Sierra Leone

Reporting on the unthinkable: Ancient, multicultural roots of female genital mutilation

Reporting on the unthinkable: Ancient, multicultural roots of female genital mutilation

It's hard to imagine a topic that would be harder for journalists to write about than female genital mutilation (FGM).

In some parts of the world it is a procedure with deep cultural and even religious meaning. For others, it may be a way to keep young women attached to a tribe or a family structure that is truly patriarchal. Yet there are women who insist that it is an act that is totally necessary, if women are to be trusted, accepted and in any way empowered in certain cultures.

There is no question that there is a religious element to the FGM story, even though this rite "pre-dates both Christianity and Islam, and is commended in the core texts of neither faith," according to a disturbing, but fascinating, think piece at the website of The Media Project, the organization that supports GetReligion. 

The author of this reported essay is journalist and media-literacy pro Jenny Taylor, best known was the founder of Lapido Media in England.

How high are the stakes in this ongoing crisis? Taylor notes:

As many as one-third of girls in areas of Sudan where there are no antibiotics will die, according to another report. The complications range from haemorrhage to tetanus, blocked urethras and infertility.

A key figure in the essay is anti-FGM activist 55-year-old Ann-Marie Wilson, the founder of 28TooMany. The name is a reference to number of countries that had not banned this rite, at the time Wilson began her work.

How old is this ritual? This first paragraph contains a detail that I had never heard before:

Wilson, a doctor of psychology and a midwife who trained in Pakistan, recently completed a paper on the origins of FGM, claiming that the mummies in the British Museum show clear signs of FGM.


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Holy ghost? New York Times offers a faith-free profile of an American doctor who survived Ebola

Holy ghost? New York Times offers a faith-free profile of an American doctor who survived Ebola

In an interview with six U.S. Ebola survivors right before Thanksgiving, NBC's Matt Lauer noted the deep religious faith of many of them.

Various posts here at GetReligion have highlighted that angle.

This week, The New York Times published a big scoop on its front page — the first interview with Ebola survivor Dr. Ian Crozier:

PHOENIX — The medical record, from an Ebola case, made for grim reading, but Dr. Ian Crozier could not put it down. Within days of the first symptom, a headache, the patient was fighting for his life. He became delirious, his heartbeat grew ragged, his blood teemed with the virus, and his lungs, liver and kidneys began to fail.

“It’s a horrible-looking chart,” Dr. Crozier said.

It was his own. Dr. Crozier, 44, contracted the disease in Sierra Leone while treating Ebola patients in the government hospital in Kenema. He was evacuated to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta on Sept. 9, the third American with Ebola to be airlifted there from West Africa. He had a long, agonizing illness, with 40 days in the hospital and dark stretches when his doctors and his family feared he might sustain brain damage or die. His identity was kept secret at his request, to protect his family’s privacy.

Now, for the first time, he is speaking out. His reason, he said, is to thank Emory for the extraordinary care he received, and to draw attention to the continuing epidemic.

But the Times presents Crozier's story with no mention of faith or terms such as "God" or "Christian."

That prompted a GetReligion reader who emailed us to suggest that a holy ghost might be haunting the piece.

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Are they crazy? Despite Ebola threat, Texas missionary couple planning return to Sierra Leone

Are they crazy? Despite Ebola threat, Texas missionary couple planning return to Sierra Leone

The Ebola threat can't keep Tom and Becky Brockelman, a Baptist missionary couple from Texas, from returning to West Africa.

That was the theme of a fascinating Dallas Morning News feature over the weekend:

For months, Ebola had been a faraway worry, a concern but not a threat to the Brockelman family.
Then, one by one, relief workers started to leave Sierra Leone. Medical workers. Support staff. Other missionaries.
When Ebola finally landed near their home in a rural part of the Freetown peninsula, the Brockelmans decided it was time to return to Texas.
“We love Sierra Leone. It is our home,” Becky Brockelman said recently at her mother-in-law’s house in Sherman. “But as this thing began to spread, the rumors began to flare.”
The deadly Ebola virus was erupting throughout West Africa, with Sierra Leone and neighboring Liberia and Guinea the hardest hit. The disease was virtually uncontrolled and thousands of people were dying across the region. The meager medical centers were overwhelmed by the disease, and the Brockelmans realized they would have few options if they became ill.
The couple, Baptist missionaries, came back to Texas in early August with the Sierra Leonean boy they are adopting. They isolated themselves for 21 days, to ensure they had not contracted the deadly disease, and tried to wait out the epidemic.
But their hearts won out. Not even Ebola can keep them from their life’s work in West Africa.

But why?

Why do they feel such a strong calling to return to Sierra Leone? That was my question as I kept reading. 

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