Catholicism and Economic Life in the Arabian Peninsula (Part 2)

In my previous post I examined some of the ways in which the Catholic Church in the Arabian Peninsula helps cultivate skills and competencies that enable its members to achieve successful economic outcomes. A second set of resources it offers could be called ideational resources — ideals, attitudes, beliefs, and values that have a long-standing, habitual nature. Here, the classic example of how ideas or values contribute to economic outcomes is Weber’s argument, in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Does Catholicism impart a distinctive “Catholic ethic” among its adherents in Gulf cities?

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Catholicism and Economic Life in the Arabian Peninsula (Part 1)

The Arabian/Persian Gulf region is home to some of the fastest-developing cities in the world. In my research into these new hubs of global capitalism, one issue I examine is the role of Catholicism. While official statistics on foreign populations are not available, estimates from various sources (including embassies and churches) place the Catholic population in these cities at — astonishingly — between 10-30 percent, with a contributing factor being the increasing Filipino emigration to cities such as Dubai and Doha. One crucial way Catholicism shapes modern life in the Gulf is by serving as a source of “technical” competencies or cultural capital—technical in the sense of having to do with techniques, skills, and practices that contribute to economic outcomes and social mobility.

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Interreligious Dialogue and the State in Muslim Modernity

The Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue (DICID) recently held its ninth annual conference on October 24-26, 2011. The only major interfaith dialogue event in the region, the conference is a state-sponsored event that brings together prominent scholars, practitioners, government officials, and interested publics, and aims to improve understanding and cooperation between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.Inadvertently, the conference proved a powerful display of the promise and limits of state-sponsored “Muslim modernity.”

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Indian Catholics Responding to Globalization

When I first began researching call center workers in India, I was surprised to come across an article on a British news website about how the Catholic Archbishop of Bangalore had expressed public concern about rapidly mushrooming call centers. While most people outside India assume that call centers and “outsourcing” must be an unqualified boon for the country, the Archbishop fretted about their impact on the lifestyles of Indian youth.

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Catholics in the Call Center

In 2005, I visited Bangalore for the first time in ten years, and was astonished at the major facelift the city had undergone. The once quiet and easy-going “garden city” was now a thriving metropolis, dotted with an ever-growing number of shopping malls, coffee shops, glass-paneled office towers, KFC and McDonald’s franchises, and Pepsi billboards. Besides these usual symbols heralding the arrival of globalization, one new development struck me as peculiar: the outsourcing industry. I soon discovered that outsourcing highlights some of the important tensions between new modes of secularity and new religious modernities—including Catholic ones—emerging around the world.

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Catholic Contributions to Modern Peacebuilding

Some people say that Catholic Social Teaching is the Church’s Best Kept Secret. If that is true, Catholic peacebuilding may be Catholic Social Teaching’s Best Kept Secret. From South Sudan and Central America to Congo and Colombia, the Catholic Church is a powerful force for peace, freedom, justice and reconciliation. But that impressive and courageous peacebuilding work of the Catholic community is often unknown, unheralded and under-analyzed.

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Lessons for Interreligious Dialogue Today

I concluded my last post on Manila 1960 with two questions: Why did Manila 1960 take place under the peculiar circumstances described so far? And why did Manila 1960 remain a forgotten episode in the history of Interreligious Dialogue? Let me answer with two simple statements: Interreligious Dialogue is inseparable from the political field, and Manila 1960 was forgotten because a new religious elite rose to take control of Interreligious Dialogue.

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Interreligious Dialogue, Too, Can Marginalize

In my previous post on Manila 1960 as a forgotten yet fascinating chapter in the history of Interreligious Dialogue, I made a distinction between hagiography and unofficial history. In a way, I learned about the 1960 conference on “The Present Impact of the Great Religions of the World upon the Orient and the Occident” the “wrong” way around—by first getting acquainted with the unofficial story and only later with the somewhat more flattering self-portrait.

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Inequality, Masculinity & Modernity

In the weeks and months after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, speculation swirled over the attackers’ possible motivations. The pseudo-religious zeal of Mohammed Atta’s final letter to his comrades was only one aspect of it. Attention also centered on the attackers’ possible socioeconomic motivations. Theirs was not a problem of absolute poverty, of course, but of relative poverty. In their new environs, they could never quite fit in culturally—or perhaps religiously, morally, or spiritually—given the marginalization of immigrants that persists in many European countries even among immigrants who aspire to “assimilate.”

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