Geography Education
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Geography Education
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Curated by Seth Dixon
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Why South Asia’s majorities act like persecuted minorities

Why South Asia’s majorities act like persecuted minorities | Geography Education |

“Mukul Kesavan, a perceptive Indian historian, sees this region-wide propensity for majoritarian nationalism as a sad if natural outcome of the awkward struggle to build new nation-states. The most egregious recent example is Myanmar, whose 90% Buddhist majority felt so threatened by a Rohingya Muslim minority of barely 1% that it sanctioned burning, pillage, murder, rape and enforced exile. Bangladesh chased non-Muslim tribes into India, and its once large and prosperous Hindu minority has dwindled alarmingly in the face of constant pressure. In the name of orthodoxy, extremists in Pakistan have viciously hounded not only Christians and Hindus but also Shia Muslims, Ahmadis and allegedly unorthodox Sufis. Sinhalese have historically dominated the island [of Sri Lanka], a fact forcefully reasserted in 2009 when the Sri Lankan army brought to a bloody end a 26-year-long insurgency by mostly Hindu ethnic Tamils, the largest minority group.”


Tags: religionethnicity, South Asiaregions, politicalconflict

Kelvis Hernandez's curator insight, December 14, 2018 7:13 PM
The printed version of this story was titled "They're all out to get us" which is very fitting. In the world today there is another swing on the pendulum towards nationalism and with that goes xenophobia. The fear of outsiders, of those different from yourself who are trying to take over the country. It is hard not to see the parallels between these South Asian countries and the United States where for the last few years we have seen a major increase in xenophobia and racial/religious dog whistling in politics. In South Asia, this is seen not as an anti-colonial blowback but as  "the majoritarian logic of ethnic nationalism".
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'It's Our Right': Christian Congregation In Indonesia Fights To Worship In Its Church

'It's Our Right': Christian Congregation In Indonesia Fights To Worship In Its Church | Geography Education |
A Christian congregation outside Jakarta built a new church legally, but Muslims in the area object to it. In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled to allow worship at the church, but it remains sealed.


Vocal Muslim citizens opposed construction of the church and pressured the local government to cancel the permits. The local government acquiesced to the demands. But the church group went to court, and won. On an appeal, they won again. Finally, the case went all the way to Indonesia's Supreme Court — where the church group won a third time, in 2010. But to this day, the congregation can't worship there.

Indonesia, with its mix of Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian citizens, has long had a reputation as a country that embraces religious diversity. Andreas Harsono, the Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch, sees things differently.


Tags: Indonesiaculture, religion.

David Stiger's curator insight, November 28, 2018 1:17 AM
The rule of law fails when the rulings of courts, especially the highest courts of the land, are blatantly ignored. So is the case for Indonesia's Christian communities. Tragically, a Muslim majority has attacked, protested, and hindered their fellow Christian citizens causing the shutdown of nearly 1,000 churches. Even though Indonesia is home to the world's largest Muslim population, their numbers do not grant them the power to trample over the rights of the minority. Indonesia's constitution specifically grants freedom of religion, but the constitution is only valuable if the rule of law is enforced and adhered to through human actions. Instead of honoring their constitutional values, a pervasive attitude of intolerance has manifested itself within Indonesia's Muslim majority. This intolerance is becoming extreme and hindering the rights of fellow citizens. What is most disturbing, however, is the lack of government action. Why aren't the authorities investigating and taking action? For this reason, it is important that a body like the United Nations exist so that the General Assembly can openly discuss Indonesia's religious repression, examine the evidence, and consider possible solutions. 
Corey Rogers's curator insight, December 16, 2018 12:38 AM
In a Muslim populated country you get a backlash from those people because they do not support the building of a Christian Church. Since they do not have as much freedom for speech as they do in the US, the building is always being rejected or halted which sucks. The Christians just want a peaceful place to worship. 
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Hijab: Veiled in Controversy

Hijab: Veiled in Controversy | Geography Education |
Hijab is an Islamic concept of modesty and privacy, most notably expressed in women’s clothing that covers most of the body.
Seth Dixon's insight:

What is the geography of the hijab?  Covering one's head pre-dates Islam in the Middle East but many associate this practice strictly with Islam and only for women. Read this article (with teaching tips and supplemental resources) for more context on this cultural and religious practice.  


Tags: Islam, perspective, religion, culture, National Geographic.

Taylor Doonan's curator insight, March 23, 2018 4:42 PM
This article is about Hijabs and it talks about the religious aspect of Hijabs versus the cultural aspect. It states that the hijab is a sign of modesty, which is not a strictly Muslim ideology, but is addressed in many religions. It also talks about how the hijab is not directly mentioned in the Quran. It states that the hijab is almost as much a cultural symbol instead of a religious one and talks about countries with laws about hijabs and how women should dress. 
Nicole Canova's curator insight, March 25, 2018 2:19 AM
Hijab is the expression of a concept of modesty.  It is not specific to one religion, nor is it specific to one region.  This expression of modesty is encouraged, but not clearly defined, in Islam's holy texts; rather, it is informed by personal or cultural notions of what it means to be modest.  Hijab's association with extreme or radical Islam has led to heated debates in Western nations about whether or not it is acceptable for people to express hijab, with many people citing "national/public security" as a reason to ban certain coverings.
David Stiger's curator insight, October 31, 2018 3:29 PM
The geography of the hijab is important for Westerners to understand. Only two countries, Iran and Saudi Arabia, require women to dress by the strict standards of hijab. The vast majority of Middle Eastern, North African, and Muslim countries around the world do not have a legal dress code for women. Some laws and cultural traditions encourage women to dress modestly. Other countries like Tunisia, Turkey, and Syria (all predominantly Muslim) had laws to restrict women from wearing the hijab in order to be more secular and modern. Many other countries, like Pakistan and Jordan, do not have any laws on the book concerning if women should or should not wear a hijab. These countries understand that it is a personal choice regarding privacy, reputation, and personal faith. Like many religious precepts, the concept of hijab is open to interpretation. As a result, a Westerner can safely assume that having a large Muslim population, or a significant number of Muslims operating in a government, will not lead to a takeover of Sharia law or oppressive fundamentalist codes of behavior. Instead of being afraid of the unknown and making assumptions about entire societies, Westerners should find out more and be exposed to how diverse and broad differing cultures and societies can be. 
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The fate of religious freedom in the former USSR, 25 years after its collapse

The fate of religious freedom in the former USSR, 25 years after its collapse | Geography Education |
It's been 25 years since the fall of the Soviet Union. How has religious freedom fared in this part of the world?
Seth Dixon's insight:

The collapse of the former Soviet Union was one of the biggest political events of the 20th century with long-reaching cultural ramifications.  The generations of state-sponsored atheism followed by a variety of new political policies has meant that religious freedoms vary greatly in the regions that were once a part of the USSR.  This article gives a good breakdown of all the former SSR’s and the state of religious freedom today in each of them.    


Tags: religionChristianityIslam, Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, AzerbaijanGeorgia, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Moldova, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan.      

David Stiger's curator insight, October 22, 2018 3:20 PM
For post-Soviet countries, power and fear might be freedom's greatest challenges. On one hand, there is a dominant religious institution -  Eastern Orthodox Christianity - seeking to grow its influence and power. This might be a goal for a religion that is not popular elsewhere around the world (many Americans only know of Protestants and Roman Catholics, completely oblivious to the third major branch). They may see their geographic location as especially important - serving as a home-base of spiritual operations to launch evangelical missions, build coalitions, and influence national policies that shape society in a way their particular brand of Christianity approves of. On the other hand is fear of extremist groups which have resorted to terrorism to achieve their objectives. Countries like Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Tajikistan, and Azerbaijan have all placed restrictions on minority faiths, such as Muslims and Protestants, requiring these groups to register with the state. Geographically, the Islamic world, which is in a constant state of turmoil, lies directly south of the post-Soviet Union, making Islam a key focus as immigrants and ideas easily flow into the region. This need for state approval is a form of control which clearly hampers independence and freedom of expression.  The irony in all of this is that fear of extremism leads to more extreme measures of security. This toxic process will only sow discord, distrust, and animosity between sub-populations leading to civil unrest.  

Matt Danielson's curator insight, October 22, 2018 10:49 PM
It is not surprising to me as a history major that they is still suppression of religious freedom in many former soviet territories. The more westernized countries have less of an issue than the countries farther from the west. This is partially due to them wanting to join Nato which requires religious freedom for joining. The more Islamic countries to the south seem to have the most difficulties with religious freedoms (as do a majority of Islamic nations). Russia would also have some problems from years of atheism being forced by the communist party. Somehow the Eastern Orthodox religion was able to hold on through out it all, but they seem to be the only;y religion openly accepted in Russia.  
Kelvis Hernandez's curator insight, November 1, 2018 2:45 PM
After years and years of suppression under the Atheistic USSR, many would not be unreasonable to have believed that when the USSR fell they would be able to practice their religion however they would like. Unfortunately, nothing changes in a day and when fear is a tactic learned from their former occupiers. Many countries still use the growing terrorism in the region to suppress their own citizen's rights to religious freedom.  Countries such as Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are of great concern where Religious minorities, mainly Muslims, are rounded up and registered, monitored during religious practices or severely restricted. It is not a surprise that this is happening is former-USSR countries, but you must understand it takes time for deeply rooted behaviors to change. 
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Thousands Leave Norwegian Church as Online Registration Backfires

Thousands Leave Norwegian Church as Online Registration Backfires | Geography Education |

"15,035 people have 'unsubscribed' from the church since Monday."

Seth Dixon's insight:

Europe, the most developed region in the world, is also the most secular region today.  During colonial times, Europeans were spreading Christianity across the globe, but now Christianity is becoming more a part of Europe's historical landscape.  Secularization can be seen as either the cause or the effect of several other European trends such as declining fertility rates.  Today Europeans have stopped attending mass en masse, and many cathedrals sit empty.  This example for Norway has an amusing twist, but it is rooted in a powerful cultural shift. 


Questions to Ponder: What are other signs of secularization on the cultural landscape?  What would you do with a former sacred site (and an architectural treasure) that is can't be maintained?


Tags: culturepopular culture, religion, ChristianityNorway, Europe.

David Stiger's curator insight, September 28, 2018 7:09 PM
Being raised Lutheran in the Mid-West, with Norwegian heritage, I can recall my relatives telling me that, unlike America, the "official church" of the Scandinavian countries is usually Lutheran. As a teen, it was always ironic to hear how irreligious, agnostic, and secular these European countries were despite having a state-sponsored religion. It's interesting to note that in 2012, the Lutheran church ceased to be the official national church of Norway - marking a trend that continues to grow. 

Interestingly enough, despite Europe's decline of Christianity, many of these states support robust welfare systems and social programs that include the powerless and vulnerable. What does this reality say about Christianity then? Can the message of Jesus - to love and serve the downtrodden -  be better achieved without Jesus the divine? 

Notably, Europe is the most advanced and developed region in the world and they are now the most secular region in the world. Perhaps the decrease in religiosity and traditional beliefs is tied to education, higher quality of life, technology, and better opportunity. It would be interesting to compare the most religious countries in the world (often Arab-Muslim and Latin American Roman Catholic) to determine if development has a strong correlation with declining religious participation.  
Olivia Campanella's curator insight, October 1, 2018 9:19 PM
Europe is one of the most developed regions in the world and is also the most secular region today. Christianity was spreading across the globe but now, it is becoming part of Europe's past. In this article a Norwegian church attempted to help people check their enrollment or to sign up  by creating a website, but, to their surprise 10,854 people clicked the unenroll option leaving the church with a net loss of 14,500 people.
Stevie-Rae Wood's curator insight, October 28, 2018 7:15 PM
Europe today lacks the religious aspect it once held so close. Attendance of church has dramatically declined as time went on leaving many church buildings abandoned. Europe stands today as one of the most developed regions in the world however, it is now the most secular region today. Which is very different from how Europe use to be. Christianity is now becoming part of Europe's past. In this article a Norwegian church tries to combat the lack of church attendance and practices. They do this in a very modern way that being using the internet. They attempted to create an website where people could sign up or check their enrollment in church. However, this modern idea backfired and the church lost around 14,500 people as they clicked the un-enroll option on the website. I believe this idea failed because people that attend church probably lean more towards old traditions. So they might have felt insulted by the church that they had to enroll on a modern (new tradition). The members probably wanted the church to remain untouched by modernity.
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The Vatican’s Gallery of Maps Comes Back to Life

The Vatican’s Gallery of Maps Comes Back to Life | Geography Education |
In the 16th century, Pope Gregory assigned the monk and geographer Ignazio Danti to carry out the project. In turn, Danti hired several artistic stars of the day and up-and-comers as well to illustrate the maps, including Girolamo Muziano, Cesare Nebbia and the Flemish brothers Matthijs and Paul Bril. The Brils excelled at landscape paintings—an essential skill for the work.
Seth Dixon's insight:

This 4-year restoration project is a great cultural revival, but it also reveals the importance of geographic information.  The Vatican was a great medieval seat of both religious authority and political power.  This attracted prominent visitors from all over Europe and the map gallery served to convey geographic information about the Italian peninsula.  


Tagsart, Italy, historical, Europe, religiontourism, Christianity.

Loreto Vargas's curator insight, August 6, 2016 11:30 PM
Wonderful and amazing
Corey Rogers's curator insight, December 15, 2018 6:20 AM
The geography paintings show depict how the 16th century artist saw their country. It is really an amazing feature to have this inside on their walls to show everyone how they feel their nation looks on topical scale. they give the mountains a 3-D look almost to show how deep they are. 
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Projected Religious Population Changes in Sub-Saharan Africa

Projected Religious Population Changes in Sub-Saharan Africa | Geography Education |

"The total population in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to grow at a faster pace than in any other region in the decades ahead, more than doubling from 823 million in 2010 to 1.9 billion in 2050. As a result, the two dominant religions in the region – Christianity and Islam – both are expected to have more than twice as many adherents in 2050 as in 2010."

Seth Dixon's insight:

Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the poorest regions of the world. While the economy is growing, the rate at which poverty is falling is less than the population growth rate.  Nearly all of the population growth in Africa between now and 2050 is expected to occur in Sub-Saharan Africa.  As the population grows, the religious dynamics of Sub-Saharan Africa will change.  The share of residents practicing Christianity, the majority religion of the region, is expected to decline from 2010 to 2050 while the share of Muslims is expected to increase in the same time frame.  The changes in religious demographics is occurring alongside the region’s youth bulge (click here for a population pyramid).  Understanding religious demographics is key to understanding the challenges faced by the African people.   


Question to Ponder: What impact are the region’s two fastest-growing religions having on Sub-Saharan Africa’s overall fertility rate?    


Tagsreligionpopulation, ChristianityIslam, Africa.

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2015 Saw a Decrease in Global Religious Freedom

2015 Saw a Decrease in Global Religious Freedom | Geography Education |

The global refugee crisis, political strife and economic dislocation all contributed to a worldwide deterioration of religious freedom in 2015 and an increase in societal intolerance, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom."

Seth Dixon's insight:

This is one of the sad results of the many global conflicts today and increase in reactionary political movements that scapegoat religious minorities.  The image above is a map/wordle of the 18th article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."  


Tags: religion, ChristianityIslamBuddhismHinduismJudaism, podcastconflict, refugees.

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Pope Francis, Russian Orthodox patriarch to meet in Cuba

Pope Francis, Russian Orthodox patriarch to meet in Cuba | Geography Education |

"After a split of more than 1,000 years, the persecution of Christian by extremists in the Middle East and Africa have brought the two churches closer."


Pope Francis and the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church will meet in Cuba next week in a first-ever encounter between the heads of the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches since the Great Schism of 1054.


Tags: religionChristianity.

Seth Dixon's insight:

This isn't just about religion though...a meeting of this magnitude has geopolitical significance

Megan Mattei GIS's curator insight, February 7, 2016 4:41 PM

This meeting is very monumental for the Christian faith and all its sectors because the two heads of each faith have not met in 962 years. Hopefully this meeting will only bring positive outcomes especially for the Christians being persecuted in the Middle East. It will be interesting to see if the two leaders continue to meet and make actions towards peace in the Middle East together. If the people of both faiths truly believe and carry out what their faith teaches, there will not be any problems with this meeting or continued action among the Christian faiths. 

Phil LAUGRAND's curator insight, February 8, 2016 11:37 AM

alleluia !

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In Russia, Epiphany Comes With A Shockingly Cold Swim

In Russia, Epiphany Comes With A Shockingly Cold Swim | Geography Education |

"Thousands of members of the Russian Orthodox Church marked Epiphany in January with a dip in freezing waters blessed by a cleric. Epiphany is a celebration of the baptism of Jesus Christ and the revelation of God as a human being in his form. Much like a baptism, the icy plunge is considered a purifying act of faith."

Seth Dixon's insight:

Some of the photography and photo galleries of this cultural event are breathtaking--literally for those taking the plunge.  Russians cut the ice in the shape of a cross and bath in water that is blessed and considered holy as explained in this NPR podcast.  This religious tradition is particularly well-suited to the environmental conditions of the religious adherents (since the extreme climate plays a critical role in the activity).  Part of the practice involves sacrifice; the colder the swim, the greater the manifestation of religious devotion.    


Tags: Russia, religionChristianity, culture

othni lindor's curator insight, October 20, 2018 5:39 PM
This article talks about epiphany. Epiphany is a holiday in the Russian Orthodox Church. It celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan. Believers are baptized in freezing water through holes cut in the ice. Big cities like Moscow set up their own stations while smaller cities have a more do-it-yourself approach. The churches are decorated with a Christmas tree and it densely packed with people. The service for Epiphany can last for as many as four hours.    
Matt Danielson's curator insight, October 22, 2018 10:58 PM
This is similar to a baptism done in both Catholic and protestant religious but with an added twist. As in often times and found through out history a regions religion is influenced by the environment( check Norse religion of Vikings or Christianity effects on the Irish for example) and the Eastern Orthodox religion in Russia is no different. Using the harsh environment in part of there religious rituals making the baptism more of a sense of acceptance and will, they do it in extremely cold waters to prove their allegiance to the religion and their determination to follow it. This must be a powerful experience full of emotion, pain, and afterwards group acceptance. 
Kelvis Hernandez's curator insight, November 1, 2018 3:19 PM
Epiphany must be an unbelievable experience for those who believe in the Russian Orthodox Church. In celebration of the Baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan, Russian Orthodox members dip into the freezing waters blessed by clerics. The participants claim to feel cleansed after the whole experience. With hundreds of participants and many young people as well it is a testament to their faith in Russia Orthodox Church. 
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How Do Sunni and Shia Islam Differ?

How Do Sunni and Shia Islam Differ? | Geography Education |
With Saudi Arabia’s execution of a Shiite cleric inflaming tensions in the Middle East, here is a primer on the differences between the two branches of Islam.
Seth Dixon's insight:

Knowing the geography of the Sunni-Shiite division is incredibly important for a good understanding of world regional geography as well as modern geopolitics (see a detailed map of the spatial distribution here). This 5 minute video (as well as this NPR podcast) examine the historical and religious aspects of this split to then analyze the political and cultural implications in the Middle East today.  Additionally this Pew Research article highlights the 5 countries where the the majority of Muslims are Shiite, with some good demographic data to add to the analysis.  Take this quiz to test your knowledge on the differences between the two major branches of Islam.   


TagsMiddleEastIslamreligionhistorical, culture.

brielle blais's curator insight, April 4, 2018 7:23 PM
This article shows how important it is to understand the history of a countries demographics in relation to its politics and culture. Understanding the difference between the Shiite and Sunni helps one understand regional differences as well. It helps one understand the culture and how to navigate through differences found in one country or multiple regions. 
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Skellig Michael: An Island Far, Far Away

Skellig Michael: An Island Far, Far Away | Geography Education |

"Star Wars Epiosde VII was filmed on Skellig Michael island in Ireland. What better place to depict an ancient, mystical, martial asceticism in a galaxy far, far away than an actual ancient eremitic settlement, dripping with stone-cold monastic austerity, located at what was for centuries the very ends of the earth, seven miles off the very tip of a western Irish peninsula?"

Seth Dixon's insight:

This island is dripping with geologic, biogeographical, and religious intrigue that makes this world heritage site a place that is shrouded in mystery.  This article from JSTOR Daily is a great introduction to the island for the incurably curious.  The already vibrant tourism industry is bound to increase after Star Wars used this incredible location in the recent film (much like New Zealand experienced a huge spike in tourism after the Lord the Rings films).  Filmmakers understand the power of place to deepen the narrative; they frequently situate their stories in a geographic context that will heighten the emotional impact of the story.  For more on the dramatic locations of Star Wars filming sites, see this article by National Geographic


Tags: geologybiogeography, religionChristianityplaceIreland, tourism.

J. Mark Schwanz's curator insight, January 4, 2016 3:33 PM

Skellig Michael is sure to become a more common geographical interest since the success of Star Wars. 

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Donald Trump’s attacks on Muslims fit a pattern of persecution. Just ask Jews, Catholics and Mormons.

Donald Trump’s attacks on Muslims fit a pattern of persecution. Just ask Jews, Catholics and Mormons. | Geography Education |
Persecuting religious minorities that are perceived as a political threat is a time-honored American tradition.
Seth Dixon's insight:

This is not intended to be a political post, but one that reflects of the history of religious persecution in the United States.  If you find that to be a controversial political topic, so be it.  In the past, when Americans have suspected that a religious group is undermining it's country’s free, democratic political order, we have demanded—often violently—some radical action against that group.  Let that past stay in the past.  


Tags: religionUSA, historical, conflict

Chelsea Martines's curator insight, December 12, 2015 8:45 PM
The author is the article, Henry Farrell, interviews David T. Smith about Donald Trump's statement about not allowing anymore Muslims to come to the U.S. He says that this is a pattern of persecutions, as many religions have been persecuted through the history of the U.S. He uses examples from Jews, Catholics, and Mormons. They have all been restricted income rights, or attacked by the government in the 19 and 20 centuries. DTS says that what the current president and the old president have done regarding Islamic extremist is controversial. Both president Bush and Obama have said that ISIS and other terrier groups could be considered not even Islamic or religious as to not be labeled as attacking a religion, so it can rather be seen as simply terrorist and then have the peaceful Muslims be kept protected.
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The Real Threat to Hinduism: The Slow Death of India's Rivers

The Real Threat to Hinduism: The Slow Death of India's Rivers | Geography Education |

Hinduism shares an intricate, intimate relationship with the climate, geography, and biodiversity of South Asia; its festivals, deities, mythology, scriptures, calendar, rituals, and even superstitions are rooted in nature. There is a strong bond between Hinduism and South Asia’s forests, wildlife, rivers, seasons, mountains, soils, climate, and richly varied geography, which is manifest in the traditional layout of a typical Hindu household’s annual schedule. Hinduism’s existence is tied to all of these natural entities, and more prominently, to South Asia’s rivers.


Hinduism as a religion celebrates nature’s bounty, and what could be more representative of nature’s bounty than a river valley? South Asian rivers have sustained and nourished Hindu civilizations for centuries. They are responsible for our prosperous agriculture, timely monsoons, diverse aquatic ecosystems, riverine trade and commerce, and cultural richness.  Heavily dammed, drying in patches, infested by sand mafia and land grabbers, poisoned by untreated sewage and industrial waste, and hit by climate change — our rivers, the cradle of Hinduism, are in a sorry state.


If there is ever a threat to Hinduism, this is it. Destroy South Asia’s rivers and with it, Hinduism’s history and mythology will be destroyed. Rituals will turn into mockery, festivals, a farce, and Hinduism itself, a glaring example of man’s hypocritical relationship with nature. The fact that we worship our rivers as mothers and then choke them to death with all sorts of filth is already eminent.

Seth Dixon's insight:

This might be a controversial op-ed because it has a strong perspective on the religious and environmental dimensions of modern Indian politics...that said, I think it is well worth the read.  The Ganges is both a holy river, and a polluted river; that juxtaposition leads to many issues confronting India today. 


Tagsculturereligion, India, South Asia, Hinduism, pollution, industry,   environment, sustainability, consumption, fluvial

Nicole Canova's curator insight, May 1, 2018 6:21 AM
Religion is shaped by the geography of the region in which it develops.  For example, Hinduism is heavily influenced by the rivers of India, and these rivers are considered holy places sites and places of cleansing and purification.  However, the cleansing power of the rivers is diminished by pollution that makes it unsafe to take part in ritual bathing.  Pollution, climate change, and deforestation are also having an impact on other aspects of Hinduism, which is about celebrating nature in it's entirety, including monsoons, forests, and agriculture.  As nature continues to be negatively impacted by human activity, many aspects of Hinduism will also be negatively impacted.
David Stiger's curator insight, November 12, 2018 8:19 PM
Sometimes both sides can be wrong in an argument, as illustrated in this article. The secular left in India has mistaken their conservative Hindu counterparts as a people stuck in tradition, unable to address the environmental calamities facing modern society. The more right-leaning Hindus believe the secular environmentalism of their countrymen to be antagonistic to the practice of Hinduism - such as the environmental restrictions on firecrackers. Hindus celebrating Diwali feel that fireworks are a central part of the festivities and do not want environmentalists restricting them. The author notes that both sides have missed the point. Hinduism is closely tied to nature and expresses notions of environmental stewardship as a holy endeavor. Liberal Indians do not need to see Hinduism as opposed to environmental sustainability and should stop criticizing Hinduism as a whole. Traditionally religious Hindus should be aware that their own faith would have them be environmentalists - not because of secularism - but because of divine inspirations to coexist with nature. While both sides bicker, failing to understand how Hinduism is pro-nature, the rivers are being ruined by pollution. This pollution will destroy nature, and nature is the foundation and driving force of the Hindu religion. This is because Hinduism was founded around a  river valley civilization - the river and arable land being central to the culture's vitality. 

In some ways, this situation reminds me of Christianity in America. Liberals are very concerned about the environment and climate change in particular. Conservative Christians, buying into a theology of "Dominionism" of Genesis, believe God gave the earth to humans to use however they please. Paired with a suspicion of science, conservative evangelicals have largely shunned environmental sustainability and conservation. A closer reading of the Bible would show that God values nature and wants creation to grow and thrive. Humans should be stewards of the environment - its destined caretakers. Instead, liberals think Christianity preaches stupidity while conservative Christians believe the science behind environmentalism is anti-God, aligned with communism, and probably a hoax to manipulate the faithful. 

Matt Danielson's curator insight, December 12, 2018 8:08 PM
The river plays a key role in India. Whether its culture, religion, histor,y in agriculture, in transportation, and in many other aspects. These once bountiful rivers that sustained Indian civilizations are now threatened by pollution, climate change, damns, and other man made reasons. At best if this is problem is not solved it will lead to drastic changes in Indian society, at worse it could lead to the collapse of Indian society, Starting with the end of Hindu rituals. 
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Pakistan's traditional third gender isn't happy with the trans movement

Pakistan's traditional third gender isn't happy with the trans movement | Geography Education |
For centuries, South Asia has had its own Khawaja Sira or third gender culture. Now, some third gender people in Pakistan say the modern transgender identity is threatening their ancient culture.
Seth Dixon's insight:

Sometimes our assumptions about a society, and how they might react to cultural issues are just that...assumptions.  I for one was very surprised to learn that Pakistan had a traditional third gender. 


Tags: culture, developmentpodcast, genderPakistansexuality, South Asia, religion.

David Stiger's curator insight, November 11, 2018 10:11 PM
From an outsider's perspective, cultures are often hard to pin down. This became clear again when trying to comprehend Pakistan's third gender community. Not to be confused with the more modern transgender community, the third gender - or Khawaja Sira - is manifested in the traditional roots of Islam. It seems like a religiously accepted mode of existing to transcend gender. Because Khawaja Sira falls under the precepts of Islam, it is therefore tolerated but not necessarily embraced. What is interesting is that because there are rules and traditional codes outlining how a Muslim can be Khawaja Sira, there a good deal of hostility towards the modern Western notion of transgender - referring more to a person who "transitions" from the gender of their birth to a gender they more strongly identify with. One would think that Pakistan's third gender community would be more open and understanding of the West's transgender movement. This is not the case. When a Westerner is traveling in Pakistan and notices a third gender option, the person should not assume Pakistan is a bastion for liberal-minded progressives. Instead, Pakistan is just being Pakistan. 
Kelvis Hernandez's curator insight, December 14, 2018 6:55 PM
A topic to discuss. People who don't agree with the beliefs or rights of people in the LGBTQ community will talk about how this is a new issue. That it is the new generation that is creating these ideas.  But multiple genders and sexualities have been around for hundreds of years in many different ways. There are Native American tribes whose people had "two-spirits". Those people fulfilled the third gender ceremonial roles for their communities. In this story, they discuss Khawaja siras are "God's chosen people", the third gender people who can bless or curse anyone. But "God's chosen people" are also greatly discriminated against in society. You see the contradictions that society puts on people who don't conform to what is supposedly right.
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America’s Empty-Church Problem

America’s Empty-Church Problem | Geography Education |
The culture war over religious morality has faded; in its place is something much worse.


In his book Twilight of the Elites, the MSNBC host Chris Hayes divides American politics between “institutionalists,” who believe in preserving and adapting the political and economic system, and “insurrectionists,” who believe it’s rotten to the core. The 2016 election represents an extraordinary shift in power from the former to the latter. The loss of manufacturing jobs has made Americans more insurrectionist. So have the Iraq War, the financial crisis, and a black president’s inability to stop the police from killing unarmed African Americans. And so has disengagement from organized religion.

Seth Dixon's insight:

Forgive the inflammatory title and the partisan source of this article if those are things that would worry you.  This discussion of how secularization is (and is not) changing the nature of American politics gives people much to consider--no matter where you fit on any political or religious spectrum. 


Tagsop-ed, religion, culture, political, USA.

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Why America’s ‘nones’ left religion behind

Why America’s ‘nones’ left religion behind | Geography Education |
With the percentage of U.S. adults who do not identify with a religious group growing, we asked these people to explain, in their own words, why they left.
Seth Dixon's insight:

The United States' population is becoming increasingly secularized.  The U.S. used to be predominantly a white, Christian country but that is no longer the case.  As religion becomes less of a factor in the lives of many individuals, it also has larger cultural ramifications. 


Tags: culturereligionUSA, Christianity.

Alanna Thompson's curator insight, April 6, 2017 6:09 PM
Many people in America don't identify with a religious group for many reasons but most of them have one reason in common which is science. This topic is interesting to me because I sometimes feel the same way and with parents pressuring us to be religious when we grow older we decide to choose our own way without being forced to be apart of a religious group.
jessica benton's curator insight, April 7, 2017 5:55 PM
This relates to what we were learning about last week because informs us about why some don't believe in God or part of a religions group. Honestly, this is very informative about why people come to the decision about not worshiping God(s). For example the scientist who states"I am a scientist now, and I don't believe in miracles." Also it shows great insight as to why many leave behind everything they once knew about the religion they worshiped through their childhood years.
Morgan Manier's curator insight, April 10, 2017 11:44 PM
This article relates to our class by talking about religion and how people have the right to not believe in a certain religion and the reasons for that. In my opinion, I think that if people don't want to believe in God, then that's their choice and I have nothing against it. 
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Environmental Possibilism Vs. Environmental Determinism

Environmental Possibilism Vs. Environmental Determinism | Geography Education |

"Environmental possibilism and determinism are theories, put forth in order to comprehend and understand the role played by the physical environmental conditions in the emergence and progress of any human culture or society in a particular location."

Seth Dixon's insight:

This article outlines differences between environmental determinism and environmental possibilism.  Authors such as Robert Kaplan (Revenge of Geography---see a review here) and Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs, and Steel) have been accused of being too environmentally deterministic.  Read Jared Diamond's retort to his critics here. 


Questions to Ponder: In what ways does the environment shape human culture(s)?  Why is Jared Diamond critical of skeptics who use the phrase ‘environmental determinism?’Why might some of Kaplan’s ideas as well as the ideas of classical geopolitics be considered ‘environmental determinism?' Can the role of physical geography be overstated in culture, economics or politics? Give three examples when it might be inappropriate. 


Tags: environment, religion, cultureunit 1 GeoPrinciples.

Courtney Barrowman's curator insight, September 13, 2016 5:42 PM

This article outlines differences between environmental determinism and environmental possibilism.  Authors such as Robert Kaplan (Revenge of Geography---see a review here) and Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs, and Steel) have been accused of being too environmentally deterministic.  Read Jared Diamond's retort to his critics here. 


Questions to Ponder: In what ways does the environment shape human culture(s)?  Why is Jared Diamond critical of skeptics who use the phrase ‘environmental determinism?’Why might some of Kaplan’s ideas as well as the ideas of classical geopolitics be considered ‘environmental determinism?' Can the role of physical geography be overstated in culture, economics or politics? Give three examples when it might be inappropriate. 


Tags: environment, religion, cultureunit 1 GeoPrinciples.

Ivan Ius's curator insight, January 12, 2017 8:01 PM
Geographic concepts: Interrelationships, Geographic Perspective
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Why the Catholic Church is losing Latin America, and how it’s trying to get it back

Why the Catholic Church is losing Latin America, and how it’s trying to get it back | Geography Education |

"A religious revolution is underway in Latin America. Between 1900 and 1960, 90% of Latin Americans were Catholics. But in the last fifty years, that figure has slumped to 69%, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center (from which most of the data in this article are taken). The continent may still be home to 425 million Catholics—40% of the world’s total—but the Vatican’s grip is slipping."


Tags: culture, religionChristianityMiddle America, South America.

Nicole Canova's curator insight, February 11, 2018 12:04 AM
Despite being home to a huge amount of the world's Roman Catholics, membership in the Church is dropping throughout South America in favor of other religious options, from various Protestant sects to New Age beliefs to African diaspora religions.  The Pentacostal church in particular is highly favored all over the region, predominantly because it puts a bigger emphasis on a relationship with God and faith healing.  It has also adapted much better to Latin American culture than the Catholic church.  Most Pentacostal priests are from the region, while most Catholic clergy are outsiders, and Pentacostal churches use more Latin American music and dance.  The Catholic church has, however, had some limited success in the region with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, which has adopted many aspects of Pentacostal church services while retaining the traditional church hierarchy and reverence for the Virgin Mary and the saints.  However, the Catholic church would systemic reform to slow or even reverse the the trend in South America, which would make the church unappealing to more conservative Catholic communities in Africa and Asia.  This touches on a variety of cultural differences between these regions, and poses an impossible dilemma to the church in which it must pick and choose which region or regions are more important.
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Latin America Is Losing Its Catholic Identity

Latin America Is Losing Its Catholic Identity | Geography Education |
The Roman Catholic Church’s claim on the region is lessening as a younger generation turns to Protestantism, a Pew study found.
Seth Dixon's insight:

The Catholic Church was a main governing force in colonial times and was a significant political force in rallying support for independence movements throughout the Americas.  In the early twentieth century over 90% of Latin American were Catholic, but recently polls now show that the Catholic population is under 70%.  The Catholic Church is responding; in addition to a charismatic renewal to mass services appealing to younger audiences, the first non-European pope (Pope Francis) is from Latin America.      


Tags: culture, religionChristianityMiddle America, South America.

Douglas Vance's curator insight, February 2, 2018 9:28 PM
The shift away from Catholacism towards protestantism within Latin America poses significant implications for the political and social makeup of these countries. The shift towards a more socially conservative Protestant belief system poses an obstacle to any efforts to legalize same sex marriages or make abortion legal. Should this shift continue, Latin America will be primed for significant change in the future.
David Stiger's curator insight, September 24, 2018 2:14 AM
As this article points out, the term 'Latin America' was practically synonymous with 'Roman Catholicism'. Pew researchers have revealed that this religious trend is now changing. Catholicism, with its rigid liturgy and stiff hierarchies, may not be feeding the spiritual needs of the people in Latin America. Perhaps communities are realizing that it is okay to worship God differently. As Pew found out, it is not as if the region is turning secular as Evangelical Protestantism is growing. 

Interestingly, there is a similar trend occurring within the United States. Many Americans are dropping out of Catholicism (as well as mainline Protestant denominations) and either joining the 'none' category - shorthand for non-affiliated - or are flocking to mega churches, Pentecostalism, and other non-denominational branches of Evangelicalism. The latter three options represent alternative forms of Christianity which still stress the importance of traditionalism and scripture while offering more direct experiences with the divine. 

In an age where traditional modes of living and thinking are breaking down, with the rise of individualism over the community, where materialism reigns supreme, and when people assume science has all the answers, institutions offering communal ways to engage the divine and exercise spiritual transcendence may be more appealing. Another possibility is that Catholicism is shrinking while Protestantism is growing is because believers crave certainty in a world that is constantly changing and becoming more ambiguous. The erosion of traditionalism can be unsettling. Protestantism, via the new evangelical movements, not only offers traditionalism with a new coat of paint but it also offers non-negotiable answers about the purpose of life and how to achieve paradise - a feeling that everything in the end is going to be okay. That is an idea which no geographic barrier can stop. 
Kelvis Hernandez's curator insight, September 30, 2018 2:21 AM
Roman Catholicism was a product of the missionaries and conquerors who first traveled to Latin America. They would bring their religion and impose it on the natives through different types of conversion methods whether it was outlawing the old religions or combining aspects of the old to create the new. Today fewer people in Latin America are Catholic and many are turning to other forms of Christianity.  It is very interesting as Christianity and Catholicism in Latin America could very well be used interchangeably for a long time. In Guatemala, one of the most famous sites is in the city of Esquipulas, the Basilica del Senor de Esquipulas. A towering white cathedral right in the heart of Middle America it still attracts pilgrims from all over the world to see the Black Christ statue, where you walk out backwards as to not turn your back on the Lord. It is an interesting experience seeing peoples level of devotion to the Catholic church and the Catholic faith. 
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U.S. religious groups and their political leanings

U.S. religious groups and their political leanings | Geography Education |

"Mormons are the most heavily Republican-leaning religious group in the U.S., while a pair of major historically black Protestant denominations – the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and the National Baptist Convention – are two of the most reliably Democratic groups, according to data from Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study."

Seth Dixon's insight:

Happy Super Tuesday.  While there are people of all political stripes within any given religious affiliation, the geography of religion really matters in electoral geography as well.    


Tags: religionUSA, electoral, political

Dewayne Goad's curator insight, March 9, 2016 2:40 PM

Happy Super Tuesday.  While there are people of all political stripes within any given religious affiliation, the geography of religion really matters in electoral geography as well.    


Tags: religion, USA, electoral, political. 

Danielle Yen's curator insight, March 10, 2016 2:22 PM

Happy Super Tuesday.  While there are people of all political stripes within any given religious affiliation, the geography of religion really matters in electoral geography as well.    


Tags: religionUSA, electoral, political

NADINE BURCHI SCORP's curator insight, March 10, 2016 6:22 PM

Happy Super Tuesday.  While there are people of all political stripes within any given religious affiliation, the geography of religion really matters in electoral geography as well.    


Tags: religion, USA, electoral, political. 

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Israel to create a new egalitarian prayer plaza at Western Wall

Israel to create a new egalitarian prayer plaza at Western Wall | Geography Education |
The government approved a plan to allow pluralistic, and mixed-gender prayer, at Judaism’s holy site.
Seth Dixon's insight:

In the past, Israeli policewomen have detained members of the religious group Women of the Wall for breaching orthodox rules governing prayers at the site. This is Judaism's most holy site and orthodox traditions have legally prevailed here, defining who could be there and who could perform which religious rites (often on gender lines).  This fight represents a struggle to redefine the meaning and usage of public space in Jerusalem (among other complex issues).  The article states that "this marks an unprecedented move by the Israeli government to officially recognize the rights of Conservative, Reform and other Jewish denominations to hold organized prayer at the site."


Tags: Israel, culture, genderspace, religion, Judaism,
Middle East.

aliyah marie scarb's curator insight, April 8, 2017 4:45 AM
this relates to what we are learning in world cultural human geography class because religions have variously different symbolic traditions. Science and religion argue all the time, but they increasingly agree on one thing: a little spirituality can be good for your health. Religions cover the faith angles of the world's biggest beliefs and Israel does it in their own special way, just as much as any other religion. 
Mr Mac's curator insight, June 13, 2017 3:41 PM
Unit 3 - Religion, Unit 4 - Multinational States, Sateless Nations, Gender, Ethnicity
Zavier Lineberger's curator insight, March 30, 2018 12:49 AM
(Middle East) Last year Israel outlined a strategy to create an equal prayer space on the Western Wall. Traditionally, the wall is split into separate sections for men and women, with stricter rules for women per the Orthodox beliefs. However, Israel has now allowed the right for other Jewish sects to pray at the wall, promoting the idea that Israel is a state for all Jews and leading to dissent of the conservative Israeli elites. It is interesting to note the privileges the Orthodox Jews hold over other denominations, let alone the Palestinians, and this act will further the view of Israel's purpose as a unified Jewish homeland.
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Gender Equality Activists in the Muslim World

In a time where interfaith and cultural and religious diversity are scrutinized and need support, Raheel Raza is a force to be reckoned with. Her outspoken and strong opinions on Muslim society and Islamic beliefs have been groundbreaking and inspiring; however others consider them to be a source of criticism and condemnation. Yet Raza remains undeterred in her fight against gender prejudices and her mission to improve the female position in Islamic society continues.
Seth Dixon's insight:

Islamophobia is a real problem today and I teach to reduce geographic ignorance and fears about an unknown ‘other.’ That has also created an environment where many--myself included--are hesitant to shine the light on issues of gender equity and other cultural problems in the Muslim world for fear of it entrenching students with bigoted viewpoints to cling to them all the more firmly.   Also, many are worried that critiques will also be perceived as Islamophobia.  Recently the Swedish foreign minister called out Saudi Arabia's legal restraints on women--some called this Islamophobic, Saudi Arabia removed its Swedish ambassador and stop issuing visas to relative silence from the global media and no support from the international community.


We cannot lay the blame on an entire society/religion based on the actions of a few, but it would be disingenuous to pretend there were no problems. As Raheel Raza says, “culture is no excuse for abuse.” The linked videos are one Muslim woman’s critique on some cultural aspects within some Muslim societies. This is not to say that these problems are only in the Muslim world, nor does it means that the all Muslims live in or want to create oppressive societies--far from it. There is great, rich diversity of thought, opinions, and interpretations among Muslims.


TagsgenderIslam, TED.

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Xinjiang Seethes Under Chinese Crackdown

Xinjiang Seethes Under Chinese Crackdown | Geography Education |

"The Chinese government has introduced unprecedented measures aimed at shaping the behavior and beliefs of China’s 10 million Uighurs."

Seth Dixon's insight:

This NY Times article is a good update on the situation of Xianjiang.  I wish this was available when I wrote this article (with links for more teaching resources) for the National Geographic Education Blog on the always simmering tensions in the China's westernmost province.  


TagsCentral Asia, culturepoliticalconflictgovernance,ChinaEast AsiareligionIslamlandscape.

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How to say Merry Christmas in different European Languages

How to say Merry Christmas in different European Languages | Geography Education |
This map by Jakub Marian shows you how to say Merry Christmas in European languages.
Seth Dixon's insight:

To those that celebrate Christmas I was going to wish them a Merry Christmas in English, but this gives us so many other options...Feliz Navidad!   For any interested in exploring the setting of the Christmas story from a geographic perspective, read on. 


Tags: religion, Europeculture, historicallanguage, seasonal.

John Peterson's comment, December 19, 2015 6:32 PM
I learned something new. Thanks.
Marianne Naughton's curator insight, December 24, 2015 1:54 PM

Merry Christmas To All !!!

Treathyl Fox's curator insight, December 11, 2016 2:07 AM
Officially Merry Christmas!  :)