Pulitzer Center Update

This Week: Syria's Next Generation

March 16, 2015|

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Image by Lauren Gelfond Feldinger. Jordan, 2014.

MAKING A WAR-WEARY CHILD SMILE

As the Syrian civil war slogs into its fifth year with no end in sight, the cumulative despair and misery of 2 million refugees can sometimes seem overwhelming. But Pulitzer Center grantee Lauren Gelfond Feldinger, writing for the BBC News online Magazine, has uncovered a few glimmers of hope.

Lauren spent time with a group of volunteers from Syria and other countries who, at their own expense, have traveled to the ever-expanding refugee camps along Syria’s borders. They use arts and crafts, photography, music, and sports to expose children in the camps “to optimism and respect for diversity, civic participation and non-violence.” Similar programs have had a positive influence in Bosnia, Kosovo, Ireland, Rwanda and South Africa.

Could this work in Syria? Lauren says the volunteers are betting it can. “Teaching Syrian refugee children they have a future and the power to shape it can influence Syria in the next generation, they say. Meanwhile, their short-term goal is simple: making child survivors of war smile.”

HOMOPHOBIA AND HIV/AIDS IN JAMAICA

Despite efforts by some religious leaders to increase awareness and acceptance of people living with HIV/AIDS, the church in Jamaica remains a troubling site for silence and neglect of those living with HIV/AIDS, mainly because of the disease’s association with homosexuality in this proud and deeply religious society.

“To explore homophobia and HIV/AIDS in Jamaica, I had to delve into the Jamaican idea of shame and its cultural origins,” writes Pulitzer Center grantee Kwame Dawes in a provocative and insightful essay in the Virginia Quarterly Review.

“The effort to promulgate the idea that Jamaica is a homophobic country is viewed by Jamaicans as a way for outsiders to shame Jamaica and Jamaicans. When criticized for its cultural homophobia—particularly violence against homosexuals—the immediate reaction is defensiveness. The accusation is sweeping, and the cultural impact is quite demeaning,” Kwame writes.

Kwame’s essay and poems along with grantee Andre Lambertson's photographs offer a revealing glimpse into a society coming to terms with itself.

MISSING AN OPPORTUNITY IN SRI LANKA

Sri Lanka has a new president. But Pulitzer Center grantee Callum Macrae warns that now is not the time for the international community to back off the pursuit of justice for the country’s Tamil minority. Macrae presents some strong reasons for his stand: his award-winning documentary No Fire Zone tells the harrowing story of large-scale war crimes committed—and covered up—during the last days of Sri Lankan Civil war.

A UN report on the matter was due for presentation this month, but it has been delayed after the surprise electoral defeat of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Callum, writing in Foreign Policy, says the new government presented that decision as a consequence of its request for a delay, while the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad, held it out as presenting an opportunity to do more work in Sri Lanka and strengthen the report.

But according to Callum, who also spoke to the BBC and Britain's Channel 4 about Sri Lanka, the delay is seen by the Tamils as a betrayal. “They fear that if the international community takes its eye off the ball, there is little chance of any progress towards peace and justice.”

Until next week,

Tom Hundley
Senior Editor