China Research | Nonbelievers

Complexities of translating Chinese religious identification establish the nation as perennial statistical outlier in polling
  • Although the widely cited WIN/Gallup poll on global religiosity indicates 61% of Chinese respondents identified as atheist, 27% as nonreligious, and only 7% as religious, the Chinese term used to translate “religious” carries more politicized, institutional connotations than in other languages.
  • In addition, one anthropologist notes that many Chinese people have more syncretic belief systems and practices than in other parts of the world.
  • Because the survey was administered online, there could have been additional pressure to identify as atheist as the Communist Party is officially atheist and surveils online communications.

“In other parts of the world, the survey is more uniformly understood. … In East Asia, the signals are more complex, but it still gives some insight.”

Read the full story at the New York Times.

(Image Credit: Fred Dufour/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images, via The New York Times)

U.S. News | LGB

U.S. Episcopal Church assembly votes to enable clergy to perform same-sex marriages
  • Episcopal leaders overwhelmingly voted in favor of the change to gender-neutral language from “man and woman” in its marriage canon.
  • The vote does not compel clergy to perform same-sex marriages, only allows for their doing so without repercussion.
  • The Episcopal Church joins the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church in allowing all of its clergy to perform marriages regardless of partners’ gender.

Read the full story at BuzzFeed.

(Image Credit: Rick Bowmer/AP, via BuzzFeed)

China News | Advocates & Dissidents

China enacts sweeping new national security law, fortifying Communist Party powers and worrying rights advocates and political dissenters
  • The law expands China’s “core interests” to include economic development; polar, maritime, and extraterrestrial project protection; and a broad sense of national security encompassing culture, education, and politics.
  • With two complementary bills on foreign organization regulation and counterterrorism in the pipeline, security experts and human rights advocates expect the new law to lead to more activities categorized as national security violations and strengthened legal justification for crackdowns on dissent.
  • Under the agreements that led to their reintegration into China, Hong Kong and Macau will not be subject to application of the law.

“All these things are brought together in a way that links the idea of the nation or the state with the security of a political regime. … Everybody knows this is the understanding that the Communist Party has, but it’s rarely put this explicitly in national law. That’s just striking.”

Read the full story at the New York Times.

(Image Credit: Bobby Yip/Reuters, via The New York Times)

India News | Muslims

Indian state government causes upset through exclusion of religious school-educated students from definition of school-going children
  • Maharashtra’s social justice minister stated that any child obtaining full-time religious education would not be counted as educated or in-school, including the children enrolled in one of the state’s 1890 registered madrassas.
  • After politicians from multiple political parties called the declaration unconstitutional, the minister argued that the designation has been one followed by previous governments.
  • Last month, the government instated a rule requiring madrassas to teach math, science, social science, and English in order to be eligible for government grants.

“The decision is against the Constitution. A number of students who studied in madrassas have successfully competed in competitive exams. The government must roll back the decision.”

Read the full story at The Hindu.

(Image Credit: Vivek Bendre/The Hindu)

South Africa News | Black Women

IBM South Africa launches new program devoted to entrepreneurship and STEM education for black South Africans
  • The IBM South Africa Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Equity Equivalent Investment Programme will devote millions of South African rands to skills education, financial and professional development support for small and medium-sized businesses, and the construction of a new research hub in Johannesburg.
  • The program is focused on supporting information, communication, and technology entrepreneurship and business development in South Africa’s black communities, particularly among black women.
  • The program’s academic components will support undergraduate, Master’s, and doctoral students through scholarships, internships, and supplementary courses and projects.

“The equity equivalent programmes are expected to contribute towards the achievement of enterprise creation and development, foreign direct investment, accelerated growth and development of black rural women and youth, sustainable growth and development, human development with focus on education and skills development, infrastructure investment with an emphasis on developing the country’s research and development infrastructure.”

Read the full story at SAinfo.

(Image Credit: IBM photo, via SAinfo)

South Africa News | Special-Needs Youth

South African province’s education minister announces plans for new special education programs
  • At the 2015 Inclusion Focus Week in Johannesburg, the Gauteng education minister announced that the government will attempt to add 18 new schools catering to special education.
  • The province, which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria, currently has 102 schools that include special education instruction.
  • The minister also identified the need to strengthen diagnostic and identification measures to accession children into special education programming as early as possible.

“We have got the financial muscle to deal with this matter, we just have to strengthen the partnership element of it. If we can have strong partners, I am of the view that it will help us address the issue of access.”

Read the full story at the South African Government News Agency.

Iran News | LGBT & Allies

Iranian actor apologies after summoning by authorities following LGBT-supportive tweet
  • Bahram Radan tweeted in support of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of nationwide same-sex marriage, leading to his summoning by Iran’s ministry of culture and Islamic guidance.
  • The reaction to the U.S. ruling highlights the division in Iranian society and the diaspora over LGBT rights, seeing online debate stirred after many added Facebook’s rainbow filter to their profile pictures in solidarity with the decision and many others condemned the action.
  • Iran’s hardline conservative authorities have relaxed some punishments against homosexual acts, but they are still criminalized and treated as manifestations of mental illness.

“They’re afraid that people in Iran are beginning to talk about homosexuality as a sexual minority, not an illness, and they don’t want that to be normalised.”

Read the full story at the Guardian.

(Image Credit: Ahmad Halabisaz/Xinhua Press/Corbis, via The Guardian)

Europe Research | Migrants & Refugees

More than 135,000 refugees and migrants entered Europe in the first half of 2015
  • According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the number is an 80% increase from the same period in 2014.
  • More than 1,000 enter the continent each day via the western Balkans alone, now the biggest point of entry.
  • Syria accounted for the largest number of refugees at 44,000, followed by Eritrea and Afghanistan.

“As arrivals increase, the reception capacity and conditions remain seriously inadequate. … This is a regional problem that needs a regional response and regional solidarity.”

Read the full story at Reuters.

(Image Credit: Antonio Parrinello/Reuters)

Australia News | Greek Immigrants

As financial crisis looms, Greeks escape to Australia
  • Tens of thousands have immigrated to Australia in search of opportunity after Greece’s financial collapse has left families in economic ruin.
  • The immigration wave is the largest from Greece since its civil war in the 1940s, which sent more than 150,000 to Australia’s shores.
  • Melbourne, the city with the largest Greek population outside of Europe, has already seen overcrowding and a tightening job market, which could hamper opportunity for arrivals.

“I feel like I’m on a lifeboat and seeing the Titanic sink. … I’m relieved but my people are still on that ship.”

Read the full story at Reuters.

(Image Credit: Melanie Burton/Reuters)

Netherlands News | Black Aruban

Public assembly banned in Hague neighborhood as unrest swells following death of unarmed Aruban man during police arrest
  • Mitch Henriquez, a resident of the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba, died of apparent asphyxiation from a chokehold while being arrested by The Hague police on Sunday after allegedly falsely claiming he had a gun.
  • Following more than 60 arrests and escalating violence, the mayor issued a temporary ban on public gatherings of more than three people and “dangerous objects” in the predominantly immigrant Schilderswijk district.
  • The Hague police department has come under fire from rights organizations, journalism investigations, and community members for its targeting of immigrants and foreigners.

Read the full story at Reuters.

U.S. News | Black Women

American Ballet Theater names the first African-American female principal in its history
  • Misty Copeland, 32, has now become only the third black principal to be named in the renowned New York-based ballet company’s history.
  • Copeland has enjoyed a standing in popular culture rare for ballet dancers, having appeared in commercials and music videos, written books, and established a substantial social media following.
  • Image prejudices, stereotypes, and lack of community and early development resources are believed to have contributed to the lack of black principals, the first of whom, Arthur Mitchell, was named in New York City Ballet in 1962.

“I had moments of doubting myself, and wanting to quit, because I didn’t know that there would be a future for an African-American woman to make it to this level. … At the same time, it made me so hungry to push through, to carry the next generation. So it’s not me up here — and I’m constantly saying that — it’s everyone that came before me that got me to this position.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.

(Image Credit: Julieta Cervantes/The New York Times)

Turkey News | Chinese & Associates

Istanbul Chinese restaurant attacked during demonstrations against China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims
  • Despite being owned by a Turkish man and employing a Uyghur cook, Happy China became a target of protesters’ anger.
  • The owner said that he will be closing the restaurant, which he opened after saving money for 25 years as a tour guide.

“Our customers are Indonesian Muslims in general. We work with Far East Asian people. Only a tiny portion of our customers are made up of Chinese customers. We do not serve alcoholic drinks. Although we work with Muslims, an attack like this has occurred.”

Read the full story at the Hurriyet Daily News.

(Image Credit: DHA photo, via the Hurriyet Daily News)