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from FaithWorld:

Pope seeks Mideast religious liberty, bishops criticise Israel

synod 1 (Photo: Bishops at Mass marking the end of the synod of bishops from the Middle East in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican October 24, 2010/Alessia Pierdomenico)

Pope Benedict called on Islamic countries in the Middle East on Sunday to guarantee freedom of worship to non-Muslims and said peace in the region was the best remedy for a worrying exodus of Christians.

He made his a appeal at a solemn mass in St Peter's Basilica ending a two week Vatican summit of bishops from the Middle East, whose final document criticized Israel and urged the Jewish state to end its occupation of Palestinian territories.

In his sermon at the gathering's ceremonial end, the pope said freedom of religion was "one of the fundamental human rights that each state should always respect." While some states in the Middle East allowed freedom of belief, he added, "the space given to the freedom to practice religion is often quite limited."

At least 3.5 million Christians of all denominations live in the Gulf Arab region, the birthplace of Islam and home to some of the most conservative Arab Muslim societies in the world.

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 FaithWorld:

Egypt stops TV channels, Islamic trend seen a target

satellite dishesEgypt has temporarily shut 12 satellite channels and warned 20 others for reasons ranging from insulting religions to broadcasting pornography, although an analyst said the real target seemed to be strict Islamic trends.

The government last week tightened TV broadcast rules, a move critics said was part of a crackdown on independent media before a parliament election in November and a presidential poll next year. Four channels were closed. The government denied any political motivation.

from Oddly Enough Blog:

Do you have a flare for stupidity?

SOCCER-EURO/

Blog Guy, me and others like me are being discriminated against. We're dumbasses, and we don't think there are enough ways for us to express ourselves these days.

I have to disagree there, ace. From where I sit, opportunities for dumbasses have never been greater.

from FaithWorld:

Hindu and Muslim Bollywood stars urge calm before Indian mosque verdict

priyanka002It's a sign of how explosive the Ayodhya mosque verdict in India could be that several Hindu and Muslim film stars in Bollywood have issued a public appeal for calm once the decision is announced. As we've posted here on FaithWorld, an Indian court is due to announce on Thursday whether Hindus or Muslims own land around the Babri mosque, which Hindu nationalists demolished in 1992. The Hindu-Muslim riots that followed killed some 2,000 people. (Image: Priyanka Chopra in screengrab from ANI/Reuters video)

Bollywood, the Bombay (now Mumbai)-based Hindi-language film industry, walks a tightrope in making mass-audience films in what may be the most religiously diverse country in the world. Some of the most popular Bollywood stars are Muslim, although the majority of viewers are Hindu (Muslims make up 13% of the Indian population). Like the actors and actresses in this appeal, many of them publicly work, play and love (see here) across the religious divide. But tensions like those after the Ayodhya mosque riots -- including riots in Mumbai itself -- have left their scars. Some Muslim writers (see here and here) say suspicion of Muslims is a recurring theme in Bollywood films.

from FaithWorld:

Atheists, Jews, Mormons top U.S. religious knowledge poll

relig symbolsAtheists and agnostics may not believe in God or gods but they know a thing or two about them, according to a survey of religious knowledge among Americans released on Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

"On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 ... Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers," Pew said. It found Protestants answered 16 correctly and Catholics on average 14.7.

from Oddly Enough Blog:

Want some novelty science with that whoopee cushion?

Okay, enough is enough.

I appreciate science as much as the next person. I understand there are at least 5,000 feet in a mile. I totally get it that Fahrenheit and Celsius are different scales, and that for instance minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit is, um, let's see, minus 40 degrees Celsius.

moses model 490

But here is a new scientific study saying Moses may not have parted the Red Sea. Scientists say a strong wind that blew through the night could have pushed the waters back in the way described in biblical writings and the Koran.

from Good, Bad, and Ugly:

A Kafkaesque error?

Florida pastor's daughter: 'he needs help'

SOMALIA/After leaving the community aged 17, Emma Jones said she returned in 2005 to find it had become insect-like.

In this story, attributed to Reuters, surely "insect-like" should be "sect-like"?

from FaithWorld:

Berlin issues guidelines on integrating Muslim pupils in schools

GERMANY SARRAZIN/TRIALIf you're a teacher in Germany and are unsure whether to allow your Muslim pupils to pray at school, to skip swimming lessons or wear the veil, you may want to consult a new handbook aimed at dealing with the sometimes tricky task of reconciling Muslim practices with German schooling.

Berlin's Ministry for Education, Science and Research has just published a guide called "Islam and School"  giving practical advice on how to resolve these issues and encourage "people to live together respectfully and peacefully", which you can find in German here.

from Andrew Marshall:

Malaysian reforms: will rhetoric become reality?

Investor Jimmy Cheong monitors share market prices in Kuala Lumpur May 7, 2010. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad

David Chance, the Reuters bureau chief in Kuala Lumpur, has written a new analysis on the prospects for genuine economic reform in Malaysia. He is not optimistic. You can read the full analysis below:

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Malaysia's plans to revitalise investment by backing national champions and ending race-based policies may sound ambitious, but the details are hazy and real economic reform will face formidable obstacles.

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