Shakira’s religious affiliation is a bit dubious. She was raised Catholic, and in 2013 she said she struggled with faith, but recently she’s stayed fairly quiet about her position.
At any rate…singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” at a United Nations (UN) Conference right after the pope speaks is a ballsy move. But part of the reason she may have chosen that song is that she was there as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which is centered around gaining child’s rights and giving them emergency relief. Singing a song about how wonderful God before the pope spoke would have added more blinding light to Catholic church’s halo, the same halo that has enabled the sexual abuse of around 100,000 children.
As David Clohessy, national spokesman and director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), stated recently:
Francis is masterful at symbolic moves and public relations that foster the impression of reform but change little or nothing….
For years, Vatican officials have written letters to bishops about this scandal. But since virtually no bishop is ever punished for ignoring or violating church abuse guidelines or policies, many bishops ignore or violate them. So a letter from the pontiff to his prelates, regardless of content, is meaningless.
To be blunt, Francis hasn’t exposed one cleric who has committed or is concealing child sex crimes. Nor has he ordered any of the world’s 5,100 bishops to do so.
And he’s continuing the ancient, hurtful practice of dealing with abusers internally and essentially stiff-arming secular law enforcement. That’s inexcusable.
Indeed, one of the recent tactics seems to be allowing suspected molesting priests to move (without defrocking or investigating them) to poor areas in South America — the very continent Pope Francis was hand-picked from.
Which also happens to be where Shakira is from. And not only that, she is extremely passionate about the rights of children in Colombia, her home country within that continent. As her UNICEF profile states:
Shakira is the founder of the Pies Descalzos Foundation, which provides displaced and underprivileged children in her native Colombia with access to quality education. In addition to building projects which ensure that children have safe and well-equipped learning facilities, the foundation supplies nutritious meals; educational enrichment through art, music and recreation; and economic opportunities for families. Shakira also established the Barefoot Foundation, which advocates globally for universal access to education and she is the co-founder of ALAS, a movement of Latin American artists and businesspeople dedicated to early childhood development interventions.
As a Goodwill Ambassador, Shakira has expanded her child advocacy efforts on the global level. Through public service announcements and her participation in fundraisers and other events for UNICEF national committees, she has increased awareness of UNICEF’s work in areas such as HIV/AIDS, education and child protection.
And on that “child protection” front, so far on his US visit Pope Francis has twice infuriated child abuse survivors by focusing on how difficult the scandal has been on the church and highlighting the “courage” clergy members showed as the Catholic Church struggled with a public relations problem due to the child abuse accusations.
Less focus was placed on the victims. And, more disturbingly, Pope Francis continues to keep the records that the Vatican has on child molesting priests under lock and key, instead of turning it over to law enforcement.
Given this background, had a UNICEF supporter like Shakira sung in support of religion, she would have been further insulting those victims.
She could have been neutral. But no.
She seems to have decided (with her genius-level IQ) to go the other extreme. Singing “Imagine there’s no heaven…and no religion, too” in front of Pope Francis and the UN.
For the children…the time has come, Pope Francis, not for meaningless platitudes, but for action.
As she put it before singing,
Our children have the right to equal opportunity — to thrive, to be happy, and healthy, and safe. Now is the time to not just imagine, but do.
Good song choice, Shakira.
I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me tear up a bit.
Note: Due to inaccurate reports from source articles, a previous version of this article stated she sang before the Pope spoke. A correction from an event attendee and a look at the schedule itself show that Shakira sang the song right after the Pope’s speech — which seems to be an even more ballsy move.