FaithWorld

UK PM Cameron accused of fueling division by calling Britain a Christian country

(Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, at the enthronement ceremony for the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, at Canterbury Cathedral March 21, 2013.REUTERS/Toby Melville)

A group of scientists, academics and prominent writers accused British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday of stoking sectarian divisions through his repeated description of Britain as a “Christian country”.

The public figures, including authors Philip Pullman and Terry Pratchett, said they respected the Conservative leader’s own religious beliefs, which he has addressed in a series of statements.

But they took issue with his characterization of Britain saying, in a letter to the Daily Telegraph, the country was actually a “plural society” of largely “non-religious” people.

“To constantly claim otherwise fosters alienation and division in our society,” said the 55 members of the group that also included Nobel prize winning scientist John Sulston.

At Easter, Kiev-based Ukrainian church condemns Russian ‘aggression’

(Ukrainian Orthodox priests conduct a holy liturgy during an Orthodox Easter service in Mikhailovsky Cathedral in Kiev early April 20, 2014. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko)

As Russians and Ukrainians celebrated Easter on Sunday with their nations locked in conflict, the head of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate condemned Russian “aggression” and said “evil” would be defeated.

“Against our peace-loving nation, which voluntarily gave up nuclear weapons, there has been aggression, there has been injustice,” Patriarch Filaret said in his Easter message, as quoted by local media. “A country which guaranteed the integrity and inviolability of our territory has committed aggression.

U.N. peace envoy criticizes Israeli Easter security at Jerusalem church

(Worshippers hold candles as they take part in the Christian Orthodox Holy Fire ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City, April 19, 2014. REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly )

Israeli police refused to let the U.N.’s peace envoy to the Middle East, other diplomats and a crowd of Palestinians pass through a barricade to attend a pre-Easter ritual in the Jerusalem church that Christians revere as the burial site of Jesus, the U.N. official said on Saturday.

The incident, following two days of violence at a separate holy site known as a flashpoint for Jews and Muslims, underscored rising tensions in the politically charged city ahead of Pope Francis’s Holy Land visit next month.

Hollywood plays to the faithful and finds box-office hits with God

(Cast member Emma Watson arrives for the UK premiere of “Noah”, Leicester Square, London, March 31, 2014. REUTERS/Paul Hacket)

Hollywood has embraced God in a big – and lucrative – way.

The movie “Heaven is for Real,” which depicts the story of a young boy who claims to have visited heaven during a near death experience, is the fourth faith-based film this year to stir movie-going audiences with impressive box office numbers.

Made for $12 million, the film, which stars Greg Kinnear, collected $21.5 million over the Easter weekend in U.S. and Canadian theaters, finishing third at the box office behind bigger budget films “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” from Walt Disney and “Rio 2″ from Fox.

In Damascus, Christians briefly ignore war for Good Friday

(Debris lie inside a damaged church in Mar Bacchus Sarkis monastery, in Maloula village, northeast of Damascus, after soldiers loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad took control of it from rebel fighters, April 14, 2014. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri )

The sound of battles echoes from the outskirts of the capital as Christians in Damascus celebrated the Easter weekend, briefly ignoring the conflict for the yearly ritual.

At the gates of Saint George Syrian Orthodox Church – just a few minutes walk from a school where a mortar attack killed several children and injured dozens earlier this week – incense was burning as several uniformed and armed men stood patrol before Good Friday evening services. They joked with each other and did not check ID cards or handbags as people entered.

Iraq’s draft child marriage law seen as political stunt – and sign of times

(Hussein Younis Ali, 14 walks with his bride Nada Ali Hussein, 17, during the wedding party at his home in Tikrit, 150 km (93 miles) north of Baghdad, October 8, 2013.REUTERS/Bakr al-Azzawi)

Proposals that would legalize the marriage of nine-year-old Iraqi girls are unlikely to become law, but indicate the growing role of religion in a country some fear is going down the path of neighboring theocracy Iran.

Based on Shi’ite Islamic jurisprudence, the Ja’afari Law’s advocates say it would bring regulation of personal status – comprising family law, wills and inheritance – into line with sharia religious law.

Filipinos nailed to cross in Good Friday ritual frowned on by Catholic Church

(A penitent grimaces as he hangs on a cross during the reenactment of the death of Jesus Christ on Good Friday in San Fernando, Pampanga in northern Philippines April 18, 2014. REUTERS/Erik De Castro )

Nearly 20 Filipinos and a Danish filmmaker were nailed to crosses to re-enact the crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday, a practice the Roman Catholic Church frowns upon as a distortion of the Easter message.

The annual Philippine ritual draws thousands of spectators to San Fernando, 80 km (50 miles) north of Manila, to see penitents flagellate themselves and a series of crucifixions in a recreation of Christ’s death on the cross.

Mega salaries are evil, papal preacher tells Vatican Good Friday service

(Pope Francis lies on the ground as he prays during the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 18, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer)

The Vatican’s official preacher, at a Good Friday service attended by Pope Francis, said huge salaries and the world financial crisis were modern evils caused by the “cursed hunger for gold”.

The pope presided at a “Passion of the Lord” service in St. Peter’s Basilica, the first of two papal events on the day Christians around the world commemorate Jesus’ death by crucifixion.

Greek Christians hold rare Good Friday liturgy in Turkish north Cyprus

(A Greek Orthodox bishop and an Islamic cleric attend a Good Friday liturgy at the Church of St. George Exorinos in Famagusta, northern Cyprus, April 18, 2014. REUTERS/Andreas Manolis )

Hundreds of Greek Orthodox pilgrims, some coming home after 40 years of forced exile, commemorated the crucifixion of Jesus in a rare Good Friday service in northern Cyprus on Friday.

Held in this medieval walled city in the Turkish part of the divided island, the ceremony at the 14th-century St. George Extorinos church was the idea of local authorities who invited the faithful from the Greek part of the island to visit. A local Muslim cleric joined the service in a sign of interfaith harmony.

from Photographers' Blog:

Pilgrims in the Holy Land

Jerusalem

By Ronen Zvulun

Walking through the narrow alleys of Jerusalem’s Old City and visiting its myriad holy sites at this time of year is an even more vibrant and colorful experience than usual.

Born and raised in Jerusalem, I know these streets by heart. But around the time of Holy Week and Easter they take on a different tone, as people from all over the world converge on the walled city to visit its many points of pilgrimage.

As the crowds pour through the streets, often moving in compact groups of regimented tour parties, I find myself observing the individuals. In this project, I wanted my photographs to reveal the separate people who can so easily get lost amongst the hordes that arrive in the run-up to Easter.