The new Foresight in Business and Society course now required of all business students beginning with the Class of 2011 has taken a turn for the better since its inception last fall, students and faculty say.Mendoza College of Business Dean Carolyn Woo said the course, which encourages students to examine and evaluate major issues and trends facing society in the future, was generally not well received at first. “The fall semester feedback was not positive,” Woo said. “I would say 75 percent of students had difficulty with the course.”Woo said starting in November, Mendoza faculty took feedback from students and began redesigning the course. One big change was the addition of more sections to reduce class sizes.“I would say more students are in favor of the class than in last semester,” Woo said. “We have made improvements and are seeing higher satisfaction.”Woo said feedback is always part of the improvement process. “Innovation seldom succeeds at the first try,” she said. “In the innovation experience, it is very important to take feedback.”Woo said Mendoza faculty tend to share her sentiment about the course’s improvement. “They feel that this semester is going a lot better than last semester,” she said. Many students shared Woo’s positive outlook on the course’s improvement as well. “The course has been changed for the better since its inception last year,” said junior Henry Shine, who took the course first semester and is now a teaching assistant. “The course is adapting to fit both students’ wishes and the demands of 21st century businesspersons in a climate where today’s decisions are influencing life in tomorrow’s world.”Junior Richard Roggeveen, who began the spring class “as a skeptic,” said although he had never heard anything positive about the course from fellow students, he was pleased with the course and the material it presented. “As the professors respond to continual student feedback and continue to change course design, I believe that the course does have a place in the business school, at the very least to educate us students on larger problems and issues in the world and how business can act to help relieve them,” he said. The course, conceived three years ago, is the brainchild of Woo and professor of accountancy Thomas Frecka. “For about 30 years I have been concerned that we don’t train our students to look ahead,” said Woo, who began teaching in the business school in 1976. The course was then piloted over the course of three semesters and was offered to self-selected classes of about 10 students. Implementation from pilot to requirement was not easy, but it was necessary, Woo said.“The types of skills acquired in the class are necessary,” she said. “We also didn’t want to create two tiers of students [within the business school] … those who have taken the course and those who clearly haven’t.”Woo said the course, which is concluded with a large-group research project comprising 40 percent of the student’s grade, aims to achieve four important goals. “It helps students understand future trends and then understand the implications of trends among social, political and economic factions,” she said. “[It also teaches students] the methodology people use for generating future trends and assess in greater depth the issues related to these trends.”The course, Woo said, is distinct to Notre Dame. “The course is very unique because it is not offered at other schools,” Woo said. “This is one of the boldest things we’ve ever done.”Woo said the business faculty will continue to take feedback and retool the course this summer.
To kick off the Saint Mary’s Diverse Students’ Leadership Conference (DSLC), Cambodian genocide survivor Arn Chorn Pond shared his story of survival and healing under the rule of the Khmer Rouge. “When I was just nine years old the Communists took over the country,” Pond said. “My parents were executed and I was forced to watch my siblings crawl … to a death of starvation. It was very hard for me to feel so powerless and know that I could not help them.” While in the camps, soldiers forced Pond to partake in some of the murders. “Sometimes they would force me to help them out,” Pond said. “I was a prisoner, and they could force me to push others into the graves. If I showed any emotion with the victims I would have been killed.” Pond said his love for traditional Cambodian music, specifically the flute, helped him through his difficult experiences. He and four other prisoners in the camp started a music group; only two members of that group are alive today. “Music got me through,” Pond said. “Even today, it still helps me to heal.” In 1980, after living several months alone in the Cambodian jungle, Pond was rescued and adopted by Reverend Peter L. Pond who brought him back to New Hampshire. “I felt very lucky, but very scared at the same time,” Pond said. “It seemed as though no one in the United States understood me or where I came from.” After coming to the U.S., Pond said he felt anger, depression, resentment and even suicidal at times. His adopted father encouraged him to speak out and share his story to help deal with his feelings. “I didn’t know what it meant to be heard,” Pond said. “I never thought that white Americans would care about me, but I was wrong.” He started speaking at local churches and today his voice has been heard by Amnesty International groups, the United Nations and even former President Jimmy Carter. After he began to share his experience, Pond stepped into a new role: human rights activist. He is the recipient of many international humanitarian awards and founder of several organizations, including Children of War, Cambodian Volunteers for Community Development and Peace Makers. “I choose to sing and to start different organizations,” Pond said. “It is not easy to share my story, but it is part of my healing process. I love the work that I do now because it saves lives and inspires others. This work allows me live.” DSLC chair Guadalupe Quintana said Pond’s talk was a perfect way to kick off events for the conference because his talk will inspire others. “His story is very capturing and embodies everything that DSLC represents,” she said. Quintana said DSLC represents sharing stories that would otherwise go unheard and learning of differences that would often go unnoticed. Pond expressed the importance of embracing one’s roots and one’s own unique stories. “It is our life and our story,” Pond said. “Don’t deny your differences or your stories, because then you will be denying your culture.” Pond ended his talk by encouraging the members of the audience to go out in the community and share their voices for social change. “Do not underestimate one person,” Pond said. “Everyone has their own story to share. Everyone has their own pain. Do not spend time comparing pain, just live united. One by one you are the angel that the world needs. Go fly and be that angel.” Contact Kaitlyn Rabach at [email protected]
Winning the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award has brought activist Frank Mugisha respect in the United States, but in his home country of Uganda, he and his cause still meet with a great deal of enmity. Mugisha is the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and works to promote the rights of LGBTQ Ugandans. He spoke at the event “Human Rights and Homophobia: A Conversation with Frank Mugisha” in the Andrews Auditorium of Geddes Hall yesterday. The Progressive Student Association (PSA) sponsored the event in conjunction with the Kellogg Institute’s Africa Working Group. PSA co-president Alex Coccia said Mugisha’s work has estranged him from his family and forced him to flee Uganda on repeated occasions. (Editor’s Note: Coccia is a Viewpoint columnist for The Observer.) Mugisha said a pending bill in the Ugandan parliament might criminalize both homosexuality and support for openly homosexual individuals. There is also a provision in the bill that would create a death penalty for serial offenders, Mugisha said. “I would receive the death penalty under this bill,” he said. The bill was first introduced in 2009 three months after a group of American evangelicals, including activist Scott Lively, came to Uganda to campaign against homosexuality, Mugisha said. Support for the bill is estimated to be around 85 percent in the parliament and will pass if it reaches the floor. Mugisha said the bill and propaganda from Ugandan religious leaders has changed the way homosexuals are treated in Ugandan communities. “Before the bill was introduced we had gay and lesbian people who lived in the community but were not persecuted,” Mugisha said. He said people in Ugandan villages do not always have a sense of the difference between bills in parliament and established laws. He said neighbors turned in one homosexual man who had lived in a community for twenty years. Mugisha said the people only acted because they believed it was required by law. There is also a prevalent characterization of homosexuality as “not African,” which extends to the leadership of many African nations, Mugisha said. He said many Ugandans, and Africans generally, view homosexuality as a cultural construct of Europe and the United States. “Almost all African leaders say homosexuality is abnormal,” Mugisha said. “Many African leaders say homosexuality is Western, not African.” Ignorance on the subject of homosexuality is the primary reason for homophobia and the main obstacle to his efforts, Mugisha said. “My biggest struggle is against ignorance,” he said. “I wish I could talk to every Ugandan one-on-one and tell them there is no disease they are going to catch.” Mugisha said it is difficult for Ugandans to recognize homosexual rights as a human-rights issue. He said he has to explain that his homosexuality does not harm anyone else while the government claims homophobia does harm others. Mugisha said he is also frustrated by the opposition to homosexuality in Ugandan churches, which also believe homosexuality is the result of Western influence. “There are no Western values, Eastern values, Southern values or Northern values when the issue is humanity,” he said. “When you are talking about God as love it is all the same.” Mugisha said he is a Catholic and urges other homosexual Ugandans to retain their faith. “I can’t wake up in the morning and say ‘I don’t believe in God,’ that’s not me,” Mugisha said. “Being a gay person, lesbian person, transgender person or bisexual person does not prevent you from being Christian.” SMUG’s greatest success is the visibility the organization has brought to the issue internationally and within Uganda, he said. SMUG has been successful with two legal cases in Uganda, Mugisha said. One was against the government for abuse of homosexuals by police, and the other was against a paper which called for the hanging of perceived homosexuals. “We’ve created a visibility in my country. The government can’t say there are no homosexuals in Uganda anymore,” Mugisha said.
Despite stress over midterm exams, fall break plan, and the upcoming football game against Stanfore, some members of the Notre Dame community made time for the lunch and reflection about the role of missionaries in Africa in the Geddes Hall Coffee House on Wednesday. The discussion titled, “To be called is to be sent: Being Church in Africa and its implication in the U.S.” was sponsored by the Center for Social Concerns and the Africa Working Group of the Kellogg Institute. The discussion featured guest speakers Fr. Joe Healey, Maryknoll priest and networking coordinator of the Small Christian Communities Global Collaborative, and Tara McKinney, a 2000 Notre Dame graduate, who worked in Tanzania as a Maryknoll lay missionary. McKinney is currently the international projects officer for Africa for Cross Catholic Outreach, a faith-based organization supporting Christian development projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. McKinney said her belief in the importance of faith-based development drew her to work first as a lay missionary and now as an international projects officer. “For me the mission of the church is manifest in faith-based development,” she said. “Faith plays a role in development, because it’s not just about building the house, it’s about how you are present for those people.” Healey said faith-based development is distinct and more beneficial to its recipients than development efforts without a religious element. “You widen the meaning of development,” he said “It’s not just economic development. It’s holistic development.” Another reason missionary work is important, McKinney said, is the governments of the respective nations are often remote from the particular communities and do not provide the enduring presence of faith-based groups. “They’ll tell you, ‘The Church is the only one who stays,’” she said. Healey has worked in Africa for over four decades and said heeis still learning about the African way of life. “I’ve been in Africa since 1968 and I am a student, a learner of African culture,” Healey said. “My teachers are the African people.” Healey said one of the main things he has learned from his work in Africa is the importance of lay people in a Christian community. “There are about 120,000 small Christian communities across nine African countries and in these communities the lay people are the leader ,” he said. “The African lay people teach me what it means to be a community.” In her role at Cross Catholic Outreach, Mckinney said she she administers cash grants to ministers on the ground in Africa and provides them with technical assistance. She oversees 45 projects, 41 of them Catholic, and the largest reaches up to 7,000 beneficiaries. McKinney said she witnessed the same concept of lay leadership in at least six countries. “I started seeing and hearing certain trends across the different countries,” she said. “The main trend was new models of leadership. It shows the priest does not have to be the one in charge.” She pointed out the Ewuaso Kedong Baraka Catholic Kindergarten in Kenya as an example. The idea for the school came from a group of Maasai mothers and was built with help from Cross Catholic Outreach, she said. Healey said the lay involvement in many African communities parallels a trend in missionary work toward temporary missions and lay missionaries. “We’re now in the wave of short term missionaries, and at the same time there’s a new energy of lay people,” he said. The experience of the Maryknoll society is evidence of this trend. Mayknoll only ordains one priest each year, but there are currently 700 lay Maryknoll missionaries and 1,000 Maryknoll affiliates, Healey said. Healey said this increasing participation of lay people is a fulfillment of what individuals are called to do as Christians. “By our baptisms we’re sent out to preach the good news as disciples and missionaries,” Healey said. McKinney said there is also significant diversity among the religious missionaries; some are Americans; some are from Europe, Asia, Latin America, and other parts of Africa; and some are nationals of the country in which they work. Healey said there is another trend in missionary work toward mutuality. He said it is captured in a Ugandan proverb: “One hand washes the other.” “There needs to be a mutuality of mission, a mutual enrichment, between the Church in America and in Africa,” he said. Healey said missionary workers are also using different vocabulary,esuch as the phrase “global south.” “We don’t use the terms developing nation or third world anymore. Instead, we say a country is a part of the global south,” he said. Healey said ongoing missionary work in Kenya has focused on the concept of “see, judge, act” as a means of finding ways to improve the lives of people in the various small Christian communities. “We start with our experience, and out of that experience we judge our situation,” he said. “We then use this judgment to determine how to act. We use ‘see, judge, act’ to become agents of change.” When reflecting on the work Maryknoll and other organizations have done in Africa, Healy said it is important to remember the African proverb, “That which is good is never finished.”
The Saint Mary’s Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership (CWIL) will host a film festival this week promoting female filmmakers and films about women’s issues. The World Cinema Festival: Women Make Movies event will feature five award-winning films that cover a variety of international topics related to feminism. Mana Derakhshani, associate director of CWIL, said the festival fits perfectly with the mission of the College and its recent push to include more intercultural education learning opportunities. “President Mooney has led the way towards opening up the college to the world by stressing the importance of internationalizing the campus,” Derakhshani said. “This event is part of the efforts to bring the world to Saint Mary’s College and to increase opportunities for college students as well as the larger community to learn about their global community.” Saint Mary’s has hosted the Women Make Movies week for the past seven years, Derakhshani said, but it has not always been the World Cinema Festival. The French division of the Department for Modern Languages previously sponsored the festival, but after the department exhausted its grant money in 2011, CWIL decided to continue the festival. “CWIL took over and broadened the scope of the film festival to include foreign films from around the world,” Derakhshani said. The week features five films that illustrate various issues that women in different countries frequently deal with. They range from the challenges of growing up as a biracial woman in Canada to historical and contemporary feminism in Islam. As part of a women’s college, Derakhshani said CWIL is uniquely placed to feature women filmmakers and bring issues women face from around the world to the eyes of the Saint Mary’s community. The center worked with the Women Make Movies, an organization that promotes films by and about women, to put together the event. “The World Cinema Festival gives everyone the opportunity to learn about and engage with the rich tapestry of the world,” Derakhshani said. “The filmmakers we are featuring tell stories of women leaders in various cultures around the world. …The women are telling their stories in their voices and that is a powerful example of leadership.” The films are free and open to the public. They will be shown in Vander Vennet Theater in the Student Center each night at 7 p.m.
Next week, Saint Mary’s annual Love Your Body Week will educate students on how to maintain a healthy and self-accepting lifestyle in connection with National Eating Disorders Week. Sophomore Kelly Gutrich, co-chair of Love Your Body Week, said 2011 alumna Christina Grasso inspired the planning committee to incorporate eating disorder awareness into the Week’s events. Grasso co-founded the New York chapter of Project HEAL: Help to Eat, Accept and Live, which promotes self-acceptance and positive body image. Grasso said members of Project HEAL work as mentors and consultants to diminish society’s obsession with body image, which is a common cause of eating disorders. Only one in 10 of the approximately 24 million Americans suffering from eating disorders receives the necessary treatment, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. As an undergraduate at the College, Grasso helped begin Love Your Body Week in 2011 and spoke about her own battle with anorexia at one of the first events. “I am more than willing to get a little uncomfortable in front of a crowd disclosing parts of my own experience for the good of others,” Grasso said. “I battled an eating disorder for 10 years, and it gives great meaning to my journey to know that I have made the lives of others even slightly easier.” This year’s events related to Project HEAL’s mission will begin Monday with a panel discussion titled “Biting Back” at 7 p.m. in Madeleva Hall. Assistant professor of phsychology Bettina Spencer and 2011 alumna Gina Storti will speak Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Vander Vennet Theatre in the Student Center, presenting their research in a talk titled “Love your body? Body image at SMC compared to ND.” On Wednesday, assistant professor of communication studies Terri Russ will lecture on “Beautiful Body Battles, Why Are We All Chasing Unicorns?” at 7 p.m. in Carroll Auditorium in Madeleva Hall. These events are in keeping with the Project HEAL mission to promote positive mental and physical approaches to body image among women. “As an organization, we strive to raise awareness about eating disorders and raise funds to provide scholarships to send applicants to eating disorder treatment,” Grasso said. Grasso said Project HEAL assists women who cannot afford treatment for these disorders. This treatment costs between $500 and $2,000 per day and is not usually covered by health care, according to the South Carolina Department of Mental Health. “Since our launch five years ago, we have raised over $200,000 and sent seven applicants to treatment, all of whom are doing well and reclaiming their lives” Grasso said. “Inpatient and residential treatment for eating disorders are often imperative for survival and recovery. Visit theprojectheal.org for more information on Project HEAL. For more information on Love Your Body Week, visit saintmarys.edu/love-your-body-week
Pope Benedict XVI declared this liturgical year a “Year of Faith,” a time of faith renewal for Catholics worldwide. Building off this theme, the Office of Campus Ministry at Notre Dame has sponsored a number of projects and events to encourage students to reexamine and deepen their relationships with God. Kate Barrett, assistant director of undergraduate ministry, said recent activities include the “Think you know Moreau?” scavenger hunt and “Retreat on the Run,” a program that will continue through February that helps students incorporate prayer into their busy lives. Barrett said the scavenger hunt was a success with almost 200 participants. “We challenged participants to travel the campus as quickly as possible, finding clues and along the way learning more about Blessed Basil Moreau, … the founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, as well as other remarkable Holy Cross priests such as Fr. Edward Sorin … and St. Andre Bessette,” she said. Annus Fidei, a liturgical music series incorporating all the Basilica of the Sacred Heart choirs, began Feb.10. “Annus Fidei” means “Year of Faith” in Latin. “[Annus Fidei] combined readings and songs to highlight some of the themes Pope Benedict outlined at the beginning of the Year,” Barrett said. In the second half of the semester, Barrett said Campus Ministry will focus on programming to assist students in keeping their prayer lives active during the summer months away from campus. “That will be called ‘Portable Prayer’ and will have very practical tips and suggestions for students,” she said. Barrett said she believes the Year of Faith calls for both personal and communal renewal, and Campus Ministry is offering activities that will assist in both. “A personal call will end up enlivening all of our communities of faith,” Barrett said. “When any of us feel renewed, recommitted, reenergized in our faith, and then we come together for Mass or to engage in service to the poor or to welcome the lonely, then the Church as a whole – and in each and every parish, or hall chapel – is renewed and re-energized.” Barrett said the response to Campus Ministry’s Year of Faith activities has been positive. “We’ve had good responses from residence halls who are following our themes when they plan events in the halls,” she said. “For example, back in November when our theme was ‘Sacred Places,’ several halls started Grotto walks in which groups of students walk over to the Grotto together to pray.” Despite the successful programming across campus, Barrett said the Year of Faith is meant to focus on long-term faith development. “However, our hope was always for the Year of Faith to be quietly durable rather than splashy,” Barrett said. “We hope that people take away from the Year good habits of faith that remain with them for a long time.” Information about past and upcoming activities for the Year of Faith can be found at campusministry.nd.edu.
The Gender Relations Center kicked off its annual StaND Against Hate Week with the event “Man Up: Reimagining Modern Manhood with Carlos Andrés Gómez” in the Carey Auditorium on Monday.Gómez, an award-winning poet, actor and writer, shared his confrontation with society’s rules of manhood through personal story and poetry.According to his website, “Gómez urges men of all ages to break society’s rules of male conformity and reconsider not just what it means to be a man, but what it means to be a good man.”Gómez said his initial awareness of society’s rules of masculinity came when he was told to “man up” by his soccer coach after falling during a game.“If I’m running full speed in front of 200 people, I do a tooth plant in the middle of the field — it’s miraculous that I didn’t lose all of my top and bottom teeth — if I can’t cry there, when am I allowed to express any emotion?” Gómez said.Gómez said he was sensitive as a child but strove to fit the mold of a masculine man after interpreting hints from those around him that valued men most when they acted hard and tough. He said the image was hard to keep up because it denied his natural self.“If you ever try to act like someone you’re not, it’s like the worst feeling in the world,” Gómez said. “It’s exhausting. I was conflicted, I was in anguish, I was hurting. … I was screaming for a reprieve from this person I had built myself into.”Gómez said there were two major turning points in his life that redefined masculinity for him. He said the first came in high school during an open mic night for poetry where he learned about the idea of a gender spectrum — a concept that transcended the traditionally perceived dichotomy of gender.Gómez said the second crystallized moment of redefinition occurred when he accidently bumped up against another man as he exited a nightclub. The man initially incited a fight, but after tears welled in Gómez’s eyes, the man jumped away, Gómez said.“What makes us live in a world where the narrative, the dominant narrative of masculinity, the one-dimension, toxic, patriarchal narrative of masculinity that so many of us … are familiar with in some way … when two men who don’t know each other [have] their bodies unexpectedly bump against each other, we all know that the next thing they have to do is to fight, and it’s over nothing,” Gómez said.Gómez said that day he made a decision to spend the rest of his life challenging that toxic notion of masculinity.“I started to practice breaking the conformity of how I learned to be a guy,” Gómez said. “It was action and it was written; it was rethinking the way I thought about relationships with women, with my other guy friends, with my family.”To communicate his point, Gómez also performed several poems about masculinity, women and beauty.Tags: Gender Relations Center, GRC, StaND Against Hate Week
Throughout her professional experience in academia, industry and government, Mary Galvin, dean of the College of Science, said she realized each sector confused leadership and management. Galvin spoke on this confusion in a lecture Tuesday night that was a part of the inaugural Living Legends of Engineering Leadership Lecture Series.Galvin said leadership and management are fundamentally different because management is goal-oriented organization.“I see management as being in a position where you’re putting together a team of people, optimizing their skills to accomplish a task, and your job is to assemble and direct the team,” she said.Leadership, on the other hand, stems from a trusting relationship, Galvin said.“A commander commands their power, a leader receives it, and to me that’s the real difference,” Galvin said. “If you are a leader, truly leading people, your power is coming from them. … As a leader you have to have followers, and [your power] is not coming just from your authority over them — that’s command, many times it can be management — but to really be a leader, its something thats given to you by the people you’re leading.”Galvin said she wanted to make clear that being a leader is not the same as being a good person, though there are good leaders. A good leader, Galvin said, comes from within because they are rooted in who they are and what they believe in, they have the trust a respect of their followers, and they have vision and passion.Galvin said she learned the importance of having deeply rooted values from an experience she had while working at Bell Laboratories. Galvin said she took nine months off work while she was pregnant and after giving birth to her son. Her colleagues, Galvin said, said they respected her decision, but that a decision like that ended a woman’s career — they wanted her to leave. Galvin said she decided that was not an option.“I didn’t give up, and I stayed in,” Galvin said. “I published some great work that year, and they decided that I didn’t need to leave. I became a distinguished member. But as I went through that time, I realized … I had to understand why I was doing it and what I thought would be a successful life. And in deciding that, I became very rooted in doing things because I wanted to because I thought they were right, because they met my values.”Galvin said an important question to ask of yourself, as a leader or a manager, is, What is best, not for myself, but for the organization? Galvin said you need to be able to answer that question and ultimately, be able to stand behind the answer.Tags: College of Science, Living Legends of Engineering Leadership Lecture Series, mary galvin
Ian Johnson, 2001 Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, discussed the role of religion in Chinese society during his lecture titled “Religion in China: Back to the Center of Politics and Society.” The event was sponsored by the McGrath Institute for Church Life and the US-China Catholic Association and took place in the Eck Visitors Center Auditorium on Monday.Johnson moved to Beijing in 2009 and has lived there since, working for publications such as The New York Times and The New York Review of Books, as well as for the Beijing Center for Chinese Studies. His most recent book, “The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao,” was released in 2017 and discusses these issues.Johnson began his discussion with a historical background of China’s relationship with religion during the late 19th century reform movements.“This was pretty much a top-down enterprise driven by elites in China who felt that their country was losing ground to the West — that there was something wrong with Chinese culture, especially with Chinese religion,” Johnson said.He described this general trend of governmental distaste for religion as continuing into the 20th century communism under Mao; however, he cited a recent modern shift in government view of religion from avoidance to acceptance of traditional Chinese religious practices.“I think the government’s policy, broadly speaking — and there are exceptions to all of this — is support of some religions and suspicion to downright hostility toward other religions,” Johnson said. “The religions that are supported are the traditional religions.”Johnson described the government’s renewed interest and support of traditional cultural religions through propaganda and UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage projects.“[The Chinese Government] redefined folk religious practice as intangible cultural heritage,” Johnson said. “Not all of intangible cultural heritage is religious but a fair amount of it is.”Johnson discussed the large implications of such cultural heritage projects for acceptance of previously scorned traditional religions.“[These religions] are no longer declared superstitious,” Johnson said. “They have the benefit of government support … it is that government support that matters and gives prestige. They are no longer looked down upon.”Johnson then discussed religions facing persecution in China — particularly Christianity and Islam — which he referred to as the “foreign faiths.” He presented the audience with images of crosses on buildings being removed, video surveillance of religious sites and government-run re-education camps for Muslims living in China.However, Johnson asserted that many ordinary religious practices, particularly related to Christianity, are still carried out throughout the country.“There are real problems going on, but there is also a lot of normal religious life that goes on despite the problems,” he said. “Not to try to whitewash it or sugarcoat it, but I think it is important to remember in a big country like China, when we are talking about religions with millions and tens of millions of numbers, it’s not as if everybody is under pressure.”Despite the continuing persecution of religious groups in China, Johnson expressed optimism regarding the recent increase of religious practice in the country.“What I find more interesting is that religion, from being a marginalized part of Chinese society, is back in the center,” he said. “It is back in the center in a good way — people search for values and search for meaning in life, things that are important issues in our own society — but also in the nitty gritty political world as well.”Tags: China, McGrath Institute for Church Life, religion, US-China Catholic Association