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Reuters blog archive

from Photographers' Blog:

Afghan refugees – Seeking sanctuary

Brussels, Belgium

By Francois Lenoir

It was a cold, wet morning when I passed through the doors of the Church of Saint John the Baptist at the Beguinage, a grand 17th century building in the center of Brussels.

Inside, children were playing and shouting in the large, dark hall, which was lined with rows and rows of tents. I had not just entered a church – I was inside people’s homes. The building had become a very private space.

Saint John the Baptist’s is occupied by a group of Afghan migrants, who have been living there for more than three months. Their first asylum request was refused by the authorities and they were told to leave Belgium, but some ended up travelling around the county aimlessly and were left squatting in unoccupied buildings.

That was before Daniel Alliet, the priest at Saint John the Baptist’s, opened its doors to them. When I went to visit the church at the beginning of the year, more than 200 migrants were living there, although that number has since dropped as many have found shelter in asylum centers.

from Photographers' Blog:

Destroying the heart of the village

Geste, France

By Stephane Mahe

The villages of rural France are faced with decreasing numbers of residents. In addition to the closure of bakeries and shops, they are seeing rising costs to maintain the religious and social heart of these communities, the local church. The village of Gesté and its church, Saint-Pierre-aux-Liens, has witnessed this first-hand.

Local media reported the final phase of the “deconstruction” of a neo-Gothic church in the village of Gesté, and its 2,600 residents. The municipal council was unable to allocate the funds, some 3 million euros ($4.05 million) in 2007, needed for repairs and upkeep. With some research I discovered that since 2000, more than twenty village churches had faced the demolition ball. Apparently 250 churches in France are threatened with the same fate as municipalities are faced with extremely high costs to repair and maintain them, costs that are higher than the cost of tearing them down.

from Photographers' Blog:

Brazil’s exclusively inclusive church

By Paulo Whitaker

In Brazil we have a saying, "Soccer and religion are sacred." Here, as with one’s choice of a favorite soccer team, one’s choice of religion is also not up for discussion. When I discovered here in Sao Paulo a church run by a missionary and a pastor who are lesbian partners, I thought it would be an interesting photo story.

In this megalopolis, there already are a few evangelical churches that are inclusive, accepting people regardless of race, color, economic situation and sexual preference, but the Cidade de Refugio (City Refuge) is the first in Brazil to cater almost exclusively to the gay community. This church, part of the network of the evangelical Assemblies of God, is led by Lanna Holder, a lesbian activist who uses the title of Missionary.

from India Insight:

Fashion and the church: Trousers for men only?

When in church, wear what the preacher tells you. So says the Synod Executive Committee, a decision-making body of the largest church in the north-eastern Indian state of Mizoram.

All women attending places of worship should refrain from wearing see-through dresses, clothes that expose the breasts or are too tight-fitting -- and trousers -- according to a dress code prescribed for Presbyterian Church of India members. The guidelines also say men must wear clean shoes and respectable suits.

from Photographers' Blog:

Detroit’s glimmer of hope

By Mark Blinch

I’ve been to Detroit countless times over the years and though I’ve always known the city to struggle with poverty, I am usually sent to the city to cover another winning Detroit sports franchise, or the glitzy international auto show showcasing the years new cars from all the top auto makers.

As I drove down the highway from my hometown Toronto, I tuned into my favorite Detroit rock radio station 89x as I got close to the border crossing. The radio hosts began to plug an event where people with little means could go and get a free meal. It was just a few days until Christmas, and rockstar Kid Rock, a Detroit native, was putting up the funds to help support his hometown.

from Full Focus:

Detroit’s last rites

The brown brick building at 4860 15th Street is at the center of the next downsizing to hit this failing city: the restructuring of the Archdiocese of Detroit. St. Leo Catholic Church was built more than 120 years ago as Detroit was developing into a manufacturing powerhouse – first in shipbuilding and later in car making. Today its neighborhood is one of the most abandoned pockets in one of the nation's most desperate cities. Like many Catholic churches around urban America, it has been hit by a shortage of priests and a dwindling supply of parishioners. Read the full story here and photographer's blog here.

from John Lloyd:

Finding a new role for churches

The opinions expressed are his own.

There is a poem, written in 1955, by the English poet Philip Larkin, called Church Going. It tells of the poet’s solitary penchant for cycling about villages, visiting country churches, empty, sometimes ruined, each with a “tense, musty, unignorable silence.” In deft touches, he writes of taking off his bicycle clips in lieu of doffing a non-existent cap; of experiencing an inexplicable pleasure in standing in these “frowsty barns”; yet finishing his visit feeling “much at a loss.”

He ends with a reflection: that the church is “a serious house on serious earth,” and that

from Oddly Enough Blog:

Today’s reading is from Shooteronomy

It's been a few weeks since I've written about any new signs of that onrushing Apocalypse, so I foolishly thought things might be getting better.

Let's see here. Roman Catholic bishops in Wisconsin are urging their parishioners not to bring weapons TO CHURCH, now that a new law permits state residents to carry concealed firearms and electric weapons such as stun guns or tasers.

from Photographers' Blog:

Helping the helpless

More than just a photograph, irrefutable proof.

It was three weeks ago when a woman named Carolina called me to denounce abuses inside the Pequeño Cottolengo shelter in the city of Quintero, near Valparaiso. The shelter is part of a chain of homes for mentally handicapped children and youths run by the Catholic Church. Carolina had been working there only three months.

I met with her and saw photos that she had taken with her cell phone during the different shifts she worked there. One of the images showed very clearly the bruises caused by the beating of a young girl, a girl too handicapped to defend herself. Others showed the obvious effects of malnutrition on one young boy.

from FaithWorld:

Malaysia sets up Vatican ties in gesture to Christian minority

(Pope Benedict receives a gift by Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak (L) during a meeting at the Pope's summer residence in Castelgandolfo July 18, 2011/Osservatore Romano)

Malaysia and the Vatican agreed on Monday to establish diplomatic ties, a move seen by analysts as a bid by the Malaysian government to appease minority Christians in the mainly Muslim Southeast Asian country. Prime Minister Najib Razak is trying to mend the government's relations with Christians who make up about 9 percent of the country's 28 million after a rise in religious tensions ahead of general elections widely expected next year.

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