In Civility Report 2013, Peace Worldwide Organization Founder Mehdi Alavi reviews all countries within the United Nations and provides human rights, democracy, peace, and civility scores for 128 countries. We urge you to read Civility Report 2013 today.
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. Africa covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area. With 1.0 billion people, it accounts for about 14.72% of the world's human population.
Americas are lands in the Western hemisphere of the world. In English, the plural form of the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions.
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. With approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population.
Europe is the world's second-smallest continent by surface area, covering about 10,180,000 square kilometres or 2% of the Earth's surface and about 6.8% of its land area. Yet the borders of Europe, can incorporate cultural and political elements.
The Obama Administration has embarked to arm so called “moderates” consisting of the insurgents and foreign fighters in Syria. Like in the Cold War, the United States is entering another proxy war. This time, on one side are the United States and her allies and on the other side are Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah. What have been left out of the equation are the people of Syria, nearly 100,000 have been killed and over 1.5 million have been displaced. Arming more people in Syria would not resolve the issue at hand, but would further increase the degree of carnage and destruction. What is most needed in Syria is peace!
While the United States plans to arm the “moderate” factions in Syria through CIA covert operations, her allies Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are supporting Islamist factions, such as the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, who are determined to turn Syria into another authoritarian state like Saudi Arabia. These states will ultimately be the losers. The experienced foreign fighters will eventually return home and become a serious threat to the authoritarian regimes in the region, particularly, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
This bloodbath must stop! In August 2011, Obama said that “the time has come for President Assad to step aside.” This desire should not be accomplished by a bloody warfare that could eventually involve American forces on the ground like that in Vietnam. The United States could convene a peace conference that provides some incentives for the Assad regime to step aside in favor of a democratic political institution where the Alawis, Shias, Christians, Jews, and other minorities could enjoy equal rights.
Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.
I HAVE been a practicing Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.
This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.
At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.
The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.
In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.
The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family.
It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices - as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.
I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge. But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy - and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.
The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. We have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights and have recently published a statement that declares: “The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.”
We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasise the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world’s major faiths share.
The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place - and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence - than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.
I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn’t until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.
The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.
Jimmy Carter was president of the United States from 1977 to 1981.