A few weeks ago, Barbara Walter noted (on this blog) the potential for mass violence in Burundi. While most analysts agree that talk of genocide misunderstands the political dynamics of the current conflict, the situation remains fraught with opportunities for further escalation. The overnight dumping of bodies in the streets of Bujumbura continues, independent media has all but disappeared, and scores of unaccompanied child refugees are pouring into neighboring Tanzania.
In the midst of such instability, the Pope’s recent visit to Kenya, Uganda, and CAR underscores the potential of the Catholic Church to serve as both mediator and unifier across the continent. Since 1980, Africa’s Catholic population has exploded – increasing by 238% percent over the past 35 years. The prevalence of Catholic schools, hospitals, and clinics across much of the region provides a unique opportunity for the Church to serve as a stable institution and service provider in the midst of conflict. Towards this end, the Pope’s time in CAR included a visit to a local mosque, a ride in the Popemobile with a local imam, and a message of unity and tolerance.
In many ways, the Paris attacks ushered in a renewed sense of urgency to find some sort of solution to the migrant crisis. New deals have been reached with Turkey while countries such as Hungary and Slovakia have filed court challenges against the proposed quota system for relocating migrants. In the midst of widespread American backlash at the idea of accepting Syrian refugees, a recent letter from American rabbis encouraged officials to offer protection to some of the world’s most vulnerable.
As the fight against ISIS heats up, it’s tempting to ignore the world’s most deadly group, Boko Haram. However, recent attacks in Niger demonstrate a need to curtail the group’s expansionary ambitions. On a positive note, advances have been made as evidenced in a recent Cameroonian advance that freed 900 hostages and captured one of the group’s regional leaders, as well as the Nigerian military’s raid on a secret tunnel in Sambisa.