As we enter a new year, a step back from the daily headlines to my list of the top ten news stories of 2006.
1. Iraq. In the fourth year of war, Iraq continued to spiral downward into daily sectarian violence, culminating this past weekend with the execution of Saddam Hussein and the 3,000th American death.
2. Mid-term elections. Ending twelve years of Republican dominance, Democrats won both the House and Senate. When the House convenes in January, it will have the first woman Speaker in American history.
3. Immigration. As millions demonstrated across the country, legislative efforts in Congress to address undocumented immigrants were stalemated between harsh enforcement and possibilities for citizenship.
4. Nuclear weapons. The diplomatic dance with Iran and North Korea continued, while Iran enriched uranium and North Korea conducted its first nuclear weapons test.
5. Congressional corruption. Scandals from financial to sexual brought down prominent members of Congress and played a major role in the elections.
6. Mideast. From Ariel Sharon’s stroke to controversial elections in Palestine to the Israel-Hezbollah war, peace in the Middle East seems farther away than ever.
7. Darfur. The genocide continued as the United Nations tries to overcome the refusal of the government of Sudan to admit peacekeeping troops.
8. The Amish. The forgiving response by a Lancaster County PA Amish community to the family of a man who shot ten schoolgirls, killing five, surprised the world with its quiet witness.
9. Global warming. From polar bears being put on the endangered species list to a huge, thousands of years old ice shelf breaking loose in the Arctic, the world careens toward the devastating effects of climate change.
10. Evangelicals leaving the Religious Right. Megachurch pastors to college students are discovering that Jesus was not a Republican (or a Democrat).
And, five stories I’d like to see more about in the new year.
1. Innovative anti-poverty programs. In New York City, Massachusetts, and elsewhere around the country, new and creative programs are bringing government, business, and civil society together to fight poverty.
2. Faith based work around the world. From rescuing child prostitutes in Asia to combating HIV/AIDS in Africa to Christian Peacemaker Teams, heroic and sacrificial efforts are making a difference in the world.
3. Mideast peace efforts. Under the radar, Israelis and Palestinians are coming together in grassroots efforts for reconciliation and peace, but they rarely make the news.
4. Good folks in sports. While the news is dominated by stories of steroids, drug use and criminal arrests, many professional athletes are quietly donating their money and time to change their communities.
5. Good folks in politics. Let’s see some features about elected officials at all levels – from city councils to state legislatures to Congress, and from both parties – who take their public trust to serve the people seriously.
Happy New Year!
Duane Shank is senior policy adviser for Sojourners/Call to Renewal.