Skip to main content

tv   Religion Ethics Newsweekly  PBS  January 6, 2013 10:00am-10:30am PST

10:00 am
10:01 am
coming up, fred de sam lazaro reports on the fears of the alawites, an offshoot of shia islam and the religion of syria's president assad. if he is overthrown, will all alawites become targets? and bob faw on what some catholic school systems are doing to try to survive? >> our educational system was imploding.
10:02 am
enrollment-wise, finance wise, something radical, radical surgery had to be done. >> announcer: major funding for "religion & ethics news weekly" is dedicated to i founder's interest in religion, community development and education. additional funding also provided by mutual of america, designing customized individual group and retirement products. that's why we're your retirement company. the january henson foundation, and the corporation for public broadcasting. welcome, i'm bob abernethy. it's good to have you with us. arguments continue over the so-called "fiscal cliff" deal approved this week in the fina minutes of the 112th congress. and religious groups are among those weighing in. the family research council criticized the deal for not
10:03 am
including spending cuts and entitlement reforms. meanwhile, leaders of the christian group bread for the world said while the measure isn't perfect, they believe it will "prevent major economic damage that would have affected hungry and poor people the most." the new 113th congress, which was sworn in thursday, includes seval religious firsts. democrat tulsi gabbard of hawaii is the first hindu member of congress. mazie hirono also of hawaii, is the first buddhist senator, although she describes herself as non-practicing. and kyrsten sinema, a democratic representative from arizona, is the first member of congress to publicly describe her religion as "none." joining me with more on the new congress is our managing editor kim lawton. kim? >> there was another religious
10:04 am
first this week as well. the new hindu member of congress was actually sworn in with the bhagavad gita, which is a sacred text for hindus. now members of congress generally use a bible, the hebrew scriptures, some use the constitution. some don't use anything, they just do an affirmation as opposed to swearing in, but this was the first time we know of that the bhagavad gita was used. >> and there was no controversy about it. i remember a couple of years ago when a muslim was sworn in. there was a huge controversy about his using the quran. this time? >> well, when keith ellison was elected and then sworn in in 2007 he did choose a quran. of course there are sensitivities with muslims and so there was some controversy. he ended up using a koran that was owned by thomas jefferson, which helped dampen some of that controversy. >> is this the most religiously diverse congress there's ever been? >> it is considered the most diverse congress ever. that sort of reflects the changes in american society. although congress hasn't kept up with all the changes exactly in american society.
10:05 am
think about protestants. congress is still majority protestant, about 56%. >> but protestants went -- the number of protestants went down a little bit, the number of catholics went up. >> exactly, but for the first time ever protestants are less than half of the country, but they still make up most of congress. catholics went up this time around as well so they make up about 30% of congress. >> what about people who say they have no religion? >> they're the most unrepresented group right now in terms of religion in congress. about 20% of the country says they have no religious affiliation. we did have one atheist member of congress a few years ago. pete stark was the first person to say i'm an atheist. kyrsten sinema is the first person to say i have none when you know asked what's your religion, but that doesn't represent the number of people of america. >> and quickly, does it make a difference? >> well, you know, that's hard
10:06 am
to quantify. for some people it's an identification, but for some people it does affect how they think about issues, how they govern. think about last year when congressman paul ryan was doing the budget he tied it to his catholic faith. other members of congress do that. but for some that's a personal thing and politics is something different. >> kim lawton, many thanks. in other news, legal challenges continue against new contraception requirements in the federal healthcare law. under the law, employers must cover contraceptive services for their employees free of charge. dozens of organizations, many of them faith-based, say that violates their beliefs. last week supreme court justice sonia sotomayor denied a request from the hobby lobby craft stores to be exempt from the mandate while their lawsuit proceeds. as of january 1st, the chain's
10:07 am
evangelical owners face potential fines of more than a million dollars a day for failing to comply. pope benedict xvi rang in the new year with a strong call for peace. he said peace is all too often threatened by what he called "the prevalence of a selfish and individualist mindset" that gets expressed in "unregulated capitalism, various forms of terrorism and criminality." he told people gathered in st. peter's basilica that, while 2012 saw much death and injustice, good does prevail. benedict also offered special prayers about the situation in syria. a new united nations' report says more than 60,000 people have died in syria's 22-month-old conflict. that number significantly exceeds previous estimates. and the un's refugee agency says there's been a steady increase
10:08 am
in the number of syrians fleeing the violence. an estimated 500,000 syrians have been displaced, most ending up in jordan, lebanon and turkey. as more and more syrian refugees find their way to turkey next door, we have a fred de sam lazaro report today from one of the oldest cities in turkey, antakya, known tearly christians as antioc today, most of the people there are sunni muslims and alawites, about equally divided. alawites are an offshoot of shiite islam. president assad of syria is an alawite. the fear in antakya is that if assad is overthrown, his opponents will target all alawites, everywhere. >> turkey is predominantly muslim but residents of the southern hatay region like to tout its rich, historic, religious mosaic. christ's apostles, peter and
10:09 am
paul, spent time in hatay's main city antakya, the biblical antioch, which is often called the cradle of christianity. >> antakya is a city of tolerance. we have tolerance for every different culture and religion. >> we have been living in antakya with arabs, with sunnis, with armenian people, with kurdish people all together. >> but beneath the appearance of business as usual, there's deep anxiety here as events unfold a few miles across the border in syria. in furniture shops and truck repair shops, business has actually been terrible since the syrian conflict began. >> of course there was a friendship. there were organic ties between antakya and syria. people were coming and going between the two countries. >> the syrians used to come as traders and shoppers. now they come as refugees. and there's a new fear of
10:10 am
sectarian or inter-religious conflict. the refugees, some 100,000 have arrived in southern turkey, are predominantly opponents of the assad regime in syria. in hatay, that's made for a guarded welcome. >> do you think many people in antakya are sympathetic to the assad regime? >> yes, only the alawi, yes, sure. absolutely. >> mohammad manzalgi, a sunni syrian, said he's tried without success to rent an apartment in antakya as he attempts to resettle family members fleeing from syria. >> the majority here in this town are from alawi and when they hear that you are from syria, or you are sunni, they tell you directly no, we don't want to rent to you. they meet you with anger. >> he's convinced this anger is rooted in sympathy for syrian president bashar assad who is alawite, an offshoot of shia
10:11 am
islam. perhaps 50% of hatay's residents are alawite. many turkish alawites say their concerns are driven less by sympathy for the assad regie than a fear of what might replace it. >> i'm an alawite but i do not approve of what the assad regime is doing. i believe in the rule of law and democracy but i don't think this is the right approach to achieving it. >> he and many others fear that religious extremists have infiltrated the syrian opposition force. >> one group is chanting things like "christians should go to beirut" and "alawites should go to cemeteries." this group consists of salafis, al qaeda members, and if these terrorists are able to change the assad regime, then there will be a huge massacre against the alawite people. >> experts agree the syrian conflict has drawn islamic
10:12 am
radicals, though they aren't certain of their number and influence in the opposition forces. but the alawite fears are well-founded in their history. alawites typically don't fast during ramadan and prayers are conducted privately, or in small groups, and not in mosques. they've not always been recognized or accepted as muslim, especially among the sunni majority and at times during the ottoman period, they were put to death as infidels. alawites have long lived in this region that straddles the borders of modern day turkey and syria, minorities in both nations. but their imprint in syria has been huge since the 1960s after the rise of a military officer named hafez al assad. he spawned an alawite military and security elite that his son, the current leader, inherited. even though both assads discourage sectarianism, syria's conflict is increasingly seen in
10:13 am
such terms- an alawite-dominated military against a majority sunni opposition. turkey's government has made no secret of its support of the opposition, offering not just refuge to civilians but apparently in-and-out privileges to opposition fighters. >> people on the turkish side received us very well, they really helped us. i go to syria for 15 to 20 days to fight, come here for 5 days at a time to rest. >> the close proximity of fighters and others who may have scores to settle has brought the syrian conflict uncomfortably close for many in hatay. >> both sunni and alawi people have relatives or roots in syria that have remained since the ottoman period. so we know that any uprising, any tension in syria is bound to have an impact here. >> and some of the conflict and antagonisms have spilled over onto the turkish side. >> when syrian refugees started
10:14 am
to come here in greater numbers, we saw some of those conflicts between families spilling over on this side of the border too. >> semsettin gunay, who is sunni, and alattin tas, an alawite, helped start a multi-sectarian civic group. they've used media messages to plead for calm to preserve the tolerance this community has enjoyed for decades. and they've worked with government officials to disperse refugees to other cities away from alawite communities or to confine them to camps to keep the conflict from escalating here. >> alawites in hatay have a real fear, especially as the number of syrians increase, with their different clothes and religious outlook, and there were rumors of assaults. we have succeeded in making these people less visible. >> they say they're proud of turkey's humanitarian role and want to keep the country's door open to refugees of all religions, but not their
10:15 am
political issues. the vast majority of syrians who've sought refuge in turkey have been sunni muslims. they hope for the imminent fall of the assad regime. they hope to soon return to their country. the question for turks yet unanswered is whether there'll be a new wave of refugees, this time from the alawite and other minority communities in syria. for "religion and ethics newsweekly," this is fred de sam lazaro along the turkish-syrian border. we have a special report today about two catholic schools, ea in its own way, trying to fight off declining enrollments and rising costs. in an upscale neighborhood in new york, the emphasis is on enrichment. in inner-city philadelphia, what's new is private management. in both cities, the challenge is not just to keep schools open but, as school officials say, to preserve the value of a catholic
10:16 am
education for both rich and poor. bob faw reports. >> this enrichment music class at st. stephen catholic school in new york city is part of a new experiment to help save catholic schools. in a philadelphia suburb at conwell-egan catholic high school, this too is part of the effort to keep catholic schools open. here students devise real solutions for real-world problems. the new approaches are needed. over the last decade, 26% of catholic schools have closed. because of the recession, funding is down, the cost of running the schools is up, and enrollments have plummeted. >> there has been a drop in enrollment, and over the last 30 or 40 years it's over 2 million fewer students.
10:17 am
from my point of view, it's a crisis. >> the situation is so dire, says the bishop in charge of the archdiocesan schools in philadelphia, something entirely different, call it an educational hail mary, was needed. >> we're in this because our educational stem was imploding. enrollmentwise, financewise, something radical -- radical surgery had to be done. we cannot do it the same old way. >> so the archdiocese has now given management of 21 of its schools, including conwell-egan and schools in the inner city, to a private foundation called faith in the future. it will help sell the schools to potential students and raise millions of dollars by appealing to alumni and wealthy donors, led by former chief of cigna insurance ed hanway, who says the foundation can do what the archdiocese could not.
10:18 am
>> the resources of the archdiocese are extremely limited. we can bring resources to bear on certain issues that the archdiocese may not have been able to, for example, admissions management, outreach into the community, and building a formal, structured marketing plan for our schools. >> the education at the schools run by the foundation will remain decidedly catholic. this theology class for freshmen is still taught by a franciscan brother. and, as always, students are required to go to mass throughout the year. in just one year here, because of the foundation's new business model, this school, slated for closing not that long ago, has seen enrollment increase. >> we have more freedom, in a sense, in that initiatives that we have are now supported by the faith in the future foundation. so it's a matter of greater resources, greater leveraging of
10:19 am
funds to acquire the resources that we need to be successful. >> other catholic schools in large cities often can't survive because of diminishing funds and rising costs. gone are the days when nuns, who for a small stipend, did most of the teaching at catholic schools. many have been replaced with lay teachers. >> now when you have to pay a living wage to a lay teacher, that started that acceleration of the cost, and when that started to happen, the tuitions didn't go up fast enough. >> and subsidy funding to these schools from the parishes and archdiocese has dried up because of the recession and changing demographics. if a neighborhood gets poorer, there often isn't enough money to keep the schools open. >> it is an anguishing situation, because the church wants to serve the poor. the church has what it calls a preferential option for the
10:20 am
poor, and when the church gets into a difficult situation in terms of financially they're not able to provide for the poor, that's very anguishing. >> the catholic mission of serving the poor is one of the values that the faith in the future foundation is working to maintain. ed hanway says the foundation will delegate a portion of its money for scholarships and is supporting many catholic schools in the inner city. >> that's a terrific opportunity for us to direct funds into those underserved communities where the poorest of the poor exist, and where our schools provide a terrific value for them. >> good morning. good job, max. good job. good morning. >> the neighborhood of this new york city catholic school was once poor. >> good morning, ms. peck. >> but as the area gentrified and principal katherine peck was brought in to run st. stephen, it went from nearly closing to thriving. inside, there are enrichment programs galore, like this
10:21 am
french class and violin recitals and classes. michael and karen carbone's two children, emily and michael, attend st. stephen school. >> we looked at a lot of schools and this school was right up there with the independent schools, especially in terms of the extras and things that it was offering. >> to attract more affluent parents, katherine peck offered what expensive independent schools offer, only at a much lower price. to do this she started an aggressive campaign to raise money and got the neighborhood involved. >> everything that we've done here has been based on the community and student interest, parent interest, and other stakeholders in the school, whether it be parishioners or donors to the school, and so we've gone out in the last three years and said, "what is it that you believe you would want in a school for your own child, and how can we make that happen here?" >> to see the demise of catholic
10:22 am
schools has been something that has pained me for years. and the fact that this is doing an about-face, and we're a part of that, and our children are a part of the school turning around is really, it's special in a lot of ways for us. >> one, seven, three. next. >> tuition at st. stephen averages $6,500 a year. parents are more than willing to pay. >> it's just such a special place. the teachers, the curriculum, i think what we're looking for was a place that was nurturing, but also a rigorous, rigorous academic program. >> parents love st. stephen because of the values a catholic education helps instill. l.e. hartman-ting and dr. leon ting's twins are in second grade. >> the values here are, our children are-they're kind, and being kind and talking about their spirituality are things that happen in the classroom. we have seen our kids evolve. they're moral creatures, and it's just so important to us. >> while three-quarters of the students at st. stephen and
10:23 am
conwell-egan are catholic, non-catholics feel right at home. >> they won't judge you. like let's say i am baptist. they won't be, like, "oh, you're a baptist." they don't care what religion you are. >> do you feel awkward in any way not being a catholic? you go to mass, for example. >> no, it's just like when they eat the body of christ, you just cross your arms, and they still, like, everybody accepts you anyways. >> success at st. stephen has come at a price -- diversity. the percentage of black and hispanic students is lower now than before. if some grumble that st. stephen isn't exactly serving the poor, katherine peck begs to differ. >> i don't think the mission of catholic schools is just to educate the poor. i think it's to educate all students and to be tolerant of everyone and to serve a parish and a neighborhood, and before, we weren't really serving the parishioners, and we weren't serving the neighborhood. we were barely serving anyone with 156 students, whereas now, today we're serving 261 students, and we are a neighborhood-based community school. >> the question now is whether the private foundation approach here in pennsylvania, or that enriched curriculum approach in new york city, are isolated examples or models that can be replicated in financially troubled catholic schools around the country. >> can that be replicated? i think it can. but our key is let's make it
10:24 am
work here, and let's learn how we can marry the notion of strong catholic values, catholic education, that catholic identity with much more professional, business-oriented management of these schools. >> at st. stephen, katherine peck agrees there is no magic formula. >> every school has different needs, so the strategic plan that comes out of it is not a one-size-fits-all. for us, implementing enrichment programmings and changing the way we were teaching and our instruction was a great benefit to us. for another school, it might be having esl programs and having parent workshops at night. >> whatever the approach, says catholic university's convey, one ingredient is essential. >> leadership is absolutely critical in any kind of a private school to make sure that the school thrives. 60% to 70% of those schools are at risk because they had a leadership problem at some point, and they've never recovered from it. so leadership is the absolute key.
10:25 am
>> although enrollment at conwell-egan is growing, and st. stephen no longer runs at a deficit, it is premature to call each experiment a complete success. >> oh, it's coming out, bill. oh, oh. >> but these two schools, once perilously close to closing, do give reason for optimism. for now at least, the music has never seemed sweeter. for "religion and ethics newsweekly," this is bob faw in new york. episcopal bishop jane holmes dixon died in her sleep on christmas day. she was 75. dixon was a suffragan bishop in the diocese of washington, and the second woman in the u.s. to be ordained an episcopal bishop. she retired in 2002 and became active in a variety of social causes. finally, on our calendar this week, many christians
10:26 am
celebrate the feast of the epiphany on january 6th. for western christians, the day marks the arrival of the magi to visit the infant jesus. eastern christians call it theophany and commemorate the baptism of jesus. for the armenian apostolic church, which follows a different calendar, january 6th is the celebration of christmas. many other eastern traditions, including the russian orthodox church and the coptic church celebrate the feast of the nativity, christmas, on january 7th. that's our program for now. i'm bob abernethy. you can follow us on twitter and facebook and watch us anytime on th pbs app f ipnesnd ipads. there's always much more on our web site as well. you can comment on all of our stories and share them. audio and video podcasts are also available. join us at happy new year.
10:27 am
as we leave you, scenes from new year's celebrations around the world. --. major funding is provided by the lily endowment an indianapolis-based private foundation, dedicated to its founder's interest in religion, community development and education. additional funding also provided by mutual of america, designing customized, individual and group retirement products. that's why we're your retirement
10:28 am
company, the jane henson corporation and the corporation for public broadcasting.
10:29 am


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on