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from FaithWorld:

UK astrophysicist Sir Martin Rees wins 2011 Templeton Prize

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(     (A supernova within the galaxy M100 that may contain the youngest known black hole in our cosmic neighborhood, in a composite image released to Reuters November 15, 2010/Chandra X-ray Observatory Center)

((A supernova within the galaxy M100 that may contain the youngest known black hole in our cosmic neighborhood, in a composite image released to Reuters November 15, 2010/Chandra X-ray Observatory Center)

British astrophysicist Sir Martin Rees, whose research delves deep into the mysteries of the cosmos, has won the 2011 Templeton Prize for career achievements affirming life's spiritual dimension. The one million sterling ($1.6 million) award, the world's largest to an individual, was announced on Wednesday in London. Rees, master of Trinity College at Cambridge University, is former head of the Royal Society and a life peer.

Announcing the award, the United States-based Templeton Foundation said Rees's insights into the mysteries of the Big Bang and so-called black holes in space have "provoked vital questions that address mankind's deepest hopes and fears... Lord Rees has widened the boundaries of understanding about the physical processes that define the cosmos, including speculations on the concept of 'multiverses' or infinite universes... The 'big questions' Lord Rees raises -- such as 'how large is physical reality?' -- are reshaping the philosophical and theological considerations that strike at the core of life."

Rees, 68, says he has no religious beliefs but was brought up in the Church of England and values its culture and ethics. Theology cannot explain scientific mysteries, he told Reuters, but added: "I'm not allergic to religion or religious believers." Previous winners of the prize, which seeks to promote better understanding between science and religion, include Catholic nun Mother Teresa, U.S. preacher Billy Graham and Russian novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn as well as many leading scientists.

from FaithWorld:

iPad 2 sold out in the afterlife as Chinese pray for the dead

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(Fake money -- "Hell Bank Notes" -- on sale for the Qingming festival, or Grave-Sweeping Day, at a shop in Kuala Lumpur March 31, 2009/Zainal Abd Halim)

Apple's iPad 2 shortage has spread to the afterlife as Chinese families in Malaysia rush to buy paper replicas of the popular new gadget to burn for their dead as part of a centuries-old rite. During the Qingming festival, also known as the tomb sweeping festival, Chinese communities in Asia honour their ancestors by burning fake money or replicas of luxury items such as flashy cars and designer bags.

from FaithWorld:

Beijing “house church” faces eviction in tense times in China

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(Christians attend Sunday service at Shouwang Church in Beijing's Haidian district October 3, 2010. Shouwang is a "house church", a church that is not officially sanctioned by the government and houses smaller congregations. These churches are reported to be getting increasingly popular in the Chinese capital. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic)

(Christians attend Sunday service at Shouwang Church in Beijing in this file photo from October 3, 2010/Petar Kujundzic)

Tears flowed at one of Beijing's biggest "house" churches when some 300 Chinese Christians prayed on the last Sunday before they face eviction from their makeshift place of worship, pressed by officials wary about religion outside of their grip. The Shouwang Church, with about 1,000 members, is one of the biggest Protestant congregations in Beijing that has expanded beyond the confines of churches registered and overseen by the ruling Communist Party's religious affairs authorities.

from FaithWorld:

French religious leaders warn against divisive Islam debate

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(Abderrahmane Dahmane displays green star to protest against France's Islam debate, March 29, 2011/Gonzalo Fuentes)

The leaders of France's six main religions warned the government on Wednesday against a planned debate on Islam they say could stigmatise Muslims and fuel prejudice as the country nears national elections next year. Weighing in on an issue that is tearing apart President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP party, the Conference of French Religious Leaders said the discussion about respect for France's secular system could only spread confusion at a turbulent time.

from FaithWorld:

Frictions seen easing in troubled U.N. human rights body

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(Delegates observe a one-minute silence during the high level segment of the 16th session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, February 28, 2011. REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud)

(Delegates at the 16th session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, February 28, 2011/Valentin Flauraud)

The United States and NGO campaign groups say diplomatic shifts on highly-charged issues like religion and Iran in the long-polarised U.N. Human Rights Council could turn it into a more effective body.

from FaithWorld:

Handouts dash Saudi king’s reformer reputation

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saudi king

(Saudi King Abdullah addresses the nation from his office at the Royal Palace in Riyadh March 18, 2011/Saudi Press Agency)

Saudi King Abdullah's lavish social handouts and a boost to security and religious police, but no political change, leaves his prized reputation as a reformist in tatters, analysts say.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Guest contribution-a tribute to Shahbaz Bhatti

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shahbaz(The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. The writer is Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK)

SHAHBAZ BHATTI: A TRIBUTE TO A BRAVE HEART

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

Shahbaz Bhatti’s memorial meeting at the Pakistan High Commission (March 16) was a profoundly sad occasion for all to remember a person who laid down his life for a united and strong Pakistan.

from FaithWorld:

Tibetan monk burns to death in China protest, support group says

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tibet protest

A Tibetan Buddhist monk burnt himself to death in western China Wednesday, triggering a street protest against government controls on the restive region, a group campaigning for Tibetan self-rule said. The self-immolation appeared to be a small repeat of protests that gripped Tibetan areas of China in March 2008, when Buddhist monks and other Tibetan people loyal to the exiled Dalai Lama, their traditional religious leader, confronted police and troops.

The 21-year-old, named Phuntsog, was a monk in Aba, a mainly ethnic Tibetan part of Sichuan province that erupted in defiance against Chinese control three years ago. The monk "immolated himself today in protest against the crackdown," said Kate Saunders of the International Campaign for Tibet, a London-based organisation.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Towards a review of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws

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rehman malikAfter two assassinations, Pakistani politicians are finally beginning to address tensions over the country's blasphemy laws.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said in an interview politicians should be able to reach a cross-party consensus on preventing the misuse of the blasphemy laws, as proposed by Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, head of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) religious party. "Its misuse is being, of course, taken into account and the party leaders are going to sit together as proposed by Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman ... and I hope this matter can be thrashed out, whenever this meeting takes place." 

from Oddly Enough Blog:

No booty here, and that’s the gospel!

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POPE-AUSTRALIA/YOUTH

Check it out. A new edition of the Bible, available tomorrow, is replacing words such as "booty" and "holocaust" to "better reflect modern understanding."

MARKETS USA STOCKSI am not making this up.

"Holocaust" is being changed to "burnt offerings," so that readers who are easily confused won't think the Bible is talking about the 1940s Holocaust.

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