Peculiar Case of Viktor Orban’s Visit to Indonesia

Interesting take:

“We don’t see these people as Muslim refugees. We consider them Muslim invaders,” Viktor Orban, Hungarian Prime Minister.

If the aforementioned interview quote from Bild was well-known among Indonesians and wide-spread among bapak-bapak‘s Whatsapp groups, Viktor Orban would have been welcomed differently in his latest three days visit to Indonesia.

The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been in Indonesia conducting his diplomatic tour in Asia, including his visit to Jakarta and Yogyakarta. This is not his first time landing on Indonesia’s soil as previously he was welcomed by President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) in 2016.

His latest visit to Indonesia is officially stated to strengthen 65 years standing bilateral ties between the two countries, especially by deepening cooperation on economic, infrastructure, trade, health, and people-to-people contact. Orban also attended CDI (Centrist Democrat International), an international centrist and Christian democratic party alliance, Executive Meeting hosted by Muhaimin Iskandar’s National Awakening Party (PKB) in Yogyakarta.

Orban himself is the Vice-President of CDI. Jokowi looked happy with his Hungarian counterpart’s visit as Orban pledged attractive investment and diplomatic commitments. Muhaimin Iskandar also seemed to be pretty much enjoying Orban’s visit, judging from his multiple Instagram stories.

It appeared that nobody really cares about Victor Orban’s erratic political footprints, especially on contentious issues such as multiculturalism, refugees, and Islam. Orban is widely known as the beacon of European populism, a poster boy of the rise of right-wing movements in the West as he staunchly criticizes the European Union’s Immigration policies, refuses refugees, and denounces multiculturalism.

Fidesz, his political party, is associated with anti-Islam and anti-Semitism narratives in Hungary and Central Europe. He repeatedly mentions the danger of multiculturalism and liberalism to Hungarian Culture by referring to the “Muslim refugees invasion” in “mass scale” as an example.

Given his political stance and discourse, it is intriguing to observe how Orban, the proponent of so-called “Christian and Illiberal Democracy”, engages in closer diplomatic partnership with the biggest Muslim nation in the world.

This is not to mention his partnership with PKB, the biggest Islamic party in Indonesia, under the CDI platform. Lest we forget that PKB is strongly popular with its multiculturalism and pluralism notions inherited by Abdurrahman Wahid’s thoughts.

Indeed, strategic and material considerations play profound roles as the main driver of Orban’s intention visiting Indonesia. In 2011, he launched Opening to the East Policy to diversify Hungarian economic ties by paying more attention to Russia and Asian countries.

Although it has been navigated since nine years ago, this ambitious foreign policy direction has not managed to be meaningful as Orban has not fully utilized Hungarian engagement to Asian countries. Visiting Indonesia, then, would be pivotal to spur Hungary’s footing in Southeast Asia.

Under his administration, the central European country has been enjoying the relatively enviable economic performance with an average 4.5 percent gross domestic product growth in the last three years, surpassing most of its neighbors in Europe.

Hungarian industries, infrastructure developments and services have been quite vibrant. It massively provides opportunities for Indonesia to be a strategic partner in trade and investment. Hungary also has advanced and sophisticated water management shown in Budapest and across the Danube river — an important know-how for future Indonesia’s new Capital city plan.

This is aligned with Jokowi’s vision to attract more foreign investment to Indonesia.

Getting closer to Hungary also means that Indonesia might open a new perspective export market to central and eastern Europe. Those regions are not only posed as alternative markets needed for Indonesian economic diplomacy. They also are increasingly pivotal in the geopolitical landscape in Europe.

However, Orban’s negative discourse on Islam and multiculturalism should not be left unnoticed. Orban’s negative discourse has, directly and indirectly, inspired Islamophobic notions in Europe.

Hence, Jokowi must not only take merely on Hungary’s economic and political variables into his account. These increasingly closer ties with Hungary should be used as a means to overcome xenophobia and anti-Islamic sentiment rooted in Hungary and Orban’s mind. Jokowi must follow up on Orban’s diplomatic commitment with efforts to promote interfaith understanding.

Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs shall offer people-to-people diplomacy emphasizing multiculturalism, pluralism, and interfaith dialogues embedded in bilateral economic and political cooperation with Hungary.

The exchange of political and religious leaders is desperately needed to gradually foster a better understanding of Islam and multiculturalism in Hungary. This must be followed by Indonesian Fidesz counterpart, PKB to delve into deeper communication with Hungary.

PKB should have more moral responsibility and be the first loudest voice to speak up against anti-pluralism and Islamophobic to Fidesz through direct contact or using the CDI platform. It is not enough to take Instagram stories and only be a nice host for CDI’s event.

PKB can elevate its level and quality by being the biggest proponent against Islamophobia and anti-multiculturalism, not only in Indonesia but also in the heart of anti-Islamic sentiment. Indonesia rightfully has the legitimacy and credibility to communicate that democracy, pluralism, and religious values are possible to harmonize.

These values are not counter-intuitive with each other as believed by Orban and his party. These, in fact, are proven to be the source of a nation’s strength as demonstrated by Indonesia and it should be demonstrated to Hungary.

Because bilateral cooperation built upon solely on material benefits would not last sustainably, diplomacy must be developed perpetually upon constructive values. There must be efforts to ensure both countries embarking on the right side of history against hatred and xenophobia.

Both Indonesia and Hungary can work together on these constructive values while enjoying better economic cooperation, for the good of both regions, for the welfare of both nations, in the present and the future.

Source: Peculiar Case of Viktor Orban’s Visit to Indonesia

We must not forget the Holocaust. But the way we remember will change

From the conclusion of Erna Paris’ excellent long read and analysis of the various stages of coming to terms with the Holocaust:

As though Holocaust denial and museum controversies were not sufficient challenges to the narrative of memory, disputes of a different nature have divided the community of survivors, themselves, some of whom have preferred the commemoration of their unprecedented life tragedy over professional history.

In retrospect, commemoration was perhaps destined to conflict with the dry pursuits of scholars combing through archives, since personal recollections may, or may not, correlate with the rigours of historical fact.

In his 1961 book, The Destruction of the European Jews, the first archival work on the Holocaust, historian Raul Hilberg paid a heavy price. When he told the world that his research indicated that the number of murdered Jews may have been closer to five million than six million, anger erupted. The six-million figure was already settled. It mattered to commemoration. Dr. Hilberg, who was himself a refugee of Nazi Germany, was called an accomplice to Holocaust denial.

I, too, was led to a misunderstanding about history versus commemoration. In the 1990s, I was invited to lecture on Daniel Goldhagen’s provocative book, Hitler’s Willing Executioners, which claimed that ordinary Germans were “willing executioners” because they had been indoctrinated into what Dr. Goldhagen called “eliminationist anti-Semitism.” I had reservations about the fairness of this thesis and had already published my views in a book review in The Globe and Mail. I had barely begun to speak before a woman jumped up and said, “You should be ashamed of yourself!”

What followed was a shouting match among the audience, some attacking me, others defending me, while I sat down in amazement. Yet, all these years later, two remarks from that evening have never left me. A man seated at the back of the room said pointedly, “We don’t need history. We were there.” With sorrow in his voice, someone else said, “In 30 years you can say this. When we are all dead.”

What I came to understand that evening, with compassion, was that the commemoration of experience was what mattered for some people – commemoration and its complement, commemorative history. My criticism of an approved-of book had been perceived, by some, as an attack.

Contested historical narratives provoke impassioned debate. My favourite example of this was an illustration from the French newspaper, Le Monde, showing a large history book open to the year 1943. On one side of the book are dozens of tiny people pushing to close the page. On the other side, the same number of Lilliputians struggle to hold it open.

So we should not be surprised that the Holocaust, which was unprecedented in so many ways, continues to engender argument even among those who would not dream of denying its existence. But today we must ask a new question, which brings me to the third stage of my timeline of remembrance. How will the Holocaust be remembered after the remaining survivors die and its specific horrors recede from living memory?

I could be wrong. But I can suggest a few possibilities, based on present trends.

First, the bad news. In her recent studies of what she calls collective or cultural memory, reputed German scholar Aleida Assmann has argued that the shelf life of front-burner historical memory is approximately 70 to 80 years. That’s where we are now with regard to the Holocaust.

What this means is that it will become increasingly important to keep a factual narrative of memory alive in the face of possible distortion, forgetfulness or both.

The good news is that much good work has already been done. There has been a concerted effort to record the testimony of Holocaust survivors. These recordings will benefit future generations.

Another piece of good news is the creation of excellent Holocaust museums and memorials around the world. But memorials, too, must be curated properly, for when they are not, the results may be appalling.

For example, in a residential neighbourhood of Berlin, I once came across a memorial, made of mirror glass, upon which were engraved the names of the deported Jews of the district. It stood in the middle of an open-air food market and from time to time the vendors squinted through the names of the dead to apply their lipstick.

Many schools around the world now include Holocaust education in their curriculum, but how the subject is taught matters. Teachers must be trained to present difficult material in ways that do not overly traumatize youngsters, while at the same time offering them ways of using this hard learning to make a difference in the world.

I came to this conclusion on a visit to Nuremberg, where I heard a survivor tell her horrifying story to a group of shocked high-school students. One youngster raised his hand and asked the survivor what German children like him could do to ease her suffering. “Nothing,” she replied.

From her point of view, she was right. It was not her job to smooth reality to make that child feel better. But my heart went out to that boy – that descendant of Nazi Germany. He needed not to feel helpless before the enormity of his inheritance.

Carefully calibrated school courses, museums and memorials must offer a way forward, psychologically. To believe that one can learn hard truths, then make a difference to one’s society, will help to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive in positive ways.

In pondering the future of Holocaust memory, we might wish to return to the seminal debate between Mr. Carter and Mr. Wiesel. Mr. Carter’s secular vision was that the Holocaust was a crime against the Jews, but also a universal crime against humanity at large. Mr. Wiesel’s view of the Holocaust claimed Jewish particularity and had a quasi-religious cast, as evidenced when he said, “One should take off one’s shoes when entering its domain; one should tremble each time one pronounces the word.”

How might this controversy unfold in the future? I think we can already see where it is going.

After the genocides in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda in the 1990s, in which similarities with the attempted Nazi genocide of the Jews were visible, Holocaust and genocide studies began to flourish in universities, including here in Canada. These studies are historical, but they are also interdisciplinarian in nature. The hope is that by incorporating the disciplines of psychology and sociology, for example, we will learn more about how and why such events occur and also how they might be prevented. A broader scope of study appears to be the new direction.

An interesting example of this widening scope took place just last summer. In the United States and elsewhere, people had used the phrase “concentration camps” to refer to the detention centres at the U.S.-Mexican border where children were separated from their parents and held in abominable conditions. In response, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum issued a statement in which it rejected any possible analogies to the Holocaust, or to the events leading up to it. The uniqueness argument, in other words.

What followed was most revelatory. Hundreds of scholars of the Holocaust signed a public letter stating that the museum’s position made learning from the past almost impossible – and was far removed from contemporary scholarship.

The survivor recordings, the museums and the monuments, along with the extensive scholarly research that has informed the consciousness of the world, will all help keep the memory of the Holocaust alive. So will events such as Holocaust Remembrance Week.

Yet, at the same time as we rightly fight to preserve historical memory, we must realistically knowledge the potential lifespan of collective remembrance, the time-related slide into forgetfulness, the incessant politics that have always surrounded Holocaust discourse, and the real challenges being faced by the liberal international institutions and values that came into being as a result of the Nazi genocide, including the European Union.

Article 2 of the EU states that the organization is founded on values of respect, freedom, democracy and the rule of law, yet the EU continues to fund the illiberal regime in Hungary that has vilified George Soros and his Open Society Foundations with Nazi-style, anti-Semitic tropes. Resistance to this must harden.

A continuing positive consensus about the Holocaust will require active vigilance in the effort to protect all liberal democracies – the open societies that value ethnic diversity and religious tolerance.

All the same, change, like taxes and death, is inevitable. Nothing remains the same. And given the current trends in Holocaust studies, for example, it is possible that 50 or 100 years from now the Holocaust may primarily be remembered as a “first among others,” within a context of other genocides.

This should not worry us, in my view, for the “lessons of the Holocaust” are both particular and universal. As the scholars who opposed the Washington museum’s narrow approach to Holocaust history pointed out, what is and will be important is the ability to learn from the past.

The core learning future generations must acquire, in addition to the facts of Holocaust history, will be to recognize the impulse to genocide, how and why it starts, the propaganda tools it employs to persuade, and the known consequences of silence and indifference. I think this learning must also include the somewhat rueful acknowledgement that most humans are susceptible to propaganda in various degrees, which is why early-stage vigilance is so crucial.

Viewed from this perspective, the Holocaust may one day be remembered not only as tragic, but also as transformative in our understanding of humankind’s darkest impulses.

Source: We must not forget the Holocaust. But the way we remember will change Erna Paris

More research needed to break down job barriers for racialized Canadians

While the specific suggestions have merit, I think it would be more productive to focus on the effective of existing policies and programs in addressing gaps and challenges:

To improve understanding and pathways for progress, researchers should continue and expand work in several areas, including the following:

  • more disaggregated data to allow us to better understand the experience of different populations within the categories of “visible minority” or “immigrant”;
  • greater focus on the impact of bias, discrimination and systemic barriers in the employment system rather than focusing solely on how job seekers can be better “adjusted” for the labour market;
  • a better understanding of who does what in areas like language training, bridging and other occupational programs, so that we can develop better data on what works for whom;
  • greater examination of how policies in the selection of immigrants, in settlement support and in training programs affect newcomers’ opportunities, and of how these policies can be aligned with employers’ needs; and
  • more examination of ways to promote innovative employer practices to recruit, advance and create inclusive environments for newcomers and racialized Canadians.

The great number of underemployed newcomers and racialized Canadians represents a significant opportunity for Canada’s employers and for the economy more generally. By further investigating these questions, we can help to ensure that all Canadians are able to seize, and benefit from, the opportunities presented by a future of work that is more diverse and inclusive.

Source: More research needed to break down job barriers for racialized Canadians

Macpherson: Electoral reform or not, Montreal loses out

Good look at the impact and likely underlying motives:

“Gerrymandering” is a form of electoral fraud in which the boundaries of constituencies are drawn to advantage — or disadvantage — a particular party or group of voters. Two centuries after the practice was named after a Massachusetts governor named Gerry, it’s still used, notably in some Republican-controlled states to reduce the political influence of minorities.

To achieve a similar purpose here in Quebec, Smiling Frank Legault’s francophone-supremacistgovernment proposes to use not only the electoral map but also the voting system. Let’s call this variation “Frankymandering.”

I’ve already written about how, in the Coalition Avenir Québec government’s proposed new system, what a former nationalist premier notoriously called “ethnic votes,” already underrepresented in the legislature, would control an even smaller proportion of the seats.

There would still be 125 members of the National Assembly, but only 80 would still be elected directly by their constituencies. The other 45 seats would be distributed according to the vote in each region on a second ballot for a party rather than an individual candidate. Those “regional” members would owe their seats more to their party than to the voters.

And since the 80 ridings would generally be larger, the minorities, which are concentrated in the Montreal area, would control proportionately fewer of the 125 total seats.

The government has been far from transparent about how the changes would affect representation, leaving it up to voters to try to figure that out for themselves.

Among other things, Montrealers would lose political clout, not only because they would have fewer MNAs directly accountable to them, but because the island would have fewer MNAs in all.

As reported by La Presse this week, a Université Laval expert on voting systems, Louis Massicotte, found that among other things, the CAQ’s Bill 39 would “substantially” reduce the influence of Montreal Island.

In a brief to an Assembly committee holding a public consultation on the voting legislation, Massicotte wrote that “without the slightest justification,” the island would lose three seats, or 11 per cent of its present representation.

He said that when the bill was presented last September, its drafters “hid” this. The governing CAQ was making a “victim” of a region where it holds only two of the present 27 seats, which he called “obscene.”

In an article published in Le Devoir last December, Massicotte had written that some of the bill’s provisions might be seen as punishing “a region that is demographically important, but ethno-linguistically atypical, for its lack of enthusiasm for the present government.” Montreal, with its minorities, is the stronghold of the Quebec Liberal Party.

The government could hardly dispute Massicotte’s analysis in his brief, since it had a similar one of its own, in a briefing note for the minister responsible for electoral reform, Sonia LeBel. It finally released the note this week, but only because it was forced to do so after Radio-Canada obtained it.

It confirmed that Montreal Island would lose three seats, leaving it underrepresented in the Assembly with 19.2 per cent of the seats for 21.5 per cent of the registered voters for the 2018 general election. It would be left with only 16 riding MNAs compared to the present 27, and eight regional ones.

If Bill 39 is adopted as is, there will be a referendum on the proposed new system at the same time as the next general election, due in 2022. Apparently, the government hopes its own proposal will be rejected.

The CAQ promised a new voting system before the last election, but discovered the advantages of the present one when the Coalition won 59 per cent of the seats with 37 per cent of the vote.

But accidents happen. And just in case the proposal is approved in the referendum, the CAQ has built in a Plan B to weaken the influence of the minorities who now form the core of the remaining electoral base of its Liberal opponents: the Frankymander.


Nova Scotia still faces a disturbing problem with racism, a problem that can be traced back centuries in the province

Of note:

Dartmouth’s Jermaine Parris went into his local RBC branch to complain about his banking fees. A bank employee called police on him – and told them he had been drinking and driving.

Lynn Jones, a lifelong resident of Truro, N.S., was questioned by police after she and two other women stopped along a roadside to take pictures of deer. The officer told her he was investigating a complaint about “suspicious people.”

Santina Rao, a 23-year-old mother, suffered a broken wrist, concussion and injuries to her neck, arm and eye during a violent arrest by police at a Halifax Walmart while shopping with her baby and toddler. Store staff had called police because they suspected her of shoplifting.

Parris, Jones and Rao have one thing in common: They are black. And they were not breaking the law. But someone felt it was necessary to call the police. Those decisions show racial discrimination against blacks remains “alive and well” in Nova Scotia, according to the province’s former lieutenant-governor Mayann Francis.

Less than two months ago, Halifax Police Chief Dan Kinsella issued a historic apology for the practice of street checks, after statistics showed blacks were stopped six times more than whites in the city. Chief Kinsella, whose officers are once again under fire for racial profiling, has called the Ms. Rao incident “disappointing,” and referred the case to Nova Scotia’s police watchdog.

This month’s arrest of the mother in front of her young children has sparked demonstrations at the Walmart, in front of Halifax Regional Police headquarters, and led to calls to freeze the city’s police budget until the service can prove it is no longer racially profiling black Nova Scotians.

Ms. Rao, who says she tried to show her receipts and told police they could search her stroller, was charged with causing a disturbance, assaulting a peace officer and resisting arrest. She was not charged with theft.

Dr. Francis, the province’s first black lieutenant-governor, said she’s been deeply disturbed by the video of Ms. Rao’s arrest, which has been widely shared on social media. It’s made her fearful to go shopping as a black woman, she said.

“It’s affected me very badly. I identified with that. I don’t even like to watch it because it brings up an emotion that breaks my heart,” she said. “It feels like we’ve gone backwards. What’s happening with the police department, it’s just unbelievable.”

She said she can relate to Ms. Rao’s situation, being treated with suspicion simply because of the colour of her skin. Ms. Rao was accused of concealing items because she had a bag underneath her children’s stroller and was putting things into it as she shopped – which Dr. Francis said shows that, even in 2020, there remain different rules for black shoppers and white shoppers.

“Even me, the former lieutenant-governor, has been followed in the stores, has been treated with suspicion,” she said. “When I saw that happen, I said ‘That could have been me’. That could happen to any black person.”

Nova Scotia’s black population has long lived in the shadow of racism in a province where many trace their roots back centuries, to the first waves of Black Loyalists who came here during the American Revolutionary War.

Mr. Parris, whose grandfather was among the last people removed from Africville – a black community demolished by the City of Halifax in the 1960s – said racism remains a part of everyday life for many African Nova Scotians. A police report into his December traffic stop showed there was no evidence he was drinking and an officer “could not detect any smell of alcoholic beverage emitting from the vehicle.”

In his case, a white bank employee at his Brownlow Avenue branch in Dartmouth called police after Mr. Parris left, claiming he was drinking and driving. He believes police were called because he’s black, and he wasn’t showing enough respect when complaining about $60 in fees from the previous month. Within minutes of driving away, he was surrounded by five police vehicles.

“It was humiliating,” Mr. Parris said. “People come with a predisposition toward me before I even get there. It’s been that way my whole life, and I have to learn how to navigate that. I have to be mindful of how I drive, of everything I do and say, in case I offend somebody.”

The bank, for its part, says it called police out of concern for Mr. Parris, and disputed the information in the police report that said he was told not to return to the branch.

“After Mr. Parris left our branch in his vehicle, we were sincerely concerned for his safety and well-being, and we alerted the authorities,” said AJ Goodman, director of external communications for RBC.

In Ms. Jones’s case, her story prompted Truro’s municipal council to pass a motion aimed at addressing concerns around police bias and racial profiling. Ms. Jones said the incident should be an opportunity to help improve the lives of black people by removing employment barriers and improved funding for black businesses.

Many black Nova Scotians say the racism they encounter isn’t usually as public, or nearly as dramatic, as Ms. Rao’s arrest at Walmart last week.

“Our racism is a very polite form of racism. It smiles in your face, it says please and thank you, it calls you sir and ma’am at the same time as it marginalizes you,” said Robert Wright, a social worker and former senior civil servant in the Nova Scotia government. “They’re not yelling at you, they’re not screaming at you, they’re just ill-serving you.”

Mr. Wright says the institutions that were supposed to protect black people’s civil rights, including the courts and the province’s Human Rights Commission, have failed them. That’s why he and others are calling for the creation of an African Nova Scotia Justice Institute, in an effort to reduce the number of black people in the legal system.

Modelled after a legal support clinic for Indigenous people, it would also monitor human rights cases, offer legal defence funding, a restorative justice program, provide court workers and programming for black youths.

The initiative was formally tabled in legislation proposed by the provincial NDP last fall, after stats from an Freedom of Information Act request showed 13 per cent of people incarcerated in Nova Scotia’s prisons are black, compared to less than three per cent of the population.

It will take years for Nova Scotia’s institutions to evolve, Mr. Wright said. But real change can start by taking black Nova Scotians seriously when they say they’re experiencing racism, he said.

“If you want to redress this 400-year history of the marginalization of black people in Nova Scotia, you need to start by believing black people,” Mr. Wright said. “Start by trusting that black people know racism when they see it.”

Calvin Lawrence, a black police officer in Halifax and later with the RCMP, said police need to be better trained and supervised to ensure they know how to de-escalate conflict with black people instead of letting a confrontation end in an unnecessary arrest, he said.

The retired officer says he has serious concerns about Ms. Rao’s arrest, and argues a more sensitive approach may have ended the situation peacefully. He says black communities sometimes need a different approach to policing.

“The defining emotion of the black experience is anger. The challenge is to live with that anger without it debilitating us,” said Mr. Lawrence, whose book, Black Cop, detailed his 36 years dealing with racism inside the police.

“If police want voluntary compliance, they shouldn’t always be doing a one-up, ‘I’m in charge here, do as I say or you’re going to jail’… They need to be able to read the streets, be able to read people and be able to talk to people. It’s a learned art.”

Apologies from chiefs of police for historical mistreatment are helpful, Mr. Lawrence said, but until real change filters down to the officers on the front lines and their supervisors, problems will continue.

“How much time do we spend on the Taser, the gun or the baton, compared to how much time we spend teaching officers how to actually speak to people on the street?” he said.

Source: Nova Scotia still faces a disturbing problem with racism, a problem that can be traced back centuries in the province

Older refugees have high levels of depression even decades after immigration to Canada


Most research on the mental health of refugees focuses on the first few years after resettlement in the host country, but little is known about their long-term mental health.

A new study of Canadians aged 45-85, released this week, found that refugees were 70% more likely to suffer from depression than those born in Canada when age, sex and marital status were taken into account — even decades after immigration.

“Our findings indicate that the refugee experience casts a long shadow across an individual’s lifespan,” says the study’s first author Shen (Lamson) Lin, a doctoral student at the University of Toronto’s Factor Inwentash Faculty of Social Work (FIFSW).

“While our data did not capture reasons for the high levels of depression among refugees, we believe it may be influenced by exposure to pre-migration traumas such as genocide, forced displacement, human trafficking, sexual assault, famine, and separation from family.”

In order to untangle the potential contribution of post-migration challenges, which face all immigrants, from the pre-migration trauma unique to refugees, the research team also investigated depression among immigrants who did not arrive as refugees. Post-migration problems may include downward socioeconomic mobility, racial discrimination, higher levels of unemployment, language barriers, and reduced social networks.

The prevalence of depression among non-refugee immigrants (16.6%) was much closer to that of their Canadian-born peers (15.2%) than to that of refugees (22.1%).

“Our results suggest that post-migration challenges are less important than pre-migration traumas when it comes to depression,” says senior author, FIFSW Professor Esme Fuller-Thomson, who is also cross-appointed to U of T’s Department of Family & Community Medicine and is is director of the University’s Institute for Life Course & Aging.

“The greater prevalence of depression among refugees — half of whom arrived more than four decades ago — underlines the importance of providing mental health resources for our refugee community both immediately after arrival, but also in the ensuing decades.”

The study investigated factors that may have influenced levels of depression among participants, including age, sex, marital status, income, education, health, chronic pain, health behaviors and the frequency of social contacts. But even when these characteristics were accounted for, refugees still had much higher odds of depression than individuals born in Canada.

The researchers found that social support is a key. A lack of social support was associated with higher levels of depression among refugees — they were also more likely to have less of it. Refugees were more likely than those born in Canada to report that they lacked: 1) someone who showed them love and affection (17% versus 8%), 2) someone to confide in about their problems (27% vs 16%), and 3) someone to give them good advice about a crisis (27% versus 16%). (The level of social support among immigrants who did not arrive as refugees was relatively similar to the Canadian born group, and much less vulnerable than the refugee group.) When the availability of these three levels of social support was high, the relationship between refugee status and depression significantly diminished.

“Our study indicates that the quality of relationships, rather than the quantity of social connections, matters most for refugees’ mental health.” says co-author Karen Kobayashi, a professor in the Department of Sociology and a research affiliate at the Institute on Aging & Lifelong Health at the University of Victoria. “This highlights the importance of investigating ways to promote powerful positive social relations among refugees and asylum seekers in their families, neighbourhoods, and communities.”

The study’s findings also have important policy implications.

In Canada, two different sponsorship programs are currently in place. Government-assisted refugees (GARs) get basic financial aid and assistance offered by professionals to help with the settlement process. Privately sponsored refugees (PSRs) are supported by a network of engaged volunteers, often members of a church, mosque or synagogue who are able to provide extensive assistance with all kinds of settlement issues including housing, health needs and job searches.

According to recent studies on Syrian refugees in Canada, PSRs report having more help in daily errands, fewer unmet needs and a higher employment rate than GARs.

“We anticipate that refugees sponsored under the PSR program may be more likely to thrive post-migration because of a stronger social support network and this may set them on a positive employment and mental health trajectory for decades after their arrival.” says co-author Hongmei Tong, Assistant Professor of Social Work at MacEwan University in Edmonton.

Consistent with earlier studies, Canadian adults in this study who were poor, experiencing chronic pain and those with more co-morbid health conditions had a higher prevalence of depression.

“It is not surprising that Canadians who have household incomes under $25,000 per year have double the odds of distress compared to those with incomes above $75,000. Struggling to pay the rent and feed one’s family can be extremely distressing,” said co-author Simran R Arora, Master of Social Work student at the University of Toronto.

“Mental health professionals must be careful not to neglect physical health concerns such as chronic pain,” said co-author Karen Davison, Health Science Program Chair at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, B.C. “We really need to be treating the whole person in order to address depression.”

Source: Older refugees have high levels of depression even decades after immigration to Canada

America’s census looks out of date in the age of big data

Similar issues with the Canadian census, no doubt, and the debate over StatsCan accessing bank financial data is an illustration of the potential and the privacy and political roadblocks ( › news › statistics-canada-pause-plan-obtain-banking-re…Statistics Canada hits pause on plan to obtain banking …):

A DOG-SLED or a snowmobile is the surest way to reach Toksook Bay in rural Alaska, where Steven Dillingham, the director of America’s census bureau, will arrive to count the first people in the country’s decennial population survey on January 21st. The task should not take long—there were only 590 villagers at the last count, in 2010—but it marks the beginning of a colossal undertaking. Everyone living in America will be asked about their age, sex, ethnicity and residence over the coming months (and some will be asked much more besides).

This census has already proved unusually incendiary. An attempt by President Donald Trump to include a question on citizenship, which might have discouraged undocumented immigrants from responding, was thwarted by the Supreme Court. His administration has also been accused in two lawsuits of underfunding the census, thus increasing the likelihood that minorities and vulnerable people, such as the homeless, will be miscounted.

Islamic leaders make ‘groundbreaking’ visit to Auschwitz


Muslim religious leaders joined members of a U.S. Jewish group at Auschwitz on Thursday for what organizers described as “the most senior Islamic leadership delegation” to visit the site of a Nazi German death camp.

The interfaith visit came four days before the 75th anniversary of the camp’s Jan. 27, 1945, liberation by Soviet forces and as world leaders gathered in Jerusalem to commemorate the Holocaust.

The secretary general of the Muslim World League, Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, and the CEO of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris, led the tour to the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial in Poland. The Nazis operated extermination and concentration camps in Poland when Germany occupied the country during World War II.

The American Jewish Committee said that Al-Issa, who is based in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, led a delegation of 62 Muslims, including 25 prominent religious leaders, from some 28 countries during the “groundbreaking” visit. At one point, they prayed with their heads pressed on the ground at Birkenau, the largest part of the camp and the most notorious site of Germany’s mass murder of European Jews.

The AJC delegation included members of the organization, among them children of Holocaust survivors.

“To be here, among the children of Holocaust survivors and members of the Jewish and Islamic communities, is both a sacred duty and a profound honor,” Al-Issa said. “The unconscionable crimes to which we bear witness today are truly crimes against humanity. That is to say, a violation of us all, an affront to all of God’s children.”

Auschwitz was the most notorious in a system of death and concentration camps that Nazi Germany operated on territory it occupied across Europe. In all, 1.1 million people were killed there, most of them Jews from across the continent.

The visit comes as Saudi Arabia works to be seen abroad as a moderate and modernizing country following decades of adherence to a hard-line interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism. The Muslim World League, under al-Issa’s leadership, has embraced the effort.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s strategy to modernize the kingdom is aimed in part at attracting greater foreign investment and fostering a national Saudi identity that is not founded solely on conservative religious values.

Al-Issa’s outreach to Jewish organizations also coincides with a broader alignment of interests and ties emerging between the Arab Gulf states and Israel, which share a common foe in Iran.

On Friday, members of the delegation will visit the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw and attend Muslim and Jewish religious services there.

Source: Islamic leaders make ‘groundbreaking’ visit to Auschwitz

What Lunar New Year Reveals About the World’s Calendars

Neat article:

Lunar New Year kicks off Saturday as one of the most important holidays in Vietnam, South Korea, China and other Asian countries. Typically, it starts on the second new moon after winter solstice.

On the Gregorian calendar, the civil calendar used in most countries, including the United States, the Lunar New Year changes every year, as do the dates of holidays like Rosh Hashana, Diwali and Ramadan.

It can be easy to think of a calendar as a scientific given, or a reflection of the laws of the universe. In fact, as these holidays remind us, there are as many ways to track time as there are cultures and languages. Each calendar reveals something about how the people who created it relate to the world around them while also preserving rich cultural identities and memories.

Most time-keeping traditions track the movement of the sun, moon and stars. Others consider seasonal events, like the autumnal swarming of sea worms, used to orient each year in the Trobriand Islands off New Guinea, or the flowering of immortelle trees into hundreds of tiny vermilion flames, which marks the start of the dry season in Trinidad.

With any calendar, the basic question is which of thousands, if not millions, of cycles in the world to follow, said Kevin Birth, an anthropology professor at Queens College. Calendars “always come down to this cultural choice,” he said, so using one system over another is ultimately a social contract, regardless of how scientifically accurate or sophisticated a calendar is.

A solar year — the time it takes Earth to orbit the sun — lasts around 365 days, while a lunar year, or 12 full cycles of the Moon, is roughly 354 days. Because of this discrepancy, a purely lunar calendar — like the Islamic, or Hijri, calendar — doesn’t stay aligned with the seasons. Islam’s holy month of Ramadan may fall in summer one year, and winter a number of years later.

To correct for seasonal drift, the Chinese, Hindu, Jewish and many other calendars are lunisolar. In these calendars, a month is still defined by the moon, but an extra month is added periodically to stay close to the solar year.

A solar calendar is useful for farming, fishing and foraging societies that need to plan ahead for particular times of the year. But a purely solar calendar, like the Gregorian, tells you nothing about the phases of the Moon.

The traditional Hijri calendar requires an observation of the early crescent moon to start a new month, and thus encourages paying attention to the cosmos. The Gregorian calendar can’t be tracked in the sky, which might be why many Westerners have less awareness of the moon and other natural phenomena, said Sacha Stern, a professor of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London.

Major events on the calendar shape cultural identity. When Jews around the world celebrate Sukkot, a harvest festival, they are observing the timing of the harvest in Israel, and preserving a connection throughout the diaspora, Dr. Birth said.

Holidays also structure personal and historical narratives. Some secular holidays in the United States center on legacies of war, which fits “when you think that the United States also has the largest military budget in the world,” Dr. Birth said. Chinese holidays usually emphasize family union and honoring ancestors, said Haiwang Yuan, a professor of library public services at Western Kentucky University, which aligns with the importance of filial piety.

Many ancient calendars, like the Chinese and Mesoamerican ones, build in fortunetelling, with prescriptions for when to build a house, get married, have a funeral and other life events. Similar calendars provide structure and comfort to people today. Britt Hart, an astrologer based in Philadelphia, said she thinks people can be drawn to horoscope-based calendars because they’re seeking a grander sense of time and order in the universe.

In the context of history, staying connected to an alternative calendar can also be a form of resisting the mainstream, or maintaining an identity outside of it. When a calendar is imposed on a society, it usually has to do with politics and power. The ability “to say when the year will start, or decide that a religious festival should be celebrated at a particular time, can be quite useful for a politician,” Dr. Stern said.

The Gregorian calendar has only been used as a global standard for about a century, and is “very much a reflection of European commerce and colonialism,” Dr. Birth said. It has now been built into computer architecture, but that doesn’t mean another calendar couldn’t one day become dominant.

A Hijri calendar from the Gregorian year 2014 hangs in Dr. Birth’s office. On it, Christmas falls on 3 Rabi al-Awwal, the third day of the third month.

He loves the reminder that, “holidays you think are stationary actually move, and those you think move are actually stationary.” It shows “how cultural these things are, rather than natural,” he said.

Source: What Lunar New Year Reveals About the World’s CalendarsRather than a scientific given, calendars say a lot about the history and cultural values of the societies that created them.

Immigrants new to U.S. are farming its lands with old ways

Interesting. Wonder if any of this is happening in Canada (apart from the Canadian Sikhs in British Columbia):

It was pitch-black in the early morning after the Washington region’s first snowfall, when the Nigerian farmer went to check on his crops. Olaniyi Balogun pushed open the fence, took two steps, then stamped his boot against the soil. He bent over the rows of kale and gently touched the underside of a palm-size, sprouting leaf.

“Hmm,” he grunted, frowning. Just like he thought — frozen.

Most farmers in the Maryland suburbs stop growing their crops by mid-January, but Balogun wants to stretch out the season as far as he can. His wife says it’s because he’s a workaholic; he disagrees. In the rural towns outside Akure, the city in southwestern Nigeria where he was born, people farm year-round.

“For me, this is the only thing I know how to do,” said Balogun, 53, a stocky man with a deep, steady voice. Every time he steps out onto his farm, he said, he remembers himself as a boy, leaping off a crowded pickup truck into the cornfields, slingshot in hand.

“This is what makes me happy.”

Agriculture was once the driving economic force of Montgomery County, now a booming suburb of 1 million people. But after World War II, rapid industrialization drew residents and resources away from the land, leaving just several hundred farmers in what is now the county’s protected 93,000-acre agricultural reserve.

As the county’s demographics change, another shift is underway. Immigrants, many of whom grew up farming in their home countries, are taking over small pockets of the land — part of what advocates say is a national trend that is most pronounced in West Coast states such as California and Washington.

In the United States, farmers have been — and are — predominantly white and male. A third of them are over 65, and as they march toward retirement, many struggle to find successors, contributing to a crisis within the industry that has seen rises in bankruptcies, loan delinquencies and suicides.

From New York’s Hudson Valley to California’s Central Coast, public and private organizations are trying to connect immigrants with the resources they need to start their own farms or cultivate land owned by others, hoping to infuse the industry with new energy and traditions.

The U.S. agriculture census does not track farmers based on national origin, but judging by its data on race, the growth of immigrant farmers seems likely, experts say. From 2007 to 2017 (the most recent year the census was conducted), the number of farms with Hispanic producers grew about 30%, from 66,000 to 86,000. Those who study the census note that since many land-leasing contracts happen informally, these figures may undercount the number of foreign-born farmers who are bringing their agricultural traditions to U.S. shores.

In her recent book “The New American Farmer,” Syracuse University professor Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern says immigrant farmers often introduce new crops and their own, more sustainable farming practices — complementing a growing U.S. “food movement” that urges consumers to take back control of what they eat.

Some immigrant farmers in Maryland have become their neighborhood’s local producers, reviving fading relationships among buyers, farmers and landowners.

“These farmers, their heart and soul are in the land,” said Caroline Taylor, a Maryland farmer and the head of the nonprofit Montgomery Countryside Alliance. “It’s something people miss.”

A love match service: land + farmer

The alliance runs a program, called Land Link, that matches potential farmers with landowners who don’t want to farm but want to keep their land active. The goal, Taylor said, is to revitalize the agricultural reserve and in turn fend off developers hungry for the land.

Since it started in 2011, the Land Link program has helped to lease out nearly 500 acres. It has gained more momentum in recent years, Taylor said, in part because of increasing demand from immigrant and minority farmers, who constitute the majority of applicants. Alliance staff members receive a growing number of inquiries each week on the program, Taylor added, some from people not even in the country yet.

Before he moved to the United States, Balogun ran his own farm in Nigeria that spanned more than 120 acres. In 2016, he married Tope Fajingbesi, a self-described “city girl” who left Lagos in the early 2000s to study, and later settle in College Park as a lecturer at the University of Maryland. They agreed that he would join her if — and only if — he could farm. But in wealthy Montgomery, buying land, even renting, seemed impossible.

“I said to him, ‘Yes, of course we will do it,’ but inside, I thought, ‘Oh my God, there’s no way,’ ” Fajingbesi, 42, recalled. “What was the plan? I don’t know. We had no plan.”

When Land Link first matched them with landowners Dorothy and Brad Leissa, Fajingbesi crunched the numbers. “$500 a month,” she told her husband. That’s all they could shell out. At an introductory meeting, the Nigerian couple nervously asked the Leissas how much it would cost to rent the acre of land around the their 19th-century farmhouse. When the landlords asked for a dollar, Fajingbesi thought she had misheard. One dollar, the Leissas repeated.

“We’re happy to share,” said Dorothy, a soft-spoken schoolteacher. “Really, we’re happy to let them use it.”

Slowly, Balogun began to build up Dodo Farms, spending 11 — sometimes 12 — hours at the site each day. When he harvested his first tomatoes, he brought a bag to the Leissas’ farmhouse at the top of the hill. At Thanksgiving, he turned up at their door with a 25-pound turkey.

Last year, the couple brought him a gift: a wooden sign for the dim-lit shed where he does his administrative work. On it, the words “OFIISI NIYI” — Yoruba for “Niyi’s office.”

They wanted to show Balogun that he belonged on the farm, Dorothy said.

And that it belonged to him.

What’s old is new again

Minkoff-Zern, the Syracuse professor, interviewed 70 immigrant Latino farmers for her book. Nearly all showed a preference for a specific farming style, she wrote, “one where they are able to regain control over their daily labor and reproduce a specific agrarian way of life.”

They limit use of chemicals, opting for natural alternatives that were used in family farms in their home countries. They go out of their ways to ensure that the crops are safe and healthy. As one Mexican farmer in New York told Minkoff-Zern: “We were organic [in Mexico], we just didn’t know we were.”

Balogun is similar: Instead of commercial fertilizer, he uses cow manure, which he gets free from a nearby cattle rancher. He avoids pesticides, picking out weeds and insects by hand.

“These farmers are working with natural systems, using quote-unquote old school conservation techniques,” Taylor said. “These are folks that have things to teach us.”

Immigrant farmers also offer different crops. In the summer, Balogun grows a type of spinach often used in Nigerian stews but not easily found in this country. Another Land Link farmer, Tanya Doka-Spandhla, 54, almost exclusively grows crops native to South and West Africa — vegetables that grew in the backyard of her childhood home in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Doka-Spandhla, who came to the U.S. two decades ago, said she started her farm in 2015 because she missed food from home. She wanted the mustard greens, “tsunga,” that are sautéed with peanut butter sauce, and the pumpkin leaves, “mubura,” that are boiled and eaten with porridge. She craved the jelly-meat of the bright yellow horned melon, called “kiwano.”

On summer weekends, her three-acre farm in Gaithersburg is a buzzing hub for Montgomery’s expanding West African population.

“It just makes sense,” Taylor said. “We have a million people in the county now. They aren’t all people who want to eat baked potatoes.”

Dodo Farms, too, has earned a loyal following — and not just among immigrants. Among the more enthusiastic fans is Alexa Bely, a 50-year-old biology professor who not only gets most of her household’s produce from Balogun but has persuaded her neighbors in College Park to do the same.

For those who cannot make it to the College Park farmers market, where Balogun sells produce on the weekends, Bely picks up their vegetables and delivers them herself.

“I’ve become a bit of a nut about this,” she admitted, laughing. “But he’s doing something that I really believe in.”

“And,” she added, “his carrots are the best I’ve ever tasted.”

Source: Immigrants new to U.S. are farming its lands with old ways