Monitor
Sarah Schu, marketing and development manager for Neighborhood Farmers Markets, posts a sign prior to the reopening of the University District Farmers Market on April 18. Market access is controlled to allow 60 shoppers at a time, to allow for social distancing.

“A major test”

For Saturday’s bedraggled shoppers and farmers alike, the market’s first day brings a stilted dance of social distancing – a far cry from the usual lively scene of fresh goods and hot food, street musicians, hugs, and camaraderie – but everyone agrees it is far better than no market at all. 

Indeed, the reopening is a trial run, contingent upon stringent new safety rules, and public health officials are monitoring compliance on-site. “This is a major test today,” says Sarah Schu, marketing and development manager for Neighborhood Farmers Markets, which runs the market and six others throughout Seattle. “If it goes well we are hoping we can open our two other year-round markets,” she says, wearing a mask and neon vest.

New rules limit the market to 30 vendors, or half the regular number, their tents spaced at least 10 feet apart. Bells ring at regular intervals to remind everyone to wash their hands. Prepared food is not allowed because it “encourages people to hang around and eat,” says Ms. Schu.

Shoppers line up at a single access point to ensure only 60 people are inside the two-block-long market at once. They can’t touch or pick out their own produce. They are encouraged to sign the 14-point shopper oath – pledging among other things to make a list in advance, send only one shopper per household, not bring pets, and “shop quickly and efficiently.”

“I won’t chat up my favorite farmer,” reads one line of the oath. “I will offer them a smile and wave.”

That’s one rule substitute teacher Nora Lih is tempted to bend – at least from a 6-foot distance. After appealing in emails to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan to reopen the market, Ms. Lih is eager to visit with farmer Chris Petry, owner of Oh Yeah! Farms in Leavenworth, Washington. 

“I am just here to chat him up,” confides Ms. Lih. “This is one of my favorite customers,” responds Mr. Petry, who is selling sourdough bread made from his farm’s hard red wheat flour. “I am smiling,” he relates from behind his mask.

Since ancient times, markets have been essential places not only for trade but for human connections – something Ms. Lih and Mr. Petry have missed equally. Mr. Petry, a former mountain guide, says he’s been eager to return to the market after weeks secluded at his farm in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. Saturday feels “a little eerie,” he says, unlike the “vibrant, bright, awesome” event it is in normal times. Still, Ms. Lih cheers him up – as does the chance to sell some onions and other produce he advertises, tongue-in-cheek, as “straight outta compost.” 

Ann Scott Tyson/The Christian Science Monitor
Shoppers wearing masks line up 6 feet apart in the rain at the single entrance to the University District Farmers Market as it prepares to reopen April 18 in Seattle. A sign describes new “shopper rules” advising people not to touch anything or linger amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Back to business

Many local growers rely on the farmers markets for the majority of their sales. Some also cater to Seattle-area restaurants. The market’s closure and reduced or nonexistent restaurant sales have cost the farmers thousands of dollars. Some are getting by thanks to plans known as “community supported agriculture” or CSA, where customers buy a portion of the harvest in advance, but others risk going out of business, says Ms. Schu.

“Small farms are the fabric of our local food system, and if we do not allow them to continue to operate and thrive they will shut down, and access to fresh food, especially for urban places, will be severely limited,” she says. The market drew about 1,200 people on Saturday, she says, a third as many as the same time last year.

At a stall brimming with fresh asparagus, farmer Kurt Tonnemaker says the market opening is a good first step, but more space will be essential once cherries, peaches, and nectarines start ripening at his family’s orchards. “This is a trial and everyone’s new and we’re learning, but come July when all the farmers have a lot of their product in, it’s going to be difficult,” he says.

With her bag full of 4 pounds of the fresh green spears, Ms. Ferguson stops last at the stand of Jason Devela of Rockridge Orchards and Cidery to buy some rhubarb. Despite tough times, Mr. Devela, a Marine Corps veteran who turned to farming in part to help overcome PTSD, greets Ms. Ferguson with a grin instead of their usual hug. 

“I miss being able to talk to you!” he says. Both are determined to keep the market going. “If it came down to it, I would just set up on the side of the road and sell my products,” Mr. Devela says. “We’re resilient. We’ll get through it.”

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

A deeper look

Somaliland’s sportswomen are breaking tape – and barriers

In Somaliland, a new normal is emerging, one where women can be athletes and embrace their faith. Our reporter found women building gyms, joining sports leagues, and running races – exuding a new boldness and camaraderie.

Ryan Lenora Brown/The Christian Science Monitor
Hamda Abdi Daahir (left) and Hannah Mukhtaar Abdilahi (right) approach the finish line of a 10K race in Hargeisa, Somaliland. They are vying for first place among women runners.

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Shukri Dahir had lived in Canada for two decades, after arriving as a refugee from Somaliland. Her family had built a good life, but something was missing. 

So three years ago, she and her husband packed up their house and children and moved back to Hargeisa, the capital of this self-proclaimed country. But here, too, something was missing. 

She wanted a good Zumba class. So she decided to start her own. 

Here is Hargeisa, something is quietly shifting. Women are increasingly demanding space to move. They are building gyms, starting sports leagues, going on predawn runs at the edge of the city, and winning races. And by doing so, they are proving that there is no contradiction in being a Somali, a devout Muslim, and a woman athlete, all at once.

“Now, this is shocking, but soon it will seem normal,” says Hannah Mukhtaar Abdilahi, one of the two young women racing for first place in a February 10K run.

Men still sometimes stare, or make comments. But it is easier to ignore when you are part of a group. It is easier than simply pretending that what you are doing is normal – and maybe if you keep pretending, one day it will be.

Somaliland’s sportswomen are breaking tape – and barriers


It had been 17 minutes since the winner of the men’s 10 kilometer race crossed the finish line when the two figures appeared on the horizon. “Girls!” someone shouted, and the crowd outside the stadium parted to let them pass.

It was still early in the morning, on a Friday in late February, and the city of Hargeisa shimmered with dust. Running side by side, the two young women cut a striking profile. The three dozen or so men who had finished before them all wore the standard international uniform of distance runners – stretchy athletic shorts and sweat-wicking T-shirts. The women, on the other hand, were dressed in long blue leggings under gauzy dresses, with baggy race T-shirts pulled over the whole ensemble. Their hijabs fluttered behind them.

Just a few years ago, the two women sprinting for their podium finish couldn’t have imagined this moment. They couldn’t have envisioned the crowds or the cheers or the oversized winners’ checks that could soon be shoved into their hands. They couldn’t have imagined it because there was simply nothing to imagine. Because four years ago, women in Somaliland didn’t run races. 

But something is quietly shifting. Across the capital of Somaliland, a self-declared nation in the Horn of Africa, women are increasingly demanding space to move. They are building gyms and starting sports leagues, going on predawn runs at the edge of the city and to evening Zumba classes. And by doing so, they are proving that there is no contradiction in being a Somali, a devout Muslim, and a woman athlete, all at once.

“Now, this is shocking, but soon it will seem normal,” says Hannah Mukhtaar Abdilahi, one of the two young women racing for first place in the 10K run, ahead of about 60 other women who had entered the event. “This year [women] were many and next year we will be even more.”

Ryan Lenora Brown/The Christian Science Monitor
Spectators watch runners finishing an annual 10k race in Hargeisa, Somaliland in February. Over the past three years, the participation of women in the race has increased exponentially.

Try to find Somaliland on a map, and you will struggle. Because as far as the world is concerned, this is a country that doesn’t exist. Not to the United Nations or the World Bank. Not to the International Olympic Committee or FIFA.

But Somaliland has been not existing this way for nearly three decades now, since it declared its independence amid the chaos of Somalia’s civil war, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Despite not being recognized by a single country in the world, Somaliland is running a fiercely DIY nation, with a national government that collects taxes and patrols its borders. It has an army, a national police force, and a currency.

Everywhere you travel in its low-slung capital city, Somaliland seems to brazenly deny its nonexistence. Glossy, blue-glass shopping centers line the dusty roads, and billboards announce daily flights to Dubai and Addis Ababa. There is even a Coca-Cola plant.

But for a nation that doesn’t technically exist, Somaliland is a place of many invisible borders, particularly around the lives of women. For the most part, laws here don’t dictate where women can go, what they can wear, or whom they can marry. But the rules are there all the same. Cover your hair. Listen to your father. Don’t take up too much space.

Ryan Lenora Brown/The Christian Science Monitor
A sign welcomes clients to Get Fit, the first women-only gym in Hargeisa. Owner Shukri Dahir, who moved back to Somaliland from Canada, opened it after struggling to find a good gym.

Space of their own

While that’s the only set of rules young Somalilander women have ever known, their mothers grew up in a different world. 

When Khadra Mohamed Abdi was a teen in Hargeisa in the late 1970s and ’80s, for instance, she was a star athlete who ran track and scored a coveted slot on the region’s all-star women’s basketball team. Her father, who drove her proudly to practices, used to tell her that “having a daughter was no different than having a son,” she says.

At the time, Somalia was ruled by a brutal dictator, Siad Barre, whose regime was known for pushing progressive policies – women’s rights, education, an end to clan-based politics – at the barrel of a gun. In 1975, his government publicly executed 10 sheikhs who had preached against a new law that gave women equal inheritance rights.

The paradox was not lost on young women like Ms. Abdi. “In those days we could play basketball in shorts and T-shirts, in front of mixed crowds of men and women, but we were afraid to practice our own religion freely,” she says.

Somalia’s north had long been underrepresented in the country’s government, and as Mr. Barre’s regime grew more violent, so did northern resistance to it. In 1988, the Somali military bombarded the region’s major cities, razing them to the ground. “We were destroyed by bombs we paid for with our own tax dollars,” says Jama Musse Jama, a Somalilander mathematician and publisher. “Think of that irony.” 

Like most people from the region, Ms. Abdi’s family fled, first to Eritrea, and later to Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Yemen, where they lived in refugee camps. By the time she returned home to her broken hometown – now the capital of the self-declared nation of Somaliland – in 1995, she’d been out of shape for many years.

She was a 25-year-old single mother living in a shell of a city where all there was for young people to do, she says, was “stay inside and watch Bollywood movies, or go out to pray.” Religious leaders had stepped in to impose order on the postwar chaos, and their influence brought new rules for women.

Ryan Lenora Brown/The Christian Science Monitor
“I realized that we can’t share space with men, because if we do, there is always the chance that they come and take it back and say it was never ours.” – Khadra Mohamed Abdi, who set up a basketball court for young women behind walls

But Ms. Abdi had always been religious. And she’d always been an athlete. She saw no contradiction. And she needed a job, badly. So she petitioned the government for a small salary and began teaching girls to play basketball on a fenced-off court at a U.N. compound.

A few years later, when she tired of having to beg and borrow for space to play, she bought her own piece of land, built a wall around it too tall for neighborhood boys to climb, and put in a basketball court.

“I realized that we can’t share space with men, because if we do, there is always the chance that they come and take it back and say it was never ours,” she says.

Now, she trains between 40 and 50 women and girls, organizing leagues when she has the money, and pickup games and informal trainings when she doesn’t.

On a recent afternoon, a group of teenage girls arrives at her compound and raps on the metal gate. Just behind them, a swarm of boys has scratched the outlines of a soccer field into the dirt road, and a pickup game is in full force.

The women, too, have come to play. So as soon as the metal door to Ms. Abdi’s property creaks open, they slip inside and bolt the lock.  

Another group is already shooting hoops at one end of the court. Piles of headscarves and robes lie discarded nearby on the concrete stands. The girls’ shouts mingle with those of the boys just over the wall. Here, women can play without worrying about who is watching.

‘If we can hold on, we’ll win this’

On the day of the 10 kilometer race, none of the runners seemed to notice who was watching them. Dozens of women gathered on the starting line, their numbers pinned on dresses and baggy T-shirts, joking and jostling for a good position.

When the starting gun cracked, Ms. Abdilahi and her soccer teammate Hamda Abdi Daahir had surged forward together into the crowd of men ahead. It was early on a Friday morning, the Somaliland weekend, and the city around them was heavy-lidded and slow moving. Goats skittered out of the street as spectators gathered in small groups, watching the runners pour past.

It wasn’t long before Ms. Abdilahi and Ms. Daahir had established a commanding lead. “Each time I looked back, I saw there was no one behind us,” Ms. Daahir says. “So I told Hannah, if we can hold on, we’ll win this.”

Growing up, Ms. Daahir played soccer with the neighborhood boys so much that everyone joked she had an alter ego named Ahmed. But it never bothered her. And it didn’t bother her now, the men on the sidelines questioning why she was here. She knew why she was there. To win.

Ms. Abdilahi wasn’t cowed, either. The youngest of nine children, she’d been standing up for herself for a long time. On her soccer team, she was known for being cocky – but with good reason. She knew how to find the net. “I don’t listen to my exhaustion,” she says. “I listen to my belief in myself.”

By the time the two young women returned to the stadium, the sky overhead was a blank blue, hot and still, and their lungs burned from dust. Ms. Daahir was tired. Her only formal training for this race had taken place the week before, when she spent 90 minutes running endless laps of the small soccer field where she often played with friends. Ms. Abdilahi, who won the 10K the year before, was slightly more prepared. She sometimes ran at the edge of the city at dawn. Sometimes one of her coaches bought her a day pass to a local gym, where she ran for two hours on a rickety treadmill.

Ryan Lenora Brown/The Christian Science Monitor
Players in a girls’ basketball program in Hargeisa, Somaliland, stand for a team photo in their uniforms. Basketball has long been a popular sport for women in the Somali world, though cultural norms mean they can now play only out of sight of men.

The two women had run the entire distance together, but now the moment had come for them to run their own races. With about 100 meters to go, they seemed to exchange an invisible signal. Suddenly they came unclasped. Both women flung themselves forward, diving toward the finish. This was a race, after all. There could only be one first place.

Group power

Creating spaces for women to be active in Hargeisa extends beyond 10Ks and basketball courts. In another part of town, a group of women has formed a taekwondo club.

Some mornings at dawn, they train by running on the fringes of Hargeisa, where the city dissolves into scrub and camels with long delicate eyelashes eye the joggers from pens made of thorn bushes. Another group plays five-a-side pickup soccer games in a sports center started by a young woman, Amoun Aden, who believed sports could “give women the confidence to finally reach the highest levels of our society.” 

But staying connected to that society was also important to women like Ms. Aden, who says she never saw anything un-Somali about encouraging women to be active. “We want them to feel safe,” she says. “We want them to thrive.”

For Shukri Dahir, too, being Somali was something she was fiercely proud of. So much so that three years ago, she and her husband packed up their house in Ottawa, Ontario, and moved back to Hargeisa with their two young children.

Ms. Dahir had lived in Canada for two decades, since she and her family arrived there as refugees in the mid-1990s. They had a good life: friends, work, good schools for the kids. But something was missing.

She wanted her children to grow up like she had, with year-round sunshine and a big extended family just down the road. She wanted them to experience a life that revolved around the rhythm of the five daily calls to prayer, which rose from the city’s minarets like a disjointed chorus. She wanted them to know the earthy taste of camel milk and what fruit looked like when it wasn’t pumped full of chemicals. She wanted them to speak their own language, and to be proud of it.

But she also wanted a good Zumba class.

“I looked all over Hargeisa but there was nothing like that,” she says. So she decided to start her own.

She hired teachers from Kenya and rented a small house on Hargeisa’s outskirts, surrounded by a tall fence topped with shards of broken glass. “GET FIT: LADIES ONLY GYM,” she printed on the sign outside. She laid down squishy, mat-like flooring and put up big mirrors. She stuck inspirational slogans to the walls.

“Age wrinkles the body,” reads one. “Quitting wrinkles the soul.”

Like many who run fitness outlets here, Ms. Dahir sees her gym as one part fitness, one part community. In Hargeisa, men gather in informal street-side cafes to drink camel-milk tea and chew khat, a local leafy plant that is a mild narcotic. But women socialize mostly behind tall walls – in their homes and the homes of others. Gyms are a rare shared space where women can meet other women.  

And lately, that camaraderie has made them bolder. Ms. Dahir notices that groups of women who meet at the gym, who encourage each other through sweaty aerobics classes and monotonous treadmill runs, are beginning to form walking groups. When they finish their workouts at the gym, they slip their hijabs and flowing jilbabs back on and walk through the neighborhood.

Men still sometimes stare. They still sometimes make comments. But it is easier to ignore when you are part of a group. It is easier than simply pretending that what you are doing is normal – and maybe if you keep pretending it’s normal, one day it will be.

Ryan Lenora Brown/The Christian Science Monitor
Hannah Mukhtaar Abdilahi is hoisted into the air by members of her soccer team after finishing first among women runners at the Somaliland 10K.

What matters most

In the end, it was Ms. Abdilahi who crossed the finish line first. She lunged just ahead of her friend, Ms. Daahir. She slumped against the nearby barrier, gasping for ragged breaths as a crowd formed around her. Someone slung a finisher’s medal around her neck. Someone else pushed a bottle of water into her hands. Journalists’ cameras clicked.

Soon, just behind the top two women’s finishers, the rest of their soccer club began to filter in. The third-place winner was a teammate. So were many of those who finished a short time later. Once they had reached critical mass, they slouched against each other’s shoulders and pulled out their phones to snap post-race selfies.

Someone suggested lifting the winners in the air, and suddenly Ms. Abdilahi and Ms. Daahir were being swung off their feet. But everyone was giggling too hard to hold them up for long. The whole group collapsed onto the grass, dissolving into laughter.

Later that evening, picking at a pizza in a Hargeisa hotel, Ms. Daahir considered what she would do with her $600 winnings. 

“I think we’ll throw a party for all the friends from our soccer team who supported us,” she said. “At the end of the day, money is just money, but what’s important are the people who got you there.” 

Asma Dhamac contributed to this report.

Climate realities

An occasional series

Plant, restore soil, repeat. Could nature help curb climate change?

“Nature-based solutions” are the latest climate buzzwords, offering a viable strategy to fight climate change that is gaining bipartisan support. Our reporter looks at what it means to do this well. This story is part of an occasional series on “Climate Realities.”

Ann Hermes/Staff
Shorebirds, waterbirds, and gulls all take advantage of the low tide in the Eden Landing Ecological Reserve on March 13, 2020, in Hayward, California. After many years as a salt production area, the reserve is being rehabilitated as a habitat for native plants and endangered species.

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At the core of a climate mitigation strategy that has gained attention over the past few years lies an embrace of nature. Often described as “nature-based climate solutions,” this approach encompasses a wide range of conservation and restoration projects involving trees, mangroves, soil, and marshlands. 

Many endeavors have locally targeted goals: improved habitat for species or resilience to hurricanes, floods, or fire. But experts say such approaches have another potential benefit: harnessing the natural ability of trees, plants, and soil to store carbon. A landmark study published in 2017 found that natural climate solutions could do about one-third of the mitigation work required in the next decade to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius. 

This approach has gained widespread and bipartisan support, but it’s not without critics – even among climate activists, who worry that it takes emphasis off the energy shift that needs to happen.

“Do I think we can restore a trillion trees to the planet? Probably not,” says James Mulligan, a senior associate in the World Resources Institute’s food, forests, and water program. “The question for me is: would this help? And the answer is yes.”

Plant, restore soil, repeat. Could nature help curb climate change?


Just off Highway 880 at the edge of Hayward, the cityscape changes abruptly. Businesses and parking lots give way to large swaths of pickle grass and pools of water stretching out to the eastern edge of the San Francisco Bay. 

On a recent sunny, windy March day – just before COVID-19 sent the Bay Area into lockdown – Dave Halsing stood on the trails at Eden Landing Ecological Reserve and pointed out what used to be old industrial salt ponds. He noted how they’re gradually being restored into a rich mosaic of tidal wetlands and other ecosystems in the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project.

Little by little, he explains, over 15,000 acres of salt ponds – largely ecological dead zones that had been transferred from industrial companies to the state – are being brought back to functional ecosystems. They provide important habitat for species like the Western snowy plover and California least tern, add recreational trails for Bay Area residents, and provide flood protection for the San Francisco Bay – a needed adaptation in an era of rising seas. “It’s inspiring but challenging,” says Mr. Halsing, the executive project manager.

The work to restore the Bay Area’s tidal marshes is just one example of a strategy that has been gaining attention in the past few years from climate change experts. Often described as “nature-based climate solutions,” this strategy encompasses a wide range of conservation and restoration approaches involving trees, mangroves, soil, and marshlands. 

Many current projects – like the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project – have locally targeted goals: improved habitat for species or resilience to climate change-related events like hurricanes, floods, or fire. But investing in such approaches at a large scale has another potential benefit, too, say experts: harnessing the natural ability of trees, plants, and soil to store carbon. 

“Nature figured out how to solve the toxic carbon dioxide problem 3 billion years ago when it invented photosynthesis, and we’re trying to invent similar processes now to solve carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. So why not use nature,” explains Peter Ellis, a forest carbon scientist with The Nature Conservancy, who co-authored a landmark study in 2017 showing that natural climate solutions could accomplish about one-third of the mitigation work required in the next decade to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius. 

Could planting one trillion trees actually work? 

Those promoting natural climate solutions emphasize that it’s just one piece of a puzzle that also requires a major shift away from fossil fuels and carbon-based energy. But many experts are seeing these natural solutions as low-hanging fruit that have yet to be tapped at a large scale. 

In January, the World Economic Forum launched the ambitious One Trillion Trees initiative, with the goal of planting and conserving 1 trillion trees around the globe in the coming decade. Even President Donald Trump signed on. 

The initiative has received some criticism, even among climate activists, who worry it’s overly simplistic, takes emphasis off of the energy shift that needs to happen, and will encourage poorly conceived projects that might perpetuate other environmental issues.

And some climate experts have argued that the claims made by natural-solutions proponents in general are lofty and overly optimistic – that they couldn’t come close to reducing carbon dioxide at the magnitude some studies have found. 

But those debates, ultimately, are unproductive, says James Mulligan, a senior associate in the World Resources Institute’s food, forests, and water program. Climate solutions, he notes, aren’t a zero-sum game. Nature-based solutions won’t ever be enough on their own, says Mr. Mulligan, but they have some big upsides, particularly that most are relatively low cost, some have more bipartisan appeal, and many are “win-win,” with none of the “losers” that can be a byproduct of other strategies. 

“The question for me is: would this help? And the answer is yes,” says Mr. Mulligan. “Do I think we can restore a trillion trees to the planet? Probably not. ... In the U.S., our analysis shows we could restore 60 billion trees to the American landscape.” That, he says, would be a “tall order,” but would remove about a half a gigaton of CO2 per year. 

“That’s a meaningful wedge,” he says. “And that’s just one nature-based solution.”  

Rodrigo Abd/AP
A reforestation assistant measures a newly-planted tree in a field damaged during illegal gold mining in Madre de Dios, Peru, on March 29, 2019. Since the project began three years ago, the team has planted more than 115 acres with native seedlings, the largest reforestation effort in the Peruvian Amazon to date. The group is in discussion with Peru’s government to expand their efforts.

Protection before planting?

All trees – and all nature-based solutions – aren’t created equal. And many advocates stress that it makes sense to focus on the ecosystems with the most to offer, or the methods that yield the biggest dividends. 

“We need to protect first, to hold the line,” says Mr. Ellis of The Nature Conservancy, explaining that he views good management of existing ecosystems as being even more important than restoration. 

Certain ecosystems, like mangroves and peatlands, are of vital importance to conserve, says Will Turner, senior vice president of global strategies for Conservation International. In those ecosystems, the soil stores so much carbon that losing much more of it in coming years would be devastating, he says. 

But to Dr. Turner, conservation and restoration are two sides of a coin, both necessary. Protecting critical ecosystems like tropical forests and mangroves that are being destroyed at a steady rate is crucial in terms of reducing current emissions, he says. But removing carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere is also necessary, if there is any hope of keeping warming below 2 degrees Celsius. 

“We have a long way to go before we have any technology that is capable of removing CO2 from the atmosphere at scale except trees,” says Dr. Turner. “We’d be foolish not to invest incredibly heavily in regrowing forests.”

Despite all the potential of natural climate solutions, most of the examples being tried so far are at a relatively small scale. 

WRI’s plan for 60 billion trees planted in the U.S. over the next 20 years, Mr. Mulligan notes, would require about $4 billion a year in federal subsidies. But many of these efforts are “happening at the pace and scale of the conservation sector,” he says. And that figure, while relatively modest in terms of government spending, is far beyond what the nonprofit community can handle. 

Dr. Turner, of Conservation International, agrees. What the conservation community has done well, he says, is shown how these projects can work, how technology can be used to monitor and verify emissions reductions, and how financial mechanisms can allow governments or corporations to invest in these strategies. 

Ann Hermes/Staff
A family walks along the Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline trail, which sits along the Arrowhead Marsh, a restored wetlands habitat on March 13, 2020 in Oakland, California.

Discovering an ecosystem in every backyard

Meanwhile, part of the beauty of nature-based solutions, Dr. Turner says, is that – while some may certainly have more payoff than others in terms of climate mitigation – “there is something that can happen anywhere. Every community has an option to protect a forest or grow a forest or protect a grassland, or to better manage grazing lands so you can get greater carbon stored in the soil.”

And many of those solutions – like the marsh restoration taking place in the San Francisco Bay – offer significant local benefits that go far beyond potential emissions reduction: habitat for endangered species, cleaner air and water, recreation opportunities for residents, flood risk mitigation at a time of rising seas. 

In the Bay Area, emissions mitigation isn’t a real driver of the restoration work, and the carbon market for wetlands isn’t as robust as that for forests. But that doesn’t mean those benefits don’t exist, says Letitia Grenier, co-director of the Resilient Landscapes Program for the San Francisco Estuary Institute. 

In her role at the institute, Dr. Grenier looks for creative ways to harness the natural benefits of ecosystems in ways that work for both people and nature – and they are plentiful, she says.

“One of the things climate change has shown us is that we live in ecosystems,” says Dr. Grenier. “Not only do we impact ecosystems, but our ecosystem impacts us.” In many instances, she says, when she looks at, say, a large watershed, the system is essentially broken. Too many discordant elements have been introduced. 

“Suddenly, our system is not working for us,” says Dr. Grenier. “Climate change is creating the realization of that, and the opportunity to fix it.”

Staff photographer Ann Hermes contributed to this report from Hayward, California.

This story was published as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.


Points of Progress

What's going right

Hey nene! Hawaii’s native goose paddles back from the brink.

This is more than feel-good news. It's where the world is making concrete progress. A roundup of positive stories to inspire you.


Hey nene! Hawaii’s native goose paddles back from the brink.

Places where the world saw progress, for the April 20, 2020 Monitor Weekly.

1. United States

Disability representation and inclusion on U.S. television has increased over the past four years. Among the top 10 Nielsen-rated television shows, characters with disabilities played by actors with the same disabilities rose from 5% to 12% between 2016 and 2018. Shows like “Atypical” on Netflix and “This Close” on Sundance Now are two examples of shows with authentic casting. A report by the Ruderman Family Foundation, which looked at 284 shows across 37 networks and four streaming platforms, found that more than half of network shows and 42% of streaming shows included characters with disabilities in 2018. More recently, the new Netflix documentary “Crip Camp,” which tells the story of the disability revolution in the 1970s that successfully brought the subject center stage, has received strong reviews. (Disability Scoop, The Guardian)

2. Ireland

Ireland is set to ban menthol and rolling tobacco May 20 as part of a four-year phasing-in period of the 2016 European Union directive on tobacco products. Menthol cigarette companies target younger people who are more prone to start smoking if offered flavored cigarettes, say tobacco experts. The EU directive sets out rules governing the manufacture, presentation, and sale of tobacco and related products with the intent of discouraging smoking. Branding of any kind has been outlawed already across Europe, and tobacco products are currently sold in plain packaging with prominent health warnings. All tobacco advertising, smaller packs of rolling tobacco, and 10-packs of cigarettes are also already banned. The European Commission estimates these regulations and laws will reduce the number of smokers across the EU by some 2.4 million. (Euronews, The Irish Times

3. Russia

Anton Vaganov/Reuters/File
Activists attend the Global Climate Strike in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 20, 2019. The country’s government plans to address climate change.

Russia, for the first time, has announced a long-term, low-carbon development plan. The world’s fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases (after China, the U.S., the EU, and India) is showing political and economic motivation to curb climate change. According to the plan, Russia pledges to cut emissions by a third by 2030 from its 1990 level. The plan also aims to cut emissions by 48% by 2050, becoming carbon-neutral by the end of the century. Although climate experts say Russia’s strategy is not aggressive enough, it does show new willingness to address climate change concerns from one of the world’s biggest suppliers of fossil fuels. Russia officially joined the Paris Agreement in September 2019. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

4. Pakistan

Use of the hydraulic ram, a pump that doesn’t require electricity or fuel to operate, is turning barren land green in Pakistan. The inexpensive and eco-friendly pumps harness pressure from fast-flowing water to drive water uphill and deliver it to mountaintop crops, where irrigation was not previously possible. The pumps were installed two years ago under a project led by the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development. The positive results could be key in helping Pakistan’s mountain communities adapt to climate change-induced droughts and floods, say experts. So far, the pumps have revived about 60 acres of barren land and benefited 300 households. The United Nations Development Program has given Pakistan additional funding to install 20 more hydro-ram pumps in 12 villages. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

5. South Africa

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
Dudu Duru harvests crops in one of the urban gardens at Victoria Yards, a multiuse complex under development in Johannesburg, on March 2, 2018.

A growing number of urban farms are taking root in Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city. More than 40% of its population of 4.4 million is deemed food-insecure. Vegetable gardens are sprouting in schoolyards, outside clinics and churches, across rooftops, and in backyards. Not only are urban farmers using their land to grow food and feed their community, but they are also helping to introduce green spaces in areas known for high crime. “We may not have money, but we have land and food. And to garden here is our therapy,” said Refiloe Molefe, an urban farmer for 10 years. There are about 300 urban farms in Johannesburg. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)


Goddard Space Flight Center/NASA/AP
The purple and blue colors indicate the lowest concentration of ozone; yellow and red, the highest in this South Pole image of Earth captured Oct. 20, 2019. The ozone hole is at its smallest since it was detected in 1985.

Recent evidence shows that efforts to repair the hole in the ozone layer are helping the southern jet stream to return to a normal state. The southern jet stream is a powerful wind that shapes weather patterns and ocean currents in the Southern Hemisphere, affecting South America, East Africa, and Australia. Up until 2000, the jet stream had been shifting from its course as a result of ozone layer depletion. Scientists and experts credit the reversal to the Montreal Protocol of 1989, an international treaty to phase out chemicals that damage the ozone layer. Last September, satellite images showed the ozone hole’s annual peak had shrunk to 63.3 million square miles, the smallest extent since 1982. (The Guardian, Nature)

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article’s headline referred incorrectly to the content.

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This Ramadan, Muslims find new reasons for charity

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For the world’s Muslims, this year’s holy month of Ramadan, which starts Thursday, may seem like a retreat from tradition. The pandemic has led Islamic leaders to close mosques. They have asked the faithful to avoid large gatherings after each day of fasting. Yet many Muslims have decided they can still put their beliefs into action through acts of charity toward the most vulnerable.

In Iraq, thousands of people are delivering food to poor people. In Calgary, Alberta, the city’s mosque has set up a food bank for 400 families of all faiths. “The prophet Muhammad said the most beloved people to God are those who benefit others most,” said Tarek El-Messidi, founding director of CelebrateMercy, which has helped raised money for low-income Americans.

Many of the world’s faithful have decided that physical distancing does not mean spiritual distancing. During this year’s Easter, Christians found fresh ways to express love toward the needy as did Jews during Passover. For the coming month, Muslims will do the same. It is a way to allow people who are suffering to feel whole during the holy days.

This Ramadan, Muslims find new reasons for charity

Members of an Iraqi charity deliver free food to a woman during a curfew imposed to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 in Kirkuk, Iraq.

For the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims, this year’s holy month of Ramadan, which starts Thursday, may seem like a retreat from tradition. The pandemic has led Islamic leaders to close mosques. They have asked the faithful to avoid large gatherings after each day of fasting. Yet many Muslims have decided they can still put their beliefs into action – through acts of charity toward the most vulnerable.

In Iraq, thousands of people are tapping social media to gather food and deliver it to poor people in lockdown and out of work. They are responding to a recent call from Iraq’s respected Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, to help the people irrespective of their race or religion. He also gave the faithful permission to skip the fasting this year.

In Calgary, Alberta, the city’s mosque has set up a food bank for 400 families of all faiths. In India-controlled Kashmir, Muslim volunteers are dropping bags of food at the doorsteps of poor neighbors during the night so as not to shame them.

In Britain, Muslims are covering the cost of funerals for those killed by COVID-19. In Massachusetts, an Islamic society is holding an online “walk for hunger” to raise money for the needy. In Australia, Muslims groups are dropping off meals to hospitals for health workers during Ramadan.

“The prophet Muhammad said the most beloved people to God are those who benefit others most,” Tarek El-Messidi, founding director of CelebrateMercy, told Religion News Service. His nonprofit, along with similar Muslim groups in the United States, has raised more than $500,000 for low-income Americans hurt by the coronavirus crisis.

In many countries, government services have faltered in response to the pandemic. “Often the first people on the scene within communities most impacted by the outbreak are informal networks, groups of people connected by social ties, including community organizations, faith groups and clubs,” states Mouchka Heller of the World Economic Forum.

In the U.S, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and other houses of worship to work with the underserved, such as homeless people and those in prison. “Consider how your organization is uniquely able to assist the local community,” states the CDC website.

Many of the world’s faithful have decided that physical distancing does not mean spiritual distancing. During this year’s Easter, Christians found fresh ways to express love toward the needy as did Jews during Passover. For the coming month, Muslims will do the same. It is a form of victory over a virus, making people who are suffering feel whole during the holy days.

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.

Christian Science rescued me

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Can the idea that God loves us actually change one’s experience for the better? A woman who grew up in an abusive environment found that what she learned at the Christian Science Sunday School a friend invited her to improved her life in meaningful, lasting ways.

Christian Science rescued me

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition

Almost 50 years ago a young man saved my life by introducing me to Christian Science.

I grew up in an environment of abuse and violence. As the eldest of seven siblings, I was left in charge of caring for the others at a very young age. My mother was very seldom at home, and when my stepfather was around, he mistreated me. I never said a word to anyone about what happened in our house. When I was around 13, I felt I couldn’t go on anymore, and I thought about how I could take my life.

I attended a religious school where we were taught that everything that happens is God’s will and we have to endure it. But this bothered me because I had not done anything bad that deserved punishment. Though I had lost faith in people and no longer trusted them, as I felt they had failed me, I had never doubted God’s existence or lost faith in Him, and I reached out to God for an answer. Yet my troubles persisted, and I didn’t know why.

A couple of years later a boy I knew perceived that I needed help, and he invited me to a Christian Science Sunday School. I had never before heard of Christian Science, and I really didn’t want to go to church with him, but he persuaded me to visit just once.

What caught my attention immediately was the joyful environment of the Sunday School. The teacher talked to us about God’s love for everyone. She said that each one of us was precious to God and that we were each loved impartially. This impressed me a lot, and I couldn’t prevent tears from welling up in my eyes because I had thought I was unloved.

I went back a second and third time to the Sunday School, and continued going. As a result of what I was learning about God, I began to see things differently. One of the things that amazed me was the following passage in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science: “The Christian Science God is universal, eternal, divine Love, which changeth not and causeth no evil, disease, nor death” (p. 140). This made me see that God does not send us problems; divine Love lifts us out of them.

The change in my thought that resulted from this true understanding of God was marvelous. My situation began to improve little by little. I started studying the Bible and Science and Health and striving to get closer to God, and things at home began calming down. After I began attending Sunday School, my stepfather never hit me again.

However, it was still not easy for me to live at home. But God’s care for us is complete, and soon a friend and high school classmate invited me to live with her, her mother, and her sister. I had never told her what was happening at home, but she felt I needed help. They gave me not only a place to live but a family, and they are an important part of my family to this day.

I made sure my younger siblings had what they needed and were safe at home, and I went to live with this friend. Eventually I married the young man who had introduced me to Christian Science, and together we raised three wonderful children. This Science has been a blessing not only to me but also to my younger brothers, who have their own families and live in harmony. When they’ve had great challenges, they, too, have turned to Christian Science and felt its support.

Years after I married, my mom also became interested in Christian Science, which changed her life and her whole character. This helped me forgive and repair my relationship with her.

I have a full and happy life with challenges like everyone else, but every need has been met by relying on God. I am immensely grateful for Christian Science and for Mary Baker Eddy, whose writings show us the depth of God’s love and how to follow Christ Jesus’ example.

Adapted from an article published in the March 30, 2020, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel and the April 2020 issue of The Herald of Christian Science, Spanish Edition.


In memory

Eranga Jayawardena/AP
Sri Lankan Catholics pray outside St. Anthony's church, one of the sites of the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks, on the first anniversary of the deadly bombings in Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 21, 2020. More than 260 people were killed when three churches, two Roman Catholic and one Protestant, came under simultaneous suicide bomb attacks during Easter celebrations on April 21, 2019. Three tourist hotels were also targeted, with some 42 foreign people killed.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )

A look ahead

David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

Thanks for joining us. Come back tomorrow: Our film critic offers his list of the best movie musicals to get you through this shelter-at-home period.

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