Challenging Experiences, Challenging Assumptions

A few days ago, a Muslim named Samer attempted to proselytize me. It has undoubtedly been the best experience of my study abroad trip.

He spoke of loving Jesus and women. He softly sung the Qur’an to recall answers to our questions. He even teared up at one point. He was genuine, passionate, even loving.

To the casual Christian student, the scene would have appeared oddly inverted. To the casual American, it would have seemed strange, at odds with the running commentary of the popular media.

Studying abroad in a predominantly Muslim country – 97.2% Muslim to be exact – I have found many of my basic assumptions challenged.

For example, another Muslim friend I spoke to asked if I was sure I was a Christian when I told him I did not have a priest. Another convincingly argued that America indirectly funded ISIS, so detrimentally have they tarnished the name of Islam.

Sometimes it is difficult living in a predominantly Muslim country simply because many Muslims have so many different basic assumptions. The Arabic language is infused with Islamic understandings of the world. The two most common words, inshallah and yallah, invoke the name of God. Sometimes I feel the very air I breathe is Muslim.

I have realized the first step in the journey from foreigner to family is understanding each of our basic assumptions. Without understanding which square I stand on and which my neighbor stands on, I cannot move with any purpose toward relationship. Even the basic words of our respective languages carry fundamental assumptions that fly far over any foreigner’s head.

That is why I’ve committed myself to learning whatever small portion of the Arabic language I can. In this world where words I don’t understand are saturated with meaning, it is easy to miss the beauty of the society I live in.

One example is the phrase “Allah yatiik ilafyeh,” or “God give you strength.” I say this phrase to taxi drivers when I want them to stop the cab or to my friends when they are overwhelmed with homework. I told my Iraqi friend I went to bed at two in the morning and he said, “Allah yatiik ilafyeh.” God give you strength.

Another is “ysallim idayk,” or “God preserve your hands.” A waiter hands me my food and I say, “Ysallim idayk.” God preserve your hands. Or the ever-present “ahlan, ahlan!” My family, my family.

Each of these phrases has an automatic response. They are ingrained into the speaker’s mind and inform his/her way of life.

The intentionality of each word makes me question the English words I use, especially with Arabs who draw connections between our most common words and their
original meaning.

I said “that sucks” the other day, and my Christian Arab friend asked what the phrase meant. I didn’t really have
an explanation.

Slowly I realize, experiencing new culture sets a mirror in front of the foreigner. It calls into question even the most habitual phrases and the most common assumptions. And it refines me, sometimes painfully. From the insignificant to the paramount, it refines me.

Former Namibian President is Recipient of World’s Biggest Prize

On March 2, 2015 the Mo Ibrahim Foundation officially awarded former Namibia president Hifikepunye Pohamba the 2014 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership.

According to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, the Ibrahim Prize is “the largest annually awarded prize in the world, consisting of $5 million over ten years and $200,000 per year for life thereafter.”

The foundation maintains that the recipient of the Ibrahim Prize must be a democratically elected Executive Head of State of an African country, must have left peaceably left off office in the last three years, and must have “demonstrated exceptional leadership” among other qualifications.

Hifikepunye Pohamba was one of the founding members of SWAPO, the lead party for Namibian independence from South Africa. He was jailed in 1962 for political activism against the South African government.

Pohamba later became Namibia’s second president in 2004 and was re-elected to a second, five-year term in 2009. In 2015, Pohamba was peacefully succeeded by Hage Geingob.

Salim Ahmed Salim, the Chair of the Prize Committee, says, “During the decade of Hifikepunye Pohamba’s presidency, Namibia’s reputation has been cemented as a well-governed, stable and inclusive democracy with strong media freedom and respect for  human rights.”

Mo Ibrahim, the founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, also commented on Pohamba’s accomplishments. “He has served his country since its independence and his leadership has renewed his people’s trust in democracy.”

Pohamba intends to use the prize money to fund the Hifikepunye Pohamba Foundation, a source of money to encourage underprivileged youth to pursue higher education.

Pohamba is only the third leader to have received the prestigious award in the last seven years. The last recipient was Pedro de Verona Rodrigues Pires of Cape Verde in 2011.

 

 

Major Changes Coming to Structure of ASC

ASC recently announced they will be adding to new positions to the ASC Central Committee. In addition to the six positions already established, ASC is adding “Vice President of Commuter Life and  “Vice President of Multicultural Life.”

These positions have been long overdue according to Jake Vanier, the current president of ASC.

“These positions are necessary because they will be representing groups on campus who have traditionally been underrepresented in ASC,” says Vanier. “These groups can tend to feel disconnected and we needed to address that.”

Four commuter representatives will serve under the vice president of commuter life and two multicultural and two international representatives will serve under the vice president of multicultural life.

Supposedly, these eight additional representatives will also vote on issues during regular representative meetings. Outside of their voting responsibilities, they will serve under the vice president of commuter life and the vice president of multicultural life, respectively.

After much deliberation, the Central Committee has decided these positions will be decided through a hiring committee consisting of current Central Committee members, next year’s Central Committee members, and a couple of faculty advisors.

“It was the longest conversation we had,” says Vanier of the debate between election and hiring for the inaugural year. “In the end, we wanted the people who filled these positions to be passionate and qualified.”

After the 2015-2016 school year, the 10 new positions will be voted on by the students of GFU along with the other ASC positions.

Vanier is confident these changes will be effective for a multitude of reasons.

“I think the reason this is going to work is we are starting now. Also, we are working alongside the ASC Central Committee of next year. The new team is bringing the ideas, and the current team is bringing the experience.”

Vanier also mentioned possible changes could include splitting Coffin and Edwards, Pennington and the suites, in order that the distinctive living areas may have better representation in ASC.

In a separate conversation, ASC is considering even more changes to their decision making process. Possible alterations to ASC could include a greater allocation of power to the representatives by allowing them to take on voting responsibilities for fund proposals.

The hope is these changes would allow the ASC Central Committee to engage in more advocacy for the students  while also utilizing the role of the representatives.

 

 

Muslim Leaders in the U.S. Attempt to Counteract Extremist Influence

On Feb. 19, President Barack Obama delivered a speech addressing the heightened threat the Islamic State now poses to vulnerable Muslims worldwide.

The speech was prompted by the elevated tensions in the Middle East following the execution of a Jordanian pilot and 21 Egyptian Christians.

The Jordanian pilot Moath al-Zarqawi was being held hostage by the extremist group and a negotiation exchanging the al-Zarqawi for two ranking members of ISIS. When Jordan requested proof their pilot was still alive, ISIS sent a video of al-Zarqawi being burned alive.

In response, Jordan executed the two prisoners and unleashed a fury of air raids on key ISIS military depots.

Similarly, Egypt launched an offensive against a branch of ISIS in Libya following the release of a tape containing the grisly murder of 211 Egyptian Christians.

These events, all occurring within the past month, have forced President Obama to implore the Muslim community to undertake the burden of counteracting the lure of Islamic extremism.

“So just as leaders like myself reject the notion that terrorists like ISIL genuinely represent Islam, Muslim leaders need to do more to discredit the notion that our nations are determined to suppress Islam, that there’s an inherent clash in civilizations,” Obama said during the Summit on Countering Violent Extremism.

Muslim religious leaders everywhere have responded to Obama’s appeal but they have recently found neutralizing ISIS’ recruiting machine is a taller task than anyone imagined.

Imam Magid, an imam, reported to the New York Times, “The recruiters wouldn’t leave [the boy] alone. They were on social media with him at all hours, they tweet him at night, first thing in the morning. If i talk to him for an hour, they undo him in two hours.”

Many Muslims around the world have been swayed by the relentless assault. The New York Times reports approximately 1,000 French citizens have gone to Syria to fight alongside the Sunni extremists. Close to 150 Americans and 600 English citizens have also attempted to travel to the Middle East within the past year.

As Muslim leaders continue to fight the extremist influence at home, the terror in the Middle East continues to afflict thousands of Arabs daily.

 

Israeli Prime Minister’s Speech Reveals Partisan Divide

In what has been considered the most politically charged speech by a foreign official in years, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly opposed President Barack Obama’s nuclear treaty deals with Iran before a joint session of Congress.

In his speech, Prime Minister Netanyahu declared President Obama’s potential deal with the Iranians a “bad deal.”

“This deal won’t be a farewell to arms,” Netanyahu says. “It would be farewell to arms control.”

Currently, the Obama administration is attempting to negotiate a deal with Iran that would allow an international organization including Russia, France, China, Britain, and Germany to limit and inspect Iran’s nuclear power development in exchange for the removal of economic sanctions.

Netanyahu claimed the deal would only start “a countdown to a potential nuclear nightmare.”

The prime minister would rather the United States break off any negotiations with Iran until the country “stops aggression against its neighbors,” “stops supporting terrorism around the world,” and “stops threatening the annihilation of [his] country, Israel.”

According to the New York Times, Obama did not watch the speech and instead held a video conference with European leaders about Ukraine.

Despite a bipartisan support for Israel, Netanyahu’s appeal to the United States forged a deeper rift between Republicans and Democrats.

Conspicuously absent from the chamber were 53 Democrats.

Nancy Pelosi, the leading House Democrat, claimed she was “saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States as part of the P5 +1 nations” and “by the condescension toward our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran and our broader commitment to preventing nuclear proliferation.”

After reading a transcript of the speech, President Obama commented on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech claiming the leading Israeli official did not offer a plausible alternative to the growing threat of nuclear power in Iran.

“The alternative that the prime minister offers is no deal, in which case Iran will immediately begin once again pursuing its nuclear program, accelerate its nuclear program, without us having any insight into what they’re doing, and without constraint,” says Obama.

Back home, the responses to the prime minister’s speech were of mixed feelings with Netanyahu’s chief rival for the prime minister position, Isaac Herzog, describing the speech as “a harsh blow to American-Israeli relations.”

 

Introducing ASC President Candidates: Mitzi Martinez and Kyle Webster

ASC election season has arrived and two tickets are at the top of the ballot.

Mitzi Martinez and Michael Peterson, and Kyle Webster and Erika Lopez, are the two tandems running for ASC’s president and vice president position for the 2015-2016 school year.

Webster, a junior double-majoring in Psychology and Youth Ministries, and Lopez, a junior double-majoring in Accounting and Spanish, first connected two years ago during their internships for the office of Spiritual and Intercultural Life (SPIL).

“When Kyle and I started working together two years ago in SPIL,” says Lopez, “it was apparent that we worked well together.”

Webster agrees with his running mate. “Whereas I am very relational, Erika is very administrative. We balance and compliment each other in ways that leads to great productivity and great growth.”

Webster and Lopez believe they have a distinct advantage considering they have been involved in many leadership opportunities other than ASC. In addition to their involvement in SPIL, both Webster and Lopez began meeting with Jake Vanier and Madison Tarpley, the current ASC president and vice president, to understand the inner-workings and needs of ASC.

To make ASC “truly transparent,” Webster and Lopez hope to implement monthly town hall meetings and provide a short video summary of the Central Committee’s weekly meetings.

On the flip side of the coin, Mitzi Martinez and Michael Peterson are spearheading their campaign with the motto “Advocacy through Action.”

“We believe that the best way to make voices heard is to have tangible actions that prove real results,” says Martinez.

Both Martinez and Peterson have experience coming into the 2015 election. Martinez currently serves as the vice president of representation while Peterson sits as the campus representative of houses and apartments east.

“I decided to run with Mitzi for two main reasons. Firstly, she has experience being on ASC Central Committee, something that I feel is vital to having a strong president,” says Peterson. “Secondly, she is very passionate about George Fox and the student community.”

Martinez, a junior business management major, and Peterson, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, hope to employ the skills they have acquired during their time serving the student community at George Fox University.

The Martinez ticket aims to allow easier access to campus representatives and student funds such as the Academic Pursuit Fund, Student Project Fund, and Community Life Fund.

Voting for ASC is available starting February 11th and will continue until February 15th.

Republicans Win Big in 2014 Midterm Elections

The votes for the 2016 midterm elections are in and the nation has spoken.

The Republicans have taken control of the Senate, widened their lead in the House, and retained their gubernatorial seats in hotly contested states in what is being described as a massacre of the Democratic party.

Before the election, the Republicans magic number was six, the number of net seats in the Senate to be obtained if the Republicans were to wrest control away from the Democrats. They were able to win eight contested seats, with Louisiana to have a run-off on Dec. 6.

Former Democratic Senate seats in Alaska, Montana, Colorado, South Dakota, Iowa, Arkansas, West Virginia, and North Carolina were washed away by the G.O.P. wave that rolled over America.

Similarly, in the House, the Republican party made gains of eleven seats while seven others are currently too close to call. The House now stands with 244 Republicans (previously 233), 184 Democrats (previously 199), and seven undecided.

In the 2014 gubernatorial elections, Republicans had to defend 24 of their seats as opposed to only 14 for the Democrats. The Republicans managed to only lose Pennsylvania to Tom Wolf, a Democrat, but were successful in stealing four governor’s seats in Massachusetts, Maryland, Arkansas, and Illinois, President Obama’s home state.

Many see this election as a repudiation of the Obama administration.

Republicans around the nation piggy-backed on the general discontent of the government and were unashamedly aligning their Democratic counterparts with the current Obama administration.

In the past six years, Republicans have been criticized for their waning ground game but were able to approach this year’s elections with a predatory instinct of the limping Obama administration.

It paid off.

The redistribution of the congressional seats has President Obama facing a Congress dominated by the Republicans in both the Senate and the House for the final two years of his presidency.

During a statement issued on Nov. 5, Obama underscored the fact that, despite the deck stacked against him, he will not stop “doing the best job [he] can to keep this country safe [and prosperous].”

In an election that was defined by low voter turnout, many political scientists are attempting to discern what implications these elections have for the 2016 elections. Democrats are banking on the fact that only 33.9% of Americans voted during the 2014 elections while Republicans are hoping these recent elections are a foretaste of the changing attitudes of Americans everywhere.

 

The Campbells Named Lip Sync Champions, Again

George Fox University held the Annual Lip Sync Competition on Friday, November 14.

This year, three groups–Lettuce Turnip the Beet, Swing in Sync, and defending champions The Campbells–competed. In the end, The Campbells were able to retain their title as George Fox Lip Sync Champions.

Andrew Kaye, a returning member of the Campbells commented on their first place finish: “It felt like the first time I ate fondue. The cheese had a familiar taste but a new flavor.”

The Campbells were able to capture the audience’s votes through their unique presentation which included an on-screen interview of member Eli Caudillo that helped synthesize their thirteen minute presentation.

The overall competition attempted to incorporate elements of The Tonight Show and American Idol vis-à-vis mini competitions, audience involvement, and a trio of faculty members posing as judges. The three faculty members, gave their input after each skit or interactive game.

At the end of the show, the winner of the competition was chosen by audience members who were told to send their votes via text message.

According to Moriah Kimmer, the vice president of student activities and programs, the Lip Sync Competition was a success.

“All the performances brought a different feel to the stage, the lighting was amazing, and we had a great turn out.  I think we had about 900 students there.  My hope is that it got people excited for performing in it next year,” says Kimmer.

However, some students were a little put off by the multilayered presentation.

“The overall experience was good, but it could have been a lot less confusing had they been more organized and explanatory,” says Emily Lucca, a junior at GFU. “One of my friends went on stage thinking he was going to dance, but [the host] said they were out of order and had him play ‘Name that Song.'”

Emily went on to say that, despite the confusion, she thoroughly enjoyed herself and is considering entering in the competition next year.

 

 

 

Terrorist Attacks in Canada Mark Growing Reach of ISIS

A series of shootings rang through Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada on Oct. 22.

At approximately 9:52 a.m. Michael Zehaf-Bibeau drove up to the Canadian National War Memorial, shot the guard on duty, and proceeded to storm Parliament until he was gunned down by the ceremonial sergeant-at-arms.

In an address to the nation, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, “This week’s events are a grim reminder that Canada is not immune to the types of terrorist attacks we have seen elsewhere around the world.”

Bibeau was a radical and recent convert to Islam. In fact, Bibeau’s passport was revoked as he was put on the no-fly list due to suspicions that he was part of the Muslim extremists attempting to go join ISIS in the Middle East.

The only two deaths during this attack were Bibeau himself and Captain Nathan Cirillo, who was standing guard.

After shots were confirmed on Parliament Hill, many members of Parliament, including the PM, were barricaded within rooms until evening when the ‘all clear’ was given.

This was the second attack within days by a radical Muslim.

The first occurred on Oct. 20 when extremist Martin Couture-Rouleau ran over two Canadian soldiers, killing one and injuring another.

Police later shot and killed Rouleau in a high-speed chase.

Rouleau had converted to Islam in 2013 and was one of the 90 people being monitored by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for possible national security threats. Rouleau had been arrested earlier in June for suspected terrorist activity, but was released when there was not enough evidence to keep him.

Both of these attacks were described by Prime Minister Harper as “terrorist attacks.” They come at a time when Harper and the rest of Parliament are discussing anti-terrorist measures and possible responses to the possibility of Canadian Muslim extremists joining ISIS’ movement.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service has been given a lot of flak for not being able to stop the attacks, despite monitoring the individuals.

Canada, like many other nations in the world, is sadly confronted with the reach and magnitude of the situation in the Middle East as it is forced to deal with the bloody aftermath on its own soil.

 

ASC Central Committee Reviews Homecoming, Looks Ahead

On Monday, Oct. 20, the Central Committee convened to discuss upcoming events, proposals, expenditures, and and the approval of the 2014-2015 budget.

Recent ASC-led activities include the tailgate before the homecoming game, the John Mark McMillan concert, and the World’s Got Talent show.

“They were all really successful and the turnout was pretty good,” said Kimmer, the vice president of activities and programs.

Bigger events are on the way as Halloween approaches such as the Fall Carnival, student concerts, and the Silent Disco. Hints of a hay ride, photobooth, and, possibly, a pie eating contest circulated when discussing the upcoming Fall Carnival.

Also confirmed during the meeting was the formation of a fencing club. There are currently three other clubs in the pipework that will be considered by the Central Committee in future meetings.

One of the main jobs of the Central Committee is to balance the money allotted to them by GFU. In the meeting, the budget was officially confirmed at $430,299.

At first glance, this may seem like a large amount of money, but the Central Committee has divvied up the lump sum into manageable categories, such as the Academic Need Fund.

The Academic Need Fund is “used to aid students in furthering their education, spiritual growth, and involvement pursuit onsite and/or offsite of George Fox University,” according to the ASC website. During the meeting, the committee was discussing whether to base funding on a case-by-case basis or have a specific set of stipulations for future Central Committees to follow.

When discussing the possibility of matching funds, Martinez said, “When I received my funding a few years ago, I felt like I was handed something I should’ve worked for.”

Off that comment, the Central Committee continued to discuss guidelines that would maintain their purpose in assisting the students in their academic endeavors while also not compromising GFU’s values of hard work and accomplishment.

One point of contention during the meeting was GFU students’ concerns about the cost of a nine foot Bronze Bear. The Bronze Bear was confirmed by the Central Committee earlier in the year and has an approximate building cost of $70,000.

The Central Committee took students’ concerns into consideration and were open to reconsidering the building of the Bronze Bear.

“If we have viable opportunities to do some things students want, we have an obligation to listen to them,” said Vanier.

The Central Committee will reconvene on Monday, October 27 at 4 p.m.