Year in Review: A tale of many wars
Around the world, 2022 was a year of the Four Horsemen: conquest, war, famine, and death
This month, the people of Japan chose a kanji character, or symbol, for the year. The winner? “Sen,” which means “war.”
It reflects the Japanese view and, on a larger scale, the world’s take on the state of things globally in 2022. Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated in a public shooting in July by a man with a homemade gun. Elsewhere in Asia, North Korea and China triggered concerns about larger regional attacks and invasions, while Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine has continued to have a global effect. China has also faced mounting pressure over its covert police stations in countries around the world.
We’ve covered these and much more over the past 12 months, but here are more highlights from 2022:
Famine and drought
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February fueled an ongoing global food crisis. Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain exporters, could not move fertilizer, wheat, and other grains and foodstuffs out of its Black Sea ports. Shortages and rising prices triggered long food lines and protests in Lebanon, Ghana, Iraq, and Tunisia, among other countries. In August, a United Nations–chartered ship loaded with 23,000 metric tons of wheat docked in Djibouti. Officials from the UN World Food Program said the food brought much-needed support to the drought-hit Horn of Africa region, which is still in the throes of a record dry spell. Aid workers there have warned that a perfect storm of multiple crises will fuel unprecedented starvation. Five consecutive failed rainy seasons have discouraged farmers in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. Somalia is expected to reach a formal famine declaration between April and June, but aid workers warn the destruction would be vast by then.
A protracted crisis in Haiti
Deadly gang violence drew renewed attention this year to the Caribbean island nation. Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced the government’s plans to withdraw fuel subsidies in September, sparking widespread protests. The powerful G9 gang coalition dug trenches and blocked access to the largest fuel terminal in Port-au-Prince. The blockade forced gas stations to close, sparked a shortage of clean water, and limited operating hours for grocery stores and hospitals. Health workers are still fighting a cholera outbreak that began during the blockade. Haitian security regained control of the terminal last month, allowing fuel to flow again. But the unrest has taken a much larger toll. The UN said this month that gangs killed more than 1,400 people and kidnapped more than 1,000 others.
In June, gunmen opened fire inside a Roman Catholic Church in Nigeria’s southwest Ondo state. At least 40 worshipers died, which was followed by a surge in other attacks. Two days before Christmas, a community in Nigeria’s central Kaduna state buried 40 Christians killed by armed criminals. The U.S. State Department failed to declare Nigeria a “country of particular concern” for the second consecutive year despite ongoing religious freedom violations.
In Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega’s government shut down seven radio stations owned by the Roman Catholic Church in August. Authorities also detained Rolando Álvarez, the Catholic bishop of Matagalpa. This month, a district court charged him with undermining national security and propagating false news.
Chinese authorities introduced regulations to control religious expression online. The measures implemented in March stop individuals from sharing religious content without a license, among other restrictions.
And in one positive development, Iran unexpectedly released in October two imprisoned Christians from the notorious Evin Prison. Pastor Naser Navard Goltapeh and Fariba Dalir had been convicted on national security charges and for starting illegal house churches.
Demonstrations that began throughout Iran in September persist. Protests began after a 22-year-old Iranian-Kurdish woman died in police custody. Iran’s morality police arrested Mahsa Amini for wearing her headscarf incorrectly. Authorities have now started executing some of the 18,000 detained protesters. Iran accused Majid Reza Rahnavard of stabbing to death two security officials last month. Authorities hanged him from a construction crane. In the first confirmed execution, authorities hanged Mohsen Shekari after sentencing him for attacking a security force member with a machete. Activists warn that others have already received death sentences.
Other notable protests: China stepped back on its zero-COVID stance after unusual demonstrations. In Sri Lanka, thousands of protesters who stormed government buildings in heightened demonstrations forced the prime minister to resign. Deadly protests have rocked Peru after authorities there impeached and detained former President Pedro Castillo. And in the Democratic Republic of Congo, protests demanding an end to armed violence in the eastern region turned deadly. Regional leaders are still trying to quash the new surge in the violence plaguing the region.