World News Roundup

I can’t write about every story that crosses my radar, as much as I’d like to. But so much that’s noteworthy has been happening in the world lately, I’m overdue for a catch-up post.

First, there’s a glimmer of good news: the Dáil, the lower house of Ireland’s Parliament, easily passed a bill that (slightly) relaxes the draconian, no-exceptions abortion ban that killed Savita Halappanavar. The upper house, the Seanad, still has to approve it, but since the government controls both houses by a significant majority, this is expected to be a mere formality.

Granted, this bill isn’t even a full step forward; it’s more like a tiny, hesitant foot-shuffle. It allows abortion only in cases of grave risk to the mother’s life, but not in cases of rape, incest or fatal fetal abnormality. It’s so restrictive that the vast majority of Irish women seeking a termination will still have to travel to the U.K. Even so, it’s encountered ferocious resistance from the Catholic church: bishops and cardinals condemned the law as “morally unacceptable”, and Prime Minister Enda Kenny has spoken out about getting a flood of threatening letters, including some written in blood. (Kenny is the same brave PM who delivered a blistering speech about the church’s cover-up of child abuse in 2011.)

Let me reiterate this: A bill which legalizes abortion in no case other than to save the life of the woman is being fought tooth and nail by the Catholic hierarchy. What conclusion can we possibly draw from this, other than that Ireland’s bishops are indifferent to more women dying like Savita did?

And on that note: Chile, like Ireland and other Catholic-influenced countries, bans abortion under all circumstances, no exceptions. And we’re seeing another example of the horrible fallout of those laws: a pregnant 11-year-old girl who was raped by her mother’s boyfriend will be forced to bring that pregnancy to term. Even more stomach-turning, President Sebastian Pinera publicly spoke in support of the ban.

Granted, the girl herself has said she’s willing to keep the pregnancy. But it’s just not possible to realistically argue that an 11-year-old girl has either the physical maturity to safely carry the pregnancy to term, or the emotional and psychological maturity to be a mother. (I certainly wouldn’t say an 11-year-old Jehovah’s Witness with leukemia should decide for herself whether or not she wants blood transfusions; the same is true here.) Again, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that supporters of no-exception don’t care about either of those things, so long as they see women fulfill their God-given duty of child-birthing.

Next up, Myanmar. The junta-ruled Southeast Asian nation that imprisoned Aung San Suu Kyi for decades was, until recently, undergoing a remarkably peaceful transition from military dictatorship to democracy. But that social change has hit a serious bump in the road: a faction of radical Buddhists (yes, Buddhists) preaching hate and violence against the country’s Muslim minority. Chief among them is a monk named Wirathu who’s been called “the Burmese Bin Laden” for his vituperative sermons, which are heavy with racist and nationalist rhetoric and praise mob violence against Muslims. As Christopher Hitchens said, religion poisons everything.

And though Islam is an oppressed minority religion in places like Myanmar, it continues to inspire its own share of violence and bloodshed where it has the power. In the tribal regions of Pakistan, for example, girls’ schools are under a state of siege from continuing Taliban violence. The brutal attack on Malala Yousafzai was just the most internationally visible instance of a campaign of violent intimidation, in the name of religion, to keep girls from getting an education:

Hira Gul, a 14-year-old pupil, was awakened by an explosion at midnight. The next morning she found a pile of rubble where her school had stood. The attack came as no surprise. “This has become very common in our area,” she said.

Her teacher, however, was profoundly affected. For days after the attack, the teacher, Fazeelat Bibi, visited the destroyed school every morning “to cry my heart out,” she said.

These stories are far from inspiring, I know. So, in the name of ending with some better news: I wrote a few years ago about the Kiva atheist lending team reaching the $1 million milestone. I’m happy to say the secular charity Foundation Beyond Belief has now joined that prestigious seven-digit club. As all these other stories show, it’s a drop in an ocean of need. But it’s also a reminder that atheists aren’t lacking in conscience or ethical concern, and that we want to see the world become a better place.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • RayRobertson

    The brutal attack on Malala Yousafzai…

    I think her July 12 U.N. speech is at least worth a mention. Although many here might not appreciate the religious overtones, it was a speech of tolerance, courage, and forgiveness, and above all a call for education. Transcript:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jul/12/malala-yousafzai-united-nations-education-speech-text

  • Azkyroth

    A bill which legalizes abortion in no case other than to save the life of the woman is being fought tooth and nail by the Catholic hierarchy. What conclusion can we possibly draw from this, other than that Ireland’s bishops are indifferent to more women dying like Savita did?

    That they’re salivating heavily at the prospect?

  • Loren Petrich

    In other Islamist news, Boko Haram leader calls for more schools attacks after dorm killings | World news | guardian.co.uk

    The leader of Nigeria’s Islamist militant group Boko Haram
    has called for more attacks against schools, describing western
    education as a “plot against Islam”, in a video released days after his
    fighters killed 46 students in an assault on a dorm.

    Boko Haram is a nickname that some people have given that group, meaning “Western Education is a Sin” or “Books Forbidden”, and its members seem determined to live up to it.

  • L.Long

    It is time to put this catlick BS were it belongs–ignore it. The catlick church has not done anything ‘bad’ as far as abortion or even pedophilia. And no I am X-catlick and I’m not defending them. But Did the RCC put those anti-abortion laws in place and are they keeping them there? NO!!! its the phucking delusional asshole PEOPLE who are keeping this crap in place. The RCC can have any dogma they like, and if the people vote for abortion for any reason what is the RCC going to do–suck it up and deal with it. Just like in the USA the RCC says no contraception…and the catlick women mostly use them freely….and the RCC has excommunicate how many women for this heresy????

    And why hasn’t the priest been charged with sex assault by the kids parents???
    Unfortunately I don’t know the reason for this. But if the catlick PEOPLE make a real fuss what will the RCC do? Nothing much, and deal as needed.

    Ops! I just got it, it will never work, it would require the religidiots to THINK! on their own, and if they could do that there would be no religious sheeple. So we are stuck with ‘its OK to kill women’ ruling. But I still have option2 available.

  • GCT

    The catlick church has not done anything ‘bad’ as far as abortion or even pedophilia. And no I am X-catlick and I’m not defending them. But Did the RCC put those anti-abortion laws in place and are they keeping them there? NO!!! its the phucking delusional asshole PEOPLE who are keeping this crap in place.

    First off, the RCC certainly did do wrong with pedophilia, considering that they hid the perpetrators, obfuscated, and lied about it. We can’t let them off the hook for any of that, nor should we, especially since they seem to think continuously doubling down is the right thing to do.

    As for abortion, I’m similarly unwilling to let the RCC off the hook. The RCC wields a lot of power, either by pushing people into their beliefs or using their political influence through other means (monetary, etc). Yes, it falls to individual people to vote one way or another, but let’s not discount the pull that the church has in these decisions.

    The RCC can have any dogma they like, and if the people vote for abortion for any reason what is the RCC going to do–suck it up and deal with it.

    Or, they buy up hospitals and refuse to provide contraceptive services, thereby enforcing abortion bans on women who don’t have the ability to find a non-Catholic run hospital.

  • L.Long

    Yes I agree in principle but until you can get the RCC into criminal court, you and others can bad mouth them from now till doomsday for what little good it will do. Which is the point, they say they did nothing wrong, OK stop tilting at windmills and attach them from the base, the Sheeple that follow their BS.
    And the hospital thing is a problem, but many will try using the 1st option…the courts. But if they keep trying to push there BS onto others eventually some one with nothing to loose and everything to gain will try the 2nd option, and then the brain dead public will get an ear full as their BS nonreality TV show is interrupted by the news.

  • Azkyroth

    What.

  • Errant Endeavour

    Also in the news is the jailing of a Norwegian woman who was raped in Dubai … for having sex outside of marriage. http://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2013/07/norwegian-rape-victim-jailed-in-dubai-for-having-sex-outside-of-marriage

    I haven’t yet managed to find out what the attacker has got, in terms of jailtime, if anything.

    Another thing, also from the NSS website, and ties in with the abortion discussion, a woman was made to feel like a murderer by a pharmacist when she went to get her morning after Pill. http://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2013/07/woman-claims-catholic-pharmacist-made-her-feel-like-a-murderer-when-she-asked-for-morning-after-pill

    But finally some good news. There’s been a law change in the UK that same-sex marriage can now occur, and the first marriages should be able to take place by next summer.

  • GCT

    Yes I agree in principle but until you can get the RCC into criminal court, you and others can bad mouth them from now till doomsday for what little good it will do.

    Is it really your contention that suing an entity is the only thing that matters? That shaping public opinion is useless? That speaking out and increasing public awareness is useless? Really?

    Which is the point, they say they did nothing wrong, OK stop tilting at windmills and attach them from the base, the Sheeple that follow their BS.

    How do you accomplish that without speaking out? If there are no other voices and the “Sheeple” (as you put it) only hear the voices of their church leaders, how do you propose that we accomplish the goal of getting the “Sheeple” to turn away from their church?

    I’ve read the rest of your comment three times now and am unable to parse it. I have no idea what the “2nd option” is. I feel like you are indicating that the “1st option” is useless, in contradiction to what you posted at the beginning of your comment. The rest about the TV show is nonsensical.

  • smrnda

    News like the first makes me think it would be close to suicide to travel in a Muslim country (me being a woman.) I’m hoping she’s released, and then compensated in some way for this horrible violation after the trauma of rape, and the people who put her in prison tried for crimes against humanity. Any nation that would have any such law isn’t a civilized nation and should become a pariah state.

  • Errant Endeavour

    Indeed. I recall reading the story of one woman in Morocco, I believe, which saw her encounter many dangers. It was only by her saying that she was the wife of a Muslim man that saw to her safety. And, by personal experience, the number of my female friends who have not had traumatic experiences, to whatever degree, are very much in the minority. It is incredibly sad, too sad for words, that this is the case. I don’t claim that this is the case for all holidays and excursions by women to Muslim countries (I don’t have the relevant data), but merely my own personal experience.

    Further to that case, it is now reported that the woman has been freed. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23404042

    Of particular note, I quote from the above link:

    ‘Her alleged attacker, she said, received a 13-month sentence for extramarital sex and alcohol consumption.

    ‘The man she accused of raping her – a colleague – has also been pardoned, a Norwegian official has said.’

    Not charged with rape. Sex outside marriage. Unbelievable.

  • smrnda

    There’s an attitude among religious people that only certain women can be raped, mostly wives, and women under the authority of a religion-approved male authority figure. The attitude seems to be that all other women have stepped outside of their proper role and don’t deserve any protections. So if the woman was some guy’s wife, it’s a rape, otherwise, it’s just ‘sex outside of marriage.’ (I get bothered when that alone is made the measure of right or wrong, since it ignores consent entirely.) The attitude still lingers around in the States.

    In terms of my own risk assessment, it’s bad enough living in a country where most rapists don’t do time, but I at least don’t think I could get jailed for reporting being raped in the US.

  • DavidMHart

    “I at least don’t think I could get jailed for reporting being raped in the US.”

    Sadly, I wouldn’t be too confident about that.


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