2012 – a summary of the year 28 March 2013

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2012 promised to be an important year globally, with the Arab Spring still in swing, US elections, the Olympics and fraught international politics. We look at the major religious and global news stories from the year.

Ali Abdullah Saleh21st February 2012

Ali Abdullah Saleh is ousted as President of Yemen following mass protests as part of the Arab Spring. His successor was the Vice President Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi (formally elected in, but as the only candidate running, there was little doubt regarding the outcome). Ali Abdullah Saleh is currently in the United States receiving medical treatment, and thanks to a hastily passed law before he stepped down, he has immunity from prosecution in Yemen.

5th March 2012

The Kony 2012 campaign video was released and went viral, petitioning the global community (but particularly the United States) to stop Joseph Kony, and imfamous Ugandan war criminal and head of the Lord’s Resistance Army. The LRA seeks to establish a theocratic government, loosely based on Christian ideals (though in many ways a religiously syncretic cult). Despite the video’s intial success (gaining over 100 million views in total), it soon suffered after many highlighted the campaign’s interventionist approach, the overtone of a white saviour mentality and its highly simplistic message. The campaign’s ultimate goal, to capture of Joseph Kony before the end 2012, was ultimately a failure – it did however substantially increase public discourse about the situation in Uganda and the use of child soldiers in warfare.

17th March 2012

Pope Shenouda III passes away. Pope Shenouda was Patriarch to around 17 million Coptic Christians. Pope Shenouda successfully Pope Shendoudadealt with many political and religious crisis, including a period exiled to a desert monastery during President Anwar Sedat’s tenure, only lifted after Hosni Mubarak took up Presidency. The Pope’s close relationship with the Mubarak regime caused a subsequent conflict during the Arab Spring and anti-Mubarak protests. He dedicated much of his time trying to foster greater links within the his own Coptic adherents (including an increasingly large diaspora) and with other Christian churches and indeed neighbouring Muslims, famously stating that ‘We Christians and Muslims are like organs in one body, which is Egypt’. Pope Theodoros II was selected as Pope’s Shenouda’s successor, and the new Patriarch now has the opportunity to lead Egypt’s Christian’s in the challenging post-Mubarak era.

30th June 2012

Mohamed Morsi won a highly contested Presidential election to become Egypt’s first freely elected leader following the revolution. Ahmed Shafik, his opponent, lost by a small bit sizable percentage – a sign of the countries distrust for those associated with the Mubarak regime (Shafik was Prime Minister under Mubarak). Mohamed Morsi spent the early part of his presidency facing off threats from the countries army and seeking to win over critics, some of whom are sceptical due to his links with the Muslim Brotherhood (Egypt’s largest religious movement). Morsi’s successes include brokering a ceasefire with Israel after their bombardment of Gaza, whereas a presidential decree that expanded his power faced heavy criticism internationally and domestically, later being annulled in the face of protests and internal turmoil.

CERN4th July 2012

Scientists at CERN confirmed they had found the illusive and all-important ‘God’ particle, well sort of. The teams announced a particle that closely matched predictions of what the Higgs Boson would look like. The discovery further adds evidence to the accuracy of the Standard Model of particle physics and took humanity one step closer in understanding the physical world.

15th July 20120

The Red Cross declares Syria a Civil War. The protests that began in March 2011 as part of the burgeoning success of the Arab Spring soon deteriorated following the violent and deadly response by the incumbent President Bashar al-Assad. The humanitarian crisis has since deepened, with the United Nations estimating around 60,000 people dead since the uprising began in January 2013. President Bashar al-Assad seems determined to hold on to power, at the cost of tens of thousands of Syrian lives. With little international pressure on Assad and a stalemate between rebel forces and those loyal to Assad, the war seems destined to be prolonged. If Libya is used as an example however, this all may change very quickly.

August 2012

Cecillia Gimenez, an elderly woman from the Spanish town of Zaragoza, shot to international repute after her amateur and unauthorised attempt at restoring a deteriorating fresco of Jesus Christ. Gimenez escaped criminal charges, and authorities promised a more professional restoration will take place following a donation from the original painter’s granddaughter.

9th-12th September 2012

A highly inflammatory Islamophobic video, the Innocence of Muslims, dominates global headlines. The video was produced under the pseudonym Sam Becile, and was later traced to an Egyptian-born Coptic Christian Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. The video itself was an extended trailer to film that has yet to be found (if it ever existed). Innocence of Muslims created controversy when uploaded (with Arabic subtitles) in September, later gaining the attention on Egyptian satellite channels. The video led to protests and demonstrations in Egypt and Libya with other minor protests in cities globally. The nature of Egyptian protests were also called into question, with many highlighting that initial demonstrations at the US embassy in Cairo were called to secure the release of Omar Abdel-Rahman, a political prisoner held in the United States. Some protestors also admitted to being paid to attend following calls for protests against the video. Confusion over the video and the protests intensified after the killings of US diplomatic missions in Benghazi, notably the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens. The killing led to anti-militia protests in Libya, and reporting questioned whether the death was a result of the demonstrations or part of an intentional and planned attack by terrorists who simply used the video as opportune moment.

ABC Justin Welby8th November

The identity behind the new Archbishop of Canterbury is finally revealed as Justin Welby. Reverend Welby will be replacing Rowan Williams as leader of the Anglican Church (with around 80 million adherents worldwide).

14th-21st November

Israel launched Operation Pillar of Cloud. The military bombardment on besieged Gaza included over 1,500 strikes, totalling 133 casualties. The human cost of the bombing caught international attention after the killing of a BBC journalists 11 month child. The operation was brought to a close after 7 days following a ceasefire negotiated with UN support.

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About Joseph Adams

Joseph Adams is a PhD student in religion and theology, with a particular interest in contemporary society, secularisation and religion.