Tunisian parties agree on new premier to lead as Islamists step down

(Tunisia’s Industry Minister Mehdi Jomaa smiles in his office in Tunis in this June 25, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Anis Mili)

Tunisia’s ruling Islamists and opposition parties have agreed to name the country’s current industry minister as prime minister of a caretaker technocrat cabinet to govern until elections next year. The appointment is the first step in an agreement that will see moderate Islamist party Ennahda hand over power in the next few weeks to end a crisis that threatened Tunisia’s transition to democracy after its 2011 uprising.

Three years after its protests against autocrat Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali inspired Arab uprisings elsewhere, Tunisia has been struggling to overcome disputes over the role of Islam in one of the Arab world’s most secular countries.

After weeks of wrangling, parties agreed on Saturday to name Mehdi Jomaa, an aerospace engineer by training, as premier in a deal between Islamist party Ennahda and a coalition of secular parties led by a former Ben Ali official.

“Despite the difficulties, we have managed to reach an agreement over the name of Mehdi Jomaa,” Hussein Abassi, head of the UGTT union movement that brokered the talks, told reporters. “The next government should be independent and nonpartisan to led the country to elections.”

France should allow headscarves and teach more Arabic in schools: report to PM

(A young woman from Somalia attends a lesson to learn French given by humanitarian association France Terre d’Asile in Angers, western France, November 9, 2011. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe )

France should reverse decades of strict secularism to integrate its immigrant population better, allowing Muslims to wear headscarves in schools and promoting Arabic teaching, according to an iconoclastic report commissioned by the prime minister.

The document, part of a government review of integration policy, sparked an outcry among conservative opposition politicians and unease among the governing Socialists.

U.S. religion news journalists choose Top Ten religion news stories of 2013

(Pope Francis is silhouetted against window light at the Vatican October 25, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi )

The Religion Newswriters Association (RNA) in the United States has chosen the Top Ten religion stories of 2014. The online ballot of RNA members was conducted over the past weekend and announced on Monday.

Here’s the list:

1. Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina is a surprise choice to succeed Benedict, becoming the first Latin American and first Jesuit pope, and the first to take the name of Francis. He immediately launches a series of stunning and generally popular forays—meeting with the poor in Brazil, embracing the ill, issuing conciliatory words toward gays and calling for a poorer and more pastoral church.

African animist funeral customs and military pomp for Mandela burial on Sunday

(Women look into a memorial service for late former South African President Nelson Mandela organized by the African National Congress (ANC) in Mthatha, South Africa, December 12, 2013. REUTERS/Adrees Latif )

Nelson Mandela will be laid to rest on Sunday in an elaborate ceremony combining a state funeral and all its military pomp with the traditional burial rituals of his Xhosa clan to ensure he has an easy transition into the afterworld.

Many South Africans will revere Mandela, who during his life became a global symbol of peace and reconciliation, even more now that he has died, since ancestors are widely believed to have a guiding, protective role over the living.

Nigeria largely ignores sectarian violence, Human Rights Watch report says

(Onitsha in southeastern Nigeria after religious riots that killed at least 138 people across the country in five days. February 23, 2006. REUTERS/George Esiri )

Nigerian authorities have largely ignored sectarian clashes in the nation’s religiously mixed central region that have killed 3,000 people since 2010, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.

Local police rejected the findings by the international watchdog, which said that a series of massacres and tit-for-tat sectarian attacks have gone largely unpunished as police overlooked witnesses or failed to collect evidence properly.

Religious leaders seek calm in tense Central African Republic

(People are seen looting in Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic, December 10, 2013. REUTERS/Emmanuel Braun)

Religious leaders sought reconciliation between Muslims and Christians in Central African Republic on Wednesday during a lull in violence that has killed hundreds of people and drawn in French troops seeking to stop the bloodshed.

Fighters, both Muslim and Christian, have gone door to door murdering civilians over the past week. Mobs have carried out lynchings, set fire to cars and buildings and looted shops.

In the land of the holy cow, Hindu fury over India’s beef exports

(A poster of Indian holy cow Kamdhenu is pictured outside a goushala or a cow shelter in the old quarters of Delhi June 19, 2013. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee )

Symbols of India’s emergence as an economic powerhouse line the four-lane highway to Jaipur out of New Delhi: a factory owned by the world’s biggest motorbike maker, glass towers housing global call centres, shopping malls for India’s burgeoning middle class.

One night in August here, an angry mob ran amok, burning trucks and government property and forcing traffic to halt and factories to shut.

Guestview: What we will all lose if Christians flee the Middle East

(Iraqi Christians attend a mass on Christmas at St. Joseph Chaldean church in Baghdad December 25, 2011. REUTERS/Saad Shalash)

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Archbishop Louis Raphael Sako is the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Baghdad and Patriarch of Babylon. This is adapted from his speech to a Rome conference on “Christianity and Freedom,” sponsored by Georgetown University’s Religious Freedom Project.

By Archbishop Louis Raphael Sako

 For almost two millennia Christian communities have lived in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East. These groups have contributed economically, politically, and intellectually, and have helped shape their respective cultures. Unfortunately, in the 21st century Middle Eastern Christians are being severely persecuted. When they have the means, many are fleeing the region.

U.S. foundation buys Hopi religious masks at auction to return them to the tribe

(A man looks at an antique tribal mask, Tumas Crow Mother, circa 1860-1870, revered as a sacred ritual artifact by the Native American Hopi tribe in Arizona, displayed at the Drouot auction house ahead of its sale in Paris December 9, 2013. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann)

An American foundation bought nearly two dozen Native American artefacts and will return them to the Hopi tribe in Arizona, which had mounted legal challenges to their planned sale by a French auction house.

The Annenberg Foundation said on Wednesday it had paid $530,000 for the 24 artefacts sold by Eve Auctioneers in Paris on Monday. Twenty-one will be returned to the Hopi Nation and three to the San Carlos Apache, the Los Angeles-based charitable foundation said in a statement.

UK Supreme Court says Scientology is a religion and allows wedding

(Judges from the Supreme Court process to Westminster Abbey for a service to mark the beginning of the legal year, London October 1, 2012. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor)

A woman who wants to get married in a chapel of the Church of Scientology in London won her case on Wednesday at Britain’s Supreme Court, which ruled that Scientology was a religion and the chapel was a place where marriages could be solemnized.

Louisa Hodkin, 25, had launched legal action after officials refused to record the chapel as a place that could be used to celebrate marriages, citing a court ruling from 1970 that said Scientology did not involve religious worship.