FaithWorld

New PM Modi’s nationalist foot soldiers take center-stage in India

(Activists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu hardline group, hold bamboo sticks as they take part in a march in the central Indian city of Bhopal February 23, 2014. Standing with Narendra Modi as he was sworn in as prime minister on the majestic forecourt of India's presidential palace was a cabinet made up almost entirely of ministers whose careers started in a hardline Hindu nationalist movement. After the stunning majority won by Modi's party in the general election, the movement that believes multi-faith India should be recognized first and foremost as a Hindu nation feels closer than ever before to achieving its goals. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers from the movement led by the RSS actively campaigned in the election, using technology and sheer manpower to mobilize voters in regions where Modi's party has traditionally been weak. Picture taken February 23, 2014. REUTERS/Raj Patidar)

(Activists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu hardline group, march in the central Indian city of Bhopal February 23, 2014. REUTERS/Raj Patidar)

Standing with Narendra Modi as he was sworn in as prime minister on the majestic forecourt of India’s presidential palace was a cabinet made up almost entirely of ministers whose careers started in a hardline Hindu nationalist movement.

After the stunning majority won by Modi’s party in the general election, the movement that believes multi-faith India should be recognized first and foremost as a Hindu nation feels closer than ever before to achieving its goals.

Hundreds of thousands of volunteers from the movement led by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) actively campaigned in the election, using technology and sheer manpower to mobilize voters in regions where Modi’s party has traditionally been weak.

Many are recruited into the RSS as children and stay in the movement through their lives. In the election, these volunteers carried voter lists on tablet computers or mobile phones, the biggest operation by the organization since 1977 when disparate opposition groups merged to beat former prime minister Indira Gandhi and her Congress party.

Brazil’s Catholic Church gives World Cup organizers a ‘red card’

(An aerial shot shows the Arena Fonte Nova stadium, one of the stadiums hosting the 2014 World Cup soccer matches, in Salvador, in the state of Bahia, northern Brazil March 28, 2014. Picture taken March 28, 2014. REUTERS/Valter Pontes )

(Arena Fonte Nova stadium, one of the stadiums hosting the 2014 World Cup soccer matches, in Salvador, in the state of Bahia, northern Brazil March 28, 2014. REUTERS/Valter Pontes )

Pope Francis may be a die-hard soccer fan, but the Catholic church has given Brazil’s World Cup organizers a “red card” for spending billions of dollars on stadiums while failing to improve the country’s notoriously poor public services.

In a red card-shaped brochure distributed this week in churches and parishes across the world’s biggest Roman Catholic country, Brazil’s Bishops Conference urged the Brazilian government to respect people’s right to demonstrate against the month-long tournament that kicks off next Thursday.

Pope Francis fires entire board of Vatican financial watchdog

(New recruits of the Vatican's elite Swiss Guard march in front of the tower of the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR) during the swearing-in ceremony at the Vatican May 6, 2014. The Swiss Guard, founded in 1506, consist of 100 volunteers who must be of Swiss nationality, Catholic, single, at least 174 cm (5.7 ft) tall and without a beard. New recruits are sworn in every year on May 6 to commemorate the day where 147 Swiss soldiers died defending the Pope during an attack on Rome in 1527. REUTERS/Tony Gentile )

(New recruits of the Vatican’s elite Swiss Guard march in front of the tower of the Vatican’s bank, the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR) on May 6, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile )

Pope Francis sacked the five-man board of the Vatican’s financial watchdog on Thursday – all Italians – in the latest move to break with an old guard associated with a murky past under his predecessor.

The Vatican said the pope named four experts from Switzerland, Singapore, the United States and Italy to replace them on the board of the Financial Information Authority (AIF), the Holy See’s internal regulatory office. The new board includes a woman for the first time.

Irish Catholic Church says horrified by children’s mass grave

(The entrance to the site of a mass grave of hundreds of children who died in the former Bons Secours home for unmarried mothers is seen in Tuam, County Galway June 4, 2014. Local residents on Tuesday said they hoped a campaign is making headway to commemorate the unmarked mass grave of nearly 800 babies found in Tuam. The infants were buried without coffins in the grounds of a former home for unmarried mothers between 1925 and 1961. A total of 796 babies toddlers and children were buried in this mass grave. Death records show the children died from malnutrition and infectious disease. REUTERS/Stringer )

(The entrance to the site of a mass grave of hundreds of children who died in the former Bon Secours home for unmarried mothers is seen in Tuam, County Galway June 4, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer )

Ireland’s Roman Catholic Church told the order of nuns who ran the former home where a mass grave of almost 800 children was found that it must co-operate with any inquiry into the discovery.

Ireland is considering an investigation into what the government called a “deeply disturbing” discovery of an unmarked graveyard at a former home run by the Bon Secours Sister where 796 children died between 1925 and 1961.

Sword-wielding Sikhs clash at India’s Golden Temple

Sikhs hold swords as they protest during a clash inside the complex of the holy Sikh shrine, the Golden Temple, in the northern Indian city of Amritsar June 6, 2014. Sikhs wielding swords clashed inside the compound of their religion's holiest shrine on Friday, the 30th anniversary of a controversial raid by Indian security forces that flushed out separatist militants holed up in the temple. REUTERS/Munish Sharma

(Sikhs hold swords as they protest during a clash inside the complex of the holy Sikh shrine, the Golden Temple, in the northern Indian city of Amritsar June 6, 2014. REUTERS/Munish Sharma)

Sikhs wielding swords clashed inside the compound of their religion’s holiest shrine on Friday, the 30th anniversary of a controversial raid by Indian security forces that flushed out separatist militants holed up in the temple.

Television showed dramatic footage of Sikhs rushing out of the Golden Temple in Amritsar in northern India, brandishing their swords against each other in a violent confrontation in which several people were injured.

Muslims pray to turn Turkey’s greatest monument back into a mosque

(Local and foreign visitors, with the Byzantine-era monument of Hagia Sophia in the background, stroll at Sultanahmet square in Istanbul August 23, 2013. The number of foreign visitors arriving in Turkey grew at its slowest pace for eight months in July, as the impact of anti-government protests and the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan took their toll, data showed on Friday. Foreign arrivals rose 0.48 percent year-on-year last month to 4.59 million people, according to the Tourism Ministry figures, the lowest rise since November. The number of visitors rose 4.93 percent the previous month. REUTERS/Murad Sezer )

(Hagia Sophia in Istanbul August 23, 2013. REUTERS/Murad Sezer )

It has served as the exalted seat of two faiths since its vast dome and lustrous gold mosaics first levitated above Istanbul in the 6th Century: Christendom’s greatest cathedral for 900 years and one of Islam’s greatest mosques for another 500.

Today, the Hagia Sophia, or Ayasofya in Turkish, is officially a museum: Turkey’s most-visited monument, whose formally neutral status symbolizes the secular nature of the modern Turkish state.

But tens of thousands of Muslim worshippers gathering there on Saturday hope it will again be a mosque, a dream they believe Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan can fulfill.

Russian Orthodox Church the absent player at Pope-Patriarch Jerusalem summit

(Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Russian Orthodox Church's foreign relations department, attends an interview with Reuters in Moscow May 16, 2014. Religious tensions are deepening dividing lines in Ukraine's crisis, with rival churches taking political sides and Kiev slighting the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Hilarion said on Friday. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov)

(Metropolitan Hilarion during an interview with Reuters in Moscow May 16, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov)

When Pope Francis meets the spiritual head of the world’s Orthodox Christians next week, the speeches and symbolism will focus on how these ancient western and eastern wings of Christianity want to come closer together.

After almost a millennium apart, however, the key to the elusive unity they seek does not lie in Jerusalem, where the Catholic pope and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will embrace on May 25. If anywhere, that key lies in Moscow.

Saudi Arabia may curb Dutch trade ties over Wilders’ anti-Islam slogans

(Freedom Party (PVV) leader Geert Wilders speaks during an interview with Reuters in The Hague April 17, 2014. Far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders blamed the crisis in Ukraine on the European Union on Thursday, accusing it of inciting violence by dangling the "carrot" of EU integration. Wilders, whose party is second in Dutch opinion polls, said the European Union had no business adopting a joint foreign policy towards its giant eastern neighbour and that EU sanctions against Russia would be ineffective. To match Interview EU-ELECTION/DUTCH-WILDERS REUTERS/Michael Kooren)

(Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders in The Hague April 17, 2014. REUTERS/Michael Kooren)

Saudi Arabia is considering trade sanctions against the Netherlands because of stickers printed by far-right politician Geert Wilders which display anti-Islam slogans in the colours of the Saudi flag, a Dutch foreign ministry spokesman said.

Wilders, leader of the anti-immigration Dutch Freedom Party, is tied in first place with the Democrats in national opinion polls before European Parliament elections that will be held in the Netherlands on Thursday.

Church can help heal Scottish independence divisions, says Queen Elizabeth

*(People stand at the main entrance of Canongate Kirk in the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland March 9, 2011. Queen Elizabeth's granddaughter Zara Phillips will marry the captain of England's rugby team, Mike Tindall, in July, Buckingham Palace said on Wednesday, becoming the monarch's second grandchild to get married in the space of a few months. Buckingham Palace said Phillips, 29, and Tindall would wed at Canongate Kirk, the parish church of Edinburgh Castle. REUTERS/David Moir )

(Canongate Kirk, the parish church of Edinburgh Castle, in Edinburgh, Scotland March 9, 2011. REUTERS/David Moir )

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth sent a message to the Church of Scotland on Saturday, recognising the role it can play in helping to heal divisions opened up by the increasingly bitter debate over Scottish independence.

Elizabeth, 88, who celebrated 60 years on the throne in 2012, has not publicly entered the political debate on whether Scotland should end its 307-year-old union with England and leave the United Kingdom.

In Modi’s India, a case of rule and divide

(Muslim boys play cricket in a ground in the Muslim dominated Johapura area in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad February 28, 2014. Narendra Modi's critics depict him as an autocratic Hindu supremacist who would tyrannize the country's minority Muslims if his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power. Modi himself insists he is a moderate who will create a prosperous India for people of all creeds. Picture taken February 28, 2014. To match Special Report INDIA-MUSLIMS/ REUTERS/Ahmad Masood )

(Muslim boys play cricket in a ground in the Muslim dominated Johapura area in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad February 28, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood )

Ali Husain is a prosperous young Indian Muslim businessman. He recently bought a Mercedes and lives in a suburban-style gated community that itself sits inside a ghetto.

In Gujarat, it is so difficult for Muslims to buy property in areas dominated by Hindus even the community’s fast-growing urban middle class is confined to cramped and decrepit corners of cities.