Refugees. COVID. Insurrection. Some of the biggest news stories of the year were also religion stories. We asked our network to vote for their top three interfaith stories of the year, and these are their picks:
1. Religion and COVID-19. While requests for religious exemptions to vaccines dominated headlines, an interfaith movement of “vaccine ambassadors” – college students, nonprofit agencies, and leaders inspired by faith to help their neighbors – worked to combat conspiracy theories and increase vaccine uptake in their own communities. Surveys showed such outreach made a difference.
2. Refugee resettlement. After a year of record lows, tens of thousands of refugees from Haiti, Afghanistan, and beyond settled in the United States this year. Faith-based refugee resettlement agencies and thousands of faith-inspired volunteers – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and more – welcomed them and helped them build new lives.
3. Juneteenth. This year President Joe Biden signed a law making the 19th of June, a federal holiday beginning in 2022. Long celebrated by many Black congregations, Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States and marks the day in 1875 when enslaved people in Texas learned slavery had been abolished, two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Here’s the rest of the list, as ranked by our readers.
1. Religion and insurrection. In a vivid reminder that religious symbolism can be used for dangerous ends, in January 2021, the world watched while President Trump’s supporters, some carrying symbols of white Christian nationalism, stormed the U.S. Capitol.
2. Online innovation. From #FaithTok on TikTok to live-streamed traditional services for congregations isolated by the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 was a big year for religion and online innovation. Creative leaders and religious groups learned to build community on online spaces in new ways, and Facebook strengthened ties to faith groups.
3. Interfaith America. In June, PRRI released the most comprehensive report on religious diversity since a U.S. Census Bureau survey in 1957. Data on religious diversity showed that “seven in 10 Americans (70%) identify as Christian, including more than four in ten who identify as white Christian and more than one-quarter who identify as Christian of color. Nearly one in four Americans (23%) are religiously unaffiliated, and 5% identify with non-Christian religions.”
4. Religious activism and the abortion debate. Activists and advocates inspired by religious faith put their energy behind both sides of the abortion debate this year, focusing on Supreme Court cases that limit abortion access in Mississippi and Texas.
5. Religious diversity in the White House. Inspired by her mother’s Hindu faith, the Christian church of her childhood, and her husband’s Jewish traditions, Vice President Kamala Harris became the first woman, and the first Asian American, to assume the role of vice president. She joined President Joe Biden, the second Catholic President in U.S. history.
American Civic Life