Restive Algeria awaits decisive move from returned president
By AOMAR OUALI
Monday, March 11
ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Algerian teenagers and lawyers held protests Monday, and workers held scattered walkouts, as their tense nation waits to see whether ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika offers any concessions in the face of unprecedented protests.
Algerian media and protest leaders expect it could be a decisive day for the gas-rich North African country, after Bouteflika returned home Sunday from two weeks in a Swiss hospital.
His absence saw growing demonstrations demanding that he withdraw his candidacy for a fifth term in next month’s election. Algerians have hardly seen Bouteflika since he suffered a stroke in 2013, and anger has mounted at the country’s secretive power structure.
Security was high Monday in Algiers, where some businesses were shuttered by a second day of strikes. Other stores and administrative offices remained open.
Middle school and high school students held protests in several towns, according to local media. Education Minister Nouria Bengahbrit appealed on her Facebook page for protesters to “leave schools out of political turbulence” shaking the country.
Meanwhile, lawyers in their black robes gathered Monday in front of courthouses to join calls for Bouteflika to abandon his bid for another term.
Exceptionally, some judges also joined a lawyers’ protest in the city of Bedjaia in Kabylie, a region historically opposed to the powers-that-be in Algiers. Judges are normally banned from publicly demonstrating, like police and soldiers.
The unprecedented citizens’ revolt began last month and has drawn millions into the streets of cities across the country to say no to a fifth term for their 82-year-old president — and no to a system blamed for corruption and keeping Bouteflika in office despite his ailments.
A wily political survivor, Bouteflika fought in Algeria’s independence war against French forces and has played a role in Algeria’s major developments for the past half-century. He became president in 1999 and reconciled a nation riven by a deadly Islamic insurgency, but questions swirl over whether he is really running the country today.
The protests have surprised Algeria’s opaque leadership and freed up Algerians, long fearful of the watchful security apparatus, to openly criticize the president. Algerians are also letting out pent-up anger at corruption that has left the country’s oil and gas riches in the hands of a few while millions of young people struggle to find jobs.
Army Chief of Staff Ahmed Gaid Salah initially threatened the protesters, but made what was seen as a significant turnaround Sunday, saying “the people and the army share friendship, solidarity and a future vision for Algeria.”
“The national patriotic army takes pride in being a part of this defiant nation, and cherishes sharing the same values and principles” with the people, he said during a speech to engineering students.
Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.
What lessons can the clergy sex abuse crisis draw from a 4th-century church schism?
March 11, 2019
Author: Cavan W. Concannon, Associate Professor of Religion, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
Disclosure statement: Cavan W. Concannon does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of Southern California — Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and University of Southern California provide funding as members of The Conversation US.
A string of sex abuse scandals have rocked Christian communities recently: In the Roman Catholic Church, revelations related to sex abuse by priests continue to unfold across the globe. Within the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., media reports have brought into public view allegations of sexual abuse dating back decades.
These scandals stand alongside abuses by prominent male church officials that have occurred in independent Christian communities, such as Harvest Bible Chapel, Willow Creek Community Church and Mars Hill Church.
Such scandals have led to widespread doubts about church officials and institutions. And this is not for the first time. As a scholar of early Christianity, I know that in the fourth century, Christian churches in North Africa faced a similar crisis of trust in their leaders.
Known as the Donatist controversy, it caused a schism that lasted for centuries and offers a parallel for thinking about the impact of these crises on contemporary Christian communities today.
Traitors during Christian persecution
Christians in the Roman Empire occasionally experienced periods of imperial persecution. These periods were often memorialized in Christian tradition through stories of famous martyrdoms. The stories often portrayed Christians as courageous and virtuous in the face of imperial violence.
The most infamous period of persecution occurred in the early fourth century A.D. Spearheaded by the emperor Diocletian, it was also the final imperially sponsored persecution of Christian communities.
While persecutions were sporadic, local and rare, they often put difficult choices before Christian clergy and laity.
Some renounced Christianity. Others handed over sacred books or church property and outed fellow Christians to the authorities. Christians called the latter “traditores,” a Latin term meaning “those who handed over,” the root of the word “traitor.”
Whether and how to welcome such traditores back into Christian communities after the persecutions was a topic of intense debate among Christians.
Traditores were considered to have betrayed their communities to save themselves. This sense of betrayal was particularly felt with respect to clergy members who had become traditores.
The issue came to a head in A.D. 311 in North Africa when Caecilian, the bishop of Carthage, became embroiled in controversy after it was alleged that one or more of the bishops who presided at his consecration had been traditores.
In the eyes of many Christians in North Africa, Caecilian’s virtues did not matter. The presence of a traditor among those who ordained him invalidated his ordination.
The Donatist schism
Caecilian was supported politically and financially by the imperial administration. Caecilian’s opponents pressed their case in regional councils and before local magistrates.
They even appealed to the Emperor Constantine, who wrote in a letter to the Vicar of Africa in A.D. 314 that he had grown tired of receiving requests from Caecilian’s opponents.
They brought charges, which ultimately proved to be false, against Felix of Aptunga, one of the bishops that had ordained Caecilian. Charges against other bishops soon followed.
In A.D. 313, Donatus was consecrated bishop of Carthage and became the leading voice of Caecilian’s opponents. These “Donatists,” as they came to be called, created their own massive network of churches that stood in opposition to those allied with Caecilian and the Roman state.
Constantine soon grew fed up with the Donatists and the schism that they had created in the church. From A.D. 316-321, Constantine used the force of the state to coerce the Donatists back into the fold.
Constantine’s attempts to intervene led to violence that resulted in the deaths of Donatist Christians. His intervention did little to end the schism. Constantine soon gave up state-sponsored persecution of the Donatists.
In A.D. 346, the Emperor Constans, who succeeded Constantine, tried again to end the schism. His agents used imperial funds to woo clergy back, but also used violence. Macarius, one of Constans’s agents, led a campaign of suppression, in which Christians killed other fellow Christians.
Macarius became infamous among Donatist communities. The Donatists considered those who died to be martyrs. These martyrs and their memory were celebrated by Donatist communities.
Donatus was said to have questioned the very role of the emperor in the controversy, saying, “What has the emperor to do with the church?”
By the fifth century, Donatist churches were thriving and sparring with Catholics. And Donatist churches remained active in North Africa until the Islamic conquests of the seventh century.
The Donatists believed the sins of traditores risked the salvation of individual members and the health of the community.
“How,” they asked, “could sacraments administered by an offending priest be recognized by a holy God?” And if those sacraments were not effective, the salvation of the individual and the community were at risk. For the Donatists, only sacraments performed by uncompromised clergy were effective.
In their attempts to respond to Donatist critique, the Catholic Church settled on a strategy developed by Augustine, an influential fifth-century Catholic bishop in North Africa.
Augustine, who describes the sparring between Donatists and Catholics in his writings, argued that the sacraments were effective regardless of the morality of the clergy involved – a church doctrine known as “ex opere operato.” He said that as the sacraments were the work of Christ, they did not depend on the moral character of the officiating priest.
What can be learned today
Today, in the face of the sex abuse crisis, contemporary Christian communities find themselves asking questions about institutions that condoned, hid and promoted abusive clergy.
This might be a moment to revisit the Donatist critique. They created their own churches because they feared not only for the efficacy of the sacraments but also for the character of a church that made it too easy for traditores to continue to remain leaders.
Widespread sexual abuse by Christian clergy represents a very different crisis from that faced by the betrayal of the traditores.
However, I believe the Donatists offer a lesson for Christian communities about the risks to the integrity and cohesion of institutions when they shield the abuser rather than protect the victims.
Vincent J.: The word “sacrament” is not in the bible. Jesus does not need nor did He institute sacraments. The bible says that we shall know our leaders by their works. Saying that one is a priest and that the sacraments over which he officiates are valid is meaningless.
Jon Richfield, logged in via Facebook, In reply to Vincent J.: The word “sacrament” is not in the bible. Jesus does not need nor did He institute sacraments.
Why tell us? We aren’t the Donatists, nor is any of us Constantine? Some of us couldn’t care less about sacraments. The article says nothing about the real or potential validity of sacraments; it addresses the historical non-uniqueness of the current kerfuffle about clergy who cannot be trusted.
Botswana joins list of African countries reviewing gay rights
March 18, 2019
Author: Andrew Novak, Term Assistant Professor, Department of Criminology Law and Society, George Mason University
Disclosure statement: Andrew Novak does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Botswana’s High Court is considering a challenge to the provisions of the penal code criminalising consensual same-sex relations in the country. It will hand down its judgment in June. The challenge raises similar legal issues as the one pending at the Kenya High Court, which is due for a decision in May.
Same sex relations are outlawed under Botswana’s penal code. These prohibitive sections were inherited from the colonial penal code of Bechuanaland, as Botswana was then known.
Section 164 prohibits “unnatural offences” defined as “carnal knowledge against the order of nature”. The section prohibits oral and anal sex for both homosexual and heterosexual couples. Those found to have broken this law face up to seven years in prison. Attempting to engage in unnatural offences is also illegal and offenders can spend up to five years in prison under Section 165.
Botswana’s laws are similar to India’s penal code, which was famously found unconstitutional by India’s Supreme Court in September 2018. The “unnatural offences” provision was included in India’s colonial penal code by Englishman Thomas Babington Macaulay and the Indian Law Commission in the 1830s.
Sections of India and Botswana’s laws were inspired by England’s King Henry VIII’s prohibition on oral and anal sex, also known as the Anti-Buggery Act of 1533.
Botswana’s anti-sodomy laws have been challenged before. In 2003, the Botswana Court of Appeal held that the penal code’s anti-sodomy provisions were constitutional. Botswana’s constitution dates back to its independence in 1960. It is therefore less modern than Kenya’s 2010 constitution. Under Kenya’s constitution, judges are empowered to look to international and foreign law to resolve domestic constitutional disputes.
More than 70 countries around the world still criminalise sexual activity between two men. About half of them are former British colonies. This is because Britain enforced Victorian sexual norms on its territories through penal code provisions that still exist in many places.
Since 1981 when the European Court of Human Rights struck down the UK’s anti-sodomy law, colonial penal codes have come under increasing scrutiny. Given their similarities, human rights activists have an opportunity to use international law and the laws of other jurisdictions as a tool to convince local courts that anti-sodomy laws are outdated.
India is the latest in a string of former British colonies that have removed their anti-gay laws. It follows countries as diverse as Cyprus, Fiji, Belize, Nepal, and Australia. A favourable decision in Botswana would reinforce this trend.
Many former British colonies in sub-Saharan Africa inherited penal codes like Botswana’s. In most former colonies, these include separate prohibitions on “carnal knowledge” (oral and anal sex) and on “gross indecency” (other sexual activities). Great Britain itself criminalised “gross indecency” – a euphemism for all forms of same-sex intimacy – in 1885. This was drafted into penal codes in Canada, South Pacific colonies, Northern Nigeria, British East Africa, and Botswana.
The situation in Botswana is most comparable to the situation in Kenya where the high court is expected to rule on the country’s anti-gay law in May.
But in Kenya, the penal code prohibition on “gross indecency” only applies to sex between two men. This used to be the case in Botswana until 1998 when the country’s legislature expanded the provisions to apply to women as well.
Kenya has also ratified international human rights treaties that prohibit anti-sodomy laws. By contrast, Botswana’s constitution is the oldest surviving constitution on the African continent. Its constitution does not require judges to look to treaties or other sources of international law to aid in their decision making process and international law is not binding on their courts.
The LGBT community is a target for physical violence, hate crimes, police harassment and surveillance.
The prohibition of same sex relations also contributes to increased HIV infection rates as fear of mistreatment discourages gays and lesbians from getting tested and accessing health care.
The rates of suicide and substance abuse are also higher within the LGBT community with one survey showing that LGBT people in Botswana have suicidal thoughts and use drugs more frequently than heterosexuals.
However, LGBT people have experienced legal progress in recent years. Three years ago, the Court of Appeal ruled that the government’s failure to officially recognise LeGaBiBo (Lesbians and Gays of Botswana) was unconstitutional.
And in 2017, a transgender rights activist won an important ruling at the High Court to legally change her gender on government documents.
These cases are important data points because they suggest that attitudes of judges may have evolved since the 2003 upholding of Botswana’s anti-sodomy laws.
But there are a few signs that things are possibly changing. Last January, President Mokgweetsi Masisi made an unprecedented statement of public support for LGBT rights in Botswana.
In 2016, Mmegi, one of Botswana’s main daily newspapers, reported that 43% of Batswana are not opposed to having homosexual neighbours, making it among the more tolerant countries in Africa.
But as is the case elsewhere in the world, acceptance of homosexuality varies by age and education level. Younger and more educated Batswana are more accepting of same sex relations.
Pascal Obong Bessong, logged in via Twitter: The article appears to blame colonial laws for discrimination towards individuals with same sex orientation. However, indigenous societies in Africa and elsewhere have always frowned on homosexuality, even before colonization by western nations. How is this reconciled? Is it that indigenous societies did not have the capacity to make laws? Harping on colonial laws is not fully addressing the problem.
Llewellyn King: St. Patrick’s Day and the Irishing of the World
By Llewellyn King
The Irish are an accommodating people. Well, not in everything but in some things. They share their culture with the world. Then they incorporate into Irish life modifications that other nations, especially the United States, have made.
Take St. Patrick’s Day. It was traditionally a dour day of religious observance in Ireland. Then Irish-Americans turned it into the festival that we celebrate here. And now St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in Ireland much the way it is here: joyously.
Likewise, corned beef and cabbage. That was a cheap dish that got its Irish identification among the poor immigrants in New York. It wasn’t a tradition in Ireland where thick bacon, lamb and salmon, served with an astonishing array of potato options, is standard fare along with battered cod — fish and chips to the rest of the world. But in an accommodation to visitors, corned beef and cabbage can now be had in the big hotels.
A word about those potatoes: If you can think of preparation for potatoes, you might find them offered. Never, in my experience, are less than three varieties available in a restaurant. At a banquet once, I was offered a choice of chips (French fries) duchess, sautéed, boiled, croquette, mashed and scalloped.
What isn’t seen in Irish restaurants are baked potatoes — although, to please visitors, they may be sneaking into the hotels. In my nearly four decades of annual travels in Ireland, I learned that baked potatoes, known as jacket potatoes, are street food — to be bought with all sorts of great fillings from stalls, food trucks and the like, not in restaurants and pubs.
Irish stew is also less common than you would expect.
The Irish do drink, but in their own way. As Ireland has become a modern, competitive country, people are drinking less. But drinking is part of the fabric of daily life, just as drinking coffee, tea (hot or iced) and soft drinks might be elsewhere. You do business in Ireland over a drink, celebrate with a drink, mourn with a drink and, well, just have a drink because that’s what you do between what you just did and what you’re going to do. A breather, you might say.
For 20 years I was the American organizer for an Irish summer school. Summer schools — there are more than two dozen — are more like themed think tanks that meet only in the summer, often just for a long weekend. They cover literature, music, politics and are named accordingly, like the Yeats International Summer School and the Parnell Summer School.
The one my wife and I were affiliated with was the Humbert International Summer School, named for the French general sent to Ireland in 1798 to help with the uprising against the British, which was put down brutally by Gen. Lord Cornwallis, fresh from his American defeat. Humbert was sent back to France — the English not having a beef with the French at that moment. He had an affair with Napoleon’s sister and was ordered to New Orleans, where he passed his days drinking with Lafitte, the French pirate and privateer, teaching French and living his exiled life in style. He did fight bravely in the Battle of New Orleans and helped the American forces with his military skill. He died in New Orleans and is buried there.
Back to the welcoming of American embellishments to Irish traditions. These are not resented in Ireland because of the great affinity of the Irish have with their 35 million or so kinsmen in the United States. The Irish enjoy the American stage and screen songs of Ireland, like “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.” The Little People of Ireland’s folklore are beginning to look like Disney’s Seven Dwarfs.
That doesn’t mean that the Little People are not alive and well, it’s just that their presence has been enhanced by legends that came from Hollywood as much as from the Auld Sod. A friend of mine built a wall around his mother’s retirement house in Cork. But her neighbors insisted that it have a gap for the Little People to go through — so it has a gap.
As for the fairies, my wife and I were riding in northwest Ireland and our guide told us it was all right to ride through a copse, but we shouldn’t let the horses disturb the fairy circle there. He rode around the copse to be sure he didn’t upset the fairies.
Despite the drink, the Little People and the fairies, Ireland is the computing capital of Europe and hopes to take over as a financial center after England loses many banking houses due to Brexit.
Sláinte! That’s the equivalent of cheers as you raise a glass. Do that Sunday or the Little People, or the fairies, or your Irish friends may be upset. You’ve been warned.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.