Reuters blog archive
A Christian woman sentenced to death in Pakistan on charges of blaspheming Islam said on Saturday she had been wrongfully accused by neighbours due to a personal dispute, and appealed to the president to pardon her.
Asia Bibi, mother of four, is the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law which rights groups say is often exploited by religious extremists as well as ordinary Pakistanis to settle personal scores. (Photo: Asia Bibi in an undated photo handed out by family members on November 13, 2010. Standing left to right is Bibi's brother Ramzan, Asia, brother Yunus and son Imran)
The 36-year-old farm worker was taken into custody by police in June last year and was convicted by a lower court on Nov. 8. She has been in prison since then, with her case drawing international media attention as well as appeals by human rights groups, and, according to Pakistani media, Pope Benedict.
"I told police that I have not committed any blasphemy and this is a wrong accusation, but they did not listen to me," Bibi told reporters after meeting with Salman Taseer, governor of the central Punjab province where she is imprisoned. "I have small kids. I have wrongly been implicated in this false case," she said in the prison, covered in a cloak that only revealed her eyes.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
Earlier this year I asked someone who had been a senior minister in the government of Pakistan why the country could not change laws which discriminated against minorities. I asked the question because more than 80 people from the minority Ahmadi sect had just been killed in two mosques in Lahore, which at the time served as a wake-up call of the dangers of growing religious intolerance in Pakistan.
His answer was unhesitating. You could not possibly do something like that in Pakistan.
The United States on Wednesday unveiled its annual survey of religious freedom, citing countries ranging from North Korea to Eritrea as repressing religious liberties.
Following are some of the conclusions from the State Department's International Religious Freedom Report on eight countries previously named as areas of "special concern" over their limits on religious freedom.
Pope Benedict will boost the European majority among the men due to elect his successor when he creates 24 new cardinals at the Vatican on Saturday. The nominations are part of a wider strategy by the German-born pope to strengthen Roman Catholicism in Europe. The following is a guest contribution and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Jean-Marie Guénois is deputy editor-in-chief of the Paris daily Le Figaro and a specialist on religion. The article first appeared in French on his Religioblog.*
By Jean-Marie Guénois
We always knew that Benedict XVI is a European pope, but lately he’s been proving this more and more clearly. In this phase of his five-year papacy, the the old continent is clearly his priority. For the past two years, the European destinations have taken precedence over all his travel (France, Czech Republic, Malta, Cyprus, Portugal, United Kingdom). Twelve of his 18 international trips have also been devoted to Europe. As for the visits due next year, they will all be in Europe: Croatia, Spain and Germany (his third visit there as pope).
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said on Wednesday he will not sign an execution order for Tareq Aziz, the former deputy of dictator Saddam Hussein sentenced to death last month for crimes against humanity.
"No, I will not sign the execution order for Tareq Aziz, because I am a socialist," Talabani told French television France 24 in an interview. "I sympathize with Tareq Aziz because he is an Iraqi Christian. Moreover he is an old man who is over 70."
(Photo: Muslim immigrants pray during Eid al-Adha celebrations in front of Athens university November 16, 2010/Yannis Behrakis)
Dozens of far-right activists and local residents threw eggs and taunted hundreds of Muslim immigrants as they gathered to pray in a central square for Eid al-Adha surrounded by a protective cordon of riot police.
Greece, which has become the main immigrant gateway to the European Union, has a growing Muslim community and tensions between locals and incomers have run high in some Athens areas such as Attiki square, the scene of Tuesday's incident.
(Photo: Chancellor Angela Merkel in Karlsruhe, 15 Nov 2010/Kai Pfaffenbach)
Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans debating Muslim integration to stand up more for Christian values, saying Monday the country suffered not from "too much Islam" but "too little Christianity."
Addressing her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, she said she took the current public debate in Germany on Islam and immigration very seriously. As part of this debate, she said last month that multiculturalism there had utterly failed.
Using the Bible as its guide, Texas-based energy company Zion Oil and Gas has searched for oil in the Holy Land for a decade. The company uses a map of the 12 ancient tribes of Israel and the biblical assertion - "the foot of Asher to be dipped in oil on the head of Joseph" - as an unlikely guide to help it decide where to drill. (Photo: A worker stands on an oil rig belonging to Zion Oil and Gas in Karkur, northern Israel October 17, 2010/Nir Elias)
Sitting beneath an 18-storey rig in northern Israel, Zion's CEO Richard Rinberg translates that reference by pointing to an area on the map where the territory of Asher - long and thin and shaped like a leg - once pushed into the land that belonged to Joseph's sons.
(Photo: An Orthodox priest holds up a box containing bones believed to be the relics of John the Baptist, in Sofia, November 12, 2010/Oleg Popov)
Bulgaria's main Orthodox cathedral is displaying jaw and arm bones and a tooth said to be relics of John the Baptist, in a move state officials hope will boost tourism to the Black Sea resort where they were found. Prominent politicians and simple believers flocked to the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia to view the remains, which were found near the town of Sozopol in July and are on display in the Bulgarian capital through Sunday.
John the Baptist, a Christian saint also revered in Islam, announced the coming of Jesus and baptised him in the River Jordan. The Gospels say King Herod had John beheaded at the request of his stepdaughter Salome after she danced for him.
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama donned a headscarf on a visit to an mosque in Indonesia on Wednesday, not a requirement for a non-Muslim but a sign of the Obamas' efforts to show respect for the Islamic world.
Wearing a beige headscarf adorned with gold beads and a flowing chartreuse trouser suit, she toured Jakarta's Istiqlal Mosque, Southeast Asia's largest, while on a short state visit to the world's most populous Muslim country.