Category: Africa


Ann Wainscott on Morocco’s Religious Foreign Policy

During the past two years, the Moroccan government has begun exporting various religious education programs as part of its foreign policy strategy in the North and West African region. Prof. Ann Wainscott explains how this new development is both an outgrowth if its domestic religious strategy, and a response by other nations to adopt some of the policies implemented in Morocco. The success of this foreign policy, as witnessed by its embrace by nations such as Mali and Senegal, is in part a function of Morocco’s cultural-historical legitimacy in the region, the existence of pre-existing educational institutions, and the ability to link religious education to great economic integration. Prof. Wainscott also explains the unique flavor of Moroccan and West African Islam.

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Paul Kubicek on Islam, Political Islam, and Democracy

Can democratic governance on a national scale coincide with Islam? Prof. Paul Kubicek (Oakland University) takes us on a comparative journey to show where predominately Islamic populations have existed successfully with democracy. While much of media and scholarly attention on the topic of Islam and democracy has focused on the Middle East, Paul discusses the interesting cases of Turkey, Senegal, Mali, and Tunisia, while also noting some of the difficulties in democratic transitions in places such as Bangladesh. He also shares his reflections on the Arab Spring.

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Carrie Miles on Religion, Gender, and Missionaries

What role does religion play in shaping cultural notions of gender, and how might this be related to economics and production in both agricultural and industrial societies? And can missionaries inadvertently carry over theological messages to cultures that unintentionally reinforce gender roles? Dr. Carrie Miles, of Chapman University and Empower International, answers these questions in a fascinating look at the intersection of theology, gender, and economics.

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Denis Dragovic on Religion & State-Building

What role do religious organizations play in constructing and reconstructing states? Denis Dragovic joins us from Australia to discuss his new book “Religion and Post-Conflict State-Building” and how he not only studied this topic, but also was an active participant in helping people around the world, and primarily the Middle East. Prof. Dragovic explains how religious groups — both international and domestic — help to contribute to the three key areas of state-building: legitimacy, security, and basic needs. Along the way, he also recounts how he helped rescue one of his aid workers who was kidnapped by rebels!

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Torrey Olsen on Faith-Based Humanitarianism and World Vision

What is it like to be shot at and abducted while serving as a religiously-based humanitarian aid worker? Torrey Olsen, who spent 15 years in West Africa with World Vision and other organizations details his experiences and what he learned in the field. He also discusses the history and operation of World Vision, a Christian-based relief organization that operations in roughly 100 countries, including some of the most dangerous hot spots around the world. We examine various projects World Vision undertakes including an ecumenical outreach program to Muslims concerning the Ebola pandemic in Africa.

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Robert Priest on Witchcraft Accusations in Africa

Prof. Robert Priest of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School discusses the causes and consequences of the growing trend of witchcraft accusations against individuals in Africa. We survey the demographic patterns in these accusations, potential reasons for why such claims are brought about, what the consequences are for individuals, and what some people are trying to do to protect those facing such accusations.

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Ann Wainscott on the Politics of Islam in Morocco

What explains the emergence of political Islam, particularly a Salafi variant of this movement, in Morocco? Ann Wainscott, a graduate student at the University of Florida, advances a novel explanation relating to educational reform. In an attempt to forestall advancing leftist influence in society during the 1960s and ’70s, the regime of King Hasan II promoted greater Islamic education within the country’s public school system that had the unintended consequence of creating new space for Islamists. While this is not the only reason for the emergence of an Islamist movement in Morocco, it represents an often-overlooked piece of the puzzle.

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Robert Woodberry on Missionaries and Democracy

Did Protestant missionaries help plant the seeds of democracy throughout the world? Prof. Robert Woodberry takes us on a historical tour-de-force around the globe showing how “conversionary Protestants” helped to promote literacy, spread printing technology, facilitate civic organization, defend religious and civil liberties, and protest the abuses of slavery and colonialism. We discuss how this happened and why Protestants were uniquely situated to do this, although we look at similar Catholic efforts in recent decades. We conclude with speculative thoughts about the Arab Spring.

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Monica Toft on Religion, Terrorism, and Civil War

A week before the 10th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Prof. Monica Toft of Harvard University joins us to discuss what we have learned about religiously-motivated violence over the past decade. She discusses findings from her new book “God’s Century” on terrorism, informal violence, and civil war. Our conversation covers a wide range of geographic territory and faith traditions, touching upon the IRA in Ireland, Hindu nationalism in India, the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, as well as movements in the Arab Middle East.

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Daniel Philpott on Religious Resurgence & Democratization

Is the global resurgence in public religiosity over the past 40 years linked in any way to the increase in democratic governance over the same period of time? Prof. Dan Philpott (Notre Dame) covers the historical trends of church-state relations and discusses how changes in political theologies and the increasing independence of religious organizations have provided a fertile ground for political democratization in some corners of the world. We examine how and why some religious traditions have been involved in promoting democracy under authoritarian conditions. Our discussion turns toward some speculation about the future of the “Arab Spring” at the end of our interview. This is the first part of a discussion of the book “God’s Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics.”

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