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from FaithWorld:

Syria’s Christians fear for their religious freedom

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(A Christian woman lights a candle during a mass to celebrate the Orthodox Christmas at Saint Serkis church in Damascus January 6, 2011/Khaled al-Hariri)

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.

Calls for Muslim prayers ring out alongside church bells in Damascus, where the apostle Paul started his ministry and Christians have worshipped for two millennia. But for many Syrian Christians, the flight of their brethren from sectarian conflict in neighbouring Iraq and recent attacks on Christians in Egypt have highlighted the dangers they fear they will face if Assad succumbs to the wave of uprisings sweeping the Arab world.

"Definitely the Christians in Syria support Bashar al-Assad. They hope that this storm will not spread," Yohana Ibrahim, the Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, told Reuters.

from India Insight:

Amnesty says hundreds detained in Kashmir without charge or trial

Amnesty International has accused the government of detaining hundreds of people each year in Kashmir without charge or trial under a "draconian" Indian law.

Amnesty says hundreds detained in Kashmir without charge or trialThe rights group said India's Public Safety Act (PSA)  had been used to detain up to 20,000 people without trial over the past two decades. Public Safety Act allows for detention without trial for up to two years.

from FaithWorld:

Top Algerian Salafist’s fatwa says unrest is un-Islamic

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(A Salafist sheikh consults Islamic literature in Algiers, August 2, 2010/Louafi Larbi )

The spiritual leader of Algeria's influential Salafist movement has issued a 48-page fatwa, or religious decree, urging Muslims to ignore calls for change because he says that democracy is against Islam. The fatwa by Sheikh Abdelmalek Ramdani, who lives in Saudi Arabia, comes at an opportune time for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as Algerians watching protests in other Arab states have begun pushing their own political and economic demands.

from FaithWorld:

Watching Bahrain, Saudi Shi’ites demand reforms

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(Shi'ite Saudi Muslim worshippers during the Ashura festival in Qatif ,December 27, 2009/Zaki Ghawas)

When Saudi Shi'ites mark the birthday of the Prophet Mohammad, meeting at mosques and exchanging sweets is only part of what's going on. The Shi'ites also are testing the tolerance of Sunni clerics and taking advantage of reforms introduced by King Abdullah that allow them greater freedom to practise their branch of Islamic faith.

from James Saft:

Investors should “Viva!” the revolutions

Rather than fear the spread of people power revolutions, investors should welcome them.

Just don't expect an easy ride in the near term.

Lots of people have made lots of money out of dictatorships, but you, dear reader, are probably not one of them and are likely to do better, in the long run, as they fall.

from India Insight:

Should forces responsible for over 100 killings be praised for restraint?

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India's Prime Minister praised the work of security forces in disputed Kashmir on Tuesday, in a show of support for troops that killed over 100 separatist protesters last year that risks angering those that resent India's large military presence in the state.

Indian policemen stand guard during a curfew in Srinagar September 21, 2010. REUTERS/Danish Ismail

The remarks represent a seal of approval for security forces that are cited by many Kashmiris as an element of the violence, rather than the preventers of it, and come as a team of interlocutors enters its fifth month of talks in the troubled region, and almost two months after Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said that a political solution to the troubles was likely to emerge "in the next few months."

from India Insight:

LIVE BLOG: New era for Egypt

Follow Reuters' coverage as Egypt's generals assert their command over the country following the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.

from FaithWorld:

Nigerian air force joins bid to contain Islamist sect

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nigeria 1Nigeria's security services are beefing up efforts to contain the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram in the remote north, launching joint army and police exercises and using attack helicopters to help with patrols.

Army Chief of Staff Azubuike Ihejirika, appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan just over a month ago, said on Tuesday he had instructed the security forces to be at the ready after a string of attacks blamed on the  sect.

from Africa News blog:

Darfur – when peace talks cause conflict

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It's a well-established fact that peace talks can spark fighting. I remember before every round of doomed peace talks on Darfur since 2003, either the govenment or the rebels would start a tactical military campaign to gain ground ahead of any potential settlement determining what areas their forces controlled. But the violence in the past week in Darfur's camps for 2 million Darfuris displaced by conflict is different. It would be easy to blame the mediation who convinced more than 400 members of civil society to join a Qatari-based peace process which the two main rebel groups are not present at. Some Darfuris after seven years festering in miserable camps decided the rebel leaders were unable to represent the interests of their people and went to make sure their voices were heard. It was their return to the rebel-dominated Kalma Camp in South Darfur housing 100,000 people and the camps surrounding Zalingei in West Darfur sparking the fighting which claimed at least eight lives, injured dozens and drove thousands to flee the camps they had sought refuge in years ago. But to only blame the mediation would ignore the problems they inherited which almost amount to a mission impossible. Rebel commanders have been splitting to form dozens of factions for years disillusioned with their leaders, most of whom were young and inexperienced before being propelled into the international limelight as Darfur's conflict went global. Those factions are drowning in a sea of personal conflicts and individuals' desire for power while the people they went to war to protect are arguably worse off than before the revolt and Darfur has descended into a chaotic, anarchic, violent mess neither Khartoum nor the rebel leaders are able to clean up. International intervention has also worsened divisions. Diplomats say U.S. envoy Scott Gration wanted to find a way to break Darfur rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) leader Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur's hold over the IDP camps. He began to help smaller factions hoping to cut of the head of Nur's support, the diplomats said. The camp violence is just one manifestation of that policy. Nur's stronghold Jabel Marra descending into intra-rebel fighting killing dozens and forcing tens of thousands more to flee this year was another. Talks in Qatar are now solely focused on a new rebel coalition of tiny factions with few forces on the ground albeit with an impressive ex-U.N. Economic Commission for Africa staffer Al-Tijani Sese brought in to lead them this year. Sese, from a leading Fur tribe family, has garnered some positive reaction in the camps, sowing the seeds of dissent against Nur which manifested itself into the violent confrontations in Kalma and Zalingei in July. While the mediation's idea that Sese would help bring the camps on side was based on good faith, the reality alienated the two main Darfur rebel groups and divided the camps. Further impacting the mediation's efforts is the government's continued military action which prompted JEM rebels to walk out of the talks and Khartoum's clear disregard for the only rebel leader who did sign a 2006 peace deal in Abuja, Minni Arcua Minnawi, who has yet to be reappointed to his post as presidential assistant since elections in April. Darfur's peace process has disintegrated into a bewildering mess of conflicting personalities and interests which appears to have sight of the goal of achieving a sustainable peace so those in the camps can go home. Sudanese have a trait often confusing to outsiders. They can be sworn enemies, fighting to the death one minute. But the next day they will breakfast together, cracking jokes over foul (beans). It's all about interaction. But right now Khartoum, the rebels and the Darfuri victims could not be further apart. After seven years of negotiation yielded little progress, maybe the mediation should forget protocol and pomp and allow the Sudanese to approach the talks as only Sudanese can.

darfuridpIt's well-known that peace talks can cause fighting. I remember before every round of doomed negotiations on Darfur since 2003, either the govenment or the rebels would start a military campaign to gain ground ahead of any potential settlement.

But the violence in the past week in the camps that are home for two million Darfuris displaced by conflict is different.

from FaithWorld:

TIMELINE-Ethnic and religious unrest in Nigeria

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A man and his daughter outside a burned house in Jos,20 Jan 2010/Akintunde Akinleye

Four days of clashes this week between Christian and Muslim mobs armed with guns, knives and machetes killed hundreds of people in Jos and surrounding communities before the military was deployed to contain the violence. At least 460 people have been reported killed

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