FaithWorld

Influential Muslim cleric calls for Sunni-Shi’ite dialogue in Iraq

(Egyptian Cleric Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, gives a speech during Friday prayers, before a protest against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, at Al Azhar mosque in old Cairo December 28, 2012. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

(Egyptian Cleric Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, gives a speech during Friday prayers at Al Azhar mosque in old Cairo December 28, 2012. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

An influential Sunni Muslim cleric said on Monday that only dialogue could solve Iraq’s crisis, sounding a conciliatory note on the threat posed by Sunni Islamist insurgents that could further polarise the Middle East along sectarian lines.

Fighters from the radical Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have seized a swathe of northern Iraqi towns, as well as border posts with Syria, in a thrust towards Baghdad, stunning the country’s Shi’ite Muslim-led central government.

Sunni Saudi Arabia has blamed Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, saying his rule had incurred Iraqi Sunnis’ wrath, and hinted that Shi’ite Iran should not enter the fray in Iraq against the militants.

“There’s no doubt that Sunnis all around the world are being repressed but even more so in Iraq under the Shi’ite leadership,” cleric Youssef al-Qaradawi told a news conference in the Qatari capital Doha.

Vatican cricketers to meet British royal household, Church of England teams

(A player from a team of priests and seminarians returns a ball during a training session at the Maria Mater Ecclesiae's Catholic College in Rome October 22, 2013. The Vatican officially declared its intention to defeat the Church of England on Tuesday - not in a theological re-match nearly 500 years after they split, but on the cricket pitch. The challenge was launched at the baptism of the St. Peter's Cricket Club. Vatican officials said the league will be composed of teams of priests and seminarians from Catholic colleges and seminaries in Rome. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi )

(A player from a team of priests and seminarians returns a ball during a training session at the Maria Mater Ecclesiae’s Catholic College in Rome October 22, 2013. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi )

Cricket teams representing Queen Elizabeth and Pope Francis will face each other at Windsor Castle, the Vatican said on Monday, stamping its unprecedented venture into a sport rooted in Anglicanism with the royal seal of approval.

The September 17 fixture will pit the Vatican XI against a side of Britain’s royal household made up of soldiers, guards and staff. Two days later the Holy See’s representatives will play a Church of England team in Canterbury.

Mormon church excommunicates prominent U.S. activist Kate Kelly

(Kate Kelly of Ordain Women weeps during a vigil as members of the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints consider her excommunication from the church in Salt Lake City, Utah, June 22, 2014. Kelly, founder of Ordain Women, which advocates for gender equality in the Mormon church, was scheduled to be tried for apostasy by a panel of male lay church leaders in Virginia on Sunday. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart )

(Kate Kelly of Ordain Women weeps during a vigil as members of the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints consider her excommunication from the church in Salt Lake City, Utah, June 22, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart )

Prominent Mormon activist Kate Kelly was excommunicated by her church on Monday for violating its “laws and order” after advocating for women’s ordination, a view that leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said amounted to apostasy.

Kelly in 2013 founded the group Ordain Women, which has pushed for gender equality and has appealed to the faith’s highest leaders to seek direction from God on the issue of women joining the priesthood.

U.S. Presbyterian Church to shed investments in Israel in occupation protest

(Protesters gather outside the Caterpillar annual shareholder meeting in Chicago, June 11, 2008. The protesters demonstrated against how Israel acquires Caterpillar heavy machinery from the U.S. REUTERS/Frank Polich)

(Protesters gather outside the Caterpillar annual shareholder meeting in Chicago, June 11, 2008. The protesters demonstrated against how Israel acquires Caterpillar heavy machinery from the U.S. REUTERS/Frank Polich)

A deeply-divided gathering of U.S. Presbyterian Church elders and ministers has narrowly voted to divest the religious group’s holdings in three American companies it says have ties to Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian Territories.

As a result of the vote the church will divest holdings worth roughly $21 million in Caterpillar Inc., Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions.

Anti-government cleric returns to Pakistan as supporters clash with police

(Supporters of Muhammad Tahirul Qadri, a Sufi cleric and leader of the Minhaj-ul-Quran religious organisation, chant slogans as they participate in a sit-in protest, following Qadri's arrival after his plane was diverted from Islamabad to Lahore, in Karachi June 23, 2014. The prominent cleric landed in Pakistan on Monday after his plane was diverted from the capital Islamabad where his supporters clashed with police amid government concerns about the return of a man who describes himself as a revolutionary. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro)

(Supporters of Muhammad Tahirul Qadri chant slogans at a sit-in protest, following Qadri’s arrival after his plane was diverted from Islamabad to Lahore, in Karachi June 23, 2014. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro)

A prominent cleric landed in Pakistan on Monday after his plane was diverted from the capital Islamabad where his supporters clashed with police amid government concerns about the return of a man who describes himself as a revolutionary.

Tahirul Qadri, a Pakistani preacher turned political activist who usually lives Canada, is a divisive figure in Pakistan where he made headlines last year when he led mass rallies against the previous government.

Dutch companies hit by Saudi retaliation for Wilders’ anti-Islam campaign

(Far-right politician Geert Wilders of the anti-immigration Dutch Freedom (PVV) Party speaks at a PVV rally after the European Parliament elections in the Hague May 22, 2014. Europe's election marathon kicks off on Thursday as polls open in Britain and the Netherlands, where far-right, anti-EU parties are forecast to top the ballot, spearheading a surge in protest-voting across the continent. REUTERS/Michael Kooren)

(Far-right politician Geert Wilders of the anti-immigration Dutch Freedom (PVV) Party speaks at a PVV rally after the European Parliament elections in the Hague May 22, 2014. REUTERS/Michael Kooren)

Dutch companies are facing problems doing business in Saudi Arabia after the Saudis imposed sanctions in response to anti-Islamic stickers distributed by populist politician Geert Wilders, the Dutch foreign minister said.

Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans wrote in a letter to parliament on Thursday that Saudi authorities had made clear to Dutch officials that trade restrictions were in place, although there has been no official notification.

U.S. Presbyterian Church approves clergy performing gay weddings

(Gay couple Andrew Wale (R) and Neil Allard hold hold each other as they are interviewed by the media after marrying in the first same-sex wedding at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, southern England March 29, 2014. Saturday will be the first day gay couples will be allowed to tie the knot in England and Wales after the government legalised same-sex marriage last July. Wale and Allard are the first out of five same-sex couples tying the knot in Brighton on Saturday. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor )

(A gay couple after marrying in the first same-sex wedding at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, southern England March 29, 2014. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor )

A gathering of U.S. Presbyterian Church elders and ministers voted on Thursday to allow their clergy to perform same-sex weddings, in a major reversal for one of the largest mainline Protestant denominations, a church official said.

The move came during a meeting in Detroit, two years after the Church’s highest judicial body upheld an ecclesiastical rebuke against a lesbian Presbyterian minister for officiating at same-sex weddings in California.

Sainthood closer for U.S. Archbishop Fulton Sheen, an early televangelist

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, 1952/Library of Congress

(Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, 1952/Library of Congress)

U.S. Catholic Archbishop Fulton Sheen, one of the world’s first televangelists, has moved closer to sainthood after a team of theologians agreed a reported miracle should be attributed to his intercession, church officials said.

The miracle attributed to Sheen involved a baby born in September 2010, according to a statement from the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, where Sheen once served as a priest.

The baby boy showed no signs of life for an hour after birth as medical professionals tried to revive him, the diocese said. The child’s family sought Sheen’s intercession, and the baby was restored to life, the statement said.

As Myanmar’s Rakhine Buddhists gain strength, so does anti-Muslim apartheid

(Displaced Rohingya woman Norbagoun carries her severely malnourished 25-day-old twins in her lap in their house at the Dar Paing camp for internally displaced people in Sittwe, Rakhine state, April 24, 2014. Restrictions on international aid have exacerbated a growing health crisis among stateless Muslim Rohingya in west Myanmar. In February, Myanmar's government expelled the main aid group providing health to more than half a million Rohingya, Medecins Sans Frontieres-Holland (MSF-H), after the organisation said it had treated people believed to have been victims of violence in southern Maungdaw township in January. The United Nations says at least 40 Rohingya were killed there by Buddhist Rakhine villagers. The government denies any killings occurred. An attack in March on NGO and U.N. offices by a Rakhine mob led to the withdrawal of other groups providing healthcare and other essential aid to another 140,000 Rohingya living in camps. Picture taken April 24, 2014. REUTERS/Minzayar)

(Displaced Rohingya woman Norbagoun carries her severely malnourished 25-day-old twins in her lap in their house at the Dar Paing camp for internally displaced people in Sittwe, Rakhine state, April 24, 2014. REUTERS/Minzayar)

A campaign to isolate Muslims living under apartheid-like conditions is gathering steam in western Myanmar, driven by Buddhist activists emboldened by the country’s transition from military rule.

Religious violence since 2012 has killed hundreds of Rohingya Muslims and displaced more than 140,000 in Rakhine State. Survivors live as virtual prisoners in camps or in segregated villages, subject to restrictions on travel, and, in some areas, marriage and the number of babies they can have.

Iran says will not hesitate to defend Iraq’s Shi’ite holy sites

(Shi'ite Muslims attend a religious ritual at the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf, 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad, January 8, 2011. REUTERS/Mohammed Ameen)

(Shi’ite Muslims attend a religious ritual at the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf, 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad, January 8, 2011. REUTERS/Mohammed Ameen)

Iran will not hesitate to defend Shi’ite Muslim holy sites in neighbouring Iraq against “killers and terrorists”, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday, following rapid advances by Sunni militants there over the past week.

Speaking on live television, Rouhani said many people had signed up to go to Iraq to defend the sites and “put the terrorists in their place”. He added that veteran fighters from Iraq’s Sunni, Shi’ite and Kurdish communities were also “ready for sacrifice” against these militant forces.