Reuters blog archive
A coalition representing most Christian churches around the world launched a rule book on Tuesday for spreading their faith that aims to reduce tensions among themselves and with followers of other faiths. The pioneering code of conduct, under negotiation for five years, was unveiled by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Vatican and the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), which together claim to represent over 90 percent of Christianity.
It reaffirms their right to seek converts but also urges them to abandon "inappropriate methods of exercising mission by resorting to deception and coercive means", saying that such behaviour "betrays the Gospel and may cause suffering to others". Click here for the PDF text of the guidelines.
Christian missionaries have long been accused of offering money, food, or other goods to win converts in poor countries, either from other faiths or from rival churches. Tensions have also risen in recent decades as evangelical Protestants have stepped up efforts to convert Muslims, which is a capital offence in some Islamic countries. This also prompts retaliation against local Christians who do not seek converts.
Russia opened an unprecedented exhibit of religious art pulled from across the country and abroad at Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery on Thursday, in a show of Kremlin support for an Orthodox Church growing more powerful since the fall of Communism.
Syria's minority Christians are watching the protests sweeping their country with trepidation, fearing their religious freedom could be threatened if President Bashar al-Assad's autocratic but secular rule is overthrown. Sunni Muslims form a majority in Syria, but under four decades of rule by Assad's minority Alawites the country's varied religious groups have enjoyed the right to practice their faith.
Russian revelers can now swap vodka and dancing for tea and reading at new "spiritual nightclubs" being set up by Orthodox Church, media said quoting a top religious official. In the latest suggestion by the increasingly powerful Church, youths will be able to "have the opportunity for serious dialogue, reading, unhurried conversation so they can have a cup of tea," said Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin.
Meir Gross is a Jewish ultra-Orthodox father of five who does not work. Despite warnings that Israel's economy may be threatened by his fast growing, often unemployed, community, he does not want a job. Gross advocates a pious existence geared to study. He spends nearly his entire day learning Torah (Jewish law), which he says is the most important edict bestowed on the Jewish man, and it cannot be combined with a job.
"Torah study demands utter and complete devotion. We're not interested in making money or in material luxury. We are content with very little and our true joy, and highest duty, is learning," Gross said.
Organ donations in Israel rocketed in January after the death of an Israeli soccer star prompted a religious debate on brain death into the headlines.
Ecumenical News International, an award-winning agency reporting on religion and based at the World Council of Churches (WCC), has been temporarily closed and had its two top editors removed, one of them said on Monday. The decision, taken at a meeting of its executive committee last week, comes after the Geneva-based WCC cut the agency's funding and its former head criticised its coverage.
The suspension and leadership changes led to the resignation of the ENInews president and its treasurer, both senior figures in Scandinavian Protestant churches, a report by the agency said. WCC officials said the agency was not being closed but would resume some time in 2011 with one part-time editor.
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: Demonstrators at the Amr Ibn El-Aas mosque in Cairo claiming a Christian woman had converted to Islam and was being held prisoner by a Christian church, September 5, 2010/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
Militants may feel emboldened by an al Qaeda threat against Egypt's Christians, even if the network itself might struggle to mount such an assault.
The al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq, which launched an attack on a Baghdad church on Sunday that left 52 dead, has also threatened Egypt's church.
(Photo: Students protest near Hebrew University in Jerusalem on October 27, 2010 against the bill to give more state funds to Torah students/Ronen Zvulun)
Israeli university students have demanded that the government drop plans to pay stipends to ultra-Orthodox Jews who study the Torah but do not work.
Protests over the so-called Yeshiva bill in the past week highlight growing Israeli resentment of the 600,000 ultra-Orthodox "haredim", who live almost entirely off state welfare benefits.