When Jorge Mario Bergoglio became the Roman Catholic pope in 2013, he took his name from Francis of Assisi and dedicated himself to championing the poor. The first non-European pontiff in a thousand years, and the first from the southern hemisphere, he launched his papacy with a condemnation of capitalism’s culture of waste and indifference to poverty.
In an extract from the papal encyclical Laudato Si’, the bishop of Rome makes an impassioned plea to save the planet from ecological destruction: “We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world.”
Europe’s response to the Greek debt crisis in 2015 exposed European cooperation and solidarity as a hollow claim. The euro has become a Greek tragedy, resulting in falling incomes, rising unemployment, and fraying social fabric. Saving the European Union may require killing the single currency.
Young, modern, and media friendly, the daughter of National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen has recast the extreme right party as a less xenophobic, more palatable, movement. But if the National Front fails to shed its racist ideology, it is unlikely to build on its electoral successes.
Europe’s social and economic order fundamentally changed with the end of the industrial era in the 1970s. The resulting tensions led to an identity crisis, as minorities sought to address injustices and nationalists agitated against cultural and religious diversity. Is multiculturalism now destined to fail?
Europe’s security-driven response to the surge of refugees has been cowardly and xenophobic. There are more viable approaches: granting temporary protections, offering broader alternatives to asylum for those fleeing conflict, and adopting more flexible visa policies.
A century after the mass immigration of North Africans began, Arabs in France are more present in politics, the economy, and culture than ever before. Yet part of the French population rejects a shared history in favor of the myth of the “interior enemy.”
America’s Latino population, once a political sleeping giant, is poised to play a pivotal role in the 2016 American elections. And thanks to the anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric of Republican politicians, the Democratic Party could be the big winner.
President Barack Obama had to deal with a dysfunctional state system and fraying civil societies, as well as blowback from George W. Bush’s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet his own actions and inactions throughout two terms of office contributed significantly to the great unraveling of the Middle East.
In 2014, Cuba and the United States shocked the world by announcing the normalization of bilateral relations after a half century of hostility. Yet with political leadership changing soon in both Havana and Washington, the path forward is still marked with uncertainty. Decades of enmity will not be easily forgotten.
After the Arab Spring, the rise of Islamists stirred social polarization in many countries. The most potent Islamists today are the jihadists who have seized control of territory through extreme violence. Can political Islam be reconciled with secular modernity?