Monday, September 24, 2012

Religion Geo-News Update: September 2012

Two new stories about geo-political developments with religious organizations

Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe Does a Henry VIII

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe may have been denounced by the country's Catholic leadership but he remains very proud of his Catholic beliefs.  He has traveled to Rome to meet the Pope, promotes Catholic morals, and still defends his destructive policies with Catholic social teaching.

Another trait of the Catholic Mugabe is a hatred of the Anglican church which most Zimbabweans belong to.  So when Anglican bishop Nolbert Kunnoga, a noted Mugabe supporter, lost his leadership position in the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA), Kunnoga and Mugabe teamed up to take down the local Anglican leadership in 2011.  Kunnoga's goons seized churches and kicked out CPCA priests.  In their place Kunnoga-allied priests formed the Anglican Church of Zimbabwe (CZ).  The cover story was that the conservative CPCA was in fact pro-women's ordination, pro-gay, and a colonial tool controlled by Whites.  Only a minority of churches seized by CZ are able to be served by the few priests allied with Kunnoga.  So Kunnoga and Mugabe are turning priestless parishes into secular, state owned buildings which ironically mirrors England's first Protestant king Henry VIII.

The Anglican Communion is too divided by the downfall of its communion and the civil war in the United States and Canada between the established Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada and the new, conservative church recognized by most the third world churches, the Anglican Church in North America, to care.  CZ is too blatantly pro-Mugabe to survive as is, however, if it can play the conservative African churches against the supposedly local liberal leadership it may just have a fighting chance at survival. Another, more likely to succeed, route for survival is to cut off all ties to Anglicanism and attempt to preach a highly Afro-centric version of Christianity.  The pitfall here is many Zimbabweans take great pride being members of the Anglican worldwide communion.

Bahrain's Monarchy Courts the Rising Tide of Christianity in the Middle East

Bahrain has a Shia majority but a ruling Sunni minority.  The failed Arab Spring there resulted in the suppression of the Shia and the growth of hardline Sunni groups which demand the crushing of Shia rights, in a sense turning Shia from second class citizens to third class.  In late August, radical Sunnis were shocked when the country's king announced plans to create the biggest Catholic Church in the Persian Gulf area.  They wondered why would the king court infidels during Sunni (Saudi)-Shia (Iranian) Cold War.

The reasoning behind the king's move shows he actually has the best interests of the Sunnis in mind.  In 1970 the countries breakdown was roughtly 70% Shia and 30% Sunni.  Now the breakdown is roughly 45% Shia, 25% Sunni, and 30% Christian.  These mostly Catholic Christians are overlooked because they are non-citizen guest workers.  However, the king knows that while traditional Christian groups are being cleansed out of the northern Middle East, the guest worker population is causing a growth of Christianity in the Arabian Peninsula including in Bahrain.  The balance of power in Bahrain becomes 55%-45% in favor of the anti-Shia bloc if the guest workers are swayed to cement an alliance with the Christian-friendly Sunni Monarchy.  Shia would likely become even more vocal of guest workers if this happens.  This in turn would only further solidify Sunni leadership and Christians in Bahrain.

An alliance between the Sunni minority and a Christian population where many guest workers have spent 30+ years of their lives in Bahrain would help suppress any Shia revolt.  However, radical Sunnis may force the king to withdraw the offer and ironically cut the Sunnis from a very big ally.

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