2020
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Monitor Daily Podcast

May 27, 2020
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TODAY’S INTRO

Why Minneapolis video is about far more than police

Two-and-a-half minutes into the video, with a handcuffed George Floyd gasping for breath and a police officer’s knee pinning his neck to the asphalt, a bystander implores, “He is human, bro.”

The video can tell only one part of the story, which reportedly began with an allegation that Mr. Floyd was committing forgery at a Minneapolis deli Monday. Police say Mr. Floyd resisted arrest, though nothing was caught on video. He died shortly after the encounter.

Yet the video clearly underlines a chronic question: Can we do better? It has been more than five years since the issue of unarmed black men killed by police exploded into the national conversation in Ferguson, Missouri. There have been some signs of change – with body cameras for transparency and more police being held to account when they act with disproportionate force. But the number of fatal shootings by police is the same, and elements of the country have been split into taking sides – blue or black.

The video, ultimately, is a reminder of what is truly at stake: Our humanity. “After 40 years in law enforcement, I know that it is possible to do the job with a generous heart, a sound mind, a clean conscience, and boundless humanity,” writes retired police officer Cedric Alexander on CNN in response to Mr. Floyd’s death.

In holding to that standard, we make a commitment not just for police, but for our communities and countries as a whole.  

The Explainer

Coronavirus relief or ‘bailout’? The debate over aid to states.

Washington is debating whether to prioritize emergency relief or fiscal responsibility. Should aid be withheld from states that have poor fiscal track records? Our infographic offers a few perspectives.

Mark

As Congress considers further coronavirus aid, some lawmakers worry that states may use federal money to solve prepandemic budgetary problems.

“Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help? I am open to discussing anything, but just asking?” President Donald Trump tweeted in late April.

But while many states with deep pension debts are left of center, says Christopher Mooney, a professor of state politics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, that doesn’t mean more aid would amount to “blue state bailouts.”

For one thing, the response to COVID-19 has created a genuine fiscal emergency.

Also, data from the Rockefeller Institute of Government in New York shows that Democratic states such as New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut pay the federal government far more than they receive each year. And some deep-red states such as Alabama and Mississippi, meanwhile, get much more than they give. 

The imbalances largely stem from demographics. America’s progressive tax system means that residents in wealthy states (often heavily urban and Democratic-controlled) pay higher federal taxes than those in other states. Meanwhile, urban-oriented states usually have high demands for public services – and hence relatively high spending by state and local governments, says Professor Mooney.

In other words, ideology may give directions but demographics are in the driver’s seat.

And when it comes to how states are managed, says Professor Mooney, that will almost always be a matter of opinion. 

“When you start throwing out words like ‘well run’ or ‘poorly run,’ unless you have very specific criteria in mind ... it’s subjective by definition,” he says.

SOURCE: U.S. Federal Reserve, Rockefeller Institute of Government, Ballotpedia, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Jacob Turcotte and Noah Robertson/Staff

What arrest for Rwanda genocide means for justice everywhere

After World War II, international criminal justice was seen as a new frontier. Since then, enthusiasm has largely vanished – which made one prominent arrest this month all the more noteworthy.

Mark

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A quarter century after the genocide in Rwanda, the former owner of a radio station that broadcast calls to slaughter minority Tutsis was arrested on charges of crimes against humanity. The arrest of Félicien Kabuga outside Paris spawned tributes to patient international criminal investigators and laudatory remarks on the long arm of human rights justice.

Yet even as they celebrate Mr. Kabuga’s arrest, experts in crimes against humanity voice caution. Many aspects of the case, they say, also underscore widespread problems that have sapped international criminal justice of the idealistic enthusiasm it enjoyed following the Nuremberg Trials.

Yet the experts also hold out hope that the arrest, as cases of hate speech and its insidious impact multiply across the globe, may help burnish some of international criminal justice’s lost luster.

“This is a very good time to be talking about the role of media in these kinds of crimes against humanity,” says Kerstin Bree Carlson, at the University of Southern Denmark.

“Here was a very powerful man who owned and directed this radio station that manipulated people to change their thinking and whipped them up to take deadly action,” she says. “We might want to think about how that applies to our world today.”

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2. What arrest for Rwanda genocide means for justice everywhere

Among the particularly horrifying features of the Rwandan genocide of 1994 were broadcasts from radio station Mille Collines exhorting the African country’s majority Hutus to take up arms and slaughter the country’s minority Tutsis.

“If we exterminate all the cockroaches, no one will judge us,” a Mille Collines announcer exuded in a singsong voice in one Sunday broadcast, referring to Tutsis, “because we will be the winners.”

Those broadcasts helped whip up a genocidal frenzy that led to the killing of at least 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus over less than 100 days.

Félicien Kabuga, the Rwandan coffee and tea trade millionaire who owned and operated Radio Mille Collines at the time, was arrested this month at his hideout home in a tony Paris suburb on charges of crimes against humanity.

The arrest of the 84-year-old fugitive from international justice, a quarter century after the genocide, spawned a cascade of tributes to the patience of international criminal investigators and the long arm of human rights justice.

“The arrest of Félicien Kabuga ... is a reminder that those responsible for genocide can be brought to account, even 26 years after their crimes,” said Serge Brammertz, chief prosecutor at the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in The Hague. “This arrest demonstrates the impressive results that can be achieved through international law enforcement and judicial cooperation.”

Yet even as they celebrate Mr. Kabuga’s arrest, international experts in crimes against humanity sound a note of caution. Many aspects of the Kabuga case, they say, also underscore widespread problems that have sapped international criminal justice of the idealistic enthusiasm it widely enjoyed following the post-World War II Nuremberg Trials.

Many factors have taken the shine off a relatively young judicial pursuit, they say:

  • The quarter century it took to bring one of the world’s highest-profile human rights suspects to justice.
  • Accusations that the memory of the Rwandan genocide had been politicized.
  • Suspicions that Mr. Kabuga was protected in high places across Europe for many years.
  • The setting in of a plodding international justice bureaucracy.

Yet they also hold out hope that the Kabuga arrest may help burnish some of international criminal justice’s lost luster.

“At one time there was an international tribunal fever, certainly among the champions of international criminal justice, a real sense of hope in the impact that bringing the perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice would have,” says John Cerone, a visiting professor of international law at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Medford, Massachusetts.

“But that fervor has waned,” he adds, pointing to his own list of factors: the long slog and soaring costs of pursuing complex and controversial cases, an onslaught of “bureaucratic inertia” in tribunals such as those addressing Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, and the mounting politicization of human rights cases.

“It had become a very murky picture, a complex web of interests and motivations,” Professor Cerone says. “But I think the Kabuga arrest could lead to a burst of renewed enthusiasm, especially if it gives victims of such crimes, in Rwanda and elsewhere, a sense that justice is served.”

Hate speech and the media

Some international criminal justice experts are quick to point out that Mr. Kabuga’s arrest comes at a time when hate speech and its insidious impact have multiplied across the globe.

“This is a very good time to be talking about the role of media in these kinds of crimes against humanity,” says Kerstin Bree Carlson, an associate professor of international criminal law at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense.

“Here was a very powerful man who owned and directed this radio station that manipulated people to change their thinking and whipped them up to take deadly action against others in their communities,” she says. “If we look around, we might want to think about how that applies to our world today.”

Others note that at a time when more recent atrocities – from Myanmar to Syria – have too often got caught up in geopolitics and dueling international interests, the Kabuga case offers an almost old-fashioned clarity as to what constitutes a crime against humanity.

“With the rising tides of hate speech we’re seeing generally, the case of Mr. Kabuga can serve as a crystal-clear reminder of how horrendous crimes of the kind committed in Rwanda can start with the dissemination of speech and the manipulation of media,” says Lauren Baillie, an expert in atrocities prevention at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington.

“The Kabuga case is instructive for a new generation that wasn’t even around when Rwanda happened as to the amount of planning, the money, the movement of weapons, the use of media and hate speech, everything that goes into the commission of these crimes on such a massive scale,” she adds.

“It’s a reminder that genocide doesn’t just happen.”

Benoit Tessier/Reuters
Eric Emeraux, head of the Gendarmerie's Central Office for Combating Crimes Against Humanity, Genocides and War Crimes, displays documents with a wanted poster for Félicien Kabuga, the Rwandan genocide fugitive suspect, in Paris, May 19, 2020.

The wealthy Mr. Kabuga is accused of importing hundreds of thousands of machetes to Rwanda to carry out the Tutsi slaughter.

In the days following his arrest, Mr. Kabuga appeared in a Paris court, seated in a wheelchair and declaring through a lawyer that he is too ill to be moved to face a trial. Indeed, judicial authorities are making their cases for Mr. Kabuga to be tried in Tanzania where the successor tribunal for the Rwandan genocide cases still sits, in The Hague, or even in Rwanda.

Costly bureaucracies

Professor Cerone of Tufts University cites victims’ rights – the idea that victims deserve the right to participate in creating the historical record – as an important concept that emerged over recent decades and was solidified in the Rwandan cases.

But he says other aspects of efforts to pursue international criminal justice contributed to a sense of dashed promise. The special tribunals set up by the U.N. Security Council to pursue the perpetrators of crimes against humanity in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda became costlier and more of a self-perpetuating bureaucracy the longer they pursued their task, he says. At one point in the early 2000s, just those two tribunals were eating up one-quarter of the U.N.’s operating budget.

Ms. Carlson of the University of Southern Denmark says the disappointments and frustrations illustrated by Rwanda are just one reason she decided to write a book, set to publish later this year, on Africa’s place in lost enthusiasm for international criminal justice.

“We have seen it in Rwanda, and certainly we see it more recently with all the controversy surrounding the [International Criminal Court], where what starts out with an idealistic vision of the universal application of justice becomes highly politicized and muddled in the application,” she says.        

Indeed, the Rwanda tribunal was established by the Security Council in November 1994 with the vision of setting new standards for the application of international justice. But despite its accomplishments, the tribunal also became mired in politics, with Rwandan President Paul Kagame lambasting it for lethargy and inefficiencies, and for straying in its investigations beyond the genocide’s Hutu perpetrators.

Other critics said the tribunal neglected the crimes committed by Mr. Kagame’s Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front, or that until recent years French officials had undermined the court’s work in the interest of obscuring aspects of French involvement in Rwanda.   

After years of focusing on the disappointments and shortcomings that have marked the recent decades of international justice, Ms. Carlson says the arrest of a man accused of fomenting genocide a quarter century ago has reminded her of the ideals of universal justice that surged from the horrors of World War II.

“I find Kabuga’s arrest surprising and heartening in many ways,” she says. “I just wrote a whole book about how the project of international criminal justice is failing, and in many ways it is. But we’re also reminded,” she adds, “that universally recognized norms of justice that weren’t even around for most of human history are established and even sometimes advancing.”

A deeper look

Art in the forbidden zone: Inside the Saudi cultural awakening

Saudi Arabia wants to fuel innovation as the country transitions to a post-oil society. But is the kingdom ready for the cultural changes being fueled by once-forbidden art and music?

Mark
Taylor Luck
The work titled “Sorry/I Forgive You,” created by Libyan Canadian artist Arwa Aboun. It’s displayed at the contemporary art gallery at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

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When Westerners hear “Saudi Arabia,” many may think of conservative Islam, oil, and more recently, the reckless politics of its crown prince. Music and arts probably lie at the bottom of the list, if they make it at all.

Over the past year, however, Saudi Arabia has been trying to change this perception as the leadership reverses a decades-old ban on cultural outlets and attempts to open up the kingdom to art, music, cinema, and theater.

The move bumps up against religious clerics whose dominance over Saudi society was undisputed for decades. But they have been marginalized by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who, as part of his plan to transform the country and its economy, seeks to create an entertainment industry, introduce art and music in schools, and nurture homegrown talent.

Many Saudis are already flocking to several private music academies. At the Music Home School of Art, imported instructors have taught hundreds of Riyadh residents, from would-be rappers to older Saudis who missed out on music lessons when they were young.

Ayman Tayseer is co-founder of the school. “You see a veiled mother in her 50s come in to enroll her daughter for classes, but really she is coming to take oud lessons herself!” he says.

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3. Art in the forbidden zone: Inside the Saudi cultural awakening

“I said, I want some pandemonium!”

Lionel Richie is yelling as he stalks up and down the stage deep in the Saudi desert. 

Hundreds of robed men and women timidly sway side to side in their plush white leather chairs. A few clap to the beat. Like a sequined maestro desperately trying to wrench notes from a somnolent orchestra, Mr. Richie waves, points, claps, stomps, howls, and jokes – abruptly stopping several times during performing his 1980s funk songs to coach his audience how to ... groove. At times it was as if the American artist was talking them through their worst fears, reassuring everyone: It’ll be OK. No one will judge you. Go ahead and move. Do something.

On the fourth song, one woman takes the plunge. She runs down the steps of the venue, right up to the orchestra pit by the stage, both arms raised in the air. A second woman quickly follows. Two friends rush from their seats in the wings. Five others join in.

By the time Mr. Richie gets to “Brick House,” a hit from his time with the Commodores in the 1970s, a third of the audience is up by the stage, twisting, turning, gyrating, singing in unison “She’s a brick house!” “She is mighty-mighty!” 

Inhibitions gone, social norms jettisoned, Saudis are letting loose, as if four decades of restrictions and foreboding have just been broken. At the end of his headlining performance at the Winter at Tantora festival in late February in the Saudi desert, Mr. Richie, drenched in sweat and wearing a satisfied grin, sums up the night in a single sentence: “Things here will never be the same again.” 

When Westerners hear “Saudi Arabia,” many may think of conservative Islam, oil, and more recently, the reckless politics of its crown prince. Music and arts probably lie at the bottom of the list, if they make it at all.

Yet over the past year, Saudi Arabia has been trying to change this perception both at home and abroad by parachuting in big names: Mr. Richie, Enrique Iglesias, Andrea Bocelli. While these high-profile acts in a glitzy mirrored concert hall in the desert may capture headlines and Instagram feeds, they are just one small part of sweeping changes underway in Saudi Arabia as the leadership reverses a decades-old ban on cultural outlets and attempts to open up the kingdom to art, music, cinema, and theater.

The move bumps up against the religious clerics, whose ultra-Orthodox interpretation of Islam prohibits live music, theater, and movies as “anti-Islamic” and whose dominance over Saudi society was undisputed for decades.

But over the past two years, these clerics have been marginalized and intimidated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who, as part of his ambitious plan to transform the country and its economy, seeks to create an entertainment industry, introduce art and music in schools, and nurture homegrown talent.

Courtesy of The Royal Commission for Al-Ula
“Things here will never be the same again.” – Lionel Richie, the American R&B star of the 1970s and ‘80s (center left) during a performance in Saudi Arabia in late February, summing up changes sweeping the kingdom

While the new openness has been temporarily slowed by COVID-19, analysts expect it to pick up again as soon as social distancing eases and schools reopen. Officials here say the sweeping changes are designed to bring the kingdom into the 21st century and are a response to the demands of hundreds of thousands of Saudis who have studied in the West. Critics remain skeptical, claiming that the polarizing Crown Prince Mohammed is attempting to whitewash his image, tainted by the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi abroad and the jailing of human rights activists at home. Others chalk up the change to economic concerns. They claim as the drop in oil revenues and a costly war in Yemen force the Saudi government to end cradle-to-grave welfare and impose taxes, it is looking for a distraction – less bread and more circus.

No matter what the motivations, many Saudis say these dramatic cultural changes are real and undeniable – with implications for society for generations to come.

A musical past

For four decades, live music in Saudi Arabia was not just banned; it was policed. The feared mutawa, or vice police, patrolled the streets and arrested people for not being in the mosque during prayers, for being in mixed groups of men and women, and for improper dress. The authorities made music their business. They would shut down private concerts, raid music lessons, and confiscate keyboards and speakers.

“If the police saw you carrying an oud or guitar, they would snatch it and could smash it right in front of you,” says Khaled Abdulrahim, a musician and head of the Riyadh Lounge of Art, a music club that promotes Saudi musical heritage.

Mr. Abdulrahim is carrying his oud, a pear-shaped lutelike instrument, up the stairs to a friend’s office in a Riyadh tower for a lunch-break music session. He stops every few minutes and looks over his shoulder; he still can’t shake that feeling of someone lurking.

“If you were going to play at a friend’s house, you would have to wrap your oud in a blanket and hide it in the trunk of your car. It was contraband, like a drug,” he says.

It may be hard to imagine today, but Saudi Arabia was once rife with music and local artists. Each region and town had its own folk songs with particular beats, instruments, and scales. Women would sing on TV, and music was common at weddings and festivals. Music nights were even held in Mecca and Medina.

Everything changed in 1979. Local extremists seized the Grand Mosque of Mecca, taking hostages and accusing the House of Saud of straying from its Islamic roots by inviting in Western culture. A deadly two-week siege and battle at Islam’s holiest site shook the nation, occurring months after Shiite clerics led a revolution in Iran. Sensing a sudden shift toward Islamicism and a potent mix of pulpit and politics, the Saudi royal family decided to shift to the right, pushing its own ultraconservative school of Wahhabi Islam to compete with Iran’s fiery, revolutionary interpretation of the faith.

Culture and art at home were the first sacrifices. Music, cinema, and gender mixing were banned. Mr. Abdulrahim, like many Saudi men and women who grew up between 1980 and 2010, learned to play the oud, an instrument common in Gulf folk music, quietly through friends. But today the religious police are gone. Music can be heard in the streets.

Heavy metal

Few have experienced this rapid transformation more profoundly than Fawaz Al-Shawaf, the frontman for the underground Saudi heavy metal band Creative Waste – underground, that is, until 2019.

Mr. Al-Shawaf is sitting in a cafe in Dhahran in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. He has a thin frame and a mild-mannered demeanor that betrays the manic energy and full-throated growls he brought to the stage for years in defiance of the religious police. In the mid-2000s, Mr. Al-Shawaf and Creative Waste performed at private gatherings and foreign-worker compounds in the oil-rich Eastern Province, away from the mutawa’s reach.

Mr. Al-Shawaf developed a love for heavy metal while living in the United States for two years with his father, who was working in Virginia. He decided to form a heavy metal band with friends in his garage after he returned to Saudi Arabia. In 2004, Creative Waste was born.

“We had no teacher, we had no YouTube, we didn’t even know how to tune a guitar,” Mr. Al-Shawaf says. “At first, it was horrible.”

Taylor Luck
An Emirati artist created a sculpture of a rockfall, called Falling Stones Garden, at an exhibition earlier this year in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia.

Success soon followed, though. It began with local crowds of a few dozen. Then, in 2005, the band produced its first CD and performed a live concert in neighboring Bahrain. The group was setting a trend: The Eastern Province quickly became home to a burgeoning heavy metal scene.

But in 2009, the movement ran into a religious wall. A few bold promoters decided to replicate Creative Waste’s success with heavy metal music at a compound in the more conservative Riyadh – the heart of the religious establishment.

It ended in disaster: a police raid, a media smear campaign accusing the bands of devil worship, arrests, a deportation, and jail time. The ensuing crackdown on the underground heavy metal scene forced Mr. Al-Shawaf and Creative Waste to play abroad, touring in the U.S. and Europe.

Now in 2020, Mr. Al-Shawaf has come full circle – from fugitive musician to state guest of honor, invited to perform at state-organized festivals. In October 2019, Creative Waste did what many thought was impossible: play a public gig at a cafe.

“My mother had never seen us perform live,” Mr. Al-Shawaf says. “After seeing us live for the first time, she ‘got’ our music.”

From taboo to trendy

Dozens of Saudi schoolgirls draped in black abayas wander through a cavernous copper entrance. They whisper to each other as they splinter off to look at different exhibits – photos of refugees, a 1,000-year-old gold-gilded Quran, a display about humanity’s reliance on mobile phones.

Here at the King Abdulaziz World Center for World Culture, an institution funded by oil giant ARAMCO in eastern Saudi Arabia has emerged as an anchor in the kingdom’s cultural renaissance. In futuristic curved buildings rising from the sands of Dhahran, the center, also known as Ithra, is working to introduce Saudi audiences to the performing arts and cinema, grooming a generation of domestic artists and inventors along the way.

Opened in 2017, it includes the first museum, cinema, theater, and art gallery of its kind in the country. When it solicited works from local artists in 2019, Ithra received more than 600 submissions and is now grooming several contemporary artists, from painters to sculptors.  

Art has gone from taboo to trendy, suddenly in demand by princes, the government, and corporations, many of which are rushing to commission Saudi artists to produce works for their marble-floored offices. Observers say there is no better place to be an artist right now – commercially, at least – than in Saudi Arabia. Painters and sculptors who have flourished for years in cultural exile abroad are flocking home.

“If an artist in Europe becomes noticed within five to six years, that is considered rapid recognition,” says Candida Pestana, curator of contemporary art at Ithra. “Here in Saudi, that would happen in a single year.”

Meanwhile, international exhibitions are coming to Saudi cities, displaying works from surrealists to the more contemporary, and surprisingly, political. At the base of a sleek glass building in the heart of Riyadh’s financial district, dozens of Saudis mill through an exhibition of replicas of the last artist one would expect to see in the country: Banksy, a British graffiti artist.

Taylor Luck
Saudi visitors mill around the social protest works of Banksy, an anonymous British graffiti artist, at an exhibition in Riyadh that not long ago would have been scandalous – even dangerous – to stage in the religiously conservative country.

They scan Arabic and English explainers of the anonymous painter’s protest works on social inequality, mass consumerism, and injustice. Young women take videos of a live reenactment of a masked Banksy spray-painting on a street wall. Such an exhibit, held without Banksy’s consent, may seem tame to museumgoers in Europe or the U.S. But it is an edgy – even dangerous – choice for a kingdom where the leadership has locked up human rights activists and lashed bloggers, and censors the media.

“Where is the art he did for the Palestinians?” asks Mohammed Al Saud as he enters the exhibition with his wife, Nour.

A volunteer points him to a photo of Banksy’s “hole in the wall,” a porthole revealing a Bahamas-blue ocean and an idyllic island painted on the gray concrete separation barrier rising on the West Bank. Mr. Al Saud stops at a re-creation of Banksy’s 2015 work “Son of a Migrant From Syria,” featuring Steve Jobs carrying a sack over his left shoulder and an Apple IIe in his right hand, which was originally painted in the Calais migrant encampment in France.

“What is this trying to say, that Steve Jobs and businessmen are thieves?” Mr. Al Saud asks a volunteer.

“No, it is about migrants,” interrupts a Saudi woman. “Steve Jobs is of Syrian origin. It means refugees and migrants can contribute and excel, just like Jobs.”

Mr. Al Saud nods silently, impressed. He steps closer to the painting and motions with his hand to his veiled wife, now lingering over a photo on the opposite wall. The two peer at the caption.

“Mashallah, my God, isn’t that interesting?” he says to his wife. “Each graffiti has a larger message.”

Ms. Al Saud nods. “I didn’t know art could be political.”

Musical infrastructure

Yet the question lingers: How do you bring arts and music to a nation that for decades has been told they are immoral?

That task falls in part to former concert violinist Gehad al-Khaldi. In February, Ms. al-Khaldi was appointed chief executive officer of the Music Commission, one of 12 bodies formed by the Ministry of Culture to regulate and promote everything cultural.

“Under the Ministry of Culture, we are planning to have music for all,” Ms. al-Khaldi says via a videoconference call. “By ‘music for all,’ I mean we will introduce a music education platform for everyone, at all ages.”

The nascent commission is working with the Ministry of Education and Saudi universities to develop music education courses for children, secondary schools, and universities. The challenges are steep. Due to the decades-old music ban, there are no Saudi music teachers, and the government will be hard-pressed to build a cadre of qualified people in a few short years to serve 30,000 schools spread out across a country six times the size of Germany.

But the top priority is to introduce music and the arts at an early age to boost creative thinking. Behind the drive is the desire to produce a generation of Saudis who are well rounded and can think outside the box, not just be comfortable in government-backed jobs, as the country eventually transitions to a post-oil society.

Taylor Luck
A Concise Passage, an installation made from shipping materials, symbolizes the importance of Al Ula, Saudi Arabia, as an ancient trade route.

“Music can enhance the way of thinking, communicating, and innovating,” Ms. al-Khaldi says. “This is why music is important, not just for society in Saudi Arabia, but for all human beings.”

Even though COVID-19 has forced the closure of the kingdom’s schools, the Music Commission is pushing ahead to develop an intensive one-year course for education majors, music advocacy campaigns for wider Saudi society, and an academy and conservatory to nurture local talent.

Making up for lost time

Many Saudis are already flocking to several private music academies that have popped up over the past year. One such institute is the Music Home School of Art, which opened in a tower in central Riyadh late last year. On a Thursday night in early March, a young woman practices guitar chords with her instructor in one room. In another, a father encourages his two young daughters at the piano.

The institute is the creation of local artists and Ayman Tayseer, former dean of the University of Jordan School of Arts and Design, who saw an opportunity in Saudi Arabia’s new embrace of culture. In a few short months, he and instructors from Tunisia, Egypt, and Ukraine have taught hundreds of Riyadh residents ranging from would-be rappers to older Saudis who missed out on music lessons when they were young.

“You see a veiled mother in her 50s come in to enroll her daughter for classes, but really she is coming to take oud lessons herself!” Mr. Tayseer says with a laugh.

Saudi music lovers face concerns few would consider. Women who wear the full-face niqab want to sing but refuse to lift the veil that muffles their voices. Many drop out after struggling to learn how to read sheet music.

“There is a large amount of hunger and talent,” Mr. Tayseer says. “But many have never even seen a live music performance before, so this is all very new.”

The highlight tonight is the open mic. Dozens of young Saudis gather at the institute’s airy studio, with a view of the Riyadh skyline, for a chance to strum their latest song on the oud or just belt out Beyoncé.

“Before, music was something we kept to ourselves. Now all of a sudden it is everywhere,” says Abdullah Mohammed, a self-taught cellist warming up on the side. “It is as if we are catching up on decades of lost time in a single year.”

More than just a creative outlet, music is offering a sense of community in a society that has long been governed by “thou shalt not” in a conservative city where houses are fenced in by high concrete walls.

But even amid the camaraderie, a lingering self-consciousness exists, ingrained by decades of intimidation. Women, and some men, shout “no photos, everyone!” before they walk onstage, to protect against images showing up on the internet. Women sit toward the back of the room to avoid being seen by others as they sway to the beat. The last hurdle in Saudi Arabia’s embrace of arts and music may be from within: the fear of being judged for having a good time.

Resistance to change

Yet there is still plenty of criticism of the kingdom’s cultural opening, both at home and abroad. Some believe Crown Prince Mohammed is simply focusing on social liberalization to placate demands for opening from the West rather than tackling true political reform in the tightly ruled kingdom.

“Keeping the public busy with concerts and festivals is not the answer,” says Oraib Rantawi, geopolitical analyst and director of the Amman-based Al Quds Center for Political Studies. “Sidelining the religious establishment and cultural openings are small, positive steps, but the major reform needs are the social contract itself and true political representation. MBS and the Saudis are simply buying time,” he says of the crown prince.

While liberal social reforms may seem low-risk with the ruling family’s iron grip on power, they do alienate a conservative establishment and segments of society in cities and rural areas whose identities are intertwined with traditional practices. Quiet criticism emerges in some such pockets of society that reject the changes on cultural and religious grounds.

“There shouldn’t be songs and live music,” says Abu Mohammed, a resident of Al Ula, home of the Winter at Tantora festival. “We accept tourism, we accept the arts, but Western concerts come with drinking, mixing of men and women, and promiscuity. That just isn’t our culture.”

One reason there hasn’t been more pushback from conservatives is the sheer speed with which the changes are taking place.

“Before you have time to react to cinemas being built, there are concerts. Before you can react to the concerts, women can drive and go to sporting events,” says Abdulrahman Ali, a Riyadh engineer. “You never have time to keep up, let alone organize popular objection to it. Our heads are still spinning.” 

Still, even if a backlash were to develop, analysts believe the new arts movement is now established enough to remain for the foreseeable future. As Ms. al-Khaldi, the Music Commission CEO, puts it: “Life without music is a mistake.”

Rent is soaring in Berlin. Can a freeze save the city’s character?

San Francisco. London. Paris. Like many other cities, they’ve become unaffordable to all but the wealthy. Can a thriving metropolis avoid that fate? Berlin is a crucial test case.

Mark

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Though a famously cheap city to live in not long ago, Berlin has seen its rental market explode in the last few years, threatening the hip urban culture that has grown up here. In 2017 the city nabbed the honor of experiencing the world’s largest year-over-year property price increases at 21%. That amounts to a doubling of rents over the last decade, in a city where four of five residents are renters.

Earlier this year, the city-state capped the rents of 1.5 million units for the next five years, as advocates hope Berlin can avoid becoming a London or San Francisco of unaffordability. Advocates for affordable housing globally are watching what could be a milestone move.

Sky-high housing prices aren’t unique to Berlin, but the feeling is that it’s still early enough in Germany’s capital city that there’s a fighting chance, while the ship has largely sailed in other places.

“Look at London and Paris, how expensive it is for really small living space,” says Christoph Albrecht, an attorney who advises a Berlin tenant protection association. “We don’t want to reach that here.”

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4. Rent is soaring in Berlin. Can a freeze save the city’s character?

When Kiddy Citny, an artist whose murals appeared on the original Berlin Wall, returned from a trip to Hong Kong a few months ago, he found a Europe transformed by the coronavirus pandemic. But while the art world went into hibernation in the crisis, he found new purpose as an advocate of affordable housing, just as Berlin passed a historic rent freeze into law.

Though a famously cheap city to live in not long ago, Berlin has seen its rental market explode in the last few years, threatening the hip urban culture that has grown up here. “Art is what’s made Berlin so big over the last 25 years” says Mr. Citny, who dodged East German guards to paint the Berlin Wall before 1989. “But few artists can really afford to have a studio anymore – everything Berlin has stood for is essentially disappearing.”

The city-state capped the rents of 1.5 million units for the next five years in a freeze that took effect in February, as advocates hope Berlin can avoid becoming a London or San Francisco of unaffordability. But conservative politicians are contesting the policy’s constitutionality in court, and say rent freezes might actually prevent developers from expanding the housing supply. Advocates for affordable housing globally are watching what could be a milestone move.

“Berlin is sort of leading the way,” says Hanna Wheatley, a housing economist at the London-based social justice think tank New Economics Foundation. “It’s massive that controls are getting pushed through, because it’s been grassroots led. If renters can be mobilized and activated as a pressure group, they might have real impacts on what the rental market looks like.”

No longer affordable

For two decades, Mr. Citny has lived in a two-room apartment in the city-center neighborhood of Schöneberg. Light streams in from both sides. Rent is affordable. “It’s an apartment that you would never give up,” says Mr. Citny.

Mr. Citny’s situation had already been helped by the rent cap law; his landlord had planned to sell the unit last year, only to change his mind because of the pending policy. “The law prevented the apartment from being sold out from underneath my feet,” says Mr. Citny.

On the open market, Mr. Citny would have found rental rates unaffordable. Indeed, property values have skyrocketed over the last decade; in 2017 the city nabbed the honor of experiencing the world’s largest year-over-year property price increases at 21%, according the Knight Frank Global Index Report. That amounts to a doubling of rents over the last decade, in a city where the average Berlin household pulls in only €2,000 ($2,200) a month after tax, and where four of five residents are renters.

A scarce 1% of vacancies are affordable for a single person per Berlin standards, according to a 2019 study underwritten by the federal government.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/FIle
People walk and cycle through a residential neighborhood, on March 3, 2017, in Berlin.

With a few exceptions, the rent freeze law would fine landlords in violation up to €500,000, says Katrin Lompscher, Berlin’s secretary for urban development and housing.

Mr. Citny’s landlord is a private party who bought decades ago, and doesn’t face the profit pressure of newer investors. Therein lies the problem with the rent cap strategy, says Berlin-based housing economist Pekka Sagner. It puts some private investors in financial dire straits, while disincentivizing developers to build new housing stock. “And that’s ultimately the issue – we need more housing.”

Another problem? The law isn’t permanent, points out Christoph Albrecht, an attorney who advises Mieterschutzbund Berlin, the tenant protection association. “Renters have been given a breather but they should look for alternative housing,” Mr. Albrecht says. “Because what if the tenant doesn’t have more money [in five years]?”

Because the law’s future is uncertain, renters’ unions are counseling tenants to keep any rental refunds in a rainy day fund, in case they need to give it back.

The “Berlin experiment”

Sky-high housing prices aren’t unique to Berlin, but the feeling is that it’s still early enough in Germany’s capital city that there’s a fighting chance, while the ship has largely sailed in other places.

“Look at London and Paris, how expensive it is for really small living space,” says Mr. Albrecht, the attorney. “We don’t want to reach that here.” Homeless numbers have skyrocketed in Los Angeles, New York, and other cities. Those with shelter aren’t necessarily less anxious, since watching rents jump around them creates housing insecurity, the economists say.

Solving this dilemma is key to maintaining vibrant societies, say affordable housing advocates. Most Americans and Europeans already view housing as a human right, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.

The question is how to ensure affordable and accessible housing. “We’re entering uncharted territory,” Secretary Lompscher writes in an email. Having given renters a breather, she says, the city is well aware the next step is to “strengthen the building sector” and increase housing supply.

Though controversial, rent control has been the go-to measure in most large cities across North America and Europe, and policies encompass everything from how initial rents are set to rates of increase during tenancies to enforcement measures for wayward landlords.

San Francisco provides a cautionary tale; it tried a rent freeze in the early 1990s, only to watch real estate become a buyer’s market that favored people with money. “Sellers were trying to realize profits by offloading properties, because they could no longer profit from rents,” says the economist Mr. Sagner. That paved the way for high-paid Silicon Valley types to jump in. Freezes made gentrification “even more possible, because simple teachers were driven out of the area,” Mr. Sagner says. Lisbon experienced a similar dynamic.

In New York, London, and Amsterdam, housing has become an asset that people buy for investment, rather than for shelter, explains the London economist Ms. Wheatley. “There’s a lot of unhealthy demand. People aren’t buying houses to live in.”

Housing and art in the time of COVID

During a pandemic, adequate housing – with proper services – becomes even more critical. “Home has rarely been more of a life or death situation,” says Leilani Farha, United Nations special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing. Worldwide, about 1.8 billion homeless and inadequately-housed people are particularly vulnerable to contracting the illness, she says.

And, as governments try not only to stop COVID-19 but lessen economic fallout, they’re lowering interest rates. That creates a potentially dangerous set of circumstances. A similar situation allowed investors to take over the real estate landscape after the 2008 global financial crisis, says Ms. Farha. “States must prevent the predatory practices of institutional investors,” she cautioned in a press release.

Indeed, “gone for profit” is how Mr. Citny, the artist, characterizes what’s happened to his city, even as he’s hopeful the new law will have some positive effect on affordability.

With the coronavirus requiring social distancing and “no one buying art,” Mr. Citny is thankful he had the good timing to downsize his studio before the pandemic hit. He’s been biking between his apartment and his smaller studio, thinking about how to work the feeling of “empathy” into upcoming projects.

“This rent freeze is a really important law,” says Mr. Citny. “It helps preserve Berlin’s calling card. Artistry is the highest form of community.”

Opera alfresco: How a Seattle singer shares his gift during COVID-19

Picture an unforgettable opera performance. A hall with perfect acoustics? Elaborate costumes? This tenor is sharing his talent in an unforgettable way, simply standing in his yard.

Mark
Ann Scott Tyson/The Christian Science Monitor
Seattle Opera tenor Stephen Wall performs a mini-concert from his front yard April 20, 2020, in the waterfront community of Ballard, offering the rare treat of a live performance for Seattle residents during the stay-home order.

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Before COVID-19 shut down performances, Stephen Wall had appeared in 99 productions at Seattle Opera. It’s “mildly driving me crazy,” says Mr. Wall, a tenor. “We baseball fans prefer round numbers.”

But the stay-home order hasn’t meant an end to singing, after all. Each weekday, Mr. Wall has stepped into his yard, shared a bit of opera history, translation, and humor, and burst into song for an appreciative audience gathered below – safety spaced 6 feet apart. 

The new tradition started almost by accident. But it’s yet one more creative new way for performers to connect people with the arts in Seattle and around the world, at a time when cultural organizations are suffering.

“It’s like a gift,” says Mr. Wall. That gift also returns the bounty he’s seeing and experiencing himself. For instance, the Brooklyn landlord of his daughter, an aspiring actress, just forgave her three months’ rent. And his singing has brought unexpected healing. His estranged brother reached out from Maine. 

“It’s something to offer, and I hope it would inspire people to say, ‘What do I have to offer?,’ particularly in these strange times,” says Mr. Wall.

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5. Opera alfresco: How a Seattle singer shares his gift during COVID-19

Promptly at 5 o’clock one sunny afternoon, veteran Seattle Opera singer Stephen Wall steps out onto his raised front lawn – a grassy impromptu stage – drawing a scattering of applause from scores of people gathered along the tree-lined street below.

Neighbors sitting in lawn chairs, parents pushing strollers, dog walkers, and a couple on a tandem bicycle – all arrange themselves, safely spaced 6 feet apart, and excitedly await the show in the waterfront community of Ballard.

A seaplane flies by overhead, a dog lets out a single yap, and then all falls silent as the portly, gray-bearded Mr. Wall launches into the Verdi aria “La Donna è Mobile.” For a few minutes, his soaring voice seems to lift the audience up and away from earthly concerns – like a kite on the wind.

“It’s like a gift,” says Mr. Wall, a classically trained tenor from Connecticut, who followed his wife Ginna, a nurse, to Seattle in 1979 and made a home here. “It’s something to offer, and I hope it would inspire people to say, ‘What do I have to offer?,’ particularly in these strange times.”

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

With Seattle Opera and so many arts venues shut down, creative new ways for performers to keep sharing their gifts are springing up all around Seattle and indeed, the world.

Amid Seattle’s lockdown, a drive-in dance show called “Cooped Up” allowed people in cars to watch dances unfolding in yards, porches, and windows. Arts Corps, an award-winning group, has distributed arts kits to child care centers in low-income neighborhoods. And many have pivoted to put classes, exhibits, and performances online – from classes by Pacific Northwest Ballet to streamed Shakespeare plays.

They’re keeping people connected with the arts even as the region’s cultural and science nonprofits suffer, with nearly 5,000 people laid off and revenue losses estimated at more than $133 million this fiscal year alone, according to the Seattle-based arts advocacy and grant-making group ArtsFund.

Ann Scott Tyson/The Christian Science Monitor
Seattle Opera tenor Stephen Wall performs a mini-concert in his yard in Ballard on April 20, 2020. His last song is always “Nessun Dorma,” an uplifting aria from Puccini’s “Turandot” that describes the victorious dawn.

“There’s an incredible amount of resilience and responsiveness by the cultural sector,” says Sarah Sidman, vice president of strategic initiatives and communications at ArtsFund. “We are seeing cultural nonprofits, whose mission is to serve the community, pivoting to make sure access to the arts is not restricted.”

Mr. Wall’s 20-minute performances, held each weekday, began almost by accident in April. He’d been teaching online music lessons all day in a curtained room, and stepped outside for a break.

“When I finally emerged from my Hobbit hole, I realized it was a beautiful day,” he says, and set out a speaker to play some jazz standards, thinking no one would mind.

On the contrary, people stopped to listen, or gave him a thumbs-up. “That’s not a typical Seattle vibe,” he says. “Seattle is a little introverted, but everyone was just ready to interact.”

A few days later, he opted to sing a few numbers himself. People applauded, and asked for more. And so, Mr. Wall’s mini-performances began, news spreading by word-of-mouth.

Martha Strickland, a teacher, lives one block away and first heard the singing on a walk with her daughter, Ada, and husband, Greg. The family was hooked and has returned for every performance since, pulling 3-year-old Ada in a red wagon.

On this warm spring day, Mr. Wall ends the Verdi aria with a striking high note.

“Bravo!” Ada cries out. Everyone laughs and claps.

Ada, wearing pink heart sunglasses, enjoys a large lollipop during performances. “We’ve upgraded to lollipops because she keeps shouting ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb,’” Ms. Strickland confides.

As more children attend, Mr. Wall has pulled stunts such as his dramatic Figaro entrance: riding out on a bicycle from the side yard. (“Figaro also swings in on a rope, which I am not up to,” he says.) He donned a lion costume to sing “If I Were King of the Forest” from “The Wizard of Oz.”

Whoever’s in the audience, Mr. Wall introduces each song with a bit of history, translation, and a light sense of humor. “For today I am picking mostly fairly cheerful songs for obvious reasons,” he says, “but when dealing with opera, eventually you are going to have to get around to something tragic.”

He paints a scene from the 19th-century Italian opera “Pagliacci,” when a clown must perform just after learning of his wife’s betrayal. “Even though your heart is breaking, you must do the show. Perform! Laugh, clown, laugh!”

Ann Scott Tyson/The Christian Science Monitor
Martha Strickland, a teacher, with her 3-year-old daughter, Ada, and husband, Greg. They live a block away from Seattle Opera tenor Stephen Wall and have attended many of his front-yard performances.

The doleful clown holds special meaning for Mr. Wall, as he explains later, recalling watching his mentor, Richard Knoll, play the role at Kansas City’s Capri Theater in 1971. “That was it for me,” he says. “Seeing him thrill an audience with that – the theatrical catharsis that the people felt that night with that incredibly over-the-top, melodramatic story – I thought, that’s pretty cool.”

“I have been working on that ever since,” he says wistfully. “It’s like having a coin collection: You carry it with you the rest of your life, and you just keep enriching the value of what it means to you.”

To his audience – a family gathered on the balcony next door, a woman relaxing on her porch swing, the lady in a straw hat sitting on the curb lawn with her white dog – Mr. Wall’s joy in performing comes through.

“It’s just a beautiful thing,” says Sofia Zieve, who came from northeast Seattle for the concert. “I love that he was able to express himself and do what he loves – it was a two-way street.”

Mr. Wall’s gift also returns the bounty he’s seeing and experiencing himself. For instance, the Brooklyn landlord of his daughter, an aspiring actress, just forgave her three months’ rent.

And his singing has brought unexpected healing. His estranged brother reached out from Maine. “We have reconciled,” he says, choking up.

“You hear these stories, and tell these stories, and you can start crying,” he says. “Am I a wreck? No, it’s the words coming out of your mouth are just miraculous. ... You can’t even believe your own ears,” he says.

At Seattle Opera, Mr. Wall has appeared in 99 productions over 39 seasons (which, he says, “is mildly driving me crazy; we baseball fans prefer round numbers”). He looks forward to the reopening, but for now has carved out a niche in Seattle’s “new normal” arts scene.

His last song? As always, it is “Nessun Dorma,” an uplifting aria from Puccini’s “Turandot” that has inspired millions in Italy and around the world in recent weeks, describing the victorious dawn.

All’alba,” he sings, with arms raised high. “Vincerò! Vincerò! Vincerò!”

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

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China puts GDP target on history's ash pit

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In a speech just a few years ago, China’s leader Xi Jinping said economic growth was the “central task” of the ruling Communist Party. Last Friday, the party announced it had abandoned the main yardstick for economic growth, gross domestic product.

Why the sudden shift from chasing a single statistic?

The pandemic has humbled China’s expectations of measuring progress by material standards. In the first quarter, the GDP fell for the first time in decades. It could stay low for some time with the disruption of China’s relations with the rest of the world. 

In announcing the change, Li Keqiang, China’s premier, explained that low growth was a price worth paying because, as he said in almost metaphysical terms, “life is invaluable.” Mr. Li said China will shift to other goals, which he defined broadly as stability and security.

Progress itself may be immeasurable. For many, its source lies in infinite and intangible ideas. He Huaihong, a philosopher at Peking University, writes that leaders who “aim only to acquire greater material wealth will never have spiritual power.”

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China puts GDP target on history's ash pit

In a speech just a few years ago, China’s leader Xi Jinping said economic growth was the “central task” of the ruling Communist Party. Because “matter determines consciousness,” he claimed, the party’s primary task is material progress. “We should oppose metaphysical ways of thinking,” he added.

Last Friday, the party announced it had abandoned the main yardstick for economic growth, gross domestic product. Since the 1980s, this annual tally of the value of goods and services had been China’s lodestar for success and the party’s justification for its grip on power. Mr. Xi had even promised to double GDP from a decade earlier by this July, the centennial of the party’s founding.

Why the sudden shift from chasing a single statistic?

The pandemic has humbled China’s expectations of measuring progress by material standards. In the first quarter, the GDP fell for the first time in decades. It could stay low for some time with the disruption of China’s relations with the rest of the world. 

In announcing the change, Li Keqiang, China’s premier, explained that low growth was a price worth paying because, as he said in almost metaphysical terms, “life is invaluable.”

Mr. Li said China will shift to other goals, which he defined broadly as stability and security. Those include qualitative improvements such as making cities more enjoyable to live and work. “We will organize rich intellectual and cultural activities for our people,” Mr. Li said. “With these endeavors, our people will be full of vitality and striving to pursue excellence and moral integrity.”

China now joins a number of countries and economists in questioning the main measure of progress and prosperity. The GDP standard – which was invented in the 1930s by an American economist as a tool but not a goal – is giving way to alternative ideas about tracking the well-being of individuals and society.

“The quality of economic growth means more than it ever has for China and for the world,” Stephen Roach, a senior fellow at Yale University, was quoted by the Chinese state news service Xinhua.

China has plenty of alternative models from around the world for judging progress. One is the Social Progress Index, the work of Harvard University business Professor Michael Porter. It tracks 54 indicators from personal rights to personal safety.

In a new book titled “Humankind,” Dutch historian Rutger Bregman makes a case against the view of humans as “homo economicus.” That does not fit the history of humanity as sociable and decent. He argues against economic targets based simply on the notion of people as selfish beings.

Progress itself may be immeasurable. For many, its source lies in infinite and intangible ideas. He Huaihong, a philosopher at Peking University, writes that leaders who “aim only to acquire greater material wealth will never have spiritual power.”

Beijing’s step away from a reliance on GDP may be a step toward redefining power in China.  At the least, recognition is growing that a narrow, material view of life cannot sustain an individual or society.

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.

Financial needs met

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Suddenly confronted with great financial distress, a couple turned to God for guidance. This brought hope, joy, and inspiration that led to unexpected, rewarding work that met their needs for many years.

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1. Financial needs met

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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Sometimes a needed source of supply seems to simply vanish. Our income may disappear, or our job, or even our home, due to a situation completely beyond our control. What we are experiencing now, across the globe, is just such a time for many people.

I have been in that situation more than once in my life. Each time I turned to two books for guidance, and they have never failed me. One is the Bible, which Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer and founder of Christian Science, called “the chart of life, where the buoys and healing currents of Truth are pointed out.” That’s from page 24 of the textbook of Christian Science, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” which is the other book I’m referring to.

These two books speak so powerfully to me, because they contain the Word of God. They help us live what Jesus taught: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

Perhaps it sounds unusual to think of words as being able to sustain us. But with the power of God, the divine Mind, underlying them, they can inspire, motivate, encourage, and change one’s way of seeing things. And when thought changes and is expanded to see beyond material limits, progress occurs.

In Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy defines “God” as “the great I AM; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence” (p. 587).

Combine that extraordinary definition of God with the great declaration in the first chapter of Genesis in the Bible that man is made in the image and likeness of God, and, well, that points to a significant spiritual fact: our extraordinary heritage as the beloved children of God. Every one of us! And as such, we are inherently able to discern a wisdom not our own, but infinite and divine, that is always present.

Years ago, my husband and I moved halfway around the world to work in a foreign country. It was a wonderful experience until my husband’s company pulled the plug on its operations two years later. We had no choice but to return to our home country.

But we had no home and no jobs, and significant financial obligations (both of our children were in college). Had we made a mistake in giving up everything to move abroad?

Even though the situation looked bleak, we felt a conviction that we could trust God to help us find our way out. So rather than giving in to feelings of defeat, self-pity, or fear, we turned to God, divine Mind, for His unbounded guidance and wisdom. As God’s spiritual image, every one of us expresses God’s wonderful qualities in unique ways.

This idea helped us to feel grateful for our relation to God, our infinitely loving Father and Mother, and to expect good rather than insurmountable problems. We felt ready to listen for God’s guidance on how to use our divinely inherited talents moving forward. A poem by Mrs. Eddy, which was set to music and is one of the hymns I love most in the “Christian Science Hymnal,” says:

Shepherd, show me how to go…
I will listen for Thy voice,
Lest my footsteps stray;...
(“Poems,” p. 14)

The joy of knowing that God was caring for us freed our thought to explore possibilities we’d never dreamed of. Even though we had never worked together professionally, my husband was inspired with an idea for a totally new line of work that incorporated both of our talents and experience. We were quickly able to obtain a loan to start this new venture, which seemed almost miraculous to us. For the next 20 years we continued in this work, nurturing our God-given talents and qualities, meeting our financial needs, and finding the greatest joy we had ever known.

God’s grace is not exclusive. All are embraced in divine Love. Every one of us can turn to the Word of God for guidance and supply, and trust that He will “direct [our] paths” (Proverbs 3:6).

Editor’s note: As a public service, all the Monitor’s coronavirus coverage is free, including articles from this column. There’s also a special free section of JSH-Online.com on a healing response to the global pandemic. There is no paywall for any of this coverage.

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In memory

Fareed Khan/AP
People attend a candle light vigil for victims of the crash of a state-run Pakistan International Airlines plane on Friday, in Karachi, Pakistan, May 27, 2020.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )

A look ahead

Thank you for joining us. Please come back tomorrow when columnist Ned Temko looks at the seismic ways that the West’s relationship with China is changing.

Here’s a window on some of the faster-moving headline news that we’re following.

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