Excerpt: This study explores the dynamics of post-Soviet religious life in the Komi Republic, in Northern Russia. After the demise of communism and the Soviet Union, the question of identity has been a central concern in Russia as well as in the Komi Republic. Consequently, religion has acquired an important social role as it is a means of creating and sustaining identity and culture. Religions which are perceived as “new” or “foreign”, however, have gained more and more negative attention since the mid 1990’s. Following the religious freedom law in 1990, numerous (locally) “new” religious groups began appearing. These faiths were introduced and promoted by foreign missionaries. One Russian peculiarity is that some of these religious groups, which are quite mainstream in other parts of the world, are termed “new”, despite their often actually having had a considerable history within Russia as well. Protestant Christianity and especially its evangelical offshoots are probably most notable examples of religions holding this peculiar position and being surrounded by popular controversies.
Abstract: Grounded in a theoretical debate between anthropological studies on Roma/Gypsies and anthropological studies of Christianity, the focus of this thesis is on the experience of social and religious life among members of a traditional minority in Finland, the Finnish Kaale/Finnish Roma, a population of approximately 13.000 people living in Finland and Sweden. Over the past decades, the processes of urbanisation and sedentarisation have led to shifts in the ways in which the social lives of Kaale families are lived. A shift towards individualisation is interlinked with the continuous importance placed on family and kin belonging, which come together in a re-assessment of people’s central attachments in the world. At the same time, over the same period of time, a large number of this population have converted to Pentecostal and charismatic movements in the country, leading to subtle changes in the shape of social relations within and outside their own community: between believers and non-believers, between Kaale and non-Kaale. Making use of participant observation, interviews, conversion stories and individual life histories among Finnish Kaale living in the capital city of Helsinki and in Eastern parts of the country, this ethnography provides an insight into the multiple, overlapping and complex ways in which Kaale belonging is understood and into the ways in which Pentecostal religious life takes shape among born-again Kaale. Furthermore, looking specifically at the practice of Evangelism and missionary work, which defines the life of Pentecostal Kaale believers, the role of faith as an enhanced engagement with the world is analysed. A conversation therefore emerges also on the role of Pentecostal belonging in mobilising believers in relation to the world around them and, more specifically, on the way in which Pentecostal faith provides an avenue for a further social engagement and social mobilisation of individual Kaale believers.
Excerpt: This chapter sets out to explore the identity of contemporary Catholic English Benedictine monasticism in relation to the wider society of which it is part. Contrary to the characterisation of monasteries as an anti-social ‘flight from the world’, I focus on the many ways in which monastic communities exist in continuity with wider society and secular norms. This performance of proximity – grounding monastic identity in the continuity between the monastic and lay life, rather than the sharp contrasts – is illustrated in three domains: food, kinship, and work.
Abstract: Religion is an important marker of identity for India’s Anglo-Indians. It distinguishes them within the principally non-Christian context and is integral to socializing youth to their distinct Anglo-Indian culture and heritage. This can be observed in Anglo-Indian practice—attending Christian schools, church-going, celebrating religious festivals, making pilgrimages—which forms a significant part of a matrix through which young Anglo-Indians learn how to perform their Anglo-Indianness. Our recent research (2013–2014) looked at the role of religion in the lives of Anglo-Indians intergenerationally and transnationally, through a survey, interviews, and participant observation. The results suggest that the performed religiosity of Anglo-Indian youth in India yields certain benefits for this group. It constitutes a capital which has the potential to make an enormous difference to their lives—socially, culturally, and otherwise. For example, Christian practice provides them with access to élite Christian educational institutions and the career possibilities that follow from such education. This article describes our research, focusing upon the findings related to Anglo-Indian youth in India. In particular, it argues that in various ways, the practice of Christianity both acts and is recognized by young Anglo-Indians as a source of capital in their lives, which is not to say that religion is practised for the purpose of acquiring capital. Rather, religious practice is a part of being Anglo-Indian that in India accrues capital.
My Identity is ‘Indigenous Australian’ and ‘Christian’ and it’s Not An Oxymoron: Urban Indigenous Australian Pentecostal Christianity
Tanya Riches (Fuller Theological Seminary)
Within post-mission Australia, the state effectively manages perceptions of Indigenous peoples (both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) through the media, which often perpetuates rather than contradicting false stereotypes. In a contemporary neoliberal global political regime that values efficiency and rationality, Australia’s first nations are often characterized as homogenous, inefficient and non-rational. Recent publicity over threatened closure of over one hundred and fifty remote rural communities provides a case in point. In statements to the public, Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett defended his position, citing drunkenness, domestic violence, lack of work ethic, and even general untidiness as reasons for the removal of Australians from their land. In this way, cabinet ministers at both state and federal levels capitalize upon the general population’s ignorance about Australia’s Indigenous peoples. However, there are hundreds of Indigenous nations and cultures, including the islands of the Tiwi and Torres Strait (Rolls, Johnson, and Reynolds 2010). While connection to land as a central feature best represents Indigenous cultural and spiritual continuity, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples live and work in Australia’s urban cities. And, although spirituality is as for any group, highly various in practice, the ABS reports 73% of Australia’s Indigenous population self-identify as Christian. Continue reading →
Abstract: This article explores the quest among contemporary pentecostal migrants from mainland Tanzania in Zanzibar to become “saved” Christians. The analysis of a set of techniques and processes applied in developing and keeping faith reveals high levels of suspicion and doubt connected to the perceived presence of evil in the Zanzibari environment, which, in turn, is linked to a fear of losing salvation. With Christian minorities recently having their premises attacked in connection with sociopolitical hostilities in the predominantly Muslim setting of Zanzibar, the case in this article highlights how the context of violence is negotiated in pentecostal modes of suspicion toward the other while, at the same time, it bolsters spiritual growth. This illustrates how a pentecostal ethos intermingles with and provides migrants with ways of interpreting the contemporary setting in which religious belonging is at the fore in present-day calls for Zanzibari political sovereignty and inclusive Union politics.
Excerpt: “Christianity in India has a long, complex and varied history. It accounts for 24,080,016 or 2.3 percent of the total population and is the second largest minority religion in India. Two-thirds of this population is Roman Catholic and almost 14 million Christians are Dalits ….In recent years, the rhetoric and violence of a muscular Hindu nationalism have attempted simultaneously to ‘minoritize’ and make foreign both Christianity and Islam in opposition to an idea Hindu nation ….”
“Neither self-transformation or socio-economic gain fully motivates conversion, and both factors work differently according to the context. Conversion, then, can be a ‘process of dissent’ or ‘tool’ of dissent rather than an ‘end result’ … Likewise, Catholicism can be strategically used within a ‘pragmatic ideology’ as ‘subversive marginality’ …. We have suggested that Catholicism neither was nor is a monolithic religion but is characterized buy a diversity of practices operating at multiple levels across a variety of cultural settings through a range of historical periods. It is a form of identity as well as spirituality for many of its converts, operating in an immensely complicated political field and contributing to ongoing structural transformation and the every-changing cultural mosaic of India.”
Publisher’s Description: From diverse international and multi-disciplinary perspectives, the contributors to this volume analyze the experiences, challenges and responses of Orthodox churches to the foundational transformations associated with the dissolution of the USSR. Those transformations heightened the urgency of questions about Orthodox identity and relations with the world – states, societies, and the religious and cultural other.
The volume focuses on six distinct concepts: Orthodox identity, perceptions of the ‘other,’ critiques of the West, European values, interreligious progress, and new and uncharted challenges that have arisen with the expansion of Russian Orthodox activity.
Introduction; Andrii Krawchuk
PART I: THE ECCLESIAL SELF: TRADITIONAL IDENTITIES AND THE CHALLENGES OF PLURALISM
1. Russian Orthodoxy between State and Nation; Jennifer Wasmuth
2. Morality and Patriotism: Continuity and Change in Russian Orthodox Occidentalism since the Soviet Era; Alfons Brüning
3. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church at the Crossroads: Between Nationalism and Pluralism; Daniela Kalkandjieva
4. The Search for a new Church Consciousness in current Russian Orthodox Discourse; Anna Briskina-Müller
PART II: PERCEPTIONS OF THE RELIGIOUS OTHER: DIFFERENCE AND CONVERGENCE
5. Between Admiration and Refusal – Roman Catholic Perceptions of Orthodoxy; Thomas Bremer
6. Apostolic Continuity in Contradiction to Liberalism? Fields of Tension between Churches in the East and the West; Dagmar Heller
7. The Image of the Roman-Catholic Church in the Orthodox Press of Romania, 1918-1940; Ciprian Ghișa
8. ‘Oh, East is East, and West is West…:’ The Character of Orthodox – Greek-Catholic Discourse in Ukraine and its Regional Dimensions; Natalia Kochan
PART III: ORTHODOX CRITIQUES OF THE WEST
9. ‘The Barbarian West’: A Form of Orthodox Christian Anti-Western Critique; Vasilios N. Makrides
10. Anti-western Theology in Greece and Serbia Today; Julia Anna Lis
11. The Russian Orthodox Church on the Values of Modern Society; Regina Elsner
PART IV: ENCOUNTERS WITH EUROPEAN VALUES
12. Eastern Orthodoxy and the Processes of European Integration; Tina Olteanu and Dorothée de Nève
13. The Russian Orthodox Church’s Interpretation of European Legal Values (1990-2011); Mikhail Zherebyatyev
14. The Russian Orthodox Church in a new Situation in Russia: Challenges and Responses; Olga Kazmina
PART V: PROSPECTS FOR RELIGIOUS ENCOUNTER, CONSENSUS AND COOPERATION
15. Neopatristic Synthesis and Ecumenism: Toward the ‘Reintegration’ of Christian Tradition; Matthew Baker
16. Justification in the Theological Conversations Between Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Protestant Churches in Germany; Christoph Mühl
17. Constructing Interreligious Consensus in the Post-Soviet Space: the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations; Andrii Krawchuk
PART VI: EMERGING ENCOUNTERS AND NEW CHALLENGES IN POST-SOVIET CENTRAL ASIA
18. Muslim-Orthodox Relations in Russia: Contextual Readings of A Common Word ; Andrii Krawchuk
19. Radical Islam in the Ferghana Valley; Galina M. Yemelianova
20. Uzbek Islamic Extremists in the Civil Wars of Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan: From Radical Islamic Awakening in the Ferghana Valley to Terrorism with Islamic Vocabulary in Waziristan; Michael Fredholm
Abstract: Post-Soviet Central Asia has inherited a set of circumstances conducive to the revitalization of religion. The renewal of Muslim awareness and identity in Central Asia may not be surprising, but the growth of Christianity is, especially in its Protestant form within indigenous Muslim communities. This article, based on qualitative field research, reviews one example of this development: the process of conversion to Protestant Christianity among Muslim Kyrgyz in Kyrgyzstan. A prominent aspect of this social movement has been the ways in which Kyrgyz Christians have entered into a dynamic process of engaging with issues of identity and what it means to be Kyrgyz – a process that has sought to locate their new Christian religious identity within, rather than on the margins of, familial and ethnic identity, and one that challenges the normative understanding of Kyrgyz identity: that to be Kyrgyz is to be Muslim. While providing the context for Kyrgyz conversion, this discussion primarily focuses on the way Kyrgyz Christians utilize a number of different discursive strategies to contest normative Kyrgyz identity constructs and to legitimize a Kyrgyz Christian identity.
Abstract: This article examines the changing relationship between religion, secularism, national politics, and identity formation among Lebanese Christians in Senegal. Notre Dame du Liban, the first Lebanese religious institution in West Africa, draws on its Lebanese “national” character to accommodate Lebanese Maronite Catholic and Greek Orthodox Christians in Dakar, remaining an icon of “Lebanese” religion, yet departing from religious sectarianism in Lebanon. As such, transnational religion can vary from national religion, gaining new resonances and reinforcing a wider “secular” ethno-national identity.