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Cost to the taxpayer seems to be the latest target for protesters when Pope Benedict comes to town. After a lively debate about the price the public had to pay for his visit to Britain in September, Spanish protesters have picked up the torch with complaints about the estimated 3.7 million to 5 million euros the state will spend on logistics and security for the pope. And this at a time when Spain is burdened with 20 percent unemployment and is struggling to emerge from recession and austerity measures that have slashed public sector wages.
“I think it’s bad, I mean really bad, to spend so much money on a guy who comes, gives a speech, stays an hour and leaves,” said Pedro Barral Gonzalez, 18, in Santiago de Compostela, the city in northwestern Spain that the pope visited on Saturday.
Spending on papal visits is often controversial, and Spanish spending on the 32-hour visit is dwarfed by other recent trips, but it still drew criticism.
“Funding this liturgical event with public money, we believe it should be funded by the religion’s faithful,” said Jouffre Villanueva, head of the Secular and Progressive Movement.
Muslims in southern Malawi have been burning Bibles in protest against their distribution in Islamic schools by Gideons International, a senior Muslim Association of Malawi official said on Tuesday.
Sheikh Imran Sharif, the association's secretary general, said the burning of Bibles was carried out by a few Muslim fanatics and the association has ordered them to stop. The Muslim protest has been widely criticised in secular Malawi, which has had little religious friction.
(Photo: Supporters and protestors hold a signs while waiting for Pope Benedict to arrive at Westminster Abbey in London September 17, 2010./Suzanne Plunkett)
Pope Benedict is usually greeted by adulating crowds when he travels in Italy and other Catholic countries but he was treated to a mixed reception in London. Protesters, many angered by a sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church worldwide, shouted "anti-Christ" and "Pope will go to hell" as the pope drove through the heart of London on Friday in a bullet-proof popemobile.
Hundreds booed aggressively as he arrived at Westminster Abbey in London's historic core to celebrate Evening Prayer -- one of the religious focal points of his four-day visit to Britain. Papal supporters at times tried to steal the momentum by chanting "We love you pope" but in most cases were quickly drowned out by boos and whistles.
(Photo: Protest as Pope Benedict XVI arrives by car at St Mary's University College in London September 17, 2010/Peter Macdiarmid)
Pope Benedict reminded his Church on Friday that its first priority was to provide a safe environment for children as the pontiff was met by the first substantial protest of his delicate visit to Britain. Several hundred people whistled and shouted "Pope must resign" and "shame" as the papal motorcade entered a Catholic school complex in Twickenham, southwest London.
They held placards reading "Hypocrisy and lies" and "Catholic paedophile cover up."
The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. This interview with Abdullahi Ahmed an-Naim and Massimo Papa about Iran's stoning sentence against Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani on charges of adultery was originally published in Oasis, a Venice-based magazine on Christian-Muslim dialogue. Martino Diez is director of research at the Oasis International Foundation.
By Martino Diez
Professor Naim, what is your assessment of Sakineh’s case?
Officially, the authorities maintain this is a straightforward murder case. Although I have not followed the matter in detail, I think that the ambiguity of the versions produced throughout the years is suspicious and betrays the presence of political manipulation. This poor woman has ended up at the centre of a struggle between different underground factions. There are many cases similar to this.
from Russell Boyce:
As the anniversary of the 9/11 attack coincided with Eid celebrations, Florida based Pastor Terry Jones announced that he would burn the Koran as a protest to plans to site a Muslim cultural centre near Ground Zero , stoking tensions in Asia. Add into the mix millions in Pakistan suffering from lack of water, food and shelter after floods, a parliament election in Afghanistan and a U. S. -led military campaign against the Taliban around Kandahar - photographers in the region had lots of raw material to work with.
Raheb's picture of relief and joy caught in the harsh light of a direct flash seems to explode in a release of tension as news spreads that Pastor Jones had cancelled his plans to burn the Koran. It has to be said that ironically earlier in the day in Pakistan US flags were burned in protest against the planned protest.
Foreign countries should not interfere in Iran's legal system and stop trying to turn the case of a woman sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery into a human rights issue, Tehran said on Tuesday. (Photo: Demonstrator against stoning in Trafalgar Square, London, August 28, 2010/Paul Hackett)
The case of the 43-year-old mother of two, condemned to death for illicit sex and charged with involvement in her husband's murder, provoked an international outcry, with Brazil offering her asylum and the Vatican speaking out against the "brutal" punishment.
(Photo: Afghans in Kabul protest against Koran burning plan, September 6, 2010/Mohammad Ishaq)
U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan have warned that a small Florida church's plan to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks could endanger the lives of American troops.
The warnings followed an angry protest on Monday by several hundred people in the Afghan capital, Kabul, who chanted "Death to America" as they denounced the planned burning event by the Gainesville, Florida-based Dove World Outreach Center church.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's finance minister and spokesman have spoken out forcefully against disparaging comments about Muslim immigrants by a board member of the central bank, raising pressure on him to resign.
The Bundesbank's Thilo Sarrazin, who has previously caused outrage with outspoken criticism of Turks and Arabs living in Germany, took aim at Muslims again in a new book which has been serialised in a popular daily newspaper this week.
(Photo: Protesters urging removal of the cross at the presidential palace. The road sign reads "Attention! Cross defenders." August 9, 2010/Kacper Pempel)
A simple wooden cross honouring victims of a plane crash that killed Poland's president in April has spurred demands that the influence of the powerful Roman Catholic Church be pared back to forge a more secular Poland.
A scout group set a crucifix outside the presidential palace in Warsaw, which turned into a shrine for the victims. Four months later, the three-meter-high cross is still there, festooned with candles and flowers despite attempts by the state and some clergy to move it to a nearby church. The "cross defenders" stood their ground, squabbling with police.