Central Africa Republic religious hatred was underestimated: France

(An Anti-balaka militiaman poses for a photograph in the capital of the Central African Republic Bangui January 14, 2014. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola)

The level of hatred in Central African Republic between Muslims and Christians has been underestimated and is creating a “nearly impossible” situation for African Union and French forces to combat, France’s U.N. envoy has said.

Speaking at a U.N. event about early warning signs for mass atrocities, Gerard Araud suggested the United Nations consider turning to psychologists or ethnologists to help understand and combat the deadly resentment because religious leaders’ calls for calm were being ignored.

Waves of massacres and reprisals by Muslim and Christian militias have killed hundreds, if not thousands, in Central African Republic since rebels seized power in March 2012, waking the world up to the fact that it might be witnessing the prelude to another Rwanda, where 800,000 were hacked, shot or clubbed to death in 100 days in 1994.

France last year hurriedly deployed roughly 1,600 French troops to help a largely ineffective force of African peacekeepers, but they are too thinly spread to prevent tit-for-tat attacks. Araud suggested the job was proving to be much more difficult than Paris had anticipated.

British asylum for Afghan atheist hailed as ground-breaking decision

(Britain’s Home Office in central London March 29, 2007. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico)

Britain’s decision to grant asylum to an atheist Afghan citizen for religious reasons was hailed  as ground-breaking for giving the same rights to non-religious people as to the religious.

The unnamed man fled to Britain at the age of 16 in 2007 from a conflict involving his family in Afghanistan. He was brought up a Muslim but during his time in Britain he abandoned his religion and became an atheist, according to his legal team at the University of Kent’s Law School.

How much is that halo? Vatican regulates costs of making saints

(St Andrew, by Lippo d’Andrea di Lippo (b. around 1370, d. before 1451) in a fresco in the Duomo in Florence)

Even “poor” saints will benefit from Pope Francis’ drive to control costs and introduce a sense of sobriety and accounting transparency in the Vatican.

The Vatican newspaper said on Tuesday that the Holy See department that oversees the making of saints had introduced a “price list”, or a rough guide to the costs of sanctity.

Religious groups face increased hostility and limits worldwide – Pew report

(A man walks out from a mosque burned down in recent anti-Muslim violence in Rakhine state in Myanmar, October 3, 2013.  REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun )

Violence and discrimination against religious groups by governments and rival faiths have reached new highs in all regions of the world except the Americas, according to a new Pew Research Center report.

Social hostility such as attacks on minority faiths or pressure to conform to certain norms was strong in one-third of the 198 countries and territories surveyed in 2012, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, it said on Tuesday.

Erdogan may prevail against Turkish preacher Gülen, but at high political cost

(An ad with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan inside a metro train in Istanbul January 13, 2014. The slogan reads as “strong willpower”. REUTERS/Murad Sezer)

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan looks to have the upper hand in a civil war rocking Turkey’s political establishment, but his bid to break the influence of a potent Islamic cleric could roll back reforms and undermine hard-won business confidence.

What erupted a month ago as a damaging inquiry into alleged government corruption has spiraled into a battle over the judiciary with potentially much further-reaching consequences for the country’s international image and Erdogan’s own future.

UK to investigate possible SAS role in 1984 Indian Golden Temple attack

(Devotees throng the holy Sikh shrine of Golden Temple to offer prayers for the New Year, in the northern Indian city of Amritsar January 1, 2014. REUTERS/Munish Sharma)

Britain is to investigate newly released official papers which suggest the government of Margaret Thatcher helped India plan a deadly attack against Sikh separatists in the Golden Temple at Amritsar in 1984.

Prime Minister David Cameron ordered the review after an opposition Labour party lawmaker asked the government to disclose whether the papers were genuine and whether Britain had any role in the attack on Sikhism’s holiest shrine.

Kalashnikov rifle designer felt ‘spiritual pain’ from mass deaths it caused

(Mikhail Kalashnikov, whose AK-47 automatic rifle has been the weapon of choice in a half-century of wars from Afghanistan to Zaire, celebrated his 80th birthday November 10, 1994 in this file photo. REUTERS)

Mikhail Kalashnikov, the designer of the AK-47 rifle, wrote a letter to the Russian Orthodox Church before his death expressing concern that the weapon had killed so many people, Izvestia newspaper reported.

“My spiritual pain is unbearable,” he wrote in the letter to the head of the Church, Patriarch Kirill.

from Photographers' Blog:

Keeping the faith

Manila, Philippines

By Bobby Ranoco

Covering the grand procession of the Jesus of the Black Nazarene is not easy, even though I do it annually. Every year on January 9, millions of devotees crowd the streets as a life-sized, dark, wooden sculpture of Jesus Christ carrying the cross is brought through Manila’s old city.

I began to prepare days before the procession and sought permission to get a vantage point on the rooftop of the Quirino Grandstand at Luneta Park, where the procession begins, and on top of other buildings surrounding the route, to produce photographs from a bird’s eye view. It was my first time photographing from the rooftop of the Quirino Grandstand. I had to do my research on how my photographs would turn out at such an angle.

As I did all this, I was praying hard for guidance from the Jesus of the Black Nazarene that all my requests would be approved. He heeded my prayers: everything was approved and ran smoothly with time to spare.

Not your average Popemobile: Pope Francis sells his Harley Davidson

(Harley-Davidson bikes are parked outside Saint Peter’s Square before the start of a mass led by Pope Francis in Rome June 16, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi)

Signed “Francesco” on its tank, the 1,585 cc Harley Davidson Dyna Super Glide that will be auctioned for charity in Paris on Feb. 6 has an unusual owner – Pope Francis.

The pope will sell his Harley Davidson to raise funds for Caritas Roma, a charity working on behalf of the church, auctioneer Bonhams said on Monday.

French comedian Dieudonné drops show deemed anti-Semitic

(French comedian Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala, also known as just “Dieudonne”, attends a news conference at the “Theatre de la Main d’or” in Paris January 11, 2014.REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes )

A French comedian has dropped a show banned for its anti-Semitic language, and was planning one that would cause no objections.

On Friday, France’s highest administrative court upheld a ban on a show by the black comedian Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala in the central city of Tours, days after it was also banned in the western city of Nantes.