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tv   Janine di Giovanni The Vanishing  CSPAN  December 12, 2021 11:00am-12:01pm EST

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america. >> find a complete schedule at or consult your program guide. now here's author janine di giovanni. >> jackson, sr. fellow janine di giovanni has been with us since 2018. she's a columnist of foreign policy and award-winning author and journalist. she has dedicated her life to courageous work in war zones, in conflicts and humanitarian crises around the world pictures reported extensively on the front line as a first-hand witness from the middle east, the balkans, across africa, and from south southeast in central asia, and we are so thankful to have her here at jackson teaching classes that draw upon these just incredible
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experiences. she was a recipient of the prestigious guggenheim fellowship which enabled her to travel and report extensively from gaza, iraq, syria and egypt for "the vanishing" in the book is a portrait of her own faith journey as a catholic reporter for more than 35 years, as well as the heartbreaking challenges confronting ancient christian communities in the middle east. and we're delighted to have janine with us today. i'm going to ask a few questions just to sort of hit it going by want to keep this informal and fun, so in the audience can feel free to raise your hand. on june deal free to type your questions and we'll get to those as we go. so janine thank you so much for being with us. >> such a pleasure. it's great to be here in person. >> i know. we all adjusting finally to having the in person interaction, and as much as we love assume, it's just so much
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fun to have an draw on the enthusiasm in the room, in addition to our virtual colleagues. janine, you were born and raised as a roman catholic. as you note in the book you worked as as a journalist inr zones for 35 years. just help us understand the role that your own personal faith has played, but not just in thinking about the book and why you want to hone in on these ancient christian community in the middle east, but how faith sustains you for doing what you do. it's not something we often talk about but you witnessed so many atrocities. you have been at great personal risk. what does faith mean to you? why is that an important element of study and what it means to be a journalist, from your perspective? >> it's a really good question because so many of the conflicts
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i reported, whether it's israel-palestine or the balkans, bosnia, kosovo, come down to where people say this is all about religion or faith. particularly in the middle east. and yet for me what i did on the ground as a witness and as a human rights investigator was very separate from the as a person. although when you live amongst come if you live, if you're living in a war zone, i think you very strongly right now by timing sarajevo pixels living undersea industry that was completely blockaded and was very scary. there was a shelling all the time. there was sniping. but the was a catholic church that was open throughout this and to get to it was actually the cathedral on marsala tedious trigger i don't know if anyone knows sorry a though, but to reach it was kind of great
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peril. you had to like runout sniper sally, snipers out it was the main thoroughfare the people called sniper sally because snipers who were on the hills above to basically target you, but yet when i would arrive there i found such solace and such peace in the middle of an incredibly tumultuous time and a very scary time. because essentially if you're living through war you are very much alone, even if their people around you. whether or not you live, you die, whether or not you get shot, whether or not join the wrong place at the wrong time i get hit by a piece of shrapnel. it's very individual. yet when others in this church i would look around and there were all kinds of people, young people, old ladies who were sitting very quietly at, if not at peace but praying for something. and i felt very much a part of
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the community, even though we didn't speak to each other. on christmas eve 1992, it was one of the most moving experiences i've ever had. it was midnight mass, christmas midnight mass, and also it was very representative because sorry a vote was being ripped apart and bosket was being ripped apart by nationalistic forces that wanted to say this is not multicultural place. we want it to be homogenous place, but yet it was there were catholics. they were christian orthodox. there were jews. there were muslims, and all mixes. seri abdul was a very cosmopolitan -- seri chrisi was told is kind and midnight mass but it couldn't be set admit that because the serbs would know they could talk at the church, part of targeting and shelling come try to get a
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lot of people in a place at the same time. so he sent out a a secret mese that it would happen at a certain time of day. i think was 7:00, but i went with a colleague of mine who is now dead. he was one of her journalist who was murdered in sierra leone when we were working there together on another terrible war. but the two of us climbed up to the top of the church and we saw the soldiers coming from the front lines, the catholic soldiers come like a kind of shuffled in and the way to receive communion. they were this rattail bunch because the bosnians had no defense force, so they were in sneakers, and this is an middle of winter, they had hunting rifles. they didn't have real rifles, and they came to receive communion and everyone saying silent night. it was just one of the most remarkable memories of my life.
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never i went in war zones whether it was baghdad, mosul, cairo, where ever i was, gaza, i always go to church is because i always feel like personally it's solace but also it gives me a handle on how people are thinking and living. so it's very much a part of, as i tell people, it is my moral compass actually. >> i really appreciate you sharing that personal reflection on the role that faith has played in your life and sustained due to some very difficult times. it really comes out i think in the book in the four communities that you look at, , the christin ancient communities in gaza, and iraq, in syria, in egypt. give us a sense of how faith sustains them. so they are of course facing heartbreaking discrimination,
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persecution, horrific violence as you recount in detail in the book. yet many choose not to flee even in the face of this. what role does faith play in sustaining and perpetuating these communities that you look at? >> i i focused on four people, four groups of people. iraq, syria, gaza and egypt. and all of them are very different. all of them face very different challenges but overwhelmingly the theme is that there at risk of being eradicated. some quirky than others, like let's look at iraq. so iraq i first became aware, course of my life is aware that ancient christian because the land of the prophets, the apostles, was nineveh which is north mosul, of those even know iraq, mosul and the northern plains which runs into
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kurdistan. and it's where jonah and the whale or st. thomas the apostle or all the apostles basically went there to be evangelicals,, to bear witness and to gain more in their flock. in 2003 as saddam hussein was about to fall, i was living in baghdad and and i was workia journalist and and i openeda bureau in a ministry of information. saddam hussein's ministry of information. i can't explain to you how paranoid that time was under saddam hussein. everything was bugged. we weren't allowed to have cell phones well, you could have any kind of communication. i had a satellite phone but every night you're only allowed to use it under the guidance of the ministry, and every night they would seal it with wax and put a stamp on and in the morning it was a creepy guy who would come and open it for me.
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as a sidebar this man had no fingernails. they had been ripped out like under torture, and everyday he would open my satellite phone and i would stare at his finger nails and think like him what did he do, like what happened to this man? something, something happened to him that was so terrible that is put in prison and his fingernails were ripped out. anyway, by some stroke of pure luck, i was given, i got permission to drive the entire length and width of iraq. this kind of thing never happened but i think i had an assignment from national geographic and after much pleading and bribing, i got permission to make this trip. i knew that i was seeing and iraq that would disappear forever once the invasion happened in 2003, that it would
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come i would never again or would anyone else see iraq in this way. so i got in my car with my driver who was a palestinian guy, who in turn that was reporting back on the everything i did to the secret police, and my fixer who was a very like hot tempered iraqi guy who was a filmmaker. the three of us basically drove from the south, basra, all the way to the north. along the way north of mosul refers came upon the christian communities which were the syrians, the orthodox, the syriac scholar the sex are very widely unbelievably confusing i spent four years basically traveling, different hardware and is proven to be very, very complicated. but what i saw from these people was first a kind of deep fear of
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the the coming invasion, the 2003 bush three bush invasion. because christians in iraq like christians in syria and christian copts in egypt had been somewhat protected by dictators. so they were -- saddam protected them or allowed them to live the way they wanted to live, and they were terrified that what was coming would be a kind of sunni extremism which would attempt to eradicate them. so they were in great anguish. the first time i started working with those communities him and ironically 12 years later i in baghdad in june 2014.
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we are very aware of the rise of isis that these people lived in their villages until the last moment, and it's interesting you ask this question, like why didn't they go? their land, their ancestral home is so important to them and they know if they leave, christians in that disappear. the numbers are really, i mean i'm not a numbers person because i think numbers never tell the true story. for instant in syria that you and stopped counting the dead due to the war in 2016. so we have no idea how many people were killed in syria. we have no idea how many christians are left and iraq but we guess that in the last census, which is a time of saddam, so 40 years ago, there were 1.5 million.
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today we wager between 150,000 -some 150,000-some say it is a science 300,000, i see closer to 150,000. so why are they leaving? those that survived isis feared more radical groups especially the iranian-backed militias, popular mobilization forces, and they fear turkish airstrikes. they fear more extremist groups coming through. so basically that is a major consideration. the second, climate change, iraq is the number five on the list of the u.n.'s most vulnerable. so their farming lands and many other christians have these huge farms because nineveh was the bread basket, one of the bread baskets of iraq. and when isis went through the basically destroyed their irrigation system. so droughts, extreme climate, temperature change. i mean, for those of you who
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have worked in middle east you know at night in the summer you always sleep on the rooftops and just pull a mattress up there and you stay up there all night because it's so unbearably hot. the last time i was there at like 2:00 in the morning on a roof it was 104 degrees. just radical kind of shifts and extreme temperature. the great rivers like the euphrates and the tigris were phishing communities are threatened. so climate change, migrant, i mean migration. a lot of the christians when the muslims, the trump muslim ban came about in 2016, 2017, christians from arab lands could come to the u.s., muslims could not. that to me was deeply worrying because of some who worked for the u.n. refugee agency i thought it sent terrible, terrible messaging that we have
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good refugees, , christians, and bad refugees, muslims. i just felt this was a terrible on every level precedent, and for other reasons as well. but the christians that could get up, many of them, the diaspora is huge as you know. i do i go i run into an assyrian whose grandparents are syrians from iran or iraq. the diaspora issued jimmy of them just felt that the better opportunities elsewhere. but they were very torn because they knew that if they leave, they are leaving this very important foothold they need to have. so that cometh in the third thing is the lack of industry. so whenever people say to me we could come to the sled, what policy recommendations to have, i say we must support them in initiative. so that's just iraq. it will be to go into egypt -- >> we contributed to a few other
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countries that you focus on, and again i would recommend the book, delve into these different christian communities in greater detail and we can come back to iraq for those of you who i'm sure have question because some of the work that janine has done in the aftermath of the rise of isis and the siege of mosul is really extraordinary. the gaza strip is not a place that you associate with christian communities. i i think according to your book there are about 800 christians in the gaza strip sandwiched between hamas on one side and israeli defense forces on the other side. again, help us understand how we communities like that continues to live and an almost unbelievably challenging circumstance. as you note this is a community very much at risk at being extinguished and the next
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century. it has lasted pretty long, all things considered. so give us a sense of how a community like that continues to thrive, and is any prospect in your view in having this ancient civilization continue in the region as it is? >> said just a little background on gaza for those of you don't know. it's a tiny strip of land, 14 miles by seven miles, with 2 million people live. in the u.n. back in i think 2014, said that by 2020 gaza would be unlivable by 2020. we are now coming into 2022. so the water resources, lack of electricity, the grids being hit over and over by bombing, the -- basically being hemmed in. the greatest challenge, again, i just got back, i was there in
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july and august, is the lack of restriction. so 2 million people, think of it, in 14 miles x seven miles. it's very, very heavily populated. the bombing, the israeli bombing 11 days in may devastated it even more. every time there is an incursion it just hits the grids, the electricity grid, the water system. what i worry about and i've been working in gaza since 1990, the complacency, that people have become in a way both israelis and palestinians, that this is just the way it is and it's always going to be like that. so there's new generations that are born and raised in gaza who can never get out, and yet these are the most educated people in the middle east. i think it has the highest rate of educational preschool and early school.
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people even in the porous refugee camps take great pride in sending their kids to school. most of my friends in gaza speak perfect english without an accent, at least one or two other european languages that you learned on youtube because they can never leave. so the restriction on the movement means, let's get back to the christians, i just want to really stress that the humility and situation is on a breaking point for everyone there, muslim, christian, buddhist, whoever is there. it's a terrible, terrible situation. and idps coming out in "vanity fair" in january which is about focus, focus actually on the youth and the tremendous potential that they have, if only we could give them a chance. so the christians, and since i've been working since 1990, like you, i had no idea. i knew there was a small
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christian kennedy because of a few years back the baathist bookstore got burned down when hamas first came into power, and i remember thinking, baathist bookstore? and then subsequent trips back and forth i started visiting the christians there and their ancient ancient come all these people are ancient people. we speak to the assyrians and iraq, when you speak to the copts in egypt, the greek orthodox in gaza, you have a sense of the tremendous weight of history that they hold, and christianity, gaza strip was completely christian until first century and these people are the descendents of those people. so it's kind of mind-boggling and they have lived there. they have resisted emigrating even though many of the families and relatives have, and for them they endure the bombings, , the water cuts, everything else but
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also for them it's very important to get the bethlehem which is there a kind of seat of their faith, bethlehem and jerusalem, for the holidays, for christmas and easter, and they can't, they can't leave. so that's very, very painful for them. the fact that they can't get jobs commit again tremendously educated population, , then peoe that are graduating. one young dentist told me he had just finished dental school in gods and he said there's one job for every 11 dental graduates. and they can't find work, and yet they don't want to leave because if they leave they know they will be in exile forever, like edward psyd and kind of longing for their homeland -- edward said -- and yet this a little they can do so than it terrible, terrible situation. >> wow. iq for that. maybe i'll ask you a question about three and about egypt just
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rounding out your study of these communities within them want to quickly open it up to comments and questions from all of you in the audience as well as on zoom, so feel free to submit those questions on zoom as we go. let's go to syria, and you have a riveting story in the book about the christian town of moldova, so it's an north east of damascus and, of course, rebel forces attacked it during the syrian civil war in 2013. and similar to what you are describing about the iraqi christians, this is a christian community that had a very complicated to say the least relationship with bashar al-assad, with this secular are relatively secular alawite dictator who was providing at least some sibilance of stability. this is a community that is in
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some ways thankful may be. what is their view on how assad has sort of come out now having won the civil war? of course support of iran and russia and hezbollah much is in this horrific series of atrocities, this was still the person who this community looked to for at least some sense of security and stability. how do you understand where this committee stands today given all that's happened in the situation syria? i'm sure as you know so many have fled but some are still there and where do we go from here? >> it's like a very sad conclusion that we have to make is that assad has won the war. if you can call, i don't think winning is the right term because it's a very devastated country that is now going to preside over. horribly this is a man with
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tremendous amount of blood on his hands that will be then taking this country again into his hands. and when you think back to why the war started, it was about a call for freedom. so the syrian revolution was a blast of the arab spring uprisings. for started in tunisia and egypt and libya, and then finally syria. the call was we want our freedom. and the really tragic thing for me is that the opposition who really started by and large peaceful revolution then turned armed and was basically hijacked by many radical groups, including h gsa now controls the last pocket of idlib. the christians were so fasting to me because very early on in the war and for those of you who don't know, there were two ways
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to enter syria as a report that as an active, , not as an activist. as a reporter, well, he managed really were not allowed in but you can either go come the regime would give you permission and this didn't go to people like me. i went to countries usually that support assad like russia, china, polish journalists sometimes get visas or journalists that supported assad. so they would give them diseases, any other way was you went across the border to turkey and you would illegally, that was possible until basically ice is the control of the checkpoints and started kidnapping and killing my colleagues. steve sakharov and jim foley were both beheaded by isis. in the very beginning for some reason i slipped through the cracks in the regime was giving me jesus. i went and, of course, i was followed and targeted by the secret police, but i managed to do some traveling around and i
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got to this extraordinary place because it was really like an oasis of peace in the middle of a war beginning to break out and doing it in those early days that is going to be a horrible war. i met these nuns, and they were so peaceful, so gentle but such vehement supporters of assad. literally they were chanting the same thing that the guys who were destroying entire sections were chanting, , like with our blood, assad. they were really fierce assad supporters. i thought as always when you're a journalist or a documentarian, i wondered if they were afraid and that's why they were saying this to me. but i genuinely believed after seeing them and spending time them that they did support assad. so the thing about melula is
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that it didn't change hands so when times get it control and then it went to pre-syrian army controlled opposition and and then he got overrun by jihadists at one point and then went back to government control. and throughout it all the nuns that i knew disappeared. a few of them got kidnapped and stood up and they are okay now, but a lot of the people left, the christians that with their who were frightened of, as he told me, the black flag. they were really frightened of radical sunni groups taking power, and that's why in a sense they said we support assad because we know who he is and we know who he stands for. so i thought this was purely from anthropological point of view, you know, to kind of live under a dictator like that because you don't take her with them than you did from the unknown. >> fascinating. let's talk about the copts in
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egypt just for a moment before we open it up, and i'm looking at all these questions coming in on the zoom chat pics of them get there in a second. the copts are the largest christian community in the arab world, and you note in the book that they face discrimination, not persecution. some may be help us understand the different degrees or continuum of harassment that you might experience as a christian in egypt. and, of course, i'm not saying that discrimination is okay, but relative to the of the communities that you look at the have been able to carve out some sibilance of peace and stability in their community. what are some lessons that you might learn from that community? is there any way and that christian community has behaved or negotiated arrangements with
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their own governments and nearby areas that might be relevant to the christians in iraq or syria or gaza, or is it just very unique to its own circumstance? >> the copts, the reason a lot of people say why did you include lebanon in your book? i i didn't include lebanon for a specific reason, that the lebanese christians are very assimilated into the political, economic and social realm of lebanon. .. >> and they vary drastically in socioeconomic ranking. so, for instance, if you're in cairo, in a very wealthy suburb where many of my cop friends
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live, many of them went to france, they were educated there, they were from wealthy families, and they say outright, look, we don't suffer anything, you know? we're fine. cops cannot, by law -- and this is why i get into the discrimination, they cannot build churches, they can't -- there are certain inheritance laws, they can't certain in the upper ranks of the military which, of course, is a hugely important apparatus in egyptian political life. it's basically an arm of the government, a very strong arm of the government. generals, especially under general sisi. and there's all sorts of marriage and divorce laws. so discrimination that is enshrined in the constitution. >> sure. >> so among the wealthy it's okay. you know, they still say to me i feel different, i still feel
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like i am the other. then you get the cops who are living in minia, in upper egypt in the provinces, entirely different situation. so their churches are being burnt down, they are actively being, they're being beaten up on their way to church, they're being -- as the stories they told me -- completely isolated from the community. the churches, some of them showed me, they brought me to their churches and chains were put up preventing them from going to pray. so really much more active discrimination. and ill call it persecution -- i would call it persecution. and then there's also all of the many christians that are targeted by isis in the sinai, by al-qaeda in the sinai, by the rising radical groups in egypt. egypt, to me, is becoming increasingly dangerous under general sisi because of his presession but also --
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repression, but also because of the rise of more radical groups who have been emboldened by the taliban's victory. so the taliban's victory has a really extreme effect on christians throughout the region because, you know, they see it as, wow, these guys defeated the greatest armies on earth. this is a signal for us that we can, we can rebrand this islamic state, we can rebrand, we can regroup, we can be stronger than ever. and, of course, the taliban has a lot of its roots in islamic, egyptian islamic jihad. >> absolutely, from the '70s, yeah. it's where it all -- not started, but it's where it had a huge concentration. >> all right. well, i'm tired of hearing my own voice, so i really want to hear from all of you. i'm going to call on some folks from the audience as well as incorporate the chat on zoom. if you're here, just if you could go up to the stand is here, if you wouldn't mind, and just and just press the button to make the green light, and that'll allow the zoom folks to
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hear you. so let's get started and, please, go ahead and do that. and feel free, please, to introduce yourself as well. >> hello. my name is -- [inaudible] i'm a senior at yale college. so one question i had was about the coptic population in egypt. you mentioned that there's, like, to some extent they're very much ingrained culturally, politically, so i guess i'm curious when exactly did the oppression against them, like, start? did that have anything to do with, like, the rise of the muslim brotherhood, for instance? was it at one point, like -- [inaudible] lived peacefully with the other populations and then something changed? or did it just, like, increase gradually over time? >> so i couldn't hear you very well, but did you say is it linked to the muslim
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brotherhood? >> yeah. >> the discrimination against them linked to the muslim brothered hood, was that your question -- brotherhood? >> can i pull down? yeah, i'm curious because it seems very much ingrained in the society, so that signals to me they didn't have much more power than they do now. i guess i'm curious, like, when did that change from that kind of peaceful to the kind of oppression and persecution they face now and the rise of the muslim brotherhood, for instance, or maybe something else. >> i would say it's 9/11. to me, the world changed forever after 9/11 even in the way that wars are carried out. you know, everything shifted in a sense to this global war on terrorism and, therefore, you know, the rise of more groups,
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violent nonstate actors that could act out. i think that, you know, it really -- in egypt especially it really is important to distinguish which part of egypt you're talking about because i think the christians in min if ia that i met in really remote communities, i mean, like, hours and hours from the bustle of cairo where it seems like literally i was back in, you know, the 1600s. and they feel and have always felt discriminated against actively. getting beaten up on their way back from church. but, you know, i think since 9/11 there's been much more focus on a kind of, on, i would say, the minorities throughout the region in egypt but also throughout the region. and so i think there's been much more active focus on whether or not, you know, how they can live -- how they can continue to live in these countries. and i think general sisi, you
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know, sisi's egypt right now is a very worrying place on many levels. like, human rights, his geopolitical stance on things. so i think, you know, the attempts for cops in egypt to sort of assimilate into society, again, if you're in cairo and you're wealthy, i think it's easier than if you're in, you know, even suburbs of cairo. like, i write a lot about these communities that are the garbage a people, basically the christians that live in a suburb outside of cairo, and they're the people that do all of the garbage picking and garbage collection because they work with pigs and, you know, muslims can't handle pigs, so the pigs do all the -- so they're really people who are on the fringes of society still. >> thank you. we have a question here on zoom from carrie who i think was reacting to your comments about being in church and as well as
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the churches that you have continued to attend, and she's asking do you find a tension between the personal and professional in some of the conflict reporting that you've done? and even specifically if you're at a church, do you sort of take off the journalist hat? [laughter] do you view yourself as being in a moment where you're not a journalist, or are these, is this so much of your persona now that you can't really divorce these two? just give us a sense of how this faith question plays into some of the work that you've done. >> that's such an interesting question because i never think of myself -- i just think of myself as me, right? so i don't think of myself as this journalist or teaching at yale, it's just me. and the work i do is so interconnected with the person i am -- >> sure. >> -- that i, you know, the two do not separate in any way. and, again, like, my faith is not evangelical, you know?
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i'm very spiritual, i'd say. so, i mean, i could easily -- what i believe in could easily transcend being to islam or to judaism. it's basically in my belief in compassion and love and, you know, and doing what is right to your fellow man. and, you know, doing the right thing. so, i mean, those are the morals that could extend to martin luther king or gandhi. it's not -- it's faith, but it's more about a global reckoning. so i guess, i don't know. i mean, i was raised a roman catholic, but i suppose what i believe is probably closer to being a quaker or universal, the universal -- not the cult, but the -- there's a, i think it's called universalism. anyway, i hope that answers it. >> yeah. no, that was great. thank you so much.
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let me see if there's anyone else in person. yes, please. and come up and introduce yourself and hit the green button. or make it green. there you go. thank you so much. >> hi. my name is abby. i am a law student, so i'm very interested in sort of -- this answer -- [inaudible] but whether the persecution is occurring through legal channels or whether it's mostly kind of community norms and extra-legal persecution. i know that in jordan, for example, there are separate court systems in family law, and so depending on the religion on your national id card, you'll go through a different court system. i'm wondering if those kind of legal differences exist in the countries you write about, and if so, how those legal structures are changing over the time period that you examine. >> thank you. >> good question. definitely in egypt. egypt is a place that the laws
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are enshrined in the constitution that directly affect the cops. so, for instance, the churches are getting burned down especially in minia where many of the christians live, the poorer, poorer cops, and they can't build churches. so that's, like, a law. and all these inheritance laws and divorce laws are very -- and they're very, very complicated. i've had people explain them to me, and it's basically, you know, if a muslim man marries a christian woman, it's entirely woman than if a christian woman marries a muslim man or opposite. so the place where it's most evident is egypt. the iraqi constitution which i, you know, as you know, is rewritten after the invasion, and it's constantly in a tate of flux. i don't think -- in a state of mr. speaker. i don't think there's any provision written in for minorities. and you probably know that, you know, the jewish population of
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iraq was, like, a hugely vibrant and important community that was completely eradicated in the 1950s and the 1970s. so i don't know in a sense even if there is laws to protect minorities like the yazidis, right, if you can uphold those kind of laws in a country that is so tumultuous. essentially, a post-conflict society, but i would argue that iraq is very much on the brink. so, yeah. egypt is probably the place you should look at the most in terms of the laws and how they directly affect the cops. >> thank you. great question. i'll get to you in just a minute, so you're come -- welcome to come up to the center. i'm going to incorporate a question from zoom. this one's from peter, a lot of
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questions as you might imagine in this zoom feed. so one question just sort of noting, of course, the judeo-christian origins of both christianity and judaism and islam in the heart of the region. you know, does that suggest to you in your analysis of these ancient communities that there is a possibility for interfaith dialogue or an ability to at least recognize common origins of these christian, judeoic and muslim societies as a way to try and bridge the gap of the current conflict, or is that too abstract, in your view, for what's needed at the moment many. >> absolutely. i'm a great believer in tracttwo diplomacy which operates in parallel to the elite powers negotiating to end wars or end conflicts. so, like, the u.n. and
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governments would be track one. track two is faith-based leaders, women's groups, community grassroots organizations. and to me, these are the people that matter the most because their on the ground. and -- they're on the ground. i lived in london for most of my adult life, actually, and i used to go to a wonderful church there on pottery lane. and the priest that ran it was a, he was very much involved in track two in israel/palestine along with william sekart who was a great philanthropist in london. you probably know him. >> yep. >> i think faith-based groups contribute so much to bringing healing. but, you know, i think extremism whether it's the federal movement in israel or whether it's radical jihadis or whether it's evangelical christians in america who are, to me, as
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dangerous as anyone else when they align themselves with political causes, extremism is the real danger. you know? and this is what these endangered communities fear the most. so if we get like-minded, sensible, pragmatic, compassionate people who really want to do good work on the ground, i think it could be extraordinary. >> thank you. yes, sir. please, come on up. am i right that your hand was up? we'll get you next, and then we'll come back to the zoom feed. >> congratulations on the book. >> thank you. >> i have a question. so local power that defends christians across the globe, at least at the western bank, and, this is, of course, the vacuum. now, do you see any instrumental potential of the vatican when it comes to addressing -- [inaudible] cases where christians, although
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disenfranchised, persecuted. so is there room for vatican to be instrumentally helpful in addressing these issues? thank you. >> yeah, great question. well, pope francis went to iraq last year at the height of covid, at a really bad time. it was march, and it was the time, you know, we hadn't yet9 gotten our vaccines. iraq still hasn't most -- i mean, i'm working on the u.n. program there right now, most people can't get vaccines, they're not available. we went there then -- he went there then. he was advised by most everyone not to go, and he went. i think that single act of courage gave so much solidarity to these embattled people. i think it was just a remarkable thing that he did. if so i think -- so i think there has to be solidarity, max, not just from the vatican, but from all of the christian communities.
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again, america, you know, which predominantly is a christian -- and i put that in brackets -- i mean, the highest percentage of believers are christian, you know, people don't know about these communities in the middle a east. so if they -- middle east. so if they did and there was more solidarity and not just, i mean, praying for them, i mean actively trying to support them in terms of getting industries on the ground, education so that young people stay there and don't flee, i think it could be, you know, incredibly supportive. and i think the pope's visit and, therefore, the vatican did have a big influence. and he has been to egypt. syria, actually, i feel like he has been to syria, but i can't remember a visit since covid. or since the war. and i do think that his influence has tremendous
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potential. >> thank you. yes, sir. >> hi. thank you for the presentation. my name is -- [inaudible] i'm a first-year student -- [inaudible] i have more existential question. in the beginning of your presentation, you mentioned the sense of loneliness in the -- [inaudible] and my experience of living under the siege, this is the completely opposite. this is the highest level of community, feeling of community where people understanding their common faith especially, you know -- [inaudible] nothing there -- [inaudible] so how -- can you elaborate on your feeling of loneliness in terms of share jay slow. >> did you say you're from
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sarajevo? >> no, i'm from eastern ukraine. >> oh. you very much understand what it's like to be in a war zone. so you want me to, what the was of being -- the sense was of being in the siege? >> no. basically in the beginning you said you felt a level of loneliness. >> yeah. >> that's little bit odd because, to me it's completely the opposite. people were as close as possible, never, never -- >> oh, i see. okay. >> yeah. and why you feel lonely and where -- and generally elaborate on that -- [inaudible] feeling detached from everyone or whatever your loneliness constituted there. >> yeah. well, i think probably personally i felt -- i didn't feel loan arely because i was busy, right? lonely. it was a siege, and i spent most
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of my days either hunting for water or trying to find a source of electricity so that i could send my stories out to the world. and also because i was dying -- i was working with people, so i was out on the streets working. but existentially lonely because this horrific thing was happening around me, and children were being killed because they went out to build snowmen or old people being shot to by snipers or dying in their beds from the cold. so i felt lonely in the sense from god. i felt it was more a question of, you know, a sort of st. augustine type crisis of how can you allow this to happen. and i remember when i was doing all my bulk in reading about the catholic church in world war ii having been aligned, of course, with the -- [inaudible] who were propped up by the nazis. and how one of the bishops, i
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can't remember, after the war was excommunicated from the church by the vatican because he had been involved in the atrocities against the people. the camps and places like that. and i remember when he was excommunicated in some of his letters, he wrote that being a catholic meant for him being part of a larger community around the world, that no matter or where he went, he felt a sense of belonging. so, like, you could go in any church whether it's in africa or new haven, and you felt that you were a small person connected to a larger thing. once he was excommunicated, he felt this tremendous loneliness. and i think for me in sarajevo, because i was very, very attached to bosnia, i still am, i felt this tremendous loan wiliness from -- loan wiliness from god because i couldn't understand how he could allow
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such tremendous suffering to happen. so i think that was in terms of my loneliness. it was this tremendous i can't believe and every day for three years i saw a catalog of extraordinary grief and pain and suffering. and it just amounted to, you know, this question of how can human beings do this to each other. it was kind of part of my life's work about evil and, you know, what human beings can do to each other. but then at the same time, in war zones -- and you probably know this -- you see tremendousville, and you see -- tremendous evil, and you see tremendous acts of courage and good that elevate the human spirit to a level which is extraordinary. >> thank you so much. we are running low on time here. i'll throw out -- oh, i see your hand. okay. so let's get your comment,
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please. come and press the green button. and speak up as well. thank you so much. >> yes. apologies for that. my name is emma, and i'm -- [inaudible] thank you for this. i guess my question is i wonder what the long-term, you know, like, real sustainable solution would be for these minorities? if i mean, not to lessen the crisis of christian minorities in the middle east, but even racial minorities like populations in different arab, in middle east countries face really, you know, whether it's legal or cultural, societal, but, yes -- [inaudible] discrimination. i guess, like, what, you know, within the country, you know, like change should happen. and also to tie it back, you know, i'm thinking here what about the christian minorities
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and stuff? how do they see themselves? is it more of a national u.s. vision of i'm -- nationalist vision of i'm palestinian, or is it more, like, the pan christian, like my fellow christians will save me? if also to tie back, i guess, kind of the case of the christians in syria, how were other christians involved? like, how much is their loyally to the country versus, like -- [inaudible] obviously, we see it going on and on, but the -- [inaudible] you're with them, you're with west or whatever. your not part of us. but i can imagine also the senses of -- i grow up in yemen in 2011 and -- >> wow. >> -- and the arab spring and really the ideals of arab spring, of democracy and freedom for everyone. but i guess, i mean, we don't have --
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[inaudible] anymore. but what -- i don't know, is there, like, i can imagine that there is hope for the people in all these countries to, for freedom and, you know, rights for everyone whatever religion they are. >> no, no, no, but your can -- [inaudible] [inaudible conversations] >> so really interesting, and i found that actually instead of being united like in iraq, for instance, i remember once writing a long piece about the asyrians, and i got nasty letters saying i hadn't paid enough attention to others. i found, like, the sects were -- there was not a global sense in the way that we're all christians in the way there might be that we're all muslims but stick together or we're all jews and we stick together. the there was not a big sense of brotherhood or sisterhood. and i to think you're right, it
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was i'm an rack key first, gemini first, egyptian first. because they're marginalized, that is very much part of their identity because they do kneel like i am -- one woman said to me, and it was a great way to describe it. she was description, and she said i grew up feeling as though i always, like, i was wearing different clothes from everyone. she didn't mean literally clothes, she just felt like she was the other. so i think probably existentially there is this united thing that for christians in the middle east or christians in asia or whatever and we are minorities and we need to be protected. but i think within their own communities there's lots of dissension. it's really -- [laughter] surprised me and frustrated me. and i think also post-isis it came down to getting funds from ngos and international organizations and who was getting the most attention. so very cynically.
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but i really, i didn't like that, you know? it was a part i didn't like at all. and your question about hope, well, we have to have end hope, right? without that do -- we have to have hope, right? we really have to believe that, ultimately, in some way that these groups are going to be protected. i think, you know, in terms of policy recommendations i'm always saying that we have to -- it always comes down to education. and gordon brown, the british politician who i think is tremendous, is now the u.n. envoy for education. i just think education is the thing that universally heals. whether or not it's combating radicalization in france and the u.k. or when it's, you know, giving education and training to young entrepreneur in gaza or whether it is, you know, educating christians in iraq or syria so that they could start small industries and sustain themselves and live there.
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you know, we have to kind of support and build up these communities. it's not enough to put a band-aid on it. it's really having deep-rooted, sustainable policies that will last for generations. otherwise, you know, in a hundred years what social scientists in the region tell me is these people will not exist. so that ancient lands, the land are of jesus christ for christian, their ancestral lands, they will be gone. and a homogenized, a middle east that is basically lacking these diverse communities is -- [inaudible] we want the diversity, the rich fabric that they bring to society. >> wow. thank you so much. finish and please join me in thanking janine di giovanni. [applause] >> thank you for coming, everyone. >> the book is "the vanishing," and congratulations, janine. feel free to tick around and
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come up, if that's okay -- >> i think it's at the bookstore too. >> definitely at the bookstore. and to those on zoom, we got as many as we could, so thank you so much. and all of you, thank you for bearing with us for this hybrid in-person/virtual event, hopefully the first of many more to come as we emerge from covid. thank you so much. thank you. >> stay up-to-date on the latest in publishing on booktv's "about books" with current nonfiction book releases plus industry news and insider interviews. we'll talk about some of the notable books of the year with carlos lozana. you can watch "about books" anytime at you can find all of our podcasts on the c-span now app or wherever you get your podcasts. ♪ >> weekends on c-span2 are an intellectual feast. every saturday you'll find events from people that explore
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our nation's past on american history tv. on sundays, booktv brings you the latest in nonfiction books and authors. it's television for serious readers. learn, discover, explore or weekends on c-span2. ♪ ♪ >> booktv continues now, television for serious readers. >> hello and good afternoon. welcome toed ooh -- today's commonwealth club program. i'm pleased to be the moderator for today's program. i'm a fellow with the discovery institute's chapman center for citizen leadership, and i'm a syndicated columnist. you may have seen me previously on the program which focuses on top news and current events. i'm pleased to be here to discuss john mcwhorter's new book, "rogue racism."


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