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from Expert Zone:

Hillary Clinton’s farewell visit to Delhi: from prickly estrangement to empathetic divergence

(The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not represent those of Reuters)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will rank as the most accomplished, poised and successful woman politician in American history. She has pierced many glass ceilings with tenacity and grace. She almost made it to the White House and future sociologists and historians will be able to more objectively assess the misogyny index that still lurks deep within American society and its relevance in the Obama-Clinton Democratic party tussle. The U.S. demonstrated in late 2008 that it had evolved to a point where it could accept a coloured President but not a woman.

However, South Asia with its distinctive dynasty-cum-family political ethos is more at home with strong woman politicians and the top leadership over the decades includes Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto, Sirimavo Bandaranaike (the world’s first woman prime minister) and her daughter Chandrika to Sheikh Hasina. Thus, South Asia would provide a natural comfort zone for Hillary Clinton who has just completed a whistle-stop visit that took her from Beijing to Dhaka to Kolkata before she arrived in Delhi for high-level meetings with her Indian counterpart on Tuesday.

Clinton is no stranger to India and has visited many parts of the country -- both as the U.S. First Lady and now as the Secretary of State. Paradoxically, even though she was not in the political loop at the time, her husband Bill Clinton (the U.S. President in 1993) castigated India for its nuclear profile and heightened the estrangement between the two democracies.

from FaithWorld:

Catholic-atheist meetings end with Pope Benedict appeal to youth

(Catholic-atheist meeting in the Grand Amphitheatre of the Sorbonne, Paris 25 March 2011/Tom Heneghan)

(Catholic-atheist meeting in the Grand Amphitheatre of the Sorbonne, Paris 25 March 2011/Tom Heneghan)

Pope Benedict urged French youths on Friday to help put God back into public debate, either as Christians sharing their faith or as non-believers seeking more justice and solidarity in a cold utilitarian world. In a video address from the Vatican to an evening rally outside Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris, the pope also urged them to "tear down the barriers of fear of the other, the foreigner, of those who are not like you" that mutual ignorance can create.

from FaithWorld:

Vatican launches public dialogue with atheists in Paris

(UNESCO headquarters in Paris)

(UNESCO headquarters in Paris, 7 Sept 2005/Matthias Ripp)

The Vatican has launched a series of public dialogues with non-believers, choosing leading intellectual institutions in Paris to present its belief that modern societies must speak more openly about God.

The decision to start the series in France, where strong secularism has pushed faith to the fringes of the public sphere, reflected Pope Benedict's goal of bringing religious questions back into the mainstream of civic debates.

from FaithWorld:

Catholics & Jews discuss their future dialogue, possible Muslim trialogue

bernardins

(Collège des Bernardins, site of the ILC meeting in Paris, 2 March 2011/Tom Heneghan)

Jewish and Roman Catholic leaders reviewing their dialogue over the past four decades expressed concern on Wednesday that younger generations had little idea of the historic reconciliation that has taken place between them. The two faiths must keep this awareness alive at a time when the last survivors of the Holocaust are dying and both the Catholic and Jewish worlds are changing in significant ways, they said at the end of a four-day interfaith conference.

from FaithWorld:

Extend Catholic-Jewish amity to Islam, Jewish official tells dialogue meeting

coexist

(An art exhibition poster reading "coexist" using the Islamic crescent, Jewish David Star and Christian cross, in Jerusalem, May 13, 2001 /Reinhard Krause)

The historic reconciliation between Jews and Roman Catholics over the past 40 years should be extended to Muslims to deal with the challenges of the 21st century, a senior Jewish official has said. The regular dialogue the two faiths have maintained since the Catholic Church renounced anti-Semitism at the Second Vatican Council should be "a model for transformed relations with Islam," Rabbi Richard Marker told the opening session of a meeting reviewing four decades of efforts to forge closer ties after 1,900 years of Christian anti-Semitism and to ask how the dialogue can progress in the future.

from FaithWorld:

Timeline – Ups and downs in recent Catholic-Jewish relations

Senior officials from the Roman Catholic Church and international Jewish groups met on Monday in Paris to review relations after 40 years of sometimes difficult dialogue.

Following is a timeline of the ups and downs in Catholic-Jewish relations since the first papal visit to Israel.

from FaithWorld:

Russian Orthodox Church’s Kirill on ecumenism, via Wikileaks

kirillSome interesting comments on Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, back in April 2008 when he was still Metropolitan Kirill, in a cable from the U.S. embassy in Moscow published by Wikileaks:

8. (C) Kirill seemed to be in good health was preoccupied as always with the, in his view, excessive emphasis on the individual in the West, and stressed the need to harmonize traditional human rights concerns with “morality and ethics.” Economic progress had been a two-edged sword for Russia, Kirill thought. With prosperity, Russians had “lost something” and Kirill, who is Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, pointed to less prosperous Smolensk as “better preserved” than Moscow or St. Petersburg.

from FaithWorld:

Why did the U.N. proclaim World Interfaith Harmony Week?

unga 1 (Photo: United Nations General Assembly hall, 23 Nov 2006/Jérôme Blum)

The United Nations General Assembly passes a stack of resolutions every year and many of them go all but unnoticed.  One such document just approved in New York established a new World Interfaith Harmony Week. High-minded resolutions put most news junkies to sleep, so it's probably no surprise this one got such scant media coverage (see here and here). But there's more to this one than meets the glazed-over eye.

muslims at synodThe resolution, accepted by consensus on Wednesday, urged all member states to designate the first week of February every year as the World Interfaith Harmony Week. It asked them to "support, on a voluntary basis, the spread of the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship during that week based on Love of God and Love of the Neighbour, or based on Love of the Good and Love of the Neighbour, each according to their own religious traditions or convictions."

from India Insight:

Why is Kashmir upset over choice of new interlocutors?

Shadows of policemen are seen on a road as they signal an approaching car to stop at a security barricade during curfew in Srinagar October 12, 2010. REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli/Files

Last week, New Delhi appointed three new mediators to find a solution to the decades-old dispute over Kashmir where popular protests against Indian rule have mounted in recent months.

The appointment of the three-member non-political team of interlocutors -- journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, academician Radha Kumar and government official M. M. Ansari -- is also aimed at defusing simmering anger in the disputed region.

from FaithWorld:

Excerpts from pope speech at London interfaith meeting

pope and rabbi (Photo: Pope Benedict and Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, September 17, 2010/Toby Melville)

Pope Benedict met leaders of non-Christian faiths in London on Friday and stressed the need for dialogue among religions to foster peace. Britain's Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and Khaled Azzam, director of the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, also spoke.

Here are some excerpts from the pope's speech:

"I would like to begin my remarks by expressing the Catholic Church’s appreciation for the important witness that all of you bear as spiritual men and women living at a time when religious convictions are not always understood or appreciated. The presence of committed believers in various fields of social and I would like to begin my remarks by expressing the Catholic Church’s appreciation for the important witness that all of you bear as spiritual men and women living at a time when religious convictions are not always understood or appreciated. The presence of committed believers in various fields of social and economic life speaks eloquently of the fact that the spiritual dimension of our lives is fundamental to our identity as human beings, that man, in other words, does not live by bread alone. As followers of different religious traditions working together for the good of the community at large, we attach great importance to this "side by side" dimension of our cooperation, which complements the "face to face" aspect of our continuing dialogue...

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