News and Views


News and Views

Catholic missions are struggling amid dwindling vocations and the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data released by the Vatican. The number of priests and ordained leaders has dropped significantly, especially in Europe and America due mainly to fewer men entering the priesthood. The total number of priests in the world decreased to 414,065 in 2018. The diminishing number of clergy coincides with an increase in the global population. As of December 2018, the report shows, there are 1,328,993,000 Catholics in the world. This shortage of priests combined with a growing population have put a strain on evangelizing and missionary efforts globally. — RNS, 10/16/2020

As the number of laid-off workers and hungry Americans continues to rise, even as farmers are
having trouble marketing their crops, the ancient practice of gleaning is having a moment — fueled
in part by faith communities. Gleaning is familiar to many Jews and Christians from the Hebrew
Scripture story of Ruth. In recent years, gleaning has made a comeback as a solution to the problems
of persistent hunger and the lack of fresh produce options for food pantry visitors, among other concerns. — RNS, 10/23/2020

(Editor’s note: The Risk Management Agency promotes gleaning efforts where a crop or portion of a
crop may otherwise go unused or be destroyed, and only when the crop has been gleaned by charitable organizations defined as a 501(c)(3) (nonprofit organization) and the insured has not received compensation from such organizations. Additional information available in the Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act). — RNS, 10/23,2020

On October 8, mere hours before the happiest day on the Jewish calendar, during which adherents
gather en masse to dance with the Torah, new COVID-19 regulations went into effect in New York.
The regulations singled out areas of Hasidic communities, and Governor Mario Cuomo said, “The
cluster is predominantly an ultra-Orthodox cluster.” “We’re an easy target…” said Barry Spitzer, who represents the Brooklyn neighborhood Borough Park and is the first Hasidic district manager in the state. “There is no group in the entire country that it’s acceptable to make fun of, belittle, malign, and smear as Orthodox Jewish people.” — RNS, 10/19/2020


Nearly 30 years after it was published, Octavia Butler’s dystopian novel “Parable of the Sower”
popped up on The New York Times bestseller list. Like other resurrected titles, such as George Orwell’s “1984” and Albert Camus’ “The Plague,” the book seems to have gained new readers fascinated by its evocation of an American society that feels itself besieged by nature and a struggle for power. “It feels like prophecy,” said Monica Coleman, professor of Africana Studies at the University of Delaware and a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. “It feels like she really predicted this. And I think people are reading it because she was writing about what could happen if we don’t change.” — RNS, 9/25/2020

A carpenter in Toronto is building insulated, mobile shelters for homeless people who will be outdoors this winter. “It just seemed like something I could do that would be useful because there’s so
many people staying in tents,” the carpenter told the CBC. “I’ve never seen so many people staying
outside in parks, and this is something I could do to make sure people staying outside in the winter
could survive.” He says the shelters will be able to keep people comfortably warm with their own body heat in temperatures as low as -20 C. — SunnySkyz, 10/28/2020

France is enduring an autumn of agony. Covid-19 is filling up the country’s hospitals. Its churches and
schoolyards are haunted by Islamist terrorism. It is a combination that has placed the French Republic and its people in an unusual stranglehold. The lessons of the Enlightenment, from freedom of expression to the right to assemble en masse, are what animate daily life in modern France. The pandemic, however, has driven the French into lockdown, thrusting them into social isolation and economic uncertainty, while the terrorist attacks have sown dissension and hardened ideological divisions. —Wall Street Journal, 11/2/2020

A rising proportion of job losses appear to be permanently gone. When the virus erupted and paralyzed the economy, nearly 90% of layoffs were considered temporary. No longer. In September,
the number of Americans classified as permanently laid off rose 12% to 3.8 million. And the number
of long-term unemployed rose to 2.4 million. More than one-third of workers who have been laid off or furloughed now regard their job loss as permanent, according to a survey by Morning Consult. That’s up from just 15% in April. — Christian Science Monitor, 10/5/2020

A Pew Research Study found a news landscape on YouTube in which established news organizations
and independent news creators thrive side by side — and consequently, one where established news
organizations no longer have full control over the news Americans watch. There are several key differences between the content found on independent and established news organization channels. Fewer say that harassment (due to “posts” by readers) or a lack of civility are very big problems when it comes to news on YouTube. — Pew Research, 9/28/2020


Political opposition forces in Kyrgyzstan sought to seize power and form a new government after
taking control of state buildings in the capital following elections that international monitors said
were marred by allegations of voter fraud. People protesting the parliamentary vote attempt to enter
a government building known as the White House. Resource-rich Kyrgyzstan, which has been a stage
for competing Russian, Chinese and U.S. interests since independence from the Soviet Union, has seen
a quick succession of governments in recent years, including two presidents toppled by revolution in
2005 and 2010. — Wall Street Journal, 10/7/2020

An armed attack against Sweden cannot be ruled out,” warned Peter Hultqvist, Sweden’s defense
minister, shortly after he introduced a new defense bill on October 14th. It promises the country’s largest military expansion for 70 years. The reason is not hard to discern. Russia’s assertive behavior
across Europe, from invasion to assassination, has alarmed Swedes. In recent years, Sweden has accused Russia of violating its airspace and waters several times, most recently with a pair of warships south-west of Gothenburg in September. — The Economist, 10/20/2020

There are hundreds of examples of child soldiers in the world. Children are used as suicide bombers,
militants and infantry soldiers. In general, children are more militarized than women. World conflict
reports indicate there are close to 300,000 children (boys and girls under the age of 18) presently serving as combatants worldwide. They are fighting in almost 75 percent of the world’s conflicts. In 80 percent of these conflicts, children under the age of 15 are combatants. — Clarion Project, 2/2020

A former Australian ambassador to China has called on the Federal Government to rethink its relationship with Beijing amid what he calls “the greatest power shift that has occurred in modern history”. Former ambassador Geoff Raby, who currently runs a Beijing-based business advisory firm, has released a book on Australia-China relations titled China’s Grand Strategy and Australia’s Future in the New Global Order. Dr Raby, who served as Australia’s top diplomat in China from 2007 to 2011, told the ABC relations between Australia and China were at their lowest point since ties were established in 1972. — ABC News, 11/3/2020

In a seismic shift in a country that considers conscription crucial to is defense against North Korea,
South Korea for the first time ever is allowing conscientious objectors to perform alternative service
behind prison walls. They will live apart from other inmates and will be allowed several weeks of leave. Unlike those who have served previous terms for their beliefs, new conscientious objectors will have no criminal record. Military duty is seen as a revered rite of passage for men between the ages of 18 and 28. The country has imprisoned more war objectors than any other country. — Chicago Tribune, 11/9/2020

Russia and Azerbaijan signed a peace treaty after decades of conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. — Chicago Tribune, 11/10/2020


The coronavirus-battered global economy won’t contract as severely as previously projected, according to International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva. “The picture today is less dire” than when the IMF last updated its forecasts, Ms. Georgieva said in remarks prepared for delivery in London. An improvement in the international economic forecast will be welcomed by the world’s policy makers, but it is only better compared with the IMF’s gloomy forecast in June, when it called for a 4.9% fall in global gross domestic product, which would have been the steepest since the Great Depression. — Wall Street Journal, 10/7/2020

The coronavirus pandemic, and the legislative response to mitigate its economic damage, has led to
one of the largest budget deficits in U.S. history. The federal budget deficit was $3.1 trillion in fiscal
year 2020, which ran from October 2019 to September 2020. Relative to the size of the economy,
this year’s deficit was about 15 percent of gross domestic product — the largest since 1945 and more
than three times higher than the $1.0 trillion deficit recorded last fiscal year. — The Peterson Foundation, 10/16/2020

The largest U.S. banks are less healthy than they appear, boosted by temporary accounting and capitalrelief measures as well as massive market support from the Federal Reserve, an advocacy group said. Regulators have allowed banks to delay the hit to their capital ratios from billions of dollars in loanloss provisions they’ve put aside this year. “We’re not in a 2008 situation where major banks are facing collapse, but we’re going into an uncertain future due to the pandemic, and the big banks aren’t in as good a shape as they appear,” Marcus Stanley, policy director at Americans for Financial Reform, said in an interview. — Bloomberg, 11/2/2020

China is expected to have attracted a total of $690 billion in foreign direct investment during the 2016- 20 period. Despite the continued downturn in global cross-border investment, China has remained a hot spot for global capital. In 2017, it became the world’s second-largest destination for foreign investment, after the United States. Surging demand for greener building materials, automobile glass, high-end chemicals, plastics and other industrial goods to accelerate their urbanization, as well as the development of smart cities and infrastructure projects have contributed to the growth. — China Daily, 11/6/2020

One of Australia’s largest pension funds on Monday agreed to settle a landmark climate risk litigation
filed by a 25-year-old member who alleged it was failing to protect his retirement savings against climate change. The closely watched case could influence how global funds manage such risks in the future and trigger similar cases internationally, where asset owners face increased scrutiny in relation to climate change policy and risk reporting. — Global Times, 11/3/2020

Israel and the Middle East

A sign of the growing rift between the Palestinians and the Arab world surfaced when Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Malki announced that the Palestinians decided to “relinquish” their
right to preside over the Council of the Arab League at its current session in response to the normalization relations with Israel. The Palestinians have suspended their ties with Israel, including security coordination. The Palestinians have, in addition, lost the support of several Arab countries because of their recurring condemnations of Arab governments and leaders who want to make peace with Israel. — Bridges for Peace, 10/2/2020

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview in July 2018 that Facebook would not block
Holocaust deniers. This was explained by Vice President for Global Public Policy at Facebook Joel
Kaplan in a 2019 letter to the chairman of the US Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad. The letter explained that Facebook would not remove “lies or content that is inaccurate — whether it’s denying the Holocaust, the Armenian massacre, or the fact that the Syrian government has killed hundreds of thousands of its own people.” — Bridges for Peace, 10/2/2020

Israel and Lebanon are set to start negotiations to resolve their maritime border dispute in the Mediterranean Sea. The water border is critical for determining drilling rights for natural gas in the shared sea, and the talks could determine much more than that. The decision to hold the talks was brokered by the US and followed almost three years of American diplomacy. The US will mediate the negotiations. Previously, Israel reached peace accords with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. — Mideast Update, 10/4/2020

Amid changing Middle Eastern and global dynamics, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the phone to discuss “regional security issues,” according to Netanyahu’s office. The leaders discussed “the Iranian aggression and the situation in Syria,” the prime minister’s office announced. Russia’s ambassador to Iran announced that Moscow would sell Iran an advanced air defense system after an arms embargo against the Islamic Republic is scheduled to expire on October 18. It will allow Tehran to purchase advanced weapons from the likes of China and Russia. — Bridges for Peace, 10/9/2020

Rival Libyan military officers began talks Monday on home soil for the first time following a ceasefire
agreement last month, discussing implementation of the deal. “A lot of progress was made today,”
Stephanie Williams, the UN’s acting envoy to the troubled North African nation, said at the end of
the first day of talks. The meeting follows an October 23 deal when the two warring factions signed a
“permanent” ceasefire agreement intended to pave the way towards a political solution to the country’s grinding conflict. — Africa News, 11/3/2020

Dating to the time of King David, what may be the earliest fortified settlement in the Golan Heights
was discovered during salvage excavations ahead of the construction of a new neighborhood. Incredible rock etchings of two figures holding their arms aloft — possibly at prayer — were uncovered inside the unique fort, which was dated to around the 11th 9th century BC — Times of Israel, 11/11/2020